Most of us had a similar reaction to Target’s recently redesigned website.
Target’s new website is visually confusing.
The redesigned Target.com abuses drop shadow and makes questionable font choices.
The competing elements create a type of visual assault — every headline and small image screams at you and there is no clear place for the eye to focus.
A Retail Website Case Study
Amid the cluttered websites of Target, BestBuy and Walmart, there is an unlikely design hero – Kmart.com.
Agency Named Outstanding Mobile Interactive Developer
Our clients have been feeling the award love lately.
In September, 37 Risdall clients were recognized as winners in the WebAward competition. Today, eight are 2013 Mobile WebAwards winners.
Judges are experts in the field, and scrutinize each site against seven criteria: creativity, impact, design, content, interactivity, ease of use and use of the medium.
John Risdall, our founder and guiding light, often ends agency-wide Monday morning meetings with the admonition, “Let’s go make the donuts,” referring to the immortal line of Fred the Baker in the long-running, award-winning campaign created by Ally & Gargano for Dunkin’ Donuts in the 1980s.
Duly inspired, we Risdallians depart the conference room for our workspaces where “making the donuts” could mean solving anything in the widest imaginable array of problems for clients.
On any given day, specialists within Risdall could be working on high-level stuff like strategies for marketing, branding, messaging and consumer engagement.
Others could be working on tactical initiatives related to those strategies, like designing graphical user interfaces and creating content for digital media, concepting ad campaigns, designing brochures and more.
Meanwhile, still other specialists – our developers on the digital side and production artists on the print side – busily perform the detailed artistic and technical work of making those ideas beautiful, usable and available for their intended audiences.
As a loft-dwelling yuppie, my most meaningful agriculture experiences occur at the Lowertown Farmer’s Market.
Despite my lack of interest in farming, Modern Farmer is one of my favorite publications. The art direction is spot-on, their content is impeccable, and Modern Farmer’s social strategy is a case study in best practices.
Modern Farmer’s twitter feed actually made my day this morning.
It started with a tweet about an article on a miniature animal farm.
Animals + small scale = cute.
We get it.
This week Google is hosting a summit in New York called “Conflict in a Connected World.”
“The summit brings together “hacktivists,” security experts, entrepreneurs, dissidents and others to explore the changing nature of conflict and how online tools and can both harm and protect,” Google Ideas Director Jared Cohen wrote on the official Google Blog.
“We’re also assessing what might be done to better protect people confronting online censorship,” Cohen added.
“Attacks against the users, the servers, and the infrastructure of the internet are increasing,” said Vint Cerf, one of the founders of the internet. “The reality is that the next generation of internet users is going to experience more turbulence and we need to figure out how they can be protected.” Read More
This fall, Risdall celebrates 20 years in the digital space continuing its leadership as one of the first interactive agencies in Minnesota.
Ted Risdall, founder of the interactive division, envisioned Risdall’s possibilities as a digital agency and established the company as a frontrunner online.
He recognized early on that e-commerce had a profitable future for businesses, proving the web as an effective new vehicle for advertising.
Since launching the interactive division in 1993 with early work on Gopher.net and the Mosaic browser, Risdall has been a leader in developing new technologies and trends.
The Star Tribune recently ran a feature on Risdall’s lengthy experience in the digital space.
Risdall held its annual pumpkin carving contest today.
Kelly Mapes, our Accounting Manager, won first place with her spirit-filled Risdall pumpkin. Kelly is a longtime Risdallian who helps keep the agency running.
Risdall added 17 new digitally focused clients in the 2013 third quarter across our interactive, brand management, public relations, and website development divisions.
“Winning two IABC Bronze Quill Awards and gaining Top Agency spot in the international WebAwards competition this quarter solidifies the continued success we bring to our clients,” said John Risdall, vice chairman and CEO of Risdall.
Here’s a sample of our new clients and the exciting work ahead:
According to Twitter’s S-1 document, the IPO launch date is set for November 15th.
Revenue models, risks, and user base – Here is what potential investors need to know.
On September 12th, Twitter officially announced that it “confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO.”
According to PrivCo, the S-1 document stated that Twitter employees can start to sell their shares on the open market as soon as Feb. 15, 2014.
Newly released data shed light on the company’s planned IPO launch date, which is set for November 15th, and other crucial information.
A typical lock-up period of employee stock is 90 days, meaning that a company’s employees cannot sell their stock for the first three months following an IPO.
Thus, counting backwards from Feb. 15, would give an IPO launch date of around Nov. 15.
The S-1 filing exposed Twitter’s revenues, user base, and growth strategies for the future.
The biggest risk that Twitter faces is its long-term viability fueled by the possible loss of user retention. Since its launch, Twitter has seen incredible growth.
The social network has grown from 167 million active users in Sept. 2012 to 218 million at the time of its filing. However, analysts fear this growth will begin to slow and eventually plateau.
Recently, Barilla chairman Guido Barilla publicly stated that the company will not feature same-sex families in advertisements because the brand only targets “traditional” families, adding that gays were welcome to ”eat another brand of pasta.”
The Start of the Barilla Controversy
In a statement translated by the Huffington Post, Guido said, “I don’t agree with homosexuals and don’t want to talk to that audience in our advertisements. I respect same-sex marriage, but don’t respect adoption in gay families because it concerns someone who is not able to decide.”
Risdall walked away with two Bronze Quill awards at last night’s IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) Minnesota Red Carpet Celebration.
The awards program is designed to test and reward all aspects of the work of business communicators, focusing heavily on campaign results.
Award of Excellence: Healthways
Copywriting led a coup today.
Graphic designers typically receive all of the glory in Risdall’s creative department. The copywriters usually don’t say it, but words are what really bring ads to life.
Jim Sandstrom, Risdall’s media-buying sage, completed the 2013 Finn Sisu 5K this weekend.
Jim is our resident athlete. While most of us are partaking in junk food, Jim is usually prepping for his next race.
This year Jim finished third place for his division, which follows his first place divisional finish last year.
Google recently announced the launch of a new HTTPS-compatible ad code for AdSense. This will allow Google Ads to be served via Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) which is used by much of the signed-in web.
It was inevitable; Pinterest launches promoted pins as the network begins its first experiment with paid advertising.
For the 4-year-old image and video-sharing site, implementing some sort of paid advertising program was a long time coming.
Taking a page from the playbooks of Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest will call the ad products ‘Promoted Pins.’
Since its launch, Pinterest has seen record breaking traffic. However, according to comScore, Compete, and Quantcast, Pinterest has experienced a decrease in site traffic since May.
Pinterest officially announced the addition in a blog post in which CEO Ben Silbermann assured the ads will be both “tasteful and transparent.”
After 42 years of business, we thought we would have some fun (we never have fun) and hear what John Risdall has to say about life, business, and stuff in general.
1. What is your motto?
Have fun. Make money. Make money for our clients. If one doesn’t happen, none of them do!
2. What are you proudest of?
We’ve survived 42 years.
3. What is your greatest extravagance?
4. What is your favorite journey?
- Going to the bank
- La Belle Vie, my favorite restaurant in Minneapolis
When you conduct an analysis into the effectiveness of your SEO, be sure to focus on non-branded keywords.
Tracking non-branded keywords is the primary way you can gauge the health of your SEO efforts over time, and see what adjustments, if any, are needed.
But what exactly are branded and non-branded keywords?
A “branded keyword” search query includes your brand name or some variation of it. For example, branded keywords for Risdall include search queries like:
- Risdall Marketing
- Risdall Marketing Group
- Risdall Advertising, etc…
Other keywords that don’t reference the brand name are considered “non-brand keywords.” A non-branded keyword search query does not include your brand name or any part of it, including any misspellings. It is important to analyze and understand your non-branded keyword traffic because it often represents the majority of your website’s new visitors and unique visitors. Most importantly, these visitors may not already know about your brand and are searching for your product or service.
Take a second and imagine yourself as one of your consumers performing a search for your product or service online.
What do you expect to find within the first page of results?
What do you want to find within the first page of results?
Google is on a never-ending mission to provide searchers with the most relevant and useful results.
But, how does Google determine which results users are finding more beneficial than others?
One way Google and other search engines determine search result rankings is by looking at large amounts of user data and analyzing user activity within the results.
Search engines analyze large sets of user data looking at a variety of things to determine user’s satisfaction with search results, one of these being “long clicks” vs. “pogosticking.”
Ted Risdall, our chairman and president, was recently appointed to the board for Minnesota-based think tank Center of the American Experiment (CAE).
The backstory starts in January 2013, when there was a when a proposed Minnesota tax plan that called for a 5.5 percent tax on professional services.
After testifying against the plan, Ted was looking for another, long-term involvement in the conversation around what Minnesota businesses need from government to thrive, and found CAE.
Recently released, Twitter files for IPO, putting the social networking company on its way to becoming a publicly traded company.
Late Thursday afternoon Twitter disclosed that it’s currently in the process of filling for initial public offering (IPO).
Companies with under $1 billion in revenue are allowed to secretly file an S-1 as Twitter did and are not forced to disclose this to the public. However, Twitter chose to break the news to their followers via a tweet.
Twitter has yet to file an official registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is the first step in really moving forward with the IPO process.
An official price has not been set, but Goldman Sachs has been named to underwriter for the account.
Today, we want to say congratulations to the companies we work with.
Thirty-seven of our clients won at the 2013 WebAward Competition.
The Web Marketing Association puts on the awards each year to highlight the best of website design and development.
The contest is fierce – this year, more than 1,500 entries came in from 40 countries. Judges put each website under the microscope, testing and ranking it for design, copywriting, innovation, content, interactivity, navigation and use of technology.
Our clients’ sites rocked the competition.
The Risdall team also wants to thank all of our amazing clients.
By choosing Risdall, they let us into their workplaces, answered scores of questions about what they wanted out of a website and an agency, and then put us to work building their brands and web presence.
The 37 wins in this year’s WebAwards allowed us to earn the Top Agency award for winning more awards than any other agency in the competition.
The Twin Cities advertising community lost one of its greatest innovators this weekend. John Olson, the founder of Olson ad agency, passed away this Saturday in his home following a battle with cancer.
Most brands love edgy, viral marketing campaigns. On social media, a little bit of controversy is an extremely effective way of getting your brand’s name out there. This is why Kenneth Cole famously publishes intentionally offensive tweets just for the exposure.
But exploiting the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks crosses a pretty clear red line between strategically controversial and downright tacky.
Today’s worst offender so far is AT&T’s Twin Towers tweet:
AT&T’s image and tweet, (which were promptly deleted) instantly went viral, but for all the wrong reasons.
I am continually amazed by the capabilities of Risdall’s creative department.
In addition to traditional print and digital work, our creatives undertake a variety of fascinating projects such as 3D animation, experimental illustration, sculpture and sound design.
One of the most unique recent projects to come out of the creative department is this Plexiglas chessboard designed by senior art director Mark Arnold.
This fully-functioning Plexiglas chessboard is laser cut and extremely lightweight.
One of Risdall’s most recent public-sector advertising campaigns is for an initiative called “Help Me Grow.” This health and human services program provides early developmental intervention for young children.
Risdall’s campaign for Help Me Grow included outdoor media, a website, promotional packets, and media buying services, among other things.
Help Me Grow is a public service initiative led by the Region 11 Interagency Early Intervention Committee. The Committee is supported by the Minnesota Department of Education and local service agencies.
There might be less cute cats in your future.
Facebook recently announced the release of a newsfeed algorithm change that will penalize “low quality or meme content” from Facebook pages.
The most recent update is going to punish business pages that attempt to “game” the newsfeed with low quality posts or content. This means that businesses which were actively using memes to drum-up hits will likely see the largest drops in traffic.
“We used the results of this survey to build a new machine learning system to detect content defined as high quality,” the company said in its newest post. “The system uses over a thousand different factors, such as how frequently content from a certain Page is reported as low quality (e.g., hiding a Page post), how complete the Page profile is, and whether the fan base for a particular Page overlaps with the fan base of other known high quality Pages.”
One of the most pervasive SEO myths is that there is a minimum word count for search engine indexing.
New search engine algorithms focus on content quality, not length.
Businesses seeking to improve their search engine results should focus on meaningful content and rather than fluff aimed solely to pad word counts.
How many times have you tried to follow someone just to get this direct message?
TrueTwit is a so-called “validation service” for Twitter. The app promises to validate your followers for you so you don’t have to waste your time with spammers. There are also premium versions of the app available for purchase.
I typically advise my clients against using TrueTwit and similar services for several reasons. Mainly, I think this is one of the thousands of apps that attempts to monetize a free social media platform without providing any real added value.
So, without further ado…
There are plenty of benefits of using rich snippets; if your website isn’t already using them, you should be and here’s why.
Schema mark up, also known as rich snippets or structured data is a way to categorize and identify important information on your website. Search engines favor the additional HTML markup because it makes it easier for them to identify that key information.
There are many types of rich snippets you can choose from. Here are a few, but check out Schema.org for a more comprehensive list.
- Recipe: List ingredients, calories, cook time, etc.
- Authorship: This markup adds your Google+ profile image right next to your result on SERPs. If you aren’t using this already as part of your SEO strategy, you should be and here’s why.
- Star Review Ratings: Show your average user rating from customer reviews
- Product: Show availability, price, weight, ratings, etc.
- Breadcrumbs: A set of links that help a user navigate your site. They also help search engines understand your page structure better.
- Events: Highlight the time, date, place, etc. of an upcoming event.
- Location: Mark up your business address, phone number, hours of operation, and more.
- Video: Add a thumbnail of your video right there next to your result on SERPs.
There are numerous benefits to using this technique. For one it can greatly improve your visibility on SERPs. Your results from a search query take up more space on the page when you have extra breadcrumbs, photos, ratings, etc. surrounding it, leaving less room for those pesky competitors.
The social networking site launches University Pages, connecting colleges, students and alumni in a new way.
This morning, LinkedIn announced the launch of University Pages on their site. Beginning September 12, the generally professional-based social network will lower its minimum age requirements from 18 to 14, allowing high school students the ability to utilize LinkedIn’s networking features.
The new University Pages will also act as a resource for researching and connecting with colleges, students and alumni.
LinkedIn University Pages will be a like a college ‘matchmaker.’ The new college profiles are set up for students to learn more about the university’s background, how many school graduates are on LinkedIn, which notable alumni attended and which professions graduates work in.
The University Pages will also include standard institution information, such as the breakdown of students, tuition, student-to-faculty ratio and the graduation rate.
Risdall is often hired to help companies with branding and repositioning. The nature of the work we do for these clients typically expands as we help our clients grow their businesses.
One longtime Risdall client is a company called Spanlink Communications. This tech company provides solutions for Cisco call centers and needed a marketing strategy to support a new product launch.
Our campaign focused on Spanlink’s ability to provide its customers with measurable business results. The “Spanlink Guarantee” differentiates the company from its competition and was highly appealing to risk-adverse call center operators.
Google Plus communities give companies an opportunity to connect directly with their target audience. These communities are forums created to bring individuals together to discuss and share information on particular topics. Communities allow you to communicate directly with a specific group of people instead of sharing your content public where there is no guarantee that they will see your update.
They are a place within Google+ where you can share content, ask questions, plan events, start hangouts, or voice an opinion with a group of people interested in a specific topic. With more than 500 million people that have upgraded to Google+ and 235 million people that are active across Google+, it is likely that a community of your potential customers already exists on the social network.
For a small business, this means if you are not utilizing Google+ communities, you are ignoring a valid source of potential purchasers.
A brief introductory guide on Google’s ad extensions to determine which is the best fit for your business.
Are you stuck in a rut with your PPC campaigns? Ad extensions offer the opportunity for advertisers to boost their paid search performance; they require minimal time to setup and are displayed within your text ads at no additional cost.
Ad extensions are additional features that show with your text ads in SERPs and can be a powerful tool that can potentially increase your click-through-rate (CTR), boost conversion rate and decrease your cost-per-acquisition. PPC ads with extensions receive higher CTR, which directly impacts keyword quality scores and your overall campaign.
The Twin Cities has a huge community of amazing artists and illustrators. One of my favorite local illustrators is Derek Wendt. He’s a “moderate minimalist” who comes to Minnesota from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Derek recently released a postcard series which shows major love for his adopted home:
John Risdall recently shared his thoughts on today’s advertising environment at an agency-wide meeting.
“There are a hundred ways to ruin an agency,” John told us. “A hundred different Minnesota ad agencies have proven that.”
Since founding Risdall Advertising in 1972, John has seen thousands of agencies fold in the Twin Cities area. For more than four decades, the trend in the advertising world has been that most agencies flop and the few successful agencies are inevitably sold off to investors.