Flipboard Roundup March 3/13-3/17

Here are some of the latest Flipboard articles that grabbed our attention:

This AdWeek article discusses the trend of programmatic advertising in marketing, per the “State of Performance Marketing” report from AdRoll. Programmatic advertising is algorithm-based, reactive targeting of “ad units to specific audiences.”  The possibilities for leveraging the technological/informational advantage of programmatic advertising are huge, and are only going to increase as time goes on.

Digiday outlines the Guardian’s success employing AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), Google’s solution for page-loading speeds. The Guardian was an early adopter of AMP, which now counts for 60% of the news outlet’s mobile traffic. This new capability also comes with its challenges, and requires webmaster vigilance. AMP coding can invalidate a web page, making it inaccessible to users, if not used correctly.

European marketing site The Drum reported on the VP of marketing for P&G EMA Sophie Blum’s comments on the “lifestyle” shift that is mobile. “…anywhere, anytime, whenever I want & however I want on my own terms…” is how she describes the consumer mindset. “Attention is the new currency.” She also notes that the seismic change brought on by mobile is still manageable. “Once you understand the consumer, you transform the insights into a creative idea.”

Mobile Advertising Reaches Your Ideal Audience

Mobile Phone Advertising is exploding for good reasons. You can now geographically and demographically target and reach your audience on their phones, which should mean a lot to retailers. If you know where your audience is coming from and what their interests are, you can create a very customized mobile advertising campaign that encourages phone calls and/or visits to your location.

Mobile advertising is still relatively inexpensive because there is limited competition for the ad space, but it will get more expensive as more competitors start placing ads. The time to start your mobile advertising campaign is now, to keep your ads in front of the right eyeballs and your business ahead of your competitors.

Google says that people spend an average of two hours a day looking at their phones. You have a captive audience in the palm of your hand that can easily contact or visit you and purchase your products or services. The Idea Center is a Google Partner and is Google Certified for AdWords planning and placement. Contact us today to see how we can help your business grow – 804.264.3067.

Giving Tuesday: Helping Nonprofits Prepare

giving tuesday ambassadorGetting Ready for Giving Tuesday + End of Year Fundraising

If you read our last blog post, the Idea Center Team believes that we should give back. What better time to leverage the power of the web to make a difference than during Giving Tuesday?

 

Giving Tuesday is a one-day international movement on Tuesday, November 29, 2016. Charities, businesses, students and people around the world celebrate and encourage giving to nonprofits on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.

 

The online event kicks off the charitable giving season and can help nonprofits reach a  larger online donor audience. Last year, 700,000 people joined together to donate more than $116 Million on Giving Tuesday!

 

The Idea Center recently launched CARITAS‘s newly designed website. The WordPress platform has allowed The Idea Center to help the Richmond nonprofit prepare for Giving Tuesday and the holiday giving season in a number of ways.

 

Creating a Dedicated Page for Giving Tuesday  CARITAS used its donor software, Donor Perfect, to create a unique branded donation form for Giving Tuesday. The Idea Center helped CARITAS embed the form on a web page dedicated to the one-day event. CARITAS will guide its social media followers and newsletter recipients to this page via scheduled posts and emails. The page will move into draft mode after November 29 and be ready to go for next year or serve as a template for other short-term fundraising campaigns.

 

Installing a Pop-Up Plugin Action bars and pop-ups are used to generate leads and create calls t0 action on websites for successful businesses and blogs. The effective marketing tool has come in handy for short-term opportunities for CARITAS such as Giving Tuesday. The Idea Center team installed the Icegram plugin to help CARITAS easily create simple and customized pop-up calls to action.

 

screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-10-07-12-pm When you visit the nonprofit’s website on Giving Tuesday, you’ll be greeted with a pop-up that encourages visitors to donate. The plugin makes it easy to preschedule pop-ups to go live and return to draft mode. This automation saves the nonprofit time and missed opportunities

 

After Giving Tuesday, another pop-up form is scheduled to to go live. It will focus on the CARITAS Holiday Alternative initiative, which allows donors to send cards to their loved ones in exchange for a donation.

 

How is your business or organization preparing for the holiday shopping and giving season? 

We Grow So We Can Give

cncThe Idea Center Creative Director Barry Martin and Account Manager Kyle Milwit recently took a trip to Boston. They were headed to one of their favorite annual events: the Iconic Conference. The event connects entrepreneurs and leaders with fellow visionaries and provocateurs to help ignite new ideas–a perfect place for the Idea Center to recharge.     While there, Barry was featured on a CNBC segment about company culture. He described his philosophy for creating a productive work environment at The Idea Center: “It’s not just about coming in and grinding out the work. It’s about interacting with each other. We look forward to seeing each other.”     “One thing many experts say small business owners need to prioritize is company culture, regardless of the speed with which they hope to expand,” explains the CNBC article.     The Idea Center has been steadily growing over the years thanks to referrals, repeat clients and high quality work supported by a positive office environment. As Barry and Kyle met with and watched presentations by the founders of Life is Good, Samuel Adams, Indegogo and more, they were able to reflect on their company goals.     Why grow The Idea Center?     Daniel Lubetzky, Founder and CEO of Kind, said it all: “We grow so we can give.”     Every project that The Idea Center works on allows it to work with organizations like Greater Richmond SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now). The Idea Center built the organization’s main website and the FAM Richmond website, a program of SCAN. The Idea Center also recently launched a new website for CARITAS, Richmond’s largest homelessness services provider.     “Marketing with a Mission” isn’t just a tagline Barry and his team embrace in their office. Barry encourages clients like AMF Bakery Systems to give, too. Recently, AMF donated more than 10,000 meals to people in need thanks to The Idea Center’s concept for AMF to embrace cause marketing and make an impact. AMF’s new website launches soon.     Learn more about The Idea Center, the company culture and how it all started.

Video Marketing Creates Big Impact for Medical Firms

Consumers today are empowered by the Internet in so many ways. Before making major purchase or even placing a lunch order, people turn to the web to find ratings, stories, and more information about the products and services they purchase. This is especially true for medical services.   “We have learned that consumers want to develop a relationship with their physicians,” Barry Martin, The Idea Center President and Creative Director.   The Idea Center has recently developed videos for Virginia Eye Institute, Virginia Urology, Virginia Cardiovascular Specialists, HCA Virginia, Richmond Surgical Arts and more. Patient testimonials, doctor profiles, and company histories help paint a picture for patients who are researching medical providers. See examples on our YouTube channel here. Potential patients are using the Internet at an increasing rate to make decisions and video is quickly becoming one of the most effective ways to reach any internet user. Video traffic currently accounts for more than 60% of web traffic. According Cisco’s Visual Networking Index report, video content will comprise 80% of global web traffic by 2019. The Virginia Eye Institute invested in developing videos and it has paid off. In April 2015, the business’s YouTube channel generated 30-50 views a month. Today, the firm’s YouTube channel has nearly 1,000 views every month. “The number one thing that people love that The Idea Center did were the videos of our doctors,” Margaret Benson, Virginia Eye Institute Director of Marketing. “That has become our most viewed page on the website.” The Idea Center works with businesses like Virginia Eye Institute to create videos that are brand consistent. They ensure that each video shares the same fonts, colors and imagery. The Idea Center team shoots video to build a “content pool” that can be used to create different types of videos and even television commercial spots. It’s a cost effective way to cut down on production time and ensure a consistent message across all online marketing collateral. An experienced staff and high quality equipment make The Idea Center’s video services competitive against full video production companies. The team recently purchased a drone and is applying for a license to use it to record video for businesses such as hospitals, construction companies, and more. The drone will help add a professional edge to new videos by incorporating multiple angles. The Idea Center team looks forward to creating more online videos for our medical partners and beyond!

Our Expanding Google Partnership

Opening the Doors to New Business with Google

For 21 years this month, The Idea Center has been working to keep companies and nonprofits on the cutting edge. The Idea Center team isn’t looking to be trendy; not all new tools offer an increased return on investment for businesses. Google search engine optimization, however, has proven to be one of the most valuable advertising platforms to date. That’s why The Idea Center has worked hard to leverage its resources for clients. President and Creative Director Barry Martin became a Google Partner and Certified AdWords Planner years ago. This month, Media Specialist Raphael Peterson became the second Idea Center staff member to become a Google Partner and Google Certified AdWords Planner.

What Does Being a Google Partner Mean?

Google says that ninety-seven percent of people searching for a product or service start online. So it is essential to understand as much as possible about how Google works to achieve strategic online marketing success. And it’s a continual learning process because Google continuously evolves and adds new products. This is why The Idea Center knew that they had to be a Google Partner – to help their clients make the most of their online marketing. “What we love about Google is that we can demographically and geographically target customers and generate new business leads for our clients that they may not have otherwise gotten” Barry said. A successful Google search engine strategy has three parts: targeted pay per click (PPC) ads, properly managed map pins, and organically driven searches. As certified Google Partners, Barry and Raphael have not only learned how to expertly use these tools, but they are required to continue their education, pass exams and meet a series of ongoing performance standards. As they build web campaigns for clients, The Idea Center can track key data, including: your current search engine rankings, social media performance, location and demographic info about site visitors such as gender and age range – even phone calls that can be tied to organic, direct and PPC visits.

“Our Best Quarter Ever”

A couple of years ago, Vice President of National Heat Exchange, Brian Antal and his sales manager Jeff Meek were reviewing their website, knowing it was time to revamp it. Serendipitously, National Heat meets Kyle Milwit, Account Manager at The Idea Center, and Barry Martin at the PowerGen International tradeshow in Orlando and there was an immediate connection. The Idea Center designed and built a responsive (mobile friendly), full-screen, user-friendly website that National Heat receives regular compliments on. TIC also launched a national Google AdWords Campaign and an SEO campaign that has yielded excellent results and ROI. “We’ve had a huge influx within the past six months of new clients” Antal said. “That is directly attributable to our marketing program and the Google search engine optimization and how that has driven people to our website and to call us.” Antal said he and NHE recently closed their most successful quarter in history. The Idea Center continues to analyze the “micro moments” that lead customers to take action and further customize and narrow online campaigns for NHE. “I think we are on the cutting edge compared to a lot of our competitors because of what we’ve done with our search engine optimization,” Antal said. Learn More As a Certified Google Partner, The Idea Center has access to live Chromecasts (from Google’s HQ) and workshops for their clients and partners. Stay tuned for announcements about the next Google event.

Richmond Business Owners Workshop Sponsored by Google

Get your business onlineYou don’t want to miss out on the Richmond Business Owners Workshop that the Idea Center is hosting for free.  The event is being sponsored by Google and Richmond business owners can expect to learn how to grow their business online using Google Maps, Google Analytics, and Google Webmaster Tools.  Everyday people in Richmond are searching online for goods and services.  If you business isn’t showing up on the first page of Google under searches for your goods or services, you are missing out on potential business.  If you do have an online presence but your business information is readably available or is incorrect your customers will have a difficult time finding your business and lead to a bad user experience.  Richmond business owners can learn how to claim and manage their listing on Google Maps.  The workshop will also educate richmond business owners how to understand how customers interact with their website.  Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools are free Google web services that give detailed information about how customers interact with websites and offers insights on how to improve website functionality.  This Richmond workshop will take place on Oct. 22 at the VHDA: Virginia Housing Center.  Richmond business owners need to RSVP to the workshop soon since space is running out!   Click here to RSVP today.

Free Google Workshop on How to Grow Your Business Online in Richmond, VA

Lets put richmond on the map 2015The Idea Center will be hosting a free workshop on how to grow your business online.  The workshop is sponsored by Google and is part of their campaign, Grow Your Business Online – Let’s Put Your City on the Map.  The idea is to help local businesses learn how to claim and manage their Google listing on Google Maps.  The event will also cover how to use many of Google’s free tools, such as Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, to help you grow your presence online.  Google’s stats are impressive as to why it’s important to have an online presence.  Google says that businesses that are online grow 40% faster than those that aren’t.  They also say that local businesses that have correct and complete business information can help boost the economy of their community.  According to Google, “this could be worth up to +$300k a year; in large cities it can be up to +$7m.”  The Idea Center wants help grow your business and put Richmond on the map! The event will take place October 22nd, 2015 at the VHDA: Virginia Housing Center.  The event will run from 12-4pm and lunch will be provided.  This event is open to anyone in the Richmond area.  The Idea Center will lead a presentation on how to claim and manage your listing on Google Maps.  From 3-4pm they will stream a live streaming video from Google on how to grow your business online buy using Googles SEO tools like Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools.  The Idea Center team will be to answer any questions you might have.  Please bring a laptop computer along with a Google username and password that you already use to manage your business, such as Gmail or YouTube.  If you do not have a Google username and password for your business we will make sure you get signed up from one at the workshop.  The Idea Center is passionate about Richmond, VA businesses and we want to do everything we can to help Richmond prosper.  Come meet other Richmond businesses, learn how to grow your business, and let’s put Richmond on the map! Click here to RSVP today.

Mobilegeddon Richmond Virginia

Mobilegeddon is upon us.  On April 21, Google’s new ranking system now favors websites that are built in a responsive format, meaning that they are mobile friendly.  Websites that are not mobile friendly can expect to drop in ranking, which will impact web traffic to those sites.  This could be the “end of days” for sites that are not responsive.  If your site is impacted by Mobilegeddon, reach out to The Idea Center in Richmond, VA.  We have been building responsive websites for years.  We are the trusted source for web design in Richmond.  We are also a Google Partner and are skilled in Search Engine Optimization.  Contact us today before Mobilgeddon harms your website traffic.

Google Favoring Mobile Friendly Websites Will Directly Impacting Search Engine Optimization

Google announced in February that a big change will be occurring in their search engine algorithm to help their users find more relevant information.  On April 21 Google will start ranking mobile friendly sites higher than those sites that are not.  Mobile devices have changed the way in which we surf the web.  Everyday more and more people are surfing the web, making purchases, and consuming content on their phones and tablets and less on their laptops and desktops.  Google’s central goal is to provide the most useful and relevant content to consumers.  Now Google wants to provide the most relevant information favoring the devices that people use the most.  So what does this mean for search engine optimization?  It means that if you have a responsive website then you are in the clear.  But if your website is not built in a responsive format to be mobile friendly, you will be at a major disadvantage.  Websites that are not mobile friendly can expect to drop in Google’s rankings. If your website is not mobile friendly, the time has arrived to make the adjustments.  At The Idea Center, we build all of our websites in a responsive format, meaning your website will automatically adjust itself to be correctly displayed on different mobile devices.  Contact us if you would like to make your site responsive.  We also help to manage SEO for our clients to help grow their business.  There are many different factors involved in SEO.  But it is clear now that having a mobile friendly site will weigh more heavily now than before in determining your Google ranking.

HCA Chippenham Hospital “Best Day of My Life” Video Goes Viral

The Idea Center has had a growing relationship HCA Virginia Hospitals and we enjoy being part of their mission to provide top quality health care with a smile.  We have shot video for several different locations in the Richmond area.  Over the summer, the Chippenham Hospital Pediatric Unit approached us asking for our help with a project.  In May, another hospital had released a video of their doctors and staff dancing to Pharrell Williams, “Happy”.  The Chippenham hospital told us that they wanted to shoot a similar video using, “Best Day of My Life”, by American Authors. 

We were excited about the opportunity but this project posed a challenge.  When people, especially children, visit a hospital or are being treated for an extended time, they normally don’t associate that experience with being the best day of their life.  Hospitals can be scary places.  How could we send the message that a trip to Chippenham Hospital could end up being the best day of your life? 

Here at The Idea Center, we love solving such challenges with our collective creativity.  Our solution…Paint!  There is nothing more joyful for a kid to hold a paintbrush in hand and craft a masterpiece.  It’s messy, colorful, and beautiful.  We decided the video needed to have a story.  What if we had a patient get out of his hospital bed, gather all the other kids, hand out paint brushes, paint on giant canvases, and at the end of the day go home with his mother?  That is a powerful story.  We would include shots of the doctors, staff, and kids dancing along to the song.  The hospital is no longer a scary place to go but a place where a kid could really have the best day of his or her life.

In July, we shot the video and turned the hospital into a giant party and the kids and staff had a blast filming, as did we.  The hallways quickly turned into dance floors and the sounds of singing and laughter echoed throughout the rest of the building.  You can watch some behind the scenes footage of us at work.  Click here to watch.

We launched the video on September 22nd and allowed the world to witness the joy we had.  The video quickly took off and people have noticed.  The video was featured on several news sites and received high accolades.  Please watch “Best Day of My Life” Starring the Chippenham Hospital Pediatric Unit! HCA Virginia, and share the love.  So far, the video has had over 12,000 views and that number continues to grow on a daily basis.  Mission Accomplished!!

The Idea Center Shoots Video Shown at Architectural Conference in South Korea

On September 17th, The Idea Center was invited to shoot video for the Virginia Society chapter of The American Institute of Architects.  The chapter was celebrating their 100th anniversary and we were there to encapsulate this monumental moment.  While there, we had the pleasure of meeting Helene Combs Dreiling, President of the National AIA.

A couple of weeks ago Helene reached out to us and asked if we would help her with a special project.  She told us that there was going to be an architectural conference in Seoul South Korea.  She wouldn’t be able to attend in person but wanted to send a video of herself addressing the audience.  There were going to be many influential and important figures attending the conference including, Kim Young Soo, President of Korea Institute of Registered Architects (KIRA).  Our team jumped at this once in a lifetime opportunity. 

On October 13th, we met Helene at her office, located in the Branch House on Monument Avenue in Richmond, where we set up our equipment.  Helene spoke with clarity, confidence, and poise, trademarks of influential Presidents and CEOs.  She delivered two speeches and we were able to film them both with one take each.  Helene thanked us again for our work and we promised to have the videos turned around quickly so they could be sent off to South Korea to have subtitles added. 

Yesterday, October 21st, was the conference and our videos were shown to all attending the conference in Seoul.  Helene informed us that the project was a huge success and everything ran smoothly.  We want to thank The American Institute of Architects and Helene for giving us the opportunity to work on this once and a lifetime project.  We look forward to working with Helene and the National AIA for years to come.    

Google Display Advertising

B0AiSnZCMAARbJDGoogle requires agencies like The Idea Center to renew our certifications to make sure we are staying up to date on all the cool things that Google has to offer and how those things will benefit our clients. Display Advertising on the Google search network is really exciting because it’s a way for local companies to have a presence on national websites that attract the type of customers they are trying to reach. So it is not only geo-targeted, it is also demographically targeted. And instead of it being a boring pay-per-click text ad, it’s an image or video ad, so it is much more visually appealing, but you still only pay when someone clicks through to your site.   Think about this from a branding perspective. Our client PartnerMD offers concierge physician services, which a lot of consumers don’t even know exists (and the ones that do know about concierge medicine are hot prospects). They have 10 bricks and mortar locations in major cities throughout the USA. We can place Google Display Ads on websites that we select (or we can let Google place our ads on sites they deem relevant) based on targeted demographics. Because PartnerMD’s target audience is high-end executives, we can run image and/or video ads on national websites like Forbes.com, in each city that PartnerMD serves. So it gives them an opportunity to reach targeted cities and targeted people that might not have known about concierge medicine had it not been for their display ads. And because Display Advertising has been underutilized to this point, it’s actually LESS expensive than ppc text ads. It’s also a lower click-through rate, but you are only paying for clicks so you are essentially getting the branding for free. Call The Idea Center today to find out more about Google Display Advertising, SEO, website design, video production – whatever you may need to help you accomplish your marketing mission. We are located in Richmond, Virginia but we serve local, national and international clients. Google Logo

5 Online Marketing Questions to Ask Yourself

1. What is your Market?

Before you can start marketing successfully, you must first understand the kinds of people interested in what you are selling. Gender, age, and location are among the most important factors to consider how your marketing plan should proceed. It can be a great waste of money advertising to groups who have no interest in your service or product.

2. Can your Customers Find You On The Internet?

In the modern market, it’s incredibly important to have an easily located web presence. Is your website optimized for search engines? What keywords do customers use to find your business? The internet is one of the best ways to sell your product, so long as potential customers can find you on the web.

3. How Can Social Media Help You?

Social Media marketing is a great tool to increase your brand awareness, but only if you use an appropriate platform. Facebook can help you connect with fans of your company and find out what matters to them. Visual sites such as Pinterest and Instagram help you show your customers the physical object you’re selling. The social media outlets you utilize should match the product or service you offer.

4. Is your Website Responsive?

This is a big one. Today, your website should be accessible not only on laptops and home computers, but on cell phones and tablets as well. Many people browse the internet on smartphones now, and you don’t want to overlook these potential customers, or appear out of touch with the way people search for products and services on your website.

5. Is your Website Showing what Makes your Service/Product Unique?

It’s easy to get mired down in the flashy capabilities of online marketing, but don’t forget to show what really makes your product, or your service, unique. This is ultimately what sets you apart from your competitors, and keeps your customers attention once you have it.

PartnerMD

There are many experiences that PartnerMD members never have to worry about: the crowded practice lobby and endless wait for care; rushed, impersonal appointments; and the feeling of being treated like an anonymous face, and not a person. This is the driving philosophy behind PartnerMD. Their concierge doctors take the time to get to know you, understand your specific needs, answer all of your questions, and tailor a comprehensive plan for optimizing your health. The Idea Center has been retained by PartnerMD to manage a national Google PPC campaign as well as an SEO campaign to maintain first page exposure on Google in the 10 cities where PartnerMD currently provides their concierge medical services. Within one month, traffic to the site increased by 500 visits and every single office’s organic Google rankings have gone up since The Idea Center started the campaign and their rankings continue to improve month after month.

Facebook as a Crutch

I’ve seen a lot of small businesses maintain a Facebook page in lieu of an actual website. Nothing wrong with having a Facebook page for your company, actually, there is a lot right about it. But having a Facebook page only, and not developing some sort of outside website presence because you think it’s too expensive, is not the right marketing track. What Facebook has going for it:
  1. Doesn’t get any cheaper.
  2. Great way to interact directly with customers/clients/patients/patrons.
  3. It does get crawled by search engines.
But here are the problems with having only a Facebook page and nothing else online:
  1. You don’t own the content – your page exists at the whim of Facebook. And Facebook is built on whims.
  2. Facebook could run ads for competing services or products on YOUR PAGE, where you are trying to pitch yourself. You don’t run that risk with your own site.
  3. It makes you look cheap (just like an @aol.com email address). If you look cheap, you’ll only attract customers that want cheap.
  4. You’re missing out on prospects that don’t have Facebook. Just about everybody is on the internet, but not everybody is on Facebook.
  5. You don’t get a convenient or easy-to-remember web address.
We recommend implementing Facebook as a component of any website marketing strategy, but it shouldn’t be used exclusively, at least not permanently.

The Idea Center Wins 2014 Hermes Creative Award

The Idea Center recently won a Gold award from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMPC) for our website for Draper Aden Associates. The AMPC consists of many thousand marketing communication and advertising professionals, and awards their recipients based on a high standard of excellence to those whose work serves as a benchmark to the industry. We are extremely proud to have been a recipient for 2014.

Top 5 Small Business Website Mistakes

1. No Contact Form

When you’re a small business looking to use the Internet to generate leads the most important thing is making it easy for prospective clients to get in touch with you. I find all too often that websites are either burying their contact information or have a buried contact form. A great thing about putting the contact form front and center on your website is that it gives potential clients the perception that they can get in touch with you easily without actually having to pick up the phone. Whether or not someone is going to pick up the phone and call you is determined by how bad they want your product or to ask you a question, but this leaves out those that who actually want to talk to you but aren’t willing to put forth the effort to call you. People not wanting to call can range from shyness to just general laziness, the easier and more transparent you make the process the better for the both of you. There are few things worse than an old website without an email address or phone number, or just a vague contact form headed straight for the abyss.

2. No Call To Action

So you have your website that has a good design with the great pictures and a little bit of content. Does it call out to the customer for them to realize they can’t wait a minute longer not having your product? If so then great, but if not then you have a problem. There is nothing wrong with a website that has great pictures and has some good articles, if that is the goal. But a business’ website should be to bring in business first and serve a resource second. There needs to be a direct call to action to ensure that the website engages readers properly, otherwise it doesn’t accomplish your goal.

3. What Your Business Does is Not Clear

A business’ website should be built with the customer in mind. You have to put yourself in their shoes and determine what your potential customers want to see. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking from your own perspective and this is why it’s important to consult with an agency to build a website that attracts your target audience. It’s easy to throw up a website that says “ Joe’s Shop” but it takes a lot more than that to get in the minds of Joe’s Shop’s customers, and make them feel comfortable enough to do business with him.  If these issues aren’t taken into consideration then you are missing out on a TON of new business or about to waste money needlessly.  

4. Poor Design

You can have just about everything else right but a poor theme or design can bring your whole website crashing down. I see way too many businesses operating with websites that are over 10 years old or simply look straight out of a 6th grade computer class. These businesses claim that their websites don’t bring in business and ask “Why bother?” If you apply a little critical thinking to that equation you would see the glaring problem. Skipping over a dated looking website is the virtual equivalent of bypassing a restaurant because it looks so dirty and rundown. Why would we treat websites any different?  

5. No Analytics tracking

If you aren’t using an analytics program to track and monitor your sites performance then you are missing out on valuable data which can help define your whole online existence. Web Analytics refers to the data of your website in a who, what, when, where, and why format. This is extremely powerful information because it tells you what is working and what is not. Most business owners have a hard time wrapping their head around the fact the Internet is the most powerful source of marketing right now because there isn’t any “tangible” evidence that it works. I argue that there is in fact TONS of evidence saying it does and the data doesn’t lie. The data can tell you exactly where users are coming from and if that ad you have on the local news website is actually bringing you any traffic or if Google PPC is the best use of your money. It’s hard to be wrong when you have all the facts.

The Idea Center Visits Palm Springs

Recently, Barry and Jeremy took a trip to Palm Springs, California to visit Integrated Global Services on the job at a biomass facility. The purpose of this transcontinental journey was simple enough; we were meant to shoot footage and photographs for the company’s website, with the goal of capturing the scope of their operations, their state of the art equipment and facilities, and the expertise of their workers. We believe that even in the age of digital communication, it is essential to actually see our clients at work in their environment, and you have to be hands on to make truly great work. Many ad and marketing agencies will do their work from the comfort of their own offices, relying on secondhand resources to learn about their clients. We think it’s important to really know our clients, find out what they’re all about, and see where they live and do business. We come to you. We get our hands dirty. We want to find out what’s special about you and your business in order to create the best content possible. Anything less would be second rate.

Making Your Website Faster & More Search Engine Friendly

Page speed is extremely important for many reasons. With user engagement: the faster your pages load, the more likely a user is to stay on your site, ultimately ending with a phone call or e-mail to you, wanting to do business with you. With SEO: Google will place you higher in their rankings, based on your website’s speed. With web design, you always want your site to be beautiful and engaging. Sometimes those attributes come at the cost of losing page speed…if you don’t know what your doing. Luckily, we at The Idea Center, know exactly what to do. Smaller AppIn a process called minification, we take our html code, stylesheets, and programming code and crunch it with a program called Smaller. This basically compresses our code to make web-browsers read it faster and more efficiently. By handling our code this way, beauty never compromises speed. Minification is only a small part of what we do to make your websites faster. We always use plugins that optimize websites for speed, SEO, and user engagement. Every image on your site is optimized to be a small file size, making pages with images load blazing fast. With every site, we build site-maps and submit them to Google to help index your site, ranking you higher in their listings. Generating leads is what The Idea Center does, and we are constantly working on making the leads come in for our clients. Marketing, marketing, read, read, website, marketing

Total Packaging Services Reaches Top Spot

The website we built for Total Packaging Services has officially hit the top spot on Google for packaging related searches. This means whenever someone is in search of a packaging company, Total Packaging Services is the very first name on the list. This, in turn, means that TPS is getting a ton of new business they would otherwise have no access to. The goal behind everything we do at The Idea Center is to do just that – bring in more business for the client. And the success of Total Packaging Service’s custom built website serves as a great example of exactly how much we can help you achieve when we have the creative freedom to really make your company stand apart from the rest. Whatever product you sell, whatever service you provide, it’s our aim to get your company’s name on top of the mountain of your competition. Check out the website and logo design we completed for the guys at Total Packaging Services at http://totalpackagingservices.net/. Or just Google it. It’s going to be very easy to find after all.

Communicator Award

2013-Gold-StatuetteThe Idea Center wins a Gold Communicator Award of Excellence for the Lighting Virginia Website.

It’s been awhile since we’ve had an award come through the office, not because we haven’t been putting out great work but we just haven’t had the time to submit to the myriads of contests and reviews that sometimes get in the way of good design.  The Communicator Awards is an international awards program that recognizes companies in the marketing and communications field that are great at what they do. We decided it was due time to bring some fresh awards into the office and felt that the Lighting Virginia site was a perfect candidate. Much like the products they offer, Lighting Virginia’s website was built to appeal to architects and homeowners alike, expanding their understanding of how lighting effects space. Visit the Lighting Virginia Website

Is Buying Links A Good Idea For My Website?

While buying links sounds like an easy solution and the link seller seems to be giving you solid reassurance that his links will in fact boost your search engine rankings the answer is most likely – no. It’s easy to be fooled by the many people that claim that they can boost your search engine ranking with a simple solution, especially when it comes to getting you hundreds of thousands of links that will “instantly” improve your search engine rankings. Search engines, like Google and Bing, can easily decipher which links are relevant and which ones are just spam. Paid links tend to be on the spam side, there is no easy way of accruing relevant links or improving your search engine ranking. In the end these spam links will severely damage your online marketing efforts by attracting negative attention from the search engines in the form of penalizing your website. There is no cheap and easy way to the top and you get what you pay for. If you are seriously considering a SEO campaign then it’s best to consult a professional SEO firm and find out what they can do for you. They will be able to point you to other clients in similar industries that can vouch for the benefits of a professional SEO campaign.

Most Important Aspect of Local SEO

Most Important Aspect of Local SEO

When businesses and retailers hear SEO a lot of times they don’t think that it can help them because they are only existing at the local level and don’t believe they need to waste time with Google. The power behind local SEO isn’t just in Google, the main idea for SEO on a local level is to get your name in front of people and establish your business as a real live part of the community. This type of campaign can range from a variety of tactics including interacting with people on local blogs and new sites, by actually getting involved with the community. A business website doesn’t have to be a static page and just deliver basic information but it can be used as a platform to promote happenings within your industry or speak on different topics in the community. Your website can be a portal that people trust and come to for valuable information, this will increase your rankings and standings in Google tremendously while building your brand on and off the internet. Few businesses take advantage of the blogging aspect of their website and that makes it easier for the ones that do. Of course, few business owners have the time or desire to write blog posts and engage the local internet community but if you do it correctly by outsourcing it or having someone in-house trained to blog for you, it can really go a long way.

What are Web Analytics?

Web Analytics is the collection and analysis of internet data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage by providing information about the number of visitors and page views of a website. Web analytics not only measures web traffic but it can be used to assess and improve business and market research. Web analytics can also help companies determine if their traditional advertising campaigns are have nay effect but comparing the amount of web traffic in correlation with launching of a new campaign.

How Can My Business Use Twitter?

Businesses can use Twitter to engage and gather market intelligence and insights through interacting with their customer base. There is a high likelihood that there is a conversation occurring right now on Twitter about your industry or business. It’s important to be able to access and understand this intelligence and make it work for you. As a social media platform, Twitter, provides a powerful way to deliver your messages and branding to people that are talking about you right NOW. Use it to broadcast content, release news, customer feedback, problem resolution and most importantly drive sales.

What is a Vlog ?

A vlog or video blog is a form of blog but instead of using text it uses video to distribute it’s message, sometimes know as web television. Vlogs are very popular on YouTube. A Vlog will help tremendously in search engine optimization efforts,especially if your competition has little to no video content. All types of business can benefit from using video blogging to reach their customers.

What is a Podcast?

Podcasts are a type of digital media that consists of episodic series of audio radio, video, PDF, or ePub files that people can subscribe to and download through web syndication(RSS) or stream online through a computer, smart phone, or tablet. The word “podcast” is derived from the fusion of “broadcast” and “pod” from the success of the Apple iPod. This is a Podcast that we did for West End Antiques here in Richmond, VA

What is a Blog?

A Blog is used for all sorts of purposes. The term “blog” itself is derived from the word “weblog”. There are many different types of reasons and methods people have to blog. Sometimes it’s for personal reasons and other times it is a part of a company’s content marketing campaign. Companies can use blogs to communicate and interact with their customer base, helping them humanize the company in an attempt to build trust and relate more to customers. News Media incorporates blogs to offer additional channels of information for both their writers readers. A personal blog is created by an individual who wants to share their experiences or expertise with the rest of the world. Blog are a very powerful method of communication and having a growing authority with both readers and news outlets.

What is Social Media?

Social media the umbrella term to describe the means of interactions between people where they create, share, and exchange ideas amongst themselves on virtual and online networks. These platforms develop and cultivate large online communities where people can get together and find those with like minded interests and interact with family. Some of the most famous social media platforms are Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

What is Paid Search?

Paid Search is a broad term used to describe multiple forms of Contextual advertising. Contextual Advertising is targeting advertisements that appear on websites or other media, an example would be content displayed in mobile browsers. These advertisements are selected based on the content displayed to the user and then served by automated systems like Google Adwords. Paid search also refers to the adverts or sponsored links that appear in the right hand sidebar of search engine (google, yahoo, bing) search results. Related terms: Pay-Per-Click Advertisment, Google Adwords

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a term that encompasses all marketing formats involving the creation and sharing of information in order to engage clearly defined potential consumer bases. The object of content marketing is to drive sales and profits with increases customer action. Content Marketing works by providing valuable information or some form of entertainment that isn’t a full on sales pitch but instead seeks to influence the reader. Content Marketing can describe a variety of media sources not just articles and text, other sources can include podcasts, blogs, vlogs, social media marketing, and more.

What is Google Adwords?

Google Adwords is an advertising product designed by Google that offers pay-per-click advertising through cost-per-click (CPC) advertising or cost-per-mille (CPM) advertising with site-targeted advertising including text, banners, and rich-media ads. The AdWords program encompasses local, national, and international distribution.

What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)is the process of affecting a website or web page’s visibility in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid search results. The higher ranking on a search results page and the more frequently a site appears in the search results list determines the amount of potential visitors it will receive from the search engines. Search Engine Optimization targets various search mediums like image searches, local searches, video searches, and news searches.

What is Organic Search?

Organic search results are search engine listings that appear due to the relevance between the searched terms (as advertisers know them “keywords”) and the listed website. They are not paid advertisements and are not based on the amount of clicks the website receives. It is the result of a healthy search engine optimization campaign.

What Is Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising?

Pay-Per-Click advertising is an online advertising model designed to direct traffic to websites that pay the publisher, like a site owner, when the ad is clicked. Search Engine Advertisers bid on keyword phrases that target their specific market in an attempt to drive qualified traffic to their website. Websites typically determine a fixed price per click for on-site ads rather than use the bidding system. There are various sizes and shapes of pay-per-click ads featuring rich media ads, text links, or both.

True Cost of a Free Website

As with all projects and services, money can play an important role in the decision of which path to take. This is no different when you begin the adventure of having a company website built. You will undoubtedly be inundated with sales and marketing pitches claiming to be cheap, fast, and exactly what you need to achieve online business success. When you compare these alarmingly low prices with the quotes from your local web design firm and you find thousand dollar differences a few red flags should be raised. These are a few things to consider when contemplating using a free website builder. 1.Personal Service– That’s right, take a number and wait in line. Yellow Pages, Intuit, Yodle, and Go Daddy are all huge companies that cater to hundreds of thousands of businesses exactly like yours.  Expect to spend a lot of time on the phone and never get a straight answer to your question. When you are dealing with big business its all about the money. As far as they are concerned, as long as they are getting their monthly payment everything is working great. Their model is designed so whenever you have a question or need a change you are forced to contact them, giving them complete control of your website. 2. Search Engines Don’t Like Them– If you are cutting corners on your website then you are probably not considering SEO for it either. Free website builders are almost impossible to optimize because they are built on company sub-pages and present no uniqueness to search engine crawlers. That might be a good thing because you probably don’t want anyone to see it anyway. 3. You Don’t Own It– There is frequently limits and blockages assigned to free or basic website accounts that limit how much information you can upload. This is designed to force you to upgrade once you have “maxed out” your given space. Once you have maxed out your allocated bandwidth, coincidentally occurs if you manage to actually bring in substantial traffic to the site, they can put a hold on the site and shut it down till you upgrade your package. If you decided you don’t want to pay the upgrade then you are forced to leave behind the entire website and start from scratch. 4. Forced to Advertise– Yes, the website is “free” to you but the company is sure to find a way to turn a profit on it. You are often times forced to advertise other companies on your own website. I’ve seen bed & breakfast websites advertising for cheap hotels in their area. Do you think that is good for business? They are literally turning away clients at the cost of a “free” website. 5. Image– I can’t stress this enough. Would you consider your business mediocre and cheap? Of course not, so why would you present it that way. If you have the exact it website as every other HVAC company in town what is there to separate you from your competition?  You want your website to focus on your strengths not shout to the world that you are cheap and cut corners. 6. Limited Interactivity– Interacting with customers and potential clients is what makes the Internet a powerful asset to any business. You want to make it easy for people to get in touch with you and give feedback. Many free templates don’t allow you to like to your social media, have a blog, or even give the website a simple contact form.

Laying A Foundation for Websites in the Home Improvement Industry

The majority of business websites are built on a common framework designed to attract and built trust with potential customers. No matter how different the businesses are, their relationship to customers is the same across industries. This is very important in the home remodeling and construction industries because what is necessary to separate you from your competitors is not always easy to find for the potential customer, you may know what you can do and how much you do it better than the next guy but it’s critical to convey that message as clearly as possible. In the last few years the best way of doing that is by using the Internet. While a large portion of work is still derived through referrals, the Internet is playing an increasing role in solidifying those referrals. Now more than ever when someone is referred to a company they are going to investigate them through the Internet. This poses two potential problems: 1. Your website doesn’t provide them the information and relief that they were looking for. Now that referral has diminished because a negative web presence has canceled out the positive referral. Believe me, it’s very easy to find a plethora of positive reviews out there on any business that has been doing their homework. A recent study by online marketing blog Search Engine Land claims that 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. 2. Now potential customers have an increased chance of being exposed to your competition on a grand scale. When somebody sits down at their computer to research a company they are very likely to take a look at their other options in the area. They want to look at other companies and know that they are making the right choice by choosing your business; a new kitchen remodel engages customer pride and they want to be proud. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that a customer won’t forget about you in a second if you let your competitors’ website set the pace, regardless if you know their work is substandard to yours. People have choices and they know it, they want to see what’s available to them, it’s no longer an issue of them not knowing anyone that redoes kitchens but instead whom do they want to build their new kitchen. People go to the Internet because they want to get excited and they want to learn about the process before making a huge investment. Alongside a huge investment comes the need for a huge amount of trust. Let’s explore a few of the basic foundation necessities for a successful business website: Portfolio– People want to look at what you have done and they expect it to catch their eye, inspire them, and make them want to do business with you. It also serves as a point of reference for prospective customers still researching to get an idea of what they want to do, they may have a clear idea of what is possible and your past work may move them in the right direction. Testimonials– Your past successes are directly correlated with your future successes. People want to read that you went above and beyond for people in your service to deliver an exceptional finished product. Something they could be proud of, remember people want to feel good and your mission to give them something that will satisfy that need. Written testimonials from real customers are great but video testimonials really drive it home, it’s a great way to target specific audiences because people relate to like kind. Capabilities/Services-Most contractors or home maintenance companies offer a variety of services and are capable of much more than they show online. Anticipate a customer needs by making it clear exactly what you do, your website is an amazing place for you to cross-sell your services. You would be surprised at how much people don’t realize unless it’s put right in front of them in plain English. Contact Form– Even if you have everything else together on your website, if you don’t have a simple straightforward contact form the chances of people getting in touch with you will drop drastically. People shouldn’t have to work to find out how to get a hold of you and should feel confident that what they are sending you will be read. Most people are either going to pick up the phone and call you directly or just submit a contact form. The goal of the contact form is to engage them and have them submit as much information as possible about their project. The website needs to give off the vibe that “somebody is home” and that a professional response is imminent.

Construction Websites and the Bidding Process

A considerable amount of commercial and industrial construction companies tend to ignore buildings websites and maintaining a professional web presence. Many of them had something built a few years ago but without much care or direction and without an overall strategy aimed at their market audience, therefore they failed to generate business. The reason is that these companies don’t put any focus or weight into their websites is important because they get most of their work through bidding. What they fail to realize ( while competitors do) is that their web presence in fact can make a difference in how many bids they win. Much like everything else there is plenty of competition in the world of contracting bids and various factors that determine who the job is awarded to. Companies are still required to put forth their best image. Otherwise those bidding out the project would forgo the bidding process and call the contractor directly. In the current economy, businesses are making sure they get exactly what they want when having a new location or building built. They want to know they are getting the most quality for their money. You can guarantee contractors are being analyzed from every aspect. This is why it is important to maintain a website and web presence. Your audience isn’t the general public but those companies that are bidding out work though they are both looking for many of the same things. Abilities, workforce capabilities, customer service, image, and experience all play a critical role in whether or not a contractor is awarded a bid.  Whether it is government, medical, restaurant, or industrial you will need to cater to those industries and provide them what they want to see. They are going to want to see your portfolio of similar projects so they trust that you can undertake and complete their project. A website serves as an interactive statement of qualifications, it needs to look good. It’s a place for testimonials, list of equipment, awards you have won and jobs you have completed. Company history is important because it gives a company the human feel that people can relate to and trust. Despite the size of a business, there is still people behind it making the decisions People want to do business with those that they trust. You need to present yourself as the best contractor for that project and give explicit reasons why that’s true. Consider how many different parties could be involved in the bid process and decision. There are inspectors, architects, other contractors and city officials. Its important that you portray yourself in the best possible light to all of these people because they will undoubtedly be doing their research as well and their impression could make a difference for how the project turns out for you. A forgotten and derelict website is surely not going to build any rapport and either will a complete absence of your existence or accomplishments online. You may know that you are more qualified than your competitor but others wont. Conveying quality and professionalism will help you overcome issues and setbacks when it comes to bid price. A solid website lets them know why you are worth the money because you follow through and don’t leave things unfinished. Call Travis Gunn at (804)264-3067 to discuss how to properly target your audience and give your company the image it deserves!

What is a Website?

It’s more important now than ever for small businesses to familiarize themselves with the power and uses of the Internet. The most important question could invariably be a simple one. What is a website? There are many of us who have a good idea and there are many who have a slight maybe even corrupted idea of what a website truly is.  Everyday small businesses are making the decision to embrace and include the Internet in their day-to-day existence. There are still quite a few people out there who don’t think the Internet “works” and that it isn’t relevant to their industry but I’m sure Neanderthals thought the same thing about brains, look where that got them. The businesses that plan to evolve and adapt to the market need to get a solid grasp of the concept of the website. Whether you have an ad in the local paper, running a spot on radio or TV, or getting business through past clients, people are going to look at your website before they make any decisions. This includes the decision to call you! Let’s say you have a radio ad out for kitchen remodeling, somebody hears it driving home and it peaks his or her interest. They say, “ We’ve been thinking about a kitchen remodel but the timing has never been right” and when they get home, if they even remember, they are without a doubt going to look you up online. They type your business name into Google and your website pops up, hopefully it shows up first, but it’s also surrounded by your competitors pay per click ads. Let’s pretend they go ahead and click on your website. They arrive on your website and notice that it hasn’t been updated since 2008, has poor quality photos, full of typos, and just plain ugly. That potential customer is isn’t going to notice “your attention to detail” or believe you when you say “no job is too small” they are going to question whether you are still in business and go back to click on your competitors website. God forbid if your competitor took the time to make sure their website was a proper representation of their business, professional, aesthetically pleasing and designed to showcase their expertise. This brings us back to the original question: What is a Website? A website is many potential customers first point of contact with your business. It is a public representation of your business, your online showroom, and gauge for your professionalism. It is where they are going to make their first impression and decide if you are who they want to do business with.  If you are serious about your work and business then this isn’t something you want to overlook. Just because something is the quickest and cheapest doesn’t mean it’s the best (when is it ever?). Is that how you would describe your business? Quick and Cheap. Choosing a professional web designer is the difference between a waste of money and an investment. If you’re ready to get serious about your website then give Travis Gunn a call at (804)264-3067

Choosing The Right Keywords

Using Google ads, also known as pay-per-click, can be a great source of bringing in new business but it can also be extremely expensive if not done correctly. Most campaigns are set up to target specific keywords that are expected to bring in the most traffic and hopefully convert that traffic into sales. Its important to choose keywords wisely because you don’t want to end up driving traffic that isn’t looking for your product but you’re paying for the click anyway, this type of behavior will drain your budget in a heartbeat. Learn to spot weak keywords that are draining your budget through a couple signifiers: 1.  Determine how long the user stayed on the site and how many pages they visited, note the keywords that bring them in. If a keyword has a page visit rate of only 1 or 2 pages a visit (depending on site size) you might want to consider focusing your money to another keyword. If you notice certain keywords are attracting a steady source of traffic and they are visiting multiple pages you may want to explore related keywords for a greater reach. 2. How long are people staying on the site when they get there? Do certain users from a specific keyword have high bounce rate? A higher bounce rate means people are leaving the site before browsing other pages because it wasn’t what they were looking for. If they don’t see what they are looking for right away they wont waste anymore time digging through the site. If you do have what they were looking for and you still have a high bounce rate than that’s a whole other issue. Understanding these concepts could mean a difference of a few thousand dollars in wasted money and resources. I honestly think that an organic search engine campaign brings in stronger leads and greater traffic. It would be worth exploring for the keywords that are attracting the most clicks (and costing the most money). It’s a great way to increase online traffic and reduce your pay-per-click monthly spending. If you are in the Richmond area feel free to stop by to talk about getting the most from your keywords or contact me by email at Travis@TheIdeaCenter.com  

Understanding Social Media- Richmond, VA

Social media marketing and advertising has been a hot topic lately with Facebook’s IPO but a lot of people still don’t understand how it all works and what it means for their business or brand. GE made news a few weeks ago when it pulled out of its Facebook advertising, claiming that it simply doesn’t work. I think people have varied ideas about what from social media marketing.  It takes more than just signing up on a few different sites to get any attention and, believe it or not, the results aren’t immediate.  Social media advertising is a whole new medium that can’t be approached like so. In order to create an effective social media campaign you have to understand how people are interacting between each other. It’s a place where people share their thoughts, opinions, and what they ate for lunch, their whole lives more or less.  Let me introduce you to the concept of “earned media”. Most advertising on Facebook, twitter, etc is known as paid media, advertisers pay for impressions with hope that someone will be enticed by the ad and ultimately click though to their website, where they will eventually make a purchase.  I’m not saying this isn’t effective by any stretch but that it ultimately leads to earned media. Earned media is when someone in your network chooses to associate with your business or brand so that everyone on his or her network can see that they are endorsing you. This will drive visits to your site followed by a few more likes and the process repeats itself. It takes a while but before you know it your page will be attracting constant attention. People love to associate with things that they know their friends like. Think of it as the Internet version of “word of mouth” advertising. So businesses that want to take full advantage of their social media presence should keep this in mind when they are looking for results. Social media may not always translate into immediate sales conversions but it spreads awareness of your business or brand. You have to think of it as a very important tool but it shouldn’t be the centerpiece of you campaign. Please contact me at Travis@TheIdeaCenter.com if you have any questions about your current social media campaign and how you can make it effective with the right ideas!

Medical Website Design

As we all know, mostly from personal experience, that more and more people are going to the Internet to search out local services, whether it is a restaurant menu or maybe browsing for a new physician.  Medical practices should take this into consideration when designing and writing content for their websites. A medical website can be a very powerful asset to any practice that takes it seriously and can really make a difference for new patients browsing you online. There are three major functions that a medical website serves that need to taken into account when being designed Attracts New Patients–  Websites and online marketing gives you the opportunity to target people who are looking for your services at a much more affordable rate than traditional print advertising.  Present potential new patients with a place that they would feel comfortable at, take the time to “humanize” the experience by putting a face to your name and introducing the staff.  Use a blog that can reflect the office personality, people are more unlikely to skip over a practice that has a poorly designed out of date webpage because they believe that same image will be reflected at the office. Educates Patients– How often have you dealt with patients coming in with misleading and unreliable information that they printed off the internet? A website gives you the chance to provide resources and information to patients that you stand by and believe in.  A good website gives you the chance to establish yourself as an authority and gain their trust. Increase Office Efficiency–  Provide all the necessary information and documents in an easy well marked place on the website. You provide information like office hours, maps, patient forms, and links to insurance providers that will make the process much smoother for the patient and the office.  Give them the ability to make appointments online. Here are some examples of good medical websites Tidewater Physical Therapy Ortho On Call Contact The Idea Center at (804)264-3067 or e-mail me at Travis@TheIdeaCenter.com to talk about how your practice or office could benefit from a strong website!

Does Your Business Have a Mobile Website?

Everyday our world is becoming increasingly more mobile and there is no sign of stopping in the near or distant future. Smartphones and tablets are becoming commonplace in almost every facet of our lives. Business, shopping, entertainment, and social engagement are all evolving alongside technology and for businesses looking towards the future it’s important to stay up to date.  Let’s take a look at a few statistics concerning the future of the mobile web market. -There will be one mobile device for every person in the word by 2015 -50% of local searches are performed on mobile devices -Mobile searches have increased 400% since 2010 -88% of US internet users will browse or research products online -57% of companies with a blog have acquired a customer from their blog Businesses can’t afford to not prepare for the changes in technology when it comes to acquiring and serving customers, it could be fatal. There is still time to get ahead of the competition and get a lead on the future but from the looks of these statistics that window could be closing at a pretty fast rate. There will inevitably be a lot of business who wait to the last minute to adapt, don’t let yours be one of them. Contact The Idea Center to find out more about what a mobile website could do for your business.  Located in Richmond, Virginia, we have been working with businesses small and large for going on 18 years.

SEO Richmond VA

We have been doing SEO Richmond VA since 1995 and seen a lot of changes in the industry but I read an interesting article the other day about SEO providers and their customers. It talks about 6 ways that you can tell if your SEO provider, to put it nicely, might not be the best for you. I’m going to explore each of these “signs” over a few blog posts. Most business owners have dealt with a myriad of phone calls with annoying automated messages asking them if they want to “rank #1 on Google”. You may have been one of them or will be in the near future but lets take a look at what this article says is a “sure-fire” sign to avoid in an SEO company. “Mass Directory Submissions, Article Submissions, Social Bookmarking, Forum Comments” Well some of these things aren’t always bad like social bookmarking or directory submissions but the issue isn’t the links in general but where the links are coming from. A lot of these directories and forums exist as “webspam”. They aren’t actually contributing to the flow of information on the Internet. This works against you in the sense that you aren’t generating relevant content within your keywords thus forth making your SEO campaign a “straw house”.  So beware of these offers claiming 100s’ and 1000’s of back-links for a low priced package, I can guarantee that what’s best for you is not included. Businesses need to approach SEO with a solid strategy and understand that a quality campaign takes time, what works for one business might negatively affect the next. That is why it’s important to take your SEO seriously and consult with a company that takes their time to get to know their client. So many factors come down to what keywords a business needs to focus on and can’t be summed up in a single click. For all you contractors and home maintenance people, It’s like giving an estimate to a potential customer and them coming back claiming another company can do it for half the price but you know good & well that there is no way that estimate covers everything they need. Just remember that with SEO, as like everything else, you get what you pay for.

Sponsor Child

Child’s Name
Islam Nazmul Niloy Mohammed
Child ID
BGD 173612-7134
Gender
Boy
Birthday
December 27th, 2004
Project Name
Dhaka Shishu Adp-2
Country
Bangladesh

About

Islam Nazmul Niloy lives with his parents and has no brothers or sisters. His parents struggle to provide for the family. Islam Nazmul is growing up in a crowded slum community in the northwest side of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangledesh. A typical home in the community is made of bamboo, with a metal roof and a dirt floor. The local population survives on rice, fish and any vegatables they can afford. The climate in this region is variable, with temperatures as high as 90 degrees and as low as 48 degrees. Islam Nazmul Niloy is not in school at this time. He likes to play soccer. He helps at home by carrying water. He is in satifactory health. Your sponsorship commitment will help provide Islam Nazmul Niloy and his community with improved health care and hygiene, educational opportunities like tution, unifroms, and school supplies. In addition your support provieds adults with vocational training and help with income-generating activities so that they can provide better for their children. We are thankful for your commitment and your prayers so these precious children and their families are able to experience the love of God and life in all its fullness.

The Williamsburg Pottery Chooses The Idea Center

The Williamsburg Pottery has chosen The Idea Center  to develop a new website to follow up their grand re-opening last month! We are extremely honored to be a part of the next chapter of this Virginia landmark business. The Idea Center is excited to deliver The Williamsburg Pottery with a website that reflects their beautiful renovations and maintain the timeless charm that has captured shoppers for generations.

Our Newest Feature: The Client Center! SEO Richmond

The Idea Center is proud to announce our new feature the Client Center, this interactive dashboard allows clients to monitor just about every aspect of their online advertising campaigns. This tool is incredibly helpful and convenient for businesses interested in exploring new media but want to be able to SEE results.  This new tool is truly a powerful asset for any business that wants to take their online advertising and branding campaigns seriously. The Client Center is able to monitor: Google Pay-Per-Click Campaigns– See that keywords are getting the most attention and bringing in leads.  Giving you the insight to see what’s working and what isn’t, helping us streamline your budget and work towards maximum efficiency. Search Engine Keywords and Rankings– Watch in real time the results of a proper SEO campaign at work. No more hoping and trusting that SEO really “works”but now you can check your sites rankings for individual keywords and better yet how many competitors you are competing against! Website Analytics– Follow the record of who is coming to the site and see who they are, where they are coming from, and how long they were on your website. Social Media– Sync up all of your business’ social media accounts and manage them from one simple dashboard giving you the ability to connect with your social audience more than ever. If you’re ready to get the most from online advertising and to have campaigns that are driving as many leads as possible then contact The Idea Center today at (804)264-3067 or reach me at Travis@TheIdeaCenter.com  

Website Design Richmond VA

The Idea Center has been offering website design in Richmond Va since 1995, we offer affordable advertising to the small business community but we also serve national and international clients as well. Search Engine Optimization and Marketing are also strengths of ours. If you are not using your website to generate more business, or are unhappy with the results you are currently seeing from your website, call or e-mail The Idea Center today. We have over 17 years of experience giving businesses the design they need to make the most of their internet presence. The best part is, once your site is up, you can easily update and maintain it – we train you how on how to do so. So whether you are in Richmond, Va or not we can help with all your social media needs, including; You Tube, Twitter, Facebook, Constant Contact and more.

New Year, New Browser

Here’s an easy New Year’s resolution – change your web browser. All new PC computers with Windows come pre-loaded with Internet Explorer, and as a result, over 50% of US desktop users browse the internet through it. But Internet Explorer is really a miserable experience all around. Its slow, bloated, and drives web designers and developers crazy. You might consider two main alternatives to Explorer: Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Both are free, load webpages more quickly and do a better job of rendering web graphics. Their interfaces are intuitive and they offer a slew of options and customizations (called “extensions”) which enhance the user experience and increase productivity. Both browsers can trace their lineage to the defunct Netscape Navigator, with Firefox being a highly adaptable internet-browsing workhorse and Chrome putting more emphasis on pleasing aesthetics and minimalism. If you are familiar with Apple products, you might also consider Apple’s Safari for PC. It has some neat features, and if you are a Mac user at home and stuck with a PC at the office, it at least provides you a familiar interface. It is important to keep in mind when building a new website that your visitors are using a variety of web browsers and may be seeing things differently that you’d hoped. You want to make sure the website is designed so that your message seamlessly flows through all the different browsers, the last thing you want is to spend money on a website only to have 30% of the visitors be able to see if full glory. Another reason to consult a professional web designer before venturing into a new website.

Big Business Doesn’t Always Trump Local Business

A noted insurance industry consultant  considered the marketing and advertising challenges that the mega direct writers (Geico, Progressive, Esurance, etc) pose to independent insurance agencies, dubbing it the “Geico Effect”. In 2008, the big boys took credit for nearly 70% of all personal lines (auto, property) written. A lot of this new business owes to the ubiquitousness of their advertising, especially on the web and through search engines, but also TV and radio. The original article is a long (and wordy) read, but here are the consultant’s main points:
  • In order to compete, insurance agencies need to become familiar with a key customer demographic – Gen Y (people born after 1980). They are web savvy and the internet enables them to do what independent agencies have always done – shop around for the best values in insurance, although they typically lack thorough knowledge and understanding of what they are shopping for.
  • To reach this demographic, insurance agencies will need to leverage the web and technology more fully. A website that has your business address, hours and telephone number amounts to just hanging out your shingle, and isn’t going to cut it. Websites will need to be engaging, interactive, and provide full service.
  • The big direct writers have the advantage nationally, but independent agencies can compete locally by better implementing technology and the web.
I think this holds true for many other service industries where large national corporations compete with smaller, locally-oriented companies. How do you start competing with the big boys at the local level? Taking advantage of a free consultation is probably not a bad idea.

Web Design Richmond VA

Smashing Magazine lists 5 indications its time to redesign your business website.
  1. Slipping metrics – site visits, sales (if e-commerce) and visitor interaction decreasing could be indicative that interest in the site has “worn off”. Properly monitoring your website analytics should give you a heads up of what visitors are interacting with and what they aren’t. Use this data to innovate what your site offers in the future, the data is there you just have to use it!
  2. Customer feedback – if you’re customers tell you your site is difficult to navigate or ugly, you should take note. Sometimes they never get a chance to tell you because they have already moved on to your competitions website, don’t let this happen to you. This could be a staggering amount of potential earnings lost.
  3. Site repair costs exceed the cost of replacing it.
  4. It looks old – remember what websites looked like 10 years ago? Web aesthetics are constantly changing, and some design styles do not hold up over time. Fortunately for small business’ an elaborate website isn’t always necessary. Provide customers with the proper information quickly and give them the option to get in touch with you right away and you should be fine.
  5. Its been more than 12 months since a refresh. A refresh can mean anything from new sales copy to a new batch of professional pictures. Just remember that you always want to take a step forward with better quality nothing hurts a business more than going backwards.
1 through 4 are good rules of thumb. 5, not so much, particularly for small business. You should realistically get a couple years out of a well-designed site, and so long as you post fresh content with regularity (i.e. fully implement social media) it will still interest visitors even if the site itself has a little age on it. I would add to this list:
  • Your site isn’t optimized for search engines. It important when building your website to have a clear focus on what it is trying to achieve, reasons vary depending on the business. Figuring out exactly what you want from the site will make it much easier to build in the optimization instead of going in after the fact.Remember that there is 2 types of optimization online and offline. Don’t make the mistake of just doing one and neglecting the other because to make SEO(Search Engine Optimization) work(and worth the money) they need to work hand and hand.
Every business wants a site that looks cool and has slick features, but the “nuts and bolts” of the website shouldn’t be neglected. A properly built website will ensure that you’re easily seen by the search engines and appear in search results for products and services that you offer. Web Design Richmond VA

Big Business Twitter Strategies for Small Business

Wall Street Journal has a piece on the different Twitter strategies employed by Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods and Best Buy. Southwest cross-trains communications and customer-relations personnel, Whole Foods entrusts their account with a single person 24-7, and Best Buy leans on 3,000+ employees to tweet corporate news, deals on products and answer customer service and help requests. Small business’ can really learn a lot from how these companies engage their social audience!
 

Richmond Business Web Marketing Postmortem

Richmond BizSense reported today that a Shockoe Bottom restaurant and night spot shut its doors this week, citing the economy. I can’t say with any authority whether that is or isn’t the case having never been there myself, but I figured I’d take a look at their web presence to see what they were doing and what could have been improved from a marketing standpoint. Online reviews looked decent, and lots of decent restaurants manage to survive in this economy. What I found more interesting was their website. Its presentable and has all the information required, but its effectiveness as a promotional tool is limited. Its one of those budget website deals, where you pay a company a low monthly fee to host, and they provide you with software and you piece the site together yourself. The problem is, the site doesn’t get built to web standards, and its difficult for search engines to find your site. I Googled “restaurants shockoe bottom” and didn’t see a listing before I gave up after page 7 of the results. Without going into too much detail, certain techniques and bits of code (robots.txt, XML sitemaps, valid W3C) are required to make any site “search-engine friendly”. Unfortunately, the website in question was built with a disregard for nearly all of these standards. When you are choosing to have a new site built you need to keep these things in mind when someone presents you with a cheap price, it should be common knowledge at this point that the cheapest is hardly ever the right way to go. Something as important as your website shouldn’t be risked in this new information economy. What does it matter if you saved a few hundred dollars up front when you lose thousands in the end. The website also lacked proper tie-ins to social media. They had a pretty active Facebook page, but getting to it through the site was a bit of an ordeal. Search engines like social media, and activity on Facebook, Twitter, et al, helps your site get found. Also, their dining menus were in .doc format, which is a little annoying and completely unreadable to search engine spiders as well as impatient diners trolling the bottoms’ restaurant selection while walking around. I really can’t say that having a site built to web standards would have saved their business, because there are many other factors at play, and its easy for a restaurant to get lost down in the Bottom. But their site probably wasn’t helping them the way it should have.

Minimizing Flash

Flash is a multimedia platform developers use to add animation and interactivity to websites and other digital media. You are probably familiar with Youtube, which makes extensive use of Flash video and requires that your internet browser have the latest version of Adobe’s Flash Player. Flash can be a powerful tool for enhancing presentations. Too often though, Flash is used for core website content, leading to bloated pages that are slow to load, seemingly seizure-inducing, or just downright tacky. But there are even more critical flaws to Flash when it comes to search engine marketing:
  • Flash cannot be read by search engines such as Google – if a lot of your core site content is in Flash, its lost to search engines.
  • Not everyone has the plugin required to view Flash – while its estimated that only 5% of PCs lack the Flash plugin, Apple’s popular mobile devices Iphone and Ipad do not support Flash, and Adobe recently announced that it was suspending development of Flash for mobile devices. Site visitors without the plugin (including Apple smart device users) see a blank space where your Flash presentation, slideshow, or video should be.
Flash works great for corporate presentations (much better than that old dinosaur PowerPoint, in fact), and so long as YouTube retains it for online video, there will still be a use for Flash. But its days are numbered.

The Importance of Proper Branding

Coke opened up a can of trouble when they decided to deck out their flagship product in white instead of red this holiday season. Under the auspices of promoting conservation, Coca-Cola is now available in a predominantly white aluminum can, the first time ever that the soda has been packaged in anything but predominantly red. Reactions are mixed, with negative feedback including confusion with Diet Coke packaging and even a perceived taste difference between cola from the two differently-colored cans. In response, Coca-Cola announced that by Christmas-time most of the cans available in stores will be red, with plans to extend the white-can promotion through the winter curtailed. Despite their seemingly iconic status and marketing, Coke is no stranger to snafus of this sort. Big companies can and do make big mistakes, and can make a serious dent in their revenues. What are the branding lessons for small companies?
  • Keep your branding consistent. Don’t vacillate between seriousness and whimsy. Don’t change up colors on promotional material. Be sure that everything, from your business cards, to your brochure, to your store displays, to your website, follow the same general theme & scheme.
  • Sometimes you need to revise the branding substantially. Make sure its done completely though – don’t re-use old material that would be inconsistent with the new branding initiative. Throw out the old business cards if the logo changes.
  • If you get your website from one place, your print collateral from another, and your media spots from a third, there may be inconsistencies and even confusion in how information about your business is communicated to your audience. Consider an agency that can provide you with all those services to ensure that your brand is conveyed with consistency across all channels.
 

It’s All In an Email Address

Your email address makes a statement about both you and your business. If your website or business card has an email address like “fschwartz@aol.com” or “billswidgetco@yahoo.com”, it may come across as one of the following:
  • I don’t know how to use the internet.
  • I likely won’t respond to emails sent to me because I didn’t bother to set up my own corporate account.
  • I’m cheap, and you get what you pay for when you hire me.
Its worthwhile to set up email accounts for all your employees at your own website domain. A web development firm worth their salt will advise you of this, and can handle it for you, often inexpensively or sometimes even for free. Having an address that matches your website suggests you are professional, understand changing technology and its role in business, and that you are not some fly-by-night enterprise.There is too much competition out there to not appear trustworthy or credible. Is it worth overlooking if it’s gonna cost you business every month?    

The New Phone Book

Phone directory advertising used to be the sure-fire way to make the phone ring. The phone book was the starting point for any consumer interested in a specific good or service. It was a search engine before the internet. Your ad hit consumers searching for your product directly. But for most businesses, it no longer makes sense. Why? Hardly anybody under the age of 80 uses it, and if they can find their copy, its likely being used as a doorstop or booster seat, and anything but a business directory. The “new” phone book is – you guessed it – Google search. It’s so ingrained into our everyday lives that its now a verb, “to google,” or to look for information via Google’s powerful search functionality. Google it. Like the phone book as little as 15 years ago, the starting point now for a consumer is internet search. How do you get found on Google? This is the realm of search engine marketing. There are two main ways to go about it… Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is tailoring your online presence (website + social media) to ensure that your business site appears in search results for terms pertinent to your business and geographic area. Done right, it means your Richmond, VA-based widget company appears on page 1 of search results for “widgets richmond va”. Done improperly, it potentially means your website doesn’t show up and you lose out on a lot of opportunity. SEO includes specific website design strategies, but Google really likes it when you put fresh, relevant content on your website or social media pages – blog posts, tweets, videos, etc. There’s also a quick and dirty way to get on page 1 of Google search results: Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing. Here you basically rent space on Google. You specify key search terms relevant to your product or service, and your advertisement appears in designated areas (above, to the right of, and all the way at the bottom) of search results. You don’t pay for the number of times your ad appears, but you do pay when a searcher clicks on your ad (and visits your website). SEO is a slower process, but its results are cost-effective and more durable over time. PPC is much faster to get going, but requires more maintenance over time and depending on the industry, can be expensive. A proper approach to Search Engine Marketing  involves a zen-like balance of both methods.

The Idea Center Welcomes Peyton Gregory

As The Idea Center continues to grow, we need talented people with great attitudes, and that’s just what we found in Peyton. When we advertised for an in house designer, we were inundated with resumes. Peyton’s capabilities really matched up with what we were looking for in an interactive designer. He will be building websites, managing SEO campaigns, editing and producing video and helping with print collateral here at The Idea Center.

The Idea Center wins Tidewater Physical Therapy

The Idea Center is honored to announce that we were selected by Tidewater Physical Therapy to develop a new marketing campaign for them. Tidewater Physical Therapy has 26 locations in Virginia and is continuing to grow. John Doane, Account Manager at The Idea Center says “We love working with companies that are actually improving peoples’ lives and Tidewater Physical Therapy definitely does that.” Initially The Idea Center will conduct first-hand research to learn about TPT; what makes them different and better than their competitors. Next we’ll work on their corporate identity/logo development as well as building them two robust web sites, one for Tidewater Physical Therapy and one for an exciting new service that they will be offering later this year. We’re also developing their social networking campaigns and shooting videos for their YouTube channel. If you need physical therapy you have a choice of where you can go. I would highly recommend Tidewater Physical Therapy because we knew right when we first met them that they truly care about their patients and their people. If you need help marketing your business, please contact The Idea Center. We will listen to you and take the time to get to know you and understand your needs and put a plan together that makes sense strategically and financially.

Video Tells and Sells

The Idea Center has been shooting and producing lots of videos lately. Why? The internet has quickly evolved into the next generation of how we interact with media. You can now “meet” who you are doing (or going to do) business with, their employees and their customers and see their products and services in action before you ever even call them. Even in this high tech world, people still want to do business with people they can see, talk to and trust, and web videos are a great way to capture that. We are creating monthly podcasts for a couple of clients, creating customized YouTube Channels and shooting client testimonial and employee videos for multiple clients. Call or e-mail us today for a free estimate on creating videos that speak to your target audience.

Does Your Company have a You Tube Channel?

You Tube is the second most used search engine in the world. “Second to who?” you may ask. Second to Google of course, who coincidentally owns You Tube. I knew I was on to something when I was watching America’s Got Talent (yes, I admit it) and they were promoting their You Tube Channel http://www.youtube.com/agt I knew video search results were catching on like wildfire, but I hadn’t really thought about companies having their own marketing channel. It makes total sense, would you rather read a TV channel or watch one? Why should the internet be any different? The really exciting thing to think about is all of the millions of new channels that are going to be created on the internet and, from an advertising perspective, how targeted advertising on these channels will be. A custom You Tube Channel will allow you to create an online resource where your clients and prospects can check out your latest content (that you either create yourself or grab from other You Tube Channels and put on your channel). Of course there are a lot of other video sites out there (I love Hulu!), but You Tube is definitely the Google of the online video world. The other major benefit of being on You Tube is the search engine optimization you get from having a You Tube Channel. You can meta-tag your channel as well as all of the content that you post to your channel. If you don’t have a You Tube user name yet – grab one!! They are free and the good names are going fast!! You want your You Tube channel name to be youtube.com/yourcompanyname if it is available. If not, find the best name you can and call The Idea Center to help you develop your custom You Tube channel. Our number is 804.264.3067, or you can visit our web site www.theideacenter.com . Our You Tube channel name is YouTube.com/TheIdeaCenterTV . We also just launched a channel for Norton Yachts YouTube.com/NortonYachts. You Tube, I Tube, we all Tube for You Tube!!

What’s changed in Advertising and Marketing since the Great Recession?

Businesses in most industries have traditionally grown through repeat business and referrals, not so much through advertising and marketing. When the recession hit hard at the end of 2008, a lot of well-established large and mid-sized companies stopped spending and some even closed their doors. Long-term relationships ended. This had a major ripple effect on the small businesses that counted on these companies for steady work. Most companies had to let people go, even if those people were talented, because the work just wasn’t there to support them. It seems like companies are now starting to get their confidence back. More people were hired last month than any other month within the past 4 years. New companies are being formed by entrepreneurial individuals who were laid off. Home prices are slowly ticking back upwards. People are still struggling, but I believe in the American spirit – we will not stay down, it’s not our way. We’re fighters. I also believe that God doesn’t waste our pain; he has a perfect purpose for everything. I think we needed to be reminded of how lucky we are, and how we should appreciate every blessing, and do it better this time around. I heard an analogy once that has stuck with me; the past is dry concrete, the future is wet cement. The web has continued to explode even through the recession. It’s where people go to make their purchasing decisions nowadays. A strong web site gives you the opportunity to pre-qualify prospects while they are pre-qualifying your company. Driving prospects to your web site creates an opportunity for you to (literally) connect with them, either through a phone call generated or an email sent, an ecommerce purchase, or by them joining your social networking sites. As the internet converges more and more with TV, businesses will have more of a “channel” than a web site that will attract the audience that it appeals to. The bottom line is, the old way of doing business was just to expect that the companies that were spending money with you would continue to do so. Those days are over- for now anyway. The new way of doing business is that you put your business where you know your prospects will be spending their time (the web, TV, tradeshows, etc.) and you hit them with a compelling, meaningful message that inspires them to interact with you. How have things changed for your company through the recession? Comments welcomed! Contact The Idea Center today to talk about how you can most effectively reach out to your current and prospective clients.

The Idea Center’s Client Featured on MTV

Williamsville Wellness, a recovery center for gamblers and alcoholics located in Mechanicsville, VA was featured on MTV’s True Life: I’m a Gambler on January 9th at 3:00 pm. The show featured Cory, an 18 year old who had been arrested for embezzlement. This was a wake-up call for Cory, and he chose to go to Williamsville Wellness to get help for his addiction. Cory has now been gambling free for over 6 months since leaving Williamsville. Bob Cabaniss, the Owner of Williamsville is a recovering gambler and alcoholic himself, and he’s made it his life’s mission to save people from their addictions so that they can lead a truly enjoyable life. The property itself is set on 400 beautiful acres with a main building that was built in 1794. Both General Lee and General Grant stayed at Williamsville during the Civil War. It is so peaceful and serene at Williamsville it’s a healing experience just to visit the property. Visit their website: www.williamsvillewellness.com