2013 was an exciting year for Blue Zenith! This year we blogged about many topics related to web design, advertising, mobile websites, and eCommerce. Before we move on to 2014, let’s take a step back and review some of our favorite posts from 2013.
Our Interview With Gina Kaelin-Westcott
In January we had a wonderful opportunity to interview Gina Kaelin-Westcott, author of Creating a Bond Beyond the Handshake: 100 Reasons Why Relationships and Value are What Sell Every Time. She is the co-founder of Extreme Relationship Management, a professional business networking organization, and president of Connect Selling, Sales strategist and sales consultant for small business. We discussed her sales strategy process and the importance of social media.
One of the highlights of the interview was learning why she chose Connect Selling as the name of her business: “When I was looking for a name, I asked myself, “What are all the things that make people successful in selling? What do your customers expect? What do you have to do to be successful?” I started writing all these words out on Post-it notes laid out on a big board and then I came up with CONNECT. It’s all about building connections and relationships.”
In February, we discussed “Getting the most from your business blog”. “Starting a business blog can provide many different benefits: create a personality for your business, create a tone of how you deal with your clients, lend insight to the problems that you solve and demonstrate how you provide value to your customers. But without the commitment and dedication to making it work over the long haul, you may as well not even get started. So, what can you do to better your odds at success?”
Through the spring we continued to discuss business blogging, with a renewed focus on the differences between personal and business blogging: “A business blog is not a forum for personal posts or self-discovery. You have experience, knowledge and expertise; your customers look to you as a trusted authority in your field of business. Therefore, your business blog can quickly become a powerful platform to attract new customers and leads while at the same time reassuring existing customers that your product or service is superior to your competition.”
Social Media Strategies
Our next series of blog posts involved forming and developing a social media strategy. Choosing services and targeting an audience were covered, as well as utilizing local directories, such as Google Places for Business, to promote a business. Our favorite post in the series covered “Applying Your Strategy to Different Services”, such as Facebook: “If you were limited to only utilizing one social media service, Facebook would be the clear choice for most individuals and businesses. You can share full-length updates, photos, videos and maps with your followers. The popularity of Facebook allows your business to reach a wide and diverse audience through just one account and service.”
Many believe the future of the web is mobile, and this year we discussed mobile websites extensively: “Mobile devices have become so popular that the use of a mobile device doesn’t necessarily signify that the user is ‘mobile’ – some people spend the vast majority of their time using their mobile device to surf the web – even at home – while others who may have limited options for home broadband use their mobile device as a complete substitute for a PC at home…There are fundamental differences between the ways that desktop and mobile websites are designed, and not all of them are strictly due to screen size. Other considerations include the bandwidth restrictions often placed on mobile broadband usage and the limitations of the internal hardware inherent to many mobile devices.”
We build many of our websites using WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS) and blogging platform. Since WordPress is such an important part of our work, we thought it was only natural to profile WordPress, discuss its user roles, comment moderation, and updating and migrating your WordPress installation.
We took a bit of a left turn with our post profiling the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) licensing of WordPress: “It’s hard to believe, but WordPress is free software. The platform used by tens of millions of websites – from small, personal blogs to the websites of Fortune 500 companies – is legally free to download and use…For many of us who are accustomed to paying hundreds of dollars for Microsoft Office, $60 for an XBox video game and even 99 cents for a smartphone app involving birds and pigs, it can be hard to believe that any worthwhile software application could be free.” Finally, we discussed the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
The User Experience
The user experience is extremely important in web design, and our blog posts on the user experience covered the ways people view websites, the “look and feel” of a website, and accessibility. Our favorite post of the series profiled “findability”, a component of the user experience that most people are initially unfamiliar with, but understand instinctively with a good analogy:
“Imagine if you were informed of a “brick and mortar” retail store that stocked popular goods at deeply discounted prices. At your earliest convenience, you visited the store, eager to engage in bargain shopping. However, upon entering, you notice…all of the store’s merchandise is piled haphazardly in a gigantic pile right in the middle of the sales floor. In addition, there are no store associates available to assist you. In order to find the product you wish to purchase, you have to dig through this pile and hope that the product in question is actually in stock.
“While this hypothetical retail store may sound dysfunctional and even comical, many companies and organizations are unaware that the content hosted on their websites may be just as disorganized, and visitors and customers may be leaving their websites in frustration just as quickly as a frustrated customer may leave this highly-disorganized retail store.”
Our next series of blog posts covered online advertising, and we discussed the pitfalls of email marketing, understanding the complicated subject of Google AdWords and targeting a local audience with online advertising. We enjoyed the complexity of “Improving your AdWords Quality Score” most of all: “Google readily provides each AdWords advertiser access to their Quality Score for each keyword…Quality Scores utilize a ten-point scale, with one being the lowest score. According to Google, the factors that are used to calculate each Quality Score include ‘your keyword’s past ClickThrough Rate (CTR), the CTR of your display URL, your account history, the quality of your landing page, your keyword/ad relevance, your keyword/search relevance, your geographical performance, and your ad’s performance on a site’.
“By breaking down these factors, we can determine that Google is mainly interested in the success of both your previous and current campaigns, the quality of your ad copy and your ‘landing page’, which refers to the page on your website or other online property serving as the destination of a user clicking on your ad. Google asks itself, ‘How successful is this advertiser? Is their ad relevant and useful to our users? Finally, will the ad take our users somewhere compelling and relevant?’ By improving these elements of your campaign, you will subsequently improve your Quality Score.”
One of our final blog topics this year discussed eCommerce. Getting started with eCommerce and selecting an eCommerce platform were fascinating subjects, but we enjoyed discussing product photography most of all: “Your new eCommerce website needs images! Depending on the nature of your business, securing photographs of your products or services may be fairly simple process or it may be a complicated and chaotic one… it all depends on what you are selling and how many images or video clips will be necessary to properly represent your products and/or services. You may be able to use stock photos and/or videos, or you may have to produce your own content.”
Finally, we rounded out the year with, appropriately enough, the future. For some businesses and organizations, the future may require a website upgrade or, for some, a completely new website. For many upgraded websites and new ones, HTML5 will undoubtedly be part of the web’s future. In the spirit of starting over in a new year, we especially enjoyed discussing rebranding: “If your business or organization is stuck in a rut, it may be time to rebrand. This process can be relatively simple and when implemented correctly it can breathe new life and new business into your organization. Yet sometimes even large corporations experience rebranding difficulties and disasters. What can you do to ensure your rebranding effort is successful?”