Beyond A Pretty Face: What Graphics Mean For Your Site

When it comes to web design, people are pretty much over being wowed by graphics. In fact, good graphics are more or less expected of any professional site. If you’re working with a firm that provides graphic design, you’ll want to discuss with them the value of graphics beyond making your site look better. This includes such things as:

  • Functionality
  • Accessibility
  • Branding
  • Look and feel
  • Usability

Good graphic content on your website can go far beyond making your website look pretty. In fact, if you’re working with an SEO firm, they’ll let you know that there are elements of your graphic content that need to be optimized for the search engines, as well as for the human eye. Putting this all together can get a bit complex, but here are some of the basics.

Accessibility, Functionality and Usability

When you’re working with a firm that handles graphic design, you may be surprised to find out that there are some concerns that go into graphic design that you hadn’t thought about. For instance, if you had the idea of making a red logo with green lettering, a good graphic designer would warn you off from this. People who are colorblind will not be able to read your logo. This addresses accessibility and usability.

Graphics should be clearly visible and should not distract from the rest of the content on the site. This is important for users. If the graphics make it harder for them to use the site, they’re likely to see it as a very unprofessional site or one that completely disregarded their needs from the start.

Some graphics are functional. For instance, image sliders may be provided with links that allow people to click on the image and go to an article. If the firm you find has SEO services among its offerings, though make certain that the graphics and the accompanying materials are set up in a way that ensure that the search engines can properly decipher and index whatever content goes along with that graphic.

Branding and Looks

Graphic design firms can do wonders for your branding efforts. If the company that does your graphic design is good, they’ll be able to redo existing logo so that they look more modern and attractive and will be able to come up with compelling new logos they give your business a branding edge.

Graphics are much more than things to look at. In fact, some of the most useful sites out there also have great graphic content. That graphic content tends to make it easier to use the site, easier to understand what each of the different functional elements of the site do and, quite simply, make the site look more professional. Talk to the company that handles your web development about good graphic design for business websites and how it may contribute to the overall success of the site that you have designed for your business.

Article provided by Division [1] Web Design, a web design, software application and web development company. To read more articles click here.
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Inbound Marketing & 3rd Generation of Websites: Part 2

In part I we delved into the early stages of websites, how they begin, their evolution and where they are heading today. From a business perspective, sites have seemingly gotten smarter, and the potential to utilize them for growth and lead generation is amazing. I like to think of a website as having a salesperson working for you 24/7/365. No vacation, no sick days and a constant ability to draw in fresh prospects. Sure there’s upkeep and in this article we are going to get our hands dirty with the foundation principles of Inbound Marketing. What exactly is Inbound Marketing?

Much like many people asked what social media was a mere few years ago, the term inbound marketing is not part of the mainstream vernacular, yet.

Inbound marketing is the process of drawing customers and prospects to you, instead of you seeking them via outbound techniques, like direct mail or cold calling. Oftentimes, these traditional methods are unwelcome and interrupt people without their permission. Inbound uses a combination of methods that position a business to be found when the prospect wants to find you. This is a much different idea, and simple at it’s core. Think of it like this: If you were watching your favorite TV show on DVR, and suddenly thought, “Hey, I need a new vacuum” and a vacuum commercial came on, you wouldn’t skip it. It was there when you wanted it there, not when the advertiser would force you to watch it.

Mind you the concept is not new, and the term Inbound Marketing has been around for many years, created by Hubspot, who is at the forefront of inbound marketing software and education. (full disclosure, my agency Soul NYC is a Hubspot Partner).

For businesses looking to redesign their website to be 3rd generation, there are some key elements to consider to set it up properly for Inbound Marketing. Your website is the major component, but external factors also can come into play. 1. You must have a blog. This is a must. The cornerstone of inbound marketing is producing interesting and relevant content on a regular basis. A website with a blog, gives a business the opportunity to broadcast at will. Blog content, besides providing useful information for your audience, also gives the search engines more opportunity to find your site. Continually adding to your blog adds pages to your site, and that fresh content is actually considered differently by Google and other search engines. Recent changes to search algorithms give more weight to fresher content. “Google’s aim is to include recency and freshness when determining relevance.”

  1. But what do you write about? Think about the things your customers ask you over and over again. These are great fuel for blog articles, and will be the types of things people will search for. Make a list of at least a dozen potential titles, so you have somewhere to start. Try to schedule posting at least one blog article a week, if not more. Make sure your content and titles are SEO friendly, which leads us to…
  2. Optimize Everything SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a key component is setting up your website for inbound marketing. It’s one of the most powerful things you can do to drive traffic to your site. It is important that the page titles are used properly. We often see the name of the company only on every page title, or just a simple one word description of the page content. The title should include important keywords and other information, like location that can help to return better results on search. These title tags show up in the browser, search engine results and many social media sites use that title tag as the link when posted. Example: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name 2 In addition it is good practice to link keywords within the body of your website content and blog posts to other pages on your site. Remember to write your content for readers, but consider the terms or keywords that they might be looking for. As always make sure that content is relevant to your audience and useful. Stuffing it with keywords over and over for the hell of it will make it unreadable and Google doesn’t like that either! These are just a few of the many things that affect SEO on your site. Do some research or discuss with your web design agency about properly structuring your site for SEO. There are also practices for Offsite SEO that are equally important. As we’re talking about fine tuning your website for Inbound Marketing, we will save that for another article.
  3. Integrate Social Media Social Media can work on many fronts. It can help you build presence and audience external to your website and position you as a knowledgeable leader in your field. In terms of your website, social can be used to draw people back to your content when you post it on the channels that you choose to use. It also is a way to spread that content. The larger your audience is on social, the wider your potential reach is. So post often and with relevancy. Share and retweet other people’s content as well. It’s just good practice to do so, and will always lead to reciprocal sharing of your content. On your site, implement tools to make sharing easy. Give site visitors the opportunity to like, share, tweet and email without leaving your pages by using social share buttons.
  4. Create Clear Calls To Action Once you’ve done the work to get visitors through your site through blogging, SEO and social, now what? You want to speak to them directly. A call to action helps to do that by giving them a specific action to take. These can be catered to the different types of people who buy your services by creating “buyer personas.” This differs for every business and usually there are several types of them. Regardless of the specifics, your call to action (CTA) should be written and designed in a manner that will incite a response. Some examples: Start Your Free Trial Today Call for a FREE Consulation Download our Ebook on XYZ Tell them clearly what you want them to do. A good CTA is explicit, concise and stands out on your page. Place them on pages where people wind up from search and social, like your homepage, blog, and services pages. You should have multilple CTA’s to use that are specific to the page or content the viewer is looking at. Then link those CTA’s to landing pages…
  5. Use Landing Pages to Convert Visitors to Leads This is where the magic happens. A good landing page is written to reinforce the offer of your CTA. It should describe the benefits of the offer and again incite an action. Common practice on landing pages is to remove all buttons and links, leaving the user with just the form that you will use to capture their info and register them as a lead. Once the form is completed, the user is typically sent an email with a link to download the offer or confirming receipt of their information and the next steps you will take. Here are 7 Tips to Landing page success from Search Engine Watch 3

    1) Have a Clear and Emphasized Call to Action
    2) Align Your On-Page Message and Call-to-Action With Your Off-Page Promise
    3) Simplify Design and Reduce Text
    4) Use Images Judiciously
    5) Show Brand Validation
    6) Enable Sharing and Highlight Social Validation
    7) Test, Test, Test

  6. Analyze & Measure Everything The foundation for all inbound marketing efforts is analytics. You have to know where your traffic sources are coming from, what they’re looking at, and whether or not they are engaged with your content. This requires robust software to be installed on your website.

Google Analytics is a start but it doesn’t offer the full suite of measurement tools needed to effectively get the job done.

Good tools will track and measure many important bits of information that will allow you to continually improve your inbound marketing game. Knowledge is power, and the right platform will provide you all of the insights needed to craft better optimized content, stronger CTA’s and landing pages, as well as gain valuable insight about who is hitting your site. Leads and Conversions are also recorded and data can be tracked and compared over time.

This constant measurement allows us as marketers to improve our efforts while the customer or business owner has real data on what is being done and how that relates to ROI.

Final Thoughts…

Inbound Marketing, is a worthwhile, proven approach that can create a steady flow of traffic and leads when executed properly. If you’re considering a website redesign, ask your developer or agency about how you can implement features in your new website to facilitate this. As always make sure that the approach is right for your business. If you decide to go it alone and are not capable or writing and producing content in a timely manner, it may not be a fit. You can seek out assistance from a qualified professional or agency so that you get the most out of inbound marketing.


Is Your Website Deliciously Sticky?

What is the point of having a website?

It’s to let people know all about your business, your products, your services; it’s to give them the information they need to contact you; and it’s to give them the information they need to choose you over your competitors. It’s also supposed to convince people to browse your site and keep them coming back for more. Essentially, you want people to stick to you like glue and that is why you need a ‘sticky site’.

A sticky site is one that gives visitors want they want immediately and entices them to click internal links so that they can find out more. It also makes them want to share the stickiness with their friends, like delicious fudge.

What makes a site sticky?

There are two main factors that contribute to the stickiness of your site.

1)     Website design

2)     Content

Web design

A lot of businesses, especially small businesses, skimp on site design. One reason is that they think it’s too expensive. But the cost of losing customers through a slap-dash site far outweighs the cost of a decent looking website.

Some businesses mistake flashy for professional. They try to jam-pack their sites with too many features, to many colours and too much information from the get-go. One of the key factors of sticky site design is simplicity. Simple doesn’t have to be bland or stark; it can still be striking and bold.

In addition to being overwhelming, flashy sites can take a long time to load. Sites with a long loading time are likely to die far quicker death.

Think of your site as a map; it should direct people to where they want to go via the most direct route. In web jargon, you want a site that is intuitively navigable and usable.


Content doesn’t consist only of words. Images, polls, competitions, videos – they’re all content. Search engines like words and well-tagged images and videos, so you need to choose your words (keywords) carefully. But searchers like to be engaged, which basically means that you still need to choose your words carefully.

Your content is what sets you apart from your competitors, it’s what attracts and keeps attention. It needs to be especially sticky. Once again, you don’t want to overwhelm your visitors with information. Once again you want to keep it simple. Bear in mind that you want to be clear and succinct and not curt and laconic.

Every page should have a goal and the content must support that goal. Steven Bradley says that you should follow the inverted pyramid style of writing. That’s all the most important information right at the top and the lesser details trailing down.

Search and social

Jordan Kasteler (Search Engine Land) says that you need to consider the different needs of search and social users.

Search users are likely to be looking for something specific – they want certain information and they want it now so they can convert. Social users are likely to be browsers – they’re curious; the kind of people who tell salespeople that they’re ‘just looking’ in a store.

Balancing these needs needn’t be too tricky because there is a fair bit of overlap. They both want information in as simple a format as possible, but search visitors are more likely to want your services/products and purchases pages, while social users are more likely to want your blog and about us pages – but they also want to see your services and products.

Basically, if your website and your content are designed with users in mind, you have a good chance of achieving stickiness.



This guest post was written by Sandy Cosser on behalf of Elemental, a specialist web development company that balances your needs with those of your online visitors. Follow Sandy on twitter @SandyCosser

Inbound Marketing & The 3rd Generation of Websites – Part I: How did we get here?

As we all become further connected and rich content is being produced literally by the second, a huge shift has taken place in how businesses are utilizing the web for marketing. Social media, SEO, blogging, lead generation – these are all things that even the smallest business is now concerned with. Dollars are harder to earn and the need to see results from marketing efforts is more important than ever. Beyond making it look better, companies are now asking “how can I get more out of my website?”

But where did we start? Maybe, I’m feeling a little nostalgic after sitting in a Delorean last week at LITweetup (thanks @namnum). To understand where we are, and more importantly, where we are going, I thought we’d take a little trip back in time. Mind you this is in no way meant to be a detailed history, I’m glossing over huge chunks of happenings, but from the perspective of a designer and avid user of websites for the last 15 years or so, this is what I’ve seen.

I present to you… A (very) brief history of website evolution.

Though Al Gore invented the interwebs sometime earlier, I’d say the mid 90’s were when it started to really gain traction. As with any new thing, there are early adopters, the first generation. Some small and medium business jumped online and the brochure site was born; typically very thin on content and only a few pages, if that. It was a sign of the times, and it was good enough. At the time most people were connecting to the internet through AOL. Remember the signup CD’s they used to send in the mail? The Post Office must have made a killing for a few years delivering those things by the truck full. Though there were obviously some innovative things going on with design and technology, the expectation for most websites was very low.

Internet usage was increasing yearly and by December 1999 there were 248 Million people using the entire internet1. Let’s put that number in context to a stat from today. According to their SEC filing in April, there were 901 Million users on Facebook alone.2 That is simply astounding. By the time you are reading this they will likely be close to crossing the 1 Billion mark.

The late 90’s and early 2000’s saw Macromedia Flash (now owned by Adobe) taking over and there was a rush to make websites more alive and interactive. It was an exciting time as some outrageous stuff was being created. Many of the top digital creative agencies, like Firstborn and R/GA really hit their stride here, as the technology was allowing seemingly endless possibilities. Sites became immersive, and video was easier to display if you had the bandwidth to watch it. But that’s at the top end. Trust me, alot of absolute crap was produced too. The flash “intro” was born and everyone one wanted one. This of course came with a price. We had a saying at the agency I used to work for, “There’s nothing worse than an ugly website, than an ugly website that moves.” Enough said. Though, sometimes when I’m bored to tears on Facebook reading that some “friends” I barely knew from High School are changing their kids diapers, I long for the days of Mr. Wong, Peanut Butter Jelly Time and

Enter Web 2.0

Around 2004, the term Web 2.0 was coined by O’Reilly Media3, and the emergence of real-time information, collaboration, sharing and user-generated content became prevalent. This is really when social started to become a factor in sites. Companies and musicians alike were building profiles on Myspace, and Facebook was just getting rolling. Sites became cleaner in appearance, and blogs were growing in use. Flickr and YouTube emerge as channels of sharing and self expression, and anyone could achieve celebrity status with enough views. A tide was turning and many websites were re-designed around this point as they simply looked so out of date.

Trends that began then are still evolving today and much of it has become common practice. Social is no longer a buzzword, but a viable form of media for those inclined to understand how to use its power. There is not an advertiser in print or TV who isn’t asking you to like, follow or join their conversation. Brands are engaging and listening, and the smallest single customer interaction is now extremely important.

For the last few years there’s been a shift in expectation. Companies big and small are finally starting to realize that maybe there’s more that can be done with their website, more to be gained from that investment. They’re asking “what can I get out of it, what else can it do for my business?” I like to call it the “3rd generation of websites.” More and more companies are now redesigning with purpose, and that purpose is to generate leads and new business.

In Part II, we’ll dive into this next generation, and how Inbound Marketing is changing the way businesses are using the web.




A Day at Google New York & Seth Godin [OPINION]

Google started a pretty amazing program called “Google Engage for Agencies”, while it’s a great outreach program to help generate brand advocates that act as a sales team for low to no cost, it’s much more then that!

Google has generated a program that has done a few things, but I want to center on two, Content and Education!

1) Google Engage is a program that is producing content for Google.  Agencies are now telling stories for Google about Google and tying it directly into local communities! The Engage program has agencies and consultants that now have stories that tie back to their community, ones that give all the recognition to Google and the AdWords platform.

2) Google is flooding the market with the correct information and empowering agencies and consultants through education to provide the correct and effective services. In a time period where consumers distrust agencies and digital marketers (and they should) Google has decided to empower those that want to learn, want to provide value making it much harder for those that are not genuine to survive.

The Engage program has provided others, like myself with direct education and training. The information that I now have as a professional has been advanced by the support of Google, both in a distance education program and done in conjunction with Dale Carnegie trainers at Google.

I made a comment earlier that consumers distrust digital marketers and agencies and that “they should”. I stand by that statement, in fact,  I started blogging because of that very fact just a few years ago. Walk into a small business owner these days and don’t be surprised when you get a question like “what makes you different then the other 100 sales people before you” and it’s a great question, in fact if business owners and organizations had asked it sooner we wouldn’t have the distrust that the marketing industry has earned.

Google made a commitment to provide a service that they believed helps connect people on the web to solutions providers and services. That incredible tool has been defiled by digital marketing consultants and agencies. As Seth Godin has explained, marketing had it good until the illusion vanished. Out of fear and greed the economy was destroyed overnight by those that worked to game the system, be in PPC, SEO or just selling products, services and solutions that they didn’t care if it worked as long as they got paid.

Google had another great surprise for those of us in attendance, a LIVE Google Hangout with Seth Godin, “America’s Greatest Marketer as claimed by American Way Magazine. Seth’s presentation was excellent and while he did a great job sharing information with us, the Q&A was a treasure. Seth’s message is that success comes from being genuine and often takes a long time, in fact Seth admitted it took his blog three (3) years to gain traction.

A day at Google confirmed one thing, the world is full of fraud and the marketing industry has a disproportionate number of contributors. The bright note is that for those of us that take the time to genuinely try solve problems and not just generate sales or revenue, we can and will be successful. In this case, Google is genuine about wanting to connect people with what they are actually looking for, be it through organic search or paid search. Google is acting like a leader, providing the right and accurate resources to the community. The Google Engage program is just one of the resources that Google has invested in to empower the professionals that are trying to do the right thing by their clients, customers and business.

In the end, Google was impressive at every turn. Google New York had Food, Fun and Value! The information was only surpassed by their commitment and methods to deliver it! A methodology that I feel is worth any successful business or corporation pursuing.

Top 15 Must-See Websites for Designers and Illustrators

From visiting the museum to riding the bus, inspiration can come from anywhere. However, finding inspiration is not that easy for some designers and illustrators. Sometimes, designers suffer from what they call an artist block. Imagination can actually dry up and leave the designers with an awful feeling of blankness. Luckily at this day and age, the World Wide Web offers a multitude of creative information and ideas from all over the globe to those in dire need of inspiration. Overcome artist block with the list below that features the top 15 must-see websites to get designers and illustrators motivated.

These ultra-modern websites range from personal blogs to online galleries of graphics and images, are definitely awe-worthy and rousing. The creative images and works to be featured here are products of the hard work and passion of other designers and illustrators. These are great sources for inspiration but are not meant to be copied. They’ve put much love and soul to their works and deserve the respect and admiration of everyone.

1. Inspired Mark

This is the personal website that features a range of scribbles, outstanding illustrations, and awesome designs by web architect Mark Collins.

Find them on Twitter or Facebook

2. We Love Illustration

Another good resource for inspiration and motivation, We Love Illustration is a real haven for art and illustration lovers to find inspiration and share their works. This is a place that showcases the amazing talents of different artists from all over the world.

Find them on Facebook

3. Leivos

Managed by designers Shyra and Veronika, Leivos provides more than just creative images and pictures with their daily posts. This virtual pin board also features the coolest interviews with well-known artists and other new artists worth knowing.

Find them on Twitter or Facebook

4. Daily Design Inspiration

The name says it all. With artworks from brilliant designers, this website offers a great deal of fresh design inspiration every day. It features the best logos, cool websites, illustrations, creative photos, and never before seen patterns made by the most talented designers worldwide. Daily Design Inspiration is a hodgepodge of everything artistic and original.

Find them on Twitter or Facebook

5. Sketchblog

According to website owner and professional art director, Rob Sheridan, Sketchblog is a creative playground he set up to encourage himself to draw and create more often. But with his cool and unique artworks, Sketchblog does more and inspires even aspiring artists worldwide to live their dreams start sketching.

Find them on Twitter

6. Ads of the World

Owned and managed by Web Media Brands, Ads of the World is an advertising archive and community. It features inspiring print ads and marketing campaigns done by the world’s top advertising agencies. Students and beginners also post their works at this site to get constructive criticism from the industry experts. There’s also a forum page where artists and designers can exchange ideas for their projects.

Find them on Twitter or Facebook

7. Print and Pattern

Print and Pattern is a gallery of nothing but awesome prints and pattern designs. Print and Pattern transforms your fabrics, wallpapers, cards, and gift wrappers into works of art. The innovative mix and match of colors, shapes, and lines is a must-see for all artists.

Find them on Twitter or Facebook

8. Cool Hunting

Founded in 2003, Cool Hunting has grown from one designer’s personal reference into an award-winning publication. Composed of a global team of editors and contributors who highlights creativity and innovation in technology, design, travel, food, and culture, Cool Hunting provides daily updates and mini-documentaries that attract creative people internationally.

Find them on Twitter or Facebook

9. Orange You Lucky

Cute, colorful, and imaginative are the three words that best describe this website. Owned by an illustrator, designer, and a mother of three pretty girls, Orange You Lucky offers fun and fresh art and drawings.

Find them on Twitter or Facebook


This website is creativity to the max.  Really sleek cool design that gets your artistic juices flowing.  The site is owned and hosted by a sharepoint hosting company in California and so far has become very popular within this last year.

Find them on Twitter 

11. Web Designer Wall

Toronto-based web designer, Nick La started this website in August 2007 as his personal wall of design ideas, trends, and tutorials. It has quality content and eye-catching design that makes it a must-see website for designers.

Find them on Twitter

12. I Love Typography

Often taken for granted by designers, a good typography is vital in creating the best quality designs and artworks. I Love Typography has the prettiest and most unique type design, lettering, and fonts, from road signs and shampoo bottles to billboards and posters.

Find them on Twitter or Facebook

13. Fuel Your Creativity

A great website to spark your creativity and generate awesome ideas, Fuel Your Creativity is a brilliant design blog that has inspiring articles and links to various design websites.

Find them on Twitter or Facebook

14. Design is Kinky

Design is Kinky brings design and art goodness from Sydney, Australia since 1998. A blog that features new designs, photos, and artworks from all over the world, this site has been inspiring many artists for years.

Find them on Facebook

15. Monster Meltdown

Founded in 2005 by design lover and cool dude, Patrick McNeil, Monster Meltdown is a funky website that has the cutest little monsters in the web. It has a variety of design styles, trends, and elements. Its mission is to provide the largest and most exhaustive inspiration sets possible.

Find them on Twitter or Facebook

Rob Smiel is a advit design art fan.  Rob especially likes graphic design and web development.

What is Inbound Marketing? [Internship]

            Inbound marketing is a way of making yourself or your company easy to find and drawing people to your website by producing content that appeals to your visitors. The term “inbound marketing” was coined in 2005 by HubSpot’s Brian Halligan because he believed that traditional marketing was becoming less effective. Inbound marketing includes content like blogs, enewsletters, and the social media network. Inbound marketing is far more favored by businesses than outbound marketing. Outbound marketing includes content such as spam, telemarketing, and fliers.

            The whole concept of inbound marketing is to get the customers to find you, instead of you reaching out to them. It can be broken down into five stages. One, attract traffic; two, convert visitors to leads; three, convert leads to sales; four, turn customers into repeat higher margin customers; and five, analyze for continuous improvement. A company can attract traffic to their website by blogging, for example. Updating your blog more frequently will attract more visitors to your website and revenue traffic. Announce your website via email, and across the social media networks like Google+ and Twitter to garnish social and search traffic. Email everyone you know about your new website, lead with content and the word will travel. Share it on your social media websites. Include keywords that will draw your targeted audience in. Then, you want to make sure that the material on your page is what the visitor is looking for. Your goal is to make the visitor a customer. After your visitor becomes a customer, make sure they will come back by sending them an enewsletter and keep your page updated with things that will attract them to buy again. After you went through the four steps of the process, you want to analyze everything that you have done and make sure you are doing everything you can to satisfy your visitors, followers, customers.

            In order to make inbound marketing completely effective, you want to give your customers your marketing information, and a little something else. This provides a value above and beyond what they are looking for, which creates a value to the customer experience. For example, if you’re a gardening or landscaping company, write a little side story about your home garden and how you personally take care of it in the newsletter. The three key phases are “get found, convert, and analyze”.

            Inbound marketing can be effective if the communication is interactive and two-way, unlike outbound marketing which is one-way. One way to create inbound marketing is by being found on search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, YouTube, etc. This is a type of inbound content because someone who is looking for something specifically related to you will go directly to your page. By creating valuable content on your website, your website will rise in organic search results. By rising in organic search results, it will benefit you tremendously because the closer you are to the search engines first page, the more visibility you are gaining for your website.

You can try and get your website higher in the organic search result by pay per click (PPC). PPC is an advertising model used to direct traffic to a certain website. Every time someone’s ad is clicked, the advertiser pays the website owner or publisher. Another way to rank higher in organic search results is to make a well put together press release that is filled with information that your targeted audience will click on when they search on a search engine. Don’t use keywords that are commonly used by your competition; be more creative when it comes to keywords.

            A recently new field that inbound marketing has found its way to is the social media network. Social media sites are the most visited websites on the web. When marketing on social media, identify your target audience. Once you have a targeted audience, think about keywords this audience might use to search to find sites like yours. Facebook for example, has seen a steady increase in its search bar for businesses. A basic principle of a social media site is like using a forum, if there is no activity going on you will leave. To make sure that this doesn’t happen to you on your website, fill it with lots of information and useful content. Finally, another way to use the social media network for inbound marketing is to give your “community” something to talk about. For example, if you own a fitness company and you are now selling a new workout machine, tell your social medic community. This is the “network effect”, when your community creates a “buzz” about what you were talking about, it will bring in other users.

            An easy way to get information out about your business or product is to advertise where they are already going. For example, by putting “like us on Facebook” on your company’s website, this will draw people to your Facebook page where you can advertise all about your business, products and services. Another way to generate inbound marketing is to host contests. By letting your visitors and or customers take an online survey about their experience with your website, offer a chance to win a prize if they take the survey. Also give them the opportunity to go through an easy-to-do sign up for newsletters offering them coupons and sneak peeks into the future.

            Inbound marketing is far more effective than outbound marketing. You can prove this just by asking if you have deleted spam mail without reading it. Spam mail is an example of outbound marketing. Since social media is huge growing field, there should be no question as to why inbound marketing is so effective. In the end, it’s all about finding a new way to generate interest, and inbound marketing is the new way to generate interest and visitors, followers, customers.  


The content in this article is part of Digital Ethos’s Digital Media Education in the Higher Education Internship Program, the content was created by @KaylaMarzo, a Student at Suffolk County Community college, intern at Digital Ethos.

SEO2012: A Visual Look at Search Engine Optimization

First, note that the article starts with “opinion” and the truth is that all content related to SEO is exactly that, opinion. Any representative or person that claims to have “facts” to back up their SEO strategies has discredited themselves. This is not to say that professionals can’t produce data that shows results, but simply put no one outside of Google really knows what drives Search Results in a manner that can be supported by fact. If you then take into account the fact that SEO has changed so many times in the last two years, one could argue that the industry has removed itself from the categories that allow for the titles guru and expert.

Search Engine Optimization

The chart is meant to be a tool, one that business owners should find useful as a roadmap for talking points with a SEO Professional or Agency. While there are finer points and details to contend with, you’d be hard pressed to find a real professional in the industry that could argue about the basic premise here and how important quality SEO is derived almost equally between each of the three sections. As such you should expect and anticipate that your SEO strategy should touch on all three, or spend your time and money somewhere else.

Onsite, represents the structural design and make up of your website. The structural design is a crucial component to how the site is crawled and MORE importantly will allow your users to interact with it. Engagement which is the perceived value to the user or visitor, is believed to have direct value correlations to onsite structure. Things “onsite” like Meta descriptions will affect things like CTR (Click through rates) which is one of the values we believe Google uses to determine if the placement is justified. Followed closely by bounce rates and time on site, which again we believe are all indicators to your sites value in relation to a topic or keyword. The Offsite refers to things like Social Signals, which once heavily included Twitter, but now seems most influenced by +1 activity from Google+. Geo references and Google Local are also factors in the search results both as an independent source and as part of traditional organic results. While backlinks are frowned upon in the perspective of buying links, you’d better believe that it’s going to continue and finding strategies that are genuine in nature are crucial to you survival on page 1.

There is no cookie cutter for SEO, anyone that walks up claiming they have the package for you is full of it! Genuine SEO strategies take time and must evolve, you can start with a budget but what you get as a report at the end of each month can be completely different, types of content, links, social outreach/bookmarks will all change over time and the SEO strategy should reflect that approach and not a useless plan that says $800 you’ll get 50 links, 3 articles and # # # #. That’s a big red flag.

In the end, SEO is part of a business. The Search Engines want to put people in touch with the service they are looking for and you should only want to spend time and money on strategies that place genuine search results that you can benefit from. In the end it’s all about connecting people with the content, product or service they want or need.




How to Write Great Web Content if You’re Not a Writer

We’ve all heard it before: Content is King. And your website needs it. Your site’s content is what tells your customers who you are, what you’re offering and why your business is better than the rest. It tells them where to go, who to call and what the next step is. It drives traffic to your site from Google. Your business cannot afford poorly-written content, but unfortunately, not everyone can afford a professional copywriter to convey their message for them.

There’s good news: Writing great Web content, even if you’re not a great writer, is not impossible. Here are several tips to get you started.

Less really is more.

Yes, your business is awesome, and you want everyone to know it. Yet there’s also something to be said about the guy who talks way too much about himself. Be brief with your website content. This can be tough when there’s a lot to say, so the first step involves understanding what your audience needs and giving it to them. No more, no less. If your company offers credit card processing for non-profits, outline the best services for accepting donations, but don’t go into too much detail. Long chunks of text that are loaded with jargon can get confusing and turn customers off.

Use call to actions.

A call to action gives your visitors direction and encourages them to take that next step to connect with your company:

  • Call now to speak with a representative.
  • Download our PDF to learn more about vehicle tracking using GPS.
  • Make an appointment to start improving your smile today!

Call to action text is usually linked to another page that brings visitors to a contact form, or it can be a single-word phrase within a button that downloads a program or PDF. Don’t hide your call to actions within the copy – make them clear and easy to see so your visitors know exactly what to do next.

Subheads and bullet points are your best friends.

While content is king, your website visitors probably aren’t spending too much time reading every single word. Instead, they’re scanning the copy to find what they’re looking for – benefits, product details, services, rates. Make it easy for them by breaking up your content into short paragraphs with clear subheads, as well as bullets that outline key points.

Add keywords with caution.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is crucial to helping your website get ranked and found through search engines. Optimizing your content with relevant keywords will help drive users to your site as they search Google for certain products and services.

However, it’s not as simple as stuffing your headlines and body copy with keywords and calling it a day. Your visitors can tell when you’re adding keywords just to add them, especially when you put no thought into how the keywords affect the flow of copy. More importantly, Google values quality content and penalizes keyword stuffing. Your site will rank higher when your content provides truly valuable information to your visitors.

Do you have any tips for writing great Web content?


Jacqui MacKenzie is a writer for Straight North, one of the leading Chicago Web design companies specializing in Internet marketing, social media and SEO. She writes for a wide range of clients, including providers of vehicle tracking using GPS and credit card processing for non-profits. Check out the Straight North blog! @ straightnorth


Is Your Business Website Ready for Mobile?

Is your small business website ready for mobile? I am referring to the smartphones people have been overwhelmingly converting to.   According to a recent Google Study using research firm Ipsos they quantified what devices costumers across five key global markets are currently using. Not surprisingly, the numbers show that smartphone ownership is on the rise. What caught some analysts off guard was the finding that in each of the countries polled, use of mobile phones had edged out use of personal computers in 2011.

According to a study by Compuware 71% of global mobile web users expect websites to load as quickly, almost as quickly or faster on their mobile phone compared to the computer they use at home.

Nearly 60% of web users say they expect a website to load on their mobile phone in three seconds or less, and 74% are only willing to wait five seconds or less for a single web page to load before leaving the site. 50% are only willing to wait five seconds or less for an application to load before exiting.

Below are some best practices for mobile websites suggested by GoMO:

1. Keep it Quick   Mobile users want their information fast. To help them, design your site to load fast and make copy easy to read. Prioritize the content and features that mobile users need most. Use your desktop site analytics to see what mobile users are doing

2. Make it Easy to Convert No matter what your site’s objective is, your customers need to be able to do it with a virtual keyboard and no mouse. Make it easy to buy something or contact you!

3. Simplify Navigation  No one likes to be confused. Clear navigation and, on large or complex sites, search functionality, will help your customers easily find what they need

4Make it Local – Consumers look for local info on their phones all the time—from locating the    nearest gas station to finding an open pizza place. Include functionality that helps people find and get to you.

5. Be Thumb Ready – People use their fingers to operate mobile devices – especially their thumbs. Design your site so even large hands can easily interact with it.

6. Make it Seamless – People now use multiple screens throughout the day. Convert as much of the functionality of your desktop site to mobile as you can to create a seamless experience.

7. Design for Visibility – A mobile-friendly site gets its message across without causing eyestrain. Make it easy for your customers to read – remember they may be in a place with low light.

8. Use Re-Directs – A mobile site redirect is code that can automatically tell if visitors are using a mobile device and send them to the mobile-friendly version of your site. Have your site developer implement this redirect code so your customers get the best version of your site for their needs.

9. Make it accessible.  Your mobile site should work across all mobile devices and all handset orientations.

10. Good mobile sites are user-centric, which means they’re built with input from your audience.

It is time to consider all modes of electronic media in your business marketing plan.  Mobile users will continue to play an ever growing part of how you will gain your customers.  Start incorporating these processes now.


Marilyn Zayfert is a passionate digital strategist implementing online and mobile applications. She is a results-driven sales and marketing strategist with a proven track record of achievement and demonstrated success. Marilyn founded illumiNET Creative Media in 2009. illumiNET Creative builds and implements online marketing strategies for local businesses. Twitter @mzayfert



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