Category Archives: Web Hosting

Moving Pictures: Storytelling on the Web

Humans are social beings, and we have an inherent need to connect with others to create a sense of belonging and acceptance. You may have not thought about it in this way, but a large part of Facebook-Videothat connection with others is telling stories – everything from your uncle’s hunting tales, to reminiscing with college [studying] buddies, and even the “I remember” conversations you get by looking at your old family photos.

All of these examples are stories that build history, value and connection between people. Stories are so ingrained into our existence as humans that no matter how far you look back into history, every culture’s beliefs, artistry and writings are really just a collection of stories about hope, fear and knowledge that are passed from one person to another over the course of time. Our need to use stories as a connection and communication tool has not diminished with the onset of technology – not by 35mm’s, or even a pixel. The film industry alone is at $88 billion per year, only rivaled by the essentials of modern existence – power, construction, medicine … and Wal-Mart.

Do you have a story to tell? Video is a format that changes how a story is told. We live in a spectacular time when the tools to create video are more accessible than ever before. You don’t need an $80 million blockbuster budget or a 30-person crew either. Quality cameras are affordable (every phone has one), and powerful graphics and animation software is cheap (or even free!). The audience doesn’t have to imagine what you are trying to say, because you are not just telling your story, you can show them. You can easily have your own web video channel about parenting, how-to series about car repair, watch product demos, or have your own web cartoon – and place it in the palm of anyone’s hand.

As our culture changes, the way we consume information and tell stories will follow suit. Thanks to the Internet and smartphones, your story is now only a click or swipe away. The days of text-heavy websites – overflowing with tables, paragraphs and bullet points – are long gone. Everyone is busy and on the go. Statistics say 40% of us are engaging other people on our tiny, handheld portals to the Internet. Since time and accessibility seem to be the issue, I know I would rather experience a story in 30 seconds, with full-screen video and audio, rather than try to absorb the same story across four screens worth of 10-point Helvetica. I certainly do believe in the power of the written word, being a creative writer (and now blogging here on TKGenius!).

Writing in general will always holds its value with expanded explanations, imaginative narrations and abstract thoughts. A novel will always have greater depth and details than its movie counterpart. Unfortunately, I can’t process the novel-version of that same story in the same hour and a half with my fourth-grade reading speed. Video lends itself to the modern web because you can use focused storytelling to rapidly engage audiences with a complete story that can easily be shared on any web page, social media forum, or sent through email.

If you have a very clear message to convey in a short timeframe, consider video. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but video is worth a thousand words twenty-four times per second – and has its own soundtrack. We all have a little time for a great story. How are you telling yours?

Running a Successful Facebook Contest—The Right Way

So you’ve finally decided to run a Facebook contest. That’s great! Social media contests can improve engagement and likes, and encourage your audience to interact with your brand. Besides, everyone loves the chance to win something!

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  1. Give away something people actually want to win

If you make consumable products, you have a built in prize. If not, try looking into branded hats, mugs, t-shirts, keychains, or anything that makes sense for your business. You might be surprised how excited people will get over a plastic cup or a notepad. If those don’t seem to be good options, you can always give away a gift certificate.

  1. Add pictures of the prize, if possible

Engaging content has swiftly shifted more and more to video and photo content and if your Facebook fans can actually see the prize they have a chance to win, they are much more likely to interact with your contest. This is your chance to get creative by arranging the prizes in a way that looks the most appealing.

  1. Create a strategy

What do you want to get out of this contest? More engagement? More interaction? More new likes? Take the time to think about what you want out of the contest and plan the terms around it. For example, if you want more engagement, you might want to ask your audience to like and comment on the post. Or if you want more new page likes, you might run a contest to get to your next milestone. Keep it easy and engaging, but somehow tied to your brand.

  1. Promote contest posts

This is important! You can’t just rely on word of mouth or shares for your contest to do well. In order to get the most engagement you need to reach the largest possible audience. As most of you may know, Facebook’s algorithms don’t show every single post to every single member of your audience. Even if you have a small budget, promoting your posts is definitely affordable.

  1. Stay involved

While the contest is going on, be sure to interact with the audience as they are commenting. You don’t have to like or comment on every single post, but some engagement is necessary. When you host a social media contest, you’re bound to get a variety of comments, so make sure you’re checking them regularly and commenting as necessary.

  1. Choose your winner fairly

It might be tempting to choose a winner who often interacts with your page or maybe even someone you know. Don’t. I use Fanpage Karma’s “Good Luck Fairy” to randomly pick a winner from likes, comments, shares or a combination. The best part? You can download a spreadsheet of everyone who interacted with the contest so you can have a hard copy of your winners.

  1. Notify winners and send prizes promptly

Don’t delay with notifying winners. They are excited to hear who won, and I’m willing to bet you’ll be excited to notify them after you’ve ended the contest. Facebook has recently allowed businesses to contact winners directly, but it’s also not a bad idea to write a post notifying the winner or winners.

  1. Study your analytics

Look at your engagement numbers and percentages to see how well you did and learn from it. If you didn’t get the engagement that you hoped, you might want to switch gears and go with a different strategy. Or maybe you want to spend more on advertising or give away a bigger prize.

At the end of the day, running a contest on Facebook should be fun! It’s exciting to see people get so pumped up over winning a prize. You users will be more engaged and watching you to see what contest you’re running next, which leads to more traffic to your Facebook page and eventually to your site.

Understanding Mobile First

Having spent nearly 20 years in the web development field, I was an early adopter and strong advocate of the “mobile first” approach that has recently came on strong.

It forces many good habits that, frankly, the industry should have been paying attention to all along. Prioritizing the right content for the visitor’s needs just makes sense.

Mobile first means exactly that – considering what is most important for smartphone and tablet readers to see when they reach your website from those devices. It is (and should be!) a different experience from the desktop.

As Geoff detailed in his recent “Mobile Only is Foolish” post, TKG definitely does not advocate the easily-confused idea of mobile only. Mobile only is very different than mobile first, and it’s easy to see where people may be fooled into mobile only.

Commonly, what happens in mobile only is that a desktop experience existed and then a completely separate mobile experience is considered. With this approach, the likelihood that the brand’s intended experience across devices becomes increasingly fragmented. What happens is you end up cramming all of the information into the smaller displays or just cut it out entirely. Just having a link to everything that you would on the desktop doesn’t mean you’ve successfully delivered the right experience.

Not to mention what it says to Google and your SEO rankings.

A mobile first approach takes more thought and time to plan, but the return is tremendous. Desktop displays afford much more space to play with, and typically require more bandwidth and technology to produce a desired experience. The beauty of a mobile first approach is that the core experience is maintained throughout the site, no matter what device your visitor is using. The mobile experience is delivered with the minimum required components and then is progressively enhanced as the display, bandwidth and technology allows.

Here’s your strategy for doing it right:

  • Goals: Mobile first thinking immediately brings to the surface the need for clear goals for the site. Most often a conversion is desired, whether that be a phone call, a lead form or an e-commerce sale. This usually isn’t a one-step path. And often, the goal(s) of a mobile user are different than a desktop user, so we must make accommodations for those realities. Some simple things are quick access to things like directions, hours or click-to-call. These are things you might keep available on a desktop experience, but likely tone down.
  • Content First:Again, with limited screen space, mobile first thinking forces our content to be focused on the most critical messaging. So, as your content is developed, key messaging should be separated from their expanded topic(s), while allowing both to be present for the visitor.  This decision-making typically bodes very well then for larger display experiences by allowing a great amount of flexibility when presenting content. Of course, to execute that focus on key messaging, the designer must have the actual content prior to design to properly present it for the varied experiences.
  • Navigation:Navigation menus can present a substantial challenge, particularly on large sites. Taking a mobile first approach again brings these challenges to the surface early on and facilitates the need (opportunity) for structural prioritization. When possible, simplify. Long lists of navigation are forced to be tucked away as a utility to the visitor to allow key messaging to remain in focus. Remember, out-of-sight is often out-of-mind. The saving grace is that if your goals are clearly identified and your content provides a supporting path, those navigation menus should be able to remain a utility (in non-commerce websites).

Contracting a reputable digital partner to redesign your website from a mobile first approach isn’t the quickest, but I know without a doubt that it’s the most effective. A side benefit is that you only pay to maintain one “website” instead of multiple, which means that Google stays happy too and you won’t get dinged on the search marketing implications of having multiple websites.

Invest in creating the mobile experience first, put focus on your goals and reap the rewards of a better experience for those interacting with your business. As with any change, it’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to move your business forward.

Digital Trends to Watch Out for in 2016

Digital Marketing WordsOnline marketing is a constantly changing industry, and with each new evolution comes a host of new challenges and opportunities. That’s why, at the end of each year, we take time to reflect on the year behind us, and think about where our industry is heading.

So as 2015 comes to a close, we’re putting together our list of digital trends that we predict will have the biggest impact in the upcoming year. Read on for an exclusive look into the digital trends projected to shake up 2016:

1. Increasing Need for Marketing Automation

Let’s be honest, most visitors won’t make a purchase the first time they visit your site. That’s because it takes time and repeat exposure to form the kinds of relationships that lead to conversions.

In order to facilitate meaningful relationships in 2016, it will become essential to filter content and tailor your messaging to meet your audience’s needs. Personalized follow-up content goes a long way in establishing relevant touchpoints with your audience, and could make a serious impact on your conversion rates.

2. Immersive, Interactive Content will be King

In 2016, interactive content will become necessary for a successful digital presence. No longer is text-based content enough to tell your story. Without immersive, visual storytelling, your content will simply not be as effective in 2016.

Here’s a particularly compelling example from BuzzStream: In 2013, the most popular pieces of content from both BuzzFeed and the New York Times had something in common. And it was not that they were well-researched, journalistic pieces. They were quizzes. And this trend is not going away. As we move into the New Year, effective content will need to actively engage your audience. Passive content simply won’t cut it.

3. Data Will Help Guide Digital Efforts

Consumer behavior has become increasingly complex in recent history, a trend that we expect to continue into 2016. More sophisticated data analysis will be necessary in the New Year in order to understand this complex consumer behavior and guide digital marketing efforts going forward.

If you’re not thinking about customer relationship management, usability or cross-channel marketing, you’re likely doing your audience and your business a disservice. By understanding the ways in which your users interact with your brand in the digital space, you are much more likely to be successful in your digital marketing efforts.

4. Mobile Marketing is No Longer Optional

The use of mobile marketing will continue to be one of key digital trends in 2016. In order for your website and supporting marketing materials to be effective, they must lend themselves to an easy, streamlined mobile experience.

Trust us; geo-targeting, social advertising and responsive design are not just passing fads. As marketers learn more about the ways users interact with their mobile devices, they will continue to push the envelope of mobile marketing – and it’s important that your business doesn’t fall behind.

From responsive design to social and content marketing, TKG has the skills and resources to help you prepare your online presence for the New Year. Contact a member of our team to discuss your digital needs for the upcoming year.

Have other predictions for 2016’s biggest digital trends? Share them in the comments!

Life with Microsoft Edge

Let’s just get this out of the way.  Microsoft cannot make a browser that satisfies everyone.  If you remember a few months ago, I wrote about how the excitement around IE’s demise at the hands of a brand new browser was losing its appeal to me.   At that time a look at the touted new features and work Microsoft had put into IE over the last few years left me feeling ‘meh’ about Edge.

Windows 10 has been out for a little over a month now and as promised, Edge is front and center.  Technically it does what a browser is supposed to do – show you a webpage.  Its rendering feels snappy and its minimal interface falls in line with what other browsers are doing. Actually trying to use it however seems like it is a very 1.0 release to me.   Refinements found in more mature browsers are missing, and in some ways it actually falls short when compared to IE.

Let’s start with my biggest annoyance.  As a web developer, I often times have to copy/paste part of the address for a task. To do this, I simply put my cursor where I want to start, and click.  If I needed “/web-development-portfolio” below, I’d put my cursor at the ‘/’

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So, what happens when I do that? Edge suddenly fills in a lot more of the URL and my cursor isn’t where I intended. The start of the highlight below shows where my cursor was after the click.

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Next, I rely on “Home” to get me back to some starting pages I need often through the day.   See the address bar image above?  Do you see a home icon? Nope, it’s not there by default.   Granted, you can turn it on under the hidden ‘Advanced Settings’ but it’s pretty well buried for people like my dad so I’ll get the tech support phone call when he finally moves to 10.    Ok, so it’s turned on – you would expect it to take you back to the page or group of pages define in the “Open with” settings, right?   Wrong, you get a single URL option that is different from what you see when you first open the browser.

microsoft3Speaking of the Open With setting, which defines what you see when you start Edge, what a cheap ploy by Microsoft to get traffic to their online properties. MSN and Bing both get top billing for the ‘specific page or pages’ option with a sort of cryptic “Custom” option that allows you to enter a URL 1 at a time for multiple tabs.   I know this labeling of “Custom” will be another phone call from Dad.

Finally, remember Cortana – Microsoft’s digital personal assistant?  As I mentioned last time, it felt like Microsoft knew they had a hit, so they decided to put her into every nook and cranny if it made sense or not.   To find her, you highlight text on a page, right click and choose “Ask Cortana”   Below shows her response to my selection of “CMS” on a certain web development company’s website.   “Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services?   “Food and Drug Administration”?  Thanks, Cortana.

Why isn’t the fact that I’m on TKG.com, which Bing knows as a web-development website, taken into consideration for Cortana’s response?  I would expect then to see information about “Content Management Systems” which would be helpful in the context of the site I’m currently on.

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I tried, really I did, for a week or so to make Edge my default browser.  In the end it just has too many rough edges and no compelling reasons to stick to it.  For now it’s back to the dynamic duo of Google Chrome and Internet Explorer as my browsers of choice.

How Can a Small Company Compete with the Giants in the World of SEO?

Search marketing has grown in popularity as online search continues to evolve from a novelty to a standard feature in our everyday lives. Almost every business, big or small and regardless of industry, has a web presence, and everybody is competing for a handful of positions at the top of search-engine results pages.competing with giants

Since larger companies already have millions of inbound links, a lengthy history of content, and a recurring base of online visitors, is it any wonder they generally appear in the top ranking positions when people search for commercial products? Regardless of what industry you’re in, you’ll always have at least one competitor who has been around longer and has allocated more budget and resources to building their visibility in the search engines.

So, how can a small company with limited experience and resources compete with that level of online domination?

Thankfully, SEO is no longer about sheer volume. It’s more about which page or website is the most relevant for the searcher.  Thus, there are several strategies that can give a small company the edge over the giant competitor.

  • Specialize in a niche – One of the best things you can do as a small company is give yourself a niche focus. If you pour all your effort into one or a handful of keywords, you’ll be able to achieve a much higher visibility than if you have a wide range of keywords and your relevance for each of them is somewhat low.
  • Leverage locality for optimization – Another way to beat the competition is by targeting a much more local audience. Local search is becoming more relevant and more important, so in today’s context, being the best widget maker in Cleveland is far better than being a so-so widget maker on a national scale. Even if your company does operate on a national, or even international level, you can still capture a niche market share and edge out your competitors in at least one key area by optimizing for a specific local area.
  • Personalize your social engagement – Aside from local search optimization, you can also increase your chances of overcoming larger competitors by stepping up the ‘personal’ factor in your brand strategy. Large companies can lose a portion of their personality once they hit a certain point in their growth, but being small and nimble can be an advantage in giving each follower a more personal experience.
  • Become a recognized content publisher – Building brand awareness, loyalty, trust and credibility requires frequent and quality content publication. Maximize the reach of the content you publish to maximize your return on investment, and be consistent with your publication schedule so you become recognized as a dependable authority.

There’s no shortcut to rise to the top of the search engine rankings, especially when there’s a giant competitor on the scene. But, with a strategy that leverages your geographic location and your agility, you can selectively overcome that giant in specific key areas. Give yourself the best odds by narrowing your topic and keyword focus and increasing your location-specific relevance.

6 Signs It’s Time For a New Site

The speed that technology advances is getting faster and faster. Once you actually get the hang of the phone you have the next model is already out. The internet is no different. From social media to SEO, it is changing daily. Website designs change to comply with the increase in mobile traffic and incorporate social media, content needs to be changed as visitors expect more and more visual content. If you’re wondering if it’s time for a new site here are some key points to take a look at.6 signs

  1. It doesn’t work well on mobile- Many older sites don’t load correctly on mobile devices. It is often hard to read the content or difficult to navigate the site. With around 50% of site visits being on mobile devices this means if a site is not mobile friendly, users get frustrated and a site may lose about half of it’s potential visits/conversions.
  1. It’s slow- Let’s be honest, we love instant gratification. Studies show that a page with a load time of 4 seconds resulted in a 25% drop in traffic. That may seem a little crazy but when it comes to the internet we want and expect it in the blink of an eye.
  1. It’s hard to update content- Content management systems have come a long way over the years. They now make it easy for anyone to go in and change content and keep the information current without needing a whole team to edit code to update.
  1. You’ve outgrown the site you have now- This point is by no means a bad one. If your business has outgrown your site congratulations you’re running a successful company! There are different reasons you may have outgrown it. Maybe you made the original site shortly after startup and have since added more services or products. It may be more difficult to navigate the site with these added items. Or perhaps you’ve changed the image of the company or shifted the primary focus. A revamp of the site to more accurately represent the business is a great plan to continue to grow.
  1. Users aren’t converting- The whole point of having a site for your business is to generate leads or make sales. If your site isn’t getting either of these but is getting decent traffic it may be time to consider a redesign. High bounce rates, short time on site, and low page views are pretty good indicators that the time has come.  There are different reasons why users may not be converting. Poor landing pages with content that doesn’t give users the information they were looking for, a lack of calls to action, or it could simply be because there haven’t been and conversions set up.
  1. No social media- Social media has become a huge part of business. It not only helps generate leads but keeps current customers up to date on what the business is doing. If your site doesn’t have links to the company’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. you’re missing out on a great opportunity to interact with users.

If you’re having any of these issues, or if your site was made in Windows 95, it may be time to ditch it and consider a redesign. If you need some help or have any questions we are more than willing to assist you.

Slow WordPress Site Got You Frustrated?

4 Tricks to Help Speed Up Your WordPress Site

I’ve recently visited a ton of WordPress sites that have taken forever to load and even with the page cached, repeat visits to the site were still slow. There can be many reasons why your WordPress site is slow but I want to cover 4 of what I believe to be the most important things you can do to speed up your WordPress site.

1. Resize and Compress Your Images
Image size can be a huge issue for page load speed on any site so make sure that your images are resized and compressed for web use. With today’s high resolution screens it is tempting to upload high-resolution photos. While this might be necessary in some instances make sure to think about your audience and whether or not having higher resolution photos will likely lead to a conversion.As a starting point make sure that all images are set to 72dpi (dots per inch) and if your image editor has an “export or save for web” function make sure to use that. Doing this will ensure that the image file size is compressed for the web.

2. Install a Lazy Load Plugin
Plugins such as Bj Lazy Load on a basic level allow all non-image based content such as text to be loaded and viewed before all of the images on the page have fully loaded. This ensures that large images on the page are not causing the whole page to load slowly.

3. Check the Performance of Your Plugins
Another common problem with WordPress sites is that 3rd party plugins can slow down the overall page load time. To fix this issue try using a plugin performance profiler. This is a plugin that I like to run periodically on sites to test how long each plugin is taking to load.

If you find a plugin that is running slow try looking for an alternative plugin and try it.  Note that all plugins work differently and if you remove one plugin and install another you may lose content.

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This plugin does not need to be left on all of the time so after you have run your test disable the plugin so that it does not slow your site down. Simply re-activate it when you need to run another test.

4. Minimize the Number of Plugins You Use
There are often times when our sites change and we no longer need a plugin or it is a plugin that we only use sometimes. Those plugins should be deleted or deactivated when necessary. Note that removing a plugin could remove site content. For example, if you remove an SEO plugin all of your optimizations will be removed as well.

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In the example above you can see that this site at one point wanted to use a Sellfire Affiliate plugin on their site but then decided not to go that route. This plugin should be deleted to help minimize the amount of content that needs to load when a user visits the site.

I hope this article gives you some tricks that you can use to help speed up your WordPress site. If you have any questions or would like to talk to someone about a new website, please contact us.

Fading Excitement over Microsoft’s New Web Browser

My excitement over Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, is rapidly disappearing as more and more details emerge.

Originally billed as a replacement for Internet Explorer, Microsoft introduced some potential (and since removed) confusion when it announced that the browsing experience in Windows 10 would default to the new rendering engine and ‘auto-roll’ over to the IE engine when it detected legacy code. So basically, one browser with two hearts. Fortunately, the masses have convinced Microsoft to make a stand alone browser on the new engine, and leave IE alone to die in piece. Or have they?

I believe the driving factor behind a new browser is simply marketing. You see the IE team really has made drastic improvements to the browser over the last few versions. The problem is, no one cares.  IE’s image is tainted with the horrific days of IE 6,7 and 8, and no amount of work to make 9,10 and 11 ‘modern’ has been able to shed that negative reputation. So what is the answer to win back market share from competitors? A new browser.

Rather than going back to the drawing board and evaluating “today’s web,” Microsoft has taken the heart of IE, the Trident rendering engine, and rebranded it as “EdgeHTML.” Don’t get me wrong, there are improvements to the new browser, but I’d bet those improvements could have been packaged as IE 12.

Microsoft’s marketing for this new browser, Edge, is gimmicky and reminds me of “Web Slices” and “Accelerators” from IE8.  Don’t know what “Web Slices” and “Accelerators” are? That’s because they weren’t useful, and no one adopted them.  From microsoft.com:

Accelerators. Accelerators give people easy access to the online services they care about most from any page they visit. Meanwhile, developers gain an easy way to extend the reach of their online services. Accelerators also allow users to browse faster by eliminating most of the clicks required to access desired content and services.
Web Slices. With Web Slices, people can see the information they want to see most often without going away from the page they are on, and developers can mark parts of Web pages as Web Slices and enable users to easily monitor the information they most frequently browse to, all while they move about the Web. Web Slices appear in the Favorites bar, where people can identify updated sites when in bold. From there, they can see a rich Web Slice visualization of their content with easy access back to the source Web page.

The touted features front and center on Microsoft’s new web browser, Edge, are “Inking” and are you ready“Cortana.” Inking is the ability to take notes over the content of a webpage, but seriously, how often have you needed to do this? Then there’s Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant, that on my Windows phone, I LOVE.  MS has a hit with Cortana, so in historic fashion, that hit is being crammed into every nook and cranny, whether it fits or not.

My limited tests with Cortana in Windows 10 have left me frustrated and annoyed.  I can only imagine the experience will be similar with Cortana in Edge. Get me to Google and let me find what I need-  that’s it – I don’t need her (Cortana) stepping in to undo years of conditioned habbit.

Still not convinced that Edge is merely IE12 in a different skin? I’ll leave you with this comic pointing out the announcement of the new Edge logo, and the side by side comparison.

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Google Tag Manager

TagManagerRecently I have been putting quite a bit of effort into rolling out Google Tag Manager for many of our client sites. It has been a rewarding process and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

First, what is Google Tag Manager?

One of the foundational building blocks of a website is the tag. It is a way that functionality can be added to the site in a fairly simple manner. The functionality can range from tracking activity and usage to adding features like chat to a site. Each one of these tags is generally pretty simple and easy to understand, but as the number and complexity of the tags increases the challenge of keeping track of them and making sure they are on the correct pages also grows. This is where Google Tag Manager comes in. It allows us to place a single tag called a container on the site and then add and remove tags to that container based on a variety of rules.

Once the container is in place tags can be added to the site without needing to touch the templates or source code, which greatly reduces the risk that something can go wrong when adding a tag. It also makes it much more simple to change or update a tag when needs change.

There is another benefit that I really appreciate: the ability to test tags before they are rolled out. This allows a set of tags to be tested on the site before they are rolled out to all users. This has been especially helpful when trying to troubleshoot complex tags.

This is just scratching the surface of what can be done with Tag Manager, but hopefully it is enough to give a glimpse into why I’m so excited about using it. If managing tags is something that you could use help with, get in touch with us, we would love to help you out.