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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Do You Need a Site Search?

There's a visitor on your site. Right now. He's looking for a specific product. Or maybe a press release, or white paper, or job opportunity. Is your site helping him find what he wants, or is it hindering him?

In an article entitled, "Site Search: Not Just About Finding the Product Anymore" published by InternetRetailer.com, a recent study by the Patricia Seybold Group and WebSideStory Inc. found that, "Shoppers who use site search on an e-commerce site buy 270% more than shoppers who don’t." An astounding number, right? The article expounds on this idea: "Few applications are more effective than site search at converting shoppers into buyers and improving the overall visitor experience at the site."

Not only does site search help companies identify what visitors are searching for, it tells them what words visitors are using to conduct a search. Site search provides intelligence: "it also provides intelligence that site operators can use in areas such as merchandising, site design and even inventory reconciliation...Marketers also are tapping customers’ interaction with site search both to rank search results and spot trends."

Consider adding a site search feature to your web site, or considering paying it more attention if you already have one.

posted by Michele Fedgechin at 2:31 PM

Friday, August 25, 2006

Influence of Internet Marketing

Internet advertisers work hard to attract consumers. But depending on the Search Engine of choice, what are users most likely to purchase?

For example, Yahoo users are more likely to search for Home Improvement products that any other Search Engine.

Click here to see the purchase decisions that users make based on their Search Engine preference.

posted by Ali at 3:04 PM

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Do you Yahoo!?

When you write the name of the search engine Yahoo, do you include the exclamation point, or do you leave it off? I’m sure many search engine marketing companies have had this debate when typing up proposals.

In my opinion, the answer is to leave it off. After all, are you exclaiming every time you mention Yahoo? In addition to identifying a word as an exclamation, an exclamation point also serves as a period, indicating you have come to the end of a sentence. The next word then, is the beginning on a new sentence. Therefore "Yahoo! Shopping is the best place to compare products and prices" really means "Yippee, there’s a place called Shopping where you can compare prices and products."

Doesn’t "Yahoo Shopping is the best place to compare products and prices" sound a whole lot better?

Using the same logic, the "Yahoo Search Blog" ceases to be a blog owned by Yahoo Search and becomes a sudden yodel followed by an instruction to search a blog entry: Yahoo! Search blog.

Is it necessary to include a certain feature of a company’s logo every time you mention the company just because the feature is available on your keyboard? Do you type department store, Macy’s, as Macy*s?

But don’t take my word for it. When in doubt I always consult www.theslot.com, a great blog site written by Bill Walsh, copy editor at The Washington Post.

This is his take on the subject: If I'm reading along and I see a reference to Guess? jeans, I don't get to the "jeans." I stop at "Guess?" and try to figure out the answer to the question. At the end of a sentence it's probably even worse, as the sentence will look like a genuine question. The logo is GUESS?, but the name is Guess.

End of debate? Or rather, end of debate!

posted by Carolyn Price at 4:48 PM

Customer Reviews

For active web surfers customer reviews have most likely become commonplace. We look at reviews for opinions on new consumer products such as electronics (computers, TV's, cameras), movies, books and larger purchases such as cars. Amazon.com has been instrumental in this area... for example if you are looking for a new camera, you can browse several types by category, brand or price. Once you click on a particular product, you can get detailed product information followed by "Spotlight Reviews" where customers can write about what they liked or disliked. These include a 5 star rating system, dates, and you can even access the reviewer's profile to see what their background is! (Maybe a professional photographer's opinion carries more weight for a new camera).

Service web sites also use customer reviews (which are really blogs that are archived and may allow responses). I recently read an article about how TripAdvisor.com has helped hotel owners rise to "fame" due to recommendations from hotel guests. This site has a section called "Read or Write Reviews", amongst many search criteria and hotel availability features. Another site you might use for planning a vacation is Vacation Rental by Owner (www.vrbo.com). Once you go in by country, state or city you can look at properties that have guest comments or even those where the VRBO Bear has stayed (this is a person who travels to various properties to provide consistent editorial to viewers). The guest comments can provide many helpful opinions that the property owners may omit or gloss over.

If you haven't checked out sites with customer reviews, you might consider using this feature in your next purchase. Or if you are looking to add new functionality to your company web site add a blog where customers can comment on your products... it's great content for the Search Engines to spider!

posted by Lisa Luttmann at 10:35 AM

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Google Calendar

Sometimes you have to wonder when Google is going to take over the world. In February of last year, I wrote a review of what was then Google's latest web tool, Google Maps. Over a year later, Google is still putting out some of the most useful and cleanest web apps available. And it doesn't seem like they're slowing down any time soon.

While many calendar alternatives can be clumsy and difficult to use, everything is simply a click away with Google's calendar. Using Javascript and XML, you can add, edit, and move events (via drag-and-drop) without having to reload the page.

As you would imagine, Google Calendar interfaces nicely with Google's search, Google Desktop, GMail (for notifications), and Google Maps (for locations). In addition to email reminders, you can have Google Calendar notify you of upcoming events on your cell phone. You can also share your calendar with friends, send invitations, and import the calendar of a friend, your favorite sports team, or US Holidays.

Best of all, moving to Google Calendar is easy, as you can import your Yahoo, Outlook or iCal calendar right into Google and begin using it. I wholeheartedly endorse giving it a try!

posted by Craig Willard at 1:52 PM

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Reading on the Web

If you're in the process of developing a new web site and are creating the content for that site, please read Jakob Nielsen's article, "F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content". The article, found in his newsletter, Alertbox on April 17, 2006, reminds us that visitors to your web site aren't reading your content - they're scanning it.

"F for fast... In a few seconds, their eyes move at amazing speeds across your website’s words in a pattern that's very different from what you learned in school." Findings from recent eyetracking studies by Nielsen Norman Group conclude that the "dominant reading pattern looks somewhat like an F and has the following three components:

  • Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content area. This initial element forms the F's top bar.
  • Next, users move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than the previous movement. This additional element forms the F's lower bar.
  • Finally, users scan the content's left side in a vertical movement. Sometimes this is a fairly slow and systematic scan that appears as a solid stripe on an eyetracking heatmap. Other times users move faster, creating a spottier heatmap. This last element forms the F's stem."

So what does this mean for web developers and those writing for the web? In general, it means that "repurposing" text from print materials won't work. Here's why:

  • "Users won't read your text thoroughly in a word-by-word manner. Exhaustive reading is rare, especially when prospective customers are conducting their initial research to compile a shortlist of vendors.
  • The first two paragraphs must state the most important information. There's some hope that users will actually read this material, though they'll probably read more of the first paragraph than the second.
  • Start subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points with information-carrying words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content in the final stem of their F-behavior. They'll read the third word on a line much less often than the first two words."

posted by Michele Fedgechin at 8:48 AM

Monday, August 14, 2006

When “Nice” is Refreshing

A clickable ad, of all things, caught my attention! I happened to be reading a news article online and a web ad to the side of the article made me pause. It was simple text on a color block with a few small multi-colored colored blocks on the edge of the banner ad. The text simply read “A website for nice people, from nice people.” I found that simple and to the point. I clicked the banner ad to find that it took me to a website (www.behospitable.com) for the Hilton Family of Hotels. The website is colorful, simple, and appears to be “honest”. How refreshing!

So many times we see websites with so much emphasis on multimedia, complex graphics, and sites that portray an attitude (emphasis on the ‘tude) of their product or service more than an approach and method to doing business. This website is refreshing in that it appears to be honest, it makes you feel good, and the website is all about treating people well. You get to read how the company wishes to treat it’s clients well, you read stories from visitors to the page sharing how someone treated them well, and you can even get tips and send greetings to treat the people in your life well. This is refreshing marketing that focuses on the good feelings a brand can represent. This site coupled with its’ heart warming commercials of people committing gestures of kindness, lend itself to a type of feel good marketing and return to customer service that is unfortunately becoming rare to see.

So the website has me feeling positive about the brand, but how successful are they in getting your business? Along with all the tidbits committed to treating people well, there is a link to make reservations online. The action to make a reservation is not pushed down your throat or redundant on the site. It’s one link that is plain to see. Without even seeing rates or a picture of a room, the website has done its’ job by making me feel comfortable on their site, and thus likely comfortable at one of their hotels. BeHospitable.com is an example in which the bells and whistles are not always necessary on a website and you can be simplistic, elegant, and savvy in marketing your product and building brand identity.

posted by David at 3:30 PM

Friday, August 11, 2006

What's Your Peak Season?

Seasonality can have a huge impact on the types of products or services that companies sell.

But what kind of impact can they have on a Pay per Click campaign?

It is advantageous to refine your PPC strategy based on the seasonality of your business.

Based on general PPC statistics, the CTR peaks in the summer while conversions peak over the holiday season.

Seasonal Variations in Pay per Click Metrics - 2005

CTR - 1.98%
Cost Per Click - $0.08
Conversion - 0.06%

Summer Peak
CTR - 2.44%
Cost Per Click - $0.09
Conversion - 0.68%

CTR - 1.96%
Cost Per Click - $0.14
Conversion - 0.66%

Holiday Peak
CTR - 2.26%
Cost Per Click - $0.23
Conversion - 1.47%

What's your peak season? ADI's PPC management will help achieve your goals during your peak season.

posted by Ali at 3:12 PM

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cool Product... Cool Ad

Verizon and Motorola have teamed up again for yet another high tech cell phone. The latest offering is called Motorola Q and is being touted as "the world's slimmest smartphone" powered by the Verizon Wireless high-speed broadband network.

What exactly is a smartphone? Wikapedia says, "it is any electronic handheld device that integrates the functionality of a mobile phone, PDA (personal digital assistant) or other information appliance". They are usually voice-centric and capable of one handed operation, as opposed to PDAs which are data-centric and two handed operation.

Here's what it has:
  • Thin Design (.45 inches) compared to other smartphones
  • Thumbnail Scroll for single hand navigation
  • Full QWERTY Keyboard (backlit no less)
  • Hi-Res Video Camera - 2.4" color screen
  • 1.3 Megapixel Camera with 4X digital screen
Here's what it does:
  • Wireless Sync of Email through Verizon Wireless Network
  • Downloads documents and files - view onscreen
  • Runs on Windows Mobile 5.0 - for easy integration with other Windows apps

Check out the GUI in their ad: http://estore.vzwshop.com/q/. When you mouse over any of the 7 features it shows a flash element and benefit for that feature. Pretty cool...

posted by Lisa Luttmann at 12:59 PM

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Happy Birthday Flash

Adobe Flash turns 10 today. In the decade since Flash first made its debut we have seen the tide turn from whole web sites designed in Flash to web sites which utilize Flash in a small section of their web site to showcase their product or expertise. No matter which you prefer or think is best (although we at ADI know that the search engines prefer a site which is not entirely done in Flash), the consensus agrees that Flash is cool. Flash has been used to demonstrate everything from architectural mesh to coffee.

But what does the next decade hold in store for Flash? Adobe is working on an application, codename Apollo, which will allow Flash to run outside the web browser and it will be accessible both online and offline. For example, you can make hotel reservations on your laptop and once you connect to the internet the transaction will be completed. This new application is expected to debut in the next year and we are all eager to test out Adobe’s newest endeavor.

Happy Birthday Flash!

posted by David at 3:21 PM

Monday, August 07, 2006

Website essentials

First impressions are everything:

  • URL/domain name is appropriate and meaningful
  • The surfer sees something meaningful within 8 seconds
  • The site name and product/purpose comes up instantly
  • The first page is less than 20K and images are kept small
  • Graphics are named with useful text content

The Homepage should be interesting:

  • There is useful information on the homepage
  • The homepage looks good, and has a clean, uncluttered look
  • Important information is "above the fold" (top 600 x 300)
  • Not distracted by excessive animation or flash

Navigation in the site is clear

  • Organization of the site is intuitive
  • It is easy to return to the homepage or any other page on the site

To make sure your website includes these essential items contact Advance Design Interactive today.

posted by Tara Cianfrani at 10:31 AM

Friday, August 04, 2006

Finding the Right Domain Name

You can spin in circles for days or even weeks (yup, I've been there too) trying to decide on the best domain name that relates to your business. You want to select a domain that helps brand your products or company. You look for one that isn't too long. But of course you don't want to make it too short. Then again, you would like it to be memorable. And you want to ensure that misspellings will be limited and won't be confused with other sites or companies. You finally decide on the perfect domain and (here's the shocker)... it's not available!

Well, you're not alone. We've all been there. And for good reason. Chances are someone has thought up that domain name long before you. Whether it was for an actual web site or an individual/company hoarding domains just to resell for a profit. I was flipping through the Wall Street Journal the other day and came across an article that discusses a study conducted by a financial analyst (yes, he does this as a hobby!). This gentleman analyzed the approximately 47 million .com domains that exist and here's some of his interesting findings:

- All of the top 1,000 most common English have been taken.
- 'A' is the most common word among domains, while 'consonant' is the least used word (only 42 domains).
- The most common word among words with 4 letters or more is 'home' with more than 719,000 domain names.
- The top 1,219 male names, 2,841 female names and 10,000 most common surnames have been booked.
- When you combine the top 300 first names and 300 last names, over 84% of them are also booked.
- More domains feature the word 'mortgage' than 'science', 'nature' or 'children.'
- Half of all domains are between 9 and 15 characters long with the average length of 13.
- The maximum number of characters allowed in a domain is 63 characters and there are 550 such domains - 26 of them are each letter of the alphabet repeated 63 times!

Good luck in your domain name search! Let us know if we can help.

posted by David at 10:00 AM

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wordiness. Is Less More?

"Wordiness", claims *Doug Stern, is one of the seven deadly sins when it comes to marketing professional services online.

He states that "Looking at a screen full of words shuts people down."

I agree. I'm one of those people. But I am also a search engine specialist, and I know how important those words can be if you want your Web site to be found by the search engines. When a client requests "clean" pages with a couple of strategically placed graphics and a scant paragraph of keywordless text I always mention that no one's going to admire those graphics if they can't find the site.

Stunning imagery, timeless logos, tasteful colors...we are all reassured by a Web site that exhibits characteristics which identify it as the gateway to a truly professional company. But search engine "spiders" pass by that stuff like rotting flotsam washed up on a beach - and head off to feast on the text.

So is Doug Stern wrong?

Not at all. Search engine experts constantly remind us that what's good for the Web visitor is good for the search engines, therefore a long page of rambling text can't really be good for the search engines can it? But can we satisfy Web visitors and entice the search engines at the same time? I believe we can. Text can be reasonably long without becoming a big yawn.

Provided the copy is relevant and informative, you can "design" text so that it grabs people rather than shutting them down.

Here are a few ways to keep eyes moving through a large patch of text:

> Use bullet points to deliver your most important information to people who tend to scan.
> Be generous with paragraph breaks.
> Arouse curiosity by asking questions between topics.
> Create bold subheadings at relevant points.
> Make your point in as few words as possible.
> Address your audiences' needs with every word.
> Use your keywords intelligently so they add to the readers experience, not detract from it.

Writing powerful text is one of the most important things a company can do for its Web site these days. And while I certainly don't advocate bombarding an audience with large grey blocks of keyword-stuffed copy, I do believe in offering the search engine spiders a tempting snack.

* Read Doug Stern's full article about The 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing Professional Services Online, or read Michele's blog (below), which summarizes his article.

posted by Carolyn Price at 3:16 PM

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Building a Better Professional Services Web Site

A recent article on MarketingProfs.com talks about some of the mistakes that professional service organizations (attorneys, architects, engineers, doctors, etc.) make when developing content for their web sites. The article, The 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing Professional Services Online by Doug Stern, cite these as his top picks:

  1. Self-centeredness - in spite of what most clients think, your web site isn't all about you. "Surveys tell us that buyers come to sites for assurance, not ego trips...This means offering a site that shows 'We know you, your business, and your industry - and we've solved the kind of problem you have.'"
  2. Wordiness - "Looking at a screen full of words shuts people down." Think short. Enough said.
  3. Jargon - "Technical jargon doesn't provide comfort. For starters, it doesn't get read....It says arrogance." There's a night-and-day difference between jargon and good writing. Try for the latter; omit the former.
  4. Staleness - "It takes a lot of dedicated resources to keep a site fresh - something the top firms and practices have begun to recognize." Updated content is important to both your audience and the search engines.
  5. Cliche images - Stay away from predictable images. Visitors don't need to see a gavel to believe that you're a law firm. "Better to look like your market. Want to work for Fortune 500 businesses? Then your site better start looking like Aetna.com. Better yet, Google.com."
  6. No images - Would you buy a house without windows? "Images make the intangible more tangible."
  7. Rigidity - "Too few sites knit their pages together." You don't need to keep information separate, even if it is on separate pages. Add links to other pages where it makes sense to do so. If you're showing a design/build project, include links to the bios of the architects, designers, project managers, etc. involved in the project.

posted by Michele Fedgechin at 8:49 AM

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