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When a small business needs a new website developed or a new line card designed for a trade show, what do they do? Small businesses have it rough, when it comes to marketing. Does the sales assistant put together a brochure in Microsoft Publisher? Does the Vice President of Sales and Marketing ask a college-age niece to build a website from her dorm? The truth is, it depends on your budget, but it pays to hire a professional.
Professionals come in many forms. The two most common are the freelancer and the agency. A freelancer is a professional designer or developer that usually works solo on single projects. They have a narrow client base and commonly focus on specific areas of expertise. Freelancers typically have lower overhead, which translates to lower costs. For small businesses, this sounds great.
Agencies work a bit differently and bring a lot more to the table. They work with many clients on multiple projects and incorporate many facets of marketing. An agency’s team consists of different disciplines, from designers and coders to copywriters and project managers. While agencies do cost more, they also have much more to offer. For small businesses, this could mean the difference between growth and stagnation.
Why Would a Small Business Hire a Freelancer?
Imagine a small Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) is getting ready for a trade show. They already have a booth and most of the materials they need—except for a sales sheet showcasing their new widget sorter. The VP of Sales & Marketing has just received product photography, and all the specifications are in a Microsoft Word document. It just needs to be designed and sent off to the company’s print vendor.
A specific deliverable with images and content ready to go? Delivery to a known printer? This sounds perfect for a freelance graphic designer. Because there is a relatively small scope of work with a single deliverable for an established brand, this small business might be best served by a freelancer over an agency.
How often do you have all of your materials set? Is product photography ready? Did you write your copy ahead of time? Do you work with a printer? For most small businesses, a simple sales sheet means a lot more than just getting the design work done.
Why Would a Small Business Hire an Agency?
A kayak and canoe rental shop is getting ready for the summer rush of tourists. They have an online reservation system, a growing email list, and a good following on social media. With a lean staff focused on the shop, there is a need to maintain the marketing efforts throughout the busy season. While a freelancer may be able to help, an agency can provide more resources and support.
The agency can help by:
- Developing a marketing plan for the season
- Updating the website to support the online reservation system
- Writing blog content and regularly update the website to boost search engine performance
- Designing and sending email newsletters to the mailing list – sharing blog content, specials, and events
- Posting to social media with activity pictures, links to blog posts, and to announce specials
- Fostering a good rapport with local tourism groups to draw more attention to activities
- Reporting on key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics
The first comment by most small businesses would be, “we can’t afford it,” or “I can do it myself.” While the objection sounds legitimate, what if you look at the marketing from a cost-benefit perspective?
- What is your “hourly rate” as a business owner?
- How much of your time would be taken up?
- Would a single person or intern be able to accomplish all of it?
- Would they have the knowledge, tools, and expertise?
- How much of a sales boost would make it profitable?
In this specific example, an agency will utilize their entire team of experts to accomplish the kayak shop’s goals. Agencies offer resources to the business owner that are less expensive than the sum of the parts. The additional support allows the marketing to “just get done” for the small shop. There is also one more bonus to working with an agency…
“We’ve got a really cool idea!” Agencies provide collective, creative brainpower to come up with the marketing concepts that cause your brand to stand out from your competition.
Q&A for Choosing an Agency or a Freelancer
Are you looking for a specific project or support for a wide range of projects?
A specific project is great for a freelancer. Many projects and developing a plan for them is best accomplished by an agency.
Does your marketing follow a plan or just “what you’ve always done?”
If you have a documented marketing plan, congratulations! Coordinating efforts with a freelancer might be a good fit. If you don’t have a marketing plan, working with an agency might help deliver a better bang for your buck.
Do you have photography, text, or other graphics ready to go?
A freelancer might help with a specific service, but an agency gives you a talented team at your disposal. An agency will also help gather the needed materials to build your project, for example:
- Arrange photography or videography
- Design supplemental graphics or manage imagery
- Develop written content or copy
- Coordinate efforts across web, social, email, and print marketing channels
Do you have print production arranged or preferred digital platforms set up?
A successful marketing effort is more than a single component. An agency can cost-effectively apply a range of tools and personnel toward your goals. The varied expertise of a team can be an excellent force multiplier for your marketing dollars.
Why Choose Signalfire as Your Agency?
Signalfire is an award-winning marketing agency with an excellent track record of creative success for our clients. Our ability to develop successful campaigns utilizing print, web, email, and social is celebrated by our long-standing clients.
With experience in B2B and B2C industries, we can help generate an impactful marketing strategy as well as the honed skills to see it through. Call us at (262) 725-4500 or request a meeting so we can show you the difference Signalfire can make for your small business.
Let us know if this sounds familiar. Your website is live and looking beautiful…but now what? How do you know if anyone is visiting your site? If they are, what are they looking at and clicking on? This is where Google Analytics comes into play.
Google Analytics is an incredibly useful, free tool that provides you with powerful data to answer the important questions you have about your website. You may be interested in more than one set of data, depending on your industry and business model.
To get you accustomed to using Google Analytics, however, we’ll start with the basic Who, Where, What, When, and Why’s of your new website.
Answering Website Questions with Google Analytics
First, you’ll need to create a Google Analytics account for your website. Once this is done, Google will provide you with a tracking code to place on your site, which then pulls visitor data and compiles it in your analytics dashboard. Within your dashboard, you’ll be able to choose any number of reports based on the questions you’d like to have answered.
Let’s take a look at how to answer the five W’s of your website. To find definitions of any unfamiliar terms you come across in this article, please use this handy reference glossary.
Who is coming to your site?
The most complete report on your dashboard for finding information on your website’s audience is called Audience Overview. This provides information on the number of visits, unique visits, page views, pages per visit, average visit duration, bounce rate, and percentage of new visits.
You can also click on several different sections of the report for more detailed information, such as:
- Demographics – find information on language and location of your website visitors
- Behavior – determine new vs. returning visitors and how long visitors remain on the site
- Technology/Mobile Preference – understand which browsers, ISP, and devices your web audience prefers
- User Flow – view how visitors navigate your site and which pages they exit from
These data points are vital in helping you refine your audience and identify potential new audiences to target.
Where is my audience coming from?
Google Analytics data quickly provides you with geographic data on locations where your website is receiving the most traffic. The report to find this information is called Acquisition Overview, which organizes visitor data into a variety of channels.
These channels are segmented into organic search, direct search, referrals, and social referrals. They allow you to understand where your audience is coming from and help you decide which channels are the most effective. You’ll find this data useful in deciding the best ways to spend your marketing dollars.
If you’d really like to drill down how your audience is finding you, click on the various sections of the analytics report.
- Traffic Sources – find information on which search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) visitors are using to find your website
- Referrals – learn which third-party websites are directing visitors to your site
- Social – dive deeper into referral traffic from social networks (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) to find the most popular
What Pages Are Visitors Viewing?
Website content is vitally important when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). Learning which pages and content types your audience is finding helps you understand what topics and/or parts of your business interest them most.
Learn which types of content are performing well on your site by pulling the Behavior Reports on your Google Analytics dashboard. These allow you to access useful data on decisions visitors make on your site.
- Behavior Flow – discover how visitors navigate your site and the choices they make
- Site Content – track the number of visits by page, so you can identify the most (and least) compelling content on your website
- Landing Pages/Exit Pages – learn which page audience members arrive on first and which pages cause them to leave
- Site Speed – find out how fast your webpages are loading
The more you know about how your audience interacts with your web content, the more easily you’ll be able to identify areas of improvement and make changes to support your business goals.
When Are Visitors Coming, and How Do They Compare to Previous Periods?
In the upper-right corner of your Google Analytics dashboard, you’ll find a drop down box where you’re able to select a time frame to pull your reports from. This feature allows you to customize the period of time you’d like your analytics data to describe.
Stay current with monthly, quarterly, or yearly reports and compare to previous periods of time to measure growth. There are, however, a few tips to keep in mind, when analyzing this data.
- Choose Equal Time Periods – be sure to measure growth year-over-year, rather than one month to the next, as this will be a more accurate portrayal of the data.
- Account for Seasonality – in most industries, businesses see high or low volume, depending on the time of year. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for a summer tourism destination to compare a busy month like July to a low volume month like February.
- Reading Bounce Rates – Google Analytics attributes a green arrow to numbers that have increased and a red arrow to those that have gone down. Upon first glance, it may seem that up is always good. But a lower bounce rate actually means visitors are spending more time on your website, so for bounce rates only – red is good!
Why Are Visitors Coming, and/or Why Do They Leave?
This is the most difficult question to answer, as there is no quantitative data that proves why people are or aren’t searching for your website. However, by compiling and studying all of the above reports, you can educate yourself on who your audience is, where they come from, when they arrive, and how they engage with your site.
All of a sudden, a much clearer picture develops with the help of Google Analytics. This assists with determining what makes your audience tick, and how to tailor your marketing messages to tap into that motivation.
Need More Help with Google Analytics?
Our dedicated team of marketing professionals at Signalfire are here for you. We can assist with diagnosing concerns about your current site, so you can decide whether you’d like to improve it…or simply develop a new one.
As your marketing partner, Signalfire will create an action plan with marketing solutions custom-designed to meet your unique business needs. Are you interested in learning more? Reach out over email or give us a call today at 262-725-4500.
Signalfire, a creative marketing and branding agency, announced the new tourism website for Fish Creek Civic Association in Door County (www.visitfishcreek.com) and has received Graphic Design USA’s 2017 American Web Design Award. This marks the second year in a row that Signalfire has won the design award for a tourism website.
Graphic Design USA’s Web Design Awards receive over 1,200 entries annually. Winners for 2017 were selected based on creative design, depth of user experience, and quality of web development.
“Our team enjoyed collaborating with Fish Creek’s marketing committee to develop an incredible website that will benefit area visitors and members alike,” says Signalfire’s owner Matthew Olson. “The administrative features allow Fish Creek to very easily update events and member details. We’re excited to continue helping Fish Creek beyond the website with more web marketing and graphic design.”
Fish Creek Website Takes Dynamic Approach to Tourism Promotion
“When Fish Creek decided it was time to upgrade to a more user-friendly, fresh looking website, Signalfire’s previous work, and our positive past working experience, made them a clear leader in our decision making process,” says Marketing and Events Coordinator Jackie Campbell.
The Fish Creek site is a fully mobile responsive website, featuring a video enabled homepage, a sortable community calendar, and a member support system that allows business member to login and make edits to their subscriptions and events. There are a host of additional innovative features, as well, making this a premier tourism website.
“The design of this site is very clean, allowing the personality of Fish Creek to shine through in their photos,” says Lisa Oren, Signalfire’s project manager for tourism-related clients. “The use of icons also helps visitors navigate the site and find what they’re looking for very easily.”
Signalfire Continues to Developing Award-Winning Tourism Websites
The creative professionals at Signalfire work closely with tourism councils, chambers of commerce, and tourism destination organizations to develop and implement creative marketing plans and strategies.
Learn more about Signalfire’s award-winning design and creative services, including logo design, graphic design, web design, social media management, email marketing, content management, and video production. Visit the Signalfire website today (www.signalfire.us), or call (262) 725-4500.
Signalfire is now offering an illuminated signage product featuring interchangeable art for use in trade show displays, lobby displays, or point-of-sale / point-of-purchase displays. “Combining Signalfire’s creative design team with unique illuminated signage gives our clients the advantage of one-of-a-kind displays that stand out in crowded environments,” says Signalfire President, Matthew Olson.
These lightweight aluminum-framed displays come in an array of sizes and can be ordered to fit a specific shape. “From square table-top displays to entire trade show walls,” says Olson, “this unique system creates a memorable impression.”
Illuminated by low power LED lighting rails built into the frames, the system backlights the art panels on one or both sides of the display. Being lit by LEDs means the system gives off little-to-no heat and draws very little power. These displays can stay on for hours and remain incredibly cool. Special panels are included to allow single-sided or two-sided illumination.
A unique frame rail system allows the banner art to be easily swapped out for new or different designs by a single person. Printed on a light-permeable material, images are crisp and bright with the even flood of light from the frame. Because the substrate is like a fabric, the art can be folded and stored for repeated use.
“The whole system disassembles very easily,” says Bryan Giese, Project Manager at Signalfire, “with a single tool, the whole system snaps together. For breaking down and shipping, the whole display fits in its own wheeled case.” The easily manageable case is intended for repeated shipping or transportation to and from locations.
Signalfire is the perfect provider for this illuminated signage system because of their creative design services and their expertise in displays of all sizes. To see more details, visit Signalfire on the web or receive more literature by calling (262) 725-4500. “We’ll be happy to quote the standard sizes within a business day,” says Giese, “or we can collaborate on developing a custom display based on your needs.”
At Signalfire, we’ve designed and developed a great deal of successful websites – some even award winning! But since a website’s layout, color scheme, and navigation get all the glory, we’ve found that other vital pieces of the web development puzzle, such as your site’s domain name, are often overlooked.
A mysterious fog seems to have settled around domain name registration, website hosting, and DNS. These concepts are crucial to your new website’s functionality, so we’d like to clear things up!
In response, we’ve put together a few answers to questions our clients have frequently asked, so you can feel confident moving forward with your next website project. Let’s take a look!
What is a domain name?
Let’s start with the basics. A domain name (or web address) is the address where your website can be found online.
A domain name is how your browser finds your website. Companies, known as domain registrars, allow you to register or reserve a domain name.
A few examples of common domain registrars include GoDaddy, Network Solutions, 1and1.com, or Register.com. Typically, these companies charge between $5 and $20 per year to maintain your domain name. You can renew your domain name for anywhere from one to 99 years!
It’s critical for your company to know where your domain name is registered. In some cases, the web developer who built your company’s first website may still have control of your website’s domain name.
If you want to find out where your website name is registered, you can perform a WHOIS lookup. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) maintains a contact database that shows the name of the company or person the domain name is registered with, as well as the domain registrar and the expiration date of the domain.
What’s the difference between my domain name and web hosting?
Having your domain name registered is like being listed in the white pages, but your website also needs a physical location, just as your business needs office space. Your website must be hosted on a server that is maintained by a website hosting company.
What if I forget to renew my domain name?
This can be a very complicated process, but it’s not hopeless. Don’t let this hold up your website planning. Give us a call, and we’ll help you through the process. If you have more questions on this, please use this quick reference.
What does DNS mean?
Now that you have a domain name and a website host, we need to connect the two. In order to do this, we use domain name servers (DNS). DNS are a series of entries that direct your email and website to the proper servers. They’re essentially the internet’s map connecting users to websites.
Without DNS, you would have to remember an IP address, such as 255.255.255.01, instead of a website name like www.example.com. DNS entries can also be used to validate services such as Google Analytics by proving that you are the owner of the domain.
The first step in setting up your DNS is configuring your name servers. You can use the default name servers provided by your domain registrar or you can point name servers at a server managed by your website hosting company. However, if you point your name servers at an external server, you will no longer be able to change your DNS settings.
Common Types of DNS Records:
- Address Mapping records (A) — The Record A specifies IP address (IPv4) for a given host. A records are used to convert domain names to corresponding IP addresses.
- IP Version 6 Address records (AAAA) — The record AAAA (Quad-A record) specifies IPv6 address for given host. It works the same way as the A record with the difference being the type of IP address it interacts with.
- Canonical Name records (CNAME) — The CNAME record specifies a domain name that has to be queried in order to resolve the original DNS query. Essentially, CNAME records are used for creating aliases of domain names. CNAME records are truly useful when you want to alias your domain to an external domain. In other cases, we can remove CNAME records and replace them with A records to decrease performance overhead.
- Mail exchanger record (MX) — The MX resource record specifies a mail exchange server for a DNS domain name. The information is used by Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) to route emails to proper hosts. Typically, there are more than one mail exchange server for a DNS domain and each of them have set priority.
- Name Server records (NS) — The NS record specifies an authoritative name server for given host.
- Text records (TXT) — The text record can hold arbitrary non-formatted text strings. Typically, the record is used by Sender Policy Framework (SPF) to prevent fake emails to appear to be sent by you.
Should I let my web developer handle my domain name?
Absolutely not! You need to have access to your domain, and beware of developers who resist handing control over to you – after all, it’s your website. It’s best to keep your domain registered in your name.
We’ve seen far too many situations where a former developer goes out of business, is uncooperative, or even passes away. This leaves you, as a business owner, in a real bind without many good options for reclaiming your domain.
At Signalfire, we always make a point to partner with our clients to clarify and ensure domain name ownership remains with the business owners. This is something to keep in mind, when planning for your next website.
Would you like to learn more?
If you’re still a bit foggy or have a question we didn’t cover in this article, feel free to give us a call at 262-725-4500 or send us an email.
We’re happy to connect, learn more about your business/organization, and provide creative marketing solutions for your unique challenges. Reach out to Signalfire today!
Small business owners, and those who work in the tourism and service industries, know the power of online reviews. While some negative reviews cast wild generalities over specific situations, they aren’t to be dismissed.
The opinions of complete strangers have an incredible impact on consumers. Understanding how these reviews and their corresponding platforms work is critical for businesses looking to maintain a positive public reputation.
A few questions we’re frequently asked are, “Can I remove bad reviews, or can I pay to have them removed?”
The short answer is no, but there’s more!
Unfortunately, there is no current method to remove negative reviews from Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, or the other major review platforms. This does not mean, however, that there’s nothing you can do about them.
What about “reputation management” companies, who claim to remove bad reviews?
At Signalfire, we’ve received many emails from so-called “Reputation Management” companies, and we can assure you that these should be filed away with the notes from a Nigerian princess needing to transfer all her family’s wealth to you. They’re simply a scam.
Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other top review sites hinge their credibility on delivering honest, untainted reviews. Some even go as far as to blacklist businesses that attempt to manipulate the system by writing false reviews or paying someone to boost reviews unfairly.
Yelp, for example, actually has a reporting form for solicitors promising to remove or manipulate reviews, which can be found here.
But this still begs the question…what can I do about bad reviews?
Storytime: A True Bad Review Example
Our owner, Matthew Olson, once took a short vacation with his family. His (then eight-year-old) son was developing into quite the foodie, particularly when it came to seafood.
Like any contemporary parent, Matthew whipped out his smartphone and began Googling great area restaurants that served seafood. His heart sank when he saw the only seafood place in town rated a measly 1.5 out of 5 stars.
Scanning reviews from Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, the outlook went from discouraging to downright disastrous. Overpriced. Poor quality. Bad service. These things formed a trifecta of terror for a family looking for a relaxing meal.
You can’t remove bad reviews, but you can manage them
Obviously, this should’ve been a major concern for the seafood restaurant…but where were they? The reviews were anywhere from two weeks to three years old. No one from the establishment had responded to the negative feedback, giving the impression that they simply didn’t care.
Don’t be reactive, be responsive
It’s important, as a business owner, to monitor and respond to online reviews – both good and bad – in order to connect with your customers and give context to their comments.
You will undoubtedly come across instances where reviewers launch a full-on assault on your business’s integrity. The comments, themselves, are out of your control, but you can control your response.
Avoid reacting defensively. Instead, apply the “customer is always right” mentality, and offer an honest apology. Bad reviews often result from customers who simply want their opinion to be heard. Show your customers you care they had a poor experience, and present an option to mend fences.
Examples of these options could be refunding money, offering a coupon toward future visits, or simply a promise to fix the issue internally. This is an opportunity to show customers you’re willing to take responsibility for mistakes and go the extra mile to avoid them in the future.
In the case of the seafood restaurant, Matthew would’ve dismissed the negative reviews had someone from the restaurant taken the time to comment. Even a simple, “we’re sorry, we’re trying to do better” would have turned his minivan right into the parking lot.
It pays to respond.
Ask bad reviewers questions
Some reviewers will report false information about your place of business. Most review websites do have a button that will flag the review as inappropriate, but the platforms take quite some time to act (if at all).
The best course of action is to try and respond in a way that makes the fabrication obvious. “Who was your server?” “Which room did you stay in?” “When was your appointment?”
By responding with a question, it proves that you’re paying attention to the accusations and would like more information in order to remedy the situation. This should, of course, be proceeded by an empathetic comment such as, “We’re sorry you didn’t enjoy your stay,” or “We’re very sorry you feel that way,” to avoid sounding abrasive.
Once you’ve spoken with a bad reviewer (and let’s say you’ve provided a solution they’re happy with), another important question to ask is, “Would you consider removing your review?” This is your only chance to have a bad review taken down, so don’t ask until you’re sure the reviewer is happy. You have to earn the ask.
Take a proactive approach to bad reviews
Again, it’s better to be proactive with your responses, rather than reactive. So if you know that bad reviews are part of owning a business, shouldn’t you have a plan to combat them?
One of the best ways to keep customers from coming across negative reviews is to simply bury them with significantly better ones!
Put together a plan to suggest customers leave online reviews, after every transaction or interaction. This will increase the number of customers who participate in the review process, resulting in more positive reviews.
Be sure to have your own processes in place to support great customer experiences, and the rest will take care of itself!
How Can Signalfire Help?
The Signalfire team has put together a series of helpful “tip sheets” to guide both your business decisions for online reputation management and provide an easy hand-out to give to customers wanting to write a review.
We are your creative marketing guides and outfitters. If you have additional questions or would like more information on online reputation management, please give us a call at 262-725-4500 or send us an email.
How Can I Learn More About Managing Reviews?
No one can guarantee bad reviews will disappear, but you can certainly impact the attitudes of those reading the reviews by acknowledging, thanking, and responding to reviews, especially the good ones!
We’ve compiled several links for additional reading, ordering them by review platform. Click Below!
Google Local (Google Reviews)
- Writing and Sharing a Review on Google
- How Can You “Move” A Google Review?
- How To Reply or Respond to Google Reviews
- Do Advertisers Get Preferential Treatment?
- A “Reputation Management” Company is Offering To Remove or Modify Reviews for Money?
- Does TripAdvisor Check for Fraudulent Reviews?
- What Are the Management Response Guidelines?
- What Are The Best Ways To Respond To Reviews?
This past month, the Signalfire team had several opportunities to attend local industry events, which provided chances to learn, support, and interact with current and potential clients.
This year’s Canoecopia event, the world’s largest paddlesports expo, was held March 10-12 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI. Hosted by Rutabaga Paddlesports, this outdoor enthusiast’s wonderland held over 250 exhibitors, over 150 speakers and presenters, and event-wide discounts.
Signalfire was able to send Digital Content Specialist, Ian Harris, to this year’s show, in search of great networking opportunities and to show support for a current client, Lake Geneva Canopy Tours.
“It was great to see the Canopy Tours booth packed with visitors, and I was impressed by the number of intriguing outdoor brands that were exhibiting,” Harris mentioned. “I also had the chance to speak with some passionate people about a variety of outdoor products and experiences. It was a fun day!”
It was Signalfire’s first year attending Canoecopia, and the experiences interacting with canoe and paddling companies, outdoor gear providers, and many others was highly rewarding.
Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism (WIGCOT)
Signalfire took part in this year’s Governor’s Conference on Tourism, which was held from March 12-14, 2017. Owner and President, Matthew Olson, along with Project Manager, Lisa Oren, represented Signalfire at the event.
Wisconsin tourism has been a crucial part of the state’s economy for many years, with a $19.3 billion impact in 2015. The annual WIGCOT event was designed to support all the great people in Wisconsin who live and breathe promoting our state’s destinations and attractions.
Hosted this year by Potawatomi Hotel and Casino, The Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism was spent meeting like-minded people, catching up with familiar faces, learning new skills, and sharing ideas.
“There are so many unique communities throughout the state,” Oren commented. “We are happy to continue our work with Sturgeon Bay, Fish Creek, Boscobel area, and Lake Geneva Canopy Tours, and we look forward to working with more destinations and attractions, in the future!”
Overall, Signalfire was able to gain valuable insight into Wisconsin’s tourism industry, making this year’s conference a brilliant success.
2017 PFMA Expo
Signalfire was able to attend the Plant Engineering & Maintenance Expo by PFMA, held on March 15-16 at Wisconsin State Fair Park in Milwaukee. Project Manager, Bryan Giese, and Owner, Matthew Olson, engaged with industry professionals and showed support for a current client, Balestrieri Environmental & Development.
With the recent addition of aerial imagery services, Balestrieri asked Signalfire to develop a plan to introduce their new service to the industry. In response, the Signalfire team created an integrated trade show campaign, revolving around a presentation video spoof of the 1980’s classic, “Top Gun.”
Balestrieri Project Manager and FAA certified sUAV pilot, Mike Ruenz, starred in the video and gave an interactive presentation on commercial drone use, at the expo.
In addition to the crowd-pleasing video, Signalfire created service specific fliers, a promotional “Top Drone” movie poster, environmental signage, and tradeshow giveaways to help Balestrieri’s booth draw interest and create presentation buzz.
“Being able to go to a tradeshow and show support for our clients is such a great way to build client relationships.” Giese said. “Seeing the crowd’s reaction to the video made the day complete.”
The Top Drone campaign proved successful, and we continue to find ways to make use of the versatile video project.
Stay tuned for more Signalfire Travel Logs coming up this year!
Ask yourself: When was the last time your business or organization updated the photography on your marketing materials? Has it been over a year? 5 years or longer?
Statistics show that marketing content with great visuals continue to be high on many brands’ priority lists. The Content Marketing Institute reports that 51% of B2B marketers prioritized creating visual content assets in 2016, and the percentage of B2C marketers was even higher.
What does this mean? A new trend is emerging. Top marketers are realizing it pays to invest in professional photography.
Ask a Photography Expert
We recently had the chance to catch up with Ryan Bensheimer, Owner of Ideal Impressions, a professional photography studio based out of Geneva National that specializes in wedding photography.
In Ideal Impressions’ 10 years of business, it’s been nominated one of Wisconsin’s Best Photographers for nine straight years.
Signalfire has partnered with Ryan on numerous client projects, so we thought we’d pick his brain as to why professional photography is so crucial to a positive brand perception.
Here is what he had to say…
Q & A: Ryan Bensheimer on Professional Imagery
Question: What makes photography an effective tool for refreshing brand perceptions?
Answer: “Photography is an indicator of something great – an indicator of success. Wherever something notable is happening, you’ll find a great photographer. People are simply tired of seeing ads that look like ads. They’re looking for something captivating – something exciting. Great photography creatively captures your audience’s attention and tells your brand story or marketing concept in a memorable way.”
Question: Why should regular photography updates be a priority?
Answer: “I believe we live in a genuine world. People love to see faces they recognize and can identify with. Using stock imagery within your website or social media posts can create a disconnect between you and your customers because the images aren’t relatable. Instead, businesses should aim to inspire their customers by showing them what goes on behind-the-scenes. Remind your customers how your business is making an impact in their world.”
Question: How often should a business/organization invest in fresh photography?
Answer: “It’s going to be a little different for every business, depending on the industry, community involvement, and budget, but I would suggest scheduling some form of photoshoot every month. The reason being that scheduling a regular visit helps establish consistency, which ensures that you’re able to find something to resonate with your audience.”
Question: How can a business/organization justify paying for photography?
Answer: “Businesses or organizations should view professional photography as an investment. I always suggest going with a yearly photography plan because it will often end up costing less than trying to pay per shoot. Plus, like I said before, you’ll have consistent imagery to integrate into your creative marketing strategy. This level of consistency makes it easier to plan your budget, as well.”
Question: What are the advantages of professional photography vs. simply using a smart phone?
Answer: “Brand Photography uses imagery to tell the story of your company. It explains the how and why of your business, visually, which appeals better to your audience. The reason professional photography does this better is because there is strategic planning, execution, and tricks professionals use to make it happen. And the better the imagery, the more credibility you build for your business.
Quality photography equals a quality company, in the eyes of customers. Most of the time, you only have a few minutes (or seconds) of an audience member’s attention to convince them your brand is worth their time. You just can’t get the same effect with amateur photography.”
Conclusion: Invest with Strategy for Real Results
As with any marketing effort, it should always be tied to strategy.
From planning to execution to results tracking, Signalfire can help your business or organization identify key strategies, develop a marketing plan, and execute your plan to success.
Professional photography is often a key piece of this puzzle. If you’re looking to refresh your bottom-line, let’s talk!
Give us a call at 262-725-4500 or shoot us an email to learn more about the services we offer, and how they can benefit your brand.
Does your business or organization have a website that takes too long to load? Do the images on your site take longer than the rest of the page? If so, your site is likely suffering from a slow webpage load speed, and a main contributor is the lack of image optimization.
Optimizing images for the web has become an integral part of web development and maintenance, since search engines prefer faster page load speeds when ranking websites. The slower your site performs, the more likely it is that users will leave and seek out a competitor.
For obvious reasons, that’s not what you want. But don’t worry, we’ve come up with 4 easy-to-follow steps for optimizing images to improve your SEO and enable your website to load faster.
Step 1: Start with High Resolution Imagery
In order to effectively communicate your product/service (or showcase your employees) to your target audience, you’ll need quality, professional imagery.
In today’s digital world, it’s vital to visually tell the story of your brand. This includes your logo, photography, or other graphic design elements.
High Resolution Imagery refers to the dimensions of these visual elements. These dimensions are measured in pixels, so the higher the number of pixels, the higher the image resolution.
Low-res images appear fuzzy and “pixelated,” which can make your website appear unprofessional and reflect poorly on your business. High-res is definitely your best bet.
Step 2: Resize Images to Proper Dimensions
Now that you have high-res images, you’ll need to resize them, so they’ll fit nicely within your website’s theme. Start by ensuring your images are saved as a .png or .jpg file format.
These file formats are best for resizing or reducing for web and retain their quality better than other formats.
Most website themes include suggested image sizes for the graphic elements of the web pages. Let’s say, for example, your theme suggests a blog post image should be 600 x 400 pixels (px). How would you get a 2000 x 1333px image down to the suggested dimensions?
One of the best programs for manipulating image dimensions is Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop allows you to quickly resize images, and export the file in PNG or JPG format.
Step 3: Reduce File Size for the Web
Once your images are down to the correct dimensions, you’ll still need to reduce the file size for the web. The larger the file size, the longer it takes the image to load on your web page, and it slows down.
In order to combat this, you’ll want to shoot for a file size of 80-120 Kilobytes(KB). Files in this range will retain their quality appearance and avoid becoming a drag on your website.
You can use Photoshop to reduce file size, as well, or if you’re in need of a more cost-effective option, we suggest an online tool such as Kraken Image Optimizer.
Step 4: Include Alt-text and Title-text
When uploading your photos to a blog post or web page, a great SEO tip is to include Alt-text and Title-text.
These two tactics are slightly different, but equally important for SEO. Alt-text describes the words that appear if, for some reason, your images aren’t compatible or are disabled within a web browser. Title-text, on the other hand, is simply advisory information for search engines to find.
Including alt-text and title-text gives search engines more page ranking fuel. Be sure to use page-specific keywords to naturally describe the image it’s attached to. This will ensure your images are fully optimized for the web.
Using these four steps, the imagery on your website will no longer put a damper on your page load speed and overall SEO rankings.
As long as you use high-res imagery, of the right dimension and file size, and include alt-text and title-text, you’ll be able to successfully identify a roadblock to proper SEO and remove it.
Feel free to give us a call at 262-725-4500 or send us an email for more information.
Signalfire, an award-winning marketing agency, proudly announces the Fish Creek Civic Association’s new website is now live!
Fish Creek’s former website had become outdated and cumbersome, making it difficult to effectively promote area businesses and events.
Signalfire, with the aid of Fish Creek’s marketing and website committees, developed the new, mobile-responsive site to meet the needs of members and visitors alike.
“When Fish Creek decided it was time to upgrade to a more user-friendly, fresh looking website, Signalfire’s previous work, and our positive past working experience, made them a clear leader in our decision making process,” Marketing and Events Coordinator Jackie Campbell said.
“It was crucial for the new design to create a superior mobile user experience,” said Signalfire Project Manager Lisa Oren, “since 45 percent of connected travelers use their smart phones to book travel activities pre-trip.”
The team at Signalfire is passionate about creating websites that provide visitors all the information they need to plan a trip or decide what to do and where to go once they arrive.
The Fish Creek site allows visitors to easily search for fun events and activities on their mobile devices. Member businesses may also include photos and descriptions as well as web and social links. There is also a feature which places map pins for members’ addresses and links them directly to mobile navigation.
So far, the mobile-responsive design has received a positive response from users and members, both of which will benefit from the new Fish Creek site.
“Fish Creek is a vibrant community, and we really enjoyed partnering with them to enhance their online presence,” Oren said.
For businesses and non-profit organizations, this iconic quote from the 1989 film Field of Dreams conjures images of customers or donors flocking towards you intent on giving you money.
“They won’t know why,” says the movie, but it implies that customers will simply gravitate to you because of this accomplishment. Whether that goal is launching a new website, starting a new marketing campaign, or rebranding, customers should be flocking to you. Shouldn’t they?
There are plenty of questions as to why this iconic misnomer fails, but we’re going to settle for three.
- How do consumers know you’ve built something?
- Why make the community come to you? You should be there with the community.
- Did good data help you build it or are you “trusting your gut”?
How Do Customers Know You’ve Built Something?
Short of Silicon Valley secret startups or VC-backed apps designed to disrupt, the whole idea of a business doing anything in “stealth mode” or in secret is a bit ridiculous. Even when the project is complete, do you want to start at square one? Nope.
Let’s use the example for a new e-commerce website. You’ve spent the better part of six months (likely more) on design and development. Tens of thousands of dollars. All the testing. All the organizing. You’re in the theater, the curtain rises, your investment is live and center stage. Except there is one problem—no one is in the audience. No one knew to come.
Here are some tips on raising awareness in your community about your project, in this case, your new website.
- Share the story of the new website; why you are building it, what features were needed, etc.
- Use your existing website to announce the new one with blog updates and graphics.
- Send special invites out via email blast — maybe even give them an incentive for first purchases.
- Share blog posts, design screen shots, and other new features on social media.
Where Is the Community? Build It There.
What makes the “they will come” portion of the quote even more difficult is the fact that your business or organization’s community is already located somewhere.
In the movie, you see a line of headlights stretching to the horizon. Flocking towards the field, drawn by some unknown force.
Don’t expect your community to flock to you. Go to them.
From injection molded motion transfer parts and stainless steel tank trailers to posh waterfront resorts and vacation destinations — your industry or organization has an interested community.
Does your community congregate at trade shows? Is there a popular trade magazine either in print or online? Does LinkedIn have a group discussion? Does the community use popular #Hashtags?
The point is, make sure you go to your community. Don’t try to make them come to you.
Did Good Data or Your “Gut” Decide?
If you build it. Then they will come. This is a classic IFTTT statement. While IFTTT (IF This Then That) is primarily a coding concept, the same principle applies to marketing logic.
The age of guessing is done. The dangers of habitual marketing with a mindset of, “This is how we’ve always done it,” are well documented.
Simply choosing a marketing scheme based on your “gut” or your intuition is the equivalent of marketing blindfolded.
Facebook and other social media channels support detailed reporting. Email distribution platforms deliver critical open and click-thru rates.
Current marketers should be swimming in data.
Being awash in data also means you need to separate the signal from the noise. Understand the data and use it to formulate actionable business intelligence. Outline your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and understand what data from each tells you.
When the time comes to make a marketing decision, the decision needs to be backed by data and not “gut” feelings.
Conclusion: My Community Showed Me What to Build. Data Showed Me How.
If you build it, they will come. The phrase sounds great, but like most marketing ideas it represents the tip of the iceberg.
If your business or organization is about to “build it,” let’s talk about some ideas on how to gather community insight and evaluate predictive data.
Engage Your Community
Regardless of your industry, there is a community of people interested in talking about it. From trade shows, community groups, or online forums, find out where they’re talking and join the conversation.
- Ask the influencers. While sounding overly simple, identifying your industry’s online community leaders to get insight or feedback can be a huge help.
- For broader input, don’t be afraid to create a survey. Exchange opinions for something of value. Coffee gift cards, product samples, or other branded rewards can go a long way.
- Get social. From asking your Facebook community to open questions in a LinkedIn Group, social media is meant for sharing. Encourage your community to share their insights.
There is a mountain of data available. Tap into it. However, be smart about the weight you assign each data point and assign a goal each metric is meant to measure.
- Learn to love data. Dive into your Google Analytics, create and evaluate funnels, find the beauty of Search Console, and always compare apples to apples.
- Trust, but Verify. Google is great, but not the only provider of data. Use other evaluation tools to like Piwik or Kissmetrics. Other great data sources are Pingdom and W3Counter.
- Visualize Your Data. One of the most helpful insights to online behavior is tracking. We recommend services like Mouseflow or Hotjar to get a highly visual insight into your user experience. Click maps, experience sampling, and surveying all help to give a crisper image.
By staying connected to your community, listening to your customers, and remaining in tune with your data you won’t say: If you build it, they will come. You’ll say: Our community is looking for it, they’re already there.
It’s true that almost everything we interact with on a daily basis uses some form of fuel. Our cars need gasoline, our phones need battery life, and our bodies need nutrients, in order to perform well.
So, when it comes to our companies’ marketing efforts, why would it be any different? Truth be told, it’s not.
But before we dive into the why and how, let’s first examine the what of the issue.
What is Marketing Fuel?
The best answer to this question is simple: Content.
In an age where media has become more and more personalized, the old ways of pushing marketing messages out to your target audience are all but over. We now have more ways than ever to avoid advertisements on traditional media.
For an explanation, let’s turn to TV and Radio. Users no longer flip to a channel/station and enjoy whatever happens to be playing. They now have personalized DVR viewing and satellite radio stations.
Because of this, our biggest challenge as marketers is to create content for our intended audience without sounding pushy or showing up where we aren’t welcome.
The most effective way to achieve this goal is to plan ahead.
Four Advantages to Planning Content
1) Be proactive, not reactive
Not only is this a great way to control the direction of your marketing efforts, but it also gives you the ability to manage expectations and stay a step ahead of your competitors.
2) Come up with better, more creative ideas
Our first ideas are rarely the best. Planning ahead allows time for new, groundbreaking ones to rise to the surface.
3) Allow time for updates and improvements
Just like with idea generation, it takes time to make updates and improvements to even the best content. It is, however, crucial to utilize this time to enable your content to reach its full potential.
4) See improved performance
According to Content Marketing Institute, “While content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing, it generates more than 3x as many leads.” Why would you want to pay more for less?
How to Plan Content Successfully
Now that we’ve discussed content marketing and the advantages to planning ahead, let’s take a look at some best practices for how to plan content effectively.
A vital piece of the puzzle that’s easily overlooked is evaluating how your business or organization is perceived in the marketplace. Developing and implementing your brand principles into your marketing efforts will help produce consistent, targeted results.
Once you know your brand inside and out, you can begin brainstorming content topics to support your marketing goals. Consider some questions your clients are asking. This may help identify subjects of emphasis.
Creating a Content Calendar
A content/editorial calendar is a tool used to organize your list of topics, curated articles, and original content over a set period of time.
This is the single, most beneficial tool for content planning and development. By creating a content calendar, you’ll be able to strategically match your strongest content to the time of year it will be most relevant to your clients and most effective for your goals.
How frequently you create and post content depends on several factors including your budget, sales cycle, and industry need. It can be tricky, but the results will be well worth the effort.
Once your content calendar is put together, the next step is to implement it. In order to make content worth your investment, it should be used throughout a variety of marketing pieces within your campaigns.
The use of consistent messaging and imaging across multiple media types is called content integration.
Maintaining consistency throughout your marketing efforts will fuel brand recognition and reinforce messaging. In turn, this will increase your conversion rate and boost sales performance.
Fuel Your Marketing with a Guide
No matter your industry, planning your marketing messages ahead of time with a content calendar will improve your overall marketing efficiency.
At Signalfire, we’d like to help guide your business/organization to achieve your goals.
Our proven methods of content development, planning, and implementation can help your marketing campaigns become more profitable.
If you’d like to speak with us in more detail, please feel free to give us a call: 262-725-4500 or reach out via email.
This year’s Big Game was, of course, one for the record books.
Although extremely popular among football fans, America’s most watched game has also historically been the setting for some of the most iconic and effective TV commercials of all time.
Bearing all of this in mind, our office was looking forward to marketers pushing all of our emotional buttons to make us laugh, cry, and also…buy!
But when the Big Game arrived this year, we felt the advertisements fell fairly flat.
Compared to the glorious past filled with “Mean” Joe Green, Terry Tate: Office Linebacker, and “Where’s the Beef?” – this year’s crop simply didn’t stack up.
Despite the lack of transcendent ads, we still came up with a few that strongly resonated with us, as audience members. Here’s #TeamSignalfire’s Top 3:
1) “Go Further” – Ford
Our first favorite was Ford’s “Go Further” commercial. The way the scenes bounced around showing the progress of each person (or animal’s) “stuckness” was frustratingly funny. It was relatable to us, as we all had the “We’ve been there” feeling.
#TeamSignalfire agreed that the big winners in this year’s ads seemed to be the car manufacturers. Ford was able to connect well to their audience, while successfully launching their vision for the future of their brand.
Well done, Ford. “Go Further” also earned itself the top choice of Project Manager, Lisa Oren.
2) “Born the Hard Way” – Budweiser
Our team felt this ad really stood out.
With several of us in the office being lovers of history, anytime a well-written story showcasing a struggle to succeed comes across the screen, there’s a good chance we’ll like it.
The largest pull factors of “Born the Hard Way” were the quality, the depth of story, and just the overall grittiness of the ad.
Of course, there is some debate over how factual it really is, but the same could be said of any Hollywood-made historical piece.
Overall, nice job, Budweiser. You earned the top choice of Project Manager, Bryan Giese.
3) “Not So Pee Wee Football,” – Buick
An over-arching theme this year was quasi-political nature of many of the ads. With “No So Pee Wee Football,” the light-heartedness called us back to simpler times.
A few of us having experience with coaching, we could humorously relate to the situational comedy in the ad.
Buick still has a long way to go to appeal to Gen X’ers who still see the brand as Grandma and Grandpa’s vehicle of choice. However, the new designs and placement into the ever-familiar youth sports arena helped appeal their case.
Of course, the deal was sealed with Miranda Kerr. “Not So Pee Wee Football” earned the top choice of Owner and President, Matthew Olson.
Honorable Mention) “#AvoSecrets” – Avocados from Mexico
While the ad was clever and funny (a bit of a stretch with the secret society thing), it was the jingle that resonated the most.
Matthew’s 11 and 9-year-old boys spent the rest of the night repeating the jingle over and over. And over. And over.
Sometimes the catchiest jingle wins the day. It’s because of this that #TeamSignalfire decided to dub “#AvoSecrets” as our choice for honorable mention.
Although this year’s ads weren’t as potent as in years past, we’ll be interested to see how this impacts brands’ ad placement in 2018.
Will marketers continue to pay top dollar for the largest viewing audience of the year, or will more customized viewing habits begin to take their toll on a time honored tradition?
Only time will tell.
Learn more about #TeamSignalfire, and visit Our Team page.
Every New Year promises a renewed passion for self-improvement. The same goes for marketing your business.
2016 proved to be a telling year on many different marketing fronts. From entertainment viewing patterns, such as binge watching, to the “brick and mobile” consumer trend — 2017 shows no signs of being a stabilizing year.
So which trends should you watch, and which of them will impact your business or organization? We’ve found the three most important for the upcoming year.
1) Embrace Mobile __________
Insert your marketing word of choice in the blank. 2014 and 2015 were tipping point years, but 2016 solidified the presence of mobile. Mobile what? Mobile everything in 2017.
Mobile Video Skyrocketing
Google points out mobile YouTube video touts more primetime viewers than all of broadcast and cable combined. Users are turning to their small screens for everything from entertainment to how-to videos.
How does this translate to B2B or B2C? 68% of YouTube users consulted YouTube prior to making a purchase decision. (source)
Your best bet?
More short (45 seconds or less), topic-driven videos, and avoid long (over 2 minute), general videos.
Keep it short, on topic, and put someone in front of the camera versus voiceover.
Mobile isn’t just involved in pre-purchase decisions anymore. It rules the in-purchase decision process, as well.
Strolling through stores this past holiday season, you could see shoppers engaging with mobile devices.
They aren’t just texting or scrolling Facebook, either. They’re checking competitor prices, looking for coupons or in-store loyalty specials, reading peer reviews, – even ordering online versus grabbing off the shelf!
Your best bet?
Embrace “brick and mobile” shoppers. Provide Wi-Fi for a great mobile shopping experience. Make it easy to shop, donate, or investigate.
Mobile First Content
Mobile-friendly gave way to mobile responsiveness. Mobile responsiveness gave way to mobile first. Today, it’s just mobile.
The unquenchable thirst for mobile information will not stop in 2017. Over 75% of searches are done at the office or in the home, where a computer is within a few feet. (source)
Search engines are now answer engines. Users ask their mobile devices questions instead of plugging keywords, so your website needs to answer those questions to drive great results.
Your best bet?
Make sure your web content displays well on mobile devices. Many websites built with a content management system have pre-developed templates that are mobile responsive.
To find out if your website passes Google’s test, drop Signalfire a line. We can assess your current site and offer improvements.
2) Break into Social Media Video
Mobile video is a monumental topic, but how video is evolving between different social media platforms is a great focal point.
2016 saw every social media platform develop a native video player. This means Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many others now have in-app videos that are uploaded and handled directly by each platform.
Native video also means the different social platforms prefer their own video front and center, so don’t be surprised if your YouTube link gets poor results.
Plus, different social platforms have different attention spans. Know your platform and the community it’s connecting with to decide video length.
Your best bet?
Develop a social media plan for next year, including social video in a significant role.
Learn to use Facebook Live, Periscope, or other platforms’ video feeds for real-time happenings. Stay aware of live video opportunities to engage your online audience.
If you’re not sure which social media platforms are right for your business or need help developing a plan for social video, Signalfire can help.
3) Map Your Customers’ “I Want To” Moments
There’s never been a better description of search engine users than Google’s 2016 “I Want To…” research study.
Google describes current users’ interactions with the web as a series of “I want to” events called micro-moments.
Consumers’ behavior and web use intersect with mobile across a series of micro-moments. Understanding this behavior and how it applies to your B2B or B2C strategy can give you a significant edge over your competitors.
Google provides a wealth of information, case studies, and graphics associated with the micro-moments discussion. However, reading and understanding is just the first step.
Every business has a buying cycle (process, funnel, etc.) and every organization has a donation cycle. Pinpointing and planning a strategy specific for your business must play a factor in your 2017 marketing efforts.
Your best bet?
On paper or on a whiteboard, map out your own company’s micro-moments aka “I want to…” moments, and understand how mobile impacts your own sales efforts
Once you know (or even if you don’t) your critical brand touchpoints, Signalfire can help formulate and implement a plan for your unique business.
Your New Year’s Marketing Resolution
2017 promises to be an incredible year for both B2B and B2C businesses.
Being available and connecting with your customers (especially on mobile) must be a priority for your business or organization. If you’d like to know more or need help making any of the above happen — give Signalfire a call.
We’ll discuss how to make 2017 your marketing success story.
What are we most resistant to as human beings? You might say a trip to the dentist or visiting your in-laws, but most of us would agree that we’re most resistant to change. This spills over to all aspects of our lives – including our businesses, brands, and websites.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking a good website should never have to change. The unfortunate reality of our day is that things quickly become obsolete.
Now, we aren’t suggesting you throw out your company values or unique selling points. We’re focusing more specifically on your website.
When was your website designed?
This is the easiest bit of oversight for many businesses. Let’s say you are a medium-sized manufacturer, and your website was designed in 2007.
You think: 2007? That wasn’t so long ago. Think again.
In 2007, the top-selling mobile phone looked something like this.
Technology has progressed exponentially since that time.
Even if you knew everything there was to know about search engines in 2007, new trends are always arriving. Google is constantly tweaking how they rank websites.
Although we’re happy to help you redesign an old site, we’d like to share a few basic tips for improving your SEO. Follow these do-it-yourself steps for great landing pages and blog posts.
Optimize for user experience
In the old days, it was all about cramming as many keywords within your pages as possible. Now, optimizing for the user is the most effective strategy.
Depending on your industry or business model, your user experience and web strategy will be different.
If you’re a manufacturing company selling steel to large manufacturers, your user experience will look very different than a tourism council building awareness of local hotspots.
Google values user experience
It’s more important than ever for a visitor to your site to easily navigate your pages and find the content they’re looking for.
Your site needs a straightforward home page with well-organized tabs and strong, visual content to keep visitors engaged.
Optimizing your site’s user experience will reduce bounce rates and improve your search engine rankings.
How to spot areas to improve user experience
The easiest way to identify roadblocks within your website is to ask your clients. Find a customer you trust and ask them their honest opinion of what they’d like to see changed.
This may not represent your whole client base, but it will help you understand what’s important to your clients.
Make sure your website is mobile-responsive
A few years back, Google decided to penalize websites that were non-responsive to mobile screens. This gave privilege to sites with better user experiences.
For non-responsive sites, this hurts. It could be seriously limiting your online visibility, restricting access to potential customers.
How to fix it?
If your website is 4-5 years old, your best bet is to redesign it. It’s often cheaper to develop a new, mobile-responsive website than to try and adapt an outdated one.
Additional reading: Madison Chiropractic Group Launches Mobile-Responsive Website
Update your content regularly
This SEO tip is commonly overlooked but has become increasingly vital to search engine success. This effective strategy for the web called content marketing.
We recently wrote a piece on why your website needs unique content marketing, so we won’t go into great detail here, but it’s important to remember is that search engines are looking for website activity as a ranking factor.
The more active the pages, through adding content consistently, the better you’ll rank on Google. Consider adding a blog or keeping names, dates, addresses, and contact info as current as possible.
Include internal and external links
The art of backlinks is a tricky one because you’d prefer to keep visitors on your site, rather than sending them for information elsewhere.
If done right, however, links on your web pages improve your site’s user experience in Google’s eyes.
When to link internally
Internal links are used to redirect a visitor from the page they are viewing to another on your site.
This can be a call-to-action link to your contact page or a redirect to information located on another page to streamline navigation and improve user experience.
When to link externally
Adding external links to your web content works best if the link is to a high-traffic website.
A good starting point is to link industry keywords that may be difficult to define to their Wikipedia definitions.
Wikipedia is a high-traffic site that won’t direct too much attention away from your own, as visitors are likely to return to your site after checking the word’s definition.
Once you feel comfortable with external links, experiment with industry-specific sites – just be very selective.
Include quality images with title and alt-text
Quality imagery doesn’t directly improve your search rankings, but it should still be a priority for your website.
Including visual content on your pages keeps users engaged and less likely to leave. This will increase the average time spent on your site, which improves your search rankings.
When uploading images, optimize them by adding alt-text and title text. Use a relevant keyword that describes what the image depicts.
When will I see results?
SEO results require patience. You may not see any large leaps in the numbers for a few months, especially if you don’t have a redesigned site.
Keep in mind that improving your search rankings is an ongoing commitment – especially in today’s mobile climate – to draw customers to your online storefront.
For more tips like these, subscribe to our email list up in the right sidebar.
If you’re considering a website redesign, give us a call at 262-725-4500 or drop us a line.
The National Bank of Waupun (NBW) contacted Signalfire in 2016 to assist in their marketing efforts for the current year and beyond.
The former NBW logo and branding had been in place for many years and was in need of an update. NBW was seeking a fresh, new look, along with a website and coordinated marketing materials to launch their refreshed brand.
The major challenge of this rebranding effort for Signalfire was keeping current customers informed that the local bank was changing its look, but not its ownership group.
Rebranding for Modern Solutions
Initially, Signalfire presented three different logo concepts to the board of directors. After a series of thorough discussions and revisions, NBW and Signalfire agreed to move forward with a fresh, sleek logo.
The updated design incorporated a new color pallet, while maintaining the existing shade of red.
NBW’s new logo demonstrates the bank’s ability to be modern, yet celebrates the three centuries of business they have enjoyed.
Updating Marketing Materials and Brand Awareness
With a new logo design agreed upon, Signalfire worked with NBW to create new stationary and branding materials. Updated business cards, envelope designs, letterhead, and brochures were then laid out to integrate the new logo concept.
NBW utilized print ads with a consistent feel to help promote the new look and placed billboard displays in high traffic areas surrounding the banks location. These billboards were used to further emphasize NBW’s great, new logo and maintained the stability of a great local bank.
Radio ads were also written and recorded, helping to further inform current and potential customers of the updated brand.
Redesigning a Website for Online Banking
In tandem with rolling out a new logo, Signalfire redesigned the NBW website. The updated site was created with the best user experience practices in mind.
Large slider images were used to promote the many services offered, and easy to find log-in areas were placed on the homepage for customers to utilize their online banking options.
Also included was user-friendly navigation to more naturally help users determine their personal or business banking solutions.
Ongoing Marketing Solutions
As the partnership between NBW and Signalfire has grown, preliminary work on the creation of an ad campaign for the coming year has been initiated.
After researching regional and national trademarks as well as other usage restrictions, Signalfire vetted the “your solutions bank” campaign tagline for NBW.
The goal of this tagline is to create a brand image that will differentiate NBW from other banks, and – so far – it has been met with a very positive response.
Remember two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun? McDonalds taught us, early on in life, that something as simple as special sauce could catapult a brand ahead of its competitors.
We understand that businesses have to differentiate themselves from others in their industry. And although individual companies may seem similar on the surface, each has something unique to offer – a special sauce, if you will.
This begs the question: Do you know what makes your brand different, better, or more enticing than your competitors’ brands? Or better yet: Are you effectively conveying it to your target audience within your digital content?
Google craves great content.
Picture this. Your brand is a Big Mac, and your content is all the juicy, delicious, flavorful ingredients that go into it. Add some unique selling points (aka special sauce) and you have some powerful pull factors to drive customer engagement and search engine performance.
Search engines look over the words, the photos – the meat of your website. They scan your content searching for the best, most relevant answers to the many questions people search for each and every day. How your content marketing answers those questions will land you either higher or lower on Google’s results pages.
In order to rank higher than your competitors, you’ll need to reveal some of your special sauce. No, this doesn’t mean you have to give away the proprietary information that makes your company different. What it does mean is that you should be placing new content on your website on a regular basis.
What goes on your burger?
Adding unique content can come in a variety of forms, and deciding the types content to create depends on your own, unique selling points.
Are you a non-profit looking to add a personal touch to your organization? You could add employee bio pages to showcase your talented team members. Are you a large manufacturing corporation launching a new product line? Highlight its main features and advantages in a blog post or news release.
Updating your site with fresh content on a weekly, monthly, even quarterly basis (depending on your industry) helps search engines find you, distinguishing your brand in front of potential customers. By tailoring your content toward the most searched phrases in your industry, you’re actually feeding Google the types of food it desires.
Sounds great! But, who has time for this?
If you’re thinking, “I have no clue where to start, and I don’t have any extra time to dedicate to content generation,” you’re not alone. Like many of us, the staff in your office may already be feeling the pressure to get their work completed on time.
So, how do companies create effective web content?
Traditional solutions would be giving the responsibility to a current employee or hiring a new one. But if you’re a small business, it may be difficult to justify hiring an additional worker to focus on website and social media updates. Can I afford to pay them, and where would they sit?
On the other hand, keeping it in-house could overload a current team member, bringing down their quality of work – or morale. Luckily, there is a third option.
We’ll work alongside you to create an effective content marketing plan, helping your website perform the way you need it to and highlighting the special sauce of your brand.
Pay a professional to do it.
Signalfire can help. We’re available to sit down with you on a regular basis and learn more about your business and industry. Our digital content specialists have the tools to improve your SEO (search engine optimization) and help you stand out among your competitors.
We’ll work alongside you to create an effective content marketing plan, helping your website perform the way you need it to and highlighting the special sauce of your brand.
Why not give us a shot? Find out how Signalfire can help grow your business by reaching out via email or phone at 262-725-4500.
No matter which way you voted in yesterday’s U.S. Presidential election you were concerned with how everyone else was voting. Like you, I wanted to know what polls were still open, where the Electoral College tally fell, and granular vote return details about other battleground states. I had an unquenchable thirst for data. I wanted all of the data in my hands and in real time.
Whether it started with my love for Google Analytics, a 24-hour cable news cycle, or the nature of the web in general, I have become a fiend for finding the “purest” data and interpreting it myself. I don’t like the talking heads on the news stations. I obviously cannot trust a poll—not even from FiveThirtyEight.com or RealClearPolitics.com it would seem. Where could I get reliable data that wasn’t tainted by Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC?
The New York Times delivered. They understood two critical words: DATA. VISUALIZATION. Their election night portion of their website was more than a phenomenal display of data, but the user design created an environment where the tidal wave of numbers made sense to an Excel-impaired creative like me.
Storytelling Worked For Visualizing Election Data
From metered dials and county-level maps to precinct reports and probability percentage of a specific outcome was both addictive and intoxicating. In short—the data told a story. It was a story that captivated me and was continually being refreshed.
Why Does Data Visualization Matter?
A professional colleague and phenomenal technical communicator once impressed on me the difference between data and information. Data is the raw material. Information is the finished product. Data visualization is important because it lays out the raw materials in an effective fashion allowing you to develop your own finished product. The faster and easier you arrive at the finished product or conclusion the more valuable the design.
The New York Times has a great history of recognizing great design. I believe this risk-taking by developing a great user experience for their data paid off. From being used by cable news stations to being my second (primary, really) screen during the returns demonstrates that being a data source can be even more critical than being an information source.
Conclusion— Be a Data Storyteller
I believe the New York Times just set a high bar for election data visualization. However, data is used by so many industries in countless ways. Look at your own business. How could your data tell a story? Not all data needs to flow in real time, maybe it is a bit more static. Whether it comes as an infographic, a dashboard, or an interactive app, make sure your data visualization is telling a story your community would like to engage.
Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are now followed by Giving Tuesday, a day dedicated to charitable giving. Made popular by social media, this philanthropic effort is gaining wide popularity and participation by businesses and non-profit organizations alike. For 2016, Giving Tuesday falls on November 29th. Read on to learn how non-profits and businesses can get involved.
What Is Giving Tuesday?
In 2012, New York’s 92nd Street Y, a Jewish cultural and community organization, partnered with the United Nations Foundation to begin Giving Tuesday as a global day of giving. Three years later the day is growing in popularity and becoming more recognizable. As the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving approaches there are ways to get involved.
Signalfire is pleased to announce the addition of Mr. Ian Harris as
Digital Content Specialist.
This new position will be in charge of strategic content planning, content development, and writing online content. Duties will include managing social media platforms, writing company blogs, developing website content, and implementing email marketing campaigns for clients in a variety of industries.
“It is the Digital Content Specialist’s responsibility to develop great lines of communication with clients,” says Harris. “I’ll strive to share each brand’s unique story and tell it through a variety of digital channels.”
Ian graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism with an Advertising emphasis. He comes with experience as a Marketing Assistant in the construction and service industry. Previously he consulted for a small music company helping to enhance and build its digital brand through blog writing, social media management, and email campaigns.
“Ian is passionate about helping businesses achieve their marketing goals,” says Matthew Olson, founder and owner of Signalfire. “His belief that ‘every brand has a story worth sharing’ perfectly fits Signalfire’s client-driven culture.”
To learn more about Ian or the rest of Signalfire’s team, visit our team page. If you’re looking to develop some fantastic web content for blogs, social media, or most any other outlet—ask for a quote.
Bryan Giese, Project Manager at Signalfire, will be a volunteer escort for a Korean War veteran on the September 17th Stars and Stripes Honor Flight to Washington DC. Volunteers who escort Stars and Stripes Honor Flight veterans, also called Guardians, go through a stringent process and are required to cover their own expenses—including air fare.
“I applied to be a Guardian three years ago,” says Signalfire’s Giese, “at the time, I doubted the chance would come.”
All of that changed over the summer when Giese received a voicemail from Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. (more…)
Madison-based LSM Chiropractic coordinated with Badger Group of Fort Atkinson and Signalfire of Delavan to launch an award-winning, mobile responsive website. Launched in Spring 2016, LSM Chiropractic’s new website is easier for visitors to navigate, provides more options for potential patients, and mobile-specific features helpful for users driving to or making an appointment.
“The user experience is critical,” says Sarah Lobdell, Project Manager at Signalfire, the Delavan-based digital agency who designed and constructed the website, “A great mobile experience was LSM’s priority.”
10 Things Your Marketing Outfitters Want You to Know Before Developing a Great Website
1.) Websites Are Born
Successful websites are born. Websites need care, attention, and a steady diet of content to make it on the web. We strongly advise against building a website and just letting it sit.
2.) Build Your Website Right, The First Time
No half-baked plans or development shortcuts with Signalfire. It might take us a bit longer and our budget might be a bit higher, but we build websites for the long haul.
3.) The Cost to Develop A Website Is More Than Programming
Developing a website is more than programming costs. There are four main segments in planning your website budget. Domain name, hosting, development, and maintenance. Read about them here.
4.) Content is Everything
Great website content powers successful websites. Clients are responsible for writing the content. If you need help writing content, we can help. While you know your business best our writers can sit with you to create fantastic written content.
5.) The Power of Photography
Impactful websites also need stunning photography. If you don’t have photography, we can recommend some great photographers. Stock photos will work in a pinch. Don’t just pull images from Google Image Search. You will get a lovely cease and desist letter from the image owner or a bill from the photographer. Yes, they win in court.
6.) SEO Is Not a One-Time Thing
Being successful with search engines is a priority for every website owner. Good search performance takes time, a lot of content, and keeping your website up to date. Nothing happens overnight.
7.) Live and Die By Metrics
Learn to love data. Tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console will give you in-depth insight into the customers coming to your website. This is where the real search engine performance happens.
8.) Your Computer Versus My Computer
No two web browsers are alike which means your website will display slightly differently across different browsers and operating systems. From the wide variety of devices to the even wider variety of user options, understanding that few users will see the website exactly the same way is important.
9.) Murphy’s Law
When you have a website, stuff happens. Hosting will go down. Your website might get hacked. You will lose your password. Please stay calm. It will happen to everyone at some point. Signalfire can help address stuff when it happens.
10.) Even Websites Have a Shelf Life
A website will be ready for a redesign in about two (2) to three (3) years. In about that much time, enough will have changes for mobile devices, browsers, and user behavior that a redesign will make sense. Plan for it by making a list of websites you like and websites you don’t. Assemble a list of features and functions that might become crucial to your marketing efforts. Most importantly — never stop updating your website.
Looking for more help to get ready for your website development? We’ve created several worksheets to help. Otherwise, request a quote from Signalfire.
Small Business Website Development Worksheet
E-Commerce Project Worksheet
Building a Website Involves More Than Just Development
When planning website development, don’t overlook the details that fall outside traditional website development costs.
There are a lot of considerations when building a website. Most small businesses and non-profits immediately look to the programming and design as the only elements that impact budget. There are additional considerations that can have a huge impact on the development process. Considering details such as choosing a domain name or selecting the right maintenance plan can give you a more realistic outlook for budgeting.
Signalfire, a Delavan-based branding and digital agency, announced the new tourism website for Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center (www.sturgeonbay.net) in Door County and the website for Madison-based Chiropractic group LSM Chiropractic (www.lsmchiro.com) have both received Graphic Design USA’s 2016 American Web Design Award.
Graphic Design USA’s annual American Web Design Award received over 1,200 entries in 2016. Winners were selected based on design, user experience quality, and quality of web development.
“We’re honored to receive recognition,” says Signalfire’s owner Matthew Olson, “our team of designers and developers worked hard to make both websites a real success. This award recognizes their creativity, expertise, and passion.”
“The Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center website needed to deliver an incredible user experience,” says Lisa Oren, Signalfire’s project manager for tourism-related clients. “From our initial creative designs to the details of the customized business membership experience—the website has been an incredible example of what Signalfire can do.”
“Signalfire has been our marketing partner since 2007,” says Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center’s Executive Director, Pam Sieler. “When the time came to develop a fresh, new website, we knew Signalfire was the best choice.”
The Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center is a fully mobile responsive website and features a sortable, searchable business directory; a printable community calendar; a member support system that allows every business member to login to make edits, renew subscriptions, and place calendar events; and a host of other features to make it a premier tourism website.
LSM Chiropractic Website Meant for Mobile
“Mobile users were the priority,” says Sarah Lobdell, project manager at Signalfire. “From brainstorming the first sketches to rolling out the finished website, keeping a great mobile experience was our primary goal.”
LSM Chiropractic needed a website that helped patients make appointments, find a chiropractor that accepted their insurance, get directions to the nearest location, and provide a library of useful information ranging from exercise videos to product suggestions. Each feature had to function and look beautiful on mobile devices.
“It’s a compliment to our creative team and our development team,” says Olson. “LSMChiro.com has become the website we showcase for mobile user experience.”
Signalfire continues to develop a reputation for creative marketing, website design, and brand strategy.
“We’re known for our website design, but we’ve also won awards in logo design, graphic design, and video production,” says Olson. “We’re a full service design agency serving clients in numerous industries across North America.”
Signalfire provides award-winning design and creative services that include logo design, graphic design, web design, social media management, email marketing, content management, and video production. To contact Signalfire, click here or call (262) 725-4500.
Signalfire’s Matthew Olson will be presenting a special breakout website marketing session at the Walworth County Business EXPO and Career Fair on Tuesday, April 19th at 10:15 am. The presentation, “NOW WHAT? What to do with your business website AFTER launch” will offer small businesses and non-profit organizations insight into website maintenance and marketing strategies to make the most of their web presence. Discussions will include search engine strategies, email marketing, social media, and blogging.
Website Design For Industrial Vacuuming and Environmental Services Company Focuses On Great User Experience
Great Lakes Power Vac’s new easy-to-use website focuses on delivering content to its visitors. Through educational materials like blog posts and white papers, visitors can familiarize themselves with the many services the company provides.
Great Lakes Power Vac (GLPV) contracted with Signalfire, an award-winning digital marketing agency in Delavan to develop the website. Signalfire began with an extensive needs analysis of GLPV.
Newest edition showcases over 250 members and countless activities in Door County’s largest city.
Signalfire is proud to announce the publication of the 2016 Activity Guide for Sturgeon Bay, Door County. Working in conjunction with the Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center in the heart of one of Wisconsin’s busiest tourism regions, the 2016 Activity Guide contains useful travel and destination information for Door County’s largest and busiest city.
“This represents the tenth year Signalfire has coordinated with Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center in developing this activity guide,” says Signalfire owner Matthew Olson. “We’re thrilled to be part of SBVC’s team in promoting such a dynamic city.”
Many small businesses have been using social media wrong. Very wrong.
Small businesses and many non-profit organizations have been trying to build audiences on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and likely several others. Growing the number of fans, followers, and subscribers is a mission because it is an easy metric to measure. Small businesses see audience building as a way to increase customers or leads. Increasing engagement on social media brings about more leads, so naturally a business will want to engage as large of an audience as possible.
And it’s here where you’ve been getting it all wrong.
Whether your small business is manufacturing tight tolerance sanitary pumps or offering bookkeeping services to fellow small businesses, improved search engine performance requires getting good content on your website. Regularly.
For years, most businesses labored under the misconception when it came to search performance that great content didn’t matter as much as some secret lines of programming. Search engine optimization (SEO) was this secret wizardry that was only shared with a select few at an astronomical price. Nothing is further from the truth.