Archive for July, 2008

The Benefits of Proactive Search Engine Optimization

July 30, 2008 Leave a comment

Here at our Cleveland-based web design agency DigitalDay, we’ve been talking about the importance of good page titles, meta tags, descriptions and alt tags for search engine optimization and it seemed like a good time to mention this blog post. Author Paul Elliot suggests that optimizing a site for search engines is far more effective if implemented at the beginning of the design process rather than post-launch—and he’s right.

While the temptation to rush a project through the design process may be enticing, the benefits of proper search engine optimization definitely outweigh the few weeks saved by cutting corners and not focusing on optimization efforts from the beginning.

Amit Singhal spills the beans about Google search technology in this recent post, giving a little insight into how the world’s most popular search engine can adapt user queries to find relevant information. As he says, search has moved from “give me what I said to give me what I want.” Even as technologies improve, if Google can’t find your site, your potential customers can’t find you either. Who your would-be customers will find, though, is one of your competitors.

As crawlers become more sophisticated, factors such as URL formatting, directory structure, file names of graphical elements, and even comments in HTML markup are becoming more important in helping spider-based search engines determine the fullest extent of a site’s content.

When designing a site with heavy use of Adobe Flash, AJAX or Javascript, it is important to think of the spiders and allow your site to be indexed with proper usage of page titles, meta tags, and descriptions. Although even now, Adobe, Yahoo, and Google have teamed up to make spiders index Flash .SWF files. This makes planning even more important as poorly organized .SWF files, once irrelevant to SEO, can bog down a site’s PageRank.

SEO doesn’t stop at the content development stage, however. As Paul Elliot mentions, “poorly formed code that is difficult for the spiders to traverse can negatively impact ranking performance.” Coding in CSS allows the relevant content information to be at the top of the page with everything else following it.

Keeping these SEO basics in mind can save a lot of headache later. Elliot compared “four projects in which optimization was a post-launch initiative to four projects in which optimization was include in the initial scope of the design…” and found that “on average, the post-launch method of search engine optimization led to incremental redesign project costs of roughly 30%.” This is no small amount of money for something that could have been avoided.

Money isn’t the only cost of delaying search engine optimization. The cost of lost opportunity can be far greater. “The process of ranking for competitive terms,” writes Elliot, “can take upwards of six months.” Elliot found that “the integrated approach to SEO, in which optimization activities are embedded in the redesign project scope, can shave roughly five months off of the time that is required to achieve top organic search engine listings.” This time is invaluable in getting your product or service to the top of Google’s PageRank, allowing you to inform the searching public about your company.

Like so many other things, it pays to do the job the right way the first time.

Categories: Internet, Search Engine Marketing Tags:

Goodbye, Peninsula. Hello, Cuyahoga Falls

July 25, 2008 1 comment

After seven years in pastoral Peninsula, DigitalDay is on the move today to a much bigger office in downtown Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, an Akron suburb 40 minutes south of downtown Cleveland.

We’re pretty excited.

Our new office is a renovated mansion, built in 1868, and is located in what is now the Cuyahoga Falls Riverfront Square District. Not only does it have tons of character, capped with a belvedere, it’s also got a lot of space for the 25 of us — with room to continue growing. Check out the full set of pre-move-in photos on Flickr.

DigitalDay's new office in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

DigitalDay's new office in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

We’ll be all set up and back open for business by Monday. Stop by and visit if you’re in the neighborhood. Here’s our new address, linked to a Google Map:

122 Broad Boulevard
Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44221

The Decline of E-mail and the Future of Electronic Marketing

July 17, 2008 1 comment

If teen Internet use is any indication of the future of Internet communication (and I would surmise that it is), it would seem that e-mail is on the way out. In a recent article published in the Miami Herald, author Rachel Leibrock explores the way Generation Y uses the Internet and her results are not surprising. She references a pair of 2007 studies that found that, “while 92 percent of surveyed adults said they regularly used e-mail, only 16 percent of teens made it a part of daily life…” So teens are shying from e-mail—where, then, are they going?

The studies found they’re moving to more instant and mobile means. Text messaging, instant messaging and social network site messaging are all increasingly becoming a part of the daily lives of teenagers.  Messages via these mediums require near-instant attention—it’s far easier to ignore an e-mail in an inbox than a bouncing IM icon on the dock.  Even here at DigitalDay, we’re all connected via Skype.  Its instant message feature has proved invaluable for our interoffice communication.

E-mail is still useful, albeit in a different capacity.  E-mail serves as a way to keep an official time-stamped record of communication. The “CC” feature is a convenient way to include people on projects who may not necessarily be involved but still have an interest in the status of the project.  It also functions as one of our primary ways of contacting clients.

While e-mail hasn’t gone the way of the buffalo just yet, what happens when Generation Y takes their Internet habits with them as they age into certain target market demographics?  What does this mean for the future of e-mail marketing?

Shar VanBoskirk, senior analyst at Forrester Research, a technology consulting and market research company, explains that, “…the focus becomes less on sending out as many messages as you can and instead on running analytics to figure out whom you should be sending messages to, or tech integration so that your e-mail program is better aligned with your customer service or your database marketing efforts.”

As people grow increasingly less dependent on e-mail as their primary form of electronic communication, the future of electronic marketing lies in brains, not bulk. Dynamic elements such as Quova’s geo-targeting will become even more crucial in marketing towards certain demographics. Geo-targeting makes an e-mail relevant to a certain location, enabling the marketer to pinpoint the target’s location down to the zip code.  Testing e-mail blasts and tracking clicks will help electronic marketers find the most effective applications of their strategies.

E-mail marketing will spread past e-mail, thinks Ken Magill, a media watchdog for DIRECT magazine.  Cell phone text messaging services already exist and will probably expand in the future.  Marketing via social network sites may very well be a possibility.

No matter which medium the majority of consumers decide to embrace, one thing is certain: effective marketers will adapt and use relevant content and advanced technology to stay ahead of the curve.

Marketing Study explains growth in Interactive Business

ith all the economic doom and gloom in the news today, people often ask me, “how’s business?” They then act surprised when I say things are great for our interactive agency. When they probe as to “why?”, my response is: When the economy turns south, the first thing businesses cut is the marketing budget. The second thing they cut . . . Is marketing. However, the interactive portion of most marketing budgets is tiny, usually less than 5%. My theory is that if marketing budgets are indeed being cut, businesses are shifting dollars to interactive because of its effectiveness.

According to a recent study by Outsell, “Annual Advertising and Marketing Study 2008,” I’m half right. Dollars are being diverted to online and interactive but US advertising and marketing budgets will actually grow 3.9% in 2008 to reach $412.4 billion.

From the study, here are some of the actual numbers that support my view that interactive is growing:

  • Companies are spending 61.8% of their online ad/marketing budgets – $65.1 billion – on their own sites, siphoning dollars away from other options.
  • The fastest-growing of all ad types is online, which is expected to grow 12.3% in 2008 to $105.3 billion (or $40.2 billion excluding advertisers’ spending on their own sites). As a result, online spending now exceeds TV/radio/movies for the first time ($98.5 billion).
  • Out of 26 methods measured for effectiveness, advertisers rate their websites as the best for lead generation (75% effective), followed by exhibitions (66%), custom print publications (65%), direct mail marketing (64%), and trade magazines (64%).

So, it’s not the doom and gloom everyone’s predicting.  The only problem I foresee in the the interactive space is a shortage of resources, similar to what happened during the Dot Com rush. However, this time we’re not likely to see a Dot Com bust.

To Blog or Not to Blog — the Five Ws of B-to-B Blogging

July 15, 2008 2 comments

A fellow Transworld Advertising Agency Network (TAAN) advertising agency owner met me for lunch yesterday at Fishers Pub in Peninsula, Ohio to question me about blogging. He’s considering starting an agency blog but is not sure where to begin,  what kind of content to develop or, more fundamentally, why to blog at all.

It was an interesting discussion and helped me to think about how I blog on behalf of our Cleveland-based web design agency, DigitalDay. Thinking about that made me think about writing this blog post which I’ve organized as the Five Ws of Agency Blogging.

Why Blog?
I blog for one purpose — to promote our agency. I’m not doing it for vanity, personal edification, or because I think my opinions and thoughts are so important I must share them with the world. My posts are all designed to help attract new business.

I blog because the content I create gets spidered and catalogued by search engines which helps to bring new visitors to our agency’s website. Hopefully, once they’re there, these new visitors see the quality of our work, find a service they could use and then contact us.

It seems to work as we get a couple serious inquiries every month.

What to Blog?
Anything that relates to our business is relevant subject matter for our blog. This falls into two categories — micro and macro. The Micro-Content is news and information specifically about DigitalDay. Macro-content is news and observations relating to our industry, website design and online marketing.

At a Micro-level, the blog acts as our online PR tool and with blog posts that include:

  • New Project Launches: Anytime we create a new website, online promotion or any significant work that shows off our capabilities and skills, I create a post. This helps create an online archive of our work which I can use to present or email to new or existing clients and it also helps to promote our client’s sites.
  • New Client Announcements: When we acquire a new client or significant piece of new business from an existing client, I use the blog and pepper the post with the client’s unique, search-engine rich brand names. Often, people searching for our clients, find our blog and then our website.
  • New Employees and Promotions: A personnel release not only acknowledges our people, it includes personal names which are great, unique keywords. I try and use them whenever possible and reasonable so that when their friends, family and colleagues search for them, they have the opportunity to find us.
  • Milestones and Awards: For all of the reasons above, I blog whenever there’s significant (and sometimes insignificant) news about our agency.

Macro-content is any industry-wide news or information that clients or prospective clients might find interesting. For our business, this could relate to standards-compliant website design, ecommerce website development, search engine optimization, online promotions, email marketing, social networking or any of those broader, but strong keywords that bring qualified searchers to our website.

Who should Blog?
While 90 percent of our blog posts are by me, this is not by design. Everyone in our agency is encouraged to contribute. It seems reasonable that employees would blog about their specific expertise, which in our case would be web design, web programming, SEO, etc.

The reality is writing a blog post takes time and effort and, “if it’s not my job I’m probably not going to do it” which is an unfortunate attitude because if the agency is successful, the employees will be successful.

I’ve hesitated to assign blogging as a responsibility or requirement because I’d prefer people to be pro-active (perhaps this post will motivate a few to contribute on occasion — hint, hint). As a business-to-business marketing strategy, it’s probably a good idea to make blogging part of the job or to assign specific people to contribute. Perhaps we’ll revisit this policy within DigitalDay.

When to Blog?
Four words: As Often As Possible. From experience, the more blog posts we have the more traffic we get to our website. When we don’t blog our traffic begins to fall. The following chart illustrates this dramatically. From June 2007 till April 2008, the goal was at least one new blog post per week and traffic rose at a strong rate, except for the dip in November when there were very few posts. Since April, posts to the DigitalDay blog have been few and far between and our traffic is plummeting.

If we did one new blog post every work day, our traffic would skyrocket. At a minimum, there should be at least one new post per week to keep traffic moving on an upward curve. And, I’ve found, it’s best to post Monday through Thursday when people are more active on their computers. Weekend posts, while helpful, are often overlooked or buried come the working week.

Where to Blog?
Ideally, you want your blog integrated into your business’s site. Developing a blog for your business can be relatively easy. How complicated you make it depends on your needs and available resources.

An easy path is to leverage one of the community blogging sites like Blogger or Word Press (the one we use here). These offer free accounts or, for a nominal fee more robust functionality allowing custom branding, more file size and the ability to integrate it into your business site. Using any of these sites helps promote your posts within that built in blog community.

Or, you could integrate a custom blog into your business site as we did with the TAAN blog, for example. It’s a little more effort and you might need to hire an online agency like DigitalDay to help you, but you’ll have complete control over the functionality and branding.

If you have access, you can also blog on third party sites. Many groups and organizations allow members to post to their blogs. If you do this, be sure to include links to your site so people will find your agency online.

How to Blog?
Everyone has a different writing style. To be most effective online, it’s important to adapt your style for ease of reading on a computer screen. To write for the web:

  • Craft your post in a word-processing program first and copy and paste it into the blog.
  • Keep paragraphs short.
  • Use bulleted or numbered lists.
  • Break up long blocks of copy with subheads.
  • Insert graphics, photos or videos to illustrate your points.
  • Link keywords whenever possible.
  • And most importantly, be self-serving: work in the specific keywords and phrases to help your audience find you through a search engine.

Get your voice out there
At the beginning of 2008, Technorati reported it is tracking over 112.8 million blogs worldwide (not counting 70+ million in China) with more than 120 thousand new blogs coming online every day. Even with that overwhelming number, you can be heard and seen by posting often and following some good blog practices.

So start blogging, you owe it to your business.