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design & marketing blog

Straightforward design, marketing, and technical advice for making your marketing communications more effective.

The “Secrets” of SEO

May 23rd, 2012

I get a kick out of all the spam I receive from those claiming to be SEO experts saying they have the secret to make your site jump to the top of Google and generate untold thousands of new customers.

The question that begs asking is if these jokers are really so good at SEO, why then are they then spamming you?  Shouldn’t they be overwhelmed with all the search engine traffic they’ve generated form themselves?

The truth is, there is no “secret” to SEO, there are no special or secret tactics you’ll want to employ on your site (in fact, such tactics can actually get you in trouble with Google).

While there is no secret knowledge or esoteric coding skills required to achieve success, long-term SEO takes a lot of thoughtful work and dedication to achieve.

Here are the basics of how to do that:

  1. Focus on developing a site that offers consistent valuable content that is relevant for your target audience.
  2. Make pages for users, not for search engines.
  3. Use Google’s keyword tool to carefully research the keywords you should optimize your site for and make sure they’re included naturally within the content. Don’t forget to include “long tail” SEO terms in the appropriate information level of your site. For example instead of saying you sell “widgets” include more information about the specific widget you sell, such as “blue X100 Widgets”.
  4. Implement on-site search engine optimization by ensuring your chosen keywords are included in the appropriate densities within your site, within certain code tags, and that your site code is valid and fully indexable by Google.
  5. Develop a blog and social media publishing routing and offer practical “how to” content related to those keywords that appeals to your target audience. People (and search engines) aren’t interested in your sales pitches.
  6. Understand and initiate a plan for developing your off-site search engine optimization. In essence, this is establishing hyperlinks back to your site from other sites that are as high of quality as possible and related to your keywords. This is ultimately the most important part of your SEO process and not coincidentally, also the hardest.

For a more in depth version of this list, see our main Search Engine Optimization page.

The Customer Evangelism Manifesto | Review

April 11th, 2012

This article will change your life as a business person. It’s a radical departure from the “conventional wisdom” of advertising and promotion, but like many great movements, its strength lies its simplicity and focus on core values. Customer Evangelism is the pure essence of marketing again. Remember, the definition of marketing that that we read in the first week of marketing 101? Something to the effect that marketing is defined as discovering and meeting the needs of your customers? It seems to have been promptly forgotten or defiled by many executives, product managers, and advertising firms upon graduation from business school. Customer Evangelism is a popular uprising that has the potential to bring marketing back to reality.

“The Customer Evangelism Manifesto” by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba takes us to the core essence of marketing and beyond. It’s about providing the highest quality solution and then providing even more to a special class of customer: the encouragement and empowerment to become an active advocate, or evangelist, and a de facto member of your organization. It’s a charter to breed a special kind of super customer who not only purchases from you regularly, but feels compelled to tell others.

There is so much gold in this article, you’ve just got to read it, print it, share it, and forward it. If 50% of the businesses in the U.S. today were focused on creating customer evangelists our society would be radically changed for the better. (See how persuasive a customer evangelist appeal can be? How motivated would you be to read their article if you saw “Customer Evangelism Manifesto” advertised in a magazine?)

Here’s just a teaser to get you started: some clues to how a customer evangelist behaves:

  • They passionately recommend your company to friends, neighbors and colleagues.
  • They believe in the company and its people.
  • They purchase your product as gifts.
  • They provide unsolicited praise and suggestions.
  • They forgive occasional dips in performance or quality.
  • They do not want to be bought; they extol your virtues freely.
  • They feel part of something bigger than themselves.

LinkRead or download the Customer Evangelism Manifesto

A Great Lesson in Communication

March 13th, 2012

This presentation from Colin Robertson at TED is one of the best demonstrations of concise and effective communication that I’ve ever seen.   It has great object lessons that can be applied to Web design and marketing communication in general.

Here are the main takeaways I got from the presentation:

  • He uses very few words, but the words he does use are the key messages of his presentation. So much of Web and print design would be much more effective with fewer but better chosen words.
  • It’s out of the ordinary (way out of the ordinary) and creates a unique memorable experience. How long will you remember this presentation?  How long would you have remembered it if he would of taken up the three minutes talking?
  • The nonverbal communication which comprised 99% of the message is “quality” in the sense that it’s professionally orchestrated. The effect would not of been nearly as powerful or long lasting if that level of effort wasn’t put into the production.  It’s the cumulative effect of many small details being done correctly. Same applies to Web design, overall quality is achieved by paying attention to many details which result in the cumulative effect of providing credibility to the message.
  • I think this is a very important point–a significant portion of the content was provided with collaboration from the audience.

A Transition Guide for the New Facebook Business Pages

March 8th, 2012
New Facebook Page Design
Sample of the new Facebook page design

As you may already be aware, all Facebook Pages will automatically change over to the new Page format on March 30, 2012 (you can change yours over sooner if you wish).  This will be a completely new design with the "wall" being replaced with the newer "timeline" layout that Facebook has already introduced to personal profile pages.

Following are the most common questions (and answers) regarding how the change will affect your current branding and development:

Q: Will my current page branding stay intact after the transition?

If you currently have a left column graphic with branding that will be gone as will the top thumbnail images that are sometimes used for branding. The thumbnail size image you see next to each of your posts will be used as new "profile picture" (the red and two-tone blue logo icon in the sample page design).

Q: What elements can be branded in the new Page design?

1. The updated square "profile picture" (which still serves as the same image used for your thumbnail image). I recommend uploading as high of resolution as possible 250px x 250px (or larger square) PNG 24 image. Unfortunately, Facebook still down samples any images you upload which degrades the quality.

2. Some of the new navigation thumbnail images located at the bottom of the top page section.

3. A new large "Cover Photo" which appears at the top of your page. The dimensions for this new image are 851px x 315px. Like the profile picture Facebook will down-sample this image and degrade the quality when you upload it. While it’s great we have so much more space to work with for branding, Facebook has placed quite a few branding restrictions on this new image space.

Following are their guidelines:

This space is not meant for promotions, coupons, or advertisements. Your cover photo should not be primarily text-based.

And in their recently updated Facebook Page Terms they state:

Covers may not include:
i. price or purchase information, such as "40% off" or "Download it on socialmusic.com";
ii.  contact information such as a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go in your Page’s "About" section;
iii. references to Facebook features or actions, such as "Like" or "Share" or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features; or
iv. calls to action, such as "Get it now" or "Tell your friends."

Q: What are some examples of companies that have implemented branded profile pictures within Facebook’s new guidelines?

Q: Where are the links to my other pages / features that used to be on the left?

The first four are now arranged horizontally right below your cover photo and profile picture; the remaining are accessible by clicking the drop arrow marked with the green arrow in the screenshot below.

New Facebook Page Navigation Thumbnails

Q: Do my custom developed Facebook features still work and if so where can I find them?

Yes, they will be listed as either the fourth item in the new navigation or within the drop down menu. See the red arrow in the screen shot above, or go to the sample New Facebook Page design and click on the star icon in the menu.

Q: Where can I get more information on the new Facebook Page design?

Q: Where can I complain if I don’t like the new design?

Q: What do you think of the new layout?

Honestly, I like the new design a lot and I like the restrictions that Facebook has placed on the cover photo image. Forcing Facebook designers to work with fewer options will result in cleaner, higher quality and more creative designs. Less clutter is always a good thing. The last thing I want to see as a user is a bigger space graphic space that will just get filled with a bunch of oversized "like me" arrow graphics and other cheesy design elements.

While the timeline feature is still in its infancy, I like the direction Facebook is headed with this and I believe it presents a superior and cleaner presentation of information. Loosing the old (or current I should say) 3 columns of clutter and ads is definitely a good thing.

The biggest initial "con" I have to the new page layout is the placement of the page navigation icons. I don’t like having to click the drop down menu to see all of them.

Need Help?

We’re available to assist you with Facebook branding and development. Contact us online or by phone at 208.475.3192. For samples of our past design work check out our portfolio page.

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