Category Archives: Business Intelligence

Strategy and Design – A Symbiotic Relationship

By | Business Intelligence, Strategic Planning | One Comment

When was the last time you involved a designer in a business strategy meeting or discussion?

If you laughed at that question, you may rethink your response at the end of this article.

Strategy has a direct impact on design. By that I do not mean just web strategy or marketing strategy. If your business strategy is to reach the high end consumers in your market, the design of every piece of marketing collateral will have a direct impact on your ability to convert those consumers into customers. That may seem like a very simple example, so let me give you another one.

We met recently with a client to discuss a redesign and redevelopment of their current website. The one thing we always strive to do is just discuss the client’s business in general terms. During this meeting we learned a critical piece of information that will directly impact the design of their new website. Due to urban development, their physical storefront will probably be eliminated in the next 3 years. Due to this one fact they are having to completely shift their business strategy of attracting, keeping and selling to their customers. They will not be able to direct people to this storefront through advertising for much longer. Thankfully they have the foresight to understand the value of the web and how to shift their business strategy to selling on the web.

If we had not been involved in that meeting our redesign and development would have completely missed the target and would not have served the client’s business strategy. The client had even gone through the work of creating a requirements document and wanted us to wrap our design around that document. However, their document put little emphasis on the ecommerce and lead generation portion of the project. We quickly were able to toss the requirements document out the window. It didn’t fit with the strategy therefore the design wouldn’t fit the strategy and the client would have held it against us.

As designers you sometimes have to force yourself into these strategy conversations because most business execs still do not understand the impact design has or they underestimate its value, often times just handing the designer a proposal or requirements document and telling them to make it look good.

In order for design to advance and designers to be valued and accountable they must be given the opportunity to expand their business acumen. One way you can do that is to involve them in your strategy sessions.

SEO Do’s and Don’ts: Submitting to Search Engines and Directories

By | Business Intelligence, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks | No Comments

Part 4 of our SEO Do’s and Don’ts series is inspired by a direct mail spam on SEO. They claimed they would submit your website to 2,000 new search engines every month! Every month! If you fall for these kind of outrageous statements you’re better off pulling a couple thousand dollars out of your pocket and setting it on fire – month after month.

At least that way you won’t have a negative impact on your website…

Sure there may be an 11th tier search engine for Beanie Babies, but is it going to help your online hardware store sell more hammers? The answer is no, so there is no need to submit to it.

Do: create a sitemap.xml file and upload it to Google’s webmaster tools.
Do: claim your site through Yahoo’s Site Explorer.
Do: pay for a Yahoo! Directory, Business.com, and Best of the Web listing.
Do: submit to industry related directories and search engines if available.
Don’t: pay anyone to submit your site to X,XXX search engines.
Don’t: submit your website by hand to any of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask)
Don’t: submit your website to DMOZ more than once.
Don’t: submit to link farms or sites that require you link back to them.

RFP – Random Friday Post

By | Business Intelligence, RFP - Random Friday Post, Tips and Tricks | No Comments

The best SEO Scam I have seen thus far!This is my favorite snake oil salesman trick I have seen yet (click image for full size image). Make your offer letter look like an invoice and bank that people will pay it without thoroughly reading it! Brilliant!

They’re really counting on two things here:

  1. You’re too stupid to understand what this is and you’ll pay it out of fear.
  2. You’re too busy to read it, investigate the company and then determine if you need to pay it so you just pay it anyways.

Have a Great Weekend!

SEO Do’s and Don’ts: Copywriting

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Tips and Tricks, Uncategorized | No Comments

We’re kicking off 2008 with part 3 of our Do’s and Don’ts series with some copywriting tips.

Do: Add new copy and/or update current copy on a regular basis. Search engine spiders like new content.
Do: Focus your copy on one or two keywords or phrases. Depending on the overall length of your copy also include 1-2 variations of your core keyword or phrase.
Do: Rewrite articles or press releases for each site you plan to submit them to.
Do: Keep the flow of the copy natural. Remember, you’re writing for your visitors first and the spiders second.
Don’t: Use exactly the same copy in multiple areas.
Don’t: Keyword stuff your content to the point where reading it does not make sense.
Don’t: Scrape content from multiple sites and post it to your own pages.
Don’t: Put blocks of copy in images. Search engine spiders can not read this copy.

SEO Do’s and Don’ts: Website Architecture (Structure)

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Tips and Tricks, Web Design, Westward Strategy | 3 Comments

This is part two of our Do’s and Don’ts series. The purpose here is to provide quick actionable snippets of information to help you avoid any pitfalls in developing a strong web identity.

Do: Link to every page of the site from at least one other page on the site.
Do: Use absolute links in your link code, starting with the “http://”.
Do: Link key phrases within your copy to other relevant pages on the site.
Do: Use keywords in your page and folder names. However, keep the names short and simple. Separate words in page and folder names with a hyphen or an underscore. Do not use spaces or special characters in your naming conventions.
Do: Validate your html code and correct any errors. Use this online validator from the W3C.
Don’t: Use javascript menu systems and links. Links of this kind may not be indexed.
Don’t: Use frames or iframes in your html code.
Don’t: Serve different pages to the search spiders than your human site visitors. Nothing will get you dropped from the SERPs quicker – just ask the German BMW website.
Don’t: Use lots of folders and subfolders in your site structure, spiders like relatively flat websites.

RFP – Random Friday Post

By | Business Intelligence, Email Marketing, RFP - Random Friday Post, Tips and Tricks | No Comments

Whenever you are going to be communicating with a mass of people, no matter the medium you plan to use, make sure you have at least one other person proofread your copy. All of your copy, even the subject line.

This email would have made a much larger impact and probably sold more tickets for the show Peter Pan had the subject line been correct. However, I bet their open rate went through the roof to find out who Peter Oan is. 🙂

Proofread and Spell check all of your copy!

Have a great weekend!

SEO Do’s and Don’ts: Link Building

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Tips and Tricks, Westward Strategy | No Comments

This is part one of a Do’s and Don’ts series I hope will help dispel some of the misinformation clients and prospects have stated to us lately about SEO.

I can understand how the average business owner or webmaster can become confused by all information, often conflicting information, that is out there on the net regarding our industry. With no way to regulate the industry the good guys (that’s us) and the bad guys (that’s the snake oil salesmen) are left to clammer over the top of each others’ message in a never ending battle of king of the mountain.

So hopefully this will help. If you find this information useful please let us know and we will continue to publish many more posts like this. Enjoy!

Do: Document all of your link building exercises and progress. Commit time in monthly intervals (minimum) to grow your links.

Do: Vary the anchor text you use for external links to your site. Don’t forget to use your target phrase for the landing page of the link!

Do: Find authority websites in your niche to obtain links from. Use your best judgment on this one by reading the content or reviewing the comments if it is a blog. Can you find the site in a search on the topic it covers?

Do: Utilize news agencies/websites in your niche to link back to your site.

Do: If you feel it is a good advertising investment, purchase links on industry and related websites.

Do: Exchange links on a one-on-one basis with other sites in your niche.

Don’t: Don’t Spam blogs, forums, user groups, guestbooks or anyone else. Ever.

Don’t: Fear Google when it comes to buying links.

Don’t: Buy links for any other purpose than advertising and traffic benefits.

Don’t: Participate in reciprocal link schemes or link farms of any kind.

Hope you enjoyed Part One!

Forget Web 2.0, Let’s Talk About Integrated Marketing

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks | One Comment

I hate the term “Web 2.0” or “Web two dot ooh” as I recently heard someone say. It was born from marketers needing a way to classify those sites that didn’t fit anywhere else or that used certain technologies that were not prevalent at that time. Now that term is the bane of my existence. I am so repulsed by that term because it has instilled in every business owner and marketing manager a need to be “Web 2.0” or they will somehow wither up and die. These are the folks if you ask them what they want they will tell you they want a blog because everyone else has one.

I will agree there are some amazing technologies and options out there for those companies that are truly ready to step up and take advantage of them. However, most small business owners need to forget Web 2.0, Ajax, Blog, Social Network and all the other jargon flying around industry periodicals. Most business owners and marketing managers need to focus on integrated marketing.

From Wikipedia

A management concept that is designed to make all aspects of marketing communication such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and direct marketing work together as a unified force, rather than permitting each to work in isolation. In practice, the goal of IMC is to create and sustain a single look or message in all elements of a marketing campaign.

One of the largest marketing problems I see a lot of small businesses have is learning how to leverage all of the available channels and delivering a solid, cohesive message along all of those channels. The main reason for this is budget restraints. Small businesses do not have the budget available to hire a large advertising agency to develop their identity, print collateral, TV spots, radio spots and website all at one time. They often have to piecemeal their entire existence together by hiring company X for the print collateral, company Y for the television spots, and maybe if they are lucky they can hire company Z to build them a website.

The Rise of Frankenstien’s Monster

Just like the monster that eventually destroys its master, this form of stitched together marketing can destroy the small business. Each channel tries to act independently. One agency believes everything should be done one way, the other believes it should be a different way and most of the time the business owner or contact person is so close to the action they don’t see the wild differences in messaging, creative design and brand identity.

Pretty soon the TV spots look nothing like the direct mail pieces and the website still has a 2002 copyright, talks about an award the company won in 2003 and looks like nothing else. The company’s brand identity becomes a fractured semblance of itself. All the touch points with its customers serve to confuse because there is not a cohesive brand and consistent marketing.

Hire an Ambassador

My suggestion is to hire or become your own brand ambassador. Depending on the size of your organization and how many marketing touch points need analysis this could be a full time position or you could hire a consultant for a limited lifespan. The point here is to have one person who can determine if a particular marketing initiative is on or off base with your brand identity.
Ask yourself –

  • Does the graphic design resemble everything we have produced?
  • Is the messaging the same as other initiatives? Do we use the same key phrases to talk about our business?
  • Is the imagery similar across media?
  • Does everyone in the organization talk about the company in the same terms?

Pretty simple, right? No one said it had to be hard! When you do find differences talk to your vendor(s) about them. If need be, put one vendor in touch with another. We’re not opposed to discussing the situation with other vendors!

The bottom line is, until you can deliver a brand identity utilizing all or most communication touch points with your clients you don’t need a blog, a wiki, or a social network. Focus on your business and your identity and when you have those things solid then branch out and talk “web two dot ooh” with an internet marketing firm.

We Have PageRank and We Don’t Care!

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Tips and Tricks | 2 Comments

I find it slightly amusing and a little interesting that in the midst of this Google PageRank debacle we received out first boost in PageRank. We’re now a PR3!

The best part is, we don’t care!

I’ve been telling clients for years that PageRank doesn’t matter. Let me repeat that, PageRank does not matter. Got it? PageRank is one of those irrelevant metrics that gets thrown in the bucket with Hits and Alexa rankings.

Once more, PageRank does not matter. The only metrics that matter are conversions, traffic, natural search position. In that order. Period.

The Web is No Longer About Presence, It’s About Identity

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks, Web Design, Westward Strategy | 3 Comments

We spend a lot of time online, after all it is our job. We’ve seen hundreds if not thousands of business web sites ranging from the mom and pop sandwich shop down the street to established medium sized businesses.

It always amazes us the number of companies that simply have a web presence, a mentality prevalent 5 to 6 years ago, when a company could get away with letting the owner’s son build the website in his or her high school computer class. The graphics are often hokey at best, the message is not longer a fit with the company, and any posted prices are grossly out-of-date.

The game has changed, even though most companies have not seen the shift. The web has gone from an auxiliary marketing medium to a prime time player, and in our eyes the ultimate marketing canvas. Businesses need to get their act together and integrate all of their marketing efforts. A presence is no longer adequate, an identity is required. Is a spinning envelope icon really the message you want to send to potential clients or customers? Shouldn’t you be communicating the hometown atmosphere of your sandwich shop or the fresh sliced meat in your sandwiches?

Whatever ideas or concepts drive you to keep your business going should also drive your primary marketing strategies and your website.

What is your message or how are you different from your competitors? As soon as you can answer this question, seek assistance in building or refining your brand identity and communicate this identity in all of your marketing efforts.