the internet ideas blog

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What we learned in 2011

Seems like the year just flew by! The holidays are here and businesses are making marketing decisions for 2012. This past year was full of news and emerging trends when it comes to marketing online. Here are just a few of the things we learned:
  • Don't count on the search engines to keep any consistent criteria for ranking web pages. In the last year Google has made a multitude of changes that had websites up and down in the result pages while knocking out some relevant websites altogether. It's more important than ever to watch your rankings for changes and to be proactive in your approach to providing the best quality content possible.

  • Email marketing is still a strong tool for reaching your audience - but only when your audience is expecting to hear from you. I've seen clients rent lists only to be disappointed at the click through rates while their company lists, although smaller, produced sales.

  • Social media. If you're tired of seeing that phrase, take an aspirin - it's here to stay. This year the social media fully blossomed and the search engines are experimenting with ways to measure search media in relation to your website popularity. To that end, Google+ started up and, after a much anticipated arrival, still hasn't quite found it's footing but you can bet that if people have "+1" your website it's going to count for something in the search rankings.

  • This was the year of Groupon - and then everyone else figured out how easy it was to offer those deals directly to customers. The result: many businesses found that it may bring in short term discount driven customers but doesn't help business in the long run. Relationship marketing is still more important than the deal.

  • Local advertising online lives!! While we can reach the world through our fingertips online, having access to your local businesses online for brick and mortar purchases has become equally important. Google local listings come up ahead of the regular organic search results putting the the local merchants right up front! If you haven't worked on your local presence, there is no time like the present.

  • The smart phone revolution! Is your website mobile phone friendly? Take a look and see if it's easy to use on your smart phone. If the answer is no, time to create a mobile version for people who use iPhones, Androids and iPads to surf the internet.

  • The opinion of others counts. There are many places for people to leave comments about your business - Yelp, Angie's List, Google, and social media websites to name a few. Searching for your favorite business will no doubt lead to reviews of some sort. As a business owner, you can stay in control of what people are saying by responding promptly to negative comments and using those as a springboard to show your eagerness to work with your customers to solve problems.

  • The age of transparency. With rich keyword content and easy access through the blogosphere every business should be taking advantage of the opportunity to "get real" and be transparent to your customers through blogging. Some blogs are now considered as relevant and authoritative as newspaper editorial sections. If you still aren't using a blog to talk about your industry, it's not too late to start.

  • Usability. There are still many websites that don't take into account what the mind of your visitor is able to manage. With people making decisions about a website's content and relevancy in 3-5 seconds (yes, that short!) you've got to make sure your message is clear from the beginning and it's easy for visitors to see what you've got, what you want them to do and how to complete the process. Everything from navigation options to images to call to action messages count. If you want to make every visitor count - focus on usability!

The internet marketing game is ever changing as you can see and a far cry from what was the norm in 2002. This is by no means everything but it will give you a good running start on what you should be focused on for 2012.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

What is Friction?

With the holiday season in full swing I find myself in situations that are more trouble than they are worth. Traveling through certain intersections, finding people driving cars that just aren't following the road signs causing congestion. More programs and competitions for my daughter - that sometimes occur on the same day causing me to become Wonder Woman to get her to both...

I'm sure you've had your share of frustrations trying to accomplish even the simplest of tasks. In the web world we call that friction and it happens more often than not.

Examples of friction:
  • Websites that ask for more info than I am willing to give in exchange for a simple newsletter sign up or white paper download.
  • Being required to "create an account" just to browse a shopping site.
  • Clicking a link from search engine expecting to see something specific only to discover that actually finding the item on the website is impossible.
  • Trying to "check out" and being required to use PayPal when I prefer to use my credit card.
Those are just a few of my recent encounters - what examples of friction have you encountered lately? Take the friction poll on our Facebook page.

The point is that the more friction there is in any process the less likely a person will be to complete the process. If you want someone to complete a form, don't make them click 3 or 4 times to get to it. If you want to offer a newsletter, keep it simple - all you really need is an email address. And if you advertise something, for goodness sake make the link go straight to the subject, not the home page where I'm left wandering around.

Business owners: take a look at your website and ask yourself, "where can I reduce or remove the obstacles to the goal?" If you can follow that thought process I'm sure you'll find where you can make things easier, more clear for your web visitors and that will lead to an increase in conversions.

Comments? Questions? Please feel free to comment!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What's Better For Business, a Facebook Profile or Page?

Browsing through Facebook the other day, I came across many businesses and organizations that have personal profile instead of a page. If you're saying to yourself, “There's a difference?”, then I'm going rock your world now!

Facebook started with only personal profiles, so if your business was ahead of the curve, then you may have started out with setting up a personal profile for your business. Since then, “Fan Pages” were launched, and are now just called “Pages”. The differences between personal profiles and pages may not be obvious to many people, but here are a few that are pretty important.

On a personal profile you have a very limited space for your company name, where as with a page your company's name can be longer and you can even include keywords, making it show up more in searches. Have personal profiles have a limit on how many friends you can have, but with a page you can have unlimited fans. With a page you have the ability to promote your page with Facebook ads, drawing more traffic to your page and website. A huge advantage with having a page for your business, instead of a personal profile is that you can create custom “tabs” for your page, essentially a small web-page inside your Facebook page, with links, news feeds, email signup forms, and more. With a page you can even setup other people at your business as administrators, so the work can be spread to others.

I hope this helped you understand the importance to having a Facebook page instead of a personal page. If you still have a personal profile instead of page and are ready to change, it's pretty simple, Facebook migration tool (Click here to migrate), just be sure to take advantage of the download tool to save all the information from your profile since it only moves over your pictures and turn your friends into fans. If you need help making your Facebook page work for you, give us a call and we can evaluate your needs and get you up and going!

P.S. Besides being more appropriate for businesses, having a personal profile for a business is a violation of Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which makes it vulnerable to removal by Facebook, leaving you without any Facebook presence.

Dan on Google+

Monday, November 14, 2011

The new face of search engine optimization

So we've all been through numerous updates in search algorithms this year and the fact remains that attempting to predict what and how to adjust your website to the changes for better rankings is almost futile. A Google quality rater's guide was leaked out a few weeks ago and according to this document quality, perceived in terms of information and value to the general public, is what will determine how high a website will rank.

In terms of search engines, there are thousands of every type of business on the internet. So to have a website about a business isn't enough. For example, if you have a website about lawn mowers and you talk about what kind you sell and you've got repair services etc. That's no different then the next guy who sells lawn mowers. The "quality" of the two is exactly the same so there is no way that one will rank above the other.

There are several factors that influence rank like number of legitimate incoming links and page title, but everyone can meet the search engine expectations along those lines. No difference between competitors again.

In the new age of "quality" it is important to have unique, informative content. This is clearly outlined in the Google quality raters guide.

How do you go about getting unique content for your website? First -- don't buy it! If you pay a service to randomly put content on your website then you'll end up with poorly written, highly duplicated articles that will do nothing but lower your page rank or have you booted off the search engine altogether. The way ensure you've got unique content is to write it yourself or help someone write it for you (give them the topic, have them write something up, you review for accuracy and add any personal thoughts).

What to write about? For our example we could have information like "how to maintain a lawn mower", "simple service repairs", and "buying the right replacement blades." For a windshield repair shop articles might include, "when is a chip just a chip," "cold weather and cracks," and "is driving with a cracked windshield illegal?" The bonus with all this content is that invariably you will be including key phrases that people will likely use to find your website.

If you are having a hard time coming up with unique content for your website do some research about what other companies feature on their sites and use the idea to kick off your own take on the subject. Caution: do not duplicate or plagiarize any part of someone else's content -- it will result in penalizing your own site and / or possible lawsuit for copyright infringement.

So get your thinking cap on, show the world how much you know about your business and think like an expert. Sharing information will not only help with search rankings, it will also bring you one step closer to doing business with your visitors.

Want 3 article topics for your website? Email me with the subject "Give me 3" and I'll reply with 3 ideas for you :) tj [at] myideagirl [dot] com

Monday, October 10, 2011

Search Engines, Social Media - Time to Adapt

Times are certainly changing when it comes to
search engine optimization. The days of simple

SEO are most definitely gone. It used to be that you just put the right elements in the right places on a web page and Google gave your site due attention and fairly good rankings for a variety of terms. As Google has continued on their quest to serve up the most relevant information the ability for webmasters to pinpoint the magic formula for high rankings is a
Time to Adapt
moving target at best.

Add to that the fact that Google is being investigated for violation of Anti-Trust Laws. The hearing brought out some very important points like Google places their listings above the legitimate organic listings and people are unaware that the first few listings are not organic. This also results in the first organic listings being pushed down the page, even below the fold and onto the second page of search. It's a pretty common fact that only about 20% of people will search past the first page so this has affected many companies by greatly reducing traffic from the search engine giant.

At the Anti-Trust hearing, Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt could not give a solid answer as to why they were presenting search results in this way, his statement, ""We run the company for the benefit of consumers and frankly not for the other websites." But aren't the businesses that own websites also their customer? His lack of clear answers didn't satisfy members of the Senat committee.

So let's talk about Panda. Is this Google's attempt to purify the search results or is it the way Google decides for you what you want to see in the results? Around the office we've noticed several things, most important of which is the fact that Google's results seem to be less intuitive than they would like to believe. We've even gone to the point of changing search engines to get a better search engine result page. Clients have noticed that their listings are quicker to appear in higher positions on Bing than on Google.

None the less, Google is trying to produce results based on actual web content, not having the SEO elements in all the right places. So as always, strong original content is king but it's more than just that. You've got to totally rethink your online strategy because rewriting your title tags and descriptions isn't going to make the difference you need to stay ahead of the competition.

If you haven't already done so, you must get involved with social media. The results of social media on our client sites puts them in the top 5 sources of web traffic. Talk to your customers and have them give reviews on your website. Keep in contact with customers through social media, email and reaching out to them personally.

Also, spread your SEO efforts. Bing has a pretty good search engine and their results are certainly different than Google. Optimizing for Bing may give you a better reach when you have both search engines working for you.

What used to work in the past is not guaranteed to work in the present or the forceable future. It's time to adapt or fade away.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Like, Follow, Share! Phase 2 is here!

If you haven't read my first blog on Like, Follow, Share, you might want to go back and read if first.

Now that you have your friends and employees following you, it’s time to get your clients, customers and potential customers to follow you. Hopefully, if you’ve had a website for a while, you have printed your website on everything from invoices to Frisbees to get it out in front of people. Getting people to your social media isn’t quite as subtle a message and you don’t want it to be.

Adding “Follow us at” and “Like us at” to all your forms, letterhead, and promotional items is kind of overwhelming and somewhat tacky. If you have a store or office where your customers visit you can very easily create a sign to sit out with your social media addresses on. Another option for stores is brightly colored bag stuffers.

There are other great options that everyone can use. If you are a company that sends out paper invoices, you can include a brightly colored slip of paper (a 1/3 a sheet of paper will work) with your social media information on it. If you have a physical or email newsletter you send out to your customers, include not only your social info, but an article getting them excited about your social media.

Watch for Phase 3: Gaining followers outside your friends, employees and customer base.

Dan on Google+

Monday, September 12, 2011

Frequent Question #2: What is hosting anyway?

Even thought the Internet is now in her teens, new people are placing their businesses online daily. There is often confusion about hosting and how it relates to a domain name and a website. Here then, is an answer that hopefully will make the relationship more clear:

Think of a billboard on the highway, not the new digital kind, the regular vinyl or paper covered billboards. Now take away the paper. All you have is naked space along the highway and THAT is hosting. Naked space on the world wide web.

When you buy the "paper" (have the website built) you need a place to display the wonderful work your money has purchased so you rent the billboard (pay for hosting space).

When does the domain name come into play? Well think about that highway where your billboard is placed. The highway has a number and then there is a mile marker so the billboard might be on 135 at mile marker 120.

Well that would be easy to find if you really were on a highway but on the web the numbers look like this: - and that's not so easy to find. In fact, with up to 12 numbers in all, it's hard on the memory. Can you imagine trying to remember all your favorite websites by number?

The domain name then is an alias, an "aka" for the number of the host server (billboard location) where your website (paper art) resides. When you want your website to be visible you must 1) have someone program a website, 2) contract for hosting space and 3) register a name so it's easy to find the web.

And that's the answer to what usually starts with "what is hosting anyway?"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blog Scraping to Trigger Algorithm Update

So you learn something new everyday and in the cyber world of constant changes and newly coined terms at every corner, today it was the term "blog scraping."

Blog scraping is the process of scanning through a large number of blogs daily looking for content that is copyrighted and reposting that information on other blogs. It's generally done through automated software and is a clear form of copyright infringement. The really bad thing is, not only it's illegal, the scraped posts often show up in RSS feeds on other websites and in subscriber emails.

Then there's the issue of scraped content actually showing up in search ahead of the legitimate, first posting of the information. Now is where we get into Google territory. Today Matt Cutts announced that Google is going to attempt to create an algorithm aimed at stopping scraped content from appearing in the top rankings (if at all).

Naturally this should cause some degree of concern because if your blog is wrongly pegged as being scraped you'll lose whatever high rankings you currently enjoy. Another thing that could happen is that legitimately quoted text from other blogs (when the source is clearly given credit) might trigger the algorithm inadvertently.

As with every good intention, there comes a bit of bad outcome. (Think Panda) Will this be another instance of oops! dinged the wrong website? We shall have to wait and see. In the meantime, if you know of an instance of scraping visit this link and leave your info.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What's the big deal about color anyway?

I came a cross a really cool infographic on Pinterest today, if you haven't tried Pinterest, take a peek. Full of wonderful ideas, insights and the like. Back to the topic - The infographic shows how color affects us - especially when it comes to making a purchase decision. The actual full size,large & legible, image can be found on the Kissmetrics blog but here's a smaller version.

I would guess that most of you haven't even thought about why you shop where you do or why you make certain purchase decisions more quickly than other. Our subconscious brains are doing a lot of thinking for us and strongly influence our decisions based on color 93% of the time.

By the way, Chris' favorite color is Orange, Dan's is Red, and mine is Pink. Wonder what that says about us, they are all in the "reddish hues." Anyway . . .

Most of the time we think of purchasing by color when it has to do with a car, something in our home for decor or clothing. How often does color impact your choice of bank, insurance company, cosmetics, or even what malls you go to?

A short synopsis of the findings:

Red-Orange, Royal Blue & Black work well for impulse shopping decisions. Think of your favorite places that use these colors: McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Wendy's, etc. Many fast food restaurants, outlet malls and clearance sales!

Navy blue and teal work well for banks and larger department stores because they give the perception that they are working with budget concious customers: Sears, Wilsons, Allstate Insurance, AIG, Ford, Geico, CitiBank, Travelodge - do you see the correlation?

The colors pink, rose and sky blue make an impact with traditional shoppers and are most frequently seen in use at clothing stores: Mary Kay, Victoria's Secret, Baskin Robbins - I'm sure you can think of many more examples.

These same color factors come into play in how we perceive websites as well, the colors aren't just for aesthetic purposes but to create an emotion or reaction with the site visitor.

So the question is: what do you want to convey? You can change your outward perception with a change of color.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Like, Follow, Share!

Social media is social. I know this is a pretty obvious statement and you know how important being social is, after all, that’s why you have social media. (If you haven’t started using social media, skip to the bottom to find out how to start.)
It's your goal to grow your business through your website and social media. You do this by posting specials, promotions and news about your business to your social media accounts. Even though you are good about posting, you may not be seeing much growth in people following (Twitter) and liking (Facebook) your business.
Part of my job is to provide pointed updates for our clients various accounts. In doing this, I’ve noticed that was spending time creating daily updates for social media accounts with only a hand full of followers. I thought to myself, I think we can grow these numbers and the quickest way is to invite the client’s employees, friends and family to follow/like their businesses, so I created the Like, Follow, Share campaign.
Like, Follow, Share includes several tips and elements to use to reach more people in your personal social circle, to help get the word out about your business. Below is the first phase of Like, Follow, Share.
Phase 1:
Your friends and family may have contacts that you don’t know about that are in need of your service or product. Plus, you can brag about the great things your business is doing without actually bragging!
Getting your employees involved in your social media is great for getting them excited about new things happening and makes it easy for them to share with their friends and family.
A few ways to grow your social network through your employees are to add links to your various social media in employee newsletters, a slip of paper in paychecks and post a sign in employee break areas.
Letting friends and family know is even easier, because you are probably already connected to them on Facebook or Twitter so all you have to do is to click the “Share” on your business’s Facebook page. To share your Twitter, just post the Twitter link below on your Facebook or mention (@yourbusinesstwitter) in a tweet on Twitter.
Watch for Phase 2, covering getting existing customers to follow/like your business, coming soon.
If you haven’t started using social media yet or aren’t sure where to begin, we would love to provide this service for you! If you prefer to do it yourself, I recommend getting copies of Twitter for Dummies and Facebook for Dummies. And be sure to follow us on FaceBook to see what we're up to: Internet Marketing Ideas
Dan on Google+

Monday, June 13, 2011

Let's Go To The Batting Cages

The last week has been like a pitching machine going at full speed, I’ve hit a lot of the balls and fouled a few hits, but overall I’ve survived without too many balls to the head. I’ve found great tools for optimizing search results and put them to work for several of our clients already. Working with Teajai and Chris, I’ve picked up and been reminded of design tricks that make life much easier! We’ve tackled and achieved redesigning a current client’s site this week as well as launching a new site, all with beautiful designs!

Here are some previews of the sites we knocked out, Harlow Aerostructures and Clearsite Windshield Repair.

In building the site for Clearsite, a newly launched business in Cleveland, Ohio, I learned some pretty cool stuff about the new windshield repair technique they use and how insurance companies would rather pay a little for your windshield repair and waive your deductible then pay a lot to have your windshield replaced. We've put a Twitter feed as well as their calendar on the site and will be adding their Facebook update feed today.

Harlow Aerostructures’ redesigned website has a very classy look for a business to business company. They make a vast array of complex aircraft parts, here in Wichita, because of that the site content is a little over my head as far as what they are talking about, but we have given it a fresh new look, just in time for their upcoming trade show!

It’s been a great week here in the batting cage and I’m excited to see what balls get thrown at me this week and hope to hit home runs every time!

Dan on Google+

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A few of my favorite web designs!

So I've felt like reviewing a couple of my favorite websites that we've created as a company and share some of the reasons that I like them so much.

To start us off I have to start with our own website! came out really,
really well in my opinion. The subtle use of gradients to mesh the light and dark
areas of the site to draw your attention to specific portions is awesome. Transferring the content over from the old site was a breeze and we managed to tweak certain parts (and add new pages) with relative ease. The site layout encourages standards-compliant development due to it's unadulterated div layouts and very little alteration to content areas.

Next I want to look at the first website that I ever got to use my own templating system for! was a landmark site for me here at Ideas That Work. It was the first site where I really got to get into the back-end of a site and flush it out beginning to end. From the PHP framework to the contact page I was responsible for making sure "it just worked". The website is riddled with hard to digest content and big words, but for pure development analysis, I'm happy with it. The design looks pretty good in my opinion, too.

Last and most certainly least, but still one of my favorite websites (purely because of the programming) is the Extreme Makeover Home Edition website we created for the Wichita Build that can be found at There are several reasons I really like what we
accomplished with this website. Obviously because it was for a good cause, and the website was a driving force in getting donations & organizing volunteers. In a matter of about a week I created a fully functional (sort of) management tool that was deployed WITHOUT TESTING. I'm proud to say it survived the rigors of public launch to a bigger audience than I have EVER serviced and held strong until the very end. It has since been dismantled and is a shell of it's former glory, but I'm still super proud of our accomplishment, even if the entire process had me pulling my hair out.

Enough about us...

I thought it might be kind of fun to show you guys some of the sites that I really like and try to mimic in the way I program. Unfortunately I'm not a designer, Teajai does the art here, so I end up liking the not-so-artsy-but-still-really-awesome sites.

First up to bat is ZenDesk is customer support software made easy.
Or something like that. I really like the simplicity that the site exudes. The green feels a little overwhelming at first, but after seeing it several times I really start to appreciate the attention to details. Hovering over every link gives you a roll-over effect, and all of the graphic work is beautiful. Of course ZenDesk is one of the leading solution providers to the help desk market, and it's no surprise with a website like this.

Second up we have Forrst is a community portal for web designers & dev
elopers. Of course when the target audience is skilled professionals who create the exact
product you're serving them, you better do a stand-up job. Kyle (the owner of Forrst) did that and then some. In cahoots with a very talented designer, Kyle managed to create a elegant yet simple solution and filling a void in a very saturated niche. I especially like the correlation between the design and the name of the website. The logo being the simple tree logo along with the wood grain accents used across the
website just bring it all home for me.

Last but certainly not least is a website design that has inspired many failed attempts by me at recreating it. There isn't a single website that I hold in higher regards. It's amazing in every regard in my eyes. It answers all of your questions in
the first 15 seconds of viewing the site, and in style! The fantastic deep blue clashing with the lighting effect of the light blues, and the fancy icon work that they did to drive the point of their text home really sells this as a high-class website in my mind.

If you haven't noticed, all these websites aren't riddled with high-impact designs nor are they purely textual content driven. They find a nice balance between beauty and business, and it's something I long to create for all of our clients.

If you have any sites that you want to share please feel free. I could spend all day looking at beautiful websites, if Teajai would let me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What to Expect from a Web Designer

Many business owners are choosing a redesign of their current (out of date) websites - if you are thinking of a redesign you may (or may not) recall what the process entails. Whether looking for a new design team or staying with your current provider this short list will serve as a reminder of that to expect.
  1. Throughout the whole process you should expect excellent customer service. This should begin with the first contact all the way through the process. Emails should be answered within 24 hours and phone calls should be answered or returned within normal business hours.
    (With our company, we are available on the weekend and after hours when the need arises)

  2. The design company should ask questions about your business and goals for the website. They should be able to clearly state their understanding of the project. Together you will discuss who the website targets, what the points of conversion (lead gen/sales) will be and how the results will be measured.

  3. Be prepared to answer specific questions about your company. You may even be asked to provide the word for word copy for the pages of the website.
    (I actually do the copy writing for my clients to save time & make the project go faster)

  4. When the company (or individual) has a clear understanding of the type of design / project standards you'll need they will start to build the site.

    Here is where things get muddy for many business owners because many designers forget - if you (the client) don't see it, it's not happening! In other words, there are many elements to the first draft design that do not represent the end result so showing you would not give you any clear indication of where the project is going. For example, showing you the style sheet that holds the layout elements of the web page will mean nothing to you - but in the end that's an important part of the project.

    If your designer uses a project management system you can access to see points of progress you'll feel better about the project overall.
    (Here, we have a project system so you can see the different tasks as they are marked off and supply your feedback / comments)
  5. The overall project will take time to complete based on a number of factors: the size of the website, the level of graphic design involved, and the information provided by you. Small sites should usually be completed within 10 - 14 days provided the designer has all the information they need up front. Expect the project to slow down if the designer is waiting on information from you.

  6. You should also expect flexibility from your designer in all areas of the project. Your needs may become clearer as the site comes together and you may want to make changes to the content, purpose etc. of the site as the project comes to fruition.

  7. Don't expect that your design company can handle all aspects of your online presence. Hosting is needed so your website will have a place to be displayed online. Domain registration is necessary for your "dot com" address. If you need search optimization, social media or email marketing, you may also have to go to another company for those services.
    (We're a one stop shop so all of these services are available with our company)

  8. Common courtesy - as with any personal contact, courtesy goes a long way. If your designer sees a deadline may be missed, for example, letting you know ahead of time and why is just a matter of courtesy.
I hope you find this information useful. It's certainly easier to navigate the web when you know what to expect.
Feel free to call me for advice, insight and information! I'm happy to help, and I would enjoy working with your project.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thank you for calling . . . my name is Bob

During research for a client I chanced upon the link to an article about how to tell if you are reaching a call center and how to get results if you do! Being a touch ADD, I clicked the link and read the article and was appalled at some of the experiences customers have had when calls go to other countries. Sure you can get bad experiences anywhere but I never knew how unfeeling or uncaring the outsourced call centers can be. Yet America seems to find value in sending customers who need help to some foreign land with scripted non-answers.

I write the above because I had an interesting phone call yesterday. The person on the line was interested in using my services but wanted to make sure, in his words, that I wasn't "Bob" - you know, Bob, as opposed to Peggy with Prime Credit in the television commercials. Because all the call center people seem to have "American" names - not sure why, false sense of security?

It got me to thinking about all the companies in "India" that provide all manner of internet marketing services. I had a client who I found, after the fact, had hired foreign individuals or companies to provide his services. Yet he hired me because he wasn't getting what he needed from them - and it was like 4 or 5 in the previous 6 months (this was a clue I should have caught). But he was so fixated on price that when I tried to help him he felt that I was over charging, although it was clear that I was able to provide better results. You can guess what he did next - I hope he's happy with "Peggy."

I don't doubt that there are people in other countries know what they are doing when it comes to internet marketing but I submit that when it's the equivalent of a call center, a sweat shop, there is no quality. And the result is really that people who do provide quality service are already seen in a negative light - anything we do that is perceived "out of line" causes real problems.

While I am on this rant - let me just say there are companies in the United States who are experiencing a substantial (and permanent) decline in their business so they are "diversifying" into internet marketing. The latest one I've seen was the Deluxe check printing company. Really? They know how to build a user-centric, results oriented website that will soar to the top of the search engines? I have yet to encounter a company that diversifies outside it's non-internet business into web that has done it so well that their clients are raving. Instead, it's yet another reason that true internet marketing professionals get a bad name.

Okay so this post went a little off topic but the point is - there are really good internet marketing (and web design) professionals in the United States who work hard to provide a good quality product or service. And I am for real - no "Bobs" here.

Would love to read your comments & experiences!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Clean out the cobwebs!

It's that time of the year! The front door is wide open, the area rug is hung up on the front porch to get beaten clean and all of the furniture is out of place while you vacuum and sweep.

The imagery is a little bit different here, but the idea is the same. After a long year (or years) of servitude, your old and deprecated website is on the tail end of it's lifespan. We hadn't noticed it until recently but that does seem to be the mentality of a lot of our clients. We had a surge of clients wanting redesign work at the new year, for obvious reasons, but now that Spring is finally getting a foothold and battling Winter back we find a lot of clients are looking to shed their old cumbersome website for a lighter and more effective alternative.

An example of one such client can be found below. Our friends over at ATM Sales & Services came in the other day looking to get more out of the website. He had mentioned that he felt he just wasn't getting the kind of numbers he wanted to be getting and that his website just didn't meet today's standards.

ATM SalesBody & Soul Massage

Teajai quickly jumped on the opportunity to redevelop his website, and really went above and beyond. She made it her mission to keep the same theme for the site while still conveying their message more effectively and creatively. Our clients absolutely love the work that we've put out for them, and I'm really proud of our product, too!

After spending a week on site at the Extreme Home Makeover one of our clients, Body & Soul Massage, decided that they needed to take advantage of the situation and get a revamp for their website. We felt compelled to provide something truly unique and creative but kept true to their brand.

Check these out. Top is before, bottom is after.. I hope you can tell that though:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Things that make you go hmmmm. . .

I've been doing a lot of competitor searches for clients lately and I've come across websites that just . . . make you want to go "hmmmm . . ." Thought I would share a few of these with you to serve as reminders that your website is being visited by real people. Do Unto Others - right?

  • Why does a butcher shop need a photo gallery? I'm just sayin'

  • It's called website DESIGN for a reason - no need to cause your visitor to have a seizure with bright flashing colors that force you to look away. That's the worst of the many undesirable design techniques in use.

  • How does a customer contact you when there is no phone number at all, no address, nothing on the website?

  • Is it really necessary to launch music whenever a visitor comes to your site - without asking them first? Can you say "send me the earplugs please!"

  • Why would a company want to use images for normal text instead of just straight text? Search engines like plain text better.

  • Are we still assuming that EVERYONE is using the same browser? Internet Explorer, FireFox, Chrome, Safari - guess they don't care if the website is completely destroyed in IE6 or doesn't function in Chrome.

  • What is with the small fonts? Maybe they don't expect that anyone would want to read the text so it doesn't matter . . .

  • And what is with the light gray text on white backgrounds? Better hope that the visitor's screens are set to high contrast or they see nothing.
If you're curious and want to know the address of some of the "losers" n this list send me a note. If you've come across other things that make you go hmmm, please share them below!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Back to Work!

Well let's get the most important fact out of the way; today is my birthday! Teajai has ordered me to take tomorrow (Friday, April 1st) off. I half expect to get a phone call tomorrow morning from Teajai saying "Hey I really need you to come in after all." Then 10 minutes later her calling back LOLing and yelling "APRIL FOOLS! SUCKER!".

I'll let you guys know how that turns out.

On to other less important stuff. We're busy! There's tons of work being done, and to be done. It seems to me like a lot of companies are doing some Spring cleaning and getting their websites updated (or revamped). It's a lot of fun, we're cranking out some really creative & effective stuff.
We've got a new sales woman. Cari has been working with Teajai for the past couple weeks getting ready to start hitting the proverbial pavement and finding out who else needs our services and just don't know it yet.

We are consolidating our domains & will be able to more effectively administrate our hosted sites. I'm really excited for this, means a lot less logging in and out of servers & more time getting what I need to get done, done. On that note I want to encourage any web developers out there who host their clients to check their disk space usage! We had a client who was using 20 gigabytes (yeah, twenty thousand four-hundred eighty megabytes) of space on ONE EMAIL ACCOUNT. It was ridiculous!

Teajai keeps prodding me to post more updates, and after posting this blog I realized I actually kind of enjoy it.. I may have to start doing it more often. Until then I have to wrap up some other work before I leave for the week. Take care guys!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Social Element of Extreme Makeover

The last several weeks I've been hard at work supporting on of my clients, Bob Cook Homes, while they go through the process that most people see in a scant hour of the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. One of the big parts of making this home come together quickly was the power of social media. In fact, one of the local newspapers noticed wrote a short article about the topic.

Everyone always wants to know how you measure the effects of social media. Here are the bare numbers of this particular campaign -

From the 17th to February 24 (during the build):
  • 82 Twitter posts which garnered 131 RT & 2235 clicks.
  • 119 FaceBook updates which produced 329 'likes' and 199 comments.
    Plus approx 500 new fans & 3238 visits to the extreme website.
  • 5 blog posts to date have had 2193 views and growing
  • 5 email blasts that had an average of 57% open rate and 49% click through rate.
Those are pretty darn good numbers - some would question, however, is that a good measurement?

The real measure is what happened as a result of the above. With all the social we were able to get workers to the right place when needed, get fabric transported from other states by volunteers to the build in Wichita, get extra siding on the site in under an hour, deliver enough beverages to the site in a single day that the crew never had a problem finding their favorite drink from that day forward. Just to name a few real life examples.

Could the same be accomplished in other business situations? Absolutely IF the same amount of time & effort are put into it. I've had similar successes on a smaller scale, a direct correlation to the amount of time involved.

So the big reveal is over, at least for those of us in Wichita KS. Our work is pretty much done. The rest of the country will get to see the hard work of the volunteers and Bob Cook's awesome team sometime in May.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Total Solution

I was working on the Tip of the Day and found that I needed more room that FaceBook would allow so I decided to blog on and give you the whole enchilada. So here goes . . .

When someone is searching the web, they are actively looking for the solution to their "problem." Nothing is worse than buying a widget from one place, the do-dad from another and then having to call on a third source to help you learn how to use it!

When you are able to offer the total solution you have not only solved the problem, you'll get the sale.

Here are some examples of the total solution:
  • Give a beginning price but show a package price (with discount is even better) for all the elements necessary for them to be able to use your product or service out of the box.
  • Give the visitor options for shipping or installation of the product. Use that as part of the package pricing.
  • Give clear exchange and return policies - when people have this information up front it helps them trust you.
  • Offer training, on site or virtual, to help people learn to use the product or get the most from your services.
  • Have clear instructions on how to set-up, let people know the ease / difficulty to learn about the product.
  • Sell service plans as part of a package, definitely don't make them search for it on the website. When it's included as part of the package, they are more likely to purchase. It is more difficult to sell these services later on.
  • Do you have any guarantees? Put them up front and center - this is every bit as much of the solution as any tangible elements.
  • If you have many locations then use that as part of the benefit to the total package solution.
Think of the times you've been frustrated going from one source to another trying to find the perfect solution. I remember trying to find one application / program / cloud source that would both do time-keeping, invoicing & project management. I still haven't found that so I am using 1 cloud app for time-keeping & invoicing, 1 cloud app for project management, and 1 program on my computer to provide full service payroll processing. I'm thinking it would be pretty great to have it all in one.

I also know that my clients really appreciate the fact that they can rely on my service as a "one-stop" shop to solve all their needs: web development, hosting, domains, search optimization, social marketing, email marketing and lots of good ideas.

Take a look at how your site is offering your featured product or service and think of how you can change the way it is all presented to give the total solution. Need ideas? Contact me!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day!

Big Love for Our Clients
This Valentine's Day we thought it would be a good idea to let all of our clients know just how much we love working with them. It's a rare blessing to be able to get paid for what you enjoy doing. It's even more of a rarity to admire and respect the people you work with.

Every day we come in to work and have no idea what's going to come up. Whether one of our clients is getting involved in a national television show, or they're being featured on Groupon. We are constantly challenged, but find solace in the kind words from our clients and their dedication to their own businesses.

We believe that it's important to enjoy your work, to be proud of your achievements and to strive to be better every day. All of our clients are the epitome of our ideas, and we look to them for inspiration when we're feeling defeated.

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continued business and support. If you weren't who you are, we wouldn't be who we are. You make us better by being so great yourself.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Working on "Extreme Land" in an Extreme-ly White Land

Well here we are, a few weeks and many many miles into "Extreme Land" as Teajai so eloquently labeled the project, and things are finally starting to take shape. The Extreme Makeover version of Bob Cook's website has gradually gotten to a point where it's less burdensome to maintain, but still requires a lot of our attention. With nearly daily correspondence from the Extreme camp we're definitely being kept busy.

If you ever want to know what full service really means in the internet world - the Extreme Makeover project is definitely a prime example as we are handling everything from programming to design to seo & social media -daily.

We've gotten so busy in fact that sometimes we have to throw our hands up and say "HOLD ON!" and work on keeping up-to-date with our "regular" clients. That's what I'll be doing for the majority of this snow covered day. I think Teajai said she was still working on a banner for the Extreme Makeover Pep Rally that is going on tomorrow - it's free to the public, you should think about going, I'll be there.

It wouldn't be a blog post without mention of the weather here in Wichita, which is completely insane. I woke up this morning and didn't even look out the window. After I got out of the shower I figured I should probably check if school was in session. All it took was me looking out the window and being blinded by the light being refracted from the snow that I took it upon myself to decide school was canceled. I then called Teajai to see if she wanted me to come into the office, of course she said to stay in and work from home.

Hopefully we get an 80-degree warm front that melts all this snow by tomorrow morning. I much prefer working in close proximity to the boss for easier correspondence. Better yet, we could move the office to some warm beach side resort.

Let's see, one of our clients (The Ladies Golf Place) was featured on Groupon! That was exciting for me, I'm looking forward to seeing the Google analytics after the traffic settles down and seeing just how much of a spike they receive. I'm also going to spend some time today getting our clients up to date on their social media stuff. I'm sure everyone is just dying for more savings on dragon-shaped stamps (Superior Rubber Stamp) and huge "SALE" banners (Superior Signs).

Well, time to get back to work! I hope everyone is having a great week so far and I think Teajai and I are going to try to keep the blog more active for you guys.

Friday, January 14, 2011

5 Basic Web Pages Every Site Must Have

I started to write the tip of the day and then realized it's probably more of a blog post. So here goes, 5 web pages you've got to have on your website (and why).

  1. The About Us page. This builds credibility at minimum. Today I was looking at a website I would potentially spend money on but it's highly technical and would have to be based upon really good supporting data.

    If I knew more about how the company compiled the data I would have been on board quick as a wink. Now I'm going to spend more time surfing the product/service before buying.

  2. Contact Page. I know, goes without saying right? Wrong! There are a lot, I mean a lot, of web pages that have only a contact form on the site (often that's their idea of the contact page). If you want to be taken seriously whether business person or blogger you have to give people options to contact you other than a form.

    Best credibility: address, phone and email. Afraid you'll get spam, sales calls etc - then just get out off the web. Get a better spam filter, screen your calls - that's how everyone else does it (okay most everyone).

  3. Customer Comments. Use them throughout the site and have them compiled on one page. It's another source of keywords being used and the referral value is unmeasured! It's the way people do business - show me that someone like me used your product/service and their problem was solved and I'll buy it for myself!

    I was looking for a new winter coat this week (online, of course) and I browsed several top websites and saw plenty of options. One of my favorites I read the reviews and several people complained that the coat didn't fit as described, boxy etc. The other had rave reviews from every single person whether it was a gift they received or they purchased themselves. And I mean RAVING! paragraphs of pure joy. Guess which coat I bought.

  4. FAQ. Frequently asked questions for anyone who hasn't seen or heard the term. This one page has potentially more power than any other pages on your website. Why? Pure keyword usage in natural language plus all the benefits of buying your product/service.
    It's like candy to the search engine.

  5. Finally - your product or service with solid descriptions using keywords in a natural way to show the benefits that your company has to offer. If you want them to buy it, tell them how it will solve their problem in the simplest terms. You don't have to be ultra persuasive, you just have to be clear.
Okay so that's the Tip of the Day that turned into a blog post. I would love to have your feedback so feel free to post below. If you want to get more daily tips please follow me on Facebook: Internet Marketing Ideas.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Blah Reduction!

So today Chris and I are sitting here working on a client website, reworking the style sheet and adding to the content when I said, "I think it just needs an image" and Chris replies, "Yeah, a little blah reduction."

Pretty funny but true! It's so easy to get caught up in the words on the page, the descriptive text, the headings, the key words. Good web developers recognize that people are visual beings and beyond breaking up the "blah" the right images can further convey the primary message on the page. The key is to choose the right image.

So many times we see photos of the "office" on attorney websites, photos of a real estate agent instead of the homes they are selling. What exactly are you selling? Do your images really portray the product or service?

When choosing images for your website look for pictures that are impactful, uncluttered and elicit the desired emotional impact. Always take the time to size the images appropriately. And remember to use alternative text tags! Using the right image can go a long way toward showing that what you are selling (whether product or service) is real.

Our favorite resource for images (other than photos provided by our clients) is If you need help with blah reduction, give us a call or email :)

Monday, January 03, 2011

But everyone else has it!

Yesterday I took my daughter shopping for new shoes. I keep telling her to stop growing but she refuses to do so. As we looked at the selection of cool light up shoes and purely athletic shoes she was a bit overwhelmed. I tried to narrow it down to the least expensive of the shoes, showing her and trying to get her read on what she liked.

Finally, after trying on the "athletic" shoe with purple glistening stripes on each side she looked up a shoe I kept bypassing because it looked so plain. She said, "Savannah has those shoes" and I thought okay, let's take a look.

When I opened the box the shoe actually came with little charm bling across the toe attached to the grommets and two sets of laces to be laced together (pink & white). She was sold and the price was right.

The day made me think of how well social marketing works. She saw a friend with them, she wanted them too. Then I realized, kids have been doing this for years, albeit sometimes it was annoying to be reminded of what their friends had!

Social media is just one more channel that is presented to people amongst all the other clutter on the internet (search engines, websites, text ads, banner ads, video etc.) and off the internet (television, radio, billboards etc.) who can really make a choice with all of this going on?

But the one thing social media does offer is the "but everyone else has . . . " in a more grown up form of course. And if everyone else has it, then it must be the thing I need too!

Not only is social media more important than ever (hey, facebook gets more traffic than Google!) it's also a great supplement to testimonials or customer comments already on your website.

And, speaking of social marketing -- it's time for me to get to work socializing on behalf of my clients. Have a terrific Monday!
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