Risingline Marketing strategy / design / development / management
(208) 352.0775

Contact Form

design & marketing blog

Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

Web Design Perfection

January 20th, 2009

media-templeTo my recollection, I’ve never made mention on this blog of a specific Website as an example of being truly great. While no one has elected me as the design judge of the Internet, nor will any great people likely take notice of this post, I am compelled to call out a Website that I’ve been captivated by for some time and that serves as a great example of the principles that we here at RisingLine advocate every day.

No, it’s not RisingLine.com (although I have to admit I think quite highly of that design), and before I continue I should disclose that I have absolutely no ulterior motive in praising the site I’m about to mention . . . no referral fees, or kickbacks of any kind.

So enough with the rambling, MediaTemple.net is the site to which I am directing my compliments. The first thing a visitor to their site will notice is that graphic design is extremely powerful but not overpowering. . . minimalist, detail oriented, clean, modern, just plain classy. It does what a graphic design is supposed to—provide a professional backdrop to the content of the site which beams credibility without distracting from the message.

I have to assume by the continued proliferation of shabbily designed sites on the Web that many don’t realize just how important design is. As we like mention, over and over, research has shown that a shockingly high percentage of people make a judgment call about the credibility of a company within seconds of visiting a Website based primarily on the graphic design (see the Stanford Web Credibility Research site for more insight on this topic). While my high school history teacher did not find it amusing when I offered to turn in a picture instead of the assigned 1,000 word essay, it really is true that a picture (or for our purposes a design) is worth a 1,000 words of credibility, and all that communicated in the blink of an eye.

A very common misconception is that an effective design is one that has a lot of swirls, colors, moving things and flashy graphics. While those types of sites might be appropriate in some instances (although I can’t think of any of the top of my head) professional Websites have a demanding purpose to concisely communicate value propositions and persuade their prospects to buy. Much Web design we see out there does more to distract from those goals than reach them. Media Temple offers us a great example of a well refined goal-oriented design that delivers their message with just a touch of panache.

Even the best graphic design is of no real use without concise messaging, clear communication flow and easy to understand navigation. These disciplines are collectively known as usability and are achieved exceptionally well by Media Temple. What’s even more impressive in this accomplishment is that the unique value of Media Temple’s hosting solutions are considerably more challenging to communicate than their competitors because they really are unique. Media Temple provides virtualized hosting accounts that are spread across a grid of resources as compared to the typical shared hosting company that sticks customers on a server in their farm to fight with the other squatters for finite resources. Based on my experience using their product, Media Temple’s solutions live up to the grand impression they make on their Website.

While I’m not going to get into the details, the usability of their client-side administration panel and knowledge base impresses me even more than their front end. I recently spent some time in Media Temple’s Grid-Service environment testing the CMS platform we develop on (coincidentally their hosting platform provided the most consistent high performance of any of the many shared hosting environments we’ve tested in) and I had a hard time tearing myself away from their administration panel when our project was complete.

Hats off to Media Temple for their great achievement and many kudos for providing us all a great example of what the Web should look like.

Strategies to Increase Your Website Traffic

January 12th, 2009

I read recently that there are over 800 billion documents on the Internet. Now there was no documentation to this statement, definition of what an internet document is, and the number seems high to me given the Wikipedia stats for Google….who knows the real answer. Regardless of the exact number, no one is going to argue that there are a lot of pages on the Internet and a lot more being added, so many that the probability of any certain page being visited by an individual diminishes daily. This fact brings up a good question for each of us who are stakeholders in a website to ask ourselves—with all the choices out there why would anyone visit our site?

Well funny you should ask, because the answer to that question has occupied me in the past on this blog:

For my grand finale of SEO posts (is that applause that I hear?) I’m going to share some secret insight…well, it’s not really secret but it’s the type of insight that I’m always tempted not to share because I want to keep the real good stuff for myself. So, being in this altruistic moment, here are the top 7 strategies from the gurus on how to bring attention to your site. I’ve hand picked the single strategies that I thought were the absolute best, but each one of these links takes you to a whole article or site that is golden with advice.

  1. This is the most important tip. Build your web site around a blog that you keep active and updated with relevant and valuable information. Why you might ask? Because such blogs get noticed much more than the same content updated on a static web site. See Why Blogs Rank High In Search Engines by Fredrik Wacka. This tip is really is a prerequisite for the rest.
  2. Write about stuff that people (your target audience to be exact) will want to read and share. As I highlighted on this past SEO post, SEO is really all about maintaining quality content. See How to get traffic for your blog by Seth Godin
  3. Establish your site as a trusted authority for your target audience. And market your content. See
    Search Engine Success Through Article Marketing
    at the flyte blog.
  4. Understand the fundamentals of SEO and hone the technical details of your site to accommodate. See
    SEOmoz | Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization
    by Rand Fishkin
  5. Attract people who will link to your site and concentrate on creating interest. See Generating
    Buzz with Link Baiting and Viral Campaigns
    by David Wallace
  6. Embrace the Social Media . . . create a site that is more relevant, more easily linked to, and openly shared within your social web communities. See 5 rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO) by Rohit Bhargava.
  7. Make your web site a platform for launching viral marketing. What is viral marketing? It’s any method that encourages others to pass on your marketing method to others. See The Six Simple
    Principles of Viral Marketing
    by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

So there you go, you just read the document that turned the Internet count to 800 billion and one. It’s not too late to start the transformation of your site from that old-school stale brochure to a vibrant broadcasting and interactive
blog based site that will keep you site in the thin quality segment as the internet continues to explode. As always, I encourage you to comment or share other fundamental strategies that should be included in ones short list.

Great Customers Buy From Those They Know and Trust

December 12th, 2008

Do you want to grow your business without relying on expensive advertising? Would you like to utilize an easy strategy to turn your best customers into your best salespeople? Are you tired of attracting poorly qualified prospects that waste your valuable time?

OK, enough of these silly rhetorical questions….any business manager who just read these questions has just gone through a brief period of euphoric fantasy followed by a sick feeling in their gut…knowing that it’s just too good to be true. I’m here to tell you though that they can be true and furthermore they can build businesses of much higher value.

Here’s some reality therapy about Advertising:

  • People don’t believe advertising.
  • Advertising is exceptionally expensive (you knew this already)
  • The customers your advertising brings are often not high-value life time clients. Do you really want your business built on customers who were attracted by a gimmick or low price? Unless you can build loyalty fast they will leave the first time they see a better gimmick or lower price.

We’re all bombarded by thousands of advertising messages each day. How many do you remember from yesterday? A more important question: Of those you remember for how many will you become a customer? For example take Geico insurance, sure their hackneyed ads are embedded in our brains, but how many of us actually buy from them? Not many. About 7 out of every 100 auto insurance buyers. Don’t get me wrong, Geico has a solid business model but is it plausible for your business?  Can you afford to spend $500+ million a year to generate demand through advertising?

In my 15+ year sales career I’ve learned that one principle is by far the powerful: people buy from those they know and trust. Like many of the most profound concepts in life, this truth is simple and intuitive yet ignored by a vast majority of sales and marketing “experts”.

I was told once at a sales training seminar, “If you can’t be a good actor then you can’t be a good salesperson.” No wonder sales people have such a bad reputation! Do I really want to be sold something from someone who is acting (i.e. lying)…why should I expect that my customers want to get an acting job when they read my marketing collateral or meet my salespeople?

Traditional advertising and sales are almost always based on acting. It’s so established that advertiser embellish the truth on a regular basis that we’ve invented the special legal word“puffing”. It doesn’t sound as bad as “lying” but means the same thing. Take a look around at the advertising or packages closest to you this moment and notice how we’ve become desensitized to the “puffing” of advertising…do you really believe that spaghetti on the shelf is “America’s Favorite Pasta“? No you don’t. That’s why you will typically buy it on price or otherwise only when you have credible insight into it having superior quality.

So it’s really no wonder that most people instinctively don’t believe either salespeople or advertising. Valuable life-time clients buy from the exact opposite of the angle presented in most advertising and sales…they buy from sources that they know and trust.

Turbocharge Your Newsletters With RSS

November 22nd, 2008

Does your company send out hard copy or email newsletters to your customers? If done correctly such can be cost-effective ways to retain clients, increase revenue per client and build equity in your customer evangelists.

The inherent benefit to legal and ethical email marketing (i.e. emailing only to subscribers who have opted in and can easily opt out) is the very low cost of publishing and distribution. While response rate numbers can vary based the quality and relevance of your lists and content, on average they’re only 1-2%.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

As you’re no doubt painfully aware from a personal perspective, the problem with email marketing is its overuse and the fact that it shares a sometimes blurred line with the scourge of the 21st century−spam.

Pause for a moment and consider how effective email marketing is when directed to you. Keep in mind I’m not talking about unsolicited emails, but rather emails from those newsletters that at one point you made a conscious decision to subscribe. How many email subscriptions can an individual sign up for before they’re completely inundated with information? Chances are that many people have long ago passed that threshold. I receive many email updates from organizations in which I’m keenly interested, yet rarely do I have the time to devote my undivided attention to read through their contents.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disputing that email and hard copy newsletters are a proven means of marketing. But there is a better way . . . an easy way to turbo charge your emails so they’re much more effective. What I’m referring to is RSS (Really Simple Syndication), a universal data format that broadcasts the content of your newsletter to the world in a very similar fashion to how a radio or television station broadcasts.

With RSS someone can subscribe to your newsletter in the same manner they preset their favorite radio stations in a car or set their favorite TV stations on a remote. The appeal, and the reason for the rapid growth of RSS, is that the end user is in complete control and no unwanted feeds can force themselves onto the user.

For example, my default homepage is iGoogle which I’ve loaded up with subscriptions to RSS feeds from organizations and topics of interest. The three most recent headlines are displayed for each feed and they are updated automatically when a particular publisher posts a new article. Most of these RSS broadcasters send out email updates of the same info too, but by broadcasting in RSS they’re picking up a wider audience at no additional cost.

RSS provides another important benefit that email does not. Because RSS broadcasts to the world your message is no longer restricted to your closed email subscriber list. Keywords in your newsletter can now be picked up by all the major search engines and thus your newsletter can be found by anyone on the Web. So unlike email or hard copy newsletters RSS is a powerful tool for generating new awareness.

The benefits don’t stop there. When you broadcast a newsletter via RSS, typically a new Web page on your site is automatically created. If people find value in what you have to say they can create a backlink to your article. According to Google, backlinks (aka linkbacks) are the single most important factor for search engines in determining the value of your Website. Increased links back to your Website benefit your search engine profile and ultimately increase your Google PageRank and place your site higher on keyword search returns. From our experience, when utilized with quality content, RSS is the most powerful search engine optimization tool available.

The good news is that if you currently publish an email newsletter adding RSS broadcasting capability to it is not a difficult or expensive proposition. How it can be integrated into an email campaign will vary, but in many cases it can be no more effort than simply typing the newsletter at a single portal. For example, on the Web 2.0 sites we develop your newsletter can be entered online and published with a click. Immediately a new dedicated page is created for your newsletter, a nicely formatted email automatically sent to your subscribors, and the content of your newsletter is instantly broadcast and indexed by the major search engines.

Top

↑ Top