Posts Tagged ‘Joomla’
As online marketing processes have evolved, the number and sophistication of software tools to support specific functions has exploded. Every discipline within marketing and PR has its own tools, among them:
SEO: backlink tools (Backlink Watch, SEOmoz, Majestic), keyword research tools, page optimization tools, SEO plugins.
Social media: social media monitoring (Radian6, Sysomos, SM2), social media management (HootSuite, SocialOomph, Buffer), Twitter tools, etc.
Web analytics: Omniture, WebTrends, Google Analytics, Clicky, and more.
All are very helpful, even essential, but most are designed for practitioners, that is: they help a specialist in a particular discipline do his or her job more effectively. Not only are they tactical, each focuses on supporting one functional silo or another. Not surprising, since this is how digital marketing is managed today—as a set of largely disconnected specialties. So much so, companies utilize different tools, resources, and in some cases, even different agencies to manage web visibility for brand, SEO, social media, PR, and paid advertising.
And of course, search has evolved—it’s no longer just 10 blue links. Today, web presence goes way beyond a company’s website. News and social links are as vital as are other points of visibility. What’s missing is the larger strategic picture needed for top-level decision-making and for managing digital marketing and PR in a coordinated manner. We’re all missing this because there aren’t tools to help us do it. Or are there?
A “Eureka” Moment
A couple of weeks ago, we blogged about the web presence optimization (WPO) framework. This model (evolved from a 2010 post) came about from KC Associates’ (KCA) client consulting projects. Operating as a cross-functional team, each consultant knew that a framework for optimization is useless unless there’s a way to track and measure gaiting factors that can be adjusted in order to move the optimization needle. So the group took a long, hard look at the tactical tools each consultant uses with a more creative mind of how they might be repurposed for WPO.
For example, SEO backlink tools can provide detailed lists of the precise backlinks to a competitor’s website. This can be quite valuable to an SEO consultant, but it’s mind-numbing overkill for a VP of marketing.
However, a graphical comparison of the type and quantity of backlinks pointing to the firm’s website and the sites of close competitors may be very enlightening (e.g., discovering that competitor A has twice as many media links and three times as many social links pointing to them)—particularly if these measures have changed significantly in a short period of time.
This simple change in thinking was truly eye-opening.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
First and foremost, the WPO framework provides the strategic and structural approach to the unified management of web visibility. And WPO metrics that support this framework provide the critical measurement necessary to enable the overall coordination of these disciplines to improve presence optimization and performance.
The set of 100+ WPO metrics that the group developed for KCA clients is driven by data collected by a host of off-the-shelf tools as well as some custom developed sources. As a collection, the attributes of these metrics differ from what most other tracking and measurement tools are set up to provide in six distinct ways:
- • Focus on management, not execution. WPO metrics are designed to support management decision-making (e.g., where should we devote more resources) rather than tweaks to specific tactics. Put another way, they are about the “what” rather than the “how.”
- • Provide a unified view of results. They provide leaders and team members with an overall picture of press (media outlets), social, website (organic search), industry (e.g. associations, research organizations) and paid web presence. The tactical tools available tend to focus on one or two of these areas.
- • Include competitor metrics. An organization’s digital marketing results don’t exist in a vacuum; it’s critical to be able to view results in the context of competitive activities. Competitive benchmarking is vital to developing strategy and allocating resources.
- • Reflect the value of owned, earned and paid presence, not just the company website. What customers, analysts, journalists, bloggers, and others have to say about you is sometimes more important than your own content. WPO metrics show the value of all of your points of web presence, whether it’s your content or something produced by a third party.
- • Are actionable and NOT “everything but kitchen sink.” Too many tools try to report every possible detail, rather than just what’s important. The result is data overload and analysis paralysis. It’s confusing and too much to absorb, and therefore doesn’t get acted upon. Best-practice WPO metrics focus only on measures that support concrete action.
- • Identify clear priorities. While WPO metrics cover a lot of ground, not every measure matters all the time. For example, if your media share-of-voice remains about the same from one month to the next, but your AdWords conversion rate drops by half, WPO metrics focus on the latter result.
WPO metrics won’t replace tactical, execution-level tools, but they will help guide decisions about which functional tools to use and how to coordinate the tasks of different disciplines for a larger purpose. They fill a critical gap by giving marketing executives, and everyone on digital marketing and PR teams, a unified view of web presence that reflects a more integrated optimization effort.
What’s the best web content management system (CMS) for your small business? Should you look at something beyond a CMS—a web marketing system (WMS), that provides additional functions like customer relationship management (CRM) and email? There’s no shortage of options, and the decision is an important one: you’ll be “married” to the platform you choose for as long as your current site is up.
Content management systems are valuable tools for small businesses that 1) don’t want to make a big investment in IT infrastructure, 2) don’t have web development (HTML, CSS etc.) expertise on staff, and 3) want to be able to maintain their own web content (adding new pages, text and images) over time, without needing to learn web coding skills.
“Free” CMS options such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal have an obvious appeal (price) to small businesses, but none are cost-free. All require some level of technical expertise, and Joomla and Drupal particularly have steep learning curves. Low-cost, fee-based tools are generally more user-friendly, provide more features, and most importantly come bundled with support. For businesses looking beyond “free” tools, here are six CMS and WMS options that can help you get more sales and marketing productivity out of your website, while being easy on your web content contributors.
Keep in mind that all of these tools impose some design limitations; if you need a truly custom look and feel like these sites, your only option is to hire a professional web design and development firm. But if you can live within a template (and most of these tools do offer a respectable array of options), you can save thousands of dollars on design and coding costs.
These platforms offer website building and content management tools with hosting, but no “extras.” If you are just looking to get a site up on the web and already have systems in place for CRM and marketing automation, these tools are worthy of consideration.
Pricing: $150-$600 per year ($12-$50 per month)
Squarespace is a generally well-regarded tool with reasonable design functionality for building natively search-optimized websites and blogs. It offers a solid set of features including site search, multiple permission levels for different types of contributors, a form-builder, and built-in analytics. The learning curve is far less daunting than most free CMS alternatives, and a strength of the tool is its mobile support. For anyone looking for an inexpensive, easy-to-use, basic website building and management tool,
Squarespace is definitely worth consideration.
UPDATE: After closer examination, SquareSpace is not worthy of consideration, due to weaknesses in search engine optimization, specifically:
- • Custom meta title tags for high-level pages are limited to 50 characters (even the most conservative SEOs recommend 65 characters for the title tag).
- • Meta title tags inside a section (e.g., “blog”) will always begin with the section name. You can customize the section name, but you can’t override the fact the all-important first few characters of every page title in that section will contain it.
- • You can’t create custom meta description tags (!) which are essential in “selling the click.”
- • The people behind SquareSpace seem to lack understanding of how SEO works. True, manipulative tactics don’t work, but solid, white hat SEO is essential to getting a website ranked highly. Their information is both inaccurate and offensive to legitimate SEO professionals.
$240-$1200/year ($20-$100 per month)
Like the other tools listed here, LightCMS is low-cost, easy to use, search-optimized and provides tools like a forms builder. What sets it apart is better design flexibility than most of the alternatives, calendar tools and built-in ecommerce functionality. For developers and agencies, LightCMS also offers one of the most attractive partner programs. Considering all of its features, LightCMS is another shortlist-worthy tool for basic website creation, particularly for smaller B2C companies who want an easy-to-manage online store.
$300 per year ($25 per month)
Another website building option that includes extras like ecommerce functionality with credit card processing, and nightly backups. The site is a bit cheesy, but the functionality of the tool is solid. Solution Toolbox provides their own comparison of their system to Squarespace and LightCMS, but take it with a grain of salt; it’s biased in their favor of course and some of the specifics are out of date (for example, Squarespace now includes a forms-builder). Still, for smaller consumer marketers who want to run an online store in addition to their basic website, this is worth a look.
Web Marketing Platforms
These suites combine CMS functionality with additional web marketing applications to provide more than just a website, but a complete online marketing software system.
$480 per year ($40 per month)
Business Catalyst combines the features of the products above—a CMS, forms builder, and ecommerce tools—with email marketing functionality and a basic CRM system. It provides respectable design flexibility and support for mobile devices. Though the product had issues in its original incarnation, Adobe has fixed many of these issues since acquiring it in late 2009 and continues to invest in product development. The catch? Business Catalyst isn’t sold directly to users, only through web developers and agencies (though there are ways around this).
$2,400/year ($200 per month)
Genoo is a solid, easy to use tool, very strong on email marketing / marketing automation. It offers some of the best built-in SEO tools of any of these packages. Genoo doesn’t provide native CRM functionality, but does have a pre-built integration to Salesforce.com. This is ideal for midsized companies with at least moderately sophisticated internal marketing resources who are already using a separate CRM system and are ready to graduate from hosted email marketing services. Genoo’s offering includes training on how to use its lead-nurturing capabilities.
$1,800/year ($150 per month)
This is a complete web marketing package for smaller, non-ecommerce businesses. It provides a robust CMS for a website and blog along with native CRM, email marketing, and forms-building tools, as well as comprehensive strategy guidance for making all of the pieces work together. The ePROneur package uniquely combines hosting, software, services and strategy to help companies with limited resources effectively generate leads and revenue online. The web marketing resources section of the company’s website also offers a wealth of free strategic and tactical web marketing information.
Any of the alternatives above can help small to midsize companies cost-effectively build and manage their web presence with no IT infrastructure and limited technical expertise. The key from there is to choose a platform whose strengths match up with your business type and needs. And also to investigate multiple options to determine which tool, and company, you are most comfortable working with.
FTC Disclosure: Webbiquity has no affiliate relationships with any of the vendors in this review.
Okay, so you understand the benefits of business blogs, and you’re ready to make the commitment to developing and maintaining a blog for the long haul. The next question is: where should I put the blog?
There are five common options:
Free hosting on a blogging platform site. The URL would look something like mycompanyblog.wordpress.com or mycompanyblog.blogspot.com. This option should never be used for a corporate or business blog. Free blogging platforms are fine for hosting personal blogs where there is no justification for spending money and no expectation of generating any business leads, sales or income. For business however, such platforms are an unprofessional setting, offer limited functionality, and provide very little SEO benefit.
Hosting on a corporate website using the site’s CMS tool. Many corporate websites are built on content management system (CMS) platforms such as Joomla, Drupal or DotNetNuke. These and several other open source and commercial CMS platforms offer built-in blog creation functionality. The advantages of this approach are:
- • All SEO authority (via inbound links) accrues to your corporate website, because the blog is just another section of the site. This is valuable because blog posts are often more effective “link bait” than typical website copy (“About Us,” product/service descriptions, etc.).
- • Your internal (or agency) staff, who may at different times write content for both the company blog and corporate website, have only one content creation tool to learn.
- • The blog has the same “look and feel” as the rest of the site, supporting corporate branding.
- • Whether viewing the blog or regular product/service content, visitors never leave your site.
- • Most CMS plaforms will easily accommodate multiple-author corporate blogs. They can also support multiple blogs (e.g. a widget industry blog and a widget maintenance blog)—though the common look/feel and top-level domain name make it difficult to clearly separate these.
The primary disadvantages of the CMS approach are that the blog is very clearly “the corporate blog”—it has no independence or personality of its own—and that CMS tools often lack the rich functionality and plugins that blogging platforms such as WordPress offer (e.g. subscribe to posts by email, quick polls, automatic XML sitemap maintenance, etc.).
Hosting on an existing corporate site using WordPress. This option assumes that your corporate website is built in something other than WordPress (e.g. on an open source, commercial or proprietary web CMS platform), and that you’ll be installing WordPress just to power the blog. This approach shares many of the advantages of using the underlying CMS to build the blog (SEO links, visitor are kept on the site, multi-author blogs are supported) and does away with some of the shortcomings: first, since the blog template is separate from the website template, it’s easy to give the blog its own personality, consistent with but separate from the rest of the corporate site. Second, unlike most CMS platforms, WordPress has an active developer community contributing special-purpose plugins to continually expand and enhance its functionality.
However, this approach has its own drawbacks. For one, it requires installation and setup of the WordPress blogging and MySQL database management software–not a terribly difficult task, but not one for technophobic to be sure. Where this really becomes complicated is in a multi-blog scenario (again, such as separate industry news and technical / how-to blogs), since each blog requires its own WordPress and MySQL installation. For another, functions that are often provided seamlessly by a dedicated WordPress host (see the separate blog and website hosting option below), such as nightly database backups and WordPress version upgrades, have to configured separately for a self-hosted WordPress installation. In other words, you’ll definitely need knowledgeable IT support for this option.
Hosting both a blog and website on WordPress. This is definitely an option to consider if you are just developing the website for a new organization or rebuilding the website for an existing enterprise. It offers all of the advantages of a WordPress blog while giving IT only a single platform to manage and users only a single CMS tool to learn. Though originally developed as a blogging platform, WordPress has evolved over the years into a respectably capable full CMS option for relatively small, simple websites–with or without a blog.
The downside is that WordPress isn’t suitable for large, complex websites or those requiring customer web application functionality, at least not without some highly involved development effort. For midsize to large enterprise sites, or even smaller company sites requiring specialized functionality, it’s often simpler to develop the non-blog portions of the website using another tool and treating the blog separately. Which brings us to the final option:
Separate blog and website hosting. With this alternative, a blog is treated completely separately from the main company website development platform, hosting arrangements and underlying technology. Regardless of how or where the main website is hosted, the blog is generally hosted with a dedicated WordPress host such as HostGator, Bluehost or JustHost. (Disclosure: I do use JustHost for my personal blog hosting, but I have absolutely no financial relationship with any of these companies.) The advantages of this approach are:
- • The blog can not only have its own “personality” separate from the corporate website, but even its own search-friendly domain name (e.g. widget-industry-news.com).
- • Related to the point above, your company can potentially get an extra spot on the first page of the search engines for specific core search terms. The search engines will generally display any specific website no more than twice (e.g. the home page and one interior page) on the first page of search results. Having a related blog with a separate top-level domain name gives you the opportunity to snare a third spot on the home page for certain search phrases very closely aligned with your business.
- • The blog can easily have its own look and feel, carrying over selected elements of corporate branding (e.g. colors, logo) without having exactly the same look and navigation structure.
- • There’s no burden on the corporate IT group. Setup is easy and maintenance is usually handled automatically by the host for a nominal annual fee. This frees your IT group to focus on more important things, and it means you don’t have to wait for or rely on IT to install new features, add authors, add new pages or perform pretty much any other function on the blog.
- • Authors can write blog posts, add comments, install or update plugins, and perform virtually any other function on the blog from any Internet connection. This may or not be true for your corporate website, depending on the platform used and security settings. In large companies (and many midsized organizations as well), a VPN connection or other software is often needed for corporate site editing access.
- • Separate hosting supports both a single blog with multiple authors and multi-blog scenarios. Managing multiple external blogs will increase costs (though many hosts offer discounts for multi-site hosting packages) but also provide more opportunity for search presence (e.g. in addition to your corporate site, you may own blogs like widget-industry-news.com, widget-maintenance-tips.com, etc.).
- • You’ll incur extra hosting and domain name registration fees, generally running $80-120 per year per blog. That’s not a huge outlay, but something to consider.
- • Your SEO authority will be split, with one set of links pointing to your corporate website and a different set pointing to your blog.
In the final analysis, there is no single perfect answer for all organizations to the question posed in the title of this post. There are benefits and drawbacks to each approach. The best advice is: consider the specifics of your situation and relative advantages and disadvantages of each approach before deciding on the optimal hosting arrangement for your blog.
Other helpful information on this topic:
Location? Location? Location? by SEO Inc Blog
Business Blog: separate domain or on your website by Better Business Blogging
Blog: On Site vs. Off Site – SEO Advantages by WebProWorld (forum)