Remodeling in progress

You may have noticed that the look of this site has changed. For a variety of reasons, we’ve moved from Drupal to WordPress to manage and present the content for the Lewis Studios website. All the content from the old site is here and everything is tested and seems to be working well. The conversion was a good chance to clean up broken links and to remove references for things like signing up for workshops that already happened.

We’re not 100% committed to our choice of theme, colors and header image so you may see further visual changes in the coming weeks.

Why did we switch? There was a single catalyst for pushing the button but there was no single reason for switching. A few things that contributed:

  • more of our client projects have been in WordPress lately
  • WordPress is now capable enough for our CMS needs — it isn’t just a blogging platform anymore
  • the opportunity to consolidate skills and knowledge
  • extensive experience integrating database driven content into client WP sites
  • some technical issues with our Drupal site that were more likely our hosting provider or our own fault but that ultimately became the tipping point

We’ve been involved with Drupal since its earliest days and still recommend it when heavier duty CMS functions are needed. For us, WordPress made more sense as our site is mostly a blog with a small number of fixed pages and some media.

Why add a glossary to your site?

A glossary can be a powerful feature for your website by adding value for visitors, enhancing search rankings, empowering keyword marketing and increasing engagement. How you add a glossary depends on your platform, your business and your goals. Let’s look at an example of a service company that wants to leverage being an authority in their industry as part of their marketing plan. This example is for a WordPress based site. There are glossary modules or plugins for most CMSes.

For our service company, a good way to add glossary functionality is to start with a plugin. I like, and recommend (as an affiliate) the CM Tooltip plugin for WordPress by CreativeMinds. This plugin let’s you define your terms (or import them from a CSV file with the paid version) and will generate a glossary index page with letter selectors. Each term gets a post of type “glossary”. You decide whether to add tooltips for defined terms on all pages and posts or only on full posts. You may not want the tooltip glossary functionality on a very visual home page, for example.

By itself, the plugin gives our service company a way to add value for site visitors that may not understand all the terms used in their posts. It also has SEO value in that the pages now have the text of the definitions, or shorter excerpts, in context and the glossary index page adds organic search value in that it is pretty relevant to a lot of relevant keywords.

If this was all a glossary made possible, it would be a valuable addition to any site that needs to convey or reinforce subject matter expertise. You’re probably thinking “but wait, there’s more”. You are correct. With a little work, we can ratchet up the value from a glossary / tooltips solution. If our service company is doing paid search and buying keywords that match terms in their glossary, they might want to show the definition from the glossary on the landing page to increase relevance and raise conversions. By adding a simple function in the functions.php file for their child theme (everyone is using a proper child theme, right?), they can establish a WordPress shortcode that displays the post content for a term based on its post id or title. Using the shortcode in the landing page adds the definition to the page alongside the call to action or other content. Better yet, build a landing page template (in the child theme) that includes the function to show the definition based on parameters from the paid search or ad click and you have a dynamically relevant landing page for a slew of ads or paid search results based on the terms in your glossary as keywords. While you’re at it, why not add the terms the visitor searched for to their cookie and or your CRM system for future sales or marketing use?

Our service company knows that a visitor that landed on their site because they were searching for a definition of a term isn’t necessarily shopping for their services that day. In order to engage the visitors and nurture them as potential future prospects, our service company can leverage the glossary itself. A “term of the day” or “definition of the week” mailing list can be an effective offer to capture an email address. If the program emails the excerpt version of the definition with a call to action to “see a real example of this term in use” that leads back to the full definition on our service company’s site, they get on-going engagement and a reasonable chance of a recipient coming back to the site. Whether this leads to a visitor eventually raising their hand as a lead or increasing brand awareness with a novice in their industry, the services company is establishing themselves as an authoritative source of information and promoting their services in a scalable, measurable program.

Lewis Studios built such a program for a client recently. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, we found this approach to be valuable for clients that are just starting to do content marketing. By mapping out the development of the glossary content over time, the beginning of an editorial calendar was in place and more content ideas started to surface. A little structure and the spark of an idea can catalyze a general feeling that “we really should be doing content marketing” into the start of an actionable plan. Hopefully sharing stories like this one help you move to specific ideas and actions!

Who are you attracting?

Searching for information on digital marketing might leave you with the impression that the point is to generate as much traffic as possible. That may be true if you’re marketing a consumer product with a target market of, well, everyone. What if you’re a business marketing to other businesses in a narrow category of products or services? The answer is widely shared but, oddly, rarely stated in the negative. Many inbound marketing and content marketing experts and vendors promote knowing your audience and targeting them precisely with both your marketing selections (pyscho-demo-geo graphics, placements, etc.) and your content (writing for someone is more powerful than writing for everyone).

Should your content purposely drive away visitors that are not your target market though? Some say no because you never know who may become a prospect. If your offering has sufficiently broad potential uses, then you may well want to be inclusive. If your product or service is for very specific buyers for very specific uses it is worth considering how you can use content to qualify prospects in and others out. For one thing, you don’t want to pay for paid search or digital advertising clicks from non-buyers. Equally important, you want to develop a relationship with target buyers through conversation in their language, with examples of customers like them, for uses like theirs. Content that specific will inevitably leave others out as they fail to find themselves and their needs in your content. The alternative of making your content so broad that it invites more visitors in but leaves them unsatisfied when they get there is not a great way to win conversions and sales.

When you evaluate your traffic through analytic data, are there signs that your content strategy may need adjustment? Analytics can’t tell you in quantifiable terms. You need to compare different content with your knowledge of meaning. Experiment, measure, adjust, repeat. Does more specific content consistently have greater engagement than broader content with your audience all else being equal? Do two ads that lead to the same landing page draw equal traffic but very different bounce rates and conversions? What’s different about the ads?

Less is more, a cliche that never gets old

Cardinal-in-flight
When I edited this photo, my task was to take away, not add to the image. It was surrounded by other birds, trees and branches, a bird feeder and the snow’s color didn’t capture well. Cropping solved most of the challenge. A little Perfect Photo Suite eraser and some white balance adjustments, a little more detail for the bird and a lot less for the background. To me, it says more by having less distraction. Does your marketing say what it is supposed to say without distracting? Do you engage your audience or drown them in detail before they’ve chosen to engage with your brand / product / service?

To produce concert video, think like a TV director

Recording and producing video of a live concert performance as a one person crew is challenging. I recently worked with electric harpist Deborah Henson-Conant to record her annual “Lose Your Blues” show at The Center for Arts in Natick, MA (TCAN). TCAN is a wonderful facility in that it is an old firehouse that was renovated into an intimate, flexible arts facility. There’s not a lot of room for cameras though and the lighting setup is great for the live audience but not perfect for video.

The first song I edited is “Cosita Latina”. You can see in the video that I use two cameras, one fixed and one manually operated. I did a little scaling and panning of the fixed camera (the center angle) to improve the shot and add a little life but it is otherwise from a fixed location on a bracket that was already on the wall at TCAN just below the camera they have permanently mounted for their Concert Window live-casting. The second angle (from the audience’s right) is on a tripod in front of the small concession area and has more variation as I was operating that one live. Both cameras were Canon digital video cameras. Since I was recording the entire show I didn’t want to use the DSLR with its 20 minute maximum segments. There was a 3rd Canon on the audience’s left but it ended up reseting to auto exposure during a power cycle and was overexposed for the first set. Here is “Cosita Latina”:

There was some color grading to do since the contrast from black curtains and piano to brightly lit skin on the artist’s face, back and arms was greater than the camera’s range. The DSLR is much better in low light than these small camcorders but I don’t have three of them and they have the 20 minute recording limit so I went with the camcorders.

Production was much like directing a live TV broadcast. The advantage, of course, is that the editing wasn’t live and I could be pickier about the exact timing of cuts. I tried to make them make sense in the context of the song, within the lyrics and with the actual beats of the music. Final Cut Pro X’s multicam feature makes it pretty easy to edit this way. I assigned one camera to always be the audio track so there wouldn’t be odd changes in the sound and then I switched cameras from the angle viewer. When the cut came out a little off where I wanted it, I was able to just grab the cut with the mouse and slide along the timeline to put it where it belonged. Compared to cutting up the tracks and trying to drop in just the right pieces, this was a very productive way to edit.

The second song I put together is “Bonnyrigg Me Baby”:

If you’ve never seen and heard the electric, body-worn harp before and aren’t familiar with Deborah Henson-Conant’s work, watch the videos then visit her at HipHarp.com. Deborah is a talented musician and composer and, more than that, an entertainer and storyteller. I enjoyed recording her show and putting these videos together.