I hate computers. In fact, I hate any electronic device that promises improved performance, faster download times, breathtaking capabilities, a more productive workflow and any other number of turbo-tastic descriptive phrases. I hate them all. Seems wrong doesn’t it?
In 1997, I was on the verge of completing my graphic design education. My portfolio deadlines were so tight that I decided I needed a computer to help get my projects done in time. So I buy my first Apple. It boasts a blazing fast 300MHz G3 processor and a whopping 128Mb of RAM. I was in awe of its raw power. Even my modem was fast – taking me to the Internet at 56K per second. Remember that sound? When the Internet had a sound? (It’s going through your head right now isn’t it.) That sound made you wait 30 seconds to even to hear the words “You’ve got mail!” 30 seconds?! What a waste of time! These days I get irritated when my 18Mbps connection takes 3 seconds to load a site. And sadly, I know I am not alone.
These devices have seduced us all. They get faster and more powerful. Their capabilities constantly surpass our expectations. And they offer the world at our very fingertips. We can quickly connect to whomever we want and navigate to whatever video, song, book, document or information we could possibly imagine. We can have it all instantly. Or can we?
Our need for instant gratification has persistently invaded every aspect of our lives. Fast food, on-demand TV, next-day shipping (truthfully, that last one is still a little slow at times), the list goes on. However, the need for instant corrupts our personal lives as well as our business lives. The obsession for getting stuff when we want it drives us to no end and as a result, damages the quality of the things we do.
As a designer, I constantly struggle with that fickle mistress – creativity. It comes and goes as it pleases. It marches to the beat of its own drum, and I never know what it may have in-store for me. It depends on the phase of the moon – I think. But business, these days, waits for no one. What should take 10 hours was needed in 2. And why wait for tomorrow, when it can be done today? So instead of nurturing and developing creativity, we rush it. We push it. We cause it to be a shell of what it could be.
How many times have you completed a project just to find out that it is wrong? Just to find out that it missed the mark. Just to find out that you have time to do it right…the second time. What were the reasons? Time constraints? Budget constraints? Poor planning? It couldn’t be any of those because now you have to come up with a plan to do it over again, which takes more time, which eats into more of the budget…you see where this is going don’t you? Did the push to get it done now override the steps needed to make it great?
I must be honest here. Even though I “hate” them, our devices allow us to do incredible things. Ideas come to life quicker. We can share them with anyone at any time, enabling us to collaborate and make these ideas even bigger and brighter. But we have to learn to control the beast and not let it get the best of our impulse to get it done quickly just because we can. I’m not saying that every project needs to be mulled over with creative agony. Everyone huddled around the white board, brainstorming for that eureka moment. But sometimes, if we slow down and give it a second, great things can happen.
Written by Crystal Olig | February 25, 2014 5:51 pm
My coworkers will hopefully not kill me for this post. But after more than five years in agency environments, I (hope I) can safely generalize about what works and what doesn’t when working with my colleagues. Everyone is an individual, but I’ll guarantee you’ll find more extroverted Account Managers and more introverted Developers.
Why do you care? Well if you work with any of these roles or a whole agency of folks, understanding the people behind the work goes a long way towards creating open and collaborative communication flow that leads to the best campaign or output. We’re all just people at heart.
Developers are (surprise) very technically oriented. They think input and output, black and white, 1s and 0s. Seeing the gray area of marketing, when so much of development is the right way or not, is hard for them.
Top Tips for Working with Developers
Show don’t tell. Have you ever thought of how “over” and “under” can be interpreted on the 3D web? It could be vertically above or below as you scroll a page, or layers literally over or under each other. Taking screen shots, doing sketches or mockups, or even a short video of the piece of development you’d like to fix, will shave hours of back and forth off a dialog.
Focus on the problem to be solved, not the how. Common scenario, “Move the widget up and over, the graphic here and the banner here.” Instead, something like, “I’m afraid the call to action is not prominent enough. What could we do to help that?” Often specific directions can backfire, because that very clear set of directions, when followed, can cause a ripple effect of other issues. Let your developer be a consultant and a problem solver.
Plan for the unexpected. Building something on the web is like building a house. I asked in a recent seminar I gave, how many of the participants had led a website project. Nearly all hands went up. Then I asked, how many of those projects had been easy and launched on time? All hands down. Much like a physical building, there are layers upon layers of complexities, different specialists (your roofers, your plumber… I mean, your front-end dev, your UI team), and inputs required, and it’s a feat to get them all coordinated together. If you can plan for the unexpected, you will ensure you come out the hero.
Understand the difference between a little thing and a big thing. One of the key things I try to teach our project management team isn’t everything they’d need to know to be a developer, but how to understand context and scale. What can be small in print design (moving a column from the left to the right of the page) can be huge in web design and development. Most service organization work based on billable hours. If you don’t know if it is big or little, a great question to ask, is “How long would something like that take?”
Seek understanding of the result. Sometimes as marketers, we give ourselves a pass on the nerdy stuff. I’ve done it too, but I’ve learned that doesn’t lead to the best result. Technology is scary – heck, most marketers I know shy away from most science and math if we can help it – but today’s world is digital. We need to lead developers but to do that, we have to understand what we want and how we communicate. Developers love to talk about what they did and why. Let them.
Allow innovation. I’ll say this for every role we talk about today. By allowing autonomy with a purpose – clear direction and expectations – you can often get to something better together.
Every designer I have ever met is an artist. His or her favorite medium isn’t always even digital – the art director at the magazine I worked at was a talented muralist who painted landscapes of ancient Greece in restaurants, and desert vistas in homes in Arizona.
Top Tips for Working with Designers
Remember it’s their art. When you talk to designers, realize they poured a little of their souls into what they designed for you.
Work hard to enunciate your vision or likes/dislikes. Even artists need inspiration, and they want to understand your point of view. But if you just say, “I’ll know it when I see it,” they don’t have much to start from, and it usually takes longer to get you what you need.
Phrase to memorize: “Could you show me another option?” If you’re displeased with a certain aspect of a design, it’s easier to get designers to continue their creative process, instead of shutting down one component entirely.
Respect the creative brief. Most creative types will go through an exercise with you where they ask all the critical questions about your market, tastes, branding, etc. This is crucial to get right and understand how this will play a part in the design. If you start out with a site meant for older adults, and later decide your target market is children of older adults, it can drastically change what a designer will do for you. Help them from going in circles by having a clear brief at the outset.
Be able to be convinced. Listening openly to why something was designed a certain way, versus simply reacting to what you see, is another great exercise. Most intelligent designers are great at explaining what a specific piece accomplishes.
Allow innovation. Bringing very specific directives is sometimes necessary, but when it isn’t, bring problems to solve. There may be something percolating that will be more and better than you’d dreamed – if you give a designer the room to innovate.
The Account or Project Manager
Talk about multitasking. Most AMs or PMs I know successfully juggle competing priorities from multiple clients every day, along with a robust calendar of meetings, status reports, high-level strategy and client firedrills. They live and die by their schedules – respect that and you’ll get everywhere.
Top Tips for Working with AMs/PMs
Be thoughtful and concise. If you are constantly changing your mind and directions, you’ll drive your team nuts – and we just want to do what’s best for you! Being thoughtful in your directions, whether that means gathering your thoughts before meetings, soliciting internal stakeholder feedback in advance, or asking for help to get those thoughts in order, will save everyone time and money.
No e-mail diarrhea. This may just be a personal pet peeve, but I hate one-word or one-line emails. Most agency managers deal with multiple clients on a daily basis and will love you forever if you can send one email a day with that day’s needs, feedback and next steps. The more organized you can be, the more efficient we can be with your projects.
Drive your vision. Your vision is so crucial to our success. We can make recommendations based on our knowledge of your market and vertical, but every company is in a unique place and your in-house team will always be full of subject matter experts. We need your opinions and directions to keep us on track.
Be respectful and consistent with time. We know you’re busy, we get it. Being on time for our meetings, prepared for them and not cancelling at the last minute if you can help it, will give you more street cred with your AM than about anything else.
Be able to see the gray. So often, AMs are representing the hard work of everyone on their team. If you can listen to how a problem may have occurred or how a designer interpreted your need, you might be able to help the AM share back to their team what went wrong and ensure it doesn’t happen again. But if all you say is a black/white, “I love it” or “I hate it,” no one can learn.
Allow innovation. Maybe the AM is advocating for a design or development team. We hate to have to say no to our teams, but we understand if we do. Maybe the PM is challenging how you thought about executing a project, but they’ve done six projects like yours this year. Letting loose the reins a little can have splendid results.
In closing, we’re all just people. And we try to understand you, the client, too. We listen – what pressures you’re under, what competing needs your organization has that you have to piece through for us, whose boss is the hardest to impress. Even how many kids you have or what your hobbies are is fair game. We want to know who you are as a person, to help us do our best work for you.
Written by Mike Savory | February 18, 2014 4:42 pm
A brand mark is the proprietary symbol that visually conveys a brand’s identity. In short, it’s the little picture that accompanies text in a logo. Now that I’ve made you smarter, here’s how I go about creating a “mark”.
1. Think. What does the brand stand for? Many times I’ll make note of key words and phrases during the kickoff meeting that resonate with me. This simplifies the process of creating some sort of meaningful visual.
2. Sketch. Yes folks, I still sketch ideas. There can be more than a hundred of these little gems, limited only by time and my mental capacity.
3. Keep it simple. Be mindful of how the mark could potentially be used. Is it for the web, collateral or print? Who knows, but in the end it better be all things to all people. I often refer to a well-designed mark as a Johnny Cash song: simple, iconic and timeless. Johnny had a way of taking the complex and simplifying it to the bare essentials, like a good mark should.
4. Make it meaningful. There are many great examples out there like the FedEx logo with it’s hidden arrow or Amazon’s A-Z smiley face. How about Nike? Do you know what the “swoosh” is supposed to be? These are excellent examples of logo marks that have a story behind them. So look closely. Most people will only see the lady in the picture, but never the witch.
5. Illustrate. Scan a selection of these beauties into Adobe Illustrator, and see what shakes out. I predominantly use geometric shapes (pieces of circles and squares) when illustrating, which makes this process much easier and produces a more appealing, clean final product.
6. Apply color. Sounds simple huh? Do you know that floods of red can increase heart rate and blood pressure? Or that many financial institutions use navy blue to convey a more authoritative, conservative, dependable and professional feel to the consumer. Mind control. Am I a designer or your psychologist?
7. Choose a font. Varying from color, choosing a trendy font usually never lasts the test of time… that’s why they’re “trendy”. Know that a logo should last as long as the brand or you’ll be rereading this in a year or so.
8. Birth that baby! It’s both stressful and relieving to introduce your new bundle of joy to the world. Will everyone sing your praises or call your baby ugly? You’ll be the judge.
Written by Scott Rogers | February 11, 2014 4:41 pm
When you are in the business of hospital marketing, your administration will often look to your department to solve problems relating to patient volume for just about any service line. This is especially true in larger, multi-hospital systems. While it is nice that administrations have faith in your ability to influence patients, unfortunately, the truth is you will often be called on to solve problems that marketing has very little ability to impact. Before developing or updating your marketing strategy in reaction to your CEO’s latest “urgent issue”, you should do some detective work and find out if you are actually being asked to fix one of these issues:
Physician Referral Issues
Very few service lines are truly consumer facing, meaning the consumer selects the hospital for a procedure prior to selecting a physician. More often, a patient will have a concerning issue or a symptom, and they make an appointment with either their primary care physician or a specialist. As of that moment, they are on track to have tests and treatments done at your hospital or at your competition. It is nearly impossible for all of the consumer-facing marketing in the word to overcome a trusted physician saying, “I think you should go here to have this test done,” or “I prefer to do that procedure at this hospital.”
If your administration has noticed a decrease in your patient volume, the first place the hospital should look is at your physician referral pipeline. Maybe there is a large volume primary care physician who had a fight with one of your primary cardiologists and is now referring patients to a competitor. Perhaps one of your heavily referring obstetricians went on maternity leave and only returned part time. These types of situations will significantly impact your patient volume, but it isn’t anything your marketing efforts can fix on their own.
Operational and Staffing Issues
The best marketing in the world can’t make up for an unreasonably long wait for a test or a procedure. No television ad for an oncology program will get patients in the door if you don’t have a simple, efficient patient intake process. A great online search marketing strategy for your cardiac program won’t do you any good if it doesn’t direct those potential patients to a physician who can see them quickly and is going to refer them further into your service line.
If you are in a multi-hospital network, do the service lines at each hospital cooperate for the greater success of the network, or are they each competing with each other? If they are competing, they will effectively negate your marketing efforts. Does it seem to take all day for a patient to get through your pre-admission testing process because you are understaffed? That impression will spread throughout your community of both patients and physicians, and they will start going elsewhere despite your best marketing efforts.
If any of these sound like problems you might have, you need to work with your service line directors and operational managers to see that these problems are corrected before you make a huge investment into a new marketing effort. Otherwise you will be wasting time, money and your credibility.
How do you tell if your problem is one marketing can fix, and more importantly, how do you convince your CEO and Chief of Staff that the problem they are asking you to fix isn’t really with marketing? Look at your data. Your hospital will have the data to identify any problems in your physician referral stream. Find the people in your organization who manage that data and work with them to find the underlying cause to the change in your patient volume.
If you suspect an operational problem you need to look for soft data. Talk to your floor nurses, call center employees and lab technicians. They will be the first ones to hear patient complaints directly. Consider conducting a patient satisfaction survey or consumer impression survey that goes into more detail than the typical Press-Ganey survey. Finally, consider holding focus groups with both patients and non-patients. These can be expensive, but the depth of information they reveal can go a long way in identifying the root source of your marketing challenge.
Why is marketing so often asked to solve problems that really fall into these areas? I think it is because it is the easier path to take. It is easy to budget money for a television commercial touting the excellence of your cardiac program. It is easy to run a series of ads in your local newspaper announcing your new orthopedic surgeon. It is easy to promote your new linear accelerator. It is really hard to get the competing interests of your physicians, your facility managers, and your service line directors to align to address your root problems. How would you handle these issues, or how have you handled them in the past? We’d love to hear your healthcare marketing stories!
Written by Bethany Bebech | February 4, 2014 5:09 pm
This past Friday at Interact14, I had the pleasure of live-tweeting during the keynote presentations and break-out sessions. I’ve tweeted events on a smaller scale before, but the pressure was on to provide Interact14 information to all of Oxiem’s Twitter followers. Live-tweeting is something you learn as you go—making mistakes and changing your practices accordingly. Here are six of the most important things I learned about the art of live-tweeting at this year’s Interact Conference:
1. Power Up
Social media apps are notorious for draining the battery on smartphones and tablets. While live-tweeting at Interact14 (#Interact14), I alternated between using an iPad and iPhone the whole day and still managed to drain my batteries. The most important thing for anyone hoping to live-tweet an event is to remember to pack your chargers. You can’t tweet from a dead phone or tablet!
2. Use Your Hashtag
Keep your followers updated about what’s happening at the event with a specific hashtag. Advertise it, use it leading up to the event and prominently display it around the event space to let people know you’ll be tweeting along with them! There’s nothing worse than attending an event and not knowing what the “official” hashtag is, or worse yet, people making hashtags up during the event due to lack of direction. Including hashtags also makes your tweets searchable for people trying to keep up with event information on Twitter. But, make sure you don’t overdo it with the hashtags (see Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s “#Hashtag.”)
3. Engage With Attendees
An event is nothing without its attendees. With so many people utilizing Twitter as a note-taking tool of sorts during conferences and events, it would be unfortunate to forget about the other people there with you. Since you can’t be everywhere at one time, use the hashtag to find tweets from attendees in other sessions to retweet from your account. Communicating with attendees on Twitter creates a whole new level of engagement and can help fuel their passion for the event.
4. Pre-Schedule Content
This is especially important for event organizers and official event Twitter accounts. Scheduling tweets to posts before each new session throughout the day can help to remind followers about what’s happening next. It also allows you to focus on what’s being said during the sessions instead of worrying about the event schedule.
5. Attribute Quotes and Knowledge
The best part about events and conferences is that you get to hear from experts and professionals from many different industries, companies and sometimes even countries. Tagging the experts in your tweets not only adds credibility to the information but also creates a Twitter connection between you and the speaker.
6. Have Fun!
Twitter is supposed to be fun and engaging—remind yourself of that while live-tweeting because it can be overwhelming, especially when the speakers talk quickly or jump from slide to slide in their presentation. Tweet what’s on your mind, take pictures during the day and make new connections in the Twitterverse!
Live-tweeting can be a lot of work, but for those that enjoy using Twitter it can be exciting and can even increase your Twitter following in the process. Do you have any tips or tricks for live-tweeting an event or conference? We’d love to hear more about how you managed live-tweeting at the last event or conference you attended—leave us a comment!
Written by Katlin McNally | January 28, 2014 3:26 pm
Have you ever walked into your home or office and thought that it may be time for an update? Oftentimes when that thought occurs, buying a new home or moving offices is out of scope or even the realm of possibilities. The more reasonable solution could be changing what picture is hung on the wall, updating throw pillows or painting the walls a new color.Other times you need a more in-depth approach that incorporates furniture rearrangement, replacing the flooring or a new addition.
People will go through these same feelings and subsequent actions when thinking about the look, feel, design and functionality of their website. A website is not a one-and-done project; it will need updates as it matures and grows. This continued growth falls under what the industry calls a reskin or a redesign.
So what’s the difference?
A reskin falls under the category of new throw pillows and new picture updates in the above analogy—anything that an interior designer and a splash of color can complete. A redesign falls under the latter of the two types of home improvements, and is more closely compared to a home remodeling project. (I think now would be the time to distance myself from this metaphor so I don’t loose you to daydreams of DIY projects.)
A good rule of thumb for a reskin is to change anything that alters the color or imagery that is on your site. Designers and content marketers will work with you to accomplish this refreshed look. Action items can include changing out rotator images, adding hero or banner images, applying new backgrounds, or reconstructing the color or design in the header or footer. All of these items make the aesthetics and look of the site really sing.
A redesign is when you start to move those objects on your site; this in turn requires a little bit more coding, so a developer would be brought onto the project as well. Elements of a redesign can include adding an RSS feed or event module, moving the search bar, changing a piece of functionality, moving locations of adlets, or changing the overall template or layout of a page.
These solutions can update your site at a lower cost and often a shorter timeline. When working in a small or large organization, it is important to evaluate your site on a consistent basis to make sure your web presence is matching the financial and emotional needs of the user: meaning is it accomplishing your goal conversion rates and the right conversion rates. Would reorganizing the site map or contact page help? Is it meeting the brand expectations and key messaging? Does it appear to have an overall updated look and feel that allows for a positive user experience? Without strategically thinking about these goals and how to accomplish them, a redesign or reskin would have little to no impact on your site.
Evaluating and looking at these two options is key to keeping your site updated and engaging as it matures and grows. And as a shameless plug, if you’re not sure which direction is best for your website, reach out and connect with Oxiem’s interactive team. We can pull together an audit of your site’s weaknesses and strengths versus your key competitors. This can help you get an idea of whether you may need to pick up that hammer and nail, or merely a paintbrush—oops, there’s that darn metaphor again.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to hoard is “to hide and collect a large amount of (something valuable).” If you’ve ever seen an episode of the television show Hoarders on A&E, you’ll agree with the “large amount” part but struggle to see the “valuable” in a stack of old pizza boxes, assorted clothes, magazines and shampoo samples. Although one in 50 people compulsively hoard in the traditional sense, hoarding in the digital world is much more common. You probably don’t realize it, but you are most likely a digital hoarder.
When Two Worlds Collide
Let me step back a moment. Just because I’m a digital hoarder I shouldn’t assume that you are, as digital hoarding may require hoarding tendencies in general which, for the record, I have. I love books. I literally have a couple thousand hardcovers, more than I can read in a lifetime. They’re in closets, on bookshelves in my home office and bookcases in the living room, hallway and my bedroom. And, I buy more books regularly.
Now here comes the irony: I do not and will not own a digital book. How can a digital professional not use technology when it comes to reading? It would be so much easier for me to manage my book hoarding if they were digital. Well, if you’re a Trekkie like me and, more importantly a Captain Jean-Luc Picard fan, you’ll understand why I won’t make the switch to digital. For aboard the high-tech vessel the Enterprise in the 24th century, Captain Jean-Luc Picard was often seen reading a hardcover book. In fact, in the episode entitled ThePerfect Mate, he states, “I fall asleep each night with an old book in my hands.” That’s saying a lot when a quick visit to the ship’s holodeck could bring the book to life with him in the story. But, for Captain Picard and me, there is and always will be something about good, old-fashioned books. They’re like old friends that are nice to have around—even if they are all around you. Fortunately, digital hoarding isn’t all around you and can be dealt with quickly.
Pictures, Music and Videos, OH MY!
Our phones are now video recorders and high definition cameras. Our computers and tablets have increasingly more storage space and then there’s the Cloud, which seemingly acts as an unlimited repository of space—for a price. What does all of this extra digital storage lead to for most of us? Saving nearly everything we have digitally accumulated in our lives, including: a music collection that rivals the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, photos of our kids, photos of the ocean, photos of our kids in the ocean, a video of an early morning rainbow, a video of a squirrel sliding off of a squirrel-free birdfeeder and more. I’m talking award-winning stuff here and much of it isn’t even in focus. Focus be damned! I personally put pictures in my “family photos and video” folder on my desktop right next to the “miscellaneous folder” that is also full of photos and videos of, well, my family. These folders are completely unorganized, burgeoning like poison ivy on a kindergartner. I eventually reach a point where I can’t tolerate it and I know just the right ointment for this ailment—to the Cloud! And so, the cycle is complete. These files will rarely (if ever) be accessed again, yet there they sit in my digital home, a hoarder’s home (just not as yucky).
To Hoard or Not to Hoard
So, with the New Year here, my challenge to you is this: If you a hoarder, digital or otherwise, let’s both take this opportunity to clean up our act (and our hard drive). Yes, it’s going to take some time but it will be time well spent. Look on the bright side—you’ll get to revisit all of those pictures, videos and files you saved and take a moment to reminisce about them. Then, do your best Emperor Commodus from the movie Gladiator and decide the fate of the offender. Sure you’ll likely still keep plenty, but don’t be afraid to pitch things, either in a real recycling bin or the one on your desktop. Get rid of those blurry pictures of little Tommy. Get rid of those 20-second videos of a cool building you filmed through the car window. However, should you decide to get rid of those extra books you have lying around, let me know. I have a home for them.
Do you have any strategies for decluttering your life, digitally or otherwise? We’d love to hear from you!
Written by William McKelvey | January 15, 2014 5:00 pm
Social media is one of the most affordable, far-reaching forms of mass communication that exists in the world today. This is no secret to any person involved in marketing, but the ways in which they utilize social are where many companies end up going wrong. While it is important to be active on social media, many brands can cross the line between informative and bothersome and often end up being unfollowed or ignored on these social channels. This overbearing nature can be detrimental to a brand’s overall social presence. It is vital that any company utilizing social media walks that thin line that establishes themselves within the minds of users without overstepping their boundaries and hurting their overall message.
There are three things you should be cognizant of when handling social media for a company:
Just like with spam emails, social media users can easily become annoyed if their timelines become consistently congested with businesses promoting themselves. Remember, the cornerstone of these social channels is connection with friends, not companies. You shouldn’t post more than three to four times per day on Twitter and no more than once on Facebook or Instagram unless absolutely necessary. This gets your message out in front of consumers without oversaturating their newsfeeds and potentially generating resentment toward you or your brand. Just like with liquor or cocktail shrimp, moderation is key.
Target your audience
You wouldn’t want to waste money by promoting a nursing home via Twitter to a 16-year-old, would you? Exactly. The most invaluable service that social media sites provide for advertisers is a hyper-focused snapshot of each individual and their personality. Because users provide information about their age, gender and interests, it is incredibly easy for a company to target even the most specific of demographics. Companies can successfully promote their brand by tracking this data, listening to their customers and engaging with them on a personal level. Make sure that you utilize these services to ensure that every one of your posts reaches your target recipients.
Don’t make every post an advertisement
Recent marketing trends have seen companies focusing less on selling specific products, and more on establishing a relationship with customers. Touching and compelling content can reach the hearts of audiences and create positive sentiment related to your brand. Learn to take a step back from the posts promoting your product and instead, link to a relatable and humanized article everyone can appreciate. An office holiday picture on your Instagram account or thoughtful tweet on New Year’s Day can generate good feelings in the minds of customers.
Remember: Social media networks were created for people to interact with other people. The more personal and thoughtful your company seems, the better. What other social media marketing tips would you add to the list? Let us know by leaving a comment!
Written by Laura Jackson | January 7, 2014 11:00 am
Last week we unleashed our 2014 marketing predictions on the world. This week, we’re back with round two, but this time we want to focus solely on search engine optimization (SEO). As one of our core service offerings, we enjoy nerding out and talking about the future of search. Here are a few things we expect to see in 2014, and as always, we’d love to hear your take on SEO in the New Year.
Local Is Global
A growing percentage of online searches are from people searching for a product or service near them, and search engines are responding by increasing the number of ways in which they promote local search results. As a result, more businesses will find it necessary to optimize for each physical location they have, even for businesses that are looking to target nationally or globally.
Content + SEO = Happy Family
Google’s continual efforts to crack down on duplicate, repetitive or useless content will result in more websites taking a proactive approach to the existing content that’s on their site. The space between what’s good for SEO and what’s good content marketing will narrow, as the two becoming increasingly linked.
What Do You Know? Users Actually Matter
Websites that place a strong emphasis on understanding user behavior will have a strategic advantage over websites that don’t. Google and other search engines are rewarding sites that have an intuitive interface, are mobile and tablet responsive, and provide useful information. More businesses will pay attention to how well the website is actually serving the visitor, rather than simply providing a bunch of information on the web and assuming they’ll find what they need.
Look at the Pretty Pictures
The growth of image-sharing websites—in addition to the increasing competitiveness of search marketing and the need to find every strategic SEO advantage possible—will make creating and promoting unique images more important. Although still not the most important aspect of SEO, having multiple, interesting and relevant (read: not just smiling strangers) pictures on your site will grow as a basic SEO best practice.
As If SEO Wasn’t Hard Enough
The need for businesses to respond quicker to SEO changes and visitor behavior is increasing in speed and frequency. If you want visitors to come back to your website, you need to offer them something different; nothing discourages a repeat visit more than static content. Webmasters and search markets will need to work even harder/smarter at responding to the needs of the niche they’re working in. Do your customers need to understand a particular trend or topic that’s in the news? Don’t have a 3-month strategy for responding—respond today.
Getting Back to the Basics
In a world where technology and digital are flooding into our lives daily, it is important to remember the power of people. Instead of racing to the finish line to get your latest product out to the world before the competition, find out what your consumers want. Embrace their referrals and get them talking about you. Focus on UX and make it easier for them to accomplish any CTA. Design simpler websites, use storytelling instead of promotion only through media or social, participate in conversation and be human. Showing shreds of humanity is the best way to resonate, gain and keep loyal consumers.
Business “personalities” could make a big impact in 2014. “Personality” identifiers are going to show up across all channels, and a well-rounded strategy will be the only way to take advantage of these additions. With the continued expansion of Google’s Knowledge Graph, Rich Snippets, and Author Tagging, look for transparent, branded business personalities to cut through the competition. We could see some form of social or author ranking to appear mid-2014 as well.
Written by Mary Garrick | December 27, 2013 1:12 pm
We don’t have a crystal ball, or an in-house psychic, but that didn’t stop our team of marketing pro’s from compiling a list of industry predictions for the coming year. Did we leave something out? By all means, add to our list by leaving your predictions in the comments.
The Need for a New Kind of Agency
In 2014, organizations will turn to integrated partners/agencies, not niche players to help them achieve marketing success. Brands need to be communicating the same message in different ways to different audiences. As a result, agencies will need to be solid players in a number of categories…not just one or two. Agencies who can excel equally at content marketing, web, search and branding will be a force to be reckoned with.
Content (and Context) Will Continue to Reign
Websites will cease to be the holy grail and will simply become the vessel for content delivery. In turn, content will get richer and everyone will get more comfortable creating it. There will be a heightened focus on imagery, infographics, stories and video.
Speaking of video, this content format will continue to play a key role in the marketing mix. In addition to making content consumption incredibly easy on the viewer/consumer, it allows you to reinforce your “words” with visual and emotional connections. With the rise of content marketing, and as a result, storytelling, this medium will continue to gain momentum in 2014.
A New Way to Socialize
Social media will no longer be a major focus of marketer’s campaigns. Instead, it will be viewed as a piece of a larger marketing effort—a vehicle, or channel, for distribution of content. As focus shifts from promotional social media marketing, brands will become more customer service-oriented and tuned in to opportunities to serve their customers via these channels.
Streamlined & Simplified
Web design will get simpler to put the focus on multi-screen versatility, usability and UXD. We will begin to see more flat design with less drop shadows–think Windows 8. Websites themselves will also become simpler, with clean navigation in order to enhance the mobile experience, and we’ll see a continued rise in single page websites with parallax scrolling.
Speak to ME
Data will drive the creation of ever-sophisticated widgets to bolster site engagement metrics, and create more value for users trying to make decisions and learn through exploration. Micro interactions will be more thoughtful and fun; gamer-like actions will enhance sites. Responsive design and being device agnostic will pull focus from device-based apps to web based apps.
Screens will pop up everywhere…on your restaurant table, in department store dressing rooms, and even your shopping cart.
We are not saying that longform will disappear forever, but rich media such as video, gifs, Snapchat, Vine and Instagram are grabbing more consumer engagement and viewership. For example, Instagram has capitalized on this demand and has recently added direct messaging features. The growth of this app will continue and the functionality and design of it and its competitors will be exciting as it unfolds in 2014.
Living in the Present
The Oreo Super Bowl ad is still the best reference of culture jacking. Content marketers will incorporate more of these real-time conversations and relevant posts instead of relying solely on their own editorial calendars and scheduled postings.