Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Remarketing - Why Are These Ads Following Me Around The Internet? By Scott Mathias

Why are these ads following me around the Web?

You ever notice the same ads showing up wherever you go on the web? The ads you see during your web browsing experience are generally NOT there randomly. Typically, the ads you see are based upon your established web-browsing history. Sometimes, after visiting a certain website or making an online purchase, you will see their ads “following” you all around the web...generally for 1 to 3 months.  

This is called “Remarketing.” Virtually every website you visit puts a “cookie” on your device. A cookie is a small, harmless snippet of code that helps your device remember pages you have visited, login username and shopping cart details. They are also used to determine what kind of ads to serve you.  

Many online advertisers are remarketing to previous visitors to their websites...unfortunately, all too many are doing this wrong.  

You visit a website, browse a few pages and exit without making a purchase or completing a form. In this case, remarketing can be very effective if executed properly. You went to the website because you were interested in their product or service. Perhaps you are doing some comparison shopping and wish to check out other websites before making a purchase.  

In this case, a remarketing campaign would be effective. Over the next 30-90 days, the advertiser can show you ads on over 2 million websites that serve Google ads. When you arrive at one of these sites, a cookie on your device identifies you as a “member” of a remarketing list. You are then served an ad to “remind” you about that website you visited some time ago. These types of ads can go a long way towards building top-of-mind awareness about your brand or product...but if not properly administered, can leave a bad taste in the mouth of the viewer.

Illustration of the remarketing process. Visitor to website, visitor leaves website, visitor sees your ads on other sites, and finally the visitor returns to your site.

Too many advertisers set up remarketing campaigns and give no consideration to setting a frequency cap. All too often, advertisers inadvertently serve way too many ads to a previous visitor to their website, making the potential customer question their privacy, and simply get sick of seeing the same ad over and over again, everywhere they go on the internet.

Think about the product or service you are selling. How often does your potential customer think about what you are selling? Is it something they need all the time or only once in a while? What is the typical buying cycle for your product or service? Ask yourself these questions and then determine a logical frequency cap for your ads. You can limit the number of ads a potential customer sees on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Further, you can determine how long to serve ads after someone visits your site. Typically, you can choose to remarket ads to your website visitors for 30, 60 or 90 days.    

Smart online advertisers take advantage of Frequency Capping in their campaigns. Otherwise, ad servers like Google, Bing and Yahoo will simply serve as many ads as possible in the hopes of earning that valuable click.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Access for All: Section 508 Web Compliance

Ah, the joy of plowing through the legal prose to figure out how to build or retrofit a website! Said no one ever (at least that’s how the kids put it these days). Today is your lucky day, because we at Brockett Creative Group have gone over the law so that you don’t have to…

What is Section 508?

Section 508 (aka § 1194) is an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and is designed to remove barriers to information technology – including the web – for people with disabilities. For those of us living and/or working in New York, bear in mind that the Empire State adopted these standards in 1999. (To see if your state has adopted accessibility standards, and to learn what they are, click here.) Most specifications were devised for people with vision impairments, many of whom use assistive technology readers to translate web pages and communicate their content to the user. Web pages, web applications, and all attached files on an intranet or the Internet are subject to this amendment.

Am I Legally Obligated to Comply?

If you are a federal or New York State agency, you bet you are! Other agencies, organizations, and businesses that must comply are those receiving federal or New York State funds, or are under contract with a federal or NYS agency. Basically, if you deal with the government on any sort of business level, your websites fall under Section 508.

Military command, weaponry, intelligence, and cryptologic activities are the only areas exempt from Section 508.

So, If I Don’t Have to Comply, I Don’t Need to Worry about It, Right?

I definitely wouldn’t go that far. Nearly a quarter of the United States’ population has a disability – some obvious and some not. You have a website so that you can communicate your message to the broadest possible audience and reach people who are interested in what you have to offer. Think of what you’ve invested in your website (in both financial capital and human resources); do you really want to keep 19% of Americans from accessing that? No, you do not.

Okay! What’s Included in Section 508?

I’m not going to lie to you: this part may be boring, but it’s good for reference. Skip ahead to the next heading to learn how we figure out if your website is 508 compliant or not. If you’re sticking with this section, go ahead and get a cup of coffee or a 5-Hour Energy. It’s okay, I’ll wait.

Ready? Here are the Section 508 Web Standards… 

  1. There must be a text equivalent for every non-text element such as photos and video. Alt-tags are a great example of text equivalent.
  2. Equivalent alternatives for multimedia presentations must be synched with the presentations. For example, YouTube generates text for videos that are uploaded, which then scrolls at the bottom of the video, basically in synch to what is happening on the screen.
  3. All information conveyed using color must be made available without color context or markup. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother with colorful charts. You can still create them, just make sure that you have enough contrast among colors so that a user can differentiate the information with shades of gray.
  4. Documents must be organized so that they are readable without the use of a style sheet. In other words, the copy should read on the page so it makes logical sense – no freestyle bouncing around!
  5. Redundant text links must be provided for each active region of a server-side image map. Basically, you use descriptive links for each region of an image map so that an assistive reader can translate it.
  6. Client-side image maps must be provided in place of server-side image maps except where regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape. The same method used in “e” applies here, so describe away!
  7. Row and column headers must be identified for data tables. Without clear identification, an assistive reader will not be able to read the headers (readers do not pick up bold or italicized text).
  8. Markup must be used to associate data cells and header cells for data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers. This is the same as item “g.”
  9. Frames need to be titled with text that facilitates frame identification and navigation. Provide a title for the frame, indicating its purpose so a reader can communicate that to the user.
  10. Pages must be designed to avoid the screen from flickering with a frequency of greater than 2Hz and lower than 55Hz.
  11. Text-only pages with equivalent information and functionality must be provided when compliance cannot be reached in another manner. Text rules over all when it comes to 508 compliance!
  12. For pages using scripts for content or interface elements, the information provided by the script must be identified with functional text that can be read by assistive technology.
  13. When a page requires an applet, plug-in, or other application to interpret information, the page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet that complies with (a) through (l) of this list.
  14. For E-forms designed for online completion, the form must allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including directions and cues.
  15. A method allowing users to skip repetitive navigation links must be provided.
  16. For timed responses, the user must be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate that they need more time.

 You can find examples of compliance pass/fail here.

How in the World Do I Find and Fix Compliance Issues?

After reading that list with your website in mind, you may be thinking of trading in your coffee for a whiskey, but there’s no need! At Brockett, we frequently run 508 Compliance Scans for our clients.

508 Compliance Scans:
  • Identify elements that do not have the required alternative text;
  • Indicate where the option to skip repetitive navigation is needed;
  • Ensures that color-coded information has enough contrast;
  • Detects where tags are needed so that assistive technology will work;
  • Indicate whether or not the site is difficult for users with learning disabilities to navigate;
  • Much, much more…

Yikes! I Need Help with This…

Brockett Creative Group has the technology to run a compliance scan on your website and provide you with a report that will allow you to fix any issues. Your website may not be required to comply with Section 508, but without it, millions of people are out of your message’s reach.

Call (315) 797-5088 or email us to learn how we can help your website be as accessible as possible.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Brockett Creative Group Confirmed As A Google Certified Partner

Google Certified Partner Logo: White "g" on a blue background.

Brockett Creative Group (BCG) in New Hartford, NY, has been confirmed as a Google Certified Partner. With this, BCG has joined an elite group, as there are currently only four such Partners between Syracuse and Albany. This certification demonstrates that Brockett Creative is ready and able to assist medium- to large-sized companies market themselves in the now highly competitive Internet Marketing field.  

Google Partners is the Internet leader’s platform for advertising agencies and other organizations who design Internet marketing campaigns. In order to attain certification, Google Partners must demonstrate that their business is healthy, have high client satisfaction rates, and a dedication to Google best practices (designing high-quality websites that meet Google’s requirements for search results and ranking). Partners must pass an exam proving their familiarity with Google’s best practices.

Scott Mathias lead the initiative in attaining the certification at BCG. In addition to a long career in Internet Technology and Marketing, Matthias had attained Google Partner status in the past while working for a television station is Albany.

According to Mathias, “Effective internet marketing requires a careful coordination with the website developer in order to ensure a positive experience for the viewer. Getting the user to click on an ad is one thing. Getting them to become a customer, and then a repeat customer, is the ultimate goal. As a Google Certified Partner in the Albany area, one of my greatest challenges was getting the customer’s website developer on board with the marketing plan. Simple changes and tweaks need to be made to pages to ensure the advertiser is getting the lowest possible cost-per-click, but it is equally important to ensure that the user who clicks on your ad has a positive experience once arriving at your website. Now, I am working directly for the website developer and have the ability to optimize the client’s website from the inside, and seeing excellent returns on investments.”

Among BCG’s satisfied Internet marketing clients is Barneveld business owner Dan Hudon. He says of his Google Partner experience, “I thank Brockett Creative Services on behalf of Hud-Son Forest Equipment and Hudon’s Snowmobile Salvage for introducing Google Partners to our organization. The staff has helped us take our companies to new levels of internet sales and gaining leads that we needed. Brockett’s advice for helping us set goals in our marketing needs helped bring new business partners, companies, and customers from all over the USA, Canada, and across the world. Our Google performance record is showing great growth since we made Brockett our local partner.”

Matt Brockett, BCG President, added, “Now, with the addition of Scott on our team, we have the ability to offer our clients a more comprehensive approach towards Internet Marketing.  Not only will we build you a beautiful, modern website, we will also ensure that it's optimized to perform well in search, and also we can actively market your website to get you the immediate traffic you’re looking for.”

Search Engine Marketing: What Is It, And Why Do I Need It? By Scott Mathias

Screen shot showing a laptop open to a Google search.

So! You have a shiny, new website! That’s great!  Now what? Now you need traffic...and quickly! Especially so you can pay for that new website.  

Provided you contracted with a reputable web designer, and was sure to include site-level search engine optimization, in time, your new website will slowly climb the search rankings in Google, Yahoo & Bing. In a matter of several months to several years, depending on your category, your website will eventually find it’s way to page-one of search results. But what if you can’t wait that long?

Especially for newly constructed websites, a Search Engine Marketing campaign can be just the shot-in-the-arm your business needs to start gaining traction in the marketplace. A properly executed search campaign can put you ahead of your competition almost immediately by “paying” for the top positions in search...but, it's important to know that getting the top ad spot in search is more than just a bidding war. It’s actually, more about the quality of your website and the content of your ads.  

In theory, if you have the newest website on the block, your content should be up-to-date, relevant and helpful to the visitor. Also, in theory, if you have the newest website, you are utilizing the latest website technology including being mobile-responsive. This is all very important as search engines try to ensure that the results they show are highly relevant, and point to a website where the user is going to have a good experience while there.

You could spend a lot of time learning platforms like Google Adwords, and eventually, you will find just the right combination of ad content and keywords that take your company’s listing to the top of search results...but not before you spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars through trial and error! By utilizing a Google Certified Partner, ads for your business can place at the top of search immediately, driving valuable business to your door quickly and efficiently.

Here at Brockett Creative Group, not only do we build you the shiny new website, utilizing the latest search-friendly technology, we can also help you actively market your business while your website moves its way up in organic search results. With a Google Certified Partner on staff, we help you drive qualified, relevant traffic to your new website and ultimately, through your door.  

Calls to Action: Do Something!

Graphic showing an open laptop with a website landing page asking the site visitor to share the site.

The term “call to action” has quite a ring to it, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s a bit of an intimidating ring if you’re not familiar with it. This is unfortunate, as when a call to action (CTA) is done right it can really help you build relationships with the audiences you’re trying to reach with your marketing efforts. Let’s break it down…

What exactly is a Call to Action and why does it matter? At its core, a CTA is something that asks the consumer to make a connection with your business, service, or product. CTAs take many forms; you can ask the consumer to make a phone call, download a document or app, sign up for an event or newsletter, get a coupon, leave a comment, or share your online content.

Screen shot of an email from Club W, asking the customer to refer a friend.
Happy customers are often only too happy to share Calls to Action.

A CTA gives your audience the choice to engage with you. If they disregard a call to action, they are not at the point of being serious prospects, which may or may not come in time. However, those consumers who do answer the call to action are interested in what you have to offer, and are more likely to convert into customers so you can focus your efforts on building relationships that will be fertile rather than futile.

Screen shot from hsus.org, showing a prominent red "Donate Monthly" button positioned immediately above a video.
Visitors to hsus.org learn about the organization's mission, and have an easy way to donate,
thanks to the CTA "Donate Monthly" button.

Calls to action do not have to be pushy or hard sells. Case in point: a visitor to your website has the option to skip the call to action and continue on to the main site. There certainly are more aggressive CTAs out there, but you can create yours to fit your brand and goals. In December, even Facebook got into the call to action game for Pages. Organizations have the option to ask the viewer to: Book Now, Contact Us, Use App, Play Game, Shop Now, Sign Up, or Watch Video. A good CTA lets the consumer control the level of engagement, which benefits you because completed CTAs identify solid prospects for you to pursue. 

Screen shot from R-CATS' Facebook page, showing the location of the Call to Action button.
Facebook has gotten into the Call to Action game.

CTAs are nothing if not versatile. They are appropriate for blog and social media posts, landing pages, websites, newsletters, print, radio, and television. For example, in addition to a “Shop” button (which is a call to action), Amazon.com also employs fun and engaging CTAs, such as a recent quiz that asks the site visitor, “Is time travel possible?” Based on a yes-or-no answer, the retail giant generates a list of products that may interest the customer and lead to a sale. 

Screen shot from Amazon.com showing how answering a one-question quiz leads to purchase suggestions.
Amazon.com engages customers with a quiz, then makes purchase suggestions based on their answers.

A delighted consumer can be your greatest evangelist, so it’s important to make your calls to action shareable. A recommendation coming from a friend or colleague has the potential to carry more weight with prospective customers than a CTA coming directly from the brand. 

Screen shot from the Sierra Club, showing the ways site visitors can share that they have signed a petition, made a donation, et al.
Share! Share! Share!

With so much competition in both the online and bricks-and-mortar marketplaces, engaging customers and prospects is more important than ever; a visit to your website or store is simply window shopping unless you engage the visitor. Calls to action are necessary, and are very affordable to add to your existing marketing mix – you don’t have to reinvent your entire media strategy to incorporate them.

To discuss calls to action further, or to start using them, just call the team at Brockett Creative Group at (315) 797-5088 (see what I did there?).

Getting the Max out of Your Mobile Website

Graphic showing the layout for one website on several devices: smart phone, tablet, desktop, and laptop.

It probably comes as a surprise to very few of you that between apps and browsers, mobile Internet usage has surpassed the personal computer for everything from surfing, to eCommerce, and everything in between. Smartphones still reign in popularity, tablet usage is healthy, and phablets (large-screen phones such as iPhone 6 Plus) are phasing in to replace older smartphone models – just look around your local coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon for examples. Whether your website is for business or your own personal brand (I’m looking at you, bloggers), there is no longer any doubt that it must be optimized for viewing on a variety of screens in order to give your visitors the experience they expect.

The World Wide Web can be viewed on a great range of screen sizes, from the 4.6-inch Sony Xperia Z3 Compact to a 64-inch Samsung Smart TV (not mobile, but used for Internet), and sites should ideally be designed - or even redesigned - with this in mind. There are two major methods of design currently employed for this: Responsive Web Design and Adaptive Web Design.

Responsive Web Design (RWD)

Responsive Web Design is the method of choice here at Brockett Creative Group. It makes mobile websites easy to read and navigate, which tends to make your site visitors very happy! RWD makes websites viewable and functional on devices of any screen size due to three factors:
  • Fluid Grid Layouts: By creating mobile sites to use percentages, instead of fixed variables such as pixels, the site layout can expand and contract to fit any viewing screen.
  • Flexible Images: Much like the grid layout, images are programmed in relative units rather than fixed ones to fit appropriately into mobile screens.
  • Media Queries: This is a programming module that allows content to adapt to a screen. Its shortcoming is that it doesn’t work well in outdated browsers such as Internet Explorer 8 or below.

Only a few short years ago, we had to build two websites for our clients: their main website and their mobile site. RWD allows us to build one site that adapts to the user’s device. This means that there is more consistency for people viewing your website on multiple devices, and less development time and cost for you.

RWD is considered a best practice in the industry. If you’d like to learn more, you can actually read the book that launched a thousand RWD sites, Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte

Adaptive Web Design (AWD)

AWD is also used for mobile website design. The major difference between this and RWD is that Adaptive Web Design requires more than one site be built. The mobile sites are much leaner than their desktop counterparts, with fewer pictures and elements such as Java and Flash.

The sites are built with specific screen-size ranges in mind, and when a mobile device attempts to access the site, the server takes the information it receives and determines which version to send based on the screen size. When new screen sizes come into the market, an AWD website will need to be revisited for a new design to accommodate the new screen.

The benefit of this method to the user is that the site uses less data, so it could benefit mobile budgets.

Designers and programmers may have other preferences, but we at Brockett prefer RWD because of its flexibility and consistency among viewing devices. The techies over at Fast Co. Design put together an informative and fun collection of gifs that demonstrate the differences between Responsive and Adaptive web design.

Not sure if your site is mobile-friendly or not? Google has a Mobile-Friendly Test for that.  

If your website isn’t making the grade, email us or call (315) 797-5088 and we’ll help you get the max out of your mobile website.