Filter The NoiseBlog

We blog about design, technology, internet marketing and business on the web. As the name implies, we aim to "filter the noise" and share only the most relevant information. Feel free to chime in anytime with your thoughts and comments. Established 2004 in Colorado Springs, Colorado by HighTouch Web Design and Internet Marketing.

Web Designers and Realtors can learn a lot from each other

Dave Kolb - Wednesday, July 28, 2010
A couple weeks ago I was working out on one of those fancy elliptical machines with a built-in TV. I usually watch ESPN or CNN, but it was a slow news day and I was sick of hearing about the LeBron Decision. Anyway, I surfed on over to HGTV, where I watched an interesting program on how to stage your house to sell it.

Many of their recommendations could be applied to a website re-design:
  1. Consider the curb appeal. You want to make sure your house looks great from the outside. First impressions count. Yard should be mowed, trees trimmed and sidewalks washed. No need to invest in expensive trees, shrubbery, etc.

    Designer's view: Your homepage needs to be clean and inviting. I wouldn't invest in any Flash intros, or fancy animations. People will just walk buy, or ignore them.

  2. Get rid of the clutter and de-personalize. Your house should show like a new home builder's model home. Promote negative space and keep the decorating neutral. Less is more. You want the buyer to focus on the home, not the furniture.

    Designer's view: Whitespace is good and you shouldn't feel compelled to fill all 960 pixels. Most websites have too many distractions and it's hard to simply find a phone number, price, or information about the products or services.
  3. Watch where the eyes go. Walk around your house with a friend or family member and watch where their eyes go. Chances are, they are either going towards something they like, or a flaw they've found.

    Designer's view: Look at your statistics and find out where people are going. If you find they spend a lot of time on the site looking at a lot of pages, chances are—they didn't find what they were looking for. If a lot of your visitors are clicking a conversion button, but not converting—you might have something wrong with your conversion page.
  4. Hire a professional. You're personally invested in your home and it will be very hard to step away and follow simple staging guidelines. You'll also probably spend too much money because you don't know where the deals are and what will get you the most bang for your buck.

    Designer's view: If you are considering building a new website, or are re-designing one, hire a professional. Define your budget up front and find someone to work with who can work within a pre-defined budget. Remember, websites take ongoing maintenance so make sure you budget for that to. Nowadays, a Content Management System, or a Blogging Platform can be implemented so you can do most the maintenance yourself.

Now here's a hint for all the Realtor's out there:

Go look at your website. Is it staged properly? Most Realtor websites I go to are cluttered, unorganized and look like they were designed by SEO Specialists, not Web Designers.

My advise to Realtors is to eat your own dog food. Follow your own advise on staging to get your websites to look and function better.

Please feel free to add comments below:

Customer service: the key to your design business success

Kim Kolb - Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This post is by Adam Broadway of Adobe Business Catalyst.  We were asked to be interviewed to give our story on why we use Business Catalyst and what we could offer other Designers in their success. We loved sharing our story.. I hope you like it as well.

Dave and Kim Kolb share experiences in growing their business, – ideas that could help grow your design business.

After meeting at a resort, falling in love and being laid off at the 2000 tech bubble burst, Dave and Kim decided it was time to build their own Web company.

By combining and complementing their strengths in strategy, design and marketing, was born.

MP3 audio interview of Dave and Kim Kolb, has them candidly sharing:

  1. Finding motivation in each other and maintaining a "CAN DO" attitude, to get through the tough times.
  2. Have fun doing it - Love what you do and "whatever you do", do it well.
  3. Taking time to follow up with every client (Kim sends personal welcome cards to every one of their customers).
  4. Dave shares his feelings on building their own CMS and the pain of using lots of 3rd party open source plug-ins, that didn't always work.

In their words:

  • Keep it simple and excel at the basics.
  • Don't be all things to all people, you'll drive yourself crazy.
  • Know who you are and what you do.

A Business Catalyst feature that benefits their clients:

"We view InContextEditing as the strongest sales tool within the tool set that BC offers. You can take a mere mortal and have them updating their website in no time with little or no training. The power this gives the client is priceless. They feel like they are actually participating."

I hope you enjoy hearing some of their story as much as I did.

Adam :)

Click here for the mp3 interview of Dave and Kim Kolb.

Who Are You and What Do You Do

Kim Kolb - Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How many times has someone asked you this question, "Who are you and What do you do?" And how many of us can nail the answer each time without causing a blank stare from the person who asked the question?  This should be easy to answer, right?  It is the elevator pitch that every good Speaker tells us we should have. 

Being a Web Design & Inbound Marketing Firm, we tell our clients that "Content" is King.  Even all the expert Bloggers and Social Media Consultants will tell you this.  It is a true and valid fact.  The problem is, is that it is really easy to tell someone that content is King and that you should have no problem coming up with "Who You Are and What You Do, after all it is YOUR story, right?  WRONG!

We recently redesigned our website and going back over all the content we had to "Freshen" up, was a big process.  Oh, I can tell you exactly what we do and who we are, if you are standing in front of me so I can speak to you.  Writing it is a different animal all together.  When we get a new client and tell them that they need to go through their content and get rid of stuff that doesn't matter or outdated and replace it with new, fresh content, it is one of those items that gets put off until the very end.  Or worse... A client has no website and then has to come up with ALL the content for the site.

I have a new appreciation for this process.  It is always easier to tell someone how to do it, but when it comes to actually doing it, that is the problem.  Here are some tips I tell my clients to help in the process:

  • Start with the pages you have or think you want, the Contact Us is a good place to start.  Why?  Because you know the answer!  It is an easy score.  
  • Move onto the About Us page.  Most people can talk about themselves.  Just tell us everything there is to know about you. Then go back and weed out the wordiness and stuff that really isn't important, like the time you were in the Boy Scout's and you actually got the fire started with 2 sticks.
  • If you have a portfolio of projects, this is usually easy, especially if you are showing a picture or even adding a little text about what the project was.
  • If you offer services, this can be a hard or easy page.  Start with what you know and are confident about.  Then fill in the rest
  • The Home Page should be last unless you just have that one down.  The Home Page brings all of what you do and who you are together.  It is the page that needs to be the most captivating and inviting.  You want people to get to this page and say "Wow", I want to know more.  This will probably be the hardest page to complete.
My advice for any page you start, is just puke it out onto the screen and then re-read, fix, and repeat.  Have someone else read it to see if it makes sense. Sometimes we know what we are saying because we actually do the work, but get someone who doesn't and you will have a different perspective.

Hopefully this helps.  I would love to hear other people with their best ways to write content.  Like the saying goes "A Gardner's garden is never green, but the rest of the neighborhood is beautiful."

Which Blogging Software to use

Kim Kolb - Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Hello to all my fellow Bloggers.

I come to you today as a community of well knowledge people who want to help. This is one reason I love blogging so much. I love the feedback that people are willing to give. 

So, here is my dilemma. I need a Rockin Blog Software Platform! I hope that by getting your feedback, I will also be able to better serve my clients by being able to provide a case study and a recommendation to them and yes; I will share this with the Blogosphere. 

Here is the scoop. I currently have a CMS that has integrated blogging software. Yeah, that’s the good news. The blogging software DOESN’T talk to any other types of tracking tools or analytics tools. The one tool that truly bums my groove is that I can’t get it to hook into Technorati and the software company doesn’t feel this is a huge issue right now, although the forum on this is huge (which means others out there confirm I am not crazy). I can’t even get it to connect to Google so I can set a goal on how many subscribers I get through my RSS like Avinash Kaushik talked about in the last Webinar with HubSpot's Inbound Marketing University. This is the Bad news. 

So, I come to you for suggestions on blogging software:

  • What is the blogging software you use and why do you like it? 
  • Does it hook into all the cool tools that HubSpot recommends to get found?
    • Technorati 
    • Google Goals 
    • I am sure there are more and please feel free to share 
  • Does it give you complete control over the design of your Blog and if not what kind of limitations does it have (Dave loves to design and have control)? 

Since I am fairly new to blogging, I would appreciate any advise you have. I subscribe to some really cool RSS feeds and I read all the important info, but most of you have been doing this longer and know the tips, tricks on getting found and that is what I want, to get found by more, I am convinced the blogging software has a huge impact on this. 

As a Web Design and Marketing Company, I am starting to think that websites are a dying breed, like outbound marketing. Blogs can accommodate just about anything we need to convey to the world and most times our Blog gets picked up by Google faster than our website. So HubSpot, HATS of to YOU! 

Thanks in advance to all who comment on this Blog! I also hope to make some new friends during this process.


Social Networking on the Rise

Kim Kolb - Saturday, November 14, 2009

Web 2.0 is the latest evolution of search engine technology. Today it’s no longer good enough to have a professional-looking webpage and a blog. Successful companies are posting viral videos on Youtube, creating Facebook Fan Pages, Myspace pages, getting followers on Twitter, Connecting with other colleagues on LinkedIn and applying cutting-edge technology to their core business principles. Now business owners big and small are looking to get these services to help them catch up with this ever-evolving phenomenon.

According to a 2009 Deloitte survey, 94% of business executives plan on ramping up their social networking participation over the next 12 months. Additionally, nearly 40% of businesses are hiring full-time professionals at an online marketing company to manage their social networking strategies.

Francois Gossieaux, a senior fellow with the Society of New Communications Research, says there are still “plenty of companies who do not realize the power of communities, and others who have not yet figured out the proper approach for leveraging communities as part of their business.” He adds, “Businesses are truly becoming social again, and companies should look to leverage the collective wisdom of their employees, customers and partners in order to innovate faster, reduce costs and bolster their bottom lines."

A Professional website design on a solid foundation is the first step towards your Online Success.  Your Online presence needs to engage your potential customers by Calls-to-Action and the Remarkable content you display.    

Whether you are one of the companies already on the Web 2.0 wave or just starting out, the rules of Marketing your company have changed.  If you are not capitalizing on the Social Media, Blogs, RSS tools that are available to you, you are missing out. 

Today the success of marketing your company does not rely on the size of your budget rather the time and willingness you have to put into your online marketing presence.  I think some companies would rather throw dollars at the marketing than to put time into it.  I think this is one of those times when we find out who the "Real Players" are.


10 Ways to Promote Your Blog

Kim Kolb - Monday, October 12, 2009
Welcome to the Blogosphere!  Now that you have a blog and you have been posting articles, you probably are wondering, "how do I get people to read my blog and comment on it?"  I am glad you asked... Thanks to my fellow IMU friend Adrian for giving great ideas.
  1. Title : The title of your blog post is very important.  Try to use words that someone would use to find what you are talking about in your blog, like "10 ways to promote your blog."  Remember that people doing searches on the internet have the attention span of about 10 seconds.
  2. Content : Since we have a short attention span, make the content engaging, and please don't write a book.  Keep your words limited.  Say what you have to say and don't oversay it!
  3. Optimization : Meta Fields like what type of article is it, social media, blogging, content, etc.  All these tags will help your rankings as well
  4. Social Bookmarking : Submit your posts to social bookmarking sites like Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon.  Getting people to comment on your blog is very important.  You can use pluggins, like ShareThis.
  5. Social Media : Use your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to share that you have a blog and that you have posted a new article.
  6. Newsletters : You should be touching your clients at least once a month if not more.  Do it with a newsletter and tell them about your blog.
  7. Blog Comments and Forums : By commenting on other blog posts with relevant comments, you will get yourself in the spotlight.  People will go find out who you are because of your comments.  You can join forums.  Help others if they have an issue with something, you can let them know you wrote a blog on that particular issue and point them in the right direction.
  8. Pitch other bloggers to link to your post : When someone asks you for advice, or support, point them in the direction of a blog article you wrote about the subject.
  9. E-mail Signatures : You should list your blog and all other social media links in your email signature.  Don't use graphics, just text.
  10. Directories : There are some sites out there that let you post your article to share with others.  You can find some of those sites by going to Hubspot.
I hope this helps you in your quest to get your blog noticed.

Email Marketing Still Works and You Can Get Great ROI

Dave Kolb - Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Email Marketing ROIIf you're on our email list, you've probably noticed that we've ramped up our email marketing efforts lately. Well, today we decided to look at some marketing analytics from our Facebook Page and SEO email campaigns.

To give some background, in the past 5 weeks, we've been running targeted email marketing campaigns, each with a different web service offer. This was a very "low Effort High Return" campaign.

Of those who opened the Facebook Campaign:
  • 37% Opened the email and 1 person unsubscribed
  • 10% Took action and requested services (directly from the offer)
  • 20% Responded by contacting us regarding other services
  • 1 person made a comment on our blog
  • 3 new people subscribed to our newsletter as a result of our "forward to a friend" feature
Ok, so those numbers aren't huge, but remember we didn't do much either. In terms of numbers (factoring our hourly rate), the Facebook campaign cost us about $195. We've received (to date) $3,250 as a result of that campaign giving us a 1,567% return on our investment (ROI). Considering we still have leads "regarding other services", that number should go up substantially.

Email marketing works and when you consider the economy we're in, it might be the thing that helps you bridge the gap to more profitable times. I'm pretty excited about this and what it could mean for our clients. 

When creating an effective email campaign remember:
  • Target your recipients with a relevant offer that has an expiration date
  • Keep it short and sweet (don't write a book, people don't have time for that)
  • Restate your offer convincingly with a compelling "call to action"
  • See how we can help you

Does Blogging, Social Media and Inbound Marketing really work?

Kim Kolb - Friday, September 04, 2009
Okay, so it has been a week since I blogged, I am already behind the 8-ball since I try to blog at least three times a week, I think that has happened once. Instead of accepting defeat, I am making the best of my lemons.

This blog post is purely a personal opinion on my short experience with blogging, social media and inbound marketing.

I subscribe to a lot of blogs and give tons of credit to those of you who blog frequently. I love reading all you have to offer. I have taken the Inbound Marketing Classes and I have been certified. I have a facebook profile, a business page, and a twitter account. A lot of time I fall short on those as well. Why is that? Oh because clients need me. That’s a great excuse, right? Well no more excuses. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Okay so here I go.

So, do all your efforts of blogging, inbound marketing, and social media work? YES! I can say that without hesitation. Why can I say that? Well, if you keep track of your rankings before you started your endeavors with all the blogging, social media, and inbound marketing like we did, then you will realize how. I can tell you we were not on the first 5 pages. In one of my IMU classes the speaker made a comment “If you don’t show up on the 1st page of the google search, you are insignificant”. Harsh words, but when you put it into prospective, how many times do you do a search and look past the first page? Be honest!

So, I have taken all that I have learned and put it to use. We have optimized our site, put in those great keywords, put in awesome content, blogged, facebooked, twittered and guess what? It’s working. We are getting found. Now, it is not an overnight success story, oh no, this took about a month of diligently working at it. Now we come up on the first page, depending on what you are searching for.

How can you make the most of your experience? Take a Webinar, educate yourself, Google it, hire someone to help you understand what all this blogging, social media and inbound marketing means. Yes it is work, I am not going to lie to you, but even if you got 1 lead from your site from your efforts, wouldn’t you consider that a success? We got our first lead from our site just the other day. That is what convinced us that it is working. There are more leads out there; we just have to bring them to our watering hole.

So, if you are reading this, which would be cool if I still have your attention, then you are either shaking your head front to back or side to side. If you are the front to back, good for you and keep up the good work and don’t stop. If you are a side-to-side, then keep at it. Like anything, the effort you put in, is the effort you get out. If you are having trouble, find someone to help you. There are over 600 of us IMU graduates who know what we are talking about. Try it for a month. What have you got to lose? NOTHING. What have you got to gain? EVERYTHING!

Happy blogging, Tweeting, and Facebooking
I hope that this was somewhat inspirational to you and if it was or you think someone you know can benefit from it, forward it or tweet or comment about it and pass it on.

I welcome comments and suggestions. I am always looking for the next best way to do things. Work smarter not harder is my motto.

CHANGE: Why is it so hard to do?

Kim Kolb - Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Change is to do something a different way. Why is CHANGE so hard for some companies? It's hard because we get so use to doing things one way and are convinced that if we just keep trying at it, it will eventually prove a different result. This is the definition of Insanity. I think we have all been there at one point in our life. We are creatures of habit.

Change is a scary and exhilarating experience. Even people who like change still complain every now and then. Sometimes it can be hard to see the reward of the change. In the end, change is GOOD! It shakes things up, evens the playing field, makes everyone perform at their highest level and in the end you see the fruits of your labor.

Take Social Media for example. I can tell you when I say Social Media or Inbound Marketing to my clients; they have that look of “what is that”? Or “oh yeah, I have heard of that but what is it”? Digital Marketing is hot and I don’t expect it to cool anytime soon. Newspapers and magazines offer online subscriptions, coupons are being sent online, and stores are sending their weekly advertisements via email. This is the future so we may as well start the embracing now so as to not be left behind later. CHANGE, is good. Think of it this way, we are saving trees and the ozone.

How can you change the way you think about marketing your company? How can you change the way you reach your clients? Step outside the box and see if Traditional Marketing can be replaced with Digital Marketing.

How do you change? Get a Facebook page for your company, get a twitter account, start a blog, get on Linkedin. You would be amazed at the amount of people you can reach just by utilizing these tools (Facebook has over 4 million users, Twitter has 14 million, and LinkedIn has 35 million). You have a marketing department, right? Get them to CHANGE their way of doing things. Get them engaged to market the company online by talking about the company.

Small businesses need to take a risk and change. Get your employees involved with Digital Marketing. Engage them to get more friends, followers, and connections. You will be the talk among their peers. Some CEO’s think their employees are wasting time on the Internet or doing personal things, but if you make it their job to do those things, I bet they spend more time working for you. Take a risk!

To many times people worry about “what if it doesn’t work”? Instead worry about “what happens if it does work”? What a problem to have!

Social Media Frenzy: Time and Benefits

Kim Kolb - Friday, April 17, 2009
Social Media, Inbound Marketing, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In....AHHH.  I know what your thinking...I don't have enough time in the day to get regular work done let alone this.  Breathe.....Yes, the Social Media Frenzy can seem overwhelming at times.  Believe me, it is overwhelming to talk about it.  I get so excited about  the two I am using right now, that I get that "deer in the headlights look" from people I am talking too.

Time seems to be a factor when talking to people about Social Network Marketing as well as what to say.  I tell my clients, sign up for the accounts and then start linking and following others to get an idea.  This usually gets them jumped started.  The time factor those is like with anything new you start.  It will take a little time to get your profile set up, but once you have that and you start inviting people to follow you and  you following them, it because exciting and almost addicting.. Soon they will have a Social Media Anonymous. :)

A recent report put out by Marketing Charts provides a range of the amount of hours people spend working their Social Media Marketing.

48% of those surveyed said their efforts resulted in more qualified leads and 35% said it helped them close more business.  Below is a chart to depicted what areas benefited the most.

This next chart is kinda mind boggling since Social Media was started by marketers, yet a lot of marketers I know haven't even tipped their toe in the water. 


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