No Need To Reinvent the Wheel: Why Refreshing Your Website Can Be Better Than Rebuilding 

By Steve Hoag

Don't reinvent the wheel.

Ever heard of the saying ‘No need to reinvent the wheel?’ That statement holds true when it comes to websites as well. Think of your current design as a car. Refreshing your website is simply changing the design, while keeping the major structural elements in place still. Kind of like upgrading to a new set of wheels once the old ones are worn down. Rebuilding your website is like realizing you think wheels are too backward for you, and deciding to develop a set of jet engines instead. Now that that elaborate comparison is out of the way, let’s take a look at why a refresh can be a better idea than a rebuild.

Better ROI

How expensive is a refresh? It will vary from designer to designer, but at the end of the day it will always be substantially cheaper than a rebuild. That’s because the changes are mostly aesthetic, while a rebuild will require changing the architecture of the site, and is much more expensive in time & money. The results of a well done refresh can look like a complete rebuild though. Customers’ perceptions are what matters at the end of the day, and website refreshes offer significant results at a lower price point.

Go live quickly

How much time does it take to grab some new wheels? Maybe an hour or two at most. How much time does it take to develop and install some jet engines for a car? Maybe a decade. If you need a new look for your site quickly, then a refresh is the way to go. A rebuild takes a lot of time and effort to successfully do, and the turnaround time can vary greatly depending on obstacles and delays.

Still lots of customization options

A refresh can look like a rebuild as long as you hire the right designer. All you need is a solid structure in place already, and any good designer will be able to work his/her magic. It’s amazing what some new colors, layout, graphics, and font can do. And remember, depending on your website platform, you can still add tons of custom functionality with a bit of development work.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Thursday, September 26, 2013 4:57:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB web design web development website

The Ultimate Website: 3 Web Design Trends You Need To Know About 

By Steve Hoag

web design trends

We are in the last third of 2013, and web design is still evolving at an incredible pace. If you don’t believe me, go use the Internet time machine and see for yourself! Websites are constantly changing to adapt to changing norms and new trends. Check out these three web design trends that you need to know about!

A Minimalist Approach and Lots of White Space

The idea of having white space has been around for a while, however it has morphed recently.  White space is used to draw attention to your primary content, but a lot of people have the misconception that this space HAS to be white. It doesn’t. As long as it contrasts well with your font color scheme you will be ok. Black or 'empty space' is the new white space for a lot of companies. Also, white space goes hand in hand with a minimalist approach. Lots of big companies have championed this, most notably Apple and Google. Minimalism makes your website look clean, crisp and uncluttered. Basically the opposite of a Japanese subway train during rush hour.

Huge Photography Backgrounds

This has been an up and coming trend that seems to be staying here for the long run. It tends to be more popular among creative/artsy type businesses like marketing, fashion, and other design firms. Here are some examples. Much like Communism, this style of design is not for everyone. You need to make sure your content meshes well with the background. On the other hand, if you are using a lot of landing pages, this can be an awesome option!

Infinite Scrolling

Infinite scrolling is a truly unique feature that is becoming very popular on social media sites like Pinterest and Twitter. It is used best for sites with dynamic content and constantly changing information. It doesn’t work well for blog sites that need to have individual pages for navigation. Another cool feature of infinite scrolling is that it does a nice job of eliminating page loads, which can create a more seamless user experience. Here are some examples to check out!

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, September 18, 2013 6:27:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB social media web design web trends website

Three Reasons Why Social Media Is Crucial To Business Success 

By Steve Hoag

social media is crucial to business success

Social media has been all the rage lately. Celebrities, politicians, and even grandparents are getting in on the game. While social media is great for connecting with old pals, it is even better for connecting with customers. Here's why:

Consumers use social media to make purchasing decisions

I remember my parents scouring through Consumer Digest magazines when making a decision on what to buy. Ten years later, and they are choosing to take to social media to get recommendations from friends. Facebook and Twitter have become a hub for product purchasing advice and information. People will search for companies to see what people are saying about them, or their products. Twitter is slowly becoming an e-Bay of sorts. Lots of users are posting projects or jobs they need done and ask other users to bid on them. So far this has been mostly limited to web design/development, but it is becoming more widespread. A social media presence will make the consumer buying process much more simple, and they will be thankful for that.

An active social media presence bolsters search rankings

Social media is becoming more and more important when it comes to SEO. Creating engaging content on your website, and then linking to it from social media posts is an incredible marketing tool. Link building is still important in search engine rankings, and combining that with dynamic content can improve rankings by leaps and bounds. More social media activity means more website traffic.

Social media allows you to selectively target decision makers in other businesses

Cold calling is usually not very fun. Blindly cold calling without having a clear individual target can be even more frustrating. I have good news for all those cold callers out there! You don't have to do it anymore. Social media has demonstrated that it can help raise awareness, and nurture potential customers throughout the buying process. It allows you to identify key decision makers like the CEO, CMO, CTO etc, and reach out to them individually. You can avoid having to go through all the traditional hoops to reach the person you want to talk to. Combine that with advanced online marketing analytic tools like ActOn and you will realize social media has truly revolutionized online business.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Thursday, September 12, 2013 7:27:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SEO SMB social media social media marketing web trends website

Five Social Media Tools To Optimize Your Performance 

By Steve Hoag

social media tools

Social media is becoming one of the most important factors in online marketing today. Virtually every company needs some sort of social media presence to connect with its customers. A lot of tools available these days are either free or ‘freemium.’ By that I mean you can acquire a basic version with only some of the features, and then if you want more you need to buy their product. So let’s take a look at all these tools!

HootSuite

HootSuite is one of the premier business tools available. It seamlessly aggregates all of your social networks into one program, allowing you to cycle through different feeds without having to keep 100 tabs open on Chrome. Also, it allows you to create a variety of reports, but you will need to pay a subscription fee to gain access to the more advanced versions. HootSuite has some powerful search options, allowing you to create advanced searches on Twitter to pinpoint your target audience.

TweetDeck

TweetDeck is very similar to HootSuite in that it aggregates your different social networks. It is completely free, and a bit more novice friendly as well. TweetDeck was originally its own company, but has since been bought out by Twitter. If you have 1-3 feeds you want to keep track of then this is a perfectly good option. However, more custom search columns/accounts will make the UI a bit cumbersome.

Tweepi

Tweepi is an excellent freemium product. One of the biggest headaches on Twitter is finding accounts that are relevant to your business, unfollowing people who are inactive or haven’t followed you back, and following people who follow you. All of these tasks can be handled automatically with Tweepi! You will have to pay some money to get access to the more advanced features, but it is still a worthwhile product to check out!

Bit.Ly

Bit.Ly is a great site to use if you are constantly sharing content, or trying to increase your website traffic. You input the desired URL and it will automatically be shortened. From that point on you can copy/paste the new URL and all clickthrough statistics will be tracked. These include things like clicks per day/time/location/network etc. Overall an excellent tool for the modern marketer!

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is supremely underrated. You can find all sorts of gems by using it. Essentially, you set up a variety of keywords that you want Google to automatically search for. Every day it comes up with a list of links that it deems relevant, and emails you. These can vary from great articles, to press releases, to even job postings!

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Thursday, September 5, 2013 6:17:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB social media website

Staying Ahead of Online Competition: Why Regular Website Updates Are Key 

By Steve Hoag

website update

In the movie ‘Blast from the Past,’ Brendan Fraser is a guy who has literally been living under a rock for 35 years. In this case, inside of a nuclear fallout shelter.  He comes out to realize the world has drastically changed, and nothing seems familiar. People think he is backwards, naïve, and generally weird. You don’t want your site to be Brendan Fraser. You need to have it constantly updated and in the thick of things. Here’s why:

Search engines prioritize websites that regularly update content

One of the main criteria that search engines use these days when ranking content is the ‘freshness’ of it. The fresher the content, the higher it will rank. Search engines give credence to sites that regularly update themselves. Your site is more or less dependent on search engine visibility when it comes to sustaining traffic. If you can’t rank well, you will continually struggle.

Gives your visitors a reason to come back

Dude, remember that one song ‘I’m turning Japanese’? That was a sweet song, but what was the name of the band that played it? Huh? The Vapors? Are you serious? What other well-known songs did the play afterwards? Nothing you say? But they had so much promise!

Case in point, you don’t want your site to be a one hit wonder. You may have one great article or piece of content created, but that is not enough to keep people interested. That’s why artists and companies alike are constantly putting out new content to keep people engaged. You need to stay top of mind with consumers, so when they do come to a purchasing decision, they choose you.

Helps you analyze the relationship between changes and performance

A lot of marketing is trial and error. You change variable X and see how it affects lead generation and sales using analytics. Updating content gives your marketing team a lot more insight into what messaging and ideas stick with consumers, and what bounces off.  More insight means better equipped marketers, and a higher likelihood of closing a sale.

Keep fulfilling the wants and needs of customers

This point ties in to the previous one, in that what consumers want today may not be what they want tomorrow. A lot of famous companies have missed the boat when it comes to this, the most recent one being Blockbuster, and its inability to adapt. You want to be Netflix, not Blockbuster. By updating content and keeping your ears pinned to what your customers are talking about, you will have a one-two punch that other companies sorely lack.

Stay ahead, or get ahead of the competition

You may already be top dog in your rankings for keywords/traffic, or you may be trying to overtake said canine. Regardless of your current position, you need to update your website. Website design/development standards and search ranking algorithms change. Companies that are always aware of these changing trends will rise to the top. Be one of those companies.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, August 28, 2013 7:02:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SEO SMB web trends website
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