Monday Morning Marketing

“Your morning cup of Marketing Know-How”

Online Web Marketing

“Top Ten Small Business Web Site Marketing Tips”

Many small business owners struggle with the seemingly overwhelming task of managing their web site. There always seems to be so much to do, yet no time to do it all (something we know all too well). This brief primer should help to highlight the key aspects of web site management that will help them gain the most from their web site with the time that they have available.

The following ten tips are key to maintaining a successful web site. Follow these and your site will do better. Nothing will guarantee that a web site will be successful as there are simply too many different factors that impact web success – but as a general rule these ten tips will always lead to better performance.

#1 Content

Content is key
All the search engines scan a sites content now – almost ignoring things like meta tags. The more content you have on your site the more the search engines can scan – but there is more to it then that: people like content too. Many people measure a web site´s success by the number of visitors it gets – so ask yourself – why would people come to your web site? do you offer them interesting and informative information that relates to your product or service? if not, why would they come?

Relevant content and lots of it is a key for a successful web site. There is always room for more content on a web site, and you can never have too much.

Take this article for example, while it´s fairly useful information for many of our visitors, it´s also additional content for our blog, social media, etc. – and will serve to increase our online presence. Writing articles about aspects of your industry is a great way to generate content.

Set aside an hour a day (or at least an hour a week) to devote to adding new content to your web site.

#2 Freshness

Keep it current
Having lots of content is great – but if it is all three years old it´s not going to look like your site is much of a priority. The search engines actually track this. They monitor how frequently your site changes as they visit it for indexing. The more often it changes the better your rank in the freshness category.

What constitutes change? pretty much anything – which is why keeping a BLOG or adding frequent news articles to your web site usually produces such good results. It is also the reason why having something as simple as rotating content and the current date on every page has been shown to make a difference (although the search engines have been getting wise to this kind of tactic)

#3 No Tricks

Don´t try to outsmart the Search Engines – Eventually you´ll loose
Many design firms promise success through the use of tricks, backdoors, and special tactics designed to sneak a web site into a top position rapidly. Something, of course, that the search engines are constantly battling to defeat. Why play the game? as the search engines find the cheaters they will plug the holes and a rank (that usually costs a pretty penny to achieve) will immediately be lost.

Rather, follow the recommendations of the search engines – most set out rules for web masters that outline what they would like to see in a web site (incidentally these rules are the main source of research for this document) By following the rules the engines are actually battling all the cheating web sites and working to promote the sites that follow the rules – they are fighting FOR you!

#4 Links

Links both in and out must be relevant
There has been a lot of talk about link exchanges – people linking to others merely to gain a higher rank (hmmm, this smacks of breaking tip #3) if you are going to link to someone and/or ask them to link to you – ask yourself: is it relevant?

Any old link is not going to help you much – search engines will look at who is linking to you – they are also starting to pay very close attention to how many links you have off your web site on a page. This is being done to try and drop sites with pages of links (do you have a links page on your web site?).
It is far better to have relevant links in various places throughout your web site – on only those pages that specifically address the topic that relates to the page being linked.
Unfortunately you can´t exert too much control over the way that other sites link to yours but it is worth looking at how a site usually links to others before to specifically go requesting a link from them. For example: a link that is your logo isn´t very useful (search engines ignore images) whereas a link containing text, listing the topic of your web site, from a related web site would be of great value.

#5 Structure

Organize your web site and everyone will thank you.
Both the search engines and your web visitors prefer a web site that is well structured. The search engines due to their very nature (being computer programs) must break down all web sites into elements based on the structure of the pages. People, so frequently rushing to find the specific information they are looking for, rarely read through web pages but rather scan headings and bullied lists to find the detailed sections of interest. In both cases a well structured site will be far better received then one that is a mish-mosh of information haphazardly thrown together.

This is simple to do – but all too often missed. Make headings, use the correct coding tags for them, organize sections of content into groups, and use bold and bullied lists to present key points.
Keep in mind when writing paragraphs of text that most humans will not read them unless they are specifically titled with a headline that matches what they are looking for.

#6 Accessibility

A web site that speaks to all is better then a site that only speaks to some.
Tips #6 and #7 are closely related: The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) provides a list of guidelines for how to create web sites that are accessible to as many people (and systems) as possible. Think about your web site – can someone with a visual disability (perhaps even something as simple as colour-blindness) still get information about your product or service? If not, how do you feel knowing that you have just excluded a vast segment of the population from accessing your web site?

There are many simple ways that you can ensure your web site is accessible to people with special needs. A group of simple tests for the sites content and design that ensure your product or service is presented to the widest possible audience. The specifics are beyond the scope of this document – but be sure that you check with your designer to ensure that your site design and code is following accessibility guidelines.

#7 Quality Code

Well coded web sites perform better.
Many small business owners don´t have too much control over the code used to create their web site – but it is still important to know how important it may be. Standard compliant code that has been checked for errors is easier for the search engines to assimilate. It is more widely visible across varied platforms (computer types) and in different browsers.

Ensure your web designer is writing standard compliant code that is validated for errors. You can also check your own web site using freee on-line toos from the W3C (The World Wide Web Consortium – the standards body that administers Internet technologies)

#8 URLs

Prudent choice of URLs will impact your web site´s performance
Professional web designers should already know this – but if you are using a content management system to build your web site, or portions of it, it is important to understand the significance of the URL used to access pages on your web site.

Search engines look at the address of every page on your web site and try to extract key-words from the content of the url. For example, you may have a page about “Widgets” on your web site called “somewhere.com” creating the page with a filename of widgets.html will give a better keyword rank then page6.html this is also true of sub-directories on the site somewhere.com/widgets/… being better then somewhere.com/files/…
This is a fairly subtle point but makes a significant difference for most search engines. It can also make it much easier for people that are typing in a URL to access a specific page of your web site.
If you really want to target a key phrase consider purchasing a microsite for that phrase. An inexpensive secondary web site that can be tailored to focus on a specific key phrase or concept.

#9 Style

Looks do matter – but perhaps not the way you think…
In the grand scheme of things the “looks” of a web site in the classic sense are not really that important – honestly! once people have looked at a web site for a few minutes they will quickly discard their first impression (based on looks) and move immediately to asking – is this site giving me the information I need – and can I find it quickly (going back to tips #1 – content and #5 – structure)

So what are we on about with style? simple – ensure the style of your site makes it easy to read. Avoid things like black backgrounds with white text (inverse text is harder to read) ALL CAPS (humans read by identifying word shapes – writing in all caps forces people to read every letter and quickly becomes annoying – plus on the net it is used as an typographic method of indicating you are screaming) You should also check your web site using a color blind test to ensure that visitors with the various types of colour-blindness can still actually read your navigation.

#10 Images

Selling a product – better make sure it looks good
If you are selling something that has a visual representation – then professional looking photography is key. Even a multi-million dollar resort will not look good if the photographs are amateurish. If you care about what you have to sell, then it´s worth investing in some professional photographs to show people what you have. Remember, on-line people can´t get a hold of your product – so you need to give them some really good photographs so that they can feel confident that it meets their needs.

source: thepawprintnetwork.net

The Shelf Chronicles

The Shelf Chronicles

The Shelf Chronicles

“Alice Cooper”
I was a teenager in the 70’s and, like many of my contemporaries, listened to rock (as well as other genres).  One of my favorite albums (yeah… we had ALBUMS) of the time was “Welcome To My Nightmare” by Alice Cooper.  Released in 1975 it saw a lot of play at my house.  A few years later I actually had the pleasure of seeing Alice Cooper live in concert, and what a show he put on!

Needless to say, when I came across this figure (in a Toys R Us no less!) I knew I had to add it to my collection 🙂

Alice Cooper

Shadowbend Studios’ Client Showcase

Shadowbend Studios Weekly Client Showcase…

Web Design Development Client Showcase

“A PERFECT PLACE”

I have known Wyletta over at “A Perfect Place” for almost 5 years now I have have to say I’ve never seen her without a smile on her face or a lovely “Hi Darlin'” greeting.  Wyletta has been a joy to work with and I am very happy to be able to have the opportunity to share her website with a greater audience.

From the “A Perfect Place” home page:
“Wyletta’s A Perfect Place is Danville’s most soothing spot for massage & bodywork services. Wyletta offers an array of modalities which will send you on an hour’s “vacation”, soothe the soul and ease your stress.

“An Individualized Experience”

By focusing on each person, she sees more than just stress and muscles. Wyletta makes it a point to get to know you so she can give you exactly what you really need and expect from each visit. Wyletta has a variety of techniques and skills to choose from that will improve your quality of life.

Visit Wyletta in Danville, California, for the finest in relaxation massage or pain relief bodywork.”

http://www.aperfectplaceforyou.net/index.html

Monday Morning Marketing

“Your Morning Cup Of Marketing Know-How”

Online Web Marketing

7 Tips for Online Marketing on a Tight Budget

The World Wide Web is a tool with endless limits. Creating and maintaining a business presence online is more practical than ever before. In fact, online companies are popping up out of the woodworks. However, I can vouch that sustaining a successful online business is easier said than done.

With the immense amount of information on the Internet and users largely having the control to view exactly what they want, getting your product in front of potential customers can be challenging to say the least. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what works (and what fails terribly) when it comes to marketing online. Today, times are tough. Most companies have little room left in their tight budget when it comes to marketing. Here are 7 tips to follow to develop a successful online marketing strategy on your startups limited budget.  

1. Know your market.
Your marketing strategy will never be successful if you do not have a clearly defined audience. Before you spend a dime on marketing, figure out your target market first. There’s no need to pay top dollar to hire a fancy market research firm. If you know your product, you should be able to figure out your market yourself. For example, who will be most interested in your product? Men or women? What is their age group? What are your customer’s interests? What is their likely financial situation?

Once you have a thorough profile of your customer, determining how and where to reach them is much easier. This step may take awhile, and that’s OK. If you start marketing before you have a clear customer profile though, you will likely be wasting your dollars in places that will never reach your customer. Just because Pinterest is growing rapidly, doesn’t mean your audience is the one making it grow.

2. Set and reset goals.
Determine what you are looking to gain from online marketing. Increased awareness? Increased revenue? You will probably have multiple goals, but keep track of what they are so you can measure your success. When you reach your initial goals, set new goals so your company can continue to improve.

3. Set a budget.
Now that you know who your target market is and have set goals, plan your budget accordingly. The good thing about online marketing is that you can be successful even when on a tight budget. A lot of platforms are available at no charge. However, sticking solely with free forms of online marketing might not be the best strategy for your company. Carefully determine what outlets are most necessary for your product and be willing to spend some money to get results.  

4. Brand yourself.
Set yourself apart from the competition. There are thousands of companies trying to sell products on the Internet. Thus, you need to make your brand unforgettable. This begins with your website. Your domain name should be your company’s name if at all possible. If there are other companies online with names similar to yours, you may even want to consider changing your name to one that will not be easily confused with another product. Acquiring a domain name has a fee involved, but using a hosting service is very affordable even for the smallest budgets.

The way you want your brand to be viewed by customers is really up to you. But once you figure it out be consistent and stick with it. Having a professional website and a strong social media presence is important here, but you should also take the time to interact with potential customers and build relationships with them. The main cost involved in this step is just the man hours put into the process, which will drastically be reduced when you’ve established your brand.

5. Search engine optimization.
When someone enters a search query into a search engine about something relevant to your company, obviously you want to be one of the first results displayed. So how do you make this happen? Essentially, you need to make your website more appealing to search engines. Do this by using keywords that are commonly searched, backlinking your site, customizing the headline and description, etc.

SEO can admittedly be a complicated and time consuming process, however the time needs to be spent here to ensure your website is getting found. Your best bet is usually going to be spending a bit more of your budget and hiring the right people to do the proper research.

6. Blogging.
The more content on your site, the more opportunities there are for search engines to pick it up. Blogging can be a great (and free!) way to generate leads and links into your site. But don’t just be producing content to produce content. Write quality blog posts that will engage the readers. Guest blogging on more established blogs is another way to get more traffic to your own site.

7. Social media.
Don’t just sign up for these services and then forget about them. Start being active on social media. These sites should be used to promote your blog posts and communicate with customers. However, most people don’t follow companies on social media unless the company gives them a reason to. So, of course, give them a reason!

source: forbes online

Flashback Fridays!

SPEED GIBSON, OF THE INTERNATIONAL SECRET POLICE

Old Time Radio Shows

I am a huge fan of the OTR or Old Time Radio genre.  I can remember listening to shows as a kid on late night journeys back from visiting relatives.  My dad would tune the car radio to a station that played shows such as “Suspense” and “Inner Sanctum”.

I now find that these shows are a perfect accompaniment to my daily routine here at Shadowbend Studios.  I listen to AM 1710 Antioch on the iTunes radio station feed.  They play a wonderful selection of shows including crime dramas, family comedies, science fiction and suspense shows.

As a new feature on my blog and my Facebook page.  I’ll be posting links to some of my favorite shows, which you can listen to online or download them.  The first of these shows is one of my absolute favorites:  “Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police”.  A terrific example of a late 1930’s adventure serial (the type that inspired “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”!).

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do 🙂

Speed Gibson – Episode #1
http://www.otrfan.com/bins/speedgibson/speed_gibson_370102_001_the_octopus_gang_active.mp3

Shadowbend Studios’ Client Showcase

Shadowbend Studios Weekly Client Showcase…

Web Design Development Client Showcase

“THE FIVE DOLLAR A MONTH CLUB”

I have a client who is part of a group of interior designers in San Ramon.  She approached me with the idea of putting together a website for her non-profit organization helping the homeless of Contra Costa County.  She is an incredibly caring individual and I was more than happy to help her launch this service.

From the website home page –
Our mission is to serve the homeless and hungry in our community. 7 days a week we are bringing lunches to the homeless in Hillcrest Park, the Concord Homeless Shelter, Detroit Avenue Crisis Center, and the various tucked in places where they are hanging out. Each Sunday we are also bringing hot food to the marina in Martinez. There are usually 50 to 60 we serve food to out there. Every week we are serving or delivering at least 360 meals.”

Please take a moment to visit the website and pledge a donation.

http://www.5dollaramonthclub.com/

We are always asking as we are serving if there are other needs that we may be able to help with . From sleeping bags to jackets gloves, socks, tarps. As this ministry grows there are many places that we feel God is leading us to help. With prayerful direction we will use the resources given to us to continue to feed and serve..

We are not trying to enable them.. just to keep them alive until the Miracle happens !

Monday Morning Marketing

“Your Morning Cup Of Marketing Know-How”

Online Web Marketing

7 Tips for Improving Your Online Marketing Writing

1. Write with a single person in mind.

The more you can picture your perfect client in your mind’s eye, and write something that appeals directly to him or her, the easier it’s going to be to create a one-on-one marketing effect (which, of course, should be your goal).


2. Say what you mean, as clearly as possible.

Where a lot of business people trip up is trying to think like professional writers, when they should simply communicate clearly. When in doubt, use a simpler word instead of a more complex one. Aiming too high with your language doesn’t always make you look smarter; it can just as easily come across as jargon. Or worse, it may sound like you are talking down.


3. Support your key statements.

If you are making a claim that flies in the face of common sense, or accepted wisdom, try to back it up with something credible. Often, a statistic or case study will do. However, if those aren’t available, a personal anecdote or testimonial from a customer can be helpful. There is a fine line between being unconventional and being out of touch, so support your strongest statements in the best ways possible.


4. Always end your writing on a strong point.

Every marketing communication you put together (with the possible exception of short tweets and personal notes, of course) should end with a definite conclusion, a call to action, or both. If at all possible, invite the reader to take the next step, or share an opinion. I practice this rule in every communication I write, from emails to staff or clients, to closing out my twice-weekly blog articles. Simple truth: if you don’t ask for a response, it’s less likely you’ll get one.


5. Write once and edit twice.

A lot of what people consider “writer’s block” is just a lack of momentum. For your first draft, just keep putting words together and trust you’ll find the ones you need. After you have a complete draft, edit twice. The first time for structure and organization; and the second time to eliminate anything that isn’t needed to help tell your story or make your point.


6. Read the document out loud before you send it.

Most simple typos, grammatical errors, and structural problems that people struggle with can be fixed by simply reading the draft out loud. Take your time and don’t rush over the words. You’ll find that as much as 90% of the most common writing issues can be taken care of this way.


7. Never send or publish something you’ll have to take back later.

We live in a world where a single ill-advised email, blog post, or social media comment can lead to big problems. So, before you publish something to the Internet, or send it to any of your contacts (or especially, to all of them), think carefully about whether it’s an idea you really want to express, or a thought you may want to keep to yourself.

source: socialmediatoday.com

Why Do You Need A Marketing Plan?

What a silly question, right?

As marketing professionals, we all understand the importance of marketing plans. However, not everyone in your company thinks this way. To some, writing a marketing plan is a waste of time. In this article, you’ll find a surefire way to get upper management on your side.

Before we start, here’s a quick primer on what role marketing serves.

Marketing:

Communicates a consistent message to the ideal customer. Discovers what customers want and need as well as what price they will pay. Knows where to find customers that will most likely buy. Builds the foundation for sales through multiple channels. In short, marketing creates the sale opportunity.

So, where does the marketing plan fit in? It becomes the roadmap for achieving your business goals.

A Marketing Plan:

Tracks Costs / Measures Value: A marketing plan provides a step-by-step guide to what you are spending money on and when. It enables you to budget marketing expenses–helping you keep control of your expenditures, manage your cash flow, track sales to marketing expense ratio, and measure success of your marketing efforts. It also ensures that product development dollars are not wasted.

Helps with Focus: Your marketing plan gives the company something to rally behind. It helps staff understand goals and become customer-focused. It also empowers them to make decisions on their own that are consistent with the company’s objectives.

Charts Success: A marketing plan helps you chart your destination point. It becomes a guide through unfamiliar territory.

Serves as a Business Handbook: Your marketing plan is a step-by-step guide for your company’s success. To put together a genuine marketing plan, you have to assess your company from top to bottom and make sure all the pieces are working together in the best way. What do you want to do with this enterprise you call the company in the coming year? It assigns specific tasks for the year.

Captures Thinking on Paper: The finance department isn’t allowed to run a company by keeping numbers in their heads. It should be no different with marketing. Your written document lays out your game plan. If people leave, if new people arrive, if memories falter, the information in the written marketing plan stays intact.

Reflects the Big Picture: In the daily routine of putting out fires, it’s hard to turn your attention to the big picture, especially those parts that aren’t directly related to the daily operations. Writing your marketing plan helps in determining your current business status and provides a roadmap for business goals.

Becomes a Document to Build On: Creating your very first marketing plan is a time and resource consuming endeavor, but well worth the effort. Once the plan is complete, you just need to make minor adjustments and tweaks to it; you won’t have to re-create it from scratch. It will serve as a template and benchmark for you to work from as you define your objectives and strategies for next year. It becomes a living document for measuring sales success, customer retention, product development, and sales initiatives.

Now that we know the benefits of a marketing plan, we need to take a step back and decide where to start.

Where Do We Start?

The best place to start is to evaluate where you are now. How are you positioned in the market? How do your customers see us? What are your strengths/weaknesses, and what are some emerging market threats and opportunities?

Typically a marketing plan is done in sequential phases–the next part of the plan builds off of the phase before it.

The marketing plan also needs the help of most everyone; it cannot be completed without the assistance of many people within the company: manufacturing, finance, operations, sales, management, and marketing.

Management also needs to sign off on the marketing plan before it starts so that everyone supports it and dedicates time to it. Without management buy-off, it is very difficult to put together a successful marketing plan.

Who should see your plan?

An abridged version of the plan should be shared with everyone in the company.

Now, wasn’t it a silly question to ask why you need a marketing plan?

source: MarketingProfs.com

The Shelf Chronicles – “Lost In Space” Robot

Hello everyone…

This installment of “The Shelf Chronicles” features the Robot from “Lost In Space”.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with “The Shelf Chronicles”, refer to my original post from 2008 and my “revisited” post from 2012.

I have always wanted a “Lost In Space” Robot for my collection, but finding just the right one was a challenge as I did not want to get just any old action figure or something that was clearly a “toy”.   I finally ran across this one from Trendmasters which perfectly fit the bill.  He is a highly accurate sculpt, has retractable arms and has the classic “Danger Will Robinson” sound effects which can be set to manually activate or can be set to go off when the lights in the room go on or off (which was initially very cool but wears off VERY quickly) :).

In any case, here he is.  Enjoy!

Lost In Space Robot

“Lost In Space” Robot

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