Archive for the ‘Web Development’ Category

Where should I host my small business WordPress website?

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We work with a lot of small and medium-sized businesses on their websites. The most common platform we develop in is WordPress, and we are regularly asked “Do you do hosting?” and “Where should I host the website?” Here are a few of the more common questions and answers around website hosting.

Do I need something special to host a WordPress website?
A basic WordPress website doesn’t require any fancy configurations on the hosting side. In fact, almost every hosting environment is already able to host a WordPress site. The one thing that might be “off” by default and need to be turned “on” is the SQL Server, but most hosts already have this option baked in to even the most simplistic of plans.

Who should you use for WordPress hosting? Can I stay with my current host?
There are WordPress-specific hosts. The top three WordPress-specific hosts that we have worked with are WP Engine, Pressable and Lightningbase. All three of these companies specialize in hosting for WordPress. Large hosting companies such as Godaddy, Hostgator and Rackspace have added WordPress offerings, but they do not have the same focus as companies who specialize in WordPress. It is also possible to host on internal servers and dedicated servers. We prefer the companies that specialize in WordPress hosting because you get the benefit of their expertise.

What makes WordPress-specific hosts different?
Speed – These hosting companies have servers which are optimized for WordPress. WordPress is a great platform, but there can be some performance issues with slow loading speeds, which can be critical when considering Google’s increasing emphasis on speed in ranking for SEO. WordPress-specific hosts have the servers configured to combat slow load times.

Security – Because WordPress is the most widely used content management system, it is an easy target for attacks. Yes, your small business website could be the target of a hacking attempt. It happens all too often. These attacks are automated by robots which scan the internet looking for known vulnerabilities. You don’t have to make anyone mad for them to come after you. It’s completely impersonal and opportunistic. While they can’t always keep all the bad guys out, companies that specialize in WordPress hosting can help automatically apply WordPress updates and patches to ensure that you’re site is as safe as possible.

Tools – When you offer one product or service, it allows you to specialize. Many of the WordPress hosts offer a variety of useful tools. One example is a complimentary staging environment (which allows you to rapidly duplicate the website and work on a copy instead of the live site for large changes or updates). You can always set up a staging server and manually move a copy over, but the automation tools can be incredible time-savers.

Expertise – Many hosting companies attempt to differentiate on customer service, but that can be a challenge when every website is built with different technology. We have found that WordPress-specific hosts have the ability to help trouble shoot technical difficulties, even in the development of the site.

What if we have sophisticated hosting needs?
We have been impressed by the capabilities of the hosts we have worked with. Many have been able to accommodate unusual hosting needs and requests. Not all of the services will be listed on their marketing websites, so take advantage of their eager sales teams to ask questions and get help with their solutions and alternative suggestions.

We are here to help.
If you would like to discuss a new WordPress website or the redesign of an existing site, contact us today.

Four Tools to Help Flip the B2B Lead Generation Model

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In years past, the goal of the digital marketer was to drive web traffic. Prevailing wisdom taught us that an increase in traffic would lead to an increase in the number of contact form submissions. It was a passive strategy at its core: Build a campaign and wait for the leads to come rolling in. As Tom Petty aptly reminds us, however, the waiting is the hardest part.

But imagine if your web traffic visitors were real people walking into a retail store. Would you ignore them until they walked up to the counter? Of course not. You would approach them and offer your assistance. Today’s blog will look at four tools that give you the ability to approach your site visitors in the same way.

 

IP Tracking:

As the name implies, IP tracking tools examine the IP addresses of inbound web traffic to determine the owner of the visiting network. In other words, they tell you what companies are visiting your site. Sounds cool, right? We thought so too, and after we piloted IP tracking with one of our IT clients, we immediately saw its potential for lead generation across all B2B categories.

In addition to telling us which companies are visiting a site, IP tracking ties in with Google Analytics to identify the individual pages that a company viewed and how they got to those pages (ie. organic vs. specific paid campaigns). Armed with this information, our clients’ sales teams can now send personalized outreach emails to company decision makers about relevant products or services.

Ready to get started? We recommend an IP tracking solution called Leadfeeder.  While there are a number of platforms on the market, we like Leadfeeder for its easy setup, useful integrations and straightforward reporting.

 

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation sounds complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. Essentially, it is a process of simplifying tasks like social posts, emails, etc. For B2B clients, marketing automation can leverage a customer’s CRM to streamline email outreach through the CRM or integrations with third-party tools like MailChimp.

Combined with IP tracking and a little bit of research, marketing automation can open up some amazing possibilities. For example, you might create a series of emails that go out to decision makers at companies visiting your website. These emails can be tailored to the product or service that a particular company was investigating. Within these emails you might include a link to register for an upcoming webinar, download a case study or white paper, or connect with the sales team to schedule a one-on-one demo or consultation.

Marketing automation can also help you understand why visitors aren’t filling out a contact form. If a lead downloaded a free tool but hasn’t taken further action, you can send a series of tips and reminders about the benefits of the tool. This can help remind a lead to take the next action or get in touch if they have questions about how to use the tool.

At the end of the day, the goal of marketing automation is to move leads and contacts down the sales funnel toward a buying decision without taxing sales reps to do more outreach on luke-warm leads.

 

Live Chat

Live chat has evolved to become an increasingly useful tool in the B2B marketer’s playbook. In addition to giving site visitors the opportunity to ask questions without ever leaving their browser, today’s live chat solutions can be combined with inbound call/text campaigns that give potential customers the ability to communicate with you how and when they are most comfortable. Going a step further, many tools allow you to proactively start a conversation with site visitors, allowing you to initiate calls or emails, schedule demos and capture leads even faster.

Worried about after-hours staffing? Many live chat services allow you to turn your chat into a lead gen tool when your in-house team has logged out. There are outsourced service providers who offer an answering service to take messages, or the chat can be used to capture initial questions and prompt the site visitor to leave a message for future reply. Your inbound team will then be able to come in each morning and respond to leads that self-generated overnight.

 

Remarketing

In today’s over-saturated, multi-screen media environment, it’s difficult to break through to your target audience. But what if we focus on the ones that are already visiting your website? Remarketing allows you to tag site visitors, or visitors to a particular landing page, and then follow them around the web with digital display advertising.

If someone visits your website, looks at a few pages and then leaves without filling out a contact form, remarketing can help stick ads in front of them while they’re browsing other sites. Like the couch that follows you around the web after you looked at the IKEA site, you can remind these potential leads about your services, increasing the likelihood of return site traffic and contact form submission.

Focusing a portion of your advertising budget on potential customers that have previously visited your site results in higher conversion rates to lead capture, some studies showing a doubling effect.

 

There Is No Magic Bullet

It’s about building smart, layered, marketing campaigns to increase the delivery of relevant content to your target audience when they are in a buying mindset. Try a few of these ideas out and we promise, your sales team will thank you.

 

Want to learn more? Contact us today for a consultation on our outsourced marketing solutions for B2B businesses.

What It Really Means to Think “Mobile First”

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How many times have you looked at your phone today? Between quick glances, email, text messages, videos and checking in on social media, by the end of the day, you and every one of your customers spend nearly three and a half hours looking at your phones. [Inc]

We all know this shift to mobile is happening, and you’ve probably heard marketers use the phrase “mobile first” for a while now. But what does it ACTUALLY mean? Simply put, it means planning for mobile devices before desktops. But what is simple to say might require dramatic shifts in established marketing and design processes.

Here are some of the main changes your organization must make to remain relevant in the new “mobile first” world.

Speed is Everything

The first requirement in a mobile world is speed. Over the past several years, Google has been prioritizing mobile speed more and more when calculating search engine rankings. Analyzing mobile web traffic Google has found that 53% of mobile visitors will abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load, yet the average mobile page load time for sites is an agonizing 22 seconds.

WordPress has come to dominate the Internet over the past few years, supporting more than 25% of the world’s websites. [Forbes] While WordPress is a great platform to build a website on, it can be slow out of the box. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to help increase your site’s page speed. An easy way to get started, regardless of your platform,  is to test your site with Google’s Page Speed Test. It will tell you exactly where to focus to improve your site speed.

If you are starting a new website, you might even look beyond WordPress. There are a myriad of new mobile frameworks designed to improve mobile speed and user experience like FICTOAN, Beauter, Vanilla framework, Bulma and more.

Not Your Grandma’s Brand

If you manage to pass the speed test, your audience will find you, but what is their first impression of your brand online?

Social media and digital advertising are constantly changing. Over the past few years Facebook has made several changes to how profile photos appear on posts. Just this year, they changed the cropping that shows on your brand’s page from the square crop to a smaller circular crop. For some brands this meant their logos were awkwardly chopped off.

Moving forward, businesses are going to continue to face new challenges as their logo appears on new and changing platforms. While it’s very customary to have horizontal and stacked versions of your logo, the mobile first version of logo design will require brands to keep sizes in mind that maintain their readability on small mobile devices, and in a variety of different shapes, such as circles, squares and rectangles.

Just as websites are built for responsive designs where elements rearrange and disappear depending on the size, it’s also time to embrace responsive logos. On a responsive logo with an icon, text and tag line, each of the elements would be present at large sizes, and then the proportions might change with the text and tag line even dropping off as the logo gets used in smaller and smaller spaces. Brands that have a compact logo mark that they can use with or without the type treatment currently have a leg up in the social landscape.

If you really want to take it to the next level, you can even make it dance. Many digital platforms are starting to support animated logos. These present new options to explore and accentuate your brand’s identity in ways that catch mobile viewer’s attention as they scroll and swipe their way through content.

The single color logo cut out of vinyl is a thing of the past. It’s time to rethink how your brand is making use of its real estate in the mobile and digital world.

Developing the Right Content

Speaking of tight real estate, emerging platforms continue to decrease character limits and add all types of new restrictions for brands operating on them. To stay relevant among these changing landscapes will require new approaches to creating your content and messaging.

Start by flipping the dynamic from designing for large format pieces first, to designing for smaller mobile areas. Historically, a company profile would be developed in a longer format (750 words or so) and then whittled down to (250 and 150 character versions). It’s a very different approach to intentionally try to limit content and then build it back up for different mediums.

When in doubt, keep things simple. Focus on the core of your message and then build on it as you expand into additional content areas. If you can communicate your core messaging it in less than 6 seconds, or within 40 characters you’ll know you’re on the right track.

Finally, to maximize your website’s search engine compatibility, you will also have to begin writing differently. The first step in writing for web is to do your keyword research and find out what your audience is searching for. Then you can make sure those keywords and phrases are imbedded into the language of your copy. You also need to make sure that text is “live” and not baked into images, and ensure that it’s written in a conversational tone to answer the types of questions your audience would ask a friend or colleague, such as: “Where’s the best place to get…?” or “How do I…?” Highlight the most meaningful information in your content (like products, prices and hours) for search engines and virtual assistants by using rich data markups, which are back end code to call out critical pieces of information to search engines.

Looking Forward

From a wider perspective, not much has actually changed about what information your audiences want and need, but the way that information is being delivered continues to change at ever an increasing pace.

Focusing on mobile first requires bite size content that most companies are not accustomed to, but it is easy to embrace by focusing on the core of your message and objectives.

Have questions about how to put mobile first in your marketing? Let us help>

Why We Love WordPress

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welovewordpress_graphicChoosing a content management system (CMS) to help manage, maintain and update a website is one of the most important decisions to make when building a new website. Content management systems exist to make managing a website easier than ever before. However, the wrong CMS can cause difficulties when editing content or updating plugins, be challenging and costly for non-developers to learn, become expensive over time and have limited functionality and community support.

Navigating through these many content management systems can be time consuming and confusing, so we’ve done the research for you. For us, the clear winner is WordPress, and here’s why we love it.

It’s Widely Used

WordPress is currently the most popular website platform in the world, comprising 49.6% of existing websites and 60% of all CMS’ as of January 2015. As the most popular content management system, support and resources are widely available and easy to find. You won’t get locked into a proprietary system or stuck with a website that only a small handful of developers know how to update as you move forward.

It’s User Friendly

Originally designed as a blogging software that even the most novice user could get set up and running easily on their own, WordPress makes managing a website easy for any non-developer with little or no training. WordPress websites provide clients with the ability to do everything from making simple content updates to building advanced page layouts, all in an easily digestible framework. Where some content management systems require either backend development experience or significant training, we find most users can be up and running on WordPress with under an hour of training.

It’s Flexible

Out of the box, WordPress allows us to develop powerful custom designs (WordPress call these “themes”) and advanced page layouts. It’s surprising to find that many content management systems are still limited in their layout possibilities. If there’s a need for additional functionality (galleries, forms, lead capture, custom menus, menus and more), an existing solution can typically be found. When a custom solution is called for, it can easily be worked into the WordPress framework.

It’s Cost Effective

WordPress is free! That’s right, there are no initial costs and no ongoing licensing costs for the platform itself. While we do find that using a specialized WordPress host can help with performance and maintenance of the site, a WordPress website can be hosted on most standard hosting platforms. The widespread usage of WordPress has led to lots of competition from vendors and supporting resources, making it very cost effective to maintain.

It’s Mobile and Google Friendly

While many proprietary systems are still struggling with updating their technology to work with the latest responsive frameworks, WordPress is already mobile-ready and search engine friendly. With Google recently updating their search algorithm to rank mobile-ready sites higher than other sites, having a mobile-ready website is of the utmost importance for any company.

Choose Robot for your WordPress website

At Robot Creative, we understand that an established web presence is vital to the future of any business. Our team has extensive experience planning, designing and building WordPress (and non-WordPress!) websites that work with our clients’ goals and marketing initiatives.

We offer a wide range of responsive design options that will help your business stay ahead of changing technologies and ensure the longevity and scalability of your website into the future. If you’re interested in developing a new website with WordPress, or updating your current site to use WordPress, please contact us by sending a project request.

Does your website work on a phone? Your Google rankings may have just fallen.

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RobotNews_May2015_Graphics_On April 21, 2015, Google announced that it would boost the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on search results. With this update, Google recognizes that a growing number of mobile users need web content that adapts to mobile devices. As a result, Google has begun to exclude non-mobile-friendly web pages from mobile search engine results.

What options do you have?

 1. Do nothing: Make no adjustments to your current website
Taking no immediate action is an option, but it may be a risky long-term decision. Many companies have already upgraded to mobile-friendly websites, and others that continue to make adjustments will climb the ranks of Google’s mobile search results. If you do nothing to upgrade your website, keep a close eye on your site’s rankings and analytics to ensure you aren’t losing your edge in the marketplace.

2. Add some mobility: Create a separate mobile website for your mobile audience
Mobile websites offer an alternate version of your site that is tailored to the needs of your mobile audience. These websites are usually limited to a few important, minimally designed pages. Mobile websites typically exist independently of the full website, only loading when a user views the site from a mobile device. This option makes it possible to have a useful and reliable mobile-friendly presence, although it does have a downside: the maintenance of two separate websites can be daunting, especially when it comes to frequent content updates and additions.

3. Adapt to mobile and beyond: Update your existing website to a responsive design
As mobile usage continues to grow and exceed traditional PC usage, there are many benefits to owning a responsive website. Having a responsive site allows you to meet your audiences’ technological needs, while permitting users to experience your website content and features in an ideal format. With the creation of new mobile gadgets (smart watches, multi-use tablets, touch screen car computer displays), Google is expected to release further updates to their search-results algorithm. A responsive website will be able to easily adapt to these new devices as they gain popularity.

Does your website meet the requirements?
Click this link to check if your company website passes the Google Mobile-Friendly Test.

At Robot Creative, we understand that an established web presence is vital to the future of any business. Our team has extensive experience planning, designing and building mobile-friendly websites that work with our client’s goals and marketing initiatives. From custom designs to mobile sites, we offer a wide range of responsive design options that will help your business stay ahead of changing technologies and ensure the longevity and scalability of your website into the future.

 

Robot Interactive’s 10 Must-Reads – May 2015

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  1. Your internet is getting an update. Faster page loads. Smaller footprint. More Secure.
  2. Google Glass now has a competitor. If you don’t get a pair, we’ll still think you’re smart.
  3. Bringing laughter to your day.
  4. If you’re not prototyping, you’re doing it wrong.
  5. 10K video is just around the corner here.
  6. Interesting read for future developers.
  7. Here are some web design trends to look out for in 2015.
  8. Where is the fold in terms of responsive design? Well, its complicated.
  9. Here is a strategy for streamlining Web Font Loading.
  10. Curious what grid Microsoft uses for their site? Look no further.