10 worst qrcode implementations 845x360

The 10 Worst Implementations of QR Codes

You already know what a QR Code is because you have probably rolled your eyes more than once after seeing one on a restaurant menu or billboard. But if you don’t, originally developed by the Japanese automotive industry, a Quick Response Code (QR Code) is a machine readable code that can store data.

Frankly, I would be impressed if the average American has scanned more than one QR Code in their lifetime. Even that scan was probably just for novelty. The running joke around our office is the only people who ever scan a QR Code are those people making sure it works before sending it to print.

But why are they such a joke? It’s probably because of horrible implementations like these:

qrcode 10qrcode 9qrcode-8
qrcode-7qrcode-6qrcode-5
qrcode-4qrcode-3qrcode-2
qrcode-1

There is nothing worse than a recursive QR Code, except for maybe running into a QR Code while browsing on a mobile device. I think we have established that there are plenty of ways to use a QR Code wrong. What about using it right? What exactly are they for? Thanks for asking here are some of the best uses of a QR Code.

  • Helping users access a long and ugly URL

    One major information problem we face is connecting printed media to digital media. Links are great when you can click on them, but printing “Buy tickets now: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/mobcon-2014-conference-nov-13-14-2014-tickets-8995085543″ and expecting someone to access that link is a pretty tall order. In this case a QR Code is a much better user experience.

  • Sharing exclusive content

    Although this is mostly an extension of a long ugly URL, I think it needs a special mention. A QR Code can link to a video, a playlist, or an app download. For example you could send a birthday gift and with it a QR Code to a video singing happy birthday.

  • Exchanging contact information

    Entering a persons phone number is easy, but entering a person’s name, email, title and company is often more trouble than it is worth. All of that data (and more) can be automatically added into your smartphone’s contacts with a scan of a code.

Here is the greatest use of a QR Code I have ever seen. Tattoo studio Bergge Tattoo in Istanbul needed to hire some new artists. So they ran an ad in the newspaper offering a job to anyone that could scan the QR Code. The catch was, first you had to color the QR Code black, proving that you had steady hands and an eye for coloring inside the lines.

tattoo-qr-code

Can you think of any more excellent or terrible uses of QR Codes? Share them with us!

Reason Why Your Mobile App Will Fail to Add Value

6 Reasons Why Your Mobile App Will Fail to Add Business Value

Creating a mobile app for your business is a strategic decision. Not only does it have implications for the image of your brand, but it also has a direct relation with the way customers interact with your products or services. Naturally, for such an important decision, adequate planning at the highest level of the organization is required.

There are more than 1 million apps on both The App Store and Google Play. However, there’s no shortage of business and corporate apps on both these platforms with just a few hundred downloads (in many cases, even less than that). Justifiably, most of them can be considered failures from a business perspective.

Therefore,  it is important that companies avoid all the possible strategic and operational sinkholes found in failed apps that can negatively impact performance and user experience. To ensure that you do not create a forgettable mobile app, like many other companies, avoid these mistakes.

1. Mobile App Without a Clear Business Objective

Simply because everyone else is building a mobile app does not mean you have to get one as well. Before making your move, connect the dots first. Building an app is not an objective itself, it is a platform to achieve your actual business goals. An app is a means to completing your business goals. This is a simple, but often forgotten notion.

The business goal has been lost

Your app needs to contribute directly or indirectly to your primary objectives. Make sure you have clear KPIs and objectives that you want to achieve through the app.

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2. Irrelevant to the Target Market

You can build an eye-catching and advanced mobile app that links directly with your business objectives, but if it’s not relevant to your target market, your potential customers will not use it. Think from your customer’s perspective. Why would they want to fill their phone with apps they don’t find useful?

Customers do not care about your business objectives, they use apps for their common problems. So, rather than solely seeking customer demographics, seek to fill a niche in your customer’s life.

Solution: Build your brand persona

The secret here is to link your business objectives with the preferences of your target audience. Build your brand persona and research your ideal customer. Give them something useful.

3. Too Many Features

Beware of putting a large volume of features in your app. It may be difficult to navigate, which makes it less usable for your customer.

There is too much

A quick look at some of the more successful business mobile apps will tell you how focusing on a few key features, that address particular problems, is much more effective than adding too many features in your app. Run a few surveys on your target market and study their preference patterns. Short-list their three top problems and create an app that specifically resolves one of them.

Keep it simple.

If secondary problems can also be resolved with the same set of features, great, otherwise don’t complicate your app by trying to offer a solution for all the problems. You will end up resolving none of them.

4. Not Enough Marketing

Creating a useful, high value app is only one part of the equation. But without aggressive marketing, nobody would even know your app exists. They assume that listing their app on app stores is enough to get downloads. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple.

No one knows about it

You need to make your app as visible as possible by listing it on your website and using content marketing for app promotion. Mention it in your blog posts, promote it with guest blogging, notify your email subscribers and reach out to industry influencers to let the world know about your app. Without this, your only app users will be your employees.

5. Forcing Users To Download

Nothing is more irritating than a website forcing its users to download its mobile app. Companies that do not offer a mobile version of their website and instead force their users to download their app often experience higher bounce rates and irritated users. You might get some extra downloads with this approach, but you’re more likely to lose customers as a result.

Solution: Promote

Promote your app aggressively, and encourage users to download it, but always give them the option to browse the full version of the website as well.

6. Not Updating After the App Release

No matter how well you have planned your app structure and user experience, there are bound to be some areas for improvement. Your job is not done after releasing the app. Post-release is also critical because if the initial response of your users is negative, and you do not aggressively move to rectify it, your company’s image may suffer. A large number of companies never release a updated version of their app which proves to be a costly mistake.

Solution: Continue to monitor

Keep an eye on the user reviews and suggestions that your app receives. Look for improvement areas both in the functionality and compatibility of your app.

Conclusion

In order to benefit from your app, you need to perceive it as a powerful platform for achieving your business objectives, not as an objective in itself. If you get this part right, and correctly identify the real needs of your target market, other components of your mobile marketing strategy will fall into place seamlessly.

How To Use Content Marketing To Boost Your Mobile App Downloads

How To Use Content Marketing To Boost Your Mobile App Downloads

Like any other product, mobile apps also need to be marketed aggressively for potential users to find them. After all, what good is an app if nobody uses it? But getting your app listed on the App Store or Google Play is not marketing, it’s a fundamental requirement. Adding relevant keywords in your app title, describing its functions in detail and adding high quality snapshots to the app download page is highly recommended, but it’s not enough.

What you need is a solid content marketing strategy, designed around the core benefits of your app and the needs of your target market, to accelerate your app downloads.

What Exactly is Content Marketing?

Content Marketing, in simple words, is creating high value and actionable content that addresses the core needs of your target market, solves their problems, engages them with your brand, builds your credibility and ultimately helps you sell more products. This includes different forms of content including blogs, social media websites, video marketing, webinars and many other platforms. Content marketing usually leads to much more loyal and long-term customers as compared to SEO and paid advertisements.

So when it comes to increasing your mobile app downloads, here are a few ways you can use content marketing to achieve your objective.

1. Create High Value Blog Content

Text content is at the core of most internet marketing strategies simply because search engines rank websites with regularly updated text content higher than the others. A great way to win favors with search engines is to start a blog that focuses on the core benefits of your app.

In order to create content that truly resonates with your target audience and persuades them to explore more about your app, you need to identify a few things first.

  • List the biggest benefits of your app
  • List the problems that it solves
  • List the reasons why someone should use your app
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Once you have these lists, do a little research to identify the keywords that people are using to search for the solutions that your app is offering. For example, if your app is about weight loss, suggests the right physical exercises and helps users track their progress, then your target audience might be searching for you using keywords such as,

google search

These are the search suggestions that Google immediately came up with when I searched for weight loss. This can give you a good idea about the type of keywords your target audience is using to find the benefits that your app is offering. This general idea is usually enough for you to create relevant content. But if you want to study keyword research in detail, I would suggest reading this resource by Brian Clark of Copyblogger.

Back to blogging then.

Now that you have a list of the main benefits of your app, the problems that it solves and an idea of the kind of keywords people use to search for it, it’s time to create some compelling blog content. The secret here is not to overly focus on your app. Instead, address the problems of your target users and build a reputation with them.

Let’s take the same weight loss example. Instead of creating a post like “The Best Weight Loss Mobile App” create titles like the following:

  • 9 Ways Fitness Geeks Enjoy Life Much More Than Overweight People
  • How Being Overweight Can Kill You Socially
  • 37 Super Effective Tips To Lose Weight Quickly and Live Your Life to The Fullest

None of these titles directly sell your app, but they’ll help you build a solid relationship with your readers. Readers will start trusting you for weight loss advice and you’ll become their go to source whenever they need help. Now add your app download links within the content (where relevant), at the end of the post or in the sidebar of your blog to help acquire new users for your app.

Just make sure that you’re consistent with your blogging schedule.

2. Use Guest Blogging to Promote Your App

Creating effective content for your own blog is great, but if you add guest blogging to your strategy as well, it will become an irresistible combination. With guest blogging, you can use the strength of more established blogs and address their audience directly. If you do this correctly, you can get hundreds, if not thousands, of app downloads right away. The right way to do this is to look for the top blogs that your target users read.

So, again, if we take the example of health and fitness niche, search for 10-15 blogs that are actively updated, have a high number of comments on each of their posts and also have a good social media following. Approach these blogs with the same quality of posts that we discussed in point no. 1. Most blogs allow you to add an author bio at the end of your guest post. This is where you can introduce yourself, your brand and add a backlink to your app download page.

Note: To learn more about guest blogging on top niche blogs, read this.

3. Submit Your App to App Roundups

Another great way to boost your app downloads is by submitting it to different app roundups. Many established blogs run weekly/monthly app roundups from different niches and describe the pros and cons of the listed apps. This is where you can take advantage. Once again, Google should be your best friend

google-roundup

Use search terms like the following:

  • [niche keyword] android app roundup
  • best [niche keyword] apps
  • top 10 [niche keyword] iphone apps

Once you find such blogs, contact them with the details of your app and ask them to add your app to their current list or consider adding it in future posts. It works most of the time and it never hurts to ask.

4. Use Social Media to Boost App Downloads

No content marketing strategy can be complete without the smart use of social media. There are a number of ways you can use social media to directly/indirectly boost your mobile app downloads. First of all, use it to promote your blog posts, guest posts and app roundups. Additionally, join the different groups, communities and lists relevant to your target market. You can find lots of them on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. But that, of course, is the indirect approach.

To directly impact your app downloads, Twitter is the ideal platform. Last year Twitter introduced Twitter cards specially for promoting smartphone apps, ecommerce websites and digital products. Tweets are usually limited to 140 characters, but with Twitter cards, you can not only increase the number of characters for each Tweet, you can also make it much more attractive by using high quality images. Moreover, with Twitter cards installed your Tweets will contain a direct download link at the end of your Tweet.

Here’s what Twitter cards look like:

image source: Dev.Twitter.com
 

 

twitter-card
 

 

twitter-card-2
 

To start using Twitter cards (click here), you’ll need to configure it for your website and mobile app. It’s not anything complex, and it only takes a few steps to complete.

Conclusion

Content marketing helps you build a loyal audience that helps to position you as an expert in your niche. Convincing visitors to download your app becomes much easier. It is much more effective than simple SEO and paid advertising where the users have no prior relationship with you. You can also add things like infographics, webinars, video marketing, etc. to further enhance the visibility of your app on the web.

The point, however, with all of these activities is simple – you need to aggressively and consistently push your app in front of your target users in as many ways as possible in order to boost your app downloads. Content marketing just happens to be a particularly effective way to accomplish this.

google analytics stats website trends 2014

Google Analytics Stats Reveal Website Trends for 2014

MentorMate.com Google Analytics Stats in 2013 vs 2014
DATA AS PERCENT OF WHOLEJanuary – February 2013January – February 2014% CHANGE
Desktop Visitors91.67%85.84%– 6.36%
Mobile Visitors5.46%10.47%+ 91.86%
Tablet Visitors2.87%3.69%+ 28.57%
Average Load Time840 ms511 ms– 39.17%
Unique Screen Resolutions262312+ 19.08%
Unique Mobile Devices88208+ 136.36%
(not provided) Organic Search Phrases53.61%92.60%+ 72.73%
Social Media Visitors6.31%13.33%+ 111.25%

Desktop, Mobile & Tablet Visitors

Of course our percentage of desktop visitors declined since more people are now using smartphones & tablets to browse our website instead. Nothing surprising there; however, it is a bit surprising that the percentage of traffic from mobile phones increased over 3x more than traffic from tablets.

KEY TAKEAWAY
More effort should be placed on ensuring a great mobile experience by utilizing responsive website designs.

Average Load Time

Because of the significant increase in mobile & tablet visitors a fast load time is becoming increasingly important to deliver a great mobile experience. For this reason we made significant efforts to ensure our website was as fast as it possibly could be.

KEY TAKEAWAY
Ensure your website is as fast as it can be to ensure a great mobile experience. Having a website that is technically fast, is not the same as having a website that is fast loading for its users, make sure to account for both scenarios so your website appeases Google and more importantly, your visitors.

Unique Screen Resolutions

Mentormate.com is viewed on over 312 unique screen resolutions and this number is only going to increase with the introduction of new devices. Effort must be made to ensure a pleasant experience on all of them.

KEY TAKEAWAY
The best way to accommodate the plethora of screen resolutions currently out there, and coming soon, is to utilize a responsive website design. Begin by identifying the most commonly used resolutions based on your website’s analytics. Pay special attention to those resolutions as you design your responsive site.

Unique Mobile Devices

The number of unique devices being used to visit our website has grown over 136% in just a single year! Just imagine how many there will be next year.

KEY TAKEAWAY
Ensure that your website elegantly accommodates the varying mobile operating systems and browsers, especially the most popular ones.

(not provided) Organic Search Phrases

At this rate 100% of Google searches will be encrypted (not provided), meaning you won’t be able to tell what keywords your website visitors searched for to find your website. Focusing on ranking for specific organic search phrases is soon to be a thing of the past.

KEY TAKEAWAY
Focus your SEO efforts on high-level categories of keyword phrases and don’t waste too much time stuck in the details. Focus on creating great, relevant content and share it with appropriate audiences to ensure positive social signals and create long-term value for your visitors and your brand.

Social Media Visitors

The percentage of traffic driven by Social media increased 111% in the last year. Social is now a crucial part of any digital marketing effort and its importance is only continuing to grow. Google+ has been the major driver in this trend.

KEY TAKEAWAY
Ensure that you have a solid social media strategy, get your employees engaged in social and make sure you have someone to own this effort for your company.

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oreo dunk fork

Mobile Apps as Content Marketing

If you are even remotely involved in the marketing process, you have probably heard the term “Content Marketing” getting a lot of play. Content marketing is the practice of creating a new piece of media to share with a target audience in an effort to generate business. The benefits of content marketing versus traditional advertising or SEO are numerous, including:

  • useful content is likely to be shared with a user’s social media networks
  • it can create a lasting impression
  • users often return to guides or entertainment
  • it can position your brand as a leader in your field
  • it can build trust with your consumers

Usually the content is delivered in the form of an interactive web tool, a detailed guide or infographic, an informative blog post or something very entertaining. The impressive Web Developer’s SEO Cheat Sheet from Moz is a good example of a guide.

But what about content marketing with a mobile application?

Mobile Video Games as Marketing

What if I told you Oreo has a mobile game about dunking cookies and it’s actually really fun? Oreo’s Twist Lick Dunk is a combination of Fruit Ninja and Slam Dunk King, both fun games with high production values. Check out the gameplay footage to get a feel for it:

Many brands, such as Oreo, are taking full advantage of mobile as a marketing platform. Here is a small set of excellent promotional games: Fruit Ninja Puss in Boots, Fruit Ninja Skittles and Temple Run Brave.

It goes without saying that success hinges on quality. I downloaded probably about two dozen big brand marketing apps to research this post. The vast majority of them are impressive failures, usually because they aren’t thoughtfully developed. They are just knee jerk, get-something-into-the-app-store, shovelware initiatives. The apps are glitchy, boring, ugly, useless, or all of the above. Despite the failure though, I applaud those brands for having the foresight to utilize the App Store as a marketing channel. Practice makes perfect. Many brands still haven’t even attempted an app. Why not?

Value Proposition

When you consider how much major brands tend to spend on TV advertising, creating a mobile game seems like a no-brainer. Here is the Super Bowl 2014 Oreo commercial:

Oreo spent 4 million dollars on that ad (A 30-second spot cost approximately $4 million during the 2014 Super Bowl) and that is not including the actual ad production. A high-quality app costs much less. Angry Birds, one of the most successful mobile games, cost only about $140,000 (€100,000) to create. Judging by the Oreo game’s production value, it most likely cost a similar amount.

Compared to a high-volume TV ad, a mobile app is a small bet and in the case of Oreo Twist Lick Dunk, it seems to be paying off. The Google Play Store has it in the 500,000 – 1,000,000 downloads category, and the number is probably similar on the Apple App Store (Apple doesn’t make that data available). That is an impressive amount of downloads for an interactive commercial! This is content marketing at its best. I have been playing this game consistently for about a week. It reminded me how much fun it is to eat Oreos. So much so, I actually went and got some!

oreos
 

Non-Game Mobile Content Marketing

I realize I have been spending a lot of time talking about mobile games, and a game might not be appropriate for every brand. The good news is, any app can be a successful marketing tool. REI and TheNorthFace are paving the way with useful applications for their target demographic.

TheNorthFace has built the promising hike tracking app for hikers or campers, and REI created a snow report app for skiers or snowboarders. These apps are unlikely to directly increase sales, but through clever cross-promotion they can be used to retain customers and possibly attract new ones. Both brands are also establishing themselves as experts in their respective fields and building lasting relationships by offering a free and useful tool.

When deciding how to allocate your advertising dollars, consider a mobile content marketing strategy. Delivering a good piece of interactive software can do wonders for your brand. Since the Google and Apple App stores both function as search engines, not showing up in results for brand searches is a missed opportunity. But just like any piece of content, it needs to be great to be successful.

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shout

Promoted Tweets as Brand Terrorism

On Sept 2nd a gentleman, Hasan Syed, promoted a tweet about a bad experience he had with British Airways:

promo tweet
Apparently, they lost his bags and proceeded to not be very helpful in finding them. He took an interesting approach to complaining. He tweeted, and promoted his tweet (paid to have it show up in people’s feeds). It is unclear if this has ever been done before, but for whatever reason his tweet went viral (story got picked up by Mashable and other sites) so it was a massive success. British Airways suffered a considerable amount of bad press from a small investment. (Story on Mashable)

This story is interesting in many ways. The amount of trouble this tweet caused British Airways is probably considerable. The story has over 20,000 shares on Mashable and that is only one of many publications that reported on it. That isn’t what interests me however, I am more interested in what happens if this becomes a trend.

Think back to the early 90s before there was Amazon or social media. It was hard to know which companies have good or bad customer service. Product reviews existed in magazines and websites but they were spotty and you couldn’t write your own. Basically if you had a bad experience the best you could do is call and complain and tell your friends about it.

Compare that to now. When was the last time you considered any serious purchase before reading a dozen reviews? Every user has the power to review the product or service on various major platforms like Amazon, Google, Ebay. There are blog post reviews, comparison posts, top ten lists, video reviews, video rants. Oh and let’s not forget “telling your friends.” I put that in quotes because now instead of telling twenty people you know you broadcast it on social media and every friend that sees it has the opportunity to re-share it, exposing your woes with a whole new audience.

reviews
Imagine if promoting a tweet was as common as writing a review. Twitter would essentially have a crowdsourced ad campaign running for whatever company is currently in the spotlight. That is both an awesome incentive for good service and deterrent for bad service. Social media has always been great at holding companies accountable and this is just another avenue for that dynamic.

Is there a question of abuse? It is hard to say. The fact that promoting tweets actually costs money creates a strong anti-troll barrier. A person would need to be motivated enough to purchase their own soap box. This particular tweet went viral, but if this was common practice these tweets probably wouldn’t go viral very often. A critical mass of energized users would be needed to make a strong impact.

Another unique and useful feature of these promoted review tweets is the ability to interact with the original poster. You can ask follow-up questions, even get into a conversation about the product or service and discuss alternatives. The company in question can directly and publicly address the tweet allowing for a more transparent and honest discourse.

The opportunity to put your money were your mouth is has arrived. Do you have any horror stories that, if the thought occurred to you in the heat of the moment, you would promote?

wrecking ball

What Miley Cyrus Can Teach Us About Bing & Google Image Search Results

In a previous blog post we analyzed the differences between identical searches in Google and Bing; however, we never compared image search results. They are probably pretty similar right?

Actually they are wildly different! Stephen Fluin brought this to my attention. Take a look at a Miley Cyrus image search on Google and Bing.

Google Image Search: Miley Cyrus


miley cyrus google image search results

Bing Image Search: Miley Cyrus


miley cyrus bing image search results

As Stephen delightfully put it:

“Bing is like a loving grandmother who is in complete denial about her granddaughter’s behavior.”

Bing’s image search is completely devoid of Miley’s entire 2013 MTV VMA performance. The twerking, the tongue, the short haircut make no appearances. That performance is arguably the biggest splash Miley has ever made and Bing is pretending it didn’t happen?

Clearly the image search algorithms employed by Google and Bing are very different. Lets look at another pair of examples and see what we can figure out.

Google Image Search: Lindsay Lohan


Google Image Search Results for Lindsay Lohan

Bing Image Search: Lindsay Lohan


Bing Image Search Results for Lindsay Lohan

Google Image Search: Amanda Bynes


Google Image Search Results for Amanda Bynes

Bing Image Search: Amanda Bynes


Bing Image Search Results for Amanda Bynes

In all of the Bing results not a single “bad” or “negative” photo is shown on any of these three female celebrities. My from-the-hip guess is that Google values social signals higher. Images with a greater amount of social shares appear more frequently and higher than lower scoring photos. Mug shots, or explosive pop culture photos often get shared quickly and appear on many gossip news sites which score large social numbers. Bing might take a more traditional approach and show pictures from highly authoritative websites?

Let’s use the example of Lindsay Lohan. Bing’s top 10 images from from:

mantoos.com
fanpop.com (two times)
blog.screenweek.it
stud-center.com (four times)
fotoblogx.blogspot.com
iwritealot.com

I don’t personally recognize any of these. Following through some of the links, I wouldn’t consider these sites reputable. Compare this to the Google’s sources:

businessinsider.com (two times)
nydailynews.com
hdwallpapersdj.com (four times)
imdb.com
vogue.fr
perezhilton.com

IMDB, Business Insider, and Vogue? I think most people would agree that these sites are certainly more reputable and authoritative. So what is going on here? I enlisted the help of our Director of Inbound Marketing and search engine wizard Andy Forsberg to provide analysis. First he put together this spreadsheet comparing the top five Miley Cyrus images:

image-search

And provides the following analysis:

Bing images search places little to no emphasis on the date or authority of a given website when pulling images for its search results and sorts its images by their resolution (largest photos first). The higher resolution images tend to be professionally taken and are therefore, more likely to be more “appropriate” for a general audience.

Google image search places significant emphasis on the date and the authority of a given website when pulling images for its search results and sorts its images primarily by domain authority, page authority, social sharing metrics & recency. Since the more shocking photos are more likely to be linked to more frequently and shared more frequently on social media channels, they are more likely to show up near the top of Google’s image search results.

Clearly the algorithms the two engines use are very different. Of course, analyzing search engine algorithms is more than a full time job. The sample size we used here is not large enough to draw any real conclusions, only for fun speculation. So based on our limited research, which engine is better?

If you are looking for a high quality, beautiful photo of Miley Cyrus to hang over your fireplace, Bing will deliver. Using Google you would likely have to use advances search and set a higher minimum size and do some hunting before getting the perfect picture. If, instead, you keep hearing things about Miley Cyrus and you want to find out what the fuss is all about, Bing will be almost no help. The most recent image it provides is from May 2012. Google is better suited at bringing images from the latest events to the top. It is thought-provoking how the engines attempt to satisfy different needs when faced with a search like “Miley Cyrus” and no additional context. I am now curious how these tendencies manifest themselves when searching for things other than female pop stars…

If you have any other insights, or simply prefer one search to the other let us know!

website awesome

Is Your Website Awesome?

Ah, the age old question.

As we continue to have a better understanding of the internet and its boundless grandeur, we develop a keener sense of what users want and expect from a website.

For example, things like:

  1. Tasteful, user friendly design
  2. Unique, findable, shareable content
  3. Scannable text
  4. A compelling reason to visit

…all influence your ability to connect with your audience.

Now more than ever, you need to up your website game. It is far too easy to be left in the dust behind the surge of new entrants to the digital space each and every day. To have a fighting chance of staying relevant, you must evolve your website, test any changes, and then do it all over again.

We get it.

We gathered all of our internal web development and SEO gurus with a simple goal in mind: to share some of the best web tools in our arsenal. We sorted through the vast amount of web tools available, picked out the best, and organized them all in one convenient document.

Check out this guide and take your website from old and crusty to fresh and awesome.

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new business cards 2013

MentorMate’s NEW new Business Cards

Do you know what makes business cards great? Our culture to exchange and keep them. It has become an American business tradition to own one and to hand it out when meeting new people. The business card exchange is like a toast at a dinner party.

So what if someone brings an extraordinary card to the table?

It is at this moment that the dinner party takes on the tone of a Japanese tea ceremony. Everyone takes turns admiring the unique design, talking about it as if it was a work of vibrant art in an otherwise plain and minimalistic room. People notice things like varnish, letterpress, material, color, corners, thickness, size and shape. If your card resonates with someone (even in a negative way) they will often take it back to the office to show their co-workers, inspiring conversation about your card.

I care more about having a business card I am proud of than the average person. As you can probably tell, I am somewhat of a business card fetishist…

Business card design is important to me so I jumped at the chance to help design our new cards. When tackling a new card design there are many things to consider.

Shape

Business cards need to be business-card shaped. People who are in the “business card culture”, meaning, they collect, store, reference, and use business cards often, have a system in place. The system they have is prepared to handle business cards, not weirdly-shaped pieces of cardboard. Sure, people might think it’s cool that your card looks like a floppy disk, but when they try to put it in their wallet, business card holder, card binder, or Rolodex, it won’t fit. You need to use your best judgment, but keep the user experience in mind. I have seen plenty of non-traditional cards on the internet printed on scraps of denim, rubber bands, coasters, even red bricks. It depends on your industry, but in the business world a 3.5″ x 2″ card is probably best.

Corners

I am a big fan of rounded corners for one major reason: there are no corners to bend. The corners on a card are always the first to go. This isn’t an issue with rounded corners. Rounded corners easily slide in and out of tight spaces and always look pristine. They also have a more finished and expensive look.

Matte vs. Gloss

I like to write notes on cards, especially if there is something I don’t want to forget from a meeting that related directly to this person. For example, if a specific person would like to see a project we worked on, I would make a note on that person’s card. It is difficult to write on glossy cards and near impossible to do with pencils. For this reason I prefer a matte finish. Our new cards are double-matte.

Explain What the Company Does

When I originally redesigned our business cards the primary directive was to explain what our company does. The name, MentorMate, doesn’t exactly have a literal and obvious connection to what we do. I came up with the concept of putting highlighted and grayed-out skill badges on the back of the card. The highlighted badges describe each employees skills/roles while the grayed-out icons illustrated all the other skills/roles the company as a whole shares. This was a successful concept which will be carrying over into our new design.

It is important to have your card explain what your business does because people may forget. I played “project manager” in the construction of a restaurant once and I ended up with a collection of business cards from the plumber, electrician, tile guy, metal worker, landscaper, kitchen supplier, equipment warehouse, and furniture fabricators. I had to organize all of these using my little business card binder. It is a distant memory now, but I remember having a heck of a time trying to remember if “Edison and Sons” or “Hockenbergs” was our kitchen supplier.

Break the Ice

Because the business card exchange is often the first thing that takes place at a meeting, it is important that the cards start a conversation. As I stated earlier, changing the card exchange from a formal toast to a tea ceremony is huge. I want people to ask questions about our cards. I want to create a buzz.

QR Code?

I have a complicated relationship with QR Codes. Initially, I hated them, thinking them to be pointless. After exploring their possibilities and discovering some creative uses, I fell in love with them and wanted to put a QR Code on everything. Then I swung back to hating them after multiple frustrating issues, until finally, I settled on cool understanding. There is a time and a place for a QR Code and a business card is a pretty good place. You can set it up to import contact information on scan, which saves people the time of manually entering your data. If you have a portfolio or a hard-to-remember website you want people to visit, you can have it go there.

Our previous design did have the QR Code (during my QR love phase), and I can attest that it was more trouble than it was worth. Most people didn’t scan it and of the few who did, some had trouble and complained. Not all cell phone cameras are created equal; 5+ year old phones have a very tough time scanning small complex codes. As generations of business cards came and went, the code kept getting larger and less complex to make scanning as easy as possible. I had to cut certain information, like title, company, and fax number. I had to increase the size and adjust the design to accommodate it. In the end, I spent way too much time tweaking it. As such, there is no QR Code on our new design.

(If you do plan on using a QR Code, I suggest making it about as wide as the card will allow.)

The talented MentorMate design team has been working hard to re-brand the company and the new card theme is based on those new branding standards. The theme is chemistry. Each project is like a compound made up of different elements like project management, design, PHP development, and so on. Each employee brings a set of these elements to the project. This brief summary of our design logic is just to get us all on the same page – I will leave the detailed explanation of the branding’s meaning for another blog post.

My job is to marry the chemistry concept to the skill badge theme.

andy frontandy back

The front of the card lists all of the vital information. It is traditional and easy to understand. The back of the card is more interesting. You can see the throw-back to the skill icons, but we went a different direction this time. The icons are no longer labeled. I came to the decision to remove them, mostly for aesthetic reasons. The words made the icons irregular shapes creating too much clutter. The loss of information was a concern at first, but then we concluded that most people don’t know what most of the icons mean with or without a title. The majority of people can happily live their entire life and never have any idea what MySQL, PHP, or JQuery is. On the other hand, people who do know those things will have no problem identifying the icon.

While gathering my co-worker’s skill information to complete the backs all the unique cards, many would jokingly request icons like a basketball, high heels, or a Rebel Alliance symbol. We laughed it off at first, but then … why not? We already have icons like a ninja for SEO, a cup of steamy coffee for Java, and a penguin for Linux server administration. Would a ping pong paddle or microphone really be out of place? Why not let the back of the card tell as much of a story as possible about that employee, not just through skills but through hobbies and interests? I presented this idea up the chain and, to my surprise, it was approved! I opened the floodgates for special requests.

Here are the backs of the marketing team with custom icons. Let me know what you think in the comments! I am genuinely curious.

Pete Freeberg
Marketing Manager

pete-back-thumb

Alex Krasny Creative
Marketing Specialist

alex-back-thumb

Brady Swanson
Internet Marketing Specialist
 

brady-back-thumb

Ryan Fortune
Inbound Marketing Specialist

ryan-back-thumb

bingiton1

Google vs Bing Analysis

Bing is performing, what I consider to be, a very brave advertising campaign called “Bing It On new window link icon.” It’s like the Pepsi challenge of our generation. The idea is simple: people use Google without ever feeling like they need to change. Bing challenges Google in a head-to-head search-off to see who truly yields better results.

bingiton thumb

I am going to come clean – I am a Google user. I have NEVER used Bing unless I am testing something SEO-wise. As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure all of MentorMate are pretty zealous Googlers. However, we are also technology agnostic. If Bing is a superior search engine we have no choice but to switch. I decided to run the Bing It On test to find out.

My testing process was systematic. First, I (with the help of my coworkers) came up with five common searches and discussed what our expectations of the results would be before running actual searches. We ran the searches to decide which results better met or even exceeded our expectations. Just for fun, we tried to identify which result was Google’s (something I will refer to as Google Signs). Once we began our testing process, we realized there were a few more common searches we were curious about so we extended the testing to ten total searches. As you’ll see below, each search is different and came with varying expectations.

Without further ado, bring on the test results!

Searching Something I Expect to Rank Highly

Search: “minneapolis software development”
SEO is one of our core competencies at MentorMate and we want to see the fruits of our labor. We work hard to get MentorMate.com and our client’s sites as high in the rankings as possible.

Expectation
I want to see five or more different mobile application development companies. I am curious which engine ranks MentorMate higher.

Results: Bing Wins
Both returned a nice list of software development companies. The results on the right, however, delivered more. The engine on the right also delivered a map and phone numbers. I like when my search engine goes above and beyond for me. You can tell that these are the Bing results because the map is clearly not a Google map. MentorMate is #1 for this term in Google and 4th or 6th, depending on how you look at it, in Bing. This makes sense because we spend less of our time optimizing for Bing, which makes me think… Are the companies above us optimizing for Bing or does Bing just value different things?

Searching to Spellcheck

Search: “mtstisfactoy”
This has probably become my most common usage of search. Looking through my search history will yield dozens of misspellings of words like necessary, entrepreneur, and diseases. In this case, I engineered a horrible butchering of the word ‘satisfactory’ by closing my eyes and attempting to type the word with the third knuckle of my left hand (I am right-handed).

Expectation
I expect to get a “did you mean satisfactory?” at the very top.

Bing vs Google analysis search term mtstisfactoy satisfactory misspelled

Result: Bing Wins
Google failed to find anything, while Bing gave me exactly what I needed. I ran this search again outside of the BingItOn challenge to see if it was some kind of glitch. Nope. Google really can’t figure out what I mean. This is very surprising because I search horrible misspellings all the time in Google and don’t recall stumping it outright. I ran a bunch of misspelled words after my original test and Google did fine in all of those. However, Bing did a perfect job 100% of the time while figuring out what I was trying to type so it gets the win.

Searching a Question

Search: “how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse”
Asking a question is classic; probably the most common reason to use a search engine. Recently, I remember asking “how to remove a stain from a tie”, “how does dry cleaning work”, and “how to best train my dog”.

Expectation
I want the top three posts to be informative blog, forum, or company links that sufficiently answer my questions.

Bing vs Google analysis search term how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse

Result: Bing Wins
Both engines returned worthy results from reputable sites. None were completely off-base, though they did range from funny to serious – but that is to be expected from such a question. I gave the win to the left side because it provided instructional videos while the right side did not. I was surprised that the left was Bing! I thought I was choosing Google because of the YouTube links. It’s pretty strange that Google decided not to display YouTube links for this search while Bing did.

Searching for a Movie

Search: “the adventures of baron munchausen”
Sometimes you want to learn who stared in a movie, what the DVD cover looks like, or see a trailer.

Expectation
I want to see a trailer, a link to the IMDB movie page, and a link to the Wiki page.

Bing vs Google analysis search term the adventures of baron munchausen

Results: Google Wins
Both engines delivered exactly what I needed. Google is on the right, obvious from the YouTube thumbnail in result three. Notice how Google displays star ratings from IMDB and RottenTomatoes? One of the core pieces of information from those sites is delivered without needing to waste a click. Bing tries to bring something special by displaying the site thumbnail images. Unfortunately, that does not stand up to Google’s increased usability and Google gets the win.

There is more to this story. Google’s Knowledge Graph. The BingItOn tester excludes any superfluous sidebar information. That sidebar is where Knowledge Graph information appears. Take a look at this same search on Google. It is a complete blow out! Look at all the information I get about this movie without clicking any links. Even if Google lost in the BingItOn test, it still would have won if the Knowledge Graph was taken into account.

Searching for a Movie by Description

Search Term: “low budget time travel movie”
Let’s say you forgot the name of a movie or video game, but know what is about.

Expectation
I expect to know the name of my movie, and get an IMDB and Wiki page as well as a trailer link.

Bing vs Google analysis search term low budget time travel movie

Result: Google Wins
They both correctly identified the movie. However, only Google returned the IMDB link. I find it strange that Bing decided not to pull IMDB even though it did in the previous search despite identifying the movie correctly. Google gets the win for this one because of the star ratings and, of course, the IMDB link.

Searching for Sports Facts

Search: “most homeruns this season MLB”
Sometimes you just need to settle an argument.

Expectation
I want to know the answer to my question without having to click on another link. I want the link title or intro text to answer it so that I can go on with my day.

Bing vs Google analysis search term most homeruns this season mlb

Result: Draw
Both search engines fail to answer my question without forcing me to click links. Digging deeper, I still worked entirely too hard to get the answer to my question. Maybe this is due to me being an amateur at navigating sport websites? Interestingly enough, Apple’s Siri was able to tell me exactly what I needed: “44 homeruns by Miguel Cabrera.” So I guess Apple wins.

Searching to Convert Units

Search: “how many cups in a liter”
This could be distance, volume, temperature, or even money.

Expectation
I want the results to my conversion without needing to click on any links.

Bing vs Google analysis search term how many cups in a liter

Result: Google Wins
Both returned the correct result in the way I expected. Turns out Google, on the right, brings extra usability to the table. It offers an interface where I can change either number and see real-time conversions without needing to search again. This feature must have been added recently because I do not remember ever seeing it. But for the increased usability, Google gets the win.

Searching a Business

Search: “Umbria Pizzeria Bloomington”
Sometimes you need to call a place to make reservations. Or write down the address. This process should be very quick and easy.

Expectation
I need to get an address and a phone number in the top three results, preferably without being forced to click any links. Then I would like the business website and some reviews.

Bing vs Google analysis search term umbria pizzeria bloomington

Result: Google Wins
Obviously, the left side wins with flying colors here. We can tell it is Google by the familiar review stars being displayed in the results. Another Google sign is the internal links it shows for the top result. Of course, the left result doesn’t win just because it is Google; it wins because the address and phone number are right at the top along with a “contact/map” link. Also, Bing doesn’t return any review sites while Google not only brings a Yelp review, but displays the star-rating without any extra effort. Take a look at Knowledge Graph information for an even more decisive victory.

Searching for News

Search: “japan riots in china”
Did you overhear something on the radio just as you arrived at your destination that you want to learn more about? Maybe you are fact checking some current event to make sure you aren’t only getting one side of the story?

Expectation
I would like to get relevant news posts from a variety of sources.

Bing vs Google analysis search term japan riots china

Results: Draw
Google brings us Examiner, News Asia, AFP, and the Globe and Mail as sources. Bing brings Bloomberg, CNN, Rueters, Yahoo Finance, and HuffingtonPost. While both returned a variety of sources and images, Google goes the extra mile and embeds videos. But both results pages met expectations and a YouTube video isn’t immediately a relevant news source. I give this search a draw.

Searching to Shop

Search: “mens dress shirts slim fit”
When I need to buy an item, searching is often my first stop. It helps me price check, informs me of which stores carry the item, and even provides me with some style suggestions.

Expectation
I expect to see images of the item so I know the search is understanding me correctly. I would also like to see some prices listed in the search page so I don’t need to click on any links to get a general idea of pricing. I would also like multiple stores which sell my item.

Bing vs Google analysis mens slim fit dress shirts

Results: Bing Wins
This was very surprising, but the left results are actually Bing’s! That’s right, Google returned 0 images and hardly any prices in the results. Google did a great job bringing a variety of retailers which sell slim-fit men’s dress shirts, but the results page is devoid of life. Bing meets my expectation by showing me images of shirts with attached prices. Although the variety of Bing’s results are more limited, I still prefer the result including images and prices.

But wait! This is another example in which Google’s hidden Knowledge Graph devastates Bing. Google does show images and prices, it just places them in the excluded Knowledge Graph. Comparing the images, it looks like Google does a better job actually showing “slim fit” shirts instead of just dress shirts. If I could factor this into the test Google would win this search, but I am limited to an honest BingItOn test.

Bing vs Google analysis final results draw 4 to 4

Conclusion

I am very surprised to see this end in a draw. But, it is clear that comparing search results alone is not comparing apples to apples. Two of the search results are suspect. When I searched for a typo, I somehow won the lottery in finding a word Google couldn’t figure out. 99.9% of the time that result will be a tie. Also, the men’s dress shirt search in Google actually does deliver superior results via their Knowledge Graph, which the BingItOn test appears to block. In my opinion, displaying star ratings in the results, interactive widgets like unit converter and calculator, and the useful and impressive Knowledge Graph empower Google with usability that goes beyond simply retrieving relevant links. Taking that into account, Google has the edge. While Bing is a fine tool, I am in no hurry to switch primary search engines just yet.