Big Sea | Strategic Creative, Content & Code http://bigseadesign.com in St. Petersburg, FL Wed, 29 Apr 2015 13:36:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Inbound Marketing Makes Perfect Sense http://bigseadesign.com/strategic-approach/inbound-marketing-makes-sense-even-youve-never-heard http://bigseadesign.com/strategic-approach/inbound-marketing-makes-sense-even-youve-never-heard#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 13:34:47 +0000 http://bigseadesign.com/?p=3817

On my first day at Big Sea, I met my new team. Designers. Developers. The Project Manager. Then the Inbound Marketing Specialist. (Scratching record.) Who? What? I had no idea what she did or what ...

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On my first day at Big Sea, I met my new team. Designers. Developers. The Project Manager. Then the Inbound Marketing Specialist. (Scratching record.) Who? What? I had no idea what she did or what inbound marketing even meant.

I have a bachelors degree in marketing, 15+ years in various marketing roles, and have worked in small, mid and large size companies. I’d never once heard the term “inbound marketing” before.

The marketing field is constantly evolving and changing with the times. That’s one of the reasons I love it.

When I got over the initial surprise of discovering a brand new method, I dove right in and began exploring what inbound marketing means.

Inbound marketing is also referred to as digital content marketing and content marketing. At its core, inbound marketing is publishing and distributing content that is relevant, helpful, high-quality and speaks to your specific audience when they want it, where they want it and how they want it. That’s all.

inbound marketing

Although “inbound marketing” sounded so foreign to me, its concepts made perfect sense to me as a marketer. But this type of marketing is a little different. It’s smarter. It’s more effective. It works — and the metrics prove there’s a return on investment.

Looking back, I can now see that I made a big mistake in my previous marketing director role. I worked for a small company that was just really hitting the ground with their marketing efforts. I had taken over the position from someone who’d been in the role for a short time before me. The first couple of weeks on the job I made a lot of plans. The retail store needed a brand refresh, updated logo, a new website, more robust social presence, in-store signage and more. I decided to cut out the weekly blog postings my predecessor had been writing. I figured with so much to do, I couldn’t possibly spend hours writing blog posts.

Now I know that keeping the blog going would have been an ideal way to communicate directly with the store’s clientele. They wanted useful content like support for their life changes, recipe ideas, and general dietary guidance. I should have made it a priority and hired someone to keep knocking out that weekly blog while I continued to focus on more brand-relevant and in-store projects for the company.

Blogging builds credibility and allows for ongoing dialogue with customers and potential customers. It keeps content from going stale, and it keeps people coming back. It establishes authority and humanizes the business.

Now that I know about inbound marketing and all it entails, I can confidently say that I can’t think of a single reason why a business should not blog. But hindsight is 20/20. I think I might just send this post along with my apology to my former boss and ask him to hire me to blog for him. (Just kidding. Sort of.)

It’s not just blogging.

Inbound marketing is about more than blogging, though. There are many ways to publish valuable and meaningful content that is relevant and helpful to your target customers, and it can be served up when and where they want it. This means publishing blogs, sharing links and information through social media outlets, landing pages with targeted keywords for search engine optimization, email campaigns, producing webinars and white papers. All the while measuring and analyzing and making adjustments along the way.

Inbound marketing is now part of my everyday vocabulary and my daily thought processes. I’m contributing to our inbound team with ideas, writing, and strategizing for our client needs.

Are you producing helpful, quality materials; publishing and communicating digitally with your customers and potential customers? If not, I can tell you first hand:  You might want to start now.

Too busy and don’t have time to write blogs and quality content? You don’t have to. Call us. We can produce high-quality, industry-specific materials to get you noticed and grow your business.

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At Big Sea, Every Day is Earth Day http://bigseadesign.com/andis-world/big-sea-every-day-earth-day http://bigseadesign.com/andis-world/big-sea-every-day-earth-day#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 07:00:07 +0000 http://bigseadesign.com/?p=3807

At Big Sea, we celebrate Earth Day every day. Find out how we develop earth-friendly websites by living and working green.

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The first Earth Day took place 45 years ago. In 1970, forward-thinking individuals already recognized a need for environmental protection and sustainability. At the time, the world wide web as we know it was just a dream.

No one knew the internet would give environmental groups the chance to connect and amplify messages. No one considered the potential carbon footprint of web design and development.

Today, Earth Day is celebrated in almost 200 countries worldwide, and it’s more relevant now than it’s ever been before.

At Big Sea we’re doing our part every day of the year to reduce strain on the environment.

Earth Day isn’t about going green one day of the year. It’s about shining a light on efforts that everyone can make year-round to protect our planet for generations to come. It’s about committing to Earth-friendly habits.

Big Sea design and development

In 2012, Big Sea found a home in the Net Zero Energy Building in St. Pete’s historic Grand Central District. Developed by All Florida Management Group, our building is the city’s first fully self-sustaining building. Rooftop photovoltaic solar panels actually return energy into the city’s power grid. Our electric bill is $0. Pretty neat, huh?

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The building is LEED Platinum certified — the highest level of certification awarded to green buildings. Certification takes into account building materials, water use, energy use and impact on the environment. Modern features like concrete floors, low-VOC paint and foam core insulation contributed to the building’s LEED certification.

Big Sea office

Earth-friendly features don’t end there. We use a geothermal HVAC system and tankless point-of-use water heaters. The windows are fitted with thermal barrier tinting, and the landscaping features native plants irrigated with rainwater.

Everyone at Big Sea participates in weekly recycling. You won’t find paper plates or styrofoam cups in our (beautiful) open kitchen. We share responsibility and hold each other accountable for maintaining environmentally-friendly habits and routines.

Our space reflects our business ideals. It’s innovative, responsible and welcoming. But the Net Zero Energy Building doesn’t just make for an ideal workspace. It’s also something our clients can take pride in. We build websites with very little environmental impact.We cultivate a team that embraces environmental responsibility every day of the year — not just on April 22.

Happy Earth Day from Big Sea.

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Why Google’s Mobile-friendly Search Update is Your New Best Friend http://bigseadesign.com/web-design/googles-mobile-friendly-search-update-new-best-friend http://bigseadesign.com/web-design/googles-mobile-friendly-search-update-new-best-friend#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 17:43:15 +0000 http://bigseadesign.com/?p=3772

In late April, Google is changing the way websites are ranked in mobile searches. Here's what you need to know about your site and the changes.

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On April 21st, Google will start ranking sites based on mobile-friendliness.

What does that mean exactly? It means that sites that look and function well on mobile devices will rank much better in search engine results when users are searching from a phone or tablet. The point of this change isn’t to punish sites that aren’t friendly to mobile users. The point is to make mobile search results relevant and useful to mobile users.

Mobile-friendly design (whether that’s a responsive site or a redirect to a mobile version of a site) features navigation that’s easy to access using a touch screen. With mobile searches poised to overtake desktop searches in 2015, mobile-friendly design is more important than ever.

Mobile users expect sites to look and perform like apps, and Google is going to reward the sites that rise to that expectation.

Don’t be scared. This is a good thing. Here’s why:

Locals are looking for you on mobile devices.

What happens when you’re out on the town and suddenly craving cupcakes? You pull out your phone and Google cupcakes. Google’s algorithms (basically, digital insects crawling all over the internet evaluating and organizing content) spit out a bunch of sites for you to choose from. You tap on the first or second result, tap on the map, and in minutes you’re ordering the cupcake of your dreams.

Now, consider this as a business owner. Improved rankings for your mobile-friendly site means you’re converting more traffic into leads and buyers. This is a really good thing.

Mobile-friendly sites get it done.

When you’re designing, writing, and developing your site for mobile users, there’s no room for extraneous content. Focusing on responsive design helps you narrow the focus of your site and what you want it to achieve.

Google’s improved mobile search rankings reward clean sites and give users the information they need quickly and intuitively. This is an excellent reminder that all sites — whether they’re being accessed on mobile devices or desktop computers — should be created with the user’s best interests in mind. When visitors find it easy to use your website, they’re more likely to do business with you. Mobile-friendly design helps everyone have a better internet.

Desktop searches won’t be affected —  yet.

Not mobile-friendly yet? You don’t need to panic. You’re not going to drop off of the face of Google immediately.

But your rankings will suffer on mobile searches — and considering how many users are searching from their devices, that’s a huge chunk of potential visitors. (We are seeing averages between 40-60% of users on a site coming from mobile devices, depending on the industry.)

big-sea-mobileIf your site isn’t responsive, consider these changes a wake-up call. You have some time to improve your site’s performance on mobile devices. As soon as those improvements are made, you’ll be able to tap into the billions of users who are searching from their phones and tablets.

Not sure how your site looks and performs for mobile visitors? Get a free mobile-friendliness evaluation. We’re happy to help you make your site accessible to mobile users — not only because Google thinks you should, but because we recognize the value of a beautiful mobile experience.

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6 Tips for Marketing Automation Success http://bigseadesign.com/strategic-approach/6-tips-success-marketing-automation http://bigseadesign.com/strategic-approach/6-tips-success-marketing-automation#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 11:30:41 +0000 http://bigseadesign.com/?p=3728

Last week, we held our second Big Sea Breakfast Club — an informal series of seminars on all things digital. We were lucky to welcome Jill Fratianne from HubSpot as our guest speaker. Jill started with HubSpot in 2006 ...

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Last week, we held our second Big Sea Breakfast Club — an informal series of seminars on all things digital. We were lucky to welcome Jill Fratianne from HubSpot as our guest speaker. Jill started with HubSpot in 2006 as the 30th employee. HubSpot now employs thousands.

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If you’re unfamiliar with HubSpot, it’s the all-inclusive inbound marketing platform we use to write blog posts, create emails, manage social media strategies, and monitor and measure marketing efforts. It’s a very cool, people-friendly way to generate and nurture leads.

During her presentation, Jill focused on a very important topic: successful marketing automation. Didn’t make it to the Big Sea Breakfast Club? No worries. Grab a cup of coffee and check out these six ways to use marketing automation to grow your business.

1. Familiarize yourself with marketing automation.

Marketing automation is a method of marketing that nurtures prospects with highly personalized, useful content. HubSpot has found that companies that nurture leads in this way have 300% higher close rates than competitors who don’t stay in touch with leads.

Marketing automation means integrating and tracking digital marketing efforts like blog posts, web forms, email campaigns and social marketing. The ultimate goal is to generate delighted customers who feel evangelistic about your business. If it sounds like a lot of effort, you’re right. Fortunately, marketing automation software allows you to integrate all of these efforts into one powerful dashboard.

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2. Break old habits.

Jill shared that businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads.

Before you dive into marketing automation, you have to be ready to break old habits. You can’t rely on your email list forever. In fact, it’ll expire in a few years. Cold calling is dead, and 86% of television viewers skip right over ads. Junk mail is exactly that — fodder for the recycling bin.

Consumers are smarter these days. They’re looking for useful, personalized content — not intrusive, annoying advertising.

3. Know exactly who you are marketing to.

No matter what you’re selling, you’re selling to humans. Don’t lose sight of that. In order to market successfully, create buyer personas so you know exactly who those humans are.

This is where you need to do your homework. Research customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals. Figure out who’s visiting your website. Get really specific. Jill suggests giving these buyer personas names and details, all the way down to the cars each persona drives.

Buyer personas give you the insight you need to determine where you should be focusing your marketing efforts. You don’t want to attract just anyone. You want to attract specific leads with content that’s relevant and useful for them. And you want to interact with each of these buyers in a way that’s appropriate to where they are on the buyer’s journey.

Sounds like a lot, right? The good news is that marketing automation allows you to streamline this entire process. Once you do your homework, you’ll have an amazing marketing tool on your hands.

4. Start smarketing.

Jill encourages a commitment to smarketing —  sales + marketing. It’s a HubSpot original term for the important relationship between your marketing and sales departments. Your sales and marketing teams need to work together to streamline lead management so that sales teams can contact prospects very quickly.

Without timely follow-up (think reaching out within one day) potential leads will go to someone else. Marketing automation helps sales and marketing teams communicate to jump on these opportunities in a way that’s appropriate and useful to the consumer.

5. Don’t let perfectionism drag you down.

Jill encourages marketers to step away from perfectionism. What does that mean? Just publish! Get that blog post up. Send your email. Post a status update. Perfectionism slows down momentum. If your facts are correct and up-to-date, you’re fine. You’re not writing the next best-seller.

Ideally, your content should be typo-free and clean. If you catch a mistake, fix it. And then carry on with your business.

6. Measure your results.

Marketing efforts don’t mean anything without metrics that allow you to track performance and ROI. Useful reports give you the power to tweak every aspect of marketing.

As an example, consider email campaigns. Instead of firing off emails and crossing your fingers, you can use marketing automation software to track metrics like:

  • Number of emails sent: Is your team making the most of your email software investment? At a quick glance, you can see how many emails are being sent, and how often.
  • Site traffic: Quickly determine whether or not emails are driving web traffic.
  • Open and click-through rate: Use these important metrics to find out if your emails are successful. Watch these rates climb as you tweak subject lines, copy and offers.

Email metrics only scratch the surface when it comes to the useful metrics marketing automation puts at your fingertips.

If you’re looking to add marketing automation to your digital strategy, let us know how we can help.

Let's get started





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Ship It and Rip It: Big Sea Ship It Day Recap http://bigseadesign.com/big-sea-projects/ship-rip-big-sea-ship-day-recap http://bigseadesign.com/big-sea-projects/ship-rip-big-sea-ship-day-recap#comments Fri, 10 Apr 2015 14:59:24 +0000 http://bigseadesign.com/?p=3742

Last week our clients may have noticed (not without warning) that we'd effectively gone dark for 24 hours. Ship It Day was an opportunity for the team to focus on unbillable passion projects individually, in small teams, or together on the whole. The key concepts were exploration and innovation, and a foray into new things we might not otherwise dip our toes into. In this spirit, Ship It Day delivered in spades.

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Last week our clients may have noticed (not without warning) that we’d effectively gone dark for 24 hours.

The reason?

Big Sea’s inaugural Ship It Day!

Wait, what?

Ship It Day was an opportunity for the team to focus on unbillable passion projects individually, in small teams, or together on the whole. We dove into lines of code we’d been meaning to write, functional design concepts that had yet to manifest, and content and copy we’d been putting off or simply didn’t have an opportunity to get to.

The key concepts were exploration and innovation, and a foray into new things we might not otherwise dip our toes into. In this spirit, Ship It Day delivered in spades.

It started with a casual lunch meeting a week before the Ship It clock started ticking away, an opportunity to bounce ideas off one another and settle in on some project concepts. Within the hour, our conference room whiteboard was filled with a myriad of ideas ranging from the serious to the inane.

Once the projects were roughly outlined, we assigned ourselves to tasks according to our strengths and interests, breaking up and allocating each of our respective 24 hours in what amounted to the least stressful estimating meeting we’d held in months.

The day before we dug in, we delivered our “shipping papers” —  a detailed overview of our selected projects with a plan of attack intended to smooth out the process but also highlight any potential problem areas.

Ship it Day begins.

Ship It day itself began much like its preceding days — with a lunchtime kickoff and a handful of beers. After we got some general chatting and pleasantries out of the way, however, it was straight tunnel vision as we dove headfirst into the marathon stretch.

Chris and Josh quickly put their heads down and dug into their collaborative project, a brewers’ ingredient database app called HopVault.

After some inspiring Girl Develop It meetups, Sue was eager to begin designing and developing her own fully responsive site to help a heroic friend deliver a message of inspiration.

Meanwhile the Jameses began the arduous task of learning advanced iOS development concepts (James S) and UI design (James B) for a fully functional feature-rich Brewery Bay mobile app (that’s two beer projects, if you’re counting).

Morgan started in on much-needed content updates for our own site while Erin began curating content for client kickoff notebooks and inbound marketing materials.

Daryn finally found the opportunity he was looking for to employ his Raspberry Pi as he taught himself to code Ruby in an effort to implement a bot for HipChat (our internal chat platform).

Even Andi joined the fray, diving into Sass to finally make some sweeping design changes to Big Sea’s own site.

And I spent the brunt of my time on a pinball dashboard, a score tracker/leaderboard to be implemented on our site showcasing the top performers. (No doubt my motives come into question as I currently hold the top two positions.)

When the lights go down in the city.

As we plugged away beyond normal hours, the office remained surprisingly quiet. Only the clicking of keyboards and mouses and occasional cracking of a beer broke the silence. Everyone was focused on delivery within a 24-hour period. The only early break came in the welcome form of Chicago style pizza (and a few more beers).

Some of us floated in and out of the office, some of us moved to new projects — James B started in on a Big Sea font, based on our logo type; Josh started in on Sketch templates to streamline design workflow. And some of us added crucial That’s What She Said™ functionality to our projects.

As day gave way to night, a few more filtered out while some of us persisted on a steady diet of caffeine, loud music and the occasional pinball game. A handful of interesting after-hours visitors knocked on our door at some particularly dubious times, no doubt drawn to the alluring charms of a bunch of overtired nerds punching away at laptops and swilling Four Loko.

A day of reckoning.

As the next day broke, those of us who’d parted ways with the office rejoined the overnighters (James S and Daryn) in a steady stream, getting back to our projects at hand or even beginning new ventures.

And at noon, it all ended the same way it began: over lunch.

As we presented our projects to the group, I couldn’t help but be impressed by what had been quietly evolving around me. The saga ended with a vote which wound up a dead even tie, broken by a random selection by SeaBot, Daryn’s HipChat bot whose feature list had grown exponentially through the night.

That’s right, SeaBot effectively crowned itself champion. Apparently the humility scripts will be committed with v2.0.

So what happened to all of our genius output?


Be on the lookout. Some of us will be sharing detailed project breakdowns. Or perhaps you’ll stumble across something new on our site, in your inbox, or in the App Store.

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How to Create Impressionable Visual Content for Social Media http://bigseadesign.com/social-media-blog/create-impressionable-visual-content-social-media http://bigseadesign.com/social-media-blog/create-impressionable-visual-content-social-media#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:14:21 +0000 http://bigseadesign.com/?p=3718 The brain can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, and 90% of the information sent to our brains is visual. I'd say those are two pretty compelling reasons to add images to your next social blast - but not just any image. Here are a few tips to creating memorable visuals for your next post.

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We spend a lot of time working with people who want to share their story. Everyone’s got one.

But the real question is this: how can you share your story in a way that makes people want to learn more?

If you want more views, clickthroughs, shares, and overall engagement on your social media posts, you’re not alone. According to the 2014 State of Inbound Marketing, 84% of marketers cited organic, top-of-the-funnel sources like social media, blogs and search engines as rising in importance in 2014.

Posting visual content is one of the most important things you can do to improve your social media strategy. A successful social strategy will often include photos, videos, and screenshots of infographics or other graphs.

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But hold the phone – posting visual content for the sake of posting visual content is not the best way to optimize your presence on social media. It’s important that your visual content be compelling, relevant and correctly formatted.

If you’re looking for tips on creating aesthetically pleasing, impressive and compelling visuals – keep reading.

Here’s what we know.

Our friends at HubSpot know a thing or two about social media management and marketing automation, so believe me when I tell you this stuff is good – and it works.

  • 63% of social media is made up of images.
  • Nearly 66% of updates on social media is visual content.
  • 50% of all Internet users have re-posted or shared a picture or video they saw online.
  • 54% of all Internet users have posted an original picture or video that they have personally created.

Visuals are vital to online success.

When I graduated college, I worked as a waitress before starting with Big Sea. I started a social media strategy for them – by strategy, I mean I actually cared enough to post their specials and happy hour deals each night to try and engage the community. I wanted people in the area to know that we had some really great things to offer on a daily basis.

It wasn’t a big deal and it wasn’t hard – and yet, at the same time – it was. Here are some factors to take into consideration.

  • Don’t add an image just to have an image. People can see right through something like that.
  • Good lighting is crucial. Find a good photo filter and use it consistently. No one wants to see a dark photograph they can’t make out, so go with bright colors whenever feasible.
  • Don’t use boring or irrelevant images. Next.
  • Avoid overused stock photos. Yes, sometimes you have to use them and there’s no way of getting around it. Try finding the most relevant, non-cheesy ones – your fans will appreciate it.
  • If you’re creating a graphic, use colors that people can associate with your brand or fit the topic in discussion.

Let’s put this into perspective.

Imagine yourself scrolling through your social stream around 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. If you don’t already have plans that evening, chances are you’re going to start thinking about it soon. Let’s assume this particular night is a night you want to go out instead of becoming one with the couch watching Netflix.

You see a post from a brand new restaurant in your area and the picture they’ve attached makes your mouth water. You call your friends or your S.O. and say, “Let’s check out this new restaurant tonight!”

What’s swaying your decision? The image of their new Whole Wheat Shrimp Barbeque flatbread (because you’ve been sooo good this week and deserve it after a successful meeting) and sangria on happy hour. I can’t tell you how many people came to my restaurant and said “I’ll have the special – the one you posted on Facebook.”

People are wired to take in visual content faster.

It almost hurts my feelings to see businesses describing a great product – whether it’s food, new piece of technology, furniture, makeup, whatever – and not have a picture to accompany the text. Show them why it’s exciting.

The brain can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, and 90% of the information sent to our brains is visual. I’d say those are two pretty compelling reasons to add images to your next social blast.

In many cases, you can use a collage full of images in a grid or place a frame around a photo. Grid images are easier to overlay text and they’ll give order and professionalism to your images.

What now?

It might be time to rethink your organization’s approach to visual design. Spend time on your visual content to bring in the traffic you really want.

If your social media strategy needs a visual boost, let us know how we can help.

Let's get started



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Big Sea Breakfast Club 02 http://bigseadesign.com/breakfast-club/big-sea-breakfast-club-02 http://bigseadesign.com/breakfast-club/big-sea-breakfast-club-02#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 14:43:03 +0000 http://bigseadesign.com/?p=3685

Learn directly from our friends at HubSpot about the future of marketing automation. Where it's heading, what will change and how you can apply automation techniques to your own marketing activities.

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In the spirit of collaboration and sharing of knowledge, we’ve started an intimate, invitation-only event intended to foster conversation and learning about a variety of internet-related topics.  We had a wonderful (and ample!) group for our first breakfast club, so we’re doing it again!

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We are very excited to welcome Jill Fratianne, Channel Manager at HubSpot (the world’s #1 marketing & sales platform) as our guest presenter.

The Future of Marketing Automation

When it comes down to it, marketing automation is about optimization & personalization—whether it’s making the most of marketers’ time or targeting personalized content to a specific customer at exactly the right time. It’s about more than automating tasks. It’s about bringing together your data, channels, and relationships to connect with your customers in the most authentic way possible.

Jill will talk about HubSpot’s approach to marketing automation and what the future will look like as we begin to tie our marketing efforts to specific stages in a buyer’s journey. She’ll also give us some useful and easily implemented tips to take home and apply to our own inbound marketing efforts.

Breakfast is on us.

Join us for a full breakfast at Ricky P’s Bistro and we’ll get you back to work right on time.

Ricky P’s is located at 1113 Central Ave, St Petersburg, Florida 33705 (view map).

  • 8:30 AM: Meet and greet over breakfast and a coffee.
  • 9:00 AM: Event starts right on time
  • 9:40 AM: Q&A begins
  • 10:00 AM: The Breakfast Club is over!

Please note that space is limited for this invitation-only event.

If you are interested in joining us for this event or future events, please email me. If you know of anyone else that might be interested in attending, send me their contact information and I’ll be happy to invite them.

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10 Essential Elements of Great Business Blogs http://bigseadesign.com/seo/10-elements-of-great-business-blogs http://bigseadesign.com/seo/10-elements-of-great-business-blogs#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 17:55:58 +0000 http://bigseadesign.com/?p=3676

Blog articles are usually top landing pages on websites. They're entry portals into the site, introductions to the organization and to the company's voice. Check out 10 essential elements we found on every great business blog we viewed for a recent project.

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I recently spent a good deal of time creating a presentation for a lunch and learn about what goes into creating a great business blog.  In doing so, I looked at dozens, if not hundreds of blogs.  From small businesses to huge enterprises to spunky non-profits, I came across a lot of really fantastic inspiration – and a lot of disappointment.

Did you know that companies with 101-200 pages generate 2.5x more leads than those with 50 or fewer pages?

I don’t think blogs get the design time nor consideration they’re due. Blog articles are usually top landing pages on websites (an article on this very blog that I wrote in 2011 is the second highest landing page for our site, for instance).  They’re entry portals into the site, introductions to the organization and to the company’s voice.  Take the time to get them right.

In my browsing, I came across some really strong elements of content and design that seemed to really set the great blogs apart from the mediocre or the you-didn’t-even-try blogs.  Those blogs had generally higher reader engagement by way of commenting and sharing, and created a strong and consistent user experience that helps solidify brand identity and shore up credibility.

So, what makes a great business blog?

10 Elements of the Best Business Blogs

  1. They’re visual.  The best blogs I visited used huge, impressive imagery, impeccable typography, and considerable (and considered) whitespace.
  2. They focus on content.  Yes, our goal is to get people to sign up for something or to click a call-to-action, but the best blogs moved all of those extraneous goals out of the main viewport of the user.
  3. They are concise.  Great blogs and great writers don’t waste words.  If it’s not telling a story, it’s getting in the way.
  4. They are written for the web.  Short paragraphs, bullet points, headers and subheaders to break up content.
  5. They encourage discovery. Easy to find search bars, related articles and lists of popular or recent articles help users dive into the archives and keep older content bubbling up.
  6. They’re updated frequently.  The best blogs have articles published at least weekly and the best performing blogs publish at least daily.
  7. They’re personal.   They encourage and support authorship from a variety of their employees and feature them with photos. They show Flickr or Instagram or other social feeds that help personalize and put a face on the company.
  8. They’re shareable.  They make it easy and awesome for you to share their content, with properly formatted OpenGraph tags and images sized according to best practices.
  9. They’re responsive.  The articles read as well on a phone as they do on your iPad in bed.  That means that there’s plenty of padding, line-height is ample, and font size is big enough to be viewed at an arm’s length – not just that it shrinks to 320 pixels in width.
  10. They’re engaging.  The best business blog posts get comments, and the best business blog authors respond to those comments and engage in two-way (gasp!) communication with their visitors.

So, what’s next?

It might be time to rethink your organization’s blog design and approach. Make sure that the pages that bring in the traffic are as aesthetically engaging and focused as your homepage.  Spend the time to get it right.

Need some help?  You’re in luck.  It’s what we do.

 

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7 SEO Mistakes You’re Making (and How to Fix) http://bigseadesign.com/social-media-blog/7-seo-mistakes-youre-making http://bigseadesign.com/social-media-blog/7-seo-mistakes-youre-making#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 21:42:02 +0000 http://bigseadesign.com/?p=3634

2015 is the year of the marketer. Not that we haven’t always been marketers – but experts predict we’ll continue to see see the shift away from transactional marketing, with a ‘click’ as the point of interaction to a ...

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2015 is the year of the marketer.

Not that we haven’t always been marketers – but experts predict we’ll continue to see see the shift away from transactional marketing, with a ‘click’ as the point of interaction to a new era of engagement marketing, where marketers focus on engaging people on a personal level, continuously over time – and across all channels and experiences.

Gone are the days of interruptions and forcing information upon people who have no desire or interest in your industry. The formula for success in marketing is providing information to the people who want to hear, see and learn about you – and letting them come to you for more information.SEO1

Marketers consistently rank search engine optimization (SEO) as one of the greatest drivers of return on investment (ROI), and the supporting evidence clearly shows that having an actual SEO plan is a crucial part of any comprehensive digital marketing strategy. Like the image above represents, SEO is full of moving parts and needs “oil” (you) to keep it alive and working. It’s not a destination, but a journey.

It’s important for marketers to start any SEO planning with a clear understanding of the target audience. Through data layering from owned databases, Google Analytics, HubSpot and third parties – like Facebook and Twitter analytics – marketers are able to gain valuable information about their customers that will help direct content and SEO initiatives moving forward.

We could sit in meetings all day discussing marketing strategies we think would appeal to our target audiences, but without SEO – we’re just throwing information into cyberspace. The initial research we do helps to build a clear picture of how our users are searching for and sharing information, and provides valuable insights into keywords, hashtags, topics and where they are in the buyer’s journey.

When it comes to on-page SEO, having a responsive website design that is equipped to handle searches on all devices is essential. The structure, content and code that are optimized not only for search engines, but are also user-friendly and easily accessible (without having to zoom, scroll and flip your phone) are critical to success with SEO.

SEO mistakes you’re unknowingly making & how to fix them

SEO is about making small, meaningful modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results – where your ultimate consumers are your users, not search engines.

1. Not utilizing social media

I can’t stress this enough – social media is critical to your marketing campaigns and strategies. With the ability to “like” and follow pages you’re interested in, a person only sees what they want to see. The more you like, the more you’ll see.

One of my biggest responsibilities at Big Sea is to manage the social media accounts for several clients. By integrating with industry standards, I’m able to create and provide fresh content through blogging and social media streams that actively helps our clients to to stay on everyone’s radar. This means I’m frequently (not obsessively) checking news feeds, sharing content from other industry-related organizations and paying close attention to business trends and strategies.

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Getting social shares is beneficial on many levels. Aside from direct impact of social shares, you are also able to get your content in front of more people who may want to link to it. Even if you do not have social profiles for your business, you need to include social sharing buttons. How else are people going to know about you?

In 2015, social will be considered an integral part of an organization’s digital marketing mix and will become a real revenue engine. To do this effectively, organizations need to create relevant and personalized social campaigns, be ready to do real-time optimization of their social advertisements and take advantage of the increasingly refined targeting options on each social platform.

In the past, we’ve worked with clients to create social campaigns to gain traction and awareness of the company – like a contest that provides a reward everyone wants, such as an Macbook Air or a free birthday party.

2. Local SEO

This is quickly becoming the way people search. For the past couple of years, Google has been showing local results for many non-localized keywords. In addition, many local searches are done on mobile devices by people looking to purchase something in the near future.

If you have multiple locations for you business, it’s important to create a different listing for each one. It might mean more work for you, but it’s easier for your customers and viewers to process information.

3. Choosing poor keywords

Even if you nail every other aspect of your local marketing strategy, choosing the wrong keywords will set you up for failure. When you select your terms, you need to find a perfect balance of traffic, intent and competition level. Keywords are the terms that people will search for to get to your website, and long tail keywords are a good place to start your search.

When deciding on keywords, you have to think about how you would want people to find the post in search engines. What will people type into a search engine to find your topic? What do they expect to find?

There are a lot of details regarding the placement of keywords in a blog post or on your website, but the most general rule of thumb is to include them a few times throughout the post or page. The website has to make sense and the reader’s enjoyment needs to be your main priority, so don’t spam your readers with keywords. Nobody likes spam.

There are multiple variations of keywords for any one topic, and therefore your focus should be on the page and the topic, not just one or two of potentially hundreds of keywords. Never assume that your site should rank #1 without first knowing why it’s helpful to searchers.

Just ranking is not enough – you need to provide what people are looking for with enough depth and insight that they stay on your site and are compelled to take action by contacting you, sharing your content, telling their friends about you, etc.

4. Failing to optimize navigation

People expect to navigate through your website effortlessly – especially on their phones and other mobile devices. Search engines reward it. If you do not have a clear hierarchy on your website, Google has no idea what information is most important on your site.

If users can’t find out what services you offer, where you’re located and obvious contact information, they are going to leave and look elsewhere. This is going to increase your bounce rate, lower conversions, and let Google know your site is not the best result when people quickly return to the search results and visit another site.

5. Not adding fresh content

With regards to social media sharing, it is so important to not only share what others in your industry are saying – but also write about your own opinions and create your own, fresh content. What does your company specialize in? Is there a political debate going on that directly affects your industry? Talk about it.

Get smart about the tools and capabilities that are available to you. What tools will help you create meaningful communication and individual relationships at scale? What data and analytics do you need to create the experiences and outcomes you want?

6. Neglecting personalization

Through innovations like real-time personalization on websites and email marketing, marketers will be able to target and segment for a better user experience.

People are tired of being blasted with generic content.

When something has my name on it, there’s more incentive for me to open it. For one of our clients, we send out personalized, monthly emails around a customer’s birthday to let them know we offer discounts for booking birthday parties.

7. Forgetting about mobile

Optimizing design for mobile will be huge for 2015. Mobile and tablets are the future, so companies will start to create more custom mobile applications for their marketing campaigns and product solutions. Additionally, digital publishing will start to become a focus. Instead of static ebooks, companies will start moving to more interactive electronic media. Ebooks and other written content will have embedded videos, interactive graphics, social integrations, and mobile optimization.

To conclude, managing your SEO and marketing efforts is an ongoing project that requires taking risks, doing your homework and attracting your target audiences. Need help? Let’s do this.

 

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Why Brewing Beer is like Web Development http://bigseadesign.com/web-design/brewing-beer-like-web-development http://bigseadesign.com/web-design/brewing-beer-like-web-development#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 20:00:37 +0000 http://bigseadesign.com/?p=3626

In case you haven’t already noticed, I love beer. Recently, Dune Brewing (my home-brewing side project) and Big Sea teamed up to produce a beer for our clients. With our love of beer at Big Sea, it ...

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In case you haven’t already noticed, I love beer.

Recently, Dune Brewing (my home-brewing side project) and Big Sea teamed up to produce a beer for our clients. With our love of beer at Big Sea, it was a very obvious match made in heaven, and with a suggestion from Sue I quickly realized that these two passions have a lot in common.

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Research into your target audience is vital.

If you’re going to build a website, you need to know who you’re building it for. Who’s going to visit your website? What do they commonly want to access first and foremost?  Is your target audience who currently visits the site? What other information can your analytics reveal to us?

We always have something in mind for what we expect people to want, but sometimes we’re surprised and have to develop it differently. Communication and research is key during this step.

What do we want to brew? Beers can certainly be about personal taste, but we had to reach a larger group of people for this collaboration, which meant paying attention to what our target audience is, what they desire, and trying to use a recipe for them. When we were choosing the beer to brew for our clients, we realized that some of them may not like heavy craft beers – so we needed to pick something light – easy to drink, and not too hoppy or malty.

There’s a lot of behind the scenes planning.

The bigger the project we’re tackling, the more time we plan exactly what we’re doing and how we’re going to do it. Nothing is more frustrating than getting 50% of the way through a chunk of functionality to realize that you’ve missed a vital component.

Everything must work together to build a system – whether that system is plugins in a WordPress site or grains in a beer recipe. Experimentation is necessary for innovation, but with a lot of moving pieces, all providing different tastes, or pieces of functionality, there may be some overlap that we can trim. There’s also time constraints that can get in the way of us trying the latest technology on your website, and we’ll stick with what we know (and trust) in the meantime.

Holiday Cheer had a tight deadline, so we didn’t create a custom recipe. We used one that I’ve made before that was tried and true. Sometimes this happens with projects, too: If a web project’s scope is large enough, we consider going with a fully custom admin panel with a framework as a base. If time constraints call for it, or the project doesn’t call for anything too custom, we’ll stick with a prebuilt content management system that best fits your needs, like WordPress.

It takes time.

Once we have the scope laid out for what we hope to achieve, it’s time to figure out when we’re fitting it into our already busy schedules.

Depending on the size of the web project, we could have anywhere from 40 to 400 hours needed to build out the functionality that is needed. Depending on the complexity, we might not even be able to show you anything functional until well into the project. There is also time where we’re waiting on client feedback – or quality assurance testing.

Beer is not a quick process. While there are some aspects that can be accelerated with more expensive equipment, for a typical homebrewer, the whole process takes about a month. Four to six hours of brewing, weeks of fermentation, bottling or kegging – and then conditioning.

On top of this, while development and quality assurance is taking place, things can change unexpectedly. The client could decide the scope wasn’t accurate, user experience might need tinkering, client feedback takes more time than expected or bugs prove hard to fix.

Sometimes the beer will come out sweeter than expected, so a longer conditioning time gets needed with some dry hopping. Or the beer just doesn’t taste right: I have a pumpkin beer that I brew that requires 7-8 months of conditioning before it’s ready!

It helps to drink!

Comic by XKCD

Totally kidding. However, a recent study has shown that a certain level of inebriation helps with creativity.

In the case of my brewing projects, it comes down to simply having company and conversation while I brew. People visit, discuss homebrewing, drink some beer and just have a great time while I brew my next batch. Rinse and repeat once the next batch is ready for “launch”!

Quality is vital.

Provided you’re not inebriated (from the step above), it’s very easy to rush a product due to client desires, or from being anxious to drink the finished ale, but there’s no guarantee that it will come out great. By taking it slow, and following the steps/scope as precisely as possible, we’re able to be consistent and produce top quality end results.

Programming is intense, and there’s many ways to write the same piece of code, and we won’t always write it perfectly the first time around. Debugging and Quality Assurance are vital, to make sure the product won’t be faulty when it’s launched.

Brewing is heavily a science. There’s a lot of data tracking and notes. The mash requires specific temperatures. Hops need to be added to the boil at precise times. Checking the ABV or taste of the brew during the whole process to see if the yeast are happy and continue doing their job. The ingredients are from different harvests every year, and so small changes have to be made accordingly to get the same product every time.

My part of the process is invisible.

The end result is all that people see (or drink). When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually describe it as such:

I’m a developer. If I do my job right, you never see anything that I’ve done.

My job is to make sure the site functions seamlessly, and compensate for every possible unexpected thing that the user might do on the website. When serious errors show up on the website, it means that you discovered a bug that wasn’t compensated for, and needs to be fixed. We always try to handle those graciously, but sometimes it’s hard to track everything.

Brewing beer is the same way. Hours and weeks are spent on brewing, fermenting and conditioning a beer. But all you see is the final bottle, the pour of the beer, and the taste experience it provides. Sometimes a beer will turn out flat – or perhaps it’ll be way too bitter or harsh.

Since my job is behind the scenes, it’s very hard to justify the cost of a $20 bottle of beer – or a $100,000 web development project. You only see the end result, which can appear to be simple and clean, but actually has a very complex back-end.

A beer that’s available on tap or in your local package store is the final commercial version. A lot of experimentation went into it, not to mention a high level of quality control (which takes even more time), and aging time (which requires space for storage). All of these factors – and more – explain the price.

A lot of work goes into both web development and brewing. The final product is not the only thing that went into it. A lot of research, trial and error, quality assurance, and debugging all went into the product to give the user the best experience possible.  Cheers!

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