Wednesday, December 2, 2015

4 Reasons You Should Care If Your Web Site Is Responsive (And What Responsive Means)

Turns out styling does matter when it comes to websites. Purists want to believe it’s all about that code, but in reality, code and styling go hand in hand. To ensure that your web site works on any size or type of screen, touch screen or desktop, it needs to be responsive. Responsive design futureproofs your web site, so no matter the next great gadget (Apple Watch anyone?) your site looks great on any screen size.

Why should you care? And be sure your web development company is on the cutting edge?

Multiple views. Where past convention called for a separate site for mobile applications, contemporary coders go for a one-code-fits-all approach. So you’re using the same code, styled differently for different devices. Not all mobile devices are the same size, so responsive sites adjust to make sure all content is legible and ensure a pleasant viewing experience on any device.

SEO rankings. If your site is built with the afore-mentioned older convention of two sites for standard and mobile viewing, your SEO rankings will be impacted. Search engine optimization – how far up in the list your site appears when certain keywords are entered – includes a penalty for multiple sites. So Google, for example, views duplicate sites as duplicate content, thinks it’s spam-like, and docks your rankings accordingly.

User frustration. Who hasn’t looked at a site on your phone only to find out a link won’t work because content has shifted on top of it, you can’t complete the purchase because the “buy” button shifts off the page (or in portrait versus landscape), or that you can’t read content or see photos because they’re so small on your device? All signs of sites that aren’t built responsively. And all signs of sites that frustrate users, and thus repel rather than attract return visits.

Easier management. If you have a CMS (content management system) behind your site to allow you to update your own content easily, having more than one site adds frustration for you too. Or if one of your staffers has the task in their job description, you’re breeding unhappy employees, not to mention paying someone for doing the same work twice. Entering content once just makes sense.

Start your web futureproofing today – our programmers live the future every day. Contact us today: [email protected] or 309-346-7412.

Friday, September 25, 2015

4 Common PR Mistakes

Whether you know it or not, PR is a critical part of your business. What’s more, that old adage, “Any PR is good PR” is simply untrue… especially in sensitive industries like healthcare and finance. In fact, it’s best to help shape the narrative before your audience (or another organization) does it for you. By carefully crafting a message that is promoted (online, broadcast or in print), you can consciously affect the way your business is perceived. And, if you’re not already making PR a priority, you may be your own worst enemy by making these common mistakes.

Not getting media training. If you’re talking with the media, whether on the phone, e-mail, radio or on camera, some basic tips and techniques pay off immeasurably. Mock interviews, talking points, personal presentations are a good start.

Making PR an afterthought. A 100th anniversary press release goes out days before the commemoration. A product launch happens without creating buzz beforehand. Your media list begins with the yellow pages. Sound familiar? Good PR starts with a strategy and an intentional assignment of time and money to accomplish results.

Not perfecting your pitch. Press release didn’t get picked up? Journalist didn’t give you the time of day? Don’t throw in the towel just yet. Tweak your audience, adjust your angle, revisit your goals and change your pitch. Take out the jargon, look for stories that resonate and focus on solutions. Then try again and again until you get it right.

Resting in your rut. PR can start with traditional media releases as part of an effective strategy. But that’s only the beginning. Blogs, social media, guerrilla tactics, personal tweeting and comments, e-mailing and using a newswire service should all work together to create the best perception.

Good PR is the only kind you want. Contact us today to learn how we can help create a PR strategy that can translate into results for your business or organization. [email protected] or 309-346-7412.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Get on a Roll – Leverage the Value of Video

It’s a D-D-D-Digital World. And it’s also 2015, so that doesn’t only mean e-mail and websites – that’s the tip of the iceberg, especially if you’re targeting a younger crowd. How? Here are two of our favorite up-and-coming tactics:

YouTube Ads 

For touching a younger segment, online video is the way to go. In fact, YouTube has emerged as the dominant online video platform. More, it has become the go-to social network for teens and Millennials, surpassing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in use. YouTube reaches close to 50% of the 18 to 34 population of the entire country. In addition, YouTube videos show up in 70% of all Google search results. And, smartphone users are strong consumers of YouTube videos.

It’s time to take YouTube by storm—not only by frequently updating your YouTube channel but also with targeted YouTube advertising. YouTube ads are cost-effective, targeted and affordable. Your video ads appear in front of, during or even after other videos based upon parameters you select. For example, place tourism or visitors’ center ads in front of triathlon, skiing, golfing or other videos served within your target geographic region. If a viewer skips your video ad before 30 seconds (or the end), you aren’t charged for that video’s play.

Video Pre-Roll 

Online video pre-roll integrates with thousands of publishers, dozens of content networks and seven exchanges to put your video before your desired audience. Place short, unskippable videos on primary sites from news and sports networks to leading mobile platforms.

By combining dynamic video content with demographic data from the nation’s top demographics companies, your pre-roll videos will be targeted geographically and optimized to play on both desktop and mobile platforms. In addition, retargeting will let those who have already visited your site be served video content related to your products or services.

Rise to the top of your customers’ A-list. Leverage video’s true value potential. Contact Maggie Marchand (309-346-2512) today and let’s get rolling!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Four Facebook Tips

Second only to “Should my business have a Facebook page?” the most common question we get from our clients is, “How do I get the most out of my Facebook page?” While we could pontificate ad infinitum on the benefits of social media, the importance of an effective social media strategy, knowing your target audience, choosing the types of posts you make and in general just being a savvy social media strategist… we know, nobody got time for that. So, we generally boil it down to the basics. Here are our favorites, in no particular order.

Tip #1

Create a welcome note with an engaging photo and a clear call-to-action when people check into your business on their phones.

Tip #2

Use a social network response guide when responding to negative or positive comments. Here is an example from Vanderbilt University Medical Center:

Tip #3

Frequency. How often should I post? The ideal number is between 5 and 10 posts per week.

Tip #4

Add the SlideShare App to your Facebook tabs. Adding SlideShare tab to your business page allows you to share your business talks and presentations. (Source)

Savvy social media doesn’t come easy, even for us. But together, we can design a strategy that’s not only right for your business or organization, but right on for results. Whether you’re ready for Social Media 101 or Next Gen Tactics, contact us today: Maggie Marchand or 309-346-2512.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Engaging Younger Customers

Generation X, Generation Y (Millennials), Generation Z – they’re the ones driving the future, but how do you drive their spending? Reaching the digital generation takes savvy, creativity and flexibility. Much like the generation itself. Where do you start – or click?

Previously, a tactical mix of TV, radio, direct mail, brochures, calls, requests for appointments and newsletters would deliver results. Today, it takes searches and blogs, online research, social networks, a website, a following (on social networks) and reviews or likes (social buzz).

How do generations use media? 

  • Baby Boomers – Newspaper, TV, magazines 
  • Generation X – TV, internet, newspaper 
  • Generation Y (Millennials) – Social media, internet, TV 
  • Generation Z (post-millennials) – Who knows what the future will bring?

The fact is Millennials dominate large towns and small cities, so we need to know how to reach them.

Source: The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project Local News Survey, January 12-25, 2011. N=2,251 adults, ages 18 and older, including 750 cell phone interviews. Interviews conducted in English and Spanish. Margin of error for the total sample is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points. An asterisk (*) indicates a significant difference at the 95% confidence level.

Across all generations, mobile is the game changer – smartphone and tablet penetration has grown by almost two-thirds in just four years.

Source: US Digital Future in Focus, comScore March 2014

However you reach them, consider these buying habits:

  • Awareness 
  • Consideration 
  • Preference 
  • Action 
  • Loyalty 
  • Advocacy

It’s worth including search engine marketing – to the tune of 11.9 billion Google searches per month! Target specific regions or reaches, and reach potential customers at the precise moment they’re looking for information – your information.

How does video play? For many Millennials and Generation Z, YouTube replaces TV. In fact, it’s the second largest search engine in the U.S., with more than 3 billion searches each month. And, almost 50% of internet users are on YouTube. It can be an information source to discuss key topics, promote core services, enhance organic search results, reach a younger audience. YouTube gets over 1 billion visitors a month.

Want to get the young folks’ ear? We’re tuned in - contact us today: Maggie Marchand, or 309-346-2512.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Is Mobilegeddon Really Upon Us? And What Do You Do About It?

Have you heard? Google changed its search algorithms – again. The buzz is that mobile-friendly websites are the new darlings of the new algorithm, and pundits are speculating that this could lead to an implosion of small business websites that aren’t quite up to snuff on their smartphone friendliness. Truth or fiction?

The answer, not surprisingly, falls somewhere in between. The last algorithm update focused on content, but also on the user experience – making content easier for users to digest and actually looking for content that’s more conversational and casual, more in line with how the user would actually search. This update takes it a step farther to how they view. These days, mobile accounts for as much as two-thirds of web traffic, and Google is playing favorites with sites that recognize that fact and optimize for that experience. (Specifically for mobile phones, not tablets.)

The reality is that it’s not just small businesses that could be affected when they experience a sudden drop in their online traffic. Many big brands haven’t been optimized for mobile, and they’ll be in the same boat as their smaller brethren. Some estimates say nearly 50% of Fortune 500 companies didn’t have mobile-friendly websites as of the beginning of April.
Rochelle Hospital's responsive website design 

What makes a mobile-friendly website:

  • Easy-to-click links
  • Large text
  • “Responsive” design – automatically resizes to fit whatever screen it’s viewed on

If you haven’t made it to mobile-friendly yet, fear not. It’s never too late. And remember, content is always king, or at least a prince. So while your company or organization may be dinged for lack of mobile optimization, you’ll still be rewarded for great content. And it’s a small but smart leap to making your site a thing of beauty no matter what screen it’s viewed on.

Ready to take your site search savvy and mobile motivated? We’ve got the Mobilegeddon-proof packet right here – contact us today: Maggie Marchand, [email protected] or 309-346-2512.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

7 Questions to Ask that Slick SEO Firm that’s Blowing Up Your Inbox

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So when someone promises you whiz-bang SEO (top rankings! #1 on Google!) at a bang-up price, it’s time to do more than raise your eyebrows. It’s time to search out an SEO firm that walks the walk with real-world results and strategies that succeed. What do you ask them to find out if they’re more than a sassy e-mail?

1. What’s your strategy? 

More than just the technical side, more than tags, a site, directory submissions. Ask them to review their long-term process for strengthening and maintaining SEO.

2. Do you have the technology? 

With the strategy comes a prerequisite for staying current with the latest programming techniques and content marketing to ensure your website is easily found.

3. Do you believe in page 1? 

In today’s SEO world, Page 1 for you is different than Page 1 for me where a number of other external variables affect Page 1 rankings. Make sure your SEO specialist understands how to navigate this and deliver relevant results to your customers and audience.

4. Is bird the word? 

Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm dramatically changed the SEO landscape, taking search relevance from keyword richness to semantic user search queries. Does their SEO strategy take it into account?

5. Is it one and done? 

Successful SEO is ongoing and ever-changing. It’s long-term, with continual evaluation of both content and which keywords are utilized. It’s integrating all of these aspects plus analyzing search engine algorithms to adjust strategy as necessary.

6. Does your SEO firm actually implement your SEO changes?

…or simply comment on what needs to be done? Make sure your firm has the capability and know how to put those necessary changes in place.

7. What’s the package? 

Beyond just keywords, strong SEO looks at user optimization, online marketing, internal and external web linking, analytics, objectives evaluation, coding, web standards and protocols, public relations, directory listings, content quality and site design.

Why SEO? Because 75% of 33 million searchers every day never scroll past the first page of results. To keep your ranking high, our SEO strategy incorporates six key components: content, programming structure, social integration, overall site usability, linking and directories.

Don’t be in the 25%. Contact Maggie Marchand today to find out how. [email protected] or 309-346-2512.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The 4-1-1 on Social Media Calendars

You got the 4-1-1? (Insert hipster slang voice here.) It’s hard to know if you aren’t mapping out your social media and treating it like a real part of your marketing strategy, rather than the red-headed stepchild your boss’ grandson works on when he’s home from college or interning twice a week. Social media can seem deceptively easy: Click, post, tweet, voila, visibility and you’re done! But if you don’t have a calendar, how can you know if you’re following the 4-1-1 rule to be successfully social?

Content pundits coined the 4-1-1 rule to keep self-promotion from overwhelming social media channels, and savvy marketers live it. Simply put, 4 fun, entertaining, relatable posts or tweets or pics or snaps for every 1 hard promotion and every 1 soft promotion. So you’re still selling, but mostly not selling, at least in the strictest terms.

But how do you know if you don’t have a social media calendar? Here’s our 4-1-1 on creating one:

  • Pick your four types of updates: images, links, reshares, plain text/quotes. 
  • Choose your channels (ideally you’d start with three or less, such as Twitter and Facebook, then expand after you have a comfortable strategy rolling). 
  • Find your frequency (consider at least five and as many as 20 for Twitter, up to two for Facebook, for example) 
  • Map out your key events, business cycles, holidays. 
  • Start with a big-picture yearly calendar. Put in the items we mentioned above. Add in product launches, key industry events, repeatable items that happen every year and more. 
  • Move on to monthly. So as not to get overwhelmed, start with a quarter and get deeper into company goals for the month, marketing plan milestones, sales specials, outside or industry events. 
  • Delve down to daily. 
    • Who’s going to post what? 
    • How much of your content will be original vs curated (from outside sources, blogs, other posts and tweets, etc)? 
    • Can you find or develop content ahead of time? How much? 
    • How will you (or an agency) manage your posting? 
    • Will it be automated or manual? 
    • What services and tools will you use? 
    • How will you manage and develop your calendar? 
    • Will you have a key person or a team? 
    • Who will work on which channel and how often? 

And most importantly, how will you make all this happen without outsourcing? That’s an answer for the next post…

How do you get successfully social? Whether you pin, post, tweet, snap, chat or blog it, we’re happy to share our time-proven ideas for success. Contact Randy McDaniels, [email protected] or 309-346-7412.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Should You Go Video Viral?

In a testament to our virtual world and the accompanying seemingly unstoppable popularity of video, consider this: 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Think about that: Over 4 days’ worth of video each minute of each hour of each day. 4 DAYS of video. Now, will your customer sit down and watch 4 days of video about your product or service? Heck no. But, if you can capture even a few minutes of time, estimates say that after watching a product video viewers are as much as 85% more likely to buy. And that doesn’t even account for the intangible brand awareness that comes with non-product videos.

Internet ad revenues jumped 17% between 2012 and 2013 alone, and video has increased its share to become the fourth largest digital advertising format (behind search, display/banner and mobile). Online advertising is expected to double in the next five years, with video advertising driving the train. By 2019, projections put video advertising on desktop devices at nearly 55% of online desktop display ad revenue. Adding to that, Facebook recently surpassed 1 billion daily desktop views (spurred by autoplay but no less impressive). The take-home? You’ve heard of the viral video? Well video itself is on the verge of going viral.

How do you know what people want to see? The most popular video on YouTube in 2014 was Mutant Giant Spider Dog (a guy dresses his dog up as a spider and lets it loose on the dark city streets to freak people out). Much like Shakira’s hips, the numbers don’t lie: 58% of Internet users look for comedy/humor in their videos, 56% how-to, 50% education or music and 45% news.

Which brings us to our Top Three Video Tenets:

  1. Solve a problem 
  2. Entertain 
  3. Make a call to action 

Bottom line: Get creative, and think outside the oh-so-cliched box. Your product (or service) doesn’t have to be sexy to sell – witness ShamWow!, with tens of millions of YouTube hits, plus parody videos drawing millions more views. Or the squeaky clean Dove brand, attracting 18 million views with its evolution video.

Not sure viral’s in your blood? It’s in our veins, thanks to a love of giant spider dogs, puppies, bendable iPhone tests and other YouTube atrocities – let us open your eyes to the possibilities and power of viral video. With our turnkey video services, we can help you take it from action to active results, from short- and long-form production to Youtube, Facebook and Google video ad campaigns. Contact Randy McDaniels, [email protected] or 309-346-7412.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Social Success: Knowing When to Say When in Social Media

Got a ho-ho-holiday hangover coming off the most wonderful time of the year? Feeling like you missed the window for social media advertising? (After all, holiday shopping generates the most hits for social media advertising.) Fear not, seasonality isn’t limited to end-of-the-season holidays when it comes to social media. So how do you know when to plan your hits? If your budget won’t allow for a continuous presence year-round, consider some other key peaks in clicks.

Maybe you’re marketing healthcare and moms are a big target for you. When are moms uber-active on social media? Back-to-school season in August and September. You’re sure to stick out among the backpack and pencil pushers, and it’s the perfect opportunity to tout physicals, immunizations and your extended hours for when the school germies hit.

Looking for a bigger window? Travel searches start to uptick in March and hit a high in August. Summer months are especially strong. So if you’re a convention and visitors bureau, this is your time to shine. Pick an innovative itinerary to push or wave the flag on your one-of-a-kind attractions.

Whenever you do it, get creative. A few key elements to make sure you include in your ads or page posts:

  • Attention-grabbing image 
  • Your brand – easily identifiable 
  • Worthwhile info – give the audience a reason to read 
  • An emotional appeal and call to action 

This is your opportunity to engage at a whole new level. Seventy percent of Americans are on Facebook. Ninety percent of millennials use social media. Instagram and Twitter are growing at record paces. And even senior citizens are getting in on the action, with more than half of them using social media. As Nike says, “Just do it.” But do it right.

Not sure how to do it right? We’re social butterflies, flitting from Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn and beyond to capture clicks and leads for our customers. Contact Randy McDaniels, [email protected] or 309-346-7412.