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The Thrive Hive

Tips on digital marketing you can apply today.

Summary: Panel on the Future of Marketing

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Thursday, October 13, 2016

I had a great time today participating in a panel of experts sharing with Alaska marketers about the future of marketing. My fellow panelists were Nick Coltman from the Anchorage Press and Melissa Moody from Google. For those of you that were unable to make it or did not hear about it, I thought it might be useful to have a summary of the bigger topics we covered. 

1. What do you see as the next big disruption in marketing and communications?

There are going to be bigger, better ways for marketers to really hyper-target audiences. Nick described it as sniper-style targeting. As part of that, Melissa made the great point that internet access is already happening more on mobile devices than desktops and computers, and we all agreed that mobile is here to stay and that new disruptive technologies will be primarily happening in the mobile sphere. 

I chimed in that it is critical for marketers to really hone in on target audiences and their needs, pain points, and what else empowers and engages them, then apply the targeting tactics that resonate with each of those audiences. With so many new tools, there is a lot of bad content out there that is turning off consumers. If you can create an authentic, engaging experience with your customers, you are going to cut through the clutter. A great online resource that breaks this down is the Content Marketing Institute.

Nick also pointed out that with this targeting comes much more effective measurement and analytics. It is much easier to learn quickly what works and what doesn't and focus your budget in the right places.

2. As a small business without a marketing staff member, how do we make the most of a limited budget?

Melissa: Start with online local listings and reviews - free and impactful!

Nick: It depends! On the industry, target audience, etc. But if you have $300 to spend there are a lot more inexpensive options out there to take advantage of, from an ad in the Anchorage Press to Facebook ads. 

Kristen: We counsel small business owners to keep the fast-cheap-good triangle in mind when deciding on marketing spend - you can only have two! That is a quick check to prioritize quickly. Also, as the owner with many hats, it is also important to consider how your time is best spent - using that $300 for hiring marketing professionals when your time could have a bigger impact on the business success elsewhere is an analysis of the risk of lost opportunity.

3. How do you see virtual reality playing a role in future marketing tactics?

Melissa: Virtual reality will be a huge opportunity for industries with experiential products and services as it gets more mainstream. She pointed out the important difference between 360-degree photos and Virtual Reality. 360 photos are basically a 360-degree photograph taken with a special camera or else stitched together from a number of pictures. Virtual Reality is an immersive experience that requires some sort of headset. (Incidentally, Scott at our office picked up a Google Cardboard, which allows you to experience virtual reality with some simple app downloads. Check it out!)  

It is becoming easier and more affordable to create 360-degree images and load them up on your site of social networks. She mentioned the Android SprayScape app, which allows marketers to create them quickly with their mobile phone. her advice for small businesses is to start with the 360-degree photos, then more forward from there.

Kristen: I mistook augmented reality with Virtual reality and mentioned how quickly Pokemon went mainstream, but regardless there is a point in there somewhere that even as people grasp augmented reality, it makes it easier for our potential consumer markets to understand Virtual Reality, and that is when the technology is going to become useful to us as marketers. The other point I made was that regardless of what disruptive technology comes down the line, Virtual reality included, that we still need to execute the fundamental ,marketing task of identifying those micro-audiences and understand what content and experiences engage them, THEN apply the technology.

4. How can the big Alaska businesses find marketing opportunity in the current economic situation?

Melissa: there are definitely opportunities in other markets. I was at the Alaska Travel Industry Association convention last week, and hearing Governor Walker talk about the huge cuts in the state marketing budget was hard to hear. But that is completely the wrong way to go, because tourism is an Alaska industry of opportunity.

Kristen: Since we are all dependent on oil and gas to create the business economy here, all industries need to evaluate their opportunities. Just like the state is losing an opportunity by cutting back on the tourism marketing budget, individual businesses must continue to double down on knowing their customers and taking advantage of these new marketing trends. One important way for marketers to do this is to restructure their work process to be able to respond more quickly to consumers with the tactics available, learn what works and what doesn't on the fly, and more forward with what is successful.

Nick: Obviously, marketing is not going to help oil and gas. They need more production and volume. But all the rest of the businesses cannot hide in the sand - their competitors will take up that lost space.

5. One word to sum up the future of marketing:

Nick: Targeting

Melissa: Mobile

Kristen: Agile

The Best Recipe for a Successful Website Redesign

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

As a business owner, successfully designing or revamping your website can be a daunting task.

Why is it so tough?

Outsourcing it can be overwhelming, with options ranging from moonlighting college students to huge national agencies; prices range from one thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. And, even if you have the skills, doing it yourself may not be the best use of your time. It’s enough to give you indigestion.

Good news! We have the perfect recipe for a successful website design project that will leave you satisfied and content (and get results!).

Ingredient #1: Strong Client Vision

I know, I know. You were expecting me to share everything a web agency should do for you, but guess what: you have complete control over one of the most important ingredients -- your vision for the site!

Taking time before starting a redesign project to map out a) your organizational goals, and b) how your web presence will support those goals is THE foundation of the entire project. Plus, if you are working with a good web company they are going to ask for this anyways.

Other important things to think through:

  • Who are your primary audiences?
  • What calls-to-action should be on the site?
  • What is your desired look and feel?
  • What content needs do you have?
  • Where will you obtain photos?
  • What other websites you like or dislike and why?

By answering these questions you can gain a clear vision of how your site will differentiate you from your competitors. It will also be easy to communicate this vision quickly to potential web partners. (We actually have a nifty project questionnaire with all these questions we give to prospective clients - you can view it here)

Ingredient #2: Strong Agency Strategic Input

You are responsible for the vision ingredient. But a good web agency should be able to interpret that vision and provide strategic input, apply current technology and use clear processes to offer “right-sized” technology recommendations. If you meet with an agency that pushes latest technology trends or makes recommendations that don’t seem in alignment with your business goals or target audiences, steer clear. Find a company that offers web solutions in a way you can understand and feel confident about, as well as ones that reflect your company brand and focus on the needs of your potential customers. a

Ingredient #3: Communication

Our web project recipe calls for a double portion of the “communication” ingredient. Even more than technical skills, good communication at every step of your project is critical to its success. If a web agency provides a scope of work that doesn’t clearly define the project goals and deliverables, they have failed to deliver this ingredient. Technical knowledge is not required to read a proposal and determine if it will deliver the site you need at a price reflective of its value.

Getting internal stakeholder buy-in is another example of the importance of good communication. If you are a one-person company and can make all the decisions, great! But most of us need input from co-workers or higher ups to make sure the new website will work for all departments. Getting internal participation and feedback, then clearly communicating that to your web agency will help the process go smoothly.

Some other examples of how both an agency and a client can contribute the communication ingredient:

An agency should:

  • Provide a clear, simple to understand proposal without jargon
  • Speak and write in layman’s terms 
  • Provide tools that help the client communicate their needs
  • Provide a simple, clear process for the project -- make it easy!
A client should:

  • Provide the agency with clear vision and direction
  • If you don’t understand something -- ask!
  • Use tools made available to you by the agency -- they’ve done this a lot

Ingredient #4: Client Leadership

Sorry, we’re back to you again. You thought you could outsource all of this, didn’t you? Well, at each stage your leadership is necessary to keep the website project on track. How can you lead? Some examples:

  • Make sure you understand the scope of the project right from the start
  • Give feedback on the agency’s approach -- is it supporting your vision?
  • Use the skills of your design partner -- they are technical professionals; it’s what you’re paying them for.
  • Expect timeliness, clear communication and solid solutions from your agency. If you don’t get these, speak up right away.

Ingredient #5: Digital Agency Skills

Yup, finally. Something the agency needs to contribute. Maybe you initially thought this was the only ingredient. But these technical skills, while extremely important, are pretty useless without all the other ingredients.

Your agency has very specific skills such as strategic thinking, graphic design, programming and coding, search engine optimization, user experience design, effective project management and more. These skills combined with all the other critical ingredients above are truly the best recipe for a successful website.

I hope this will help you feel a little more empowered and in control when starting a new company website. Pairing your vision and leadership with the right, results-driven agency will result in a powerful program that will grow your business.

Alaska Tourism - How Can You Thrive With Minimal State Marketing

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The state of Alaska's budget woes have reached the tourism industry. Despite near record visitor numbers and a thriving industry, critical state marketing support for the industry has dwindled from upwards of twenty million dollars to to a mere 1.5 million dollars.

Many of our clients are asking about how they can retool their own marketing programs in response to this situation. Here are some digital strategies to consider:

1.  Do you have the right business intelligence?

Of course, businesses look at overall revenues, profit margins, etc. but there are other important ways of tracking your marketing program. Evaluating which analytics you review to support your marketing objectives is an important first step. 

You need a fuel gauge in your car to know if you're running out of fuel, right? Just looking at miles traveled will not tell you if you are in danger. Are you looking at mere website traffic to determine your digital success? Rethink your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and find the ones that give you actionable information. Some examples of KPIs we use with some clients are engaged visitors (sessions of x page views or more), shopping cart abandonment rate, average order value and more.

2. How is your website conversion rate?

Is your site optimized to maximize bookings? An incremental increase in your conversion rate is one of the biggest ways you can improve your digital marketing performance. Analysis tools like heat maps, exit surveys or landing page optimization testing can help you find areas of opportunity. Google Analytics has multiple ways to measure conversion, and spending a little on development to get this information can pay big dividends.

3. Are you spending your digital advertising in the right places?

U.S. department store merchant John Wanamaker is credited with the quote, "I know half my advertising is working; I just don't know which half." With digital advertising & marketing, this is no longer the case. Conducting an ad cost analysis (i.e. cost per conversion by advertising medium) can prevent you from throwing money at a poor performing tactic and underspending on something really valuable. For example, when executed properly, paid search advertising can have the lowest cost per acquisition of almost any other type of advertising. If you have an effective paid search program but not maximizing your spending, you are losing cost effective conversions.

4. Is your site mobile optimized?

So many travelers are making decisions on where to eat, what to do and even where to stay once they have already arrived at their destination, and they are mostly using mobile devices to make these bookings. If your site is not optimized for mobile yet, it is time to bite the bullet and make the investment. Yes, it is a capital expense that may feel like a lot, but is the most important part of conversion optimization you can undertake.

5. It is time to professionalize your social media presence.

Playing around with social media and seeing if it can contribute to your marketing program is a thing of the past. The size of audiences on social media now easily rival audiences in other areas, such as search. Developing a coordinated social media strategy in alignment with the rest of your marketing as well as exploring paid social advertising options will enhance your overall program and increase its impact. As with all marketing, with digital, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Synergy and consistent message among all tactics - search, display, email, social - can have a disproportionate impact and huge bang for the buck.

So, if you are looking for ways to leverage your marketing program further to make up for State of Alaska marketing program support, here are some ideas to start with. Do these resonate with you? Any other comments on digital opportunities you see? Please share in the comments!

Content-Centric SEO Strategy

Scott Thomas - Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Today, I would like to review our approach to SEO for our clients here at Apokrisis. 

What is a Content-Centric SEO Strategy?

Online Marketing: Content, SEO & Social Media

A content-centric SEO strategy involves making a business or organization's website the central core for inbound marketing and engaging with visitors. The website should be the primary location for creating new and engaging content through blogging, news pieces, articles, photos, videos, and so on. From this central core, the content can be shared via social media.

Invest in Your Brand: Don't Chase the Algorithms

Search engines are becoming very sophisticated and are rewarding websites that are working to build up their brand. Attempting to chase the latest tricks or means to game the system are not worth the risks and are counter-productive. As mentioned by Google reps in Congressional hearings, Google made 516 updates in 2010, and over 13,000 updates were tested. Given Google's constant testing and updating cycle, trying to chase the latest algorithmic change is fruitless and risky. A social media or link building scheme that a competitor is using may be working today, but it's likely that eventually, the effectiveness of such schemes will fail.

Share and Engage via Social Media, but your Website is the Foundation

We believe the foundation to you online success is building and owning your content. Engaging your fans, site visitors, and customers through social media is important, but don't expend all your time and energy where your content is not truly yours. Are you sending people to your website or blog or only referring to your presence on Facebook or another social media site? Engagement via social media can be extremely useful, but don't forget to encourage people to visit your website, and consider what you have to offer. Trying to use social media as an acquisition source of new customers is impractical for many small businesses. We encourage our clients to work on their foundation first - their website - and then as resources allow, engage with the social media channels that make sense for them.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Our experience with SEO and inbound marketing indicates that a long-term investment in developing your brand and quality content is the most sustainable approach. Plan for a five year return on you investment in your online marketing efforts; build your brand and don't be blinded by today's rankings or the latest get-to-the-top-quick schemes that may come along.

is the Search Marketing Manager at Apokrisis.

When do You Reinvest in Your Website?

Kristen Fowler 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?

What are the Benefits of Managed PPC Campaigns?

Scott Thomas - Tuesday, March 29, 2011
If you own business, you may ask why you should pay for PPC campaign management? Anyone can start their own PPC campaign with Google AdWords and/or Bing AdCenter, choose keywords, write ads, and then let it run. You could choose a wide variety of keyword phrases to target and chose the board targeting feature to reach as many people as possible. If you have deep pockets, this may not be a bad approach, but most businesses have a limited marketing budget and need to make the most of their advertising dollars.

Pay per click campaigns allow one to measure and experiment with the results. By combining the PPC campaign tools with an analytics program, one can constantly evaluate the effectiveness of the targeted keywords into converting into leads or sales through your website. New keywords phrases, ads, and landing pages can be tested to find the best combinations for your website's goals. Even if you cannot directly measure sales through your website, one can compare the engagement levels of PPC visitors to organic visitors, or better yet, measure conversions for leads (email newsletter sign up, brochure request, and/or submitted forms for more information).

A search engine marketer will constantly be in a testing and optimizing mode; consistently working on improving the effectiveness of a PPC campaign. Depending on the reach and scope of a campaign, a PPC manager may be trying to get you the most visitors for the lowest cost, or carefully targeting the keywords that most often turn into leads or sales.

The search engines continue to offer new publisher or content markets and devices to target. Sometimes, they may "opt in" your campaign without notifying you. Often, when a campaign is opted in by default, the search engine benefits by getting more clicks and increasing your costs. However, the new device or market opportunity may not be a good match for your campaign. A professional PPC campaign manager will stay on top of the latest trends and give you recommendations on targeting a new market for your PPC campaign.

As the options for PPC marketing increase, it's often best to break down campaigns by market and/or device. Content or publisher networks, mobile devices, tablets, and click to call options are often best set up as their own campaigns, targeted specifically to those users. Organizing your campaigns into specific markets or devices allows you to test new opportunities, and constantly test the best ways to reach your audience.

Whether you keep management of your PPC campaign in-house or choose to hire a search engine marketing company, PPC campaigns allow you to constantly test, measure, and optimize as you use paid search to reach website visitors.

Google Algorithm Update - Local Info & Review Integration

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Thursday, November 04, 2010
Google rolled out a new algorithm this past week.  Local results and organic results are now blended together. 

Here's an example of a search for "lodge fairbanks, ak"  As you can see Pikes Waterfront Lodge comes up first - it looks like a local business listing with the corresponding pin/map  and place page link on the right. 

However the title tag is used not the business name listed in the local business listing (Google Places).  There is also the addition of review site info included right there with the listing.

Three phone calls have come in to our office from Google in the past few weeks asking about the Apokrisis Google Places listing. And this is from a company where you can never find a phone number! Obviously, local business information and how it is listed is a big initiative in the search market, and the implication for mobile is huge.

Have you optimized your local business information? Check out our recent article in our monthly newsletter, The Apokrisis Report with some tips on what to do.

Don't Forget Organic Search When Considering Redesign

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I came across this great article this morning about SEO and Web Redesigns and it made me think about the redesign projects we have been involved with over the past few years. The article is about the importance of communicating with your online marketing team and making sure they are involved in any redesign process.

Why? It seems like you are including more people, which can slow down the project, you might think. But many companies we work with have invested time and resources into developing strong organic search traffic with SEO, and it is so very easy to lose this asset very quickly when a new site goes up without SEO considered.

Some tips for any company considering a site redesign who has good organic search rankings:
  • Ask your design company about any impact on search. If they seem blase about this or else do not give you a list of specific things they are going to do to maintain organic search, then consider this a red flag.
  • If you work with an SEO provider or online marketing firm, be sure to communicate with them early in the process and keep them involved. They will be an invaluable resource to make sure that all aspects of the redesign are search friendly.
  • Consider a redesign an opportunity, not a threat. In most cases we find that, as long as SEO is made a priority, organic search traffic will grow from a redesign, not shrink.
We consider the following items the minimum required actions during a redesign to maintain organic search traffic:
  • Will you have new pages names? Make sure search-friendly redirects are made from the old URLs to the new ones. Not only is it possible that people may have bookmarked those old URLs, but they will also be listed in search engines for a while. Without doing this, your listings in search engines will point to an error page.
  • Have you invested time or money in solid meta tag writing? Make sure those meta tags are ported over into the new pages by the design team. if you have a database-driven site, this can be done in a bulk action very quickly by your design team instead of manually.
  • In your new structure, are there areas of the site you do not want to have crawled? Be sure to update your robots.txt file.
  • Are you completely rewriting your content or carrying a lot of it over? make sure you review and make any updates if your target keywords have changed.
Taking these simple steps will ensure success in maintaining your search traffic with your new site. This is not only a good thing from a traffic standpoint, but from a business standpoint - it ensures that the previous investments you have made for good search exposure are maintained.

Not doing so would be like throwing money away.