Voltage Creative

Web Development & Design | Online Marketing

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Preparing for Launch (of Your Website)

(Insert various movie quotes, pop culture references, and anything else related to launching things here).  Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, the purpose of this post is to get us thinking about the website launch planning and process to ensure that we aren’t mentioning any of those “Houston we have a problem” quotes.  While no lives (typically) are at stake during a website launch there are often many risks that can impact a business’s bottom line.

Potential risks for botched launches include:

  • Downtime between old site and new site
  • Loss of search engine rankings
  • Broken links for users
  • Loss of old site
  • Damaged relationships (with clients, customers, vendors)
  • Lost revenue

“OK, I know this is important, but what should a launch checklist look like?” you may ask.  I got my hands on the Voltage checklist to give it a look for myself.  From an online marketing perspective, I’m happy to note that it includes the important SEO elements critical to launching a new site like 301 redirects, roboxt.txt file, XML sitemap, Google Analytics tracking scripts, and integration with other important tools.

website-launch-checklist
Here’s a sampling of activities grouped by project phase at launch:

Before Launch

  • Cross browser compatibility testing
  • HTML W3C validation
  • CSS validation
  • CMS accounts created for client use
  • Site content proofread
  • Archive of old site (if applicable)
  • Sitemap of old site recorded
  • 301 redirects mapped and ready to implement
  • Pages load time testing and optimization
  • Fav icon updated
  • SSL ready for configuration (if applicable)
  • Title and meta tags are customized and configured for each page
  • All test posts and content removed
  • Approvals (by designer, client, developer, and other relevant stakeholders)

Launch

  • Approval for going live
  • DNS configuration verified
  • Checking of Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools
  • Plugin Testing (if applicable)
  • Testing of robots.txt and XML sitemap
  • Testing of contact forms and engagement objects
  • SSL installation (if applicable)
  • Final visual inspection
  • Documentation of passwords, IP address, DNS info, hosting info, etc.
  • QA process for live website (similar to QA prior to launch process on dev site)

While this list is not super technical or exhaustive of all recommended steps, it hopefully provides some insight into the time commitment needed for properly launching a site.  Unfortunately, I’ve been brought in too many times by clients post-launch to find that many of the things noted above were not considered or completed when a new site was launched.  It is much harder to clean things up and do damage control the longer a new site is live when best practices are not followed.

Voltage employs a stringent process for every website launched.  We’d love to share more details with you or talk about your project if you want to reach out to us.  Feel free to comment below with any stories you have about launches or items that you think should be part of the checklist.

Hear Voltage’s @coreydmorris on Tech Circuit–1pm on KMBZ Business Channel 1660AM or online: bit.ly/TechCircuit. KC tech topics & more!

Online Marketing Setup Checklist Questions

checkboxOne of the biggest challenges to any online marketing campaign or project is getting started. This is true about many things in life, but in this post, I want to just focus on online marketing campaigns. I’m going to provide some tips, questions to ask, and insights on what should be included in both general terms and in granular items that will help ensure success or at least that you’ve mitigated risks down the road.

Discovery and Goal Setting

  • What is the overall goal of this campaign?
    • To generate awareness through impressions and clicks (web traffic)?
    • To generate leads through impressions, clicks, and ultimately phone calls and lead submission/quote forms?
    • To generate sales revenue through impressions, clicks, and ultimately completed ecommerce transactions?
    • To accomplish another goal (drive downloads, foot traffic in store, email signup, etc.)?
  • Is the website infrastructure in place to foster users toward this goal?
  • What tactics, terms, or other factors are necessary to drive traffic?
  • What metrics are we going to track and how are we going to track them?
  • How are we currently performing and what is our past performance across these campaign channels?
  • What will success look like in terms of tangible metrics in the future and what intervals will we measure it at?

Tracking and Reporting

  • Do we have paid advertising conversion tracking in place?
  • Do we have “goals” configured in our website analytics platform?
  • Do we have custom campaign tagging on our URLs in email and social campaigns for clean tracking in our website analytics program?
  • How complete is our data historically and how robust can it be going forward?
  • How will we proactively and reactively monitor progress and issues?

Website Indexing

  • How well is our website currently indexed by the search engines?
  • Do we have all of the best practices covered (XML sitemap, robots.txt file, etc.)?
  • Do we have access to all possible data and diagnostic sources (webmaster tools, third party analysis tools)?
  • Do we have any redirect, canonical, or duplicate content issues?
  • Are we using structured data, and if so, does it validate properly?

Mitigating Risk

  • Do we have duplicate content with other sites on the web (use tools to evaluate)? Have we resolved any conflicts?
  • Do we have any unknown or potentially risky redirects or mirrors of domain names we own?
  • Have we resolved canonical issues with our www vs. non-www domain name configurations? Have we resolved duplicate URL canonical issues for pages on the site (pages in multiple product categories, duplicated content on multiple URLs, etc.)?
  • Have black hat or gray hat tactics been used in the past? Are we under any type of search engine penalty? Do we have bad or questionable links pointing to our website(s)?
  • Have we identified any and all challenges that could put the project at risk (internal resources, limitations with website CMS, budget constraints, long approval cycles, etc.)?

While this checklist of questions to ask is just a starting point, it is important to start somewhere when launching an online marketing campaign for a specific channel or integrated across multiple channels. I can provide many examples of items that fall into the “mitigating risk” category that were not considered and came back to haunt the best campaigns down the road. Watch for a future post where I’ll provide some specific client stories and examples specifically on this topic.

If you’re considering launching a campaign or have one that you want a second opinion on, feel free to reach out to us at Voltage. Our team would be happy to speak with you (for free!) about your campaign and how you might be able to ensure optimization and success.

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5 Things To Remember When Creating A Logo

1. Know Your Audience

Who is the target audience for your brand or company? The answer to this question can dictate many aspects of your logo. If your company were geared towards kids, perhaps you would use bright colors and a chunky, free form font in your logo. Where as if it were geared towards middle-aged adults, you would want to take another approach. Healthcare industries, websites, childcare products, food; each market has a different style and it’s important to know where you fit in.

2. Logotype vs. Logomark

A logotype is referring to a logo with words alone. Think of HERSHEYS. A simple logo created from sans-serif text. A logomark, on the other hand, is a symbol in place of your company name. For instance, think of Apple Computers. Their use of a single apple as their logo has become iconic and is now recognized worldwide. It is important to know which you prefer. Perhaps you want a combination of the two? Decide before you start your logo creation so you can plan accordingly.

3. If In Doubt – Leave It Out

Think simple. The faster that you can communicate your brand message through your logo, the faster your clients will accept it. Do you have the urge to add a little leaf next to the title of your company because “its pretty”? Sure, you might be an eco friendly company… but stop and think! The more clutter and junk you add, the more you take away from your brand.  So if you find yourself in this situation while creating your logo and you doubt this new element…leave it out.

4. Test It Out

There are two basic tests that you should put your logo through before you finalize it. First, does the logo work in black and white? By this time in your process, your logo should be simple and effective enough to get the message across even in black and white. Adding color should only enhance your logo even more.  Secondly, is it scalable? You’ve got to remember that this logo is going to be used on several different mediums, and it’s your job to make sure that it can. Try scaling your logo down really small. Think business card size. Does your logo lose its shape and readability? Now print it out. This is important because many times while working on the computer we can lose track of the actual scale of things. You can also try this test in the opposite direction and scale everything bigger.

 5. Style Guides

A style sheet is a document providing all of the approved versions of your logo. Style guides aren’t always necessary, but they really help in many cases. If you are planning to pass your logo on to another company for advertising or to a printer for your marketing materials, this guide lets them know the correct colors and combinations of your logo that work for you.

Do you have questions about your company’s logo? Are you looking to rebrand? Contact the Voltage team today! 

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A Step by Step Process for Debugging Code

Debugging code can seem intimidating, but as long as you follow this simple process, it’s fairly easy to do.

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What’s in a brand? – Take a look at our newest Voltage blog post #branding #kansascity bit.ly/1kDzaF0

What's in a Brand?

Many people think a brand is a logo, and while a logo is a big part of a brand, it is certainly not where an organization’s brand starts and stops. A brand is so much more than a logo, and managed properly a brand can precede your organization and do the important work of conveying your mission and business, even when you’re not around.

So all that sounds great, right? Sure. But the ultimate question is what are the elements and how exactly do you “properly” manage them? Well, here you go:

Brand Elements:

1) Logo
Yes, I said this is not where a brand starts and stops, but it is definitely an important element and will be the most recognizable brand asset in your arsenal.

2) Colors
These will obviously be seen in your logo, collateral, website and more, but it’s important to apply these same colors to events, apparel and anything else intended to carry your brand.

3) Typeface
Your typeface should be displayed in your brand and used in your website, collateral and ancillary brand vehicles.

4) Messaging
This (and the next item) is often overlooked as they’re non-visual brand aspects. Your messaging can be as simple as a tagline and mission statement, but can include talking points, messaging per organization audience, brand differentiators and more.

5) Tone
The tone most directly refers to messaging, but can also relate to visual brand assets as well. Essentially, this is the style in which you want your message to be perceived—traditional, humorous, candid and transparent, etc.

Now Manage It:

1) Brand Standards
All of the above should be recorded in a brand standards document that covers each brand element and serves as a single reference point for all those charged with implementing or utilizing the brand. Much like messaging, a brand standards document can vary from the extremely simple (logo, colors and typefaces) to an extensive document that defines the above mentioned items, but also displays proper and improper uses, messaging, talking points, audiences, tone and much more.

2) Consistency
Employing the above brand standards document will ensure the logo and related assets are used and displayed consistently across all forms of media. This is key and what it does is (over time) build recognition to the degree where viewers need only glance at your brand representation to understand the messaging is from your organization. What this means is that as you proceed, your marketing will become that much more powerful and cost effective because it will take less and less effort to communicate who you are and what your about as viewers already have an inherent understanding of your brand essence.

3) Beware of Deviation
It’s easy to think your brand is becoming stale because you live it every day. You may think its time for a refresh in colors, messaging or even the logo, but beware of knee-jerk reactions. We always tell our clients that (typically) when you’re starting to get sick of your brand identity, people are likely just getting to know it well. Unless there is core change in business practices, naming, mission, etc, keep your brand consistent until it becomes dated or starts to become irrelevant. And how do you know this? My recommendation would be to consult an outside brand development organization that can evaluate your look and feel, messaging and core business to ensure your brand still aligns. Often times, organizations are too close to their own brand to not only see flaws, but to see the positives as well.

4) Keep it Simple
It’s easy to get carried away with all the elements mentioned above and thus there’s a tendency among organizations when developing brand standards to try and tell the story relating to every aspect of their organization. The desire is to ensure audiences have a thorough understanding of what your organization has to offer. Unfortunately, this has an opposite effect of the intended and lessens viewer comprehension. Understanding of a brand both visually and messaging-wise has an opposite correlation with respect to the number of messages trying to be communicated. In a nutshell, the more “stories” you attempt to tell, the more complex the global story gets and the less likely a viewer is to comprehend the important things.
Do your best to boil down your brand elements (and this includes your logo) to their basics and remember that your brand is your organization’s signature, and much like your signature (that you sign on the dotted line) it identifies you and tells people who your are, but it does not need to tell the whole story. Rather, it needs to tell just enough to capture your audiences’ attention and open the door for viewer exploration and conversations that will lead to conversion.

Do you have questions about your brand or need to take a next step to refine it?  The Voltage team would love to have a free consultation with you and share insight on what specific next steps to take.  Contact Voltage today to learn more!

Catch Voltage’s @coreydmorris and Ryan Lorei on Tech Circuit on the KMBZ Business Channel at 1pm. 1660AM or online at KMBZ.com

   
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