If you’re a fan of modern TV shows it’s worth asking yourself if you like how juicy, and real, and engaging they are, how they hold your attention over time. If you do, then it might be worth also asking whether you can apply some of those same engaging traits to marketing your business.

Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications is proud to announce we have won the 2017 Award of Distinction for Website Design, for our work on the new Phaneuf Funeral Homes & Crematorium Website.

Thursday, 25 May 2017 17:26

What should I blog about?

Blank screen. Blinking cursor. Panic.

Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.

Thursday, 25 May 2017 17:24

Blogging for SEO

Where do people go when they have a problem they need a solution for? Or a question they need an answer for? More and more, they turn to Google. This is a huge opportunity for you to be found when your customers or prospects are in need.

We’ve been talking a lot about the importance of designing for mobile users lately (including this, this and this), but you don’t have to take our word for it. Take Google’s word: According to 2016 data of all websites using Google Analytics, more than 50 percent of all web traffic is now coming from smartphones and tablets.

More than 50 percent!

Let’s stop for a moment and do a little role-play, shall we? Consider this scenario: you’re looking for something and you get to a website and it’s a crappy website to look at on the phone - the entire page doesn’t fit on the screen, so you have to scroll around; the places to click are too tiny to manage with fingers; the text is too small to read, and it breaks up funny, making it tough to follow.

What do you do? Do you stick it out and scroll and pinch and squint until you find what you need? Or do you eject immediately because it’s going to be too much work to even bother and certainly there’s got to be another site with similar enough information that’s easier to view?

TRICK QUESTION! You didn’t even see that website because Google won’t show it to you in the search results because it’s not a good mobile experience and Google doesn’t want you to be mad at IT for showing you a crappy website.

So, beyond possibly not showing up at all in the search results (no matter how good your SEO may be), that crappy mobile site is alienating people just like you.

Device Usage in a Typical Day

How People Use Their Devices Image 1
Image Source: How People Use Their Devices

Lest that not be enough of a wake-up call for you, Google also reports that, in an average day, more than 25 percent of all users use only a smartphone - more than twice as many as those who only use a computer.

And if you still don’t believe that having a mobile-friendly website should be #1 on your priority list, here are 5 more reasons that you should start that project RIGHT NOW.

1. Some Searchers Don’t Use Desktop Computers – EVER.

Google reports that, nearly 4 in 10 users search only on their smartphones in an average day. So, if your site isn’t serving them, you may be missing out on reaching almost half of your target audience. That’s a lot to leave on the table. No matter what you sell, or how you slice it, mobile users represent a significant piece of the pie.  

2. Many Searchers Use Multiple Devices.

Life today is much more fluid than it was a decade ago. We have access to the resources we need to do our jobs in more than one place, and on more than one device. We used to be chained to our desks to be productive. No longer.

Google has found that more than a quarter of users search for information or answers on multiple devices, depending on what is most convenient at the time. So, one person may be searching for information using a computer at their office; a tablet at the client meeting; a phone in the car or at lunch; and a laptop at home. If your website doesn’t serve them seamlessly on every device, you’re seriously hampering your business growth prospects.

3. Mobile Search Solves Immediate Needs.

When people are on the go and suddenly remember something they need to buy, or have an issue that needs to be taken care of immediately, they often turn to their phones for a solution. Whether your customers are having “I want to go” moments, “I want to buy” moments or “I want to do” moments, they’re looking on their phone for answers. Google says that almost 70 percent of users turn to mobile first in a time of need.

If your business provides the right solution to meet a consumer’s need, and can grab their attention at the right time, you can effectively increase the possibility of making a sale in these moments. According to a recent Google article, “76% of people who search on their smartphone for something nearby visit a related business within a day, and 28% of those searches result in a purchase.”

4. Millennials.

Stop scoffing. Millennials may not always be making final decisions, but they are influencing B2B decisions of all types. In fact, millennials represent almost half of all B2B researchers, an increase of 70 percent in the two years since the previous study.

On the B2C side, keep this in mind: millennials are digital natives. They have been interacting with digital devices since birth and they expect the experiences on those devices to be excellent. If yours isn’t, they’ll have no problem moving right along to one that is.

5. Users Want a Fast Mobile Experience.

Too many websites take too long to load. If your site isn’t responsive, it may load slower on mobile devices than on a desktop, which isn’t good news for anyone.

Google says that 53 percent of people will leave a page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. On the other hand, it says that - on average - it takes 22 seconds for a mobile landing page to fully load. Now, I’m not good at math but even I can see the problem with these stats.

To see how your site stacks up for page load time, enter your url into this Google Developer Tool. When it comes to user expectations, here’s what happens when your site speed doesn’t meet benchmark standards.

 

Mobile Page Speed New Industry Benchmarks 01 21
Source: Google/SOASTA Research, 2017

 

While I could go on, I’m going to stop at only five reasons why you should have a mobile optimized website - if only because that’s how many I promised in the post title. If none of these reasons inspire you to make your site usable on mobile devices then there’s really not more to be said. The rest of us are living in an increasingly mobile-first world. Are you prepared to serve us?

Like it or not, we all have at least a little Veruca Salt in us. You remember Veruca, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, right? “I want what I want and I want it NOW.” We all occasionally turn into Veruca. But it’s not us we should be concerned about; it’s our customers and prospects. When they want what they want and they want it now, does your web presence give it to them?

We recommend this fascinating book from a sharp social commentator.

Friday, 20 January 2017 17:32

Savoir Faire Holiday Lunch

The Savoir Faire team took a little time this week to belatedly celebrate the holidays, reflect on what we accomplished in 2016 and talk about building on those accomplishments in 2017. But really, we just took a break to be together and have a little fun. Last year was a good one for Savoir Faire in many respects. The company grew and it did so by bringing together a great group of people to do great work for outstanding clients. Hence, the celebration. 

That’s all fine and lovely, but Ben, one of our team members – due to circumstances beyond our control – was not able to join us for lunch. Therefore, he was not able to prevent the following from happening. Witness, the Ben-sicle

Wednesday, 23 November 2016 16:17

Savoir Faire Gives Thanks

It’s been an interesting and sometimes challenging year for the team at Savoir Faire. We have seen the highest highs and the lowest lows. Three of us have gotten married this year. Several of us have lost people we loved. One of us has a new home. We’re all a little unnerved about what’s going on in our country and anxious about the future. It’s hard not to be. However, the antidote to anxiety is gratitude so I asked the team to take a moment and tell me what they were feeling grateful for as we head into the long Thanksgiving weekend. Here’s what they said:

Thursday, 13 October 2016 13:17

Everything’s getting so personal these days!

While Buzzfeed and Facebook are the full expressions of content personalization, delivering relevant content to website visitors is becoming more important for the rest of us, too.

Thursday, 13 October 2016 13:09

The SEO Revolution

Will machines eventually run the world? Probably not, but advances in technology will definitely have lasting affect on SEO.

Thursday, 13 October 2016 13:04

Time for an SEO check-up

Do you know how well your website is performing? When was the last time it got a check-up?

Thursday, 13 October 2016 12:59

Increase Sales with Push Notifications

Wait, don’t leave!

Thursday, 13 October 2016 12:48

How Social Media Impacts SEO

Are your social media efforts worth it?

With more than 800 best practices attributed to ecommerce success, it’s nearly impossible to employ each of the tips and tricks guaranteed to result in successful online sales. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t try.

The team at Savoirfaire has a strong collective knowledge of best practices for developing a new ecommerce website from scratch, or when re-designing an existing site. One great example of our expertise in use is an ecommerce website we developed for a company called Bike-On.

The Challenge

While it can be said that every organization is unique, the design and development of this particular ecommerce website came with a set of challenges that many businesses which sell products online do not encounter. Their unique product line and customer base, coupled with a high price tag for much of their inventory made it necessary to position the company as a highly trustworthy organization.

The client sells handcycles, trikes, wheelchairs, bikes, and other personal transport equipment, along with accessories and other related components. Because they sell such specialized products, it isn’t easy for consumers new to the market to know what they need, or how to shop for it.

Therefore; the client would need a platform that made it easy for customers to understand the different types of products being offered, what they can be used for and how they work. To meet this demand, a great deal of content would need to be developed in order to provide resources for customers in any stage of the buyer’s journey.

Perhaps most importantly; they needed all of this to happen relatively quickly, since their existing website did none of this. The client’s existing ecommerce site was outdated, and employed none of the latest best practices required to achieve successful online sales. Their existing online platform did not provide visitors with feelings of trust or security, nor was it easy to navigate or use.  

The Analysis

Our team was certainly up for the challenge, and went to work right away brainstorming all of the ways in which we could possibly marry the content and commerce together in the most effective way. We discussed countless ways that we could create the most efficient channel for growing online sales in this unique market.

Our research determined that only 13% of the catalog had ever been purchased online. Much of the products were overpriced, and exceeded customer price comfort levels. In addition, it became clear that relationship building was very important for them to succeed at online sales, even more important than the commerce aspects of the website.

In order to help the client successfully sell their products, we quickly realized that we would need to help them develop and maintain strong relationships with potential buyers. What they needed was clear – a brand new website that would allow them to promote the types of products they wanted to, and that would inevitably allow them to sell their products online easier than they ever had before.

The platform upon which they would need to sell these products must be extremely easy to use, fast, secure, and well-organized, and one that would make people feel comfortable sharing personal and financial information.

The Solution

Using one of the largest ecommerce platforms available, Magento, we began by re-categorizing their products into a much simpler organization. We took a product library of hundreds of categories and broke them into just seven top level categories, vs. the thirty they started with. This made the site development slightly less complex, although we still had a ton of product information we needed to find places for, and we did.

We began by designing the site to cater to two main buyer stages, essentially offering two options for visitors when they reach the site.

1. Shop

For those who already know what they’re looking for, the site offers an easy navigation for consumers to find the specific products they need. The products were organized into seven main categories, and then sub-categorized further based on additional factors such as what they can be used for, the environment they are used in, etc.

Mega

2. Learn

For potential buyers looking for additional information, the site offers clear path for learning more about what products are available, what the benefits of the products are, and why they need them or should buy them from the client.

Education Handcycles

We also implemented HTTPS throughout the entire site, not just on the checkout site. This functionality offers further website validation for users, and also helps the site to rank higher in Google. The new site was a significant improvement in professionalism and trustworthiness from their old site, so much so that the differences are almost incomparable.

The Results

The website we delivered undoubtedly set the client up to make a quantum leap forward in the marketing and sales of their products. We envisioned a complete reinvention of the company, using content and commerce, allowing the client to build relationships using the online portal, and to develop a sense of trust with existing and potential customers. 

While we were able to redesign the website in a way that drastically improved their credibility with consumers, we weren’t able to continue past the initial stages of the project, so the additional content was never able to be developed as originally envisioned. The project ended, and the client has since taken over managing and maintaining the website.

Comparison of new and old homepages
Comparison of new and old home pages

 

Thursday, 29 September 2016 10:42

“Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colorblind.”

While this may be true, it also may not be the only reason that Facebook is blue. Yes, Zuckerberg can see blue better than other colors. But that isn’t how all businesses make their brand color choices.

Thursday, 29 September 2016 10:27

Marketing Ingredients: #1 = SEO

During an interview with Sam Hurley about the importance of SEO in digital marketing, he calls SEO the flour in digital marketing. We agree wholeheartedly.

Thursday, 29 September 2016 10:23

The Impact of Google Profile Images

You may not be aware of the impact that your local Google business profile images (or lack thereof) have on potential customers. The pictures you place here really do matter. 

Thursday, 29 September 2016 09:47

Twitter Dashboard Tool Adds New Features

Although Twitter is still several steps behind Facebook on many fronts, they have recently added some new features available in their dashboard tool that many businesses may find beneficial.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 14:47

Using Twitter for Lead Gen

You can find quality leads on Twitter, but you have to know where and how to look for them.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 14:34

Content Marketing Tip: Offer Something New

How many times have you already read that blog? “5 Tips on How To…” “10 Ways To…” We have all been there, read that. Readers want to learn something new.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 14:23

Big Data vs. Humans

Yes. Data is important. Being able to measure your digital marketing efforts is absolutely crucial to the success of your business.  

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 14:11

That’ll Cost You Extra

Be prepared to spend more money on Facebook advertising if your mobile site is deemed “too slow”.  Or risk your ads not being seen.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 12:14

SEO Techniques for Social Media

Although social media has come a long way since it first began, there are still a lot of businesses out there who don’t understand how it can be used to its full potential. And they are missing out on some great SEO opportunities.

With a multitude of content marketing trends emerging in recent decades, it’s hard not to get sucked into using and abusing some of the buzzwords that have been created along the way. The problem is, people aren’t doing it right. And even worse - they don’t really know what they’re talking about.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 11:53

Using Webinars in Your Content Marketing

Webinars are a form of content marketing that are often overlooked for a variety of reasons. Yes, they require a time commitment, but they can be used in so many ways once they’ve been developed.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 11:44

Marketing and the 2016 Summer Olympics

Making an impact and keeping an international audience engaged is anything but easy. Especially when everyone speaks a different language, follows a different culture, and strives for different goals. How can companies keep messaging relevant and inspiring under such circumstances?

Wednesday, 31 August 2016 11:36

Looking at 2016 Content Marketing Trends

Content marketing was always going to play a huge part of digital marketing in 2016. The predictions couldn’t have been more spot on. With more than half of 2016 behind us, we’ve already seen some of the top marketing trends.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016 16:27

Google Shopping - What’s Next?

Will Google Shopping replace organic search results in the future? It’s possible. Here’s what you can do to prepare yourself for the shift.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016 16:26

The New Google: What You Need to Know

So much has changed in content marketing and SEO in recent years. In order to talk about what’s new with Google, and where it’s headed, we first need to look backwards.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016 16:24

The Featured Snippet Selection Process

Have you always wondered why Google chooses certain websites for its featured snippets over others? There is actually quite a bit of rhyme and reason to it.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016 16:23

Content Marketing in 2017

Aren’t you just a little bit curious about how content marketing will change and evolve in 2017? We were, too.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016 16:18

How to Not Fail at Blogging

So, you’re about to start the best blog ever, but have just discovered that you actually have no idea what you’re doing. Luckily, you are not the first to attempt this bold adventure.

Wednesday, 03 August 2016 19:30

Measuring Social

When social media first appeared, businesses hopped on board, not necessarily understanding how social media and social media campaigns would fit with their overall marketing strategy, or contribute to ROI, but knowing they needed to participate.

Wednesday, 03 August 2016 19:28

Instagram Stats for Business

With an impressive number of users and an advertising platform powered by Facebook, it makes sense for businesses to consider using Instagram.

Wednesday, 03 August 2016 19:24

Clickworthy, Not Clickbait

He read this article. You'll Never Guess what Happened Next!

Wednesday, 03 August 2016 19:13

HTTPS update

In 2014, Google announced that HTTPS would be added as a ranking signal. Two years later, the data shows more and more sites making the switch.

Wednesday, 03 August 2016 19:07

SEO Still “Dirty”

Don’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.

Thursday, 21 July 2016 20:23

Is your content effective?

Measuring the performance of your content is important to understanding how effective it is. Knowing what to measure, however, is sometimes a challenge.

Thursday, 21 July 2016 20:18

A Name is Not a Lead

Volume isn’t always (or even usually) better when it comes to leads.

Thursday, 21 July 2016 20:16

Testing the Waters of Digital Marketing

Exploring the terrain underwater has more in common with digital marketing than one might assume.

Thursday, 21 July 2016 20:13

Getting Around Ad Blockers

Sites which derive revenue from advertising as well as advertisers are seeking ways to counter the rise of online ad blockers.

Thursday, 21 July 2016 20:02

Transactional Email Optimization

Transactional or triggered emails have some of the highest open rates, up to 8 times the rate of traditional email marketing efforts. Don’t they deserve more attention?

Tuesday, 05 July 2016 12:32

Blogging Tips for Entrepreneurs

Blogging is hard. Blogging takes time. Yada yada yada.

Tuesday, 05 July 2016 12:26

Sharing without Reading

An alarming number of social media users are sharing links without actually reading the associated articles.

Tuesday, 05 July 2016 12:17

Email Signatures

A number of years ago, we provided a client with instruction on email signature design. We thought it would be good to check in on today’s email signature best practices.

Tuesday, 05 July 2016 11:51

Lead Nurturing Etiquette

Have you ever submitted your email address on a website in order to download a whitepaper or checklist or some other item to help with your purchase decision?

Tuesday, 05 July 2016 11:38

Social Media Trends

A recent study as reported by MarketingProfs states that 96% of B2C survey respondents say their business uses Facebook while 88% of B2B businesses replied the same.

Living in the Northeast, you don’t spend much time in the ocean – or at least I don’t. Even at the height of summer, the water has a bite and you get pins and needles from the cold. If it’s over 90 degrees and sunny and there’s no wind, and you’ve already been at the beach for a few hours, then maybe you run in and run out, just to cool off – more by necessity than by choice. (Unless you’re younger than about 13. For some reason, the cold doesn’t seem to bother most kids.)

I recently had the great fortune to visit the Caribbean and really experience the ocean – warm as bathwater, clear and calm. Just being able to spend time in the water was a treat, but I also did some snorkeling, which – for better or for worse – got me thinking about work.

As I was lolling about in the water, face-down dead-man’s float, my flippers propelling me lazily, and nothing but the sound of water in my ears, I realized that making my way along the water had a lot of similarities to modern online marketing.

You’ve come to a certain strait or harbor with the intention of seeing certain things. But even if there’s a well-traveled shipwreck, or a coral reef in the cove, the specifics won’t be revealed until you wade in. And, even if you’ve been here before, the tides and ocean life will ensure that it’s not exactly the same.

When you put your face in the water, there’s a certain area that you can see clearly. Based on what you’re looking for, you pick a direction and start swimming. As you make progress, things in the distance start out murky and dark, then loom cloudy, and then come into focus as you get closer. This is a lot like the marketplace you compete in.

While there’s much you know about your business and its history, what’s in front of you is still unknown – and you can’t know it until you’re underway.

Consider your presence online. You probably have a website. You may have a blog or some social media profiles. But there’s no way to predict exactly what will happen when you really put them to work. Will Google rank your website for the keywords you want? Will your blog be syndicated to an industry website that will increase its audience? Will your social media posts get shared beyond your known network? Will visitors to your website find something interesting and of value to them? Will your website become a destination, like some underwater treasure that lots of people want to see?

There’s no way to know the answers to these questions until you’re underway. Then, like when I was snorkeling, things will come into view.

While you’re swimming along (online or under water, depending on which of these stories you’re following), you continue to make progress by making decisions based on what you see. Or, in the online version, you make decisions based on the results that you see. The area you’re in now is a result of the decisions you’ve just made. Is it where you want to be? Or should you change direction, modify your course?

Whether you’re in the water looking for conch shells, or online looking for more leads, there’s a clear path to success. Regardless of whether you’re getting guidance from a pro, or you’re making your own way, there will be clear signs along the way that will point you in the right direction.

Are you looking for more conch? Then you should follow the grassy field. Are you in search of sponges that look like brains? Then continue along the reef. By all accounts, you want to stay away from the fire coral.

The same is true with digital marketing. As you go, you will need to keep making adjustments as new information becomes clear – information that you couldn’t have known when you first tested the water. Social media isn't effective for all companies, something you won’t necessarily know until you test it. Some companies can’t rely on email to stay in front of their leads. Paid media isn’t for all companies. Understanding your direction, and making adjustments as new information becomes clear, is what’s going to help you find success online.

If you have guidance, you can go quite a bit further than if you try to find your way on your own. I wouldn’t have known to stay away from the fire coral without the guidance of someone local. Digital marketing works remarkably similarly: the better guidance you’re provided, the faster you’ll achieve success.

19 SEO Myths You Should Know
Monday, 20 June 2016 18:52

Presentation Gold

Generating enough content ideas to satisfy growing content needs can be overwhelming.

Monday, 20 June 2016 18:45

Personalization Maturity

Personalization, even to a mostly anonymous audience, allows companies to serve targeted content that can speed conversions and generate revenue.

Monday, 20 June 2016 18:38

Unearthing Sharable Content

Sharing informative and interesting content via your social media channels can help establish credibility and build relationships.

Monday, 20 June 2016 18:19

"Dead" Subscribers

A large email list can be nice to have, but if users are not interested in or engaged with your content, a large list can do more harm than good.

Monday, 20 June 2016 17:33

Social Listening

Using social media as part of a strategic marketing plan can improve brand recognition and ROI. But social media is a two-way street.

This spring, I had the great pleasure of listening to the Apple Hill String Quartet as a part of a Leadership NH session day on Arts, Culture and the Media. The director, Lenny Matczynski, is one of my LNH classmates and I recently reflected that the skills he describes as critical to chamber music are similar to those I use when talking to clients and prospects. This concept intrigued me enough to dig a little deeper. Exploring the Wikipedia page for chamber music, I found a number of really interesting parallels and similes to our work at Savoir Faire. I was surprised to find that chamber music and the principles, theories and context surrounding it provide an interesting reflection of the Savoir Faire team and how we go about our work.

Chamber Music

First, a definition: chamber music is classical music that is composed for and performed by a small group of instruments, with one performer to each part (as opposed to orchestral music), and does not include solo performances. German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (an early contributor to the Sturm und Drang literary movement) described chamber music – specifically, string quartet music – as "four rational people conversing;" the concept of conversation is consistent throughout the exploration of chamber music.

This reminded me of the Savoir Faire team, which is small by design and features technical experts in several disciplines, though we rarely employ any one of those disciplines in isolation. Every project we work on includes an element of conversation and collaboration in order to build the most appropriate solution for our clients’ challenges.

From Wikipedia: “Because chamber music is a conversation, sometimes one instrument must stand out, sometimes another.”

In the sphere of digital marketing, there is always that conversation, and shifting lead roles. At one point, Search Engine Optimization must take precedence; at another, content development takes center

stage; and then, design must step up to the spotlight. However, at no time does any of these disciplines get disconnected from the others.

Even in the realm of traditional marketing, there is a conversation between design and content, while still trying to connect it to the online marketing efforts to maximize its effectiveness. 

“Music of Friends”

The intimate nature of chamber music calls for certain personality traits. In The Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet, David Waterman, cellist of the Endellion Quartet, writes that the chamber musician "needs to balance assertiveness and flexibility.” Good rapport is essential.

It is the same with the Savoir Faire team. Our work improves when rapport is strong and friendly. We’re doing challenging, complex work in close quarters, aiming to meet or exceed both deadlines and expectations. Depending on the project, the discipline we’re focused on, and the goals we’re trying to achieve, each of us takes both leadership and back-seat roles in a fluid manner. We each need to respond in kind when one discipline should be leading and the others should be following, and that situation changes regularly, depending on the needs of the project or program.

Back to Wikipedia for two follow-up statements:

  • “One of the issues that must be settled in rehearsal is who leads the ensemble at each point of the piece.”
  • “Players discuss issues of interpretation in rehearsal; but often, in mid-performance, players do things spontaneously, requiring the other players to respond in real time.”

We operate much the same way when we enter client or prospect meetings. We may have planned a framework for the meeting, but we need to respond in real-time to whatever comes up in that meeting. It may be that a teammate who planned to ride in the back seat is now driving the meeting. We’re able to do this because of our experience and the depth of knowledge we have in our individual areas as well as our camaraderie.

Ensemble, blend, and balance

“Beyond the challenge of merely playing together from a rhythmic or intonation perspective is the greater challenge of sounding good together… To create a unified chamber music sound – to blend – the players must coordinate the details of their technique.”

After years of working together, and learning from and with each other, the Savoir Faire team has developed an intimacy and a shared experience that we consistently draw on and apply to our work. We know enough about each other’s areas of expertise to make meaningful contributions, and we know enough about our lack of depth in those areas to allow our teammates to take the lead and shine. In other words, I have no qualms about declaring: we blend.

I’m happy and proud to realize that, in Savoir Faire, I have created and drawn together a beautiful ensemble worthy of a world-class string quartet like Apple Hill, and that the way in which we work together is similar to how small groups of musicians make beautiful music together.

I read an article in the NH Business Review this week that made my blood boil. In the article, which is published with a ‘cybersecurity’ header, the author advises small businesses on how to obtain their passwords and usernames when they want to change web companies.

His advice includes:

  • Ask the web company, but be subtle about it. Or, “have your accountant ask their accountant for them,” under the guise that the ERP system won’t allow payment of invoices without the username and password entered.
  • “Have your CEO call the web company’s CEO and ask (in a very charming, but highly authoritative and benevolent way) if he can get the username and password for his geeked-out nephew. The conversation should start something like this: “My nephew Gerald is going to computer camp on Lake Como and he wants to show his campmates the backend of our site. My digital team says that the work you folks do in that area is absolutely first rate. Let’s meet for lunch at the 100 Club a month from now. In the meantime can you shoot that stuff to my secretary? She’ll set it up.”
  • And the final gem: “Hire any 13-year-old to hack your site…Once they’re in, you’re in.”

This, dear friends and readers, is pretty much the worst advice I’ve ever heard. Worse, even, than the girlfriend my senior year in high school who convinced me to give myself bangs.

First, let’s address the (absurdly bad) advice.

  1. A subtle request doesn’t do you any good. And, accountants on either side of the relationship wouldn’t have any reason to have these login credentials. Further, not every company uses an ERP system. This line of reasoning is flawed across the board and wouldn’t result in you getting what you need.
  2. Any web company worth a damn does not want your geeked-out nephew or his camp friends on Lake Como mucking around in the back end of your website, no matter how charming, authoritative and benevolent you sound. And, if that web agency is worth their salt and is forced to give little Gerald access, they’re going to create a profile with such limited access that Gerald and his friends can’t screw anything up, which doesn’t actually solve your problem.
  3. Hire a 13-year-old to hack your site? Holy shit. I can’t even.

Accounts to be certain you have control of:

  • Website Administration
  • Hosting
  • Domain Registrar
  • CRM
  • Marketing Automation System
  • Email Service Provider
  • Social Media Accounts
  • Google Analytics
  • Google AdWords
  • Google Search Console
  • Facebook Ads
  • Review Sites (Yelp, Trip Advisor)
  • Third-Party Advertising or Listing Services
  • Third-Party Extensions & Plug-ins

The Bottom Line

Bottom line, the author encourages you to lie and/or break the law. None of this nonsense is necessary. If you’re a company that needs your access information from a web – or any other – company, there’s a perfectly reasonable way to get it: ask for it.

Tell your contact at the web agency that you would like a full list of your access credentials for all systems they have access to. It’s truly that easy. If they ask why, and you don’t feel like telling them that you would like a full list for your records and, if they bristle, that it’s your right to have access to – and ownership of – all the platforms and accounts; then you can certainly tell them that you’re updating your security plan or your disaster-recovery plan.

The author suggests that the web company might “get suspicious” if you ask for these credentials. Do yourself a favor: Don’t wait until things get bad or a relationship deteriorates to make sure you have control of your business assets – and don’t be fooled, your website is absolutely a business asset. Ask for the credentials at the three-month mark after you’ve been working together, and maybe again annually.

Remember, though, getting login credentials to your website isn’t always the complete solution to the problem. You need to make sure that you have full administrative access to every platform and account. It’s called ownership, plain and simple.

We have seen many instances where an incumbent company gives the client access to their website, but that login has limited functionality so that they can’t make any significant, or account level, changes. This is actually appropriate in some cases. For example: If you have numerous people logging into a website administrative area, and making changes to the site (updating events, adding blog posts, fixing spelling mistakes, editing page copy, changing prices, adding pictures, etc.), you probably don’t want to give them access to theme files and things that could cause major problems if altered. However, it is appropriate that at least one person at the client company have full administrative access to administer the website and any other account(s) as necessary.

A bigger problem occurs when accounts and/or purchases are made in the vendor company’s name. We have seen instances where a company doesn’t even own their domain name, because their web company purchased it “for them” and now legally owns the domain.

Make sure that any purchases are made in your name, using your credit card – whether you give the company the number, or have them send you a link to what needs to be purchased. Ideally, all accounts should be set up in your name and vendors of any type are granted access to those accounts. That makes it easy to revoke their access if and when the time comes to make a change.

A note about hosting:

If your web company is also hosting your website, there is a chance that you won’t have access to an administration panel. Some smaller web design and web development companies purchase a hosting plan (using a third-party hosting provider like HostGator, Blue Host or GoDaddy) that allows them to manage more than one website within a single, shared hosting account or environment. Because the company is hosting all their clients’ websites in a single account with a single control panel, they can’t grant control panel access to any one client without allowing that company to have access to every client website. If your web company offers hosting (whether on their own servers or as a reseller for another hosting provider), make sure that you have access to your own control panel and not just access to your website CMS.

And, if all else fails, ask your incoming web company to bridge the gap with you. We have done that many times when a new client is ingrained with a company that controls their accounts. And, to avoid getting into the situation in the first place, here are five easy questions you can ask a web company before you sign on with them:

  1. Will you register our domain and set up our hosting under our company name or yours?
  2. Where will our website be hosted?
  3. Will we have access to the administrative area or control panel?
  4. Can we review a past contract or Statement of Work for a previous project that is similar to ours to see how it is structured?
  5. Can we talk to a current or previous client to hear about their experience of working with you? 

Final Point:

Bad marketing advice is one of my biggest pet peeves and I’m on a one-woman crusade to prevent its spread. It affects all good marketing companies when clients get burned by bad advice or poor-quality work. Then they don’t trust anyone. And, it seems that the bad advice adversely affects small and medium-sized businesses disproportionately. Larger companies have more sophisticated marketing expertise in house and are able to avoid some of these mistakes. So, here’s my offer to you: If you’re in the process of making a decision to work with a web agency, and you’re not totally comfortable with their answers, or you don’t fully understand the implications, call me at (617) 899-2856 and I would be happy to answer any outstanding questions you have, or provide context or explanation around what you’re hearing.

Thursday, 02 June 2016 15:21

Interactive Content

Interactive content, such as online quizzes, can inflate metrics, but if done right, can also increase engagement.

Thursday, 02 June 2016 14:12

Changing the Rules

Recent changes to Twitter will now allow tweets longer than 140 characters.

Wednesday, 01 June 2016 16:36

Content Readability and SEO

Content structure and page design go hand-in-hand to improve SEO and user experience simultaneously.

Wednesday, 01 June 2016 16:22

Title Tags

When creating title tags for website pages, consider humans and search engines.

Friday, 27 May 2016 16:38

The Apple Hill String Quartet and Me

I had the great honor and pleasure of being selected for the 2016 class of Leadership NH. This nine-month, statewide program aims to create a group of informed and engaged leaders throughout the state. The program recently ended and I had the opportunity to reflect broadly on the program days and do a little digging into a couple topics that interested me.

ApplehillIn March, we visited the McDowell Colony for our Arts, Culture and Media day. One session of particular interest to me was a performance by the acclaimed Apple Hill String Quartet, based in Nelson, NH. The group is an ambassador for the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music, whose director, Lenny Matczynksi, is one of the more quietly intriguing members of our class and, among a crowd of distinguished and exceptional people, is the only one among us with a Grammy Award. Take that, fellow overachievers!

One of the Center’s marquee programs is Playing for Peace, which addresses social change and conflict resolution through music. Apple Hill performs concerts and leads chamber music workshops in areas where there is a history of conflict: the Middle East, Northern Ireland, and many US cities. According to Apple Hill, “The principal tenet of Playing for Peace is this: musicians are assigned to play in small ensembles alongside musicians from conflicting communities… Each ensemble is coached in the skills of chamber music—listening, watching, adjusting, being sensitive and flexible—the same skills needed to work and function effectively in today’s contentious world.”

As I reflect upon the skills necessary to be successful performing chamber music, I realized that they are the same ways that I connect with my clients and prospects.

  • Listening: no good solution can be developed unless I listen carefully to the issues or challenges a client or prospect is facing.
  • Watching: any day I can be in the same room for a conversation with a client or prospect is a good day. When I explain concepts or ideas that may not be familiar, there’s no substitute for being able to see facial expressions and body language. It’s the difference between the “oh, yeah” that really means “keep moving; I don’t really get what you’re talking about but I don’t want to admit it,” and “oh, yeah!” that really means “holy cow, now I get it and see how it could be useful for my business. What’s next?”
  • Adjusting: a perfect solution might not always be the right solution for a client or prospect based on any number of variables including timing, budget, manpower, business cycles and a whole host of others. I need to be able to adjust to finding the right solution based on what we can and can’t address in a short, medium or long term.
  • Being sensitive: I do my best to tune into my intuition when I’m working with clients or prospects. I find that it opens up really interesting lines of exploration, which lead to more interesting solutions.
  • Being flexible: sometimes we get started with a client and we’re planning to go down one path. Then comes the wrench. The bump in the road. The hiccup. And we need to be flexible enough to adapt to the situation and be able to either continue to solve the original challenge, or change directions and follow the new path.

Finding out that I use the same skills as a music group that performs all over the world, and is led by a Grammy-winning artist, it dawned on me that one of my underlying goals when I talk to clients and not-yet-clients is to get in tune with them so that we can create a program that really sings, and makes a recognizable impact on their business.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016 20:31

Customer Confusion

A shopper who spends a lot of time on your e-Commerce site and doesn’t convert may have been unable or unwilling to complete the purchase due to confusion.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016 20:30

Brand Awareness and Social Publishing

Social media gives brands and publishers more ways to spread awareness and messaging; yet many social media users don’t even know where content comes from.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016 20:29

Boost for Mobile

Building on “mobilegeddon,” Google continues to strengthen and boost its mobile-friendly algorithm.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016 20:27

Understanding Google Search Console

Many website owners understand the importance of Google Analytics in monitoring website performance as it relates to site visitors and traffic. But there is a second Google product also helpful in monitoring website performance.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016 20:25

Content Marketing Strategy

Creating a content marketing strategy goes beyond generating interesting blog topics and engaging visuals.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016 20:23

100 Questions

A partial list of questions your website/digital marketing partner should ask.

Planning & Discovery

  1. What are your business goals?

  2. How does the website fit into those goals?

  3. What is the purpose of your website?

  4. Who is/are the audience(s) for the website?

  5. Can you identify demographics of your website visitors?

  6. Do you have marketing personas developed?

  7. What do you want website visitors to do/accomplish on your site?

  8. How do you define a lead from the website?

  9. How do you follow-up with leads from the website?

  10. How will they find your website?

  11. Why would they come back to your site more than once?

  12. Who are your competitors?  

  13. What makes you different?

  14. Do you intend to update content/site pages yourself after launch?

  15. How are you planning for mobile use?

 

Project Timing/Timeline

  1. What is the time frame for completion of this project?

  2. Are there particular dates, seasons or events for which the site needs to be completed?

  3. Do you have the time and/or resources to ensure the project is completed on time?

  4. Who will be the internal project manager, responsible for managing the project schedule and ensuring internal contributions are made on time?

  5. Can you think of anything that would prevent us from completing this project on time?

 

Technical Details

  1. Do you already have a domain (url) or do you need to register one?

  2. Where is your domain registered?

  3. Where is your current site hosted?

  4. Do you have Control Panel access with that hosting?

  5. Will you utilize a content management system on the new site?

  6. If no, will it need to utilize databases?

  7. If it doesn’t use a CMS, do you want FTP access to make edits?

  8. How much Bandwidth and Disk space do you need?

  9. What is the Speed and Reliability of your host?

  10. Does the host offer technical support?

  11. Does the host offer email accounts and webmail access?

  12. Will you need multiple domains and/or subdomains?

  13. Do you need e-commerce support (SSL, Dedicated IP)?

  14. Does the host provide regular site backups?

  15. Where is your email hosted?

 

Analytics

  1. Do you have Google Analytics installed on your current site?

  2. Do you utilize Google Search Console for site health tracking and reporting?

  3. Based on historical analytics reports, what is the demographic of your website visitors?

  4. What devices do they use to access your site?

  5. What percentage of your traffic is coming from mobile?

  6. Is your traffic mostly domestic or do you have international traffic?

  7. What pages do they spend the most time on?

  8. What pages to they bounce from?

  9. What are your top 10 landing pages/entrance pages?

  10. What are your top 10 exit pages?

  11. Do you currently track any goals in analytics?

  12. Do you currently track any events in analytics?

  13. Do you have e-commerce tracking set up? (if applicable)

 

SEO

  1. Have you done any SEO planning?

  2. Have you done any keyword research?

  3. Do you know what keywords are driving traffic in your industry?

  4. Do you know who your competitors are online?

  5. Do you know which terms you want to rank for?

  6. Do you know which terms convert visitors on your website?

  7. Do you have onsite search and is it tracked in analytics?

  8. Do you know which terms you currently rank for?

  9. Do you use Google My Business?

  10. Is local/geo-targeted SEO important for your business?

 

Design

  1. If you currently have a website, what do you like/dislike about it?

  2. Is there anyone in your industry (local, regional or national) who’s doing a great job online?

  3. Are there other websites (in or outside of your industry) you like the design of?

  4. Do you have logos (and other branding elements) for your site?

  5. Do you have corporate brand guidelines we need to adhere to?

  6. Do you have corporate colors or fonts that must be used?

  7. Do you have any photos you can provide?

  8. Do you have a stock photo site(s) you prefer to use?

 

Features

  1. Will you need an open-source, custom or enterprise CMS?

  2. Will you need a blog?

  3. Are there any specific site features or functionality that you will need?

  4. Do you intend to provide user-restricted content that would require users to log into the site?

  5. Do you need integration with social media?

  6. What social media channels do you use?

  7. What plugins do you need for security, social media, SEO and analytics?

  8. Do you require online chat features?

  9. Do you need a forum or membership system?

  10. Do you need to integrate with an event calendar?

  11. Do you have any compliance needs (HIPAA or 508 compliance)?

  12. Do you need multi-language support?

  13. Are there integrations you need with video hosting providers or CRMs?

  14. What 3rd party systems does your website currently integrate with? (if applicable)

 

Content & Marketing

  1. Do you have staff in-house that is familiar with writing for the web?

  2. If yes, will that person develop and write content, or only edit and provide feedback?

  3. Will you provide gated content on your site for lead generation?

  4. How often do you plan to add new lead-generation content?

  5. Are you considering integrating marketing automation with your website?

  6. Are you planning to market and promote your website after launch?

  7. Have you developed a marketing plan for post launch?

  8. Do you need content writing support from our team, either for the site development or after launch?

  9. Do you have an email marketing service provider?

  10. Do you have email templates built for lead nurturing?

 

Management & Maintenance

  1. Do you need maintenance support after launch?

  2. Do you have any experience updating your website?

  3. Do you have the appropriate staff in-house to manage and maintain your website after launch?

 

Working Together

  1. Who is the internal point person for this project?

  2. Are they empowered to make decisions about the project?

  3. What question(s) have we not asked you?

  4. What concerns do you have?

  5. Where do you think this project has the most risk of going off track?

  6. How do you prefer to be managed and communicated with?

  7. What questions do you have for us?

Download your guide to website planning and maintenance
Tuesday, 10 May 2016 20:32

Siri and SEO

Siri and other programs or virtual assistants like Cortana and Google Now have changed how people search.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016 20:28

Dark Pattern UI

We all know designers select colors, fonts and layouts to drive users to take certain actions. But there are also less-than-honest tactics in user interface design that some websites employ to trick people.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016 19:51

Are $5 Logos Really Worth The Money?

Your logo says a lot about your business; before you decide that a $5 logo from Fiverr (or other low-cost, design marketplace) would best fit your budget and branding goals, consider what you actually get for $5.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016 19:45

Types of Facebook Ads

Facebook allows you to choose from different ad types for different devices.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016 19:10

Mobile First

More email recipients are reading email on their mobile devices.

By now you’ve heard that you should be blogging. It’s among the quickest and most effective ways to establish authority, not only in your industry but also with Google. Dynamic content on your website is the key to Google’s heart and blogging consistently is a great way to keep fresh, relevant content flowing. People who are looking for a company just like yours have questions that need to be answered and a blog is a great vehicle to answer those questions.

A blog is useful for “top of the funnel” or “awareness stage” content. People have problems and they’re turning to a search engine to find solutions. They’re doing research and asking Google to answer questions for them. They may not know your company, product or service and, at this point, they might not care. They just want to figure out the solution to the problem. So your blog posts should be helpful, educational, add value and be more than a thinly-veiled advertisement for your company, service or product. Your goal at this time is to stand out as a source of valuable information. You can get into details and specifics once you’ve established some credibility with the visitor.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016 20:25

Facebook Contests

Running contests on Facebook is a great way to increase engagement.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016 19:20

Social Media and SEO

While it is important to implement common SEO tactics to improve search ranking, it is also necessary to evaluate your social media presence as it relates to SEO.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016 19:14

Mobility

Marketers need to think about mobility, not just mobile.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016 16:31

Coleman

WordPress 4.5, aka ‘Coleman,’ was released April 12.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016 16:19

Micro-Targeting

Online searchers have become more adept at finding the information they want and need. They are using detailed phrases and asking specific questions. Therefore, it makes sense to optimize content for their search behavior and queries.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016 15:53

Too Good To Be True

We’d all love for our website to appear in the first position of the first search engine results page (SERP). But achieving this coveted spot requires a lot of effort, SEO expertise and a bit of luck.

Thursday, 07 April 2016 17:49

Facebook A/B Testing

Discovering what resonates with Internet users involves a lot of testing and trial and error.

Thursday, 07 April 2016 17:46

It’s Not a Funnel

The traditional sales funnel representing a linear decision and purchase path no longer applies to today’s buyers.

Thursday, 07 April 2016 17:44

Responding to Bad Reviews

Sometimes, your business gets a bad review on Yelp or other review site. Your carefully-considered and crafted response is critical to maintaining your reputation.

Thursday, 07 April 2016 17:41

HTTPS Everywhere

In 2014, as part of its interest in and promotion of secure online experiences, Google had called for “HTTPS Everywhere.” Since then, HTTPS has become one of approximately 200 Google ranking factors in its algorithm.

Thursday, 07 April 2016 17:36

Going All In

Being able to manage all your digital assets and reporting from a central “hub” is an attractive solution compared to utilizing disparate and disconnected tools. However, there are pros and cons that should be carefully considered before putting all your eggs in one basket.

Thursday, 07 April 2016 17:26

Today's Black Hat SEO

Striving for a page one appearance in search results has, over the years, motivated some SEO practitioners and web developers to practice what is known as “black hat SEO.”

Wednesday, 30 March 2016 13:29

Less is More

During the early years of online publishing, many bloggers and marketers strived to post often, regardless of content or quality.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016 13:25

Social Media Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year. Time to open the windows, clean out the closets, eliminate the dust and clutter, fix all those little things that broke and take stock of your house and your future plans. It’s also a great time to clean up your social media.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016 13:21

Get Some Help

Technology has enabled marketers to more easily execute their digital marketing plans. However, the digital marketing landscape requires an ever growing number of resources to reach potential customers online using ever-changing methods and best practices.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016 12:59

Back Up

A lot can go wrong with a website, causing it to “go down” at the most inopportune time. And getting it “back” can be time consuming and costly if you don’t have a backup procedure or solution in place.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 16:01

TLS and Gmail Deliverability

Privacy, especially in the age of social media, has become a hot topic. Internet users are concerned about how their personal information is stored and used, and the level to which it is protected against hackers and thieves.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 15:55

Speed Up Your Content

Content production can be hard.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 15:49

Context

Content is important. But content without context is useless.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 15:43

New SEO

Search algorithms change surprisingly fast. Google and other search engines continue to tweak how results are selected in order to provide the best experience for their users based on how they search and where they want to find information.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 15:18

Mobile Navigation

As mobile internet usage increases, designers and developers continue to explore mobile navigation usability and establish best practices.

Thursday, 03 March 2016 00:50

Local Content Marketing

Content marketing is important to SEO success and can be used by companies both large and small, especially when targeting local audiences.

Thursday, 03 March 2016 00:43

Using GA Better

Massive amounts of data makes Google Analytics complicated to set up correctly, and difficult to decipher and interpret.

Thursday, 03 March 2016 00:30

Magento 2.0

Choosing to upgrade to Magento 2 is a big decision.

Thursday, 03 March 2016 00:19

Instant Articles

Facebook is slated to open its Instant Articles feature to all publishers in April this year. What does that mean for brands and how can you leverage this change?

Thursday, 03 March 2016 00:13

e-Commerce in 2016

With consumers making more transactions via mobile devices, and mobile sales up nearly 40% in 2015 over the previous year,  mobile e-commerce is undoubtedly a trend to pay attention to in 2016. But what else is on the horizon?

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