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The Thrive Hive

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Site Launch: Alaska Mill and Feed & Garden Center

Scott Thomas - Thursday, October 27, 2011

A newly redesigned website was launched this week for Alaska Mill and Feed and Garden Center. The site features the Business Catalyst Content Management System (CMS) and continues to use their existing mail order/online store.

 

Alaska Mill Feed and Garden Center



Googe+ Now Available for Google Apps Users

Scott Thomas - Thursday, October 27, 2011

Google has enabled Google Apps users to begin using Google+. This should increase the number of Google+ users, and make it easier for Apps users to participate in Google +. Check out the official blog post noted above and review the requirements and precautions within your organization's Google Apps account (Google+ requires Picasa Web Albums and Google Talk to be enabled for the organization).

Be aware that Google+ profiles fall under the control of the business or organization. One change for Google Apps users is that you will have the option to share with everyone in your organization, even if you haven't added all of those people to a circle.

For people who started using Google+ with a personal Google account, and would prefer to use a Google Apps account, there will be a migration tool released in the near future (reportedly in a few weeks). Hopefully, the migration tool will work in the opposite way as well. If one leaves an organization, it would ideal to move your Google+ profile to your personal account.



Implications of 2011 Facebook Changes for Business

Scott Thomas - Wednesday, September 28, 2011

At the recent 2011 F8 Facebook developer's conference, Facebook announced significant changes to the design and scaled up the information that it tracks about it's users. There are many summaries of the changes from a user's perspective, but let's focus on what the changes may mean for businesses.

News Feed

The News Feed will be split into two: the Feed and Ticker. The goal with this split is to remove a user's fear of over-sharing. The Ticker will show a stream of updates, similar to Twitter, while the News Feed will be for stickier content (things that Facebook determines will be of interest at a later time).

Facebook Messages

As of September 30th, page owners will no longer able to send updates to fans using Facebook Messages. Page owners are encouraged by Facebook to interact with their fans through their Wall, so people see updates in their news feeds.

Facebook Pages

For businesses and organizations, it's important to note that users no longer have to "like" a Facebook Page in order to leave a comment.

The Open Graph

Last year, Facebook introduced the Facebook Open Graph - a combination of publisher plugins, semantic markup and a developer API. This year's changes will allow applications to tell Facebook if a user has watched a video, read an article, etc. From a business perspective, expect that much more information about Facebook users will become available for targeting.

Implications

A business can no longer simply have a Facebook page in order to engage with their fans and recruit other Facebook users. To truly engage and market to Facebook users, your business will have to participate in the Open Graph. Focus on your customer's experiences, and how those actions can be integrated and shared.

Essentially, think of Facebook as a targeting tool. You can analyze your audience to learn how stories are shared and created about your business. Paid advertising campaigns will likely play a central role in your brand's presence on Facebook - sponsoring products or services that Facebook users share will be important.

With the increased level of sharing of activities, friends and "friends-of-friends" may become inspired or interested in a product or service. For those in the Alaska travel industry, this could be particularly useful. Imagine a Facebook user seeing "John booked a Alaska Vacation Package with Company X for July 2012" and thinking, "Hey, I always wanted to go to Alaska, maybe this is the time."

Cautions and Areas of Concern

Users may become very cautious in allowing apps to share with others and restrict them to the "only me" setting. But the majority of people will likely trade privacy for increased personalization.

Noise and Information Overload

The split of the news feed into a Feed (sticky content) and Ticker (steam) will increase the information being displayed to users. Will users look for ways to filter out the noise? Is Facebook betting that the volume of information may cause users to have less time for other social media apps? Businesses will have to find a balance of being timely and fresh in people's minds vs. the appearance of being "spammy."



Post Google Apps Transition - Check All Google Products

Scott Thomas - Wednesday, August 31, 2011
If your organization or business has recently had to do the Google Apps transition, effectively moving data from two Google accounts into one (or setting up a second personal account), please make sure all your users go back and login to each Google product or service that they have used in the past. In helping some of our clients, we've noticed business locations on Google Places/Maps being shown as "permanently closed" after completing the Google Apps transition. In this specific case, simply logging back into Google Places and viewing each business location fixed the problem.

When do You Reinvest in Your Website?

Kristen Lindsey - Monday, August 15, 2011
This is often a tough call for clients. Websites should be built to last a while, but there are some tell-tale signs that indicate that it is time to make an investment by upgrading to a new platform.


When it makes sense to stick with what you have:

  • You already have a content management system (CMS) and a site designed with styles sheets and templates. This allows you to make design refreshes at a relatively low cost.
  • Your site is five years old or less. Most sites in this range are relatively current in look and feel, as well as functionality.
  • You need minimal functionality changes. If your site is relatively simple, it will last longer.
  • No need for new navigation or layouts. Again, a simple site without dramatic changes in content or navigation can last longer.

When it makes sense to reinvest:

If any of the following apply, it's time to think about your options. If more than one apply, it's time to think seriously about your five-year web plan.

Before and After
  • You have a static, HTML website. Making changes to these sites often requires someone with HTML experience. Current technology empowers clients to do a lot themselves effectively and affordably.
  • Site is more than five years old. There have been significant improvements in web technology in the past five years, and the cost has gone down. You can gain significant improvements with an investment now.
  • Older site (5+ years). These sites are not optimized for new screen sizes and will appear very dated, which can hamper credibility.
  • If you have new product lines or want to invest in some significant new functionality. First review the current platform to see if upgrades are possible, and at what cost. 
  • Your business model has changed and the web is more important. If the website is playing a more significant role in your business, you need to make sure it's scalable for the inevitable improvements in the coming years.
  • Significant navigation changes or additional content are needed. When changes like these are significant, it's a good time to revisit – new best practices may be incorporated at a modest price.

Is this something you have been thinking about fior your business? What other considerations do you have to share?




Check out Apokrisis Web Design Portfolio

Monica Whitt - Tuesday, August 09, 2011
We've added a fun gallery with recently launched projects that use our online business content management system, plus other web sites we've done in the past. Visit Apokrisis Web Design Portfolio!




Redesign Site Launch: Pike's Waterfront Lodge

Scott Thomas - Thursday, July 14, 2011
We are excited to announce a newly re-designed website for Pike's Waterfront Lodge. Pike's Waterfront Lodge has been a long-time client of our Alaska web design and Alaska search marketing services. Their new design features the Business Catalyst Content Management System (CMS), blog, online reservations, and email newsletter.


Pike's Redesigned Website

SEO Implications of the Google Panda Update

Scott Thomas - Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Google has recently rolled out a series of new updates know as Panda. The Panda ranking factor is a filter created to weed out low-quality pages. Even if your pages are filled with unique, genuine content, they can be hit by Panda and drop in the rankings. It's important to note that even if you have a great site overall, a large number of low-quality pages that get caught in this new filter could drag down the rankings of your entire site. Unique content, written with SEO principles in mind, may not be enough anymore! Is the content on your site good enough that people want to share it? Or, compared to other sites in your niche, do your visitor engagement metrics indicate that people are engaging with the site better than others?

Since Panda relies on machine learning, and requires a lot of computing power, it is not running all the time. Instead, it has run approximately every 4-7 weeks since the first update. So if you believe that your site has been impacted by Panda, it may take several weeks before you have an opportunity to recover.

All aspects of website: design, user interface, visitor engagement metrics, social sharing, links, etc. now must be considered for SEO (or even more so now). Where it's possible, one must ask if a site is competitive within it's niche. Does your site's visitors spend a lot of time on your site? Do they share pages with friends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.? Do people share and link your videos, photos, blog posts, or other pieces of content?

Cookie-cutter, boiler-plate approaches to site design and SEO won't be enough anymore, especially in competitive niches. The Panda ranking factor or update will force us to look more closely at how well a site is engaging it's visitors. I welcome the change that this potential paradigm shift presents us for search marketing, because it will likely reward those who look at the big picture and consider what their customers/website visitors, and their level of engagement as the most important metric.

To learn more about the Google Panda update check out:

Search Engine Land: Why the Google Panda is a Ranking Factor than a Algorithm Update

SEOMoz: How Google's Panda Update Changed SEO Best Practices Forever - Whiteboard Friday
 

Google's +1 Being Added to AdWords Ads

Kristen Lindsey - Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Just had an email from Google stating that it will be adding a +1 button to all AdWords pay-per-click ads.

This means that people searching on Google will have the ability to "like" an ad via its Plus One service.

An example of an ad provided by Google:



This appears to be an aggressive move by Google to have its social tools gain traction in competition with Facebook.

For more information on Google's +1, refer to a previous post by Lisa about it.

Three Take-aways from a Mobile Strategy White Paper

Kristen Lindsey - Thursday, June 09, 2011
I just read an interesting white paper on mobile strategy development. (Get it here) While it is targeted to enterprise level businesses, there are some things that smaller businesses should start thinking about now, and there are other trends that are good to watch as they trickle down and become more affordable and accessible.

1. Mobile Cycle Mimicking Web - Exploration, Acceleration, and Innovation.

Mobile markt development is matching web market development. On the web, Exploration was the time of personal web pages and corporate brochureware sites. The Acceleration phase added interactivity to the web experience, allowing users to do things like access their bank account balance or view a map online. Innovation is where we are now - taking something like mapping and incorporating it into dynamic tools, like a running route mapping tool or a map of nearby restaurants with reviews.

Mobile in the small business segment is still in the Exploration stage, but aggressive organizations who feel they can capitalize by being first to market are jumping into the Acceleration phase with their investment.

Take-away - Think about it now. When is the best time for your business to jump in? Exploration stage, Acceleration stage, or Innovation stage?

2. Platform Diversity Hampers Scalability, but This is Changing

If you want to develop a mobile app, it can be daunting today. It is possible to launch with one platform with a reasonable investment, and most select the iPhone platform first, but then adding platforms like Android and Blackberry means new development cycles and large budgets for a fraction of the immediate ROI of a website.

This is changing, as businesses are creating app-like experiences via the mobile web and others are creating development platforms that create apps that have high cross compatibility.

As this platform diversity problem is solved and the cost to do so goes down, be ready to see a lot of smaller businesses to jump into the fray.

Take-away - Keep a close watch on cross platform development trends, or your competitors may gain an advantage.

3. If You Invest Now - Prioritize Your Platforms

Developing and app for iPhones, Android phones, and Blackberries is still pretty expensive. If you decide to invest, prioritize. Most start with the iPhone unless they operate in a heavy enterprise environment where Blackberry is king. To decide on the next platform, determine who you want to target - for a large expansion of unit penetration, go for Android. To hit that enterprise market, consider Blackberry.

Take-away- Mobile strategy follows business strategy, not the "shiny new object" strategy.

My two cents. What are your thoughts? Do you feel an app strategy makes sense in the current market, or is a mobile site a better option? Or, do you feel it is best for your business to wait for the industry to shake out? let us know!