Published by Jane Cirigliano, May 14th, 2015
Digital marketing platforms give companies the opportunity to increase their productivity and reach by incorporating everything from CRM systems, web content management, email marketing, social interactions, website traffic, online advertising and more under one "roof."
The major advantage of a digital marketing platform is the ability to see all of your marketing programs side-by-side. It's easier to compare ROI and determine what drives your clicks, engagements, leads and sales. You can tell what is working for your company at-a-glance, and you can make better business decisions based on what you see.
If you are unsure whether a digital marketing platform would help you grow your business, ask yourself these questions:
- Can I tell if my marketing efforts are paying off (and which programs are the most profitable)?
- How much effort do I have to put into tracking my targeted programs?
- Do I want to automate any of my marketing campaigns?
- Do I want to simplify my reporting process?
- How many different places do I have to go to analyze customer behavior (Google Analytics, email software, CRM, etc.)?
- Am I notified when a customer or prospect returns to my website, opens an email or places an order?
If you want to move to a digital marketing platform, there are several out-of-the-box solutions available. We have experience with most of them at OffWhite, but we seldom recommend them for our clients. Why not? Our reasons are two-fold.
- When you purchase software that was built with a specific application in mind and then commercialized for the masses, customization is typically cumbersome. If your needs are specialized, building a custom system may actually be more cost effective for you. Think square peg, round hole.
- Large companies don't always understand - or relate to - the needs of small- to medium- sized businesses. Big box solutions come with a hefty price tag. To realize the full value of the software, which is often more complex than what an SMB truly needs, your company may need to hire a programmer and a strategist to run the system. You end up paying for features you can't even use becuase the software is one size fits all.
So what do we look for?
- Systems that are open source - you have access to the code, and it can be altered to meet your specific needs.
- Individual solutions that provide exactly what you need and have APIs available so they can be integrated with other tools (Google Analytics is a good example).
- Opportunities to build something unique that will solve a problem for a company.
Creating a unique solution is exactly what we did 13 years ago when we built the first version of our Ed.it software. It's evolved a lot since then, morphing into a full Digital Marketing Platform. The original concept remains the same: building and customizing a software solution to meet each client's specific needs. From website content and email marketing to social media and analytics, the Ed.it2 Digital Marketing Platform can be customized and scaled to meet any need.
Published by Jane Cirigliano, May 7th, 2015
Keywords used to be the foundation of a good SEO program, but are they really relevant anymore? Let's take a look at how Google and other major search engines view keywords, and what it all means for your business.
Keywords, A History
Search engine results used to be much simpler. Google and others only displayed 10 results per page. It was clean and easy for users to glance and pick a relevant link. Providing keywords in your meta tags helped search engines figure out what your page or entire website was about. Search engines were not as advanced, and they needed these clues. You could "stuff" your meta tags with keywords, and your site would rank higher.
Now when you submit a search, you are confronted with upwards of 50 links on the results page: ads, images, maps, social profiles, shopping matches, related searches and - that thing we were looking for - organic results. It's a bit overwhelming, and it's no wonder users rarely browse to page two of search results.
As search engines grow more advanced, they are moving away from wanting website owners to tell them what their companies do (providing keywords). Search engines want to interpret the data on your website and come to their own conclusions. This renders a lot of black hat SEO tactics useless, and in theory gives searchers more relevant results.
Enter semantic search, first introduced in 2013. Instead of using a string of keywords that a user searches as individual words, Google assigns meaning to the search phrase and returns results that it deems relevant.
For example, if I searched "clinical trial tissue sample storage freezer" prior to semantic search, I would have received results ranging from storage sheds and deep freezers to trial attorneys and free samples. Semantic search looks at my search phrase holistially and understands that I am looking for a storage freezer to be used to store tissue samples for clinical trials. It then finds me the most relevant matches.
So what if Google has not assigned the same meaning to your website as you intended? Your website doesn't show up as frequently, or it isn't displayed to the right people - your potential customers.
Is There a Formula?
Google has a complex algorithm, which is constantly changing. They are pretty secretive about the specifics, but they are open about the fact that website owners with quality content, fresh websites and who follow the rules have nothing to worry about.
If you are using keywords, placement matters, and keyword "stuffing" can harm your rankings. Even if you are trying to target specific keywords and phrases, write your content naturally. The placement of your keywords matters more than how often they appear.
Are Keywords Dead?
The simple answer is no. Keywords still help Google and other search engines determine what your website is about. They still offer value. But the placement and strategies are different from when Google first launched.
The bigger question is: are keywords still the most important component of an SEO program? I would have to argue that they are not. Modern SEO's goal is to help search engines derive your intended meaning from website data. This in turn leads to quality traffic on your website, better leads and more sales. Keywords play a role in this process, but the most important factor has shifted to content - optimized, fresh and shared on a variety of platforms, all linking back to your website. Content engages prospects and starts them on the path to becoming loyal customers. It is at the heart of digital campaigns ranging from SEO and SEM to social and email marketing, and it is here to stay.
Published by Bill White , May 1st, 2015
I’ve often told my students and our clients that we don’t sell perfume. That’s just selling hope.
But last week I had chance to watch hope being sold, delivered and devoured. On Sunday, April 19, 2015, the exhibit hall opened at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research at the Philadelphia Convention Center.
After a morning of walking the aisles, the intensity of this conference was revealed to me in an obscure corner of a food court above Reading Station where we escaped the exhibit floor to dine on overpriced salads and sip overpriced water. At the table next to us were two oncologists, oblivious to the lunch crowd, reviewing a case that had one puzzled and the other mesmerized. Before you call the HIPAA police, nothing about the patient was disclosed. And I really wasn’t eavesdropping. But here, in the middle of the day, two doctors from two different parts of the world were zeroed in on one patient with a rare form of cancer that demanded an audience.
These two physicians shared images as they threw ideas across the table. The only language I understood was their body language. They could have been having the same discussion in the middle of I-95 with the same focus and sense of purpose.
Today, back to their home bases, they are likely commiserating on the case that may lead to a better understanding of what might work just because they agreed on what wasn’t working.
The AACR meeting was an intersection of ideas, theories, peer reviewed outcomes and peer reviewed false starts. It was interplay of educated guesses, hunches and politics; after all, what is the chase for grant money without politics? It would be cynical to suggest these researchers work in a vacuum, more interested in science than money. There was enough entrepreneurial spirit in the exhibit hall to confirm that finding a cure for cancer would dish an economic tsunami from Wall Street around the world and back. Not all good. I will leave that cynicism for another time.
A sad byproduct of the AACR conference was meeting scientists who were presenting their last research, defending their work via a last poster session, slipping into the job fair and tucking their vanity and egos into a place that would permit them to do something . . . anything . . . to stay in the game.
For many generations the United States has led the way in government funding for primary research into cancer, a public policy boost that has given rise to hundreds of start-ups through commercialization or license agreements. Today, this funding is under enormous stress. Humanity prefers to burn down the farm and behead our hopes for the future. As always, it’s the war on cancer vs. the war on everything else. Guns and butter.
A quick look at the National Cancer Institute Fact Book reveals funding through NCI grants and research contracts leveling out and trending down over the last few years. There’s no need to perform an economic analysis of the interplay between federal funding and corporate or private equity investments in the pharma sector; it is clear that the entire equation, suitably driven by money, is undergoing changes that scientists doing basic research find hard to predict. As the weak look for jobs, the strong collect more post-docs to run their labs and the wheel goes round.
Supporting this ballet are the businesses that line the exhibit hall with new products and services that literally boggle the mind. Analytical instrumentation is more powerful than ever and the ability to see what has never been viewed on the molecular level puts another weapon into play. The war on cancer is being fought with statistics.
The public and private collaboration that steers equity capital and competitive efficiencies to and from brilliant scientists has become a core business model for some companies who find success through mutual benefit. In the spirit of the free-enterprise system, perhaps this is the perfume we need to wear, the perfume that leads us to hold hands.
There’s nothing more powerful than a scientist with a vision, the will to sacrifice for it, the strength to fight for it and the means to pursue it within an environment of open discourse among peers. With today’s light-speed communications, what happens at The James Cancer Research Center in Columbus in the afternoon can be the talk of the town in Singapore by daybreak.
The scientists are mostly anonymous, deep thinkers. But don’t let them fool you. They’re working hard, always talking, texting and creeping out of their own skin a few times a year to share ideas face-to-face over an overpriced salad, sipping overpriced water.
They also bring gifts, better than perfume. What I saw in Philadelphia was more than hope. I saw a fistfight for a fistful of dollars played out over research posters tacked to the wall with push pins and a Hail Mary. On the drive home I realized that I saw a cure for cancer in the making.
It’s on the way. I can smell it.
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