Shawn Nesaw

Business owners are increasingly looking to the Internet for spreading brand awareness, boosting sales and optimizing performance. As a business owner, you’ve likely explored many different digital marketing approaches including social media, online advertising and email newsletters.
But what about SEO?
For many businesses, and especially small businesses with limited resources, the idea of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is often a completely foreign one, one requiring time that doesn’t exist. Ignoring this key component, however, could cost you a large percentage of web traffic and a lacking digital presence against competitors.

Traffic drives a website.

So, how do searches work?
Considering all the options available to us via the Internet, it’s no wonder most turn to a search engine to help find reliable information most applicable to the question at hand. And while it might seem like those instantaneous search engine results appear through some magical process, it’s really algorithms, or long mathematical formulas, that dictate what information displays. So when you press the “search” button in your search engine of choice, that engine then filters a mammoth amount of material and presents it to you based on quality and popularity of content.
SEO_BLOG_Graphic

So, how do you make your website relevant in filtered search results?
Basically – you have to make the search engines see your value and specifically what value you give to viewers. This relevancy and value depends largely on your website’s content and the effective use of keyword phrases. That means make sure your website’s functionality runs smoothly, using compelling content, and a backend with descriptive meta-tags, or content descriptors that accurately portray your products or services. And don’t forget to make sure your site considers “mobile first” – meaning, the design responds and adapts to the size of the viewers screen. Believe it or not, search engines give higher relevance to sites that integrate these elements into their site. See, it pays off!
Another tip – shared links will boost your popularity, and popularity is a key factor considered by search engines. Make sure your website has a clear message and that it’s geared towards helping visitors answer their questions. In turn, consumers will start sharing your website’s content. Establishing trust and consistency in your online business practices will lead to more shares and more website traction. As the site gains traction, it’ll begin to rank higher in a list of search results. Think of it as the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising.

Put website visitors first.

A well polished website cognizant of its purpose is sure to get on a search engine’s radar. Why? Because, when you put website visitors first, you’re proving your value and to search engines that’s bound to naturally increase your SEO. If you think about it, SEO isn’t much different from any other effort to improve user/audience experience. Keep your website up-to-date, consistent with branding, and teeming with well-written linkable material, and SEO will become an organic digital way to enhance your business.

Shawn Nesaw

Melissa Mauldin, Sr. Marketing Specialist, A. Bright Idea

According to an AVG Digital Skills Study in 2010 presented at the ABA Marketing Conference, 30% of U.S. toddlers can operate a smartphone or tablet app. This may or may not surprise you. It does not surprise me as my daughter, by age two, knew how to “slide to unlock” on the iTouch, go to the Entertainment folder, select Peek-A-Boo Barn, play her game until she was board and then go back to the folder to select a new game. Now this doesn’t mean that I’m a bad parent (I hope) or allow technology to babysit my child, it’s just an example of how “times, they are a changing” and technology is something the next generation is born with not being able to live without.
Because we as a society demand information at our fingertips and have the expectation of immediate gratification with our smartphones, banks are readying themselves for market capture. Mobile banking isn’t something new but it is something that many of our community banks are just getting into.
Launched two years ago, mobile banking was invested primarily by the large, national banks. In one of the many sessions on mobile banking at this year’s ABA Marketing Conference, it was cited that many of the larger banks may have launched this added feature to compensate for the areas where they were lacking (i.e. customer service, personalized attention, service fees, etc.). In terms of technology in the financial industry, mobile banking was more quickly adopted than any other technology launch. ATMs and Online Banking technologies took anywhere from four to ten years or more to acquire more than 50 percent adoption per household. Since its launch, mobile banking has seen a market penetration of 10 percent within the first two years and it is expected to eclipse Online Banking (in terms of usage) by 2014.  With consumer desired features including mobile deposits (scanning an image of a check and depositing it via your smartphone app), as well as balance inquiries, transfers, etc., customers desire the accessibility to manage their funds while they’re on the go.
Additionally, with the growth of couponing companies like Groupon and Living Social, banks are also adopting personalized service features based on a customer’s spending preferences and offering discounts that relate. How would you like your bank to offer you a coupon for the GAP the next time you log in to online banking, simply because they noticed you purchased something there before? Or offer you access to determine the cheapest gas based on your location simply because they noticed you bought gas with your bank card? Approximately 76 percent of customers said they would like discounts based on spending habits, and that they would switch banks for one that offered these personalized services.
While these conveniences are steadily on the rise and becoming more and more desired, 55 percent of consumers still primarily say they select a bank based on the convenience of location more than anything. The traditional bricks and mortar bank branches will not be a thing of the past.
National banks continue to primarily be the first to test out new product and service features, but community banks will soon follow to meet the growing demand by customers. While customers may need to wait a bit longer for these benefits at their community bank, when they do come they’ll be packaged with all the benefits of local, personalized service we value from our neighborhood banks.

Shawn Nesaw

Graphic design remains an integral part of our strategic and collaborative approach at A. Bright Idea. Graphics lingo can often overwhelm those outside of the industry. So, for this month’s Top 10 list, A. Bright Idea demystifies 10 graphic design terms.
1. White Space
White space, or the empty space within a design, allows the viewer to absorb all of the information by moving their eye throughout the layout, without being overwhelmed by content.

White Space Example

2. Typeface
A typeface consists of a series of fonts (light, bold, italic, condensed, extended) and a full range of characters, such as, numbers, letters, marks and punctuations within a design or document.
Typeface Example

3. Concept
The end result of the creative process – the concept. After going through the brainstorming, experimenting and exploration, designers execute and evaluate many concepts as potential solutions to the design problem before narrowing to a handful of solutions for the project.
4. Creative Process
There are four steps to the creative process: Preparation (research, collect data, pull from other sources of inspiration), Incubation (percolation, review material collected and brainstorm connections between thoughts and ideas), Illumination (the a-ha moment when an idea is developed) and Implementation (execution of the idea, and evaluation if it’s fits the problem). Designers use this creative process to develop ideas and solutions to all projects.
5. Vector
Vector graphics allow expansion or reduction of artwork without any loss in quality using curves, points, lines and polygons. Typical vector file formats are EPS, PDF and Ai (Adobe Illustrator).
6. Mockup
A re-creation of the original design at actual size, and sometimes on the actual paper the final piece will be printed on. Mockups show how the printed piece will fold, align and trim, and remains helpful in seeing actual image and text size. Although not color accurate, a mockup proves useful when provided to print vendors so they can ensure the final piece will match designer’s specifications.
7. Grid
The composition of a document and the arrangement of images, text, colors, graphics and illustrations on the page comprise the grid. Designers often use a grid to layout a document, in order to maintain consistent column widths and graphic alignment. This remains especially important when designing a multi-page document.
Grid Example

8. CMYK/RGB
Two different types of color mode – CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, the colors used in the four-color print process. RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue, the colors that make up the light spectrum for viewing on-screen, such as computer monitors.
9. Offset/digital
Digital printing remains best for fast, customized small-medium quantities, and offset printing best for high quality pieces at large quantities. Offset printers can print on individual sheets of paper, with a variety of papers to choose from, while digital printers are generally limited to a smaller sheet, selection and size. The clarity of a piece printed offset uses a different printing plate for each ink color. A digital press uses one high resolution file to electronically print the piece, like a copier.
10. Widow/orphan
Widows and orphans are the words or short lines at the beginning or end of a paragraph, left dangling at the top or bottom of a column, separated from the rest of the paragraph. A widow describes a paragraph-ending line that falls at the beginning of the following page/column, thus separated from the remainder of the text. An orphan can be one of two things: a paragraph-opening line appearing by itself at the bottom of a page/column; or a word, part of a word, or very short line appearing by itself at the end of a paragraph. Orphans result in too much white space between paragraphs or at the bottom of a page.

Widow/Orphan Example
Shawn Nesaw

Although it’s only a short drive from Baltimore, I only just recently experienced New York City. With everything my family and I crammed into one day, the NYC I expected with amazing advertising displaying the latest in trends across all industries didn’t disappoint. After all, we just used one of those flashy, awe-inspiring digital billboards in Times Square to promote a client initiative, so I understand the power of advertising in the Big Apple.
Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how Times Square’s advertising has evolved over the decades. Technology has driven much of the change, but Times Square has always been on the cutting edge. So, in a tribute to the big lights in the big city, let’s take a look back at advertising as it’s evolved over the decades!

Moving from small, black and white print advertising in the 1950s to color in the ‘80s and electronic, animated, eclectic imagery today, advertising delivery has certainly evolved over the years. It’s exciting to be on the front lines and developing new ways to use technology to communicate messages and promote brands for clients. I’m sure there will be bigger and better opportunities in 2011!