Monthly Archives: February 2012

Get the best out of your web marketing with these best practices

Web marketing is nothing without research and data to back it up. That’s why at the beginning of a web marketing campaign, we spend weeks (literally!) researching before constructing a long term plan to meet our client’s goals. Research, when done right, leads to valuable ROI-driven web marketing strategies and tactics.

Here are some best practices when doing web marketing research:

Your site: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and imagine you are seeing your website for the first time. Do you like your site? Does it clearly tell visitors what you do? Can they easily navigate to conversion points? These are all questions to will help you target the problem areas of your site so you can start making improvements.

Keyword research: Remember to be realistic! For instance, a hair salon in Canton, Ohio, isn’t going to rank for the phrase “hair.” It’s an ultra competitive phrase that has multiple meanings depending on context. Visitors could be looking for the Broadway musical, the song by Lady Gaga, or a place to get a haircut.

Keywords need to be specific to what your business does or keep your geographic range in mind. So phrases like “canton hair salon” or “canton nail salon” are perfect keywords for our pretend website. Knowing what phrases you want to target will be helpful in the next step…

Competitors: The first thing you need to do is identify who your online competitors are. Believe it or not, your online competitors could be different from those in the traditional brick-and-mortar world. If your potential competition doesn’t have a website and/or doesn’t rank for keywords you want to rank for, then they are not your online competition and you can rule them out.

This is where the keyword research you already did comes into play. Do some quick searches for phrases you identified as what you want to target. Take a look at who is ranking for those phrases and look for trends, like Competitor 1 ranks #2 for canton hair salon but it’s not even on the first page for canton nail salon. But Competitor 2 ranks #1 & #2 for canton hair salon and #2 for canton nail salon.

Once you find competitors that are ranking for the types of phrases you want to target, you need to start analyzing their web marketing efforts. What is their site like? Are they utilizing social media? What about PPC, forums, blogs, etc? Knowing your competition and what they are doing provides a wealth of information.

Google Analytics: Looking at your site’s Google Analytics is an important part of web marketing research. You’ll be able to see how visitors are currently getting to your site and what they are doing when they get there. Stats like unique visitors, average time on site, bounce rate and traffic referrals allow you to gauge the “temperature” of your site.

Now that you know all of that, you need to decide how you want visitors to get to your site and what you want them to do when they get there. For instance, you might see that most of your visitors are coming to your site directly and bouncing off the homepage right away. But you want them to find your site via the search engines and fill out your get a quote form. Now you just need to brainstorm ideas to make that happen.

Benchmark: Before starting your campaign, make sure you benchmark your site traffic and conversions via Google Analytics and your rankings via a ranking tool such as Rank Checker. As Josh Gordon always says, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure!”  And I hate to admit but he is right! You can’t tell how much you have improved if you don’t know where you started.

I hope these tips helped; research can be very overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Of course, there’s lots more to look at, but these basic items will help you prepare a long term web marketing strategy.

Professional Web Design @ TKG: Marrying Form and Function

I promised I would introduce you all to the Client Services team here at TKG. On Wednesday I covered our web marketing team and philosophy…now on to our awesome in-house design talent.

Defining Professional Design

The definition of professional web design has shifted even in the last few years. No longer is it enough to simply arrange photos and text effectively on a web page. Web design is a means of communication – visual communication. Professional web design extends beyond traditional web design to include art direction for photo shoots and video shoots. It’s as much about understanding the audience as it is about the visual communication of a brand.

Getting Technical with Design

There are audience-driven, cool technical things (like heat maps, for example) that help us understand how people consume information. That stuff is really important.

But equally important is the designer’s understanding of how the web works. Take Flash, for instance. Sure, sites that are heavy in Flash might look cool, but they are completely irrelevant to search engines and multiple mobile devicesWhat good is having a beautifully designed site if no one can see or find it?

Diffusing the Form v. Function Battle

Many times we see companies forced to make a trade off in favor of form over function, or vice versa. So, a design LOOKS good enough to win an award… but does it point the user in the right direction and show off the functionality of the website? Does the video or photo reel visually communicate the message, or the essence of the brand?

The notion of balancing form and function, or style and substance, isn’t new. But, after reviewing the approach of many companies like TKG, it almost appears as if it is. Understanding the technicality behind design is step one, but layering visually compelling form (read: design) over that function is the crucial next step where many miss. It is this step that separates web design from professional web design.

Finding the sweet spot between form and function is what we’re all about at TKG. We have a couple of experienced, creative, and professional web designers you should meet.

First is Dave Zingery, our New Media Art Director. If it’s a video, photo, or a crazy, wiz-bang, new, ultra-secret webby thing, Dave knows about it.

We are also lucky to have Julie Kephart, our Senior Art Director. I could give a really grandiose explanation of what she does for our clients, or just show you two sites she’s recently designed:

You’ll be hearing more from Dave in the next few weeks — he’s The Ball’s “design” voice. Keep an eye out as he shares hot trends in multimedia…lots of good stuff coming your way.

Web Marketing @ TKG: Meet the Pack, Get Our Perspective

A lot of businesses in our beloved web marketing industry make bold claims, usually to do with their technical skills. In theory, that makes sense. The belief is that the ability to create a Facebook account, or register a hashtag, or drop page titles into a web page, or send a targeted email is what differentiates one company from the next.

But, this approach puts the emphasis on individual tactics (however cool they may be) instead a business’s larger goals.

In reality, to be a successful marketer, the first requirement is to understand your audience. The second is to define measurable goals that help grow your business.

No mention of Facebook yet. Scary? Well, it shouldn’t be.

Web marketing companies should be awarded business based on how effective they are at growing a client’s business, not on which keyword they choose for an H1.

A business-first mentality is a core belief Geoff has held for 14 years, and is one of the many reasons I’m so proud of the web marketing team assembled here. Well, that, and the wicked brain fights we have. (Note: This is not a cheesy reference to a brainstorm. We literally have pink brain tchotchkes that we hurl at each other all day.)

Our Web Marketing group, part of Client Services, includes three job roles, and some awesome talent.

Amber “The Enforcer” Mullen and Jon Dulac are Web Marketing Strategists. Amber has impressive technical knowledge and an eye for nuance on the web that saves our clients money and enables her to work with extreme efficiency. Jon’s strengths are also many, but a foremost gift is the ability to aggressively grow revenue goals for eCommerce clients.

Both Amber and Jon work with a Web Marketing Specialist who takes care of implementing the tactics in each client’s marketing plan. Amber works with Nate “Big Country” Closser who shares her eye for detail and technical knowledge, and Jon works with Lisa Davala who has a background in communications and helped develop a content marketing case study that I’ll likely share with you down the road.

Our Associate Web Marketing Strategists, Jen Geh and Emily Croskey, have a ton of collective experience at TKG and both develop strategies and implement them for their clients… soup to nuts, to use Amber’s (least) favorite phrase.

Oh, and if you want to join a successful team and learn from the best, fill out the form on this page. If you make the cut, I promise it’s worthwhile.

Our core objective with web marketing is to bring your business goals to life on the web using SEO, pay-per-click, email marketing, content marketing, and social marketing… to name just a few tactics at our fingertips.

I can spend more time boring you with generic agency lingo and cryptic buzzwords. But that’s not really what we’re about. If being effective with your audience online is valuable, then this is a good group to know.

Breakfast Bootcamp Recap: Email Marketing is NOT Dead

I’m Nate, a web marketing specialist here at TKG best known for my creative medulla oblongata. Don’t believe me? Well, here is my office cubicle featuring our very own Dave Zingery as a mermaid.

Now that you know a bit about me, let’s get down to business.

Earlier this month, we hosted a monthly web marketing seminar, which we cleverly call Breakfast Bootcamp. This session focused on all things email marketing. Our own Josh Gordon kicked things off by covering email marketing basics, then Brian Deagan, Prez of Knotice, took over to share more advanced strategies. Knotice is a pretty stellar email service provider that we also happen to partner with.

Here are some highlights from Josh’s presentation:

Email is effective, easy to measure, inexpensive and everywhere.  It’s nowhere close to being “dead.”

The keys to starting an effective email marketing campaign include: email capture, email message, and landing page.

EMAIL CAPTURE
Before an email can ever be sent, an email list must be created. (Email lists can be purchased for major $$$ but it’s best to organically create a list from past customers and on-site email capture efforts.) This is most easily done through call-outs and sign-ups on your company’s website or Facebook fan page.

The major thing to remember with email capture is to offer your visitors something in return for their email address (and attention). Some examples of value exchanges include: giveaways, access to exclusive content, special discounts and promotions, etc.

Some other things to remember about Email Capture:

  • Place your sign up form “above the fold” – meaning the visitor can see it without having to scroll down the page
  • Ask users to select check boxes of information they are interested in receiving
  • Put your email capture on multiple pages of your site
  • Call to action (submit button) needs to convey clear value
  • Require as little as possible from the visitor (name and email may be all you need)

EMAIL MESSAGE
Now that you have email/newsletter sign up forms on your site, you’ll start collecting names and emails.
YAY! The next step is to create a message to send to your list:

Simplify: Have a single call to action to keep recipients focused on doing what you want them to do. Use short paragraphs, bullet points, and bolded text to give recipients a relaxed and breezy experience.

Personalize: Use the recipient’s name if you have it, and include your name in the “from” line. If your audiences vary, target your emails accordingly; don’t send a single email to all audiences.

Relevance: Allow new sign-ups to check boxes of info they are interested in, such as category (women’s clothing, men’s clothing, etc) or interests (news, coupons, new arrivals, sales/clearance items, etc). By offering this option in the sign-up process, users actually segment themselves. Your email’s subject line will also flow from the interests of the recipients or the subject of the information.

LANDING PAGE
Now that your email has been sent, what if they “click through” to your website? The “landing page” is the final piece of email marketing to help make the sale.

Landing Page – Best Practices

  • Should be consistent with your email message
  • Establish credibility
  • Have a professional look and feel
  • Use minimal or no navigation
  • Use a strong, clear headline
  • Keep the important stuff near the top
  • Offer clear value in exchange for action

Landing Page – Things to Avoid

  • Too many/competing images
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of call to action
  • Too much text
  • More than one call to action

The email was sent which means you’re done, right? Nope, it’s only just begun.

You now have to sort through the data to determine if you email was effective. You have to build a relationship with your customers. Email marketing takes a lot of testing, editing, reworking, and more reworking until you know you are sending the right email to the right audience about the right things.

Visit the links below for the presentation and corresponding outline.

View or download the outline
View the presentation

Building a Team For Doing Business Online

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be introducing you all to our Client Services team at TKG. This “mega team” is comprised of Web Marketing, Web Development, and Web Design….in other words, there’s a bunch of us. But before we get into the specifics of each team, we’d like to share how the Client Services team is setup overall.

There are plenty of theories in the world about the right way to build a web team. SEOMoz released one just this morning as part of their Whiteboard Friday series. While their approach is interesting (to take on SEOMoz might seem insane to some, but we’re going to anyway), we think it perpetuates a fundamental flaw that is plaguing companies that want to do web marketing, or in a more general sense, be successful online.

The flaw? Building the team from the tactics – or the small stuff – up, not the business goals down.

We’re pretty passionate about this at TKG. We believe a major reason for our steady growth for 14 years is that our teams in Client Services are aligned on our client’s business goals, not around which tactical person has the most time.

For example, TKG’s Client Services group has folks from the web marketing, web design, and web development teams all working together, in the same room, on the same set of clients, with an Account Manager who works with our clients to make sure we’re focused on the right business goals. They even get along, most of the time. :)

Web marketing, development, and design are all very much interconnected. So, rather than have web marketing folks clustered on one side of the building, and development across the hall, putting our teams together in the same room unlocks a world of potential for our clients, makes us nimble, and helps reach and stretch goals.

When we dive into a new project, we start by first identifying the client’s core business objectives. Then we research and “whiteboard” the right plan for each client based on their needs.

The most important thing in building a web marketing team – or any business team – is to keep the goals at the forefront of our thinking. The REAL business goals…the stuff that makes money and helps grow a business. Then we can dig down into the strategic and tactical stuff from there.

A lot of web companies like to promote their technical knowledge rather than their business knowledge. But winning for clients requires a deep understanding of both, and putting business goals first, and technical knowledge second.

In the weeks and months to come, we’ll be digging deeper into the “why” and “how” of our approach, so stay tuned…

The Business of Getting Social

Everyone here at TKG is very excited because we recently announced an expansion into Columbus, Ohio. As part of the deal, with Social Business Strategies (SBS), a social media strategy firm, the company’s owner, Nate Riggs, joins TKG. Our web marketing team, in particular, is ecstatic about the news. Teaming up with a thought leader like Nate, and gleaning from his experience at SBS, has already been educational and enlightening.

We have been leading and learning with traditional SEO (page titles, header tags, content, etc) for 14 years and we have that down-pat. BUT, social media is proving to have more and more SEO value every day. We want to harness the power of social media and put it to work for our clients. Working with Nate not only enhances TKG’s existing social media abilities, it also helps us evolve by folding social into our understanding of SEO.

SEO Benefits of Social

Social media has many SEO benefits. We will start with the most obvious benefit from an SEO perspective – links! Social media profiles and updates all should include a link back to your site. You create more traffic to your site, and getting a link from an established site like Facebook can’t hurt either.

Another benefit – establishing authority. Getting engagement on social sites shows users that your site is trusted by others and that you care enough about them to be active online. Users will interact with you and, as a result, will do business with you as well.

Another benefit – expansion of opportunities in the SERP’s. The search engines have been making changes (Bing, in particular) that are resulting in an increase of social media appearances in the SERP’s. The more real estate you cover in the SERP’s, the more traffic and conversions you will get. And that’s the goal of any business online, right? Think of the SERP as a grocery store shelf. You want your brand of cereal on as many shelves as possible to increase your chances of selling your cereal, or in our world, getting site traffic. More coverage = more visitors!

We are all very excited about this great opportunity. Working alongside Nate, a seasoned social media professional, will help us better serve our clients and provide more value to them than ever before. Expect to get social media tips from TKGenius! Don’t know what that is? Sign up today to receive free web marketing tips.

Social Business Strategies Joins TKG

Welcome to the “new” TKG blog. I promise TKG-centric posts like this one and the one yesterday will be the exception and not the norm (we have lots of informative content in the works), but we’ve had to get some housekeeping and news out of the way first. Here’s some more of it, so I hope you’ll indulge me.

If you follow TKG happenings or read Josh’s post yesterday, you know we’ve had some exciting things going on at TKG over the past year or so.

Today, we’re announcing some more news. As I mentioned, we’ve been really busy with web marketing work, which has steadily become more social and content-focused in nature – we’ve been doing a lot of writing around here. This includes things like community management, blogging, email, video, infographics and targeted article distribution.

We recognized an opportunity to enhance our social business and content marketing offerings with the acquisition of Social Business Strategies out of Columbus, Ohio. As part of the acquisition, we’ve added some very talented social media marketers to the TKG team: Nate Riggs and Sarah Storer. If you follow the Social Industry, you’ve probably heard of them. :)

 

Nate and Sarah are both super-talented, super-cool, and here to help build on the great things we’ve been doing for years. This is an opportunity for us to go from being a player in the social media and content marketing arena to leading it. It also gives us a foothold in underserved Columbus market – a market we think is ripe for our approach to the web.

So, in short, expect a lot of really exciting things coming out of TKG in the near future. Stay tuned to this blog for all the skinny. For more info on the acquisition, you can read the official news release and news article on our site.

-Geoff

What’s This Whole Ball of Web?

First of all, a warm welcome to you here at the newest home for all of the important TKG and web marketing- related info you can hold in your brain.

We wanted to give everyone a central location where you can find out the latest TKG buzz, and give our talented group of professionals a chance to regularly share what we know.

So, it’s important to note that this blog is not just about TKG news (though we’ll share stuff on occasion).

This blog is about how we think companies can explore and leverage the web – the “WHOLE ball of web” – to their benefit. TKG sees the web through the eyes of our clients’ target audience  – we blend that perspective with our knowledge and experience on the web.

We hope we have interesting stories to tell and tips to share. We hope you agree, and we hope you’ll continue to check back often, or sign up to receive our emails (see the header for our shameless plug!).

We’ll cover a WIDE variety of info that marketing/web/geek-types care about, with particular emphasis on web marketing stuff (like SEO, pay-per-click, social media, content marketing, email marketing, etc.), web design stuff (like usability, accessibility, design trends, etc.), and web development stuff (like W3C compliance, Schema.org, content management systems, database architecture, etc.).

We’ll share stuff that is of timely importance to us, our readers, and our customers, as well. For example, if you know someone looking for an entry level job in web marketing, send them here.

Or, if you want bigger news than that – the type of news that will shock and inspire you… the type of news that you’ll immediately want to share with your friends and family… the type of news that will compel you action – then check back here tomorrow for a big announcement.

Seriously.

And, while tomorrow’s announcement IS exciting, there are other exciting things happening at TKG as well.

If you missed our note late last year, our office space is bigger. We wanted some more space to meet with clients, but we also wanted a really cool meeting space for TKG-only meetings. So we painted a wall with white board paint and scrawl all over it now.

We also acquired a Cleveland-based Data Services company, SitesNow. It’s been a few months since that deal was finalized, and everyone at TKG loves working with Bryan and Greg (the two guys who joined up with TKG as part of the deal), who are top-notch pros.

Also, Todd, who started with TKG as Controller, now has a new gig as our Director of Strategic Initiatives. If you’re curious, read all about what that fancy-sounding title means.

Check back tomorrow for a cool announcement, and then often after that for juicy bits of info you can put into immediate practice, no matter what you do on the web.

-Josh

Todd Whetstone Moves to New Role at TKG

The Karcher Group Announces Move of Todd Whetstone
to Director of Strategic Initiatives

Whetstone focusing on strategic initiatives and acquisitions in new, expanded role

Full press release:

(North Canton, Ohio – January 31, 2012) The Karcher Group (TKG), a North Canton-based web development, marketing and hosting firm, announced the move of Todd Whetstone to Director of Strategic Initiatives.

In his new role, Whetstone, who joined TKG in 2009 as Controller, works with senior management and other company leaders to further refine and define the company’s short and long term strategic vision.  His main focus includes evaluating potential acquisitions and strategic partnerships for the company.  Whetstone has already brokered two acquisitions for TKG, including a data services company in Cleveland, Ohio, and a social media marketing firm, details of which will be announced in coming weeks.

Whetstone’s other responsibilities include improving TKG’s operational model, developing short and long term financial planning, cultivating key business relationships, and participating in the build out of the company’s infrastructure to support future growth plans set for this year and beyond.

In the two-plus years he spent as Controller, he helped manage TKG’s overall financial health, budgeting and long-term planning. Whetstone came to TKG following a distinguished career in the finance/accounting industry, having held senior management positions at the accounting firm of Arthur Andersen & Co and several Fortune 500 companies including American Airlines, Citibank and Bank of America.

“We became acquainted with Todd through a mutual friend at the 415 Group, our longtime financial advisor and client,” said Geoff Karcher, President of The Karcher Group. “Todd has made a huge impact on our business, first by bringing financial stability and health to TKG and now helping us grow strategically.”

For more information, please contact Collyn Floyd, Content Marketing Strategist, at 330.493.6141.