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Colorful Tips for Serious Marketers

Project Spotlight: Heirzoom Bakery Website

While our name “Scientific Marketing Services” might imply that we only work with scientific companies, we have helped many clients in a variety of industries. In fact, we recently completed a new website design for a local online bakery. Heirzoom Bakery, a small family-owned bakery that offers authentic, ethnic baked goods, needed an online presence to sell and distribute their fresh homemade pastries. Already established in some niche markets, they were looking for a way to reach the masses. SMS knew that a new e-commerce website was the best way to do that.

Heirzoom Bakery prides itself in its Hungarian inspired pastry, branded as fennome®. This buttery, light treat is a spiral-rolled pastry filled with a selection of fruits. The focus had to be on their quality, taste and freshness. Photography was extremely important to convey this message.

The main functional feature of the site was to be its online sales capabilities, and an important aspect of online sales is the shopping cart tool. We guided the client through the merchant account process so the set up was seamless and easy. The site also features a Google map which directs consumers to the locations where Heirzoom Bakery products are sold. With some fine-tuning of the copy and a design to reflect their traditional bakery aesthetic, the site was ready to go live.

Heirzoom Bakery has found success in their pastries and is continuing to identify their target audience. SMS helped make this possible and already sales are starting to grow. Need a tasty treat for yourself or your company? Visit www.heirzoombakery.com and check out their phenomenal fennome pastries.

No matter your budget or your product, SMS can help you reach the audience you need.

– A. Nolfi

For more info on how you can affordably develop your company’s website, send an email to snorton@smsmktg.com and/or reply in the comments below.

Landing Pages: What You NEED to Know

By now, most marketers are familiar with the concept of landing pages and what they do. But being familiar doesn’t necessarily equate to having an effective understanding of why designing them correctly is vitally important to your Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns, and any other marketing initiatives a company may be running to drive traffic to them.

Most everyone understands that a good looking design with relevent imagery and well-written, engaging copy means good marketing. The problem is that too many people stop there. Just because an ad or landing page is beautiful, sexy and/or clever doesn’t mean it will convert to contacts and sales. There are key steps to designing an effective landing page that will not only engage the visitor, but more importantly, convert them.

So what are the most important elements? At SMS, we believe that every good landing page must satisfy three basic demands:

1 – The landing page must match the ad or campaign seamlessly. In other words, don’t just sprinkle popular keywords into your campaign or run an ad in front of as many eyes as possible in order to snare the widest possible audience. If a user clicks your online ad or enters your print ad’s listed URL and they’re taken to a landing page that strays even slightly from its core message, they’ll “check out”. Not only that, they are likely to recall a negative experience with your brand which will affect future interactions. It’s also a fact of human nature that negative experiences are more likely to be shared. Not good. Be specific in your campaigns, as the adverse is also true: a user who gets exactly what they’re looking for will keep their eyes open for your brand in the future.

2 – The landing page must have call to action “buttons” spread throughout the page that are easy to find. Laboring over accurate and compelling copy is worthwhile, but most users will skim looking for a way to get the exact info they’re looking for once they feel they’re at the right place. The harder you make that to do, or the longer it takes for them to find a way to click on their needs, the more conversions you’re likely to lose. Shoppers like to reach out and grab what they want when they make up their minds. Be their helping hands.

3 – The landing page must have a separate and trackable URL that demonstrates the brand or ad campaign. For a company selling through PPC ads, this is less important because marketing pros can more easily trace where their traffic originated and how the ad is performing. But for those companies still maintaining an offline presence with tools like print ads and billboards, a more distinct path marker is required to differentiate between direct and organic traffic and traffic generated by a landing page-driven initiative. An accurate account of traffic is important for apportioning marketing budgets so that good money isn’t left floundering in the marketplace due to misjudged efforts.

Remember that marketing is a dynamic science that requires real-time alterations and reevaluations. There are very few hard-fast rules, and even the ones set here will require testing. The best one can do is to continue to monitor customer behavior and direct their marketing efforts as specifically to it as possible.

– S. Norton

For more info on how you can affordably produce your company’s landing pages and run an effective PPC or ad campaign, send an email to snorton@smsmktg.com and/or reply in the comments below.

Project Spotlight: CU Maurice River Website

Scientific Marketing Services has recently gone live on a long anticipated project. Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries, Inc. (CU Maurice River) now has a new and improved website that has been in the works for over a year. CU Maurice River’s mission is to protect the watershed of the Maurice River and the region for current and future generations to enjoy the environmental, recreational, and cultural resources of this global treasure for years to come. As a nonprofit organization, they are volunteer oriented and do a great job at empowering individuals, corporations, and neighboring communities to promote the well-being of the area and the wildlife within, so they needed a site to encourage excitement and support. Education, wildlife management and volunteerism are hallmarks of the organization.

While first assessing the old site and determining what the new site should focus on, a main component was realizing how interactive the site can be, and should be. With such a heavy reliance on technology and mobile devices, it was very important to ensure that the site was just as mobile friendly as it was desktop friendly. It needed to be interactive, while also being informative. CU Maurice River hosts a number of events which depend on volunteer and community members. The events needed to be displayed easily, so SMS created a real-time event calendar. Information concerning the event, contact details, as well as volunteer opportunities are included with the ability to sign up and pay for events in just one click.

The new site boasts colorful photos and easy navigation which encourages further exploration of its extensive content. The Maurice River and its tributaries are considered a national treasure. Portions of the Maurice, Menantico, Muskee Creek and Menantico Rivers are designated by the National Park Service as National Wild and Scenic Rivers. You can find detailed descriptions and pictures in the Flora and Fauna sections. Having difficulty identifying a Southern NJ plant? The local flora section will narrow your search more swiftly than larger guides to the Northeastern US or North America. Discover the great work that CU Maurice River does by visiting the Avian or Fieldwork sections. Or explore the rich culture resources of the Maurice River on an interactive map called, “River Recollections.”

With the site completed and live, it is not only CU Maurice River’s goal, but SMS’ as well, that people get involved. Perhaps you would like to become a member, make a donation or volunteer? The new site has something for everyone, so maybe it’s time to take a second look at www.cumauriceriver.org.

– Angela Nolfi

To see additional work produced by SMS go to www.SMSmktg.com/portfolio or contact Anita Nicolo at 856/697-1257.

Project Spotlight: Hungerford & Terry Filtration System Animation

Hungerford & Terry, Inc. is a company that specializes in custom-built water treatment systems. These advanced water treatment systems remove iron, manganese, arsenic, radium, hydrogen sulfide, nitrate, sodium and color for municipal, government and industrial facilities worldwide. H&T has been a longtime client of Scientific Marketing Services, and presented a challenge in hopes that we could aid in the solution.

A long-anticipated environmental trade show in Philadelphia, PA was quickly approaching for H&T, and as leaders in the water filtration market they wanted to display one of their systems in a way that properly showcased its capabilities and magnitude of service. Initially, the company was heading in the direction of 3D printing a model of the system, but quickly vetoed the idea when the reality of the cost to print it set in. This is when they expressed to SMS their end goal: showcase the flow of their Plug and Play Greensand Plus Filtration System and demonstrate its inner processes. Having been faced with similar products in the past that hide their operations behind protective encasements, we knew the only way to deliver what they asked was through 3D animation.

SMS animator, Gina Shearer, studied a model of the Plug and Play Greensand Plus Filtration System and began designing a 3D animated model that went through a detailed run of how the water is filtered, rinsed and backwashed, the direction of flow, and the way that multiple systems can be “plugged” into each other to work simultaneously. A graphic animation has multiple steps to undergo before it’s ready to view, so once the framework of the system has been drawn and programmed to move, it then has to go through a detailed rendering process.

An animation is essentially an assembly of shapes, textures and effects that are rendered frame by frame to tell a story. Shearer commented that, due to the complexity of H&T’s system, the biggest challenge would be the amount of time and computer power needed to complete the rendering process in the tight time frame. Going at an average of 30 frames per second, she had 9 computers simultaneously rendering separate chunks of the animation over a period of 8 days, often running through the night. Unattended rendering risks technological glitches and/or power failures and work being lost, so each render had to be carefully and meticulously planned. Luckily, no such issues arose due to her and her team’s constant vigilance of checking the connectivity and progress of each computer.

A week and change to complete a six-minute animation is a hefty stretch. But properly capturing the essence of an H&T filtration system means no detail could go unnoticed. This required more control over shadows as the animation adjusted to the same light sources that would impact a physical model, therefore creating a more realistic look. Elements such as glossy finishes or the texture of filtrated material take extra time to render as well, but the carefully calculated risk was a small trade-off for a more impressive aesthetic.

In the end, Hungerford & Terry, Inc. had their hand-delivered animation finished and ready to present at their trade show on the promised date and time. Have a look below:

– Angela Nolfi

For more info on how you can affordably produce your company’s animated video presentation through our experienced SMS staff, send an email to snorton@smsmktg.com and/or reply in the comments below.


Explaining Website Audits and Why You Need Them: Pt 3

Previously, I’ve cited meta descriptions and website content as two examples of why companies need to audit their websites in order to keep in Google’s better graces. Again, Google isn’t necessarily just pushing websites around in order to feel powerful and coerce budgets into PPC bidding wars. Rather, it is attempting to provide the greatest return for user time investment. It wants to give users what they’re looking for as quickly and as efficiently as possible by being both reactive and predictive. In doing so, company websites would do well to get on board by making their websites as informative and relative as possible. It’s a win-win business scenario provided companies can create quality content on a consistent basis. Those that can will compete better and make better use of marketing budgets.

SERP image Alt TextFor this post I want to focus on a third major audit element that may not incur many actual penalties if neglected (at this point in time – things change in Google world quite often), but is certainly important to SEO success and very common among websites that display lots of product imagery: image alt text/tags and title text.

To put it as simply as possible, every image that exists on a website has two descriptive tag attributes. One involves text that tells Google bots that cannot yet see like you and me what is contained in the image, commonly referred to as ALT TEXT, and the other is text that becomes visible to the human eye when the cursor hovers over the image, known as TITLE TEXT. If either or both are missing or duplicated, an image may still appear but will not benefit a website’s SEO as there will be no keywords or descriptions to help direct search engines. Also, some browsers may have a setting that disables image display, and without a title to display in its stead, visitors using this setting won’t know what’s there. Sure, most keep images enabled, but there is a percentage of mobile device users who do not. What’s more, those titles can be designed to include sales messages and calls to action. And let’s agree that images are what users see first and pay attention to most, especially when in a shopping mood.

And similar to content that has been duplicated, if a bot is confused as to where to direct users due to duplicated image text, it will prioritize websites that have taken the time to make that text unique. It becomes evident fairly quickly that shortcuts are not rewarded in web development. How long before business language merges with web language to the point where companies are judged on their attention to detail in their web marketing efforts? Surely, we’re already there in terms of how current a website’s design presents. A “dated” design often translates into “dated” products and services, which can seriously weaken marketing budgets. At SMS, we pride ourselves on putting as many of a company’s marketing dollars into the marketplace as possible. Well, in today’s digital marketing environment, doing that means keeping a company’s website as current and user-friendly as possible as almost every other budget dollar is pointed in its direction.

Outside of meta descriptions, content, and image text/tags there are a number of other design and coding elements that can work for or against your website in terms of search engine compatibility and our audit reports are constructed to highlight the most important, or those that require more immediate attention. But new elements are always being introduced, meaning that despite all professional efforts, websites designed today could be committing the sins of tomorrow. A web development team that understands that keeps company websites in the highest compatibility percentile more consistently and for longer periods of time. Because soon if not already, all marketing efforts will depend on it.

– S. Norton

For more info on obtaining an audit on your website to avoid Google penalties and improve SEO results, send an email to snorton@smsmktg.com and/or reply in the comments below.

Explaining Website Audits and Why You Need Them: Pt 2

In the previous post I discussed how website audits were becoming essential to SEO practices in order to prevent Google penalties and stay at the top of search rankings. I listed meta descriptions as important elements for driving traffic from SERPs as they were responsible for enticing users to visit a page on your company’s website that provides the rich source of information they were looking for indicated by their search. If these descriptions are missing or duplicated across more than one page of your site, Google bots become confused as to where to send users and instead reward those websites with a more clearly marked trail.

Another important element that informs rankings is your site’s content. While it may be obvious to most that well written and informative copy is critical to a positive user experience, Google bots analyze content in a number of ways that affect website rankings. Similar to meta descriptions, content that is missing from a page or duplicated from another page confuses crawlers, which will then seek pages from other sites. If content is thin (fewer than 600 words according to Google’s Panda algorithm), unoriginal with word streams that are too similar to content found elsewhere online, or overloaded with keywords in order to attract search engines rather than written to deliver quality information, search rankings will suffer.

But what of short, succinct articles that are more time-efficient by delivering quality information that gets straight to the point? Shouldn’t they be rewarded? Google’s Brain is always evolving to understand content better, moving towards algorithms that will act more like real users. Google also indexes reduced character content like tweets and blog posts and rewards greater interaction such as retweets and comments. That is why the go-to rule of thumb is to write good, fresh content. Adding images (with tags, a topic we’ll get to next time) and video also increases interactivity and attracts Google bots. They may seem finicky at first, but once we as marketers accept that search engine crawlers and users are moving towards a singularity where the more thoughtful and information-rich websites get the most attention, everything starts to make sense.

So, how do we “refresh” our websites without going through another round of copy approvals that can take weeks and months to complete? It’s true that websites should always evaluate base content for accuracy and currency, but blogs such as this one are a great way to keep a website’s content fresh and provoke interaction. Content creators can post as often as they like, and those posts can be reflected on home pages in a refreshable area of its design to better attract search engines. Social media is also a great way to promote traffic, but not all industries interact seamlessly and organically through social accounts. Therefore, for companies with carefully constructed budgets, engaging users with fresh, well-written content keeps company messages in front of customers and prospects better than a beautifully designed website that sits for years relying solely on intermittent marketing initiatives to drive traffic to deeply informed, but stale, content.

Next up: title and image tags. Google bots may not yet see things like we do,  but sometimes they see things we cannot.

– S. Norton

For more info on obtaining an audit on your website to avoid Google penalties and writing good content, send an email to snorton@smsmktg.com and/or reply in the comments below.


Explaining Website Audits and Why You Need Them: Pt 1

Before we dig into some of the nuts and bolts of tweaking  your website to avoid Google penalties, SMS Web Designer, Melissa McDermott, responded to my post about secure transfer protocol with two additional pieces of information regarding HTTPS and Security Certificates that I felt were important to share:

1_ Some hosting providers charge you per year for dedicated hosting (your own IP, instead of a shared server), which you need for an SSL.

2_ Some browsers give the full page warning now when accessing an unsecured site, asking the user to continue if they understand the risks, which can scare visitors away.

This underlines in red the importance of switching to HTTPS sooner than later and finding a hosting provider who can affordably and reliably keep your site secure. SMS sets our hosting fees based on bandwidth usage and continuous tech support with access to an onsite professional. And while ongoing web maintenance and development may never be an exact science, we understand the importance of keeping websites functioning as intended and well protected with a dedicated team. For more info, contact us via our team email.

So what is a website audit? In brief, an audit involves crawling a website’s content and code using sophisticated software to learn if it is compliant with Google search algorithms. Google is the Internet’s top search engine and wants to stay that way, so it runs algorithms to ensure that its users receive the best results possible for their searched keywords and terms. To do this, it uses an intensive and always growing set of criteria to boost useful, user-friendly and information-rich websites and penalize those sites that appear to Google bots as “spam” sites or low-quality web destinations. A site of low quality may not have new or updated content, or its design could be confusing to navigate. Google bots don’t have eyes like you and me, but there are coding clues that tell them if a site is full of ads, poorly written, or contaminated with broken links and they’re getting more sophisticated by the day.

When SMS runs an audit, we get a trove of information that explains a website through the eyes of a Google bot and it’s our job to analyze it and see what needs immediate fixing. Those areas that need fixing first are called errors, and the more errors there are the greater chance a website will be hit with an algorithmic penalty. Penalties punish websites by pushing them down on search result pages (SERPS), leaving room at the top for their competition. In this series we’ll examine the most common error areas that may be putting your site in SEO danger, and offer suggestions on how they can be fixed and even improved for better rankings.

Meta Descriptions. These bits of content and/or coding are vital to getting clicks on results pages. They are generally defined as an HTML element, 160 characters long, that describes and summarizes the contents of your page to search engines. Basically, these are the little paragraphs of text that one uses to determine if a result is worth exploring. If each description isn’t customized to represent its individual page, Google gets confused as to how to reward relevant search terms by sending traffic to the correct information. If they’re missing (becoming loaded with random content), duplicated or poorly written, expect a search result beneath those pages that target users with enticing and relevant copy complete with calls to action. In a very real way, meta descriptions are “mini-ads” for each page on your website. Everyone sees them and uses them to direct their next move. It’s well worth the time to polish them.

Next up: content, and why simply loading up with keywords or copying company literature may be hurting your rankings.

– S. Norton

For more info on obtaining an audit on your website to avoid Google penalties, send an email to snorton@smsmktg.com and/or reply in the comments below.

Project Spotlight: Updating the Acu-Print Website

Acu•Print is a small digital printing company that provides an expansive variety of professional printing services. They are located in Vineland, New Jersey and have been creating impressive printing pieces for the architectural, engineering and construction industries, and other professions for over 30 years. While their wide range of capabilities is impressive, they came to the realization that they were having trouble being recognized by consumers in their marketplace. With an outdated site and a small location, their visibility was not reaching its full potential, and as a result they were losing much deserved business. Once they recognized a change was necessary, they reached out to SMS to resolve their issue, and fight back against the competition.

Because a company’s website is what drives a large percentage of visibility and interaction between the consumer and the company, it is becoming vital for a company’s survival to have a strong online presence. Prior to SMS’ changes, the site did not appear to be updated in quite some time, which is a deterrent for potential business to business customers where 85% of them look into a company’s website before they decide to make a purchasing decision. That is to say that when they are still investigating where to spend their time and money, they will gladly move on to the competition if they are not pleased visually. SMS gave the site a sleek and professional look to reflect the kind of business they conduct. With visually appealing graphics that grab the eye’s attention, it is sure to keep the viewer initially engaged and further their interest on the site.

A problem that Acu•Print specifically presented was the matter of customers not being able to find their store location. They noticed there was an issue with searching the address, which made it difficult for someone to give them business. SMS implemented the use of Google Maps directly on their website, pin-pointing Acu•Print’s exact location with a visual map, complete with the option to retrieve clear directions in a separate browser by clicking on it. This allowed customers to find everything they needed to know about Acu•Print in one step, creating more convenience for the user.

The layout of a new website is tailored to be simple yet effective. It provides functionality by briefly describing the services offered, and a competitive SEO strategy by using specific key words in the copy of the site to increase the organic search results.

So if you’re in need of an impressive trade show booth graphic to WOW the attendees, a custom made t-shirt with DTG (direct to garment) printing, or an enhanced and laminated photo that will carry your company to a higher look of professionalism, SMS encourages you to visit Acu•Print’s new and improved website to see what their 30 years of custom printing experience can do for you!

– Angela Nolfi

For more info on updating your company’s website through our problem-solving SMS web staff, send an email to snorton@smsmktg.com and/or reply in the comments below.

HTTP v. HTTPS: Is Your Website Secure?

On a bi-monthly basis, SMS conducts audits on client websites to determine their “Google health”. In other words, Google uses algorithms to reward those sites that are user-friendly and informative and penalizes those that may have attributes that are less desirable or give the appearance of “spam” sites. It’s in Google’s interests to provide their users with the best possible search results, and being the number one search engine with 81% share of the search market, these penalties are highly likely to affect our clients. Lately, we’ve been notifying them in their reports of a new factor that may affect their organic search results and user behavior, one that is growing in importance.

Let’s begin with a very simple definition of HTTP, which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It’s responsible for how website information is presented to the user, and it aims to make that transfer quickly because, for most, speed is the most important criteria for using the Internet. HTTPS is pretty much the same thing except its primary focus is security, and works in conjunction with something called an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. If you’re exchanging sensitive information like credit card numbers, most will appreciate the slightly slower transfer in favor of not being robbed blind.

Whether your website is involved with the exchange of sensitive information or not, there are a few things worth noting about HTTPS that could still effect your traffic:

• HTTPS is increasingly preferred by Google and switching to it will give you a search ranking boost. Another way of saying this is you will effectively be penalized by Google by staying with HTTP, and that will increase in severity in the future.

• If SMS hosts a website, it is automatically switched to HTTPS at no additional cost. Check with your server provider if you’re still seeing HTTP in your URL as you may have to purchase an SSL certificate periodically to stay current. Prices range from $70 – $100 per certificate.

• Users that do a lot of shopping online may begin to set their browsers to ignore unsecured sites and/or deny access. It is already pretty universal that a warning is shown near the URL address when accessing a site still using HTTP.

Switching to HTTPS can be tricky if you’re doing it yourself, so it’s best to consult an IT professional as there are many steps to take. It’s pretty clear that your SEO activities will be reliant on making the change, so waiting too long could open the door for your sharper competition.

For more info on safe hosting for your company’s website through our secure SMS servers, send an email to snorton@smsmktg.com and/or reply in the comments below.

Industrial Content Marketing Pt. 3: Email Campaigns

Marketers often talk about a “marketing mix”, which generally means a combination of traditional and digital marketing activities. Some are more measurable, such as clicks from a landing page, while others are more nebulous, like print ads which intend to promote general market awareness. The two should be designed to work together, so that awareness highlights a link on a SERP. However, this buddy-system can still make calculating the ROI of any individual initiative tricky. We know when a unique visit to our website comes to us from a landing page because we can follow the trail back to the original click. But even though print ads are still used by 50% of industrial marketers, most only include simple homepage URLs. A visitor can arrive at your homepage from many different directions, making it hard to know exactly how to reach them again.

Does it matter? As stated, a marketing mix is kind of like an improvised cocktail: as long as we’re getting decent results, can’t we just trust the process?  Well, when you’re looking to apportion larger chunks of one’s marketing budget into those activities with the best conversion rates, it helps to have statistics to back up the best choice. We can go by feel, but that usually means trial and error, informed by experience, with a dash of our best “guestimation” – which can work, but we’re not getting the most from our tools and we’re certainly not going to be very aggressive. Slow growth can be stable, but it can also lead to a loss of faith in the power of marketing in general. Unrealized marketing potential affects a company’s ability to compete, particularly during moments when one’s industry is stagnating and the opportunity to grab market share is at its apex.

So, if print ads represent 50% of industrial content marketing activity but their efficacy is also difficult to measure, what’s the better way? If you read the title of this post, you already know: email marketing. The statistics are staggering. According to several 2016 Industrial Marketing Reports:

• 97% of engineers will consider an email in their inbox
• 92% of industrial marketers use email to distribute content
• 80% of marketers agree that email is core to their business
• 79% of marketers say email generates ROI, a 48 percent year-over-year increase
• 64% have integrated email marketing activity with their overall marketing strategy

Those are pretty informing numbers, but it’s very important to know that 83% of engineers use a spam filter and of those emails that make it through only 40% are scanned for interest. Still good, but it does mean that email campaigns need to be carefully and thoughtfully designed in order to break through and deliver a traceable link. “Batch and blast” campaigns can get your company blacklisted, as can teasing subjects that attempt to “fool” recipients. In order to build trust you have to make your subject lines compelling wth compelling content to match. The relative low cost of email campaigns is often abused by marketers who simply cast as wide a net as possible. Instead, use the low cost to justify spending more time and resources on the content itself and engage a carefully vetted prospect list. Once that trust is built, you’ll have a direct line to them and one that can be easily measured.

– S. Norton

For more info on how you can affordably create effective email campaigns for your company through our experienced SMS staff, send an email to snorton@smsmktg.com and/or reply in the comments below.