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Google Maps’ APIs are one of the most functional tools out there for businesses. They let you embed Google’s vast amounts of location data in any website you create, whether it’s desktop or mobile.

The newest versions of the APIs have been improved to load fast on mobile browsers like the iPhone and Android. They’re also highly customizable. That means you can take a standard Google map and make it reflect your own brand identity. You can change the colors, incorporate animation, remove or add data, and add custom icons and text labels.

Google Maps APIs in action

Here’s a map that we created for Hageman Trucking, for example. You’ll notice that we laid a transparent map of 17 Ohio counties on top of a standard Google map, showing Hageman’s service areas. We also created custom icons (miniature Hageman logos) showing the company’s two locations.

Another example is what we did for Koehlke Components. We created a streamlined map of the United States showing only state names. States turn a Koehlke red when you mouse over them, and when you click on a state, a text box pops up showing that state’s sales rep. If you click on “Contact Your Sales Rep,” you can email your rep right from that page, without jumping to Outlook. We used jQuery to create that special feature.

For the developer

From the developer’s perspective, the Google Maps APIs are pretty awesome. Unlike other APIs, they are nearly always fast and available. That makes a difference, because if you embed a third-party API in your customer’s website – and that API is unreliable – nobody’s happy. Not your customer, and not their customers.

Typical of Google, the documentation for the APIs is very user-friendly. What you can do with them is pretty much limitless. There’s also a huge community surrounding each of their API platforms (Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Charts, etc.). So there are a ton of other developers writing about how to solve certain problems they run into, and offering up new ideas.

Finally, because this is a JavaScript-based technology, it works just as well on mobile devices as it does on a desktop. And that’s when you need a map most, anyway – when you’re mobile.

google adwords banner

Most people have a general understanding of AdWords—basically, any sponsored search results on Google.

But only a few people are AdWords Champions. I, apparently, am now one of them.

That’s because I recently passed Google’s Advertising Fundamentals Exam—a rigorous, strategy-oriented test that evaluates your understanding of how to manage an AdWords campaign. You get 120 minutes to answer 120 multiple choice questions, and you need 85% correct to pass. So there’s no messing around.

Passing the exam certifies me (and Atomic) as an expert on the basic aspects of Google AdWords as well as AdWords account management and the value of search advertising.

This expertise is important because more and more businesses are using AdWords as part of their marketing campaign. Because AdWords appear immediately on Google, they’re often preferred to organic SEO for businesses who need to enhance awareness or drive sales quickly. But because AdWords are becoming so pervasive, the keyword phrases used to generate ads are getting more competitive—making clicks more expensive.

So these days, you literally can’t afford to have a half-baked AdWords strategy. You’ll blow your budget before you even get started.

Our understanding of AdWords helps you to:

  • ensure that your ads appear on page one of Google for the lowest CPC (cost per click) possible.
  • ensure that your ads have the highest CTR (click through rate) possible. The CTR is the percentage of times an add is clicked when it shows on Google.
  • ensure that your ad clicks turn into conversions – whether onsite sales, PDF downloads, or contact forms.

In short, that means you get the most bang for your AdWords bucks.

I’m now on to my next project: pursuing certification in Google Analytics. I’m hoping to take and pass that test shortly after the new year. So for the holidays this year, I guess I’ll be studying. Merry Christmas, everyone, and talk to you in the new year.

web semantics

Have you ever wished that the web was more helpful—and less robotic?

Let’s imagine you’re traveling to Florida for Christmas.  You hop onto your search engine and query “christmas florida.” But the first eight results are about the city “Christmas, Florida” — not what you had in mind.

Wouldn’t it be cool if search engines could tell the difference between Christmas the city and Christmas the holiday?

Enter the semantic web. The semantic web is a development paradigm, part of the HTML5 proposal, that structures the content of sites so the internet can “understand” words based on context.

For example:

  • If you search for “house main character,” the semantic web would understand that you mean the TV show House, not a house where someone lives.
  • If you search for “green windows,” it would understand that you meant energy-efficient windows—not windows that were painted green.
  • If you wrote “I love Atomic Interactive – they provide excellent web development,” the semantic web would understand you mean that “Atomic provides excellent web development.”

In other words, the semantic web can understand the association between pronouns and the words they’re linked to. Wow.

How does this all work? The semantic web’s enhanced understanding of words is driven by microdata, one of many new tags in HTML5.

So if I were writing content about Christmas, Florida, I would include microdata indicating that I’m talking about a location. Conversely, if I were writing about celebrating Christmas in Florida, I would include microdata indicating that I’m talking about the location Florida, but the event Christmas.

Modern search engines like Bing, Google, and Yahoo take advantage of this microdata to keep your search results relevant.  In fact, Bing was built from the core up to parse microdata and associate content together. That explains why Microsoft markets Bing as a “decision engine”— supposedly, it helps you make better decisions by getting rid of superfluous search results.

The bottom line? If you have a data-heavy website or are having trouble with SEO because search engines are confused about your content, utilizing the semantic web can help. Atomic can help you take the first step in coding for this brave new web. Reach out to us anytime you want.

blog-site

We live in a society that places an incredibly high level of importance on image. In this image-conscious, hyper-competitive business world we live and work in, using web design to effectively convey your company’s brand, corporate culture and values is essential for setting your business apart from your competitors. This makes your business’ website incredibly important, considering it’s the first place people go to learn about your company.

Is the design of your company’s website getting people excited about your products and services? If your website looks outdated, what message is being sent? Is the image your website is presenting accurate? When your potential customers, future employees or prospective investors visit your website, what is the design telling them about your brand?

Web design impacts not only your brand and how outsiders perceive your company, it also impacts how effectively your search engine optimization efforts will perform. You might be asking yourself what web design has to do with SEO. Well, Yahoo, Bing and the guys over at Google track how much time people spend visiting your site. So, when visitors land on your site and aren’t instantly engaged, they’ll hit the back button before they’ve even read a line of copy. Websites that can’t hold the attention of visitors, can’t hold the attention of search engines, either.

While the “love at first sight” factor is important, like any good relationship, you need to be engaging as well. Good design should have the end user in mind. A beautifully designed website that is easy to navigate and effortlessly promotes your brand attracts new customers and keeps them coming back. Quality web design could be the difference between building a new relationship and getting dumped.

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One of our clients asked for advice on approaching different types of social media. She knew in theory that creating new content is good, but she wasn’t sure what content to put where.

“I have a blog, a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter account,” she asked us. “Should they all have different types of content? How often should I post on each one? Is there an easy way to replicate posts across different media?”

Starting from short content (Twitter) to longer content (blog posts), here’s our answer.

  • Twitter. There’s no real limit to how often you should post on Twitter. Things move quickly there, and it’s easy to miss people’s tweets, so posting frequently will give you a better chance of being seen and heard. In fact, it’s expected. If you’re not interacting pretty much every day, people will lose interest.Also, Twitter is supposed to be for socializing, so keep your posts conversational – people get pissed if you’re salesy. If you write business-related tweets, do it some 20% of the time, and make your tweets as un-pushy as possible.Because you want to tweet frequently, it’s fine to “push” your Facebook posts to Twitter (i.e., every comment you make on Facebook will show up on your Twitter account). However, it’s not a good idea to push your tweets to your Facebook page, because theoretically, you’ll have way too many posts. People get annoyed if you update your Facebook status 10 times a day – it’ll do you more
    harm than good.
  • Facebook. What you’re trying to do with Facebook is build a community around your brand. You want to start a conversation with your followers in the hopes that they’ll eventually use your page as a forum to talk about your company.To get the community started, about once a day, you can post thoughts, questions, polls, surveys, or anything that might get discussions started. If you can get to the point where you just monitor the page and chime in when questions are asked or problems arise, that’s ideal.
  • Blogs. Blogs are a great place to promote yourself and your company. The blog is on your site, and readers are expecting you to write about yourself. So you can be a little more salesy here.You should blog regularly –at least once a month, and ideally once every two weeks. Once a week is great if you have the time and content.Blogs can be used to answer FAQs, to talk about industry trends, or to announce new products, employees, or clients. Most importantly, blogs are great for letting your visitors and Google know that fresh content regularly appears on your site. If you have certain keyword phrases you’re going after, you can write entire articles about them, linking the phrases in the blog to the appropriate
    pages on your site.

    Pushing your blog articles to Facebook is a good idea. The content should be tied to the discussions on your Facebook page anyway, and the posts will sit on your page long enough to let multiple people see them. Pushing blog articles to Twitter is pretty much a waste of time –a one-time mention of a lengthy article will often be lost on Twitter users.

Overall, think of the different mediums as having different communication purposes. You can use Twitter and Facebook to interact with customers on a day-to-day basis, and then use your blog to talk less frequently, but more in depth, about issues that are important to them. With a good strategy in place and a little luck, you should soon have a strong following in each medium.

Atomic Interactive, A Dayton, Ohio website design agency is seeking a Search Engine Ninja to join our marketing team. We’re a fast growing, energetic team who loves to develop powerful online business tools, applications and strategies for our wide range of fun clientele. We work in a casual environment located Downtown in the Firefly building. If your passionite about your craft, love a collaboritive team, and can appreciate a good game of ping pong we’d love to talk more.

The Search Engine Ninja will work with the Search Engine Marketing Manager and Internet Marketing Team to create and implement creative search strategies and track the effectiveness of new and existing campaigns.

The successful candidate will have strong analytic capabilities with specific knowledge of online marketing analytics. The Search Engine Ninja is expected to produce daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly reporting; assigned analytic projects; and produce independent analysis to help search engine strategy.

Essential Functions:

Provide support and analysis for the Search Engine marketing team including:

  • Monitor, track, and report on paid search metrics, including trend analysis.
  • Provide support for search engine optimization recommendations.
  • Interact with copywriter and web service manager to optimize copy and landing pages for Search Engine Marketing.
  • Provide ad-hoc support for the Search Engine Marketing team including:
    1. Set up of new campaigns
    2. QA creative
    3. Assist in Keyword discovery and expansion
    4. Top keywords raking by category
    5. ROI by Campaign, Site, and Category
    6. Research and analyze competitor advertising links
    7. Back link strategy and implementation
    8. Directory submissions and revisions
    9. Internal link optimization
    10. SEO technical analysis and evaluation
    11. Website remediation
    12. Key phrase research
    13. META optimization
    14. Stay up to date on the latest industry developments

Job Qualifications:

  • 1+ years previous online marketing experience. Ad agency or online direct marketing background a plus.
  • Self motivated, detail oriented and able to prioritize daily work efficiently.
  • Exceptional communication skills. Show superior judgment and professionalism when corresponding with partners and team members.
  • Demonstrate a proactive work ethic when managing numerous competing priorities in a fast-paced environment.
  • Proven ability to accommodate evolving responsibilities and last minute changes.
  • Able to analyze metric data and convey recommendations appropriately to supervisors.
  • Proficient in MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Please email your resume to [email protected]. No phone calls please.

10over1

Internet marketing means more than just having a website, more than just having a fan page, it involves having what we refer to as a web presence. Developing a web presence requires a precise measurement much like a good suit…because one size does not fit all. This is also the reason why so many single-man operations cannot achieve the ROI that customers expect. As an example, think of an attorney. One attorney being proficient in all types of law is virtually impossible, there are simply too many variables at play; corporate law and personal injury law are altogether two different animals. To achieve proficiency in all types of law, law firms are assembled. Internet marketing is much the same.

Experienced web designers are needed to design navigation-friendly websites. Properly writing clean code requires highly skilled developers. Creating search engine friendly/user friendly text requires the skill set of a trained web-based copywriter. Developing a social media campaign that people will relate to demands the attention of someone with a strong marketing background. Also, having a project manager oversee all aspects of a fully integrated internet marketing campaign, ensuring that it reflects a given organization’s brand, is vital to success. While it’s possible that someone could go to school for 2 years of design, 2 years of IT, 2 years of copywriting and editing, and 2 years of marketing; it is impossible that a single person could stay up to date with the changes.

The internet changes everyday, some would argue every second or even nanosecond. Staying relevant in design, coding, search engine optimization, and social media trends requires a continuing education in each facet. It’s simply too much for any one person to handle…it’s also the reason why, as a team, Atomic has been able to create so much success for our clients. As we like to say, “The proof is in the pudding.” So, we encourage you to search for “dayton web design” or even “ohio web design.” As a 3 year old company competing in a 20+ year old business, we’re proud of the results we’ve created for ourselves, but more proud of the results our team has created for our clients.

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Does anyone surfing the web these days see a blue bird or a chubby aqua “T” and not think of Twitter?

Icons—pictorial representations of brands, products, or people—can be powerful tools to help you stand out in the cyber crowd.

A customized icon set—a group of similarly styled icons, much like a family of fonts—takes iconic branding to the next level by helping you:

  • Differentiate one product, application, or blogger from another.
  • Organize products into like groups—without sacrificing the consistent elements of your brand.
  • Streamline the back-end functionality of your content management system, which makes it easier for staff to navigate and to train new staff on how to use it.
  • Provide a consistent theme for graphic, product, app, and other designers to use for creating new icons.

Here at Atomic, my process for developing icon sets is pretty straightforward. It focuses on upfront preparation, which conserves your time, cuts down on costs, and ensures that we get the best results.

  • Brainstorm. First, I’ll brainstorm with you to learn who and what the icon set is for. What message, position, feeling do you hope to convey? I might just listen to how you talk about your products or brand, take notes, and then jot down some ideas to see what creative concepts emerge.
  • Research. Often, these early brainstorming sessions are augmented with additional research. I want to know what your competition is doing. I also like to check out how other sites use icon sets and to what effect.
  • Sketch. Next, I’ll sketch out some more concrete ideas for you to review—including color schemes that bring the concepts to life. I’ll typically present ideas from a variety of different angles to see which ones you think work best for your goals. And I’ll provide my two cents to help you decide.
  • Refine. Once I get more feedback, I can refine the sketches to create full, polished illustrations.

Soon enough, your customized icon set is ready to be deployed.

Now that’s iconic thinking for your brand and your business.

Custom Social Media

Using social media channels is a great way to promote your business. But a lot of companies view social media only as a means to an end – as a way to push people to their own website.

From my perspective, these companies are missing a key point about social media: the fact that most people don’t want to be redirected. They’re on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube for a reason. They want to be entertained. To catch up on the news. To interact, comment, get in on the conversation.

With that in mind, smart companies are focusing less on getting people away from social media sites – and more on establishing a strong brand presence within them.

Here are some great ways to do that.

  • Facebook. Facebook pages aren’t fully customizable, but they do have some strong features. You can create custom tabs on your Facebook page and sell things using PayPal. You can also create custom landing pages. If you search for “Starbucks” on FB, for example, you’ll go straight to their Starbucks Card tab, rather than their Wall. All of this customization is done using FBML, Facebook’s proprietary markup language.And although this isn’t exactly customization, some companies are using FB as a customer service portal. Look at the posts and comments on Best Buy’s page, for example. Best Buy is resolving customer complains within FB – not wasting time redirecting customers to its home page. What a great concept.
  • Twitter. Like Facebook, Twitter also lets you customize your page to reflect your brand. Atomic’s Twitter page, for example, is decked out with our logo, contact information, and brand colors. We’ve also included with headshots of our staff and their Twitter handles.
  • YouTube. YouTube allows for elaborate customization – look how Coca-Cola has designed its YouTube channel to reflect its current “Celebration” campaign. Dr Pepper hasn’t done quite as much work – its “I’m a doctor” campaign videos run on a standard Dr Pepper background. But still, the channel is customized. That means you don’t have to go to these companies’ websites to experience their brand; they’ve brought their brand to you.

Here at Atomic, we’ve been helping lots of companies take their website presence and apply it to social media sites. Ready to do the same?

We kept getting comments last week about a great radio commentary about Atomic on the local radio station WHIO from friends and family. Much to our surprise it was true. Our internal private eye Richard Kaiser tracked down the clip to share all our atomic fans.

WHIO Radio – Good News Dayton

Thanks Grunder Landscaping!