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Trivera turns 21!

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Having been in business 21 years has allowed us to celebrate several birthdays with a look back at how far we've come. But 21 is symbolic of the entry into of adulthood and typically marks the beginning of a new level of maturity and accountability. And so, we're using this milestone to look forward.

The year ahead will be marked by the successful transformation of the ideal Trivera client relationships, as they evolve from exclusively website-based project work to deeper, more strategic ongoing digital marketing partnerships. That change began last year with the addition of new team members with skill sets in branding, integrated digital and inbound marketing strategies. It has continued with the development of a new, transformational 12 month process, one that begins with brand discovery and strategy development, and continues with tactical plans to strengthen every aspect of our clients' digital marketing efforts with constant monitoring, analysis and improvement. That new process is appropriately named "Evolve."

In addition to the new process, we've also deepened the strengths we've been known for for the past 21 years. Trivera's team now has greater depth in the areas of organic SEO, PPC and Social Media. We've also added Magento and Concrete5 certification to our credentials to back up our significant experience developing websites in both platforms.

While we're growing by addition, we are also maturing by subtraction. Over the next year, we'll be continuing our efforts to transition much of our hosting operation from our own data center to fully managed third party operations that specialize in Magento and Concrete5 hosting and 24/7 support. That effort will allow us to focus our own internal resources on the quality and management of the sites and applications we've developed, and less on the equipment, environment and security necessary for their operation.

Our client list will also continue its shift from smaller limited "website-only" engagements to one of fewer, but larger, deeper, long term ones that take advantage of all Trivera has to offer.

Watch for our own new trivera.com website to launch in February. The site will communicate our new direction and highlight more of our new client success stories while still preserving the archival information resources we've developed over decades of digital marketing leadership.

Over the past 21 years, how we've used the internet to support our businesses and organizations has evolved. What was once referred to as "Cyberspace," "the world wide web," the "CB radio of the 90's," the "information superhighway," the "dotcom boom"...and crash...the "new economy," have all evolved to become simply an integral part of every person's...and every business'...daily life. We're proud that we've been able to evolve with it and help hundreds of businesses leverage the power of digital marketing we knew existed when we opened for business on January 16, 1996.

About Tom Snyder

Tom Snyder - TriveraTom Snyder, founder, president and CEO of Trivera, a 20 year old strategic digital marketing firm, with offices in suburban Milwaukee.  Tom has been blogging since 1998, sharing the insight gained from helping businesses and organizations re-inforce their brands by taking full advantage of digital and Web technology as powerful tactics in their marketing and communications strategy.

 

3 Not So Stupid Questions for #AskAStupidQuestionDay

By Christina Steder, VP of Client Strategy

questions_square.jpgAt Trivera, we love it when clients ask questions about the technology we use to support their business goals. Digital marketing changes all the time. Here are three questions we are often asked. And no, we don't think these are stupid questions at all!

1. What's the difference between SEO and PPC? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This is the process we use to help your site rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). If you want to be on page 1 of Google, and aren't planning to advertise, our experts will use SEO to help make that happen. PPC stands for Pay Per Click. Pay per click ads are the ads that appear at the top of the results page when you conduct a Google, Bing, or Yahoo search. There are many reasons to combine SEO and PPC. We can help you decide the best balance between SEO and PPC to help support your business goals.

2. What's a wireframe? Wireframes are like the blueprint of your website. Just like a blueprint shows where the rooms are in your house but not what color the walls will be painted, a wireframe is a black and white sketch-style mockup of your website. At Trivera, we build interactive wireframes so you can see what happens when you click on different elements of your future website, and how your site will look on different screen sizes. Wireframes help you see what information will go on each page, and how the information will be organized. Wireframes do not have any photos or logos and use placeholder text only. This helps you as a client focus on where items such as images, videos, or buttons will be placed on a page without also having to evaluate design elements, such as colors, at the same time.

3. Why do we need to do a discovery? Can't we just start working right away? When you become a Trivera client or bring us a new project, we want to ensure we understand EXACTLY what you need. We apply best practices and research to your work so that we can bring you our best ideas and avoid any pitfalls during your project. Of course, if you need something immediately, we're happy to jump in and help, but our 20 years in business have shown us that taking time up front to fully map out your digital marketing strategy or website development project saves time and money in the long run. Our process identifies every aspect of your brand and your target audience so we can create a tactical plan to attract, engage and convert that target audience, then create the ROI to make your digital marketing plan an investment to be leveraged, rather than an expense to minimized.

4. What does Trivera mean? Trivera is Latin for "Three Truths." Those three truths are:

      • Deliver a Product we can stand behind. Our product is "Digital Marketing that Converts." We know how all the pieces need to fit together to provide a website and digital marketing plan that achieve your brand and business goals, creating measurable success and significant ROI. We only recommend something if we believe it can help you achieve your business goals.
      • Follow a proven process, but be agile. Our process begins with a proprietary discovery that identifies your needs and develops a long term strategic plan with defined, achievable goals. Then it continues with an agile approach to accommodate constantly and rapidly changing tactics, tools, customer preferences and market conditions while keeping the goals and budget as our guiding force.
      • Commit to an ongoing relationship. Our Annual Service Agreement isn't just a document or a contract - it's our commitment and promise to be your long-term partner, delivering the highest quality work possible and helping you and your company achieve your goals.

Any other questions? Just let us know!

About Christina Steder

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With 15+ years of experience in consumer product, professional service, and nonprofit marketing as well as brand strategy and client service, Christina provides strategic direction for our clients - linking their ongoing online and content marketing needs to business goals and ROI. 

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock 

Five Digital Marketing Mistakes You're Probably Making

By Tom Snyder, President and CEO

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It's been said that the first step to recovery is always acknowledging there's a problem. Because there are no longer any excuses for you to be a bad digital marketer, if you are struggling with disappointing results from your efforts, you definitely have a problem. The good news is that we're here to perform an intervention with a diagnosis of five mistakes you're probably making, along with the solutions to help you return to a state of digital health.

1.) Thinking Tactically, Not Strategically - Too many marketing decision makers fall prey to "shiny object syndrome." Without a strategy to give you solid tactical direction, the focus of your efforts will be directed by whichever new Social Media platform happens to be the flavor of the day. Yogi Berra said "If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up somewhere else." Create a solid brand strategy that includes targets, goals, roles, to help you determine the tactics that will get you where you need to go. 

2.) Lack of Continuity and Consistency - In an area where success takes both effort and time, consistency is more important than perfection. So many marketers begin with misguided and untargeted efforts, expect vague immediate results, lose steam within a few weeks and simply give up. Les Brown said: "It ain't over 'til I win." Commit to the necessary effort as long as it takes, pausing only to adjust, and stopping only to replace underperforming tactics with something else that will better achieve your strategic goals. Develop an editorial calendar, assigning roles, and demanding accountability allows your entire team to be part of the effort. With everyone pulling together it becomes easier to make sure your efforts are sustained and sufficient to create the results you need. 

3.) Not Measuring Your Results - For centuries, marketers were unable to know for sure which of their efforts were directly responsible for the success or failure to meet their marketing and business goals. But after two decades of the measurability provided by the digital revolution, it's amazing how many marketers still refuse to monitor their metrics and make themselves accountable for meaningful results. Marty Rubin said: "Every line is the perfect length if you don't measure it." The solution is simple: EVERYTHING can...and should...be measured. Do more of what's working, and less of what isn't.

4.) Ignoring Changing Customer Preferences - Assuming that their reality is the same as that of their target audience, lots of marketers let their own biases and fears get in the way of exploring the tools and tactics that research shows will reach their target audience with the brand experience they prefer. Wayne Gretzky said "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." Be sure that the customer-facing side of all your digital marketing efforts is aimed where your audience is going to be, arriving with the UX they will be expecting, delivered by the technology they prefer to do business with you..

5.) Not Making an Adequate Investment - Too many marketing budgets are based on the lowest priced response to their poorly written RFP. Regarding digital marketing as an expense to be minimized is the path to failure. Richelle Goodrich said: "If you invest nothing, the reward is worth little." Successful companies budget the amounts necessary for their digital marketing to produce predictable results. Base the amount you spend on a percentage of your annual revenue that's standard for successful companies in your industry.

Are your digital marketing efforts failing? You're not alone. All 5 of these mistakes are typically the result of marketers who take a "do it yourself" approach. Finding a reputable agency who can help you take the above 5 steps will be the first step to put your digital marketing efforts on the road to recovery.

About Tom Snyder

Tom Snyder - TriveraTom Snyder, founder, president and CEO of Trivera, a 20 year old strategic digital marketing firm, with offices in suburban Milwaukee.  Tom has been blogging since 1998, sharing the insight gained from helping businesses and organizations re-inforce their brands by taking full advantage of digital and Web technology as powerful tactics in their marketing and communications strategy.

Yikes! What's Up With Your Website?

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The amount of stuff wrong with the average company website is flabbergasting. And I'm not just talking about those free DIY websites. Or the ones designed by low cost, low talent developers. Or even the ones that some agencies pretending to understand digital best practices charged way too much for.

As someone whose job it is to stay on top of current industry best practices, I can tell you that the rate at which the criteria changes is often overwhelming. And so, I'm even talking about the sites that solid firms like Trivera may have built for you a year or two ago.

Thus the need for regular, in depth site audits. If done correctly, those audits take a look at the following barometers of website health:

1.) SEO. The algorithms that search engines use to determine whether a site comes up on page 1, 10, or not at all, change weekly. While Google uses dozens of specific criteria to determine where your site comes up in searches, the overarching consideration that it uses now is whether or not people "like" your site. A significant number of people who come to your website may not.

A professional site audit will help identify the things that may be preventing you from getting the SEO rank you deserve. Correcting those issues will be the key to appearing above the fold on page one, the only place where meaningful click-throughs happen.

2.) Content. Your website communicates specific things to specific site visitors. To human visitors, it provides the necessary information to reinforce your brand's value proposition, spoken in a voice that reflects your brand personality. To the indexing spiders the search engines send to your site, it gives them information they need to determine whether or not your site will come up when certain keywords are searched for. The trick is crafting content that will do both.

A professional site audit will evaluate the effectiveness, readability, clarity, necessity, depth and formatting of all your content (text, graphics, tags, video, and supporting files).

3.) Page Design and Layout. People have conscious and subconscious expectations of what every website needs to have, and where...and how...it needs to be displayed. If it’s not right, they won't like it. It's bad enough that Google will penalize you for that, but even worse, if people do find your website, they'll be less likely to do business with you.

A professional site audit will help identify whether your site measures up and what needs to be done to build and strengthen your brand relationships.

4.) Device-Dependent User Experience. With mobile device web usage predicted to surpass desktop/laptop usage, it's critical to have a user experience that is equally rewarding and easy to use for all your visitors regardless of device. Just scaling your desktop site to display on a smartphone with navigation too small to read on tiny displays and buttons designed for mouse clicks, not fat fingers, drives mobile visitors away.

A professional site audit will tell you if you're getting, and capitalizing on, the amount of mobile traffic that you should be.

5.) Conversions. The goal of your website is to attract and convince potential customers to do business with you, and if possible even facilitate the transaction. A website that makes your brand hard to identify, your message unclear and transactions hard to execute prevents that.

A professional site audit identifies those barriers and obstacles so they can be removed, allowing your website to be a revenue generator, and not just an expense.

6.) Security Vulnerabilities. The web is teaming with hackers and crackers who find their identities (and their fortunes) in locating and taking advantage of websites they can exploit. Their methods include creating fake login screens to steal credit card, bank and personal info, and even using those hijacked sites to send the thousands of spam emails that send the unwitting there to be fooled

A professional site audit will be able to gauge how likely your site is to be used to trick people into using your site to give their money to crooks.

These are just some of the items that a professional site audit does for your digital presence. Just like it's impossible to effectively proof-read your own copy, it's also impossible to perform a complete and effective audit on your own site. Site audits are one of Trivera's core competencies. Virtually every site can use a talented set of eyes like ours to take a look at it through the above lenses, say "yikes," and get it on the road to success.

Let us know when we can take a peek at yours.

Trivera's Tom Snyder to Speak at 2014 BizExpo

tom-snyder1.jpgOn May 21, 2104, hundreds of Milwaukee area business owners and professionals will descend upon Potawatomi Bingo Casino to learn about the latest trends and best practices at the BizExpo, presented by BizTimes Media.  The event consists of dozens of booths, several award events and an impressive list of  seminars led by some of the area's most knowledgeable business leaders and experts.

Among them are Trivera President and CEO Tom Snyder who will be presenting  "The 5 Digital Marketing Mistakes You're Probably Making." at 2:45 in seminar Room C.  

In the 18 years he's been in the digital marketing field, Tom has watched thousands of owners, agencies and marketers struggle to figure out how to use web technology to help their businesses. As the parade of almost universally misunderstood shiny objects...websites, email marketing, search engine optimization, Social Media and mobile...marched on, he has seen a lot of those businesses succeed, but he's seen even more fail. Ultimately, the challenge is effectively integrating proven marketing tactics with the newest technologies. Tom will identify five of the most common digital marketing mistakes most businesses and organizations make, why those mistakes are preventing them from acheving the results they’re looking for, and what they should be doing instead. 

The session will also help them avoid a sixth digital marketing mistake they're also probably making by encouraging them to attend Trivera's upcoming Social Media University - Milwaukee on June 11th, also being held at Potawatomi Bingo Casino.

Admission to the event and all sessions is free, but requires pre-registration.

Trivera Turns 18!

happy18thbirthday.jpgRegardless of our age, we all celebrate our birthdays every year. But, there are a few birthdays that mark milestones.  Sweet 16 marks a passage to the age where one can drive a car. 21 is when one is legally allowed to consume alcohol. 30, 40 and 50 are often marked with black balloons and taunts of being over the hill. I'm facing...gasp...my big 6-0 in February (or as I've chosen to call it, my second 30th birthday), but I digress.

One of the most special birthdays is the 18th. It marks the passage from youth to adulthood. You're reckoned by society as wise and mature enough to vote, get married without parental consent, and serve your country in the military. 

Today, Trivera celebrates our 18th birthday.  Back on January 16th, 1996, we became one of the very first...and one of only a handful of...web design and development agencies in Wisconsin.

At the time, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari didn't exist, just Mosaic and Firefox's predecessor Netscape. There was neither a Google nor a Bing  - the top search engines were Alta Vista, Excite, Lycos, Webcrawler and Infoseek. There was no eBay, Netflix or Wikipedia.  Joomla!, Drupal, Wordpress and Concrete5 were all years from being born. Email marketing and Social Media didn't exist. Nor did Digg, Tumblr or even RSS. Smartphones, mobile devices, tablets, iPhones and iPads hadn't been invented. Pinterest, Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or even MySpace? Not even on the drawing board! There was no broadband or wifi - internet connections came via a slow dial-up modem.  And 87% of all businesses polled in a survey said that the web was a fad, and they would never have a need for it. Ever. 

Our name back then was Websight Solutions, and our tagline was "web sites with vision." Fitting because back then, anyone who was doing anything on the web had to be visionary. Jeff Bezos had just started Amazon.com. Jerry Yang and David Filo had just incorporated Yahoo!. Craig Newmark had just launched Craig's List.

And there was us.

But we convinced Usinger's, Mitchell Airport, and FrankMayer and Associates to take their first leap onto the web. In those early years, our other early adopters inlcuded Aurora and Ministry Health Care, Holy Hill, the Marcus Center, Milwaukee Harley-Davidson and Mustela. Since then, we've been proud to have also helped other noteworthy locally-based brands like Potawatomi Bingo Casino, Strattec Security Corporation, Simplicity, Perlick and Dental Associates, as well as national brands like Motorola, Lotus, Frabill, and Panasonic.  We just started working on Frank Mayer and Associates' 43rd project, and are just wrapping up Mitchell Airport's 30th. In a few weeks, InvestorsBank becomes the most recent member of the Trivera story with the launch of their new site

Despite the fact that over 18 years we've seen the web go from infancy to youthful exuberance and on to a mature and necessary component of every business' marketing arsenal, for most marketers, how to make it work is still is a mystery. So we've been honored to have hundreds of other clients ask us to help them figure it out. Some big,  some small, some household names, others obscure to all but their niche customers.  But the one thing they all have in common is that they needed someone to help them navigate through the rapidly evolving, and quite confusing world of digital marketing, web design, e-commerce, email marketing, search engine marketing, Social Media and mobile, and they chose to trust us, originally as Websight Solutions, then as wirestone, and now for the last dozen years as Trivera.  

2014 will be a year of bold new plans: new customers, new partners, continued expansion, and the 5 year reunion edition of 2009's Social Media University. So Happy Birthday to us! Thanks to our awesome clients for their years of support, and our awesome team members who helped us earn that support. As we blow out the candles on our birthday cake, our wish is for another 18 years of success for us, but more importantly for all our clients because they've given us the opportunity to help them succeed.

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Pinterest: Social Media or Seach Engine?

 

pinseo.jpgPop Quiz: After Google, what is the second most popular search engine? If you said Yahoo! or Bing, you're typical but not correct. The right answer is YouTube! More people use YouTube's search to find what they're looking for than use Bing, Yahoo!, Ask and AOL combined!

And who is number three? If you said Yahoo! or Bing, you're wrong again. According to Shareaholic Analytics, in October of 2013, Pinterest had more traffic than either of them.

For the uninitiated, Pinterest is an image-based information sharing social media website where users create and manage image collections in categories, such as favorite places and spaces, interests, and hobbies. Users browse other members' pinboards for images and can "like" photos and even "re-pin" images to their own pinboards. The audience for Pinterest skews highly female. Pinterest has 25.6 million users spending an average of nearly 15 minutes per visit.

Many users simply log onto the site and browse through the latest images posted by their favorite users. However, an ever-growing number are using the search tool as an actual search engine to find solutions to problems, answers to questions, and suggestions and ideas for items to buy or services to contract.

Pinterest offers business accounts. Those accounts allow the owners to display all the important information about the business so prospective customers can find and contact them. Communicative photos and shareable infographics posted from those accounts can link to the company's website. Pics become clicks. And clicks create purchases.

While businesses of all types are taking advantage of Pinterest, builders, landscapers, remodelers and interior decorators are getting great results from Houzz, a similar site aimed at that specific market segment. While Pinterest is general and skews female, Houzz is more targeted and skews just a bit more male.

All of this comes as a surprise to the many marketers and business owners who still regard much of social media as just fun and games but not serious tools to help their business. However, smart businesses are already capitalizing on it and, like they did with Google and YouTube, are turning Pinterest into sales. If a picture or informational image can communicate your brand's value proposition, so can you.
 
This article originally appeared in the Biz Times Social Media Strategies.

5 Visitor Groups Your Website Needs To Be Ready For

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Your presence on the web has never been more important to the success of your brand.  It's also never been subject to more circumstances, elements and efforts that can damage it. And the only thing necessary for every bad thing imaginable to happen to it, is for you to do nothing and think your site is doing fine. So it just boggles my mind that so many marketers and business owners choose to sit back and let failure happen.

Website success has always been about who will be coming to your site, how they will access the site, what they're hoping to accomplish, and what will..or won't...happen when they get there.  While everyone hopes that it will simply be customers who will come and engage in a business transaction, it's a lot more complicated than that.  There are actually 5 easily identifiable groups of visitors who require strategic efforts that you'd better be prepared for.

Because, ready or not, here they come:

1.) Hackers, Crackers and Internet Miscreants  

Unless it's more than a few years old, your website is likely built on a Content Management System (CMS). Just like any other software product,  that system has likely had improvements made to it over time. In addition to feature improvements, every upgrade since it was first built also contains critical security enhancements. Legions of hackers are scouring the web every minute of every day trying to find old and vulnerable installations of Joomla!, Drupal, Wordpress and Concrete5 and using them to execute mass identity theft. I don't know if it's a fear of change or just a reluctance to spend the money on repairs should a CMS upgrade "break" the site. Regardless, the thousands of out of date websites are a jackpot for hackers.  Unless you have an upgrade plan in place, there's a good chance that someday thousands of people will be getting a fake email that looks like it came from their bank, but actually came from your site. Not only that, but then they'll click a link to log into a fake bank login page on your site and give identity theives the info they need to drain their real bank account. Because this activity leads to blacklisting, site shutdowns, and even potnetial legal consequences it's not the kind of traffic you want. But if you're not regulalry upgrading your CMS, it's the easiest and mosty likely traffic you'll get.

2.) People With Browsers Newer Than Your Site 

Every time a new version of a web browser is released, design and functional elements on your website that may have worked before  potentially malfunction or totally fail on the new one. If your website was built in 2009, it was tested to work on Firefox version 3. The current release is version 24.  Internet Explorer was on version 8. They've just released version 11. Safari 4 was the current version, but has now been replaced by version 7. Unless you've upgraded your site, or conducted ongoing browser compatibility testing, you have had people coming to your website to do business with you, but either can not or choose not to because the site doesn't work for them. And while that number has grown every month, that's a growth metric you don't want. 

3.) Mobile Device Users

Smartphones and tablets are no longer just for "people on the go." For millions of people, they are the preferred method of acessing the web. If your website isn't formatted to provide a visitor an optimal visual and navigational experience regardless of the device they'e using, you've essentially told half your potential customers that you're really not interested in their business.  And they are happily taking that business to sites that are. 

4.) Social Media Enthusiasts

Word of mouth has always been one of the most effective forms of marketing. Social Media takes that power to a new level.   Does your site have a blog? A pressroom? Videos? Do your pages have Facebook "Like," Twitter "Tweet This," Pinterest "Pin it," and Google "Plus 1" icons?  The jury may still be out on the extent that your execution of a Social Media plan will create meaningful inbound traffic. However, your site still needs to be updated to include the kinds of content that is easily shared in Social Media channels, and the tools that make it easy to do so. If it doesn't, you are missing the opportunity to take advantage of the viral referral power of your visitors' social savvy and their inclination to share your brand with their professional and social networks.

5.) Search Engine Traffic

The sad fact is that, unless you've been keeping up with the major changes in the way Google produces results to search queries and making sure your site has been adapting to accommodate those changes, the number of qualified customers coming to your site as a result is steadily declining. If you think that Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird are zoo animals, and an algorithm is a catchy tune about a former vice-president, your share of the 125 billion searches per month is pretty close to zero, and getting closer every day. Those are the people who aren't coming. But if your site isn't set up to show up on page one with meaningful and accurate search results and instead send unqualified visitors to your site, the ones who do come will leave your site as quickly as they came. Those are called bounces, and the more of those you get, the lower Google will rank you in their searches.  A strategic Search Engine Optimization plan is the only way to get meaningful numbers of qualified visitors to come to your site. 

 

While there are other elements that will contribute to a successful web strategy (email, direct and traditional marketing), this list represents the minimum effort necessary to just avoid failure.  With a new year beginning in just a few months, now is the time to plan your budget for setting up and executing a strategic plan that systematically optimizes your site to create the right outcome for every one of these groups and help your web presence reinforce, and not erode your brand, and more importantly, contribute to your bottom line.

 

About Trivera:

Your growing business is faced with more challenges than ever before. Managing your online presence in the face of tightening budgets and steadily increasing customer expectations can be a difficult and complex task.

Trivera’s proven approach to web design and development builds your online brand with smart design and creative technology. We’ve been helping companies like yours since 1996, growing our capabilities along with the web to serve the needs of our diverse mix of clients.

For most compnaies, the web is a cloud of confusion. Our experienced team excels in managing your projects for the greatest return on your investment using a proven, collaborative process that delivers results on time, on budget and on target. Our mission is to provide you with the knowledge, service, products and ROI that will make you a hero.

10 Steps to Digital Marketing Success

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In our last blog, we listed the 6 ways your neglected website is costing you money. If you are one of the rare businesses whose website is producing piles of revenue even though you haven't updated it in years, this isn't for you.

But, if you can use additional sales revenue from your digital channels, read on.

Our mantra has always been that a web site is not an event, it's a process. That process requires ongoing effort, attention and investment to maximize revenue and value.

As a digital marketing firm, having clients who hire us to build a website, only to let it languish in neglect and produce mediocre results does neither us nor the client any good. So here at Trivera, our focus is taking responsibility for our clients' total online success by having all new clients sign annual contracts, where the website development is only the fourth element in a ten point plan for success.

Here are the steps that we believe are necessary for success, and the reasons we include each:

1.) Discovery

Your success begins with defining your goals. What specific results do you expect your digital marketing efforts to produce? If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there? Whether it's increased sales for an e-commerce site, new leads for your sales staff to cultivate, heightened awareness for your brand or more traffic to improve ad revenue, it's only by setting specific goals that will give yourself a target to hit. And as your partner, we need to make sure we're all on the same page.

2.) Development of a Marketing Strategy and Tactical Recommendations

Even thinking about tactics before you develop your strategy is a waste of time. Things like "Getting on Twitter" are just tactics. Achieving the goals you defined in step one requires a broad and deep plan. Understanding your brand in a way to be able to communicate your value proposition and personality to your current and future fans well enough to determine is what helps you decide if ANY Social Media is an effective vehicle. That's your strategy. It's your guide to determine what tactics will be appropriate and effective in helping you achieve your goals.

3.) Search Engine Optimization Plan

Guessing at a few keywords and trying get on page one of Google for those keywords is the recipe for SEO failure. Unfortunately, it is the "plan" most businesses and organizations are using. Is your target audience even searching for what you offer with those keywords? Do you know which keyword phrases will produce results, and which will bounce people back to Google to find another result (something actually causes search engine rankings to decrease)? Do you know the difference between branded and non-branded traffic and why it's important? Do you know how to uncover which keyword phrases will produce the number of non-bouncing visitors you'll need to achieve your specific success goals? If you don't know the answers to these (and a half dozen other basic questions most SEO specialists understand instinctively), Google will be nothing but a constant frustration and financial albatross.

4.) Creation of a fully optimized website

The creation of a website is the sum total of what many web design/development firms do. But optimization is the necessary ingredient to a successful digital strategy that many of them miss. Turning visitors into customers requires an understanding of conversion rates and what affects them. Will your site create sales or discourage them? Will people coming on tablets and smartphones be comfortable or frustrated? Will the transactional goal of the site be easy to find regardless of how, when and where visitors enter the site, or will they get lost in a maze of unnecessary information, steps, clicks and questions?

Within a fraction of a second, most visitors have judged you and made up their mind about your brand. Virtually every element of the site... the choice of content management systems, home page layout, order and depth of the navigational choices, words per page and whether they are paragraphs or bullet points, size, position and quality of images, color choices...impact the visitor's opinion of you. Unless your approach is strategic, and your developer understands how all of this impacts your visitors' perceptions and decisions, you won't get a successful digital marketing tool, you'll get a website. Nothing more. Certainly not success.

Here's where many people stop, thinking they are now done and success will just happen. Actually, this is where the real work begins.

5.) Execution of website content marketing efforts.

Your site is tested and launched, but almost immediately your blog, press room, content, product details, demonstration videos and other content will require ongoing effort to maintain their freshness. Keeping the site updated is only a part. Keeping the rest of the places out on the web that drive traffic to your site updated is even more important. That means email newsletters and promotions, outbound PR, commenting on other sites' blogs, and legitimate link building.

6.) Execution of ongoing SEO and SEM tactics

Just as your website is not an event, neither is your SEO. The algorithms that determine who makes it to page one of a search change frequently. What worked last month probably doesn't work this month. Knowing what has changed and what you need to do to take advantage of those changes requires effort and expertise. And it never ends.

7.) Execution of Social Media tactics

Here's where agencies and gurus who only do Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, fail. Sun Tzu said "Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." I've dealt with this topic enough that it doesn't need to be repeated here other than to say this step will only help your digital marketing plan become successful if the tactics are being used as part of a larger strategy.

8.) Execution of traditional marketing tactics

Just because this is a digital marketing plan it doesn't mean you need to stop doing traditional marketing. If your strategic target can be effectively reached via direct mail, print and traditional electronic media, you hurt yourself by regarding them as obsolete or irrelevant. You'll just want to make sure you're tracking your efforts to make sure you only continue the ones that result in demonstrable results.

9.) Monthly measurement of key performance indicators

Remember those goals you outlined 7 or 8 steps ago? How are you doing? Tools exist to measure site traffic, bounce rate, conversion rates, popular navigational paths, transaction values, SEO ranking, social media sentiment. You don't have to be using them daily. Weekly or monthly may be adequate.

10.) Adjustment of efforts to continue to produce maximum ROI

Because targets and goals are part of your strategy, and you're measuring your results, you know what you need to do more of, and what to do less of to produce the results you're striving for. And you're in the zone of increasing your results, and reducing your costs.

Sound like a lot of work? It is. If success was easy, everyone would be successful. Whether you hire a firm like Trivera, or handle it internally, the steps to success are still the same. How many of them are you neglecting?

CBS58 Social Media Feature Includes Trivera President

packerscheerleader1-300x169.jpgAs the recent controversy regarding a Chicago Bear Facebook fan site bullying a Green Bay Packer cheerleader began to go viral, the news team at Milwaukee's CBS affiliate needed a Social Media expert to interview for their 10 O'Clock news. So to find the right person, they did what any self-respecting media organization would do: They Googled it. The search for Milwaukee Social Media Expert brought up Trivera on Page 1, position 1, and after a quick phone call, the reporter and cameraman were on their way to Menomonee Falls to interview Trivera's resident Social Media go-to guy, Tom Snyder.

542705_10200673998198617_1942508108_n[1]Trying to meet a tight deadline in the middle of a snowstorm, the crew didn't even have time to take off their coats, hats and mittens. That caused the realtime tweets and Facebook posts from the team in the office to be met with accusations that we don't pay our heating bills.

As the day had gone on the focus of the story shifted. Initially, the story was about a Fan Page featuring a photo and the subject of the photo getting hammered with vicious comments. The woman asked Facebook to remove the photos and the post n the grounds that it violated Facebook's anti-bullying rule. Facebook disagreed an refused to remove it. So the woman struck back with another Social Media tool: a YouTube Video. And the battle raged between the haters and the supporters, free-speech advocates and people who demanded that Facebook relent. Eventually even Mashable picked up on the story, and by the time the crew got to our office, the owners of the Facebook page removed the post.

P1015548The questions from the reporters focused on whether we felt that Facebook should have removed the post. Tom's answer framed the dilemma Facebook had by asking the reporters if they would remove a news story on their site if the comments to that story turned ugly. He felt that technically, the fan page owners probably had a moral responsibility to remove the vicious and hateful comments.

Social Media is admittedly sometimes very anti-social. Bullying goes on there constantly. Fortunately, as proven by this instance, those who are bullied can use the same tool to stand up to the bullies, and get an army of supporters to stand with them.

But once again, whether it's for bad or for good...or both...Social Media is a powerful tool, and in the right instances can create viral buzz for the good to win.

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Happy New Year!

HNY1213As we look back on 2012 we are thankful for all our clients, partners, staff and friends, making it one of the best of our nearly 17 years in business. You've helped keep us busy with so much to do that we haven't been able to blog, send email newsletters or finish our brand new responsive website.

But we did want to send a heartfelt message to thank all of you for putting your trust in Trivera!

In 2012 we've worked hard to develop and launch exciting digital projects. We welcomed some great new website design and development clients to the Trivera family:

  • The Greater Milwaukee Foundation
  • Racine Federated
  • Perlick
  • Bel Canto Chorus
  • Dental Associates
  • Evald Molding
  • Johnson Creek Smoke Juice
  • Amelishan Bridal
  • Genius Supply
  • Storage Systems Midwest
  • GA Precision Manufacturing
  • Husar's House of Fine Diamonds
  • M&M Office Interiors
  • Core Creative (Poblocki Sign CMS)

 

They all discovered for the first time the joy of working with Trivera's team of talented professionals with new website projects.

We also renewed our commitment to our long-standing client partners with new initiatives for:

  • Potawatomi Bingo Casino (SEO)
  • Mitchell International Airport (CMS)
  • Timmerman Airport (new website)
  • Strattec Security Corporation (Component Solutions website)
  • Usingers (Magento e-commerce upgrade)
  • Rego Consulting (new websites)
  • Zimmerman Investment Partners (hosting infrastructure upgrade)
  • ThermaSys/API Heat Transfer (SEO, API site migration, print marketing)
  • Heroic Media (new microsites)
  • Adelman Travel (CMS)
  • Axiom Properties (CMS and new property websites)
  • Casper Creative (George Webb website)

And thanks to them...and you...2013 will be even brighter. Watch for some exciting news from Trivera later this month as we add even more value to our clients' digital strategies and offer a wider and deeper array of services and skills to make your 2013 successful.

Here's to 2013 being a great New Year for us all!

How I Make You Smarter...and Your Business More Successful...One Tweet at a Time.

People who follow me on Twitter know that a prominent component of the way I use that Social Networking tool is to post links to helpful articles. As the primary brand voice of  Trivera, my goal is to help people learn both about me and FROM me.  And so while just about any time of day, you'll see me using Twitter to opine, engage, interact, and sometimes just be goofy, every weekday during business hours my Tweet-stream contains posts like:  "5 reasons your Web site is losing money http://ow.ly/1wqy,"  "19 Tips for Driving Traffic to Your Blog http://ow.ly/1vZCT" and "10 signs your iPad has made you the most annoying person ever http://ow.ly/1vGUQ."

Those articles come from blogs, email newsletters and forums and are specifically chosen to help you become better at what you do, and show up about once an hour between 9am and 5pm, Monday through Friday. Whether you're a small business owner, Web developer, marketing professional, or just a student of the digital world, the articles I link to are specifically, and strategically selected to give you a few nuggets of helpful wisdom in a quick read (or scan).

Part of my daily regimen is an early morning check of my RSS feeds, industry newsletters and a few quirky and obscure Web sites to find informational resources for myself. Of the hundred or so articles I see, and the 20 or 30 I read, I pick the 7 or 8 that really represent the cream of the crop and share them with my Twitter followers. The common denominator is that they're short, well written, accurate, organized, timely and helpful. I often re-write the headline if I think I can better communicate the benefit of the information and improve the likelihood that people will go read them. And I use Hootsuite to shorten the URL and schedule them to trickle out during the day rather than deluge everyone with a flood of information all at once.

Some critics have questioned why I do it, pointing out that they can get all of this in their own RSS feed. But I know from my own daily exercise that, because anyone can blog, much of what fills the blogosphere is poorly written, filled with errors, or both. I've earned the trust of my followers to be the filter that only allows the best of the best.

The evidence shows that I must be doing something right.  In addition to shortening long URLS and allowing me to schedule my posts, Hootsuite allows me to measure metrics. Since I began doing this and keeping track a little over a year ago, over 31,000 people have clicked through to read what I've posted. And by even being able to see which articles are the most clicked on, it allows me to fine tune the choice of articles to make sure that I'm tweeting the types of content that people find most helpful.

The good news is that you don't even have to be on Twitter to benefit from the articles. Bookmark this link and just my tweets with shortened links will show up in your browser. If you have an RSS reader, add this feed to it, and the articles will show up there.

Since we've been in business, it's been my goal raise the level of the Web intelligence of the market. I don't have the time to blog as often as I'd like, and even when I do, someone else has probably already blogged about my topic before. But the combination of these articles and my blogs (which also end up in these Tweets and feeds), seem to be doing a great job of educating the market. In addition to making followers smarter, it also establishes me as an authority without having to spend hours a week writing my own blogs, which is a tactic we also recommend to some of our clients.

The world of the Web is changing rapidly. Web 1.0 is giving way to Web 2.0. While many of my tips are focused on Social Media, I still link to articles on Search Engine Optimization, Email Marketing and making your site successful. But there's no doubt where the market is headed, and by following my posts, you can be equipped with the information you need to ride the wave.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the most clicked through article ever is You're doing Social Media. That's good. But not Mobile? Uh-oh...

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Tom Snyder @triveraguy Tom Snyder is Founder, President and CEO of Trivera Interactive, a Midwest New Media firm. Tom is a Web guy, wine snob, music junkie, Ex-Milwaukee Radio Guy, HDTV expert, and political wonk.

12 Interactive Marketing Resolutions for the New Year

by Chris Remington

Here are 12 things to think about as you take your interactive marketing to the next level in 2010:

Have a plan - Yes, there are many tentacles to the interactive marketing beast, but with a well-crafted strategic plan it can be tamed. Start small if you must, but the important thing is to have a plan, execute it, and refine it over time.

Analytics are your friend - WebTrends, Omniture or Google Analytics; no matter which one you use (you do have analytics on your site, don't you?!) take time to mine for the nuggets of information they offer about your site, your customers and how they consume your interactive content. Use this to power your plan (see H above).

Pretend you are your customer - You are too close to your product(s) and your industry. Think like your customer would think. Knowing what they would call your product(s), how they would search for it on a search engine, and where they gather online to converse about it, will help you massage and finesse your web content so it speaks to them in their language.

Performance indicators are key - What are the top two or three goals of your website and interactive marketing strategy? Customer engagement? Brand awareness? eCommerce transactions? Lead generation? Pick your goals, ensure you can monitor and track them, tailor content to achieve them, and track the effectiveness of your actions.

You can do it - While others would argue the fact, interactive marketing is not rocket science. It is still about the 4 P's from Marketing 101 - product, place, price and promotion. Smart online marketing is no different than smart offline marketing. Research, plan, execute, monitor, refine. Repeat. Know the limitations and aspirations of your internal team as they relate to your interactive marketing efforts. Empower them. Empower yourself. You and your team know your strategy best. Go for it. Hire outside help when (if) needed.

Not doing anything still has a cost - Yes, the website you built and paid for in 2003 still functions, but does it still work? A website with old or static content and a tired look sends a message that you are complacent, not innovative, and don't care to engage your customers. Can you really afford to NOT spend money on your interactive strategy?

Embrace change - See N above. Research to see if your customers (and your internal team) have an appetite for consuming your web content in video form, on mobile devices or via Social Media. Don't change for change sake, but if your customers and industry are 'going there' you should too. With a plan, of course (see H above).

Web-enable content - See E above. Your website can likely streamline workflows and improve customer service with only minor enhancements. Would product installation videos on your site reduce customer service calls? Would a password protected media room enable your customers, dealers or distributors to download their own sell sheets, logos or ad templates? If so, web-enable this content and free up your marketing support team to pursue more important projects.

YouTube? Twitter? Facebook? - Social Media is all the rage. Make sure you are ready to embrace it. If a goal of your Social Media presence is to drive traffic to your website, ensure the site is rock-solid first. If the answers are yes when you ask yourself if your website content is compelling, if it is up-to-date, if it is user-friendly, and if there is no doubt about the site's call(s) to action, they you are ready to develop a Social Media strategy. Think of your website as the bull's-eye of a target - only when the bull's-eye is rock-solid should you venture to the next ring of Social Media.

Engage your audience - Your customers are talking about you online. How good of a job does your site do to encourage and facilitate that conversation? Do you know where else these conversations are occurring online? If not, learn. If so, what value are you bringing? Recognize and thank those who talk positively about you. Reach out to the naysayers and turn their lemons into lemonade. You will be viewed as someone who cares and 'gets' the new transparent world where your customers, not you, are in control of your brand.

Authority, Relevance, Popularity - These are three things that search engines consider when ranking your site. Look at your website content and interactive strategy through these lenses and if what you are doing shows search engines (and the consumers who use them) that you are an authority, your content is on the mark and others find it useful, you are on your way to better rankings and more traffic. If your interactive marketing efforts aren't enhancing your authority, relevant, or positioning you as a popular player in your space, don't do them.

ROI - The great thing about interactive marketing is it is quantifiable and measureable. Return on investment is easy to analyze. Assign action items to your interactive marketing strategy like obtaining more leads, increasing eCommerce transactions or reducing customer service calls. Measure, adjust and measure again. Repeat. The important thing is to have a plan, make the investment (see N above) and monitor the effectiveness.

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crthumbChris Remington is an account executive for Trivera Interactive. Trivera specializes on Online Brand Management for companies and organization that understand and appreciate the power of the Internet and Social Media to re-inforce their brand. In addition to helping Trivera clients, Chris also speaks at local business events, and teaches at the University of Phoenix.

Out with Old, In with the New

It's been said "Don't look back, unless that's where you're headed."  But I hope you'll accept my apology as we take a look at the adventure that was 2009 one last time before we launch into an exciting new year.

One year ago, my wife/business partner predicted that something big was going to happen this year. We had no idea at the time, but she was definitely right.

A big story of the year was the economy.  As budgets were cut and some  companies even went out of business, Trivera committed to keeping our staff intact, a move that enabled us to superserve existing clients, but also helped us gain the confidence of a large list of new ones. New to our staff this year was a great addition: account manager Chris Remington, who has also added "Trivera blogger" to his duties with a great end of year contribution.

Major new Web projects for existing clients Mitchell Airport, Usinger's, Halquist Stone, Zach Builders and Nuemann Development worked their way through our pipeline this year. We also worked with long time partner ClearVerve Marketing to implement a re-design of their site. Frank Mayer and Associates, Mustela USA and ATL continued aggressive Search Engine Optimization programs with us.

But new clients represented the lion's share of our traditional Web business in 2009.  Among the clients who were able to experience the joy of working with Trivera for the first time: Frabill Manufacturing, Strattec Security, Sellars, Vaportek, US Peacekeeper Products, Renewable Energy Solutions, Chemrite Copac, Breckenridge Landscape, SoHoBizTube, Amici's Restaurant, JailHouse Restaurant, Deductive Energy, Studio 5-D, Western Racket and Fitness, Fresh Coast Partners, and South Shore Dentists.

We also began a great partnership with Chicago agency TargetCom, which resulted in projects for US Cellular and Kellogg School of Management.

But the huge story of the year was the emergence of Social Media as a powerful tool in brand strategies. Our Social Media University - Milwaukee event in July drew nearly 400 people to the Italian Community Center for a day of hands-on learning. As a result of that event, Trivera has helped dozens of businesses create their Social Media program, and several of them have contracted us for more significant ongoing SM implementation. Those include Mitchell Airport and two major political campaigns. The event, our ongoing work and a dozen speaking engagements by Trivera staffers has launched Trivera into the media spotlight as an authority on Web 2.0. And the power of Social Media manifested itself in a big way by creating dozens of new collaborative partnerships with other businesses in our space.

As you can see, 2009 has been a year worth looking back at. But as we wrap up a solid year, we look forward in anticipation to an even better 2010. Our move back to a historic building in Menomonee Falls will give us an infusion of great creative energy.  A large project with a national brand through our partnership with TargetCom is slated to begin in first quarter. Several other big projects with companies whose names you'll recognize should fall in line in January. And we we begin our first major collaborative relationship with Hartman Design, a neighbor in our new space, in serving new client Regalware.

And we're planning on an even bigger and better sequel to Social Media University - Milwaukee in March.

So with seatbelts and tray tables in their upright and locked positions, we're ready for takeoff. We hope you'll grab a seat with us as we wish both you and ourselves a shamelessly successful New year!

Search Engine Optimization Unmasked - Pt 2

It's Saturday. Fox Business Network. The show is called The Fox Docs. Biz Whiz Dr. Dani Babb is talking to a caller who's not getting the results from his Web site that he should. She tells him to optimize his site to come up in the search engines. Suddenly, as the theme music comes up to go into a hard commercial break, the host asks "so how do you do that?" With six seconds to explain, she said what most people who know a little bit about SEO believe: "Meta data!" Make sure your Meta data is correct." Cut to commercial.

Knowing there was so much more to SEO, I used Twitter to get in touch with Dr. Babb and offer her some of what we've learned (and continue to learn) over our years. After several subsequent emails this week, she was armed with lots of new-found knowledge. So on this week's show, the very first caller was rewarded as she used my bullet points (and credited Trivera) to explain how to get his site to come to the top, avoid the expense of a Paid Placement option for his keywords and just augment organic placement with Pay Per Click. And the host responded, "Brilliant!" (see video below)

foxnewpreview.jpg

But as I watched, it became obvious that SEO is one of those "rocket science" things that will make most peoples' eyes start to glaze over. As much as you wish getting a site to come up Page 1, Position 1 in the search engines was as simple as watching a business show and getting tidbits of information, it's unrealistic, unlikely and probably impossible.

The Internet, and the billions and billions of pages on the Web continue to grow by the second. And the search engines need to get better and better at determining which of those pages deserves to come up at the top of searches. So they constantly spider and index every site, every page and every link, compare each to all the other information they gather about every other site on the Web and use complex algorithms to determine how high or even if a site should come up for keyword searches.

Unfortunately, those algorithms are kept more secret than the recipe for KFC. That means that even *I* can't give you a definitive answer... nobody can. Especially not in 6 or 60 seconds on a business show. But those of us who have been doing this for a awhile take the broad guidelines that Google and the others do give us, combine that with a lot of detective work, much trial and error and networking with others in our field and use it all to come up with strategies and tactics that work..realizing also that what works today may not when Google changes their algorithms.. which they do all the time.

But here are the general tips I gave Dani:

There are some that claim that Google doesn't even index Meta Data at all for their search results. I was trying to figure out why a particular site was beating one of our clients in ranking at Google, and checked out their "Keyword" Meta Data. The ONLY thing in it was: "Keyword Meta tags are totally useless." I don't completely buy that, but rather I'm convinced that Google checks the meta data on a page, and then compares it to the visible text on the page. If they jibe, the site moves up for the words and phrases that, together, describe what that page is about.

But there are a lot of other factors, way too numerous to mention. Here are just a few:

  • Page titles (what shows up a the top of your browser when you're viewing a page)
  • Actual file name of the page (what shows up in your URL bar),
  • File names of embedded images (and the alt tags for those images),
  • Text links to other pages within the site (and whether the words that are clickable actually send you to page that are about that specific text - Google is smart enough to figure that out),
  • How many outside sites link to yours,
  • How long your domain name has been registered, and how many years in the future it is currently registered for,
  • How frequently the content of the site is updated
  • Whether or not your webmaster appears to be trying to jack the system to get the site to show up higher than it should.

That last one is critically important, because while all the other ones help you move up, that last one can force you down, or even get a site de-listed altogether.

Bottom line is that it's not easy...virtually impossible to do yourself. It's also not an event... it's an ongoing strategic process. And most entrepreneurs are too busy running the other aspects of their business to spend the necessary time to learn this and do it right. If showing up in the engines is critical to people finding you, the only silver bullet is finding someone really good to do it for you. It's like a good accountant, a good banker or a good lawyer... your SEO person is worth their weight in gold.

(By the way, if you are a business owner, and haven't caught the The Fox Docs show yet, you need to. Dani Babb and John Rutledge are amazing, and you'll find yourself waiting for every episode for the great information you'll learn).

Search Engine Optimization Unmasked - Pt 1

A week doesn't go by without someone asking us "How do I get my site to the top of the search engines?" The answer is a simple one:

1.) You and your site first need to DESERVE to be at the top 2.) Then you need every single element in your site that the search engine spiders use to determine that you deserve to be at the top absolutely correct.

That, of course is in a perfect world. But we all know that the world of search engine placement is far from perfect. But that basic premise can help your site place well in that imperfect world of Search Engines.

The primary goal of a search engine's organic listings is to produce the best possible results to a visitor search. That means when someone searches for a company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that sells sausage, the very first position on page 1 of Google should be occupied by a company located in the city of Milwaukee that actually sells sausage. And if there are several, the one that the most likely to sell the best sausage in Milwaukee would come up first. Using common sense, one could assume that would mean the company that has been in business the longest, has had a Web site for the longest period of time, has a great reputation and so has lots of other Websites linking to it.

So it's no surprise that a Google search for "sausage milwaukee" has Trivera client Usinger's as the #1 result. Not only that, but the actual shopping cart where you can purchase Usinger's bulk sausage products also comes up in on the first page as a separate entry, and little further down, Usinger's Gift Boxes come up as well. When Google lists local businesses on a map, Usinger's comes up in first place there as well. Additionally, and probably contributing to Usinger's success, is the fact there are also a bunch of other sites in the first few pages that refer to Usinger's. Klement's, another Milwaukee sausage company that hasn't been in business as long as Usinger's comes up #2. A few other local sausage companies also show up further down the list, and as you get deeper into the 435,000 results for that search, they get less relevant and less helpful to actually helping one find a Milwaukee sausage company.

And that is an example of exactly how every search should be. Unfortunately, the vast majority of searches produce results that are just the opposite. Incorrect, frustrating, useless and in some cases dishonest results often make searching an exercise in futility. And while that's bad for searchers, it's good news for Web site owners.

Going back to my original hypothesis, oftentimes, the sites that deserve to be on the top aren't built in a way for the search engines to determine that they should be at the top. But SOMEONE needs to be #1. So the resulting vacuum fills the first page with junk... that is until someone whose rightful position may be on the second or third pages of results finds an SEO specialist that help them move up and become the leader by default.

A prime example is the Varicose Vein Treatment market here in Milwaukee. 2 years ago, a search for that produced a list of directories, non-targeted medical information sites, and news links. What wasn't there were listings for any of the vein clinics in the Milwaukee area, even though there were over a dozen. All of them had Web sites, but there wasn't a single one that was built in a way that the Search Engines felt they should occupy the top spot. Great Lakes Radiologists was one of them.

In an effort to get serious about capturing a larger market share they contacted Trivera. Re-branding and repositioning themselves as the Women's Vein Clinics of Greater Milwaukee, gave us the opportunity to register a domain name with "vein" and "clinic" right in it. Even though they didn't have any actual clinics in the city of Milwaukee, "Greater Milwaukee" in their name gave us that legitimate entre into the search engines. The site was optimized using all the techniques and tools that Trivera has mastered throughout a history of SEO services that began before Google even existed.

The site immediately began to get traction in Yahoo, MSN and AOL. Because the domain name was brand new, Google kept the site in its "sand box" for a few months. But after that short period of typical probationary exile, the site skyrocketed to page 1 positions in every one of the 23 keyword phrases we optimized it for. Within 6 months there wasn't single targeted keyword phrase that didn't have them come up in position 1,2 or 3. Traffic to their site continued to increase, and two years later, the site still owns top organic positions. A plethora of Paid Placement ads now peppers the first page to try to undermine that succcess. But when you take the fact that people are 3 times more likely to click on the top organic result than any of the paid listings and combine that with the cost for those paid ads, our client has come out the obvious victor.

Two different cases, but a common moral. Whether you deserve to be #1 or not, you have little chance of getting there unless your site has been properly optimized. When the Search Engines determine who wins and who loses, you need to have your site built to let them know you belong at the top.

More on that in my next article.

-Tom Snyder

Web 2.0 and Your Business

We received this question in an email this morning:

Q: We recently got some inaccurate and unfair press coverage, and that coverage made it to the Web. Because of the way the Web and search engines work, when people Google our company, we come up, but the rest of the results page is full of results that contain or refer to the article..forums, blogs, even Wikipedia entries. I was at a seminar for our industry last week and one thing they mentioned is how we could use Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube to force those results to other pages than page 1. How do we do that?

A: The Web allows information about you and your company to spread like wildfire... which is great if it's good information, but disastrous if it's bad.

Situations like this demonstrate that conventional Search Engine Optimization is just one part of your Web strategy, because it can be instantly subverted by circumstances out of your control. These days it's more than just a great Web site and SEO. Facebook and the others you mention are increasingly critical to a total strategy to take fullest advantage of the power of the Internet. It's also about what is now being called Web 2.0 - all the social networking tools you mention above, as well as RSS feeds, SMS (Text messaging), and Blogs.

These all enable you to communicate, connect and interact with people by putting you and your "brand" are amongst the steady flow of ideas, thoughts and concepts that flow to them via their desktop computer, laptop, and cell phones 24/7. While the goal of all these is not primarily to get to the top of Google, using all of these helps improve your position there.

But like anything valuable, it doesn't happen by itself. It takes a financial investment, a time commitment, and a partner with the right expertise. Huge companies (and even the Obama Administration) have full time people in a position called "Director of New Media." Medium sized businesses hire companies like Trivera to formulate a strategy and help execute a plan. Small businesses often have good intentions to try and tackle this on their own but fail because of the discipline and commitment it requires.

Trivera uses all those tools, and has a handful of customers who are using us to help them take advantage of these tools. We're putting these elements in all our proposals these days. If you're willing to make a commitment, we can help you. The best way to tackle this is to determine your budget and we'll give you a proposal with some recommendations.

-Tom Snyder

How's Your E-fitness Quotient?

Originally published, December 2007

For many Americans, a brand new year signals a commitment to improving their fitness. Resolutions are made to eat better, work out more often and make lifestyle changes to reduce stress and increase longevity. TV, radio and print ads at this time of year mirror the huge spike in interest in fitness with hundreds of weight loss, smoking cessation and exercise ads...each with an important disclaimer: Make sure to consult your physician before beginning this new regimen.

For many American businesses this should also be a time to re-commit to improving their fitness. With that in mind, Trivera is encouraging you to make a resolution to make your Web site better, communicate with your email list more often and make Internet strategy changes to reduce business process inefficiency and improve your vendor and customer relationships.

But like personal health changes, a change in Web business practices needs to begin with a consultation with your Web Doctor. So to wrap up 2007, Trivera is recommending a complete Web physical, and is offering a free 15 point custom e-Fitness report to our clients and our potential clients.
Included in this report are answers to many important questions:

With most companies reporting a 25-50% percent increase in their Web sales this year, there's no question that the businesses that "get it," are reaping the rewards. Are you? How are your Web conversions? news_quote.gif Are you communicating with your opt-ins? Are you doing so frequently enough? Too often? How do you know?

Does your Web site maintain current navigation best practices? Is your site taking advantage of current monitor resolutions, desktop sizes, greater audience bandwidth availability, differing browsers and mobile delivery systems?

Is your credit card processing mechanism in compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards? 85% of all sites aren't, and will risk being totally prohibited from taking card transactions in 2008. Will your site be among them?

Does your site come up in search engine results that count? Do you come up high in keywords and phrases that nobody's actually searching for? Do you come up at all in the keywords that people are actually using to search for a business, product or service like yours? Are you an unnecessary victim of click fraud in your paid placement campaign?

Is how your site was built now hurting your position in the search engines? If you have the words "click here" anywhere in your site, the answer is yes. Image Alt tags, link text, page names, incorrect use of images vs. text, file names and content are critically important to your placement. And how they work has changed since last year. Have you made any changes? When was the last time you checked your position against your competitors?

And there are more:

Does your site contain broken links? Are you paying too much for your digital ID? Are you inadvertently giving your employee email addresses to spammers? Is your site experiencing downtime you're not aware of where it's hosted? Is your content management strategy doing you harm? Are there Web 2.0 opportunities you're missing out on?

The new year is right around the corner. 52 weeks to succeed or fail. And while many personal health resolutions require a commitment and discipline that lasts more than the first few weeks of January, all it may take to create benefits for your business is a resolution to act on your e-fitness report from Trivera.

If you're serious about success, let us help you achieve that success today!

Navigating the Internet Minefield - A Final Thought

For our past few Newsletters, we've been guiding you through the Internet Minefield and trying to keep you from mis-stepping.

The underlying theme is that there is simply too much specialized knowledge, it's too easy to get it wrong, and the stakes are too high for a small to medium size company to even consider developing and executing their own Web strategy. And few Web development "companies" and even fewer Ad agencies are much better than doing it yourself.

I promised a personal story to illustrate the point.

I've owned a Web company for ten years, and I write and talk about this stuff all the time. Heck, I even used to build Web sites for my clients when I first started the company. So when I recently sold my house, I figured if anyone was qualified to build a Web site to promote the house, it would be me, right?

Armed with my "experience" I started to build my own Web site. I couldn't believe how hard it had gotten to get it right. Knowing what Cascading style sheets are and actually building and using them are two completely different things. And while I was able to get some of it right, it was embarrassing to think how much I got wrong.

I eventually finished, but it was amazing how much time it took me to build a less than average-looking site.

So then I decided to try my hand at applying my search engine knowledge to get the site to place high in Google, Yahoo and MSN. I used all the tricks I knew and was pretty proud when I actually showed up in the top position for all the keyword phrases! And that's where I stayed for three days until my site got de-listed entirely for an improper use of metatags.

So much for doing it myself!

The moral of the story is this: I should have trusted the project to my team of specialists. And if I, as the owner of a Web design company came to that conclusion, how can anyone else come to a different one?

-Tom Snyder

Your Web Success List

There's an old saying: "Success is optional... ask any failure." Our sincere hope for you is that your Web presence is successful. But the devil's in the details, and defining success depends on how you measure that success. Unfortunately, ninety-nine out of a hundred Web site owners don't have any idea about either. Their Web presence is just a gray cloud, and the "safe" answer is simply: "It probably could be doing better, but I guess it's doing OK."

The sad truth is that, while most sites could be doing better, if they used actual, widely accepted standards as the gage, the vast majority of them are NOT doing OK.

Here's a checklist for you to see how yours is doing.

Mechanics

1.) Are the elements, content and functionality of your site driven by sound market research? If not, how do you know if it's full of stuff that individuals or departments in your company think should be in it, but your market doesn't give a hoot about (or even worse may actually be hurting you by being there)?

2.) Now that a huge percentage of the Web population is surfing at 3-4 times T-1 speed, are you comparing the load and process times of your site and its included functionality to that of your competitors? If not, how are you making sure that lag and slowness aren't resulting in lost revenue?

3.) Are you hosting your site with a company with industry-leading uptimes? If not, are the sales you're losing due to frequent outages, bottlenecks, downtimes and re-boots worth the little bit you're saving on monthly hosting charges?

4.) Do you have a proper SSL certificate, a current Privacy Policy and a complete Terms of Use Statement on your site? If not how are you protecting yourself against legal liability or providing your visitors the confidence they need to do business with you?

5.) Is the email marketing component of your site running on a closed loop, double opt-in/single click opt-out system? If not, how many people are choosing not to sign up for your mailing list, how many of your emails are being blocked by ISP's because you're blacklisted by them as a spammer, and how long will it be before someone reports you to the Federal Trade Commission because you're in violation of the Can Spam Act?

Appearance:

1.) Is your site laid out using current navigational best practices to take advantage of conscious and subconscious expectations that an increasingly Web savvy browsing public have when they arrive? If it's not, how many people are landing on your home page, but leaving because they can't find what they came there looking for where they expected to find it?

2.) Does your site take into account the most popular current user desktop sizes? If not how are you making sure your most important content is "above the fold," and doesn't force the visitor to scroll from side to side?

3.) Does your site have Flash elements in it? If so, is the usage done so that it doesn't hurt your rankings in the search engines? Is it embedded with the proper new controls that allow it to work the new EOLAS copyright compliant version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser? What displays in its place when someone without the Flash Plug-in visits your site? Metrics

1.) Are you tracking the traffic to your site...not just the hits, or even unique visits...but where they're coming from? If not, how do you know which of your site promotion initiatives are driving the most traffic to your site so you're expending resources only on the most effective methods.

2.) Are you tracking the traffic through your site? If not, how do you know if the most traveled navigational paths are driving people to your desired transactions, or getting them lost and sending them away without buying?

3.) Are you tracking your site's "conversion rate?" If not, how are you evaluating how many of your visitors are turning into sales, whether your rate is going up or down, and which promotional methods are resulting in the highest conversion rates?

Search Engine Optimization

1.) Does your site occupy the top organic positions in all major search engines for the keywords that qualified prospects are using to find what your business offers? If not, are you at least using a strategy that uses secondary keywords and phrases that are less competitive, but will still drive significant traffic to your site? If neither, are you using a sensible, ROI-based PPC strategy? If none of the above, how many people will never know your site exists?

2.) Are you regularly evaluating your site's placement in the Search Engines? If not, how are you tracking your position changes, or comparing your position with your competitors?

3.) Are you familiar enough with the search engine algorithms to know how your site's use of meta-tags, file names, Flash, text, images, navigational structure, architecture and landing pages are actually hurting your position? If not, can your site afford to continue to drop or be de-listed from the search engines entirely?

4.) Are you frequently entering your company and/or product name in the Search Engines to see if any sites that publicly criticize you have made their way to a top position? If not, how are you making sure that individuals, organizations or just segments of the population aren't undermining all your promotional efforts with accusations and criticisms... fair or unfair?

Bonus Question

1.) Are you trusting your success to a Web development company with a long track record of service, quality and integrity...one with the necessary combination of the marketing, business, design, programming and legal experience necessary to cover all your bases? If not, how do you ever expect to compete, much less succeed?

This list is by no means complete, but is a good start to see if you're really serious about your success.

So how did you do? Now that you've filled out your Web checklist, you're probably still thinking that you could be doing better. But do you still think your site is doing OK?

-Tom Snyder