Category Archives: Technology

Planning your website for on-the-go — responsively

computersWhen it comes to websites these days, the focus is not only on a desktop experience, but also on a mobile experience. As mobile devices are fast becoming the norm to view websites and take in content, now is the time to start thinking about how people are getting your content.

One of the ways designers and developers handle mobile is through responsive design. Responsive design is a method of designing and coding where the content adjusts to different screen sizes and resolutions. This method allows the content to scale appropriately on each device (phone or tablet) and have elements appear and disappear based on want you want your visitors to see.

For example, if you have a really large navigation menu, that might work great on a desktop screen; however, it may take up too much space on a mobile phone. You don’t want people to only see your menu when they first navigate to your site on their mobile device — you want them to see your content. With responsive design, we can create an icon that appears only if someone is on a mobile device, which, in turn, allows the person to click it and reveal a streamlined navigation menu. This allows your content to remain in the forefront.

Another thing responsive design is fantastic for is when people resize their browsers in the horizontal plane (wider or narrower) on their desktop computers. Designers and coders can have content move to different areas of the screen to allow for a greater user experience for more people and give visitors the most important information right away. Websites don’t live in a vacuum and user interaction is a key component that drives our work.

There are many mobile strategies out there, with responsive design being one of them. When planning your mobile site (or main website) using responsive design, think about your audience and the content they’ll want. This preplanning (or postplanning if your existing site is moving to mobile) will help you create the best experience for your visitors.

Let us know what your mobile strategy is or what you’d like to do in the future in the comments below.

gTLDs: The next big thing or alphabet soup?

web browserJust when you thought the Internet had run out of Internet addresses, think again: a new era of URLs is nearly upon us.

On July 2, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the Big Apple will be one of the first cities in the world to provide a geographic-specific Internet domain: .nyc. The International Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently approved the new address, or generic top-level domain (gTLD). The nonprofit ICANN regulates naming conventions on the Internet like .com, .net and .biz.

New York City officials expect to put the new Internet addresses up for sale later this year, according to the mayor’s website. The nation’s largest city was one of 1,006 entities ICANN recently approved for a new gTLD. ICANN also gave the go-ahead for .toys, .mba and .poker.

Large corporations also got in on the action, paying a $185,000 fee for each application to scoop up new branded gTLDs like .lincoln, .redken, .merck and .safeway. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, seven Chicago-area companies also successfully applied for gTLDs: Allstate Insurance, Jones Lang LaSalle, Discover Financial Services, McDonald’s Corp., Citadel LLC, Transunion LLC and Abbott Laboratories.

Allstate’s picks? .allstate, .goodhands, .autoinsurance and .carinsurance.

The steep six-figure price tag undoubtedly discouraged many businesses from applying for a vanity gTLD in the first round of applications – and likely will in the future, too. Still, as these addresses will likely become commonplace in the coming years, here are answers to three questions business owners might have now:  

Should I start or continue to run analytics on my company’s website? Yes and yes. Without analytics, it will be impossible to make “apples-to-apples” comparisons of before-and-after Web traffic if you ultimately decide to make the switch to a new gTLD.

Should I drop everything immediately and go out and buy a .shoes gTLD for my shoe business or .tires gTLD for my tire business? No, don’t do that. First, these applications were just approved and it’s too early to determine what it all means. The first wave of gTLD applicants was primarily trying to warehouse domains for one of two reasons: protecting valuable brand names or, like New York City, launching Web hosting businesses that will sell new URLs ending in.nyc.

What will these new Web addresses mean for SEO? Uncertain. Until new gTLDs are up and running, it’s impossible to discern whether they’ll be more effective in generating search results than old standbys like .com and .org. Writing in the Guardian, Search Online Marketing’s Adam Grunwerg put it this way:

“If these new gTLDs are helpful for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), then we must remember that spammers will quickly abuse them. It could be the .info situation all over again, where extensions quickly become tainted and promoted for spam purposes. In this environment, it’s the trusted domain extensions such as .com and .co.uk that will be the biggest winners.”

Are you considering a new gTLD for your business? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Word of mouth 2.0

TSG139 - lips picSocial media plays an important role today in shaping individual purchasing decisions. Still, many companies resist using Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn at all, or don’t take full advantage of these important marketing tools once they’ve taken the social media plunge. 

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B2B trendspotting: What we learned in 2012

TSG 139 - cell talkerAs 2012 draws to a close, it is worth reflecting on a number of milestones and trend lines in the world of B2B marketing and advertising that emerged this year, developments that may make a big splash in how businesses interact with their current and potential customers in the coming years.

Mobile tipping point?

More than two years ago, Wired set off an existential crisis for tech types and marketing/advertising executives with the article “The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet.” In it, the magazine speculated that the then-recent advent of smartphones, tablets and other portable, app-based devices would soon send Web browsing, Googling and other 1990-era Internet trappings the way of the Dodo.

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Making Your Social Media Matter

Few small businesses today question the marketing ROI of sites like Facebook and Twitter. Still, many small firms remain stuck in an awkward adolescence, unsure how to best use social media to engage their customers and integrate these standard tools with their overall business strategies.

But why?

While many small business owners realize it’s no longer sufficient simply to have a Facebook page, LinkedIn profile or Twitter handle, they often find themselves asking “now what?” after signing up for a social media account. For many, taking the social network plunge can be a daunting undertaking.  But it’s not impossible if you keep these two concepts in mind.

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Get out the vote: What the election taught us about combining traditional and new marketing strategies effectively

Earlier this year, 5 million people bought the newest iPhone in its first weekend of availability. Last year, more than 11 million Harry Potter fans bought an opening-day ticket to the final installment of the popular movie franchise. Neither of these tectonic cultural movements registered anywhere near the turnout of a U.S. presidential election, which saw 125 million voters cast their vote (give or take – I think some folks in Florida are still waiting for their turn). Election Day offered keen insights into the culture of our country, not the least of which are the most effective marketing strategies of our social networking world.

Marketing has always been a part of elections and reflective of the technology of the day. From the original campaign buttons William McKinley used during his 1896 presidential campaigns to the whistle-stop tours along U.S. railways throughout the 19th and 20th centuries to the judicious tweets from President Barack Obama leading up to his re-election, leveraging innovative marketing tools to win big is as ubiquitous as kissing babies and shaking hands.

In 2008, then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama gathered an immense number of micro donations through social media, which he rolled over into effective traditional marketing campaigns. In 2012, he wasn’t alone in complementing traditional marketing with more cutting-edge tactics. Republican challenger Mitt Romney employed similar voter outreach and made it a much tighter race than John McCain’s organizers had during the previous election by fumbling opportunities to incorporate new marketing strategies.

The sooner businesses embrace the lessons presidential elections teach us about mixing traditional marketing strategies with newer ones, the farther ahead of their competition they will be. While newsletters, direct mail, brochures and advertisements allow you to deliver your message, social networks like Twitter and Facebook become tools that allow your business to present its casual, relaxed and human side.

New media is built around interaction within the community. Let your supporters work for you. President Obama generated both money and interest by presenting a call to action that involved his supporters spreading the word. There is no better recommendation than that of someone freely and willingly putting you in front of people you might otherwise not have touched.

We’d love to hear how you’re absorbing new marketing strategies into your traditional ones? Tell us about it in the comments section.

 

Are your e-blasts working?

If you’re like most companies today, you send electronic communications to prospects, current customers and stakeholders.

Recent research from Monetate, an e-commerce software firm, shows that 4.25 percent of visitors who arrive at a website through an email turn into customers. Monetate’s found that only 0.59 percent of visitors who arrived via social media turn into customers.

The lesson? E-blasts – when used properly – yield significant results for your business. Misusing an e-blast can have the opposite effect, however. What are the ingredients for a winning e-blast?

  • Clean copy. Did you edit your copy carefully? Did you overuse exclamation marks? Is your point clear? Is your copy too long? These are important questions to ask yourself before you send an e-blast. A well-edited, concise e-blast will go a lot further than something sloppy. Two paragraphs of copy – a couple of sentences and maybe a few bullet points – is all you need.
  • Clean coding. Make sure whoever puts together your formatted e-blast knows what they’re doing. Be sure to remove [TEST] tags from the subject line. Eliminate sloppy HTML, which usually rears its ugly head when converting Microsoft Word to HTML. Edit the final layout with an eye toward eliminating any errant tags or other bad code that made it into the e-blast. If these types of errors show up, readers will not be impressed.
  • No gimmicks. Don’t promise the moon, and don’t write too aggressively. For example, lead sentences like, “For only $100, you can get …” usually scare people away. While you’re at it, go ahead and remove “free offer” and “risk-free” from your e-blast vocabulary as well. Show that you’re adding value, and let people know you can fill a need.
  • Don’t overwhelm. Aside from managing the content of individual e-blasts, make sure you’re not doing yourself a disservice by inundating subscribers with emails. There is no standard frequency when it comes to sending e-blasts, but a good rule of thumb is a minimum of once a month and a maximum of once a week. The worst thing a company can do is turn a loyal reader into someone who hits the unsubscribe button, and readers frequently opt out of e-communications when companies flood their inboxes.

At the end of the day, a well-crafted e-blast is good for your business and can promote products and services that help your customers. Take these steps to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Have any additional e-blast tips? Share them with us in the comments section below.

Google’s Knowledge Graph: It’s all about discovery

Google is always evolving. Admittedly, some of my favorite innovations from the search engine giant are the interactive logos that appear every so often (did you see the zipper Google created last month in honor of Gideon Sundback’s birthday?).

Logo design aside, the company is trying constantly to create ways to search better, faster and more efficiently. There’s no stronger evidence of this inventive spirit than Knowledge Graph, Google’s latest and greatest in search result delivery.

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