Vesta Digital Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Vesta Digital

Website LaunchIf you’ve just finished building your new website (or revamping your old one), how can you be sure it’s “ready for prime time”? Web technologies, online tools, requirements and standards change so rapidly, any website that was “cutting edge” when it’s built can look obsolete a year later. Below we offer 10 aspects of web development you should consider:

1. Compatibility: Will your website display correctly for most people regardless of their computer hardware, operating system, browser and monitor resolution? Make sure your site renders properly for as many users as possible. If any features of your website require certain browser plug-ins, provide a download link. Remember that not everyone will have Javascript enabled and that graphics can be turned off by the user; make sure your site will still work without them.

2. Completeness: None of your website should be “Under Construction”. Websites tend to evolve over time and are never truly “finished”, but that’s no reason for your website to look like a construction zone.

3. Content: Do you need to update the text on your site? Have you added services, expanded your product line, targeted new markets, or changed your business strategy? Is your website’s description of your company current and accurate, including your contact information? Could the content be written more clearly, convincingly, or succinctly? Could your website be more informative, helpful, interesting or relevant? Would customer testimonials or an FAQ section strengthen your sales message? Check all of your site content for incorrect grammar, spelling errors and typos.

4. Graphics: Do your graphics contribute to or detract from your website? A website with no graphics would be uninteresting, but a site with too many graphics, animations, and different fonts is overwhelming and distracts from your sales message. The trick is to find the right balance.

5. Interactivity: You might consider making your site interactive by adding a blog, RSS feeds, mailing list, message board, poll, or guest book. A contest or trivia quiz can attract visitors and bring them back more often.

6. Links: Are all the links on your website working? First make sure any links between pages on your site are directing site visitors to the correct page. Check all of your links that redirect to other Websites, too; the webmaster may have renamed the page or removed it altogether, and those dead links will make your site look unprofessional and frustrate your site visitors.

7. Speed:
Does your site load quickly enough in the viewer’s browser? The “Eight Second Rule” is a good rule of thumb, meaning no site visitor should have to wait longer than eight seconds to view the opening page of your website. After eight seconds have elapsed, chances are good the viewer will give up and go elsewhere. If you have graphics or animations that take awhile to download, provide some engaging content to hold their interest while they wait. Adding graphic elements always comes at a cost in terms of slower loading times, so only include graphics if they really contribute to visual impact of your Website and strengthen your sales message.

8. Navigation: Is it easy to find information on your site? The opening page should tell visitors, at a glance, who you are, what you do, and how to find what they’re looking for. From there your visitors should be able to follow a logical path to learn more about various aspects of your business. If you list products or services on your site, organize them in a logical way. If you decide to use graphic icons instead of text, make sure their meaning is obvious. Make it easy for your site visitors to find what they came for.

9. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
: Is your website optimized to rank for important keywords in the most popular search engines? Double check your page titles and meta tag keywords and descriptions to make sure they are accurate and descriptive. Did you work your keywords into the actual page content as well (including variations)? Is your website focused on a specific theme, and do you have plenty of informative content related to that theme? Is your website spider-friendly (meaning search engine spiders can access every page and read the most important content from the source code)?

10. Usability: Usability refers to how easily site visitors can use your site. The best measure of usability is feedback from users -the people who visit and try to navigate the site. If you received any feedback such as complaints, comments, questions, or suggestions from site visitors, change your site accordingly. Of course, dissatisfied customers won’t always let you know. That’s why you should also analyze your web stats and traffic reports to see whether visitors quickly abandon certain pages or don’t visit some of your pages at all. Think in terms of building pathways through your site that visitors can follow.

Social MediaSocial media is the talk of the planet. But with so much information out there, where do you go to get the best tips and the latest news? Here are the top 10 blogs according to Social Media Examiner. These “winners” were narrowed down from a field of 150 finalists.

The judges in the selection process included Scott Monty (Ford), Ann Handley (MarketingProfs), and David Meerman Scott (author New Rules of Marketing and PR), who carefully reviewed the nominees.

The final winner selection was based on these criteria:

Quality of Posts

A qualitative analysis of the content of posts was examined by the judges. Educational and discussion-spurring posts are more valuable than self-promoting posts (55% of decision).

Frequency of Posts

Blogs that write multiple posts per week scored higher. This is a sign of the blog’s commitment to blogging (15%).
Reader involvement: Blogs that have regular comments from readers are another sign of a healthy blog. In addition, the numbers of nominations for a specific blog played a part in this (15%).

Blog Ranking

The number of other blogs that link to the blog shows the value of the content (15%). The judges used accepted third-party blog ranking systems for this portion of the score.

If you’re looking to reap the rewards of social media, these blogs need to be at the top of your reading list:

  1. Chris Brogan: The Elvis of social media and the king of common sense, Chris Brogan is in a league of his own.
  2. Social Media Explorer: Social media all-star Jason Falls provides a fresh and interesting take on all things social media.
  3. Mashable: The world’s source for social media news, Mashable is the place to go for breaking stories.
  4. Convince & Convert: Jay Baer provides rich content for businesses seeking to embrace social media.
  5. Altitude: Amber Naslund offers a breadth of fresh air with smart, inspiring and personal social media insight.
  6. CopyBlogger: The king of engaging content, Brian Clark and his team help businesses persuade in a 2.0 world.
  7. Brand Builder: For businesses looking to dive deep into social media discussion, check out Olivier Blanchard’s rich insights.
  8. Diva Marketing: Toby Bloomberg’s blog provides a wide array of social media advice.
  9. Future Buzz: A nice mix of stories and reviews makes Adam Singer’s site one that should be on your radar.

Vesta Digital is working hard to get our blog on the top 10 list, too. Maybe we will be on this list next year. In the meantime, thanks for visiting us!

Artem GassanVesta Digital – an internationally recognized web development and social media marketing company – will conduct a webinar next Thursday, March 18, 2010 from 1 PM to 2 PM EST.

The webcast will be hosted by Vesta Digital CEO Artem Gassan. Highlights of the one hour web seminar will include the many benefits of their IntelBuilder 2.1 social media platform.

“I am very excited to be demonstrating our new IntelBuilder software to the public,” says Artem Gassan. “This product offers new features that make social media marketing easier, more effective and more affordable for everyone.”

IntelBuilder is content management system and social media platform for publishing content on the web as well as a web application framework. It is designed for easy control and maintenance and allows site administrators to effortlessly add content pages, edit existing content and remove outdated material from their websites.

Vesta Digital is a full service internet developer that is located in West Palm Beach, Florida. They have been providing dynamic communication tools and services for public relations firms, advertising agencies and small and large companies alike since 2004.

Vesta Digital has delivered millions of pages of social media conversations and digital media content for many corporations throughout the world including Colorado Goldfields, Inc., MagneGas Corporation, Bio–Clean International and Omni Advertising in Florida.

“This is going to be great webinar,” Artem Gassan continues. “When you see how well IntelBuilder performs right in front of your eyes – you will agree.”

The webinar is free and it’s easy to sign up

It’s March and the madness is here – not the college basketball championship, the new National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) rules about social media networking. It is driving people mad. Here is a page from the NCAA social networking guidelines that was written last year:

“Divisions I and II rules allow for coaches to contact prospects through the direct-message function on Twitter, subject to the same rules applicable to email communication with recruits. However, publicly mentioning a recruit’s name or sending an “@reply” message via Twitter are both considered NCAA rules violations. Coaches can “follow” recruits on Twitter – and vice versa – so long as the @reply function is not used. Any direct messages sent through Twitter must conform to the contact-period legislation for each NCAA sport.”

“While the NCAA does not regulate the interaction between coaches and fans, communication between the two groups should comply with legislation prohibiting the discussion of recruits. The NCAA membership services staff encourages institutions to monitor social networking sites with current rules in mind.”

The NCAA also has rules for Facebook and blogging – and they all center around the recruitment of players. Recruiting regulations for new prospects are very strict and they can result in fines, penalties and probation. But how is anyone going monitor Twitter tweets from a recruiter to a prospect? Maybe these rules are good in theory but a college or university can’t be expected to see who is following who on Twitter and who can or can’t have a fan page on Facebook.

University of Oklahoma Sports Information Director Kenny Mossman says this: “…Future regulatory efforts should include people from the technical community otherwise we are going to be writing rules for technology that is a year old and almost forgotten. I hope that if and when that day comes, we will be wise enough to involve the technology community to help us figure out the best way for us (to regulate it), if it’s even possible to have regulation.”

Christopher Byrne – in an article called “NCAA Social Media Rules for Recruitment Defy Logic, Common Sense” – says this: “This is where the NCAA, and other organizations, are missing the mark. They want the wrong people to guide them, i.e. letting the technology drive the policies. This is an approach that consistently leads to a poor governance structure. What they should be doing is identifying and evaluating their risk factors, setting up their controls and policies, and then looking to see what, if any, technology is available to support the implementation of the policies.”

I say this – Fan pages? Direct message function? Public messages? @ reply? Follow? Don’t follow? This drives me mad and I’m in this business! Maybe the NCAA should ban social media networking and player recruitment altogether. Then we can all sit back and enjoy the real March Madness that begins next week.

The world of internet marketing is constantly changing. Although new technology and terminology arrives every day, there are many words that will always be useful. We compiled a short glossary of indispensible phrases, terms and words to help you get by. Read it. Print it. Bookmark it. Save it. This glossary will come in handy for the pro and novice alike.

Analytics – Technology that helps analyze the performance of a website or online marketing campaign. Analytics often analyze website user behavior, search marketing campaign success and site usability.

Algorithm – A set of mathematical equations or rules that a search engine uses to rank content.

Algorithmic Results – Listings that a search engine does not sell as opposed to paid listings.

Backlinks – All the links that are directed to a particular web page – also called inbound links.

Banner Ad – A rectangular advertisement placed on a website which links to an advertiser’s own website when you click on the ad.

Click Through – The process of activating a link on an online advertisement which connects to the advertiser’s website or landing page.

Click Through Rate (CTR) – The percentage of those clicking on a link compared to the total number who see the link.

Conversion Analytics – The analysis of natural/organic and paid search engine traffic.

Conversion Rate – The percentage of visitors at a website who take the action from being a visitor to becoming a prospect or a customer.

Cost Per Click (CPC) – The method where an advertiser pays an agreed amount of money for each click a visitor makes on a link that leads to their website.

Crawler – A component of a search engine that gathers listings by automatically “crawling” the web. A search engine’s crawler is also called a spider or a robot.

Delisting – A process when pages are removed from a search engine’s index. This can happen because they have been banned or because of an accidental error by the search engine.

Directory – A type of search engine where listings are gathered through human efforts instead of by automated crawling.

Domain – An identification label that defines someone’s autonomy, authority or control in the Internet. A domain name is simply the ownership of a website’s name.

Email Marketing – The promotion of products or services by email.

Flash Optimization – A process where Macromedia Flash movies are reworked to make content more accessible for search engines.

Hidden Text – A way for pages to be filled with the large amounts of keyword text. It can lead to penalties or even banning.

Hit – A request from a web server for a graphic or another element on a web page. Every time a user visits a page, dozens of hits are recorded.

HTML – This stands for Hypertext Markup Language. It is the primary markup language for web pages. It provides a means to create structured documents on the web.

Index – This is the collection of information that a search engine has.

Inbound Links – These are all the links pointing to a particular website.

Impression – This is a single impression of an online ad that is being displayed.

Internet Marketing – This describes the interaction of a customer with a business or service from any computer that is connected to the web.

Keyword – The word or words a search engine enters into a search engine’s search box.

Keyword Marketing – The process of putting your message in front of people who are searching the Internet using specific keywords.

Landing Page. – The specific webpage a visitor reaches after clicking a search engine listing.

Link – A software application that reveals web pages.

Link Text – The text that is contained within a link.

Listings – The information that appears on a search engine’s results page following a search.

Meta Search Engine – A search engine that gets listings from other search engines instead of its’ own.

Meta Tags – The information that is placed in a web page and is not intended for the user to see but
rather for search engine crawlers, browser software and other applications.

Natural Optimization or Listings – This is another way to say Organic Listings. Search engines do not sell these listings. They appear because the search engine has determined that they are important.

Optimization – This is the process of improving a website’s position on a search engine.

Organic Listings – This is another way to say Natural Listings. Search engines do not sell these listings. They appear because the search engine has determined that they are important.

Outbound Links – Links on a web page that lead to other web pages – as opposed to inbound links that lead to your webpage.

Paid Listings – Listings that search engines sell to advertisers – as opposed to natural or organic listings which are not sold.

Pay Per Click (PPC)
– These are paid ads in search engines that are usually separated from natural or organic results by colored boxes. Whenever a user clicks on the ad the search engine charges the advertiser. The more competitive the market or keyword, the more the advertiser has to pay.

Position
– This is how well a webpage or website is listed in a search engine. Positions 1 through 10 are optimum – anything below 30 is valueless.

Query – The word or words a user enters into a search engine’s search box. Also called keyword.

Rank – This is how well a web page or website is listed in a search engine’s results.

Results
– The page that is displayed after a user enters a keyword or query. This is also called SERP – or Search Engine Results Page.

Robot – The component of a search engine that gathers listings by automatically crawling the web.

RSS Feed – This stands for Really Simple Syndication. It is a format for syndicating news or other content.

Search Engine – This is a service that allows users to search the web for information.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – The marketing or promotion of a web page or website through search engines – whether it is paid or natural/organic.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – The process of altering a website so it does well in organic or natural search engine listings. This is accomplished by choosing specific keywords and driving traffic to that site.

Search Engine Optimization Positioning – This is the process of positioning your web page on a search engine.

SEO – The abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization.

Spam – A marketing method that a search engine determines to be detrimental for delivering quality and relevant search results.

Spider – A component of a search engine that automatically gathers listings on the web. Also called crawlers or robots.

Title Tags – This is the most important overall component of search engine optimization (SEO.) Title tags are the sentences that are linked to a website from the search engine results pages.

Traffic – The amount of visits to a particular website.

Unique Visitor – This is a person who visits a specific website. Regardless of how many times this visitor returns to a site, the person is only counted once.

URL
– This stands for Uniform Resource Locator. Websites are found by their addresses and each website has a URL assigned to it.

Web Analytics – This describes the analysis of a website’s traffic and performance.

Website Marketing – This term describes everything that is done to promote a website.

Website Submission – The process of supplying a search engine or directory with a URL to make the search engine aware of a website or webpage.

Widget – This is another word for tools that can add, arrange, and remove content from your website.

Social Media MarketingIf you are an advertising agency or a marketing firm and you are still scratching your head about how you can make money in social media, here is an excellent article written by Eric Lander that will help:

If you work for an online marketing agency the following scenario is probably not uncommon. A client comes to you wanting to help shape the search results for their brand names.

They’re not talking about their own domain names or web properties either. They’re now worried about sites like RipOffReport, ComplaintsBoard and the dozens of other consumer advocacy sites created to give consumers a voice.

You may even work with your clients, helping to improve their online reputation by pushing these negative sites out of the mix. And suddenly, your client’s interest wanes.

It’s an unfortunate situation on a number of levels, but increasingly common. Your client has seen their targets removed. They no longer see detrimental sites ranking prominently so their train of thought is that you and leave well enough alone and move on. But that is simply is not true.

Rather than challenge your clients in an aggressive manner that could be perceived as a sales pitch for your services, consider the following:

Clients Must be Proactive, Not Reactive


One of the most frustrating parts about the scenario above is that the client cannot see the impending threats. They don’t realize that new complaints are being posted, or, that their brand could already be under attack from another angle that they just haven’t seen.

The client brought you in to reactively eliminate their brand’s threat. And you accomplished that immediate goal. If your client is truly committed to improving their perception in the market though, there’s more to the story. Sadly, you’re now facing an uphill battle – but it is one that you can win.

Your client cannot see what hasn’t been written about them yet. They’re unaware that a new socially driven community could pose a threat. It’s up to you to translate the business impact of ignoring customers’ pleas and feedback.

If your client chooses not to monitor their brand regularly, they’re right back at square one. Next month, a new search result could pose a threat. A new blog may be slamming their products. Or a new discussion board thread could label them thieves.

While a simple concept, getting your clients to buy into the long term value is difficult.

Social Media is an Organic Space


The first principle that your client must understand is that social media sites are truly organic – more so in fact than any other vertical on the Internet.

Millions of new accounts are opened daily on the most popular social media networks. It’s true that some of these new accounts are fake profiles used to gain free and spammy backlinks. The majority though are real people. Real people who are ready to use participate in a community setting. Real people in fact who can and will interact with your client’s brand name in mind.

From FaceBook and MySpace to Twitter and Plurk, there are simply too many people and too many web sites for your client to monitor. Each of these sites has the potential to negatively impact your client’s brand, or ideally, become home to a growing number of brand evangelists. It’s your client’s choice to make.

Social Interaction is Not Always a Chore

One Twitter account comes to mind when I think about proactive social engagement in the community driven sites.

Pandora Radio is an Internet based radio service that customizes the music played based on listener’s tastes and feedback.

On Twitter, at Pandora radio is the account of Lucia, Pandora’s Community Manager. She openly puts herself out there to converse about your questions or comments about Pandora, as well as to talk about any and all things music.

More importantly though, Lucia actually listens to what people are saying and proactively becomes part of relevant conversations.

One of the reasons Pandora came to mind as I write this was because I had a problem a few months ago with Pandora. Rather than contacting support, I got lazy and ranted about it on Twitter. And before my friends had a chance to add fuel to the fire, I received a message from Lucia asking to help.

Within minutes, the problem was fixed and I was singing their praises.

That’s just one example you can share with your clients. There’s many other companies doing the same with Twitter, as this resource documents all the brands present on that social community. But don’t look beyond other services as well. Companies have been successful for years on sites like MySpace and Facebook.

The Real Role of an Agency or Service Provider

The most important take away of the Pandora example is that the organization has someone inside communicating directly with the consumer.

Clients can often assume that social media management includes your taking the reigns and portraying their brand for them. While that can be an effective short term strategy, I’ve never seen it work well without dollars or politics eventually becoming part of conversation.

That’s why I strongly advise my clients to invest resources in that communication layer. They are the ones responsible for their image, not me. It should my role as the agency or service provider to keep them aware of new opportunities and threats that could be used to influence their brand and image. Once located, their internal contacts need to know where they exist and how to respond.

Agencies providing social media management services will need to rely on of web savvy individuals. Social Media Managers, or “SMMs” are many times related to search industry. While many can claim that SMMs are out to influence the search result landscape, I like to hope that the comparison exists more because of the tools involved.

SMMs make it regular practice to scour the SERPs of major engines. They’re also out there using services like trackur and enhanced engine tools like Google Alerts to receive immediate notification when new content is posted. They then evaluate that content, understand how it can be responded to – and prepare it for review by the client. But again, it’s the client who needs to communicate with the consumer.

Why? How would you feel if you were contacted by someone who basically gave you a runaround or indirect answer? What if you visited a feedback site to interact with a company, only to find that an advertising or marketing firm was directly involved? It does nothing then but cause more damage to the brand.

Parting Shots for the Clients

A brand will always be viewed the way their products and services warrant. If a product is known to consumers as having its faults, you can be confident that the online communities will discuss them.

Similarly, when companies do things right – they’re normally praised by their brand’s evangelists and that message is carried off by others, even if they don’t have a first hand account. Before allowing your client to write off the need for SMM services, ask them to also take a solid look at their business – head to toe.
If the paying public has voiced concerns before, they’ll do so again online. The only trouble is that voices online tend to gather more followers with ease.

Website IdeasThere are so many web design companies out there these days it’s enough to make your head spin. At last count, Google came up with 173,000,000 search results. Don’t freak out – your search can be easy and pain-free with this simple guide below. We will show you how to select a web design and development company that will meet all your goals and not drive you nuts.

Who

Who are your customers? What information will you be providing them? It is important to have a clear idea what role your new or redesigned web site will be like. A good web designer will want to know the following:

  • Your intended market or audience.
  • The role of your new web site.
  • Your budget.

What

What websites do you admire? They may be your competition or in unrelated businesses. Sometimes the web design firm is included in the site credits or is listed elsewhere on the website. If you cannot find the credits on the site itself, don’t hesitate to contact the business and ask them which web design firm is responsible.

How

How is the web designer going to help you? Gather a list of potential web design firms and ask them this question and then ask them several more:

  • How consistent they are?
  • Do they have any testimonials that speak about their credibility?
  • Do the projects in the portfolio have a consistent quality?
  • Have they consistently given good results in the given time frame?
  • Has the web design company provided solutions to other companies in your business category?
  • Have they dealt with similar challenges to those faced by your organization?

Remember – a web site doesn’t have to be flashy or animated to do its job. Check for organization of information, ease of navigation, overall cleanliness and user-friendliness.

Why

When they tell you how much it is going to cost, don’t scream – instead, ask them “why?” Experience and fees are very much related – this is called the EF of a web design firm. The general rule of thumb is the more experienced they are, the more they are going to charge. Don’t sacrifice quality just to save a few bucks. On the other hand, don’t pay through the nose if you think you can get a better deal somewhere else.

Here are some more questions related to fees that you can ask:
Technology – What is their technological competence? Does it match with your requirements? How frequently is their technology upgraded- both in terms of software and hardware?
Deadlines – Has the company carried out the projects in a specified time? Time is one of the most important factors as the longer it takes, the higher the costs get.
Responsiveness – How promptly does the company respond to your inquiries? Are they responsive to your suggestions and questions? Do they explain issues in ways you can understand? Do they share your general vision for the site?
Communication – Poor communication is one of the major roadblocks for business processes. Ensure that the company who you will be working is comfortable with the language you speak.
Services – What services does the company offer other than designing? What kind of value-added products or services can they bring to the table?

Where

Where you end up will be determined with a proposal. Ask the finalists to send you a proposal. This will help you decide which web design firm understands your requirements best. And ask each web design firm to include a description of their development process of the project. Take these points into consideration:

  • Likeability of the proposal
  • Strength and weaknesses of the proposal.
  • Presentation and format style.

When

After you have reviewed all proposals, compare them with each other. How do they fare in terms of presentation? How do they appear in terms of project management? Do they present scalability and/or upgrade paths for your project? Is the price worth it? You should have a winner by now. Your next question should be: “When can you start?”


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