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Marketing information and tips related to search engine and content optimization.

Infographics Illustrated

How to use infographics

Recently you may have heard the term "Infographic" thrown around a lot in business. Some of you may have heard of it and even implemented your own for your company. Others may have never heard of them at all. This article aims to cover all the bases, from what Infographics are, why to use them, and how to get them as soon as possible.

What is an Infographic?

How to get InfographicsAn Infographic is simply a marketing piece that explains how something works or illustrates a complicated process with graphic images and minimal text. They may be a one-sheet print or a long, scrolling website image. They are not just graphs or charts either; they can illustrate large portions of business almost the way a newspaper cartoon tells most of its story with art. See the sample Infographic attached to this article for example.

Why use Infographics?

Infographics allow us to explain very complicated systems without having to explain confusing charts and figures. They aim to break down a process into its simplest form, which lets others relate to it a lot faster. In turn, they force us to think of our business systems in a more straightforward fashion which can increase sales awareness and viability of a product or service.

In addition to the valuable purpose of an Infographic, they are incredibly searchable and shareable. Useful Infographics can be viable for years, being passed from user to the user who feels it may be helpful to others. Just like words on a page, Infographics are searchable and indexable for lasting marketing power. Never underestimate the sustainability of your info in the graphic form, it may outlast all of the text-based content you can muster year to year.

How do I get Infographics for my company?

The simplest answer is to contact a marketing firm or graphic design/web design company, such as Anttix. Start by outlining the purpose of your Infographic. What do you want to explain and who do you want to reach? Working with talented and dedicated professionals who are familiar with Infographics will allow you to set objectives clearly and attain the type of Infographic your company needs. Infographics may be more complicated to design and build than your standard one-sheet or logo, but their benefit will last and last.

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Creating Content - Part II

Organizing Content

In the first part of our series we talked about how to write great content for your site. By now you probably have a paragraph or two, maybe some bullet points, or some dynamic content like tables and charts. Here in Part II of our series we will talk about how best to organize this content into your site, what search engines look for when they read through your content, and especially what your users want to see. Just slapping your content into the site will not get the job done. We want to help you get the most of that content and organizing wins the battle.

Think of a website as a closet and your content is everything that needs to go in it. Chances are you don't just have one type of item, you have many items like shirts, pants, shoes, belts, and accessories. Each item should have its place and done so as neatly as possible. The ultimate goal is for your closet to look nice and most of all it should make your items easy to browse through and find what you need. Now imagine your entire close has no door and it's open for the entire world to see. That may put a bit more pressure on you to make sure your closet looks nice. Let's explore how.

Organizing Content

The bulk of your content is likely going to be headers, sub-headers, and paragraphs with a few content types like tables and graphics thrown in here and there. If you have a lot of content it doesn't necessarily have to weigh your site down. If you organize it properly with a few guidelines it can work for you. Here is a few HTML tips, though content editors on your site will create this HTML for you:

  • Headers and sub-headers are very important for breaking up and organizing your content. In HTML code they are surround by numbered header tags. It is important your headers and tags stay in order from H1 to H4 and so on.
  • Paragraphs should always be exactly that, paragraphs which are surrounded by P tags in HTML. Separating paragraphs with line breaks (BR in HTML) only throws off formatting and makes it harder for sites like Google to accurately crawl them.
  • Use the right code for the right content. In the past people used to use tables to organize entire pages, which is no longer acceptable. Tables should only be used for tabular data. Some have also used BLOCKQUOTE content to create indents, which is also not good. BLOCKQUOTE is only for quotes and nothing more.
  • Use images to break up large content areas and get your point across. Stock images that relates to your content help add visual appeal to your page and break up those oceans of text.

Prepping for Search

At the same time you are formatting your content, keep it in mind that it is not just to make it look better and become easier for a human to read. It is also about the search engines like Google and Bing that crawl your site and add you to search results. When they crawl your site they are not just looking for raw content and keywords on the page. They are looking at paragraphs, headers, and more. The more sophisticated search engines become, the better they understand how sites should be laid out and take that into consideration. Don't lose marks from your search engine ranking because you didn't want to add a few paragraph and header tags. Give them something solid to search and no reason to down-rank you.

Design for Your Audience

When building your website, whether it be on your own or with professionals like Anttix, it is often hard to get out of your own head. That is, we are often tempted to design website content around what we like and what we would like to see. After all, we are humans who browse the Internet like everyone else, right? The problem is we are too invested in our own content and we often overstate our message. Step out of your own head and try to imagine what your users, those who you really want reading your site, would like to see. Would they likely read several paragraphs or would they be quicker to act if you just gave them a short paragraph and a few bullet points? Would you info be better read in a table rather than explained? You may understand your content to a tee but others probably don't know it like you do. Be considerate to whom you are building your website for and design it around them.

At Anttix we hope all of our clients learn from this type of advice, and we are certainly ready and willing to guide the process every step of the way. We step back even further and consider your users for you, so please call 888-426-8849 or click here to contact us if we can help you with your Web content design needs.

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The Power of the Testimonial

Testimonial

Many of us put great stock in reviews, testimonials, and recommendations given on a variety of different commercial websites. From Amazon 5-star ratings to Yelp reviews, we hold these pieces of information in great regard when purchasing goods and services. Hearing first-hand information from someone who utilized the service or used the product gives us more reassurance when making a decision and rightfully so. The manufacturer or service will always claim their product and/or service is the best in their industry but we generally will not just take them on their word. Of course they stand behind their work, but an impartial third party can go either way. More than 80% of consumers say they are more like to buy a product or service that has reviews versus those that have nothing at all. This makes perfect sense.

Testimonials are powerful tools, so how do you get them?

If your product or service has yielded positive results with your customers it shouldn't be too hard to attain a good testimonials. This article aims to show you how to get the best possible version of that review and how to show it off.

First, honesty is key. Its not just about your customers giving an honest account of work either, its about whether your ready believes it or not. Avoid one or two sentence reviews that simply use generic terms like "great" and "good quality." These seem made up and ambiguous. Instead, ask your satisfied client to tell you a story of how you helped them. A narrative goes a long way with your visitors. We like to learn by hearing stories rather than reading facts. They leave lasting impressions and naturally come across as believable. One short, honest paragraph will be more valuable than 100 one or two-word testimonials.

Second, show as much information as you can from the source of your testimonial. Include your customer's name, location, and if possible a friendly image of them or their business logo. You may also include pictures of the service you provided or if you provided a product, show them using it. However, do not provide so much information that your testimonial provider can be contacted. You do not want to violate their privacy or allow competitors to unethically approach your clients. A full name is ok, or just their First name and last initial if you would prefer to be careful.

Lastly, consider that less is more when it comes to testimonials. Very few people need 10-20 testimonials about you to make a decision. Starting with 3-5 testimonials will likely work best. You simply want to establish positive reviews from several sources and offer alternate perspectives if possible. If you can show reviews of different types of your products or services the better you will be. Just give your visitors the best examples of satisfied customers if you want to achieve an impact and avoid drowning them in too much reading. Often enough, too many testimonials may make your visitors question if any of them are honest in the first place.

As a side note, when using social media like Facebook and Twitter to share your testimonials be aware of the social aspect of sharing that information. This will open up your testimonials to more scrutiny and comments by those that may visit your social media pages. In some cases this may provide more information about your customer than you should be comfortable with. Simply practice diligence when you allow reviews with sites like Facebook, Yelp, and Foursquare and be sure to respond professionally to any comments that come along with them.

If you would like assistance with your testimonials and how to properly display them on your website, please give us a call toll-free at 877-426-8849 or click here to contact us.

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Best Kept Secret - The Small Business

Small Business Saturday

This Saturday, following Black Friday, marks the 4th annual Small Business Saturday founded by American Express in 2010. This event aims to help small businesses get more customers rather than the big box stores that receive most of the consumer attention around the holidays. This annual event encourages shoppers to stop in a local small business and give them a chance, which helps grow local pride and supports the next great business on the rise. At Anttix we strongly support this day and encourage not only our clients but our employees to shop local and shop small, not just this November 29th but throughout the year as well. But this concept begs the question, why shop at a small business when the large stores offer selection, low cost, and accessibility?

The answer isn't black and white, as no one expects consumers to only shop at one type of store of another. Rather, it encourages us to have some variety in our shopping experience. While a big box store may provide everyday needs quite at a low price a small business may provide better customer service, more hand-selected quality for their products, and one-on-one service you won't get from a larger store. In these features, we may find hidden treasures and a sense of that home-town-feel for getting to really know the business you choose to patron. Maybe its that specialty olive oil shop where the owner steers you towards a great selection that makes your next dinner party really shine. Or it could be a new restaurant that quickly becomes your go-to lunch meeting location with a friendly atmosphere and unique food. It could even be from the service industry, where a local print shop gives your wedding initiations a personal touch and provides the best-made invitations you could imagine for your special day. All of these are far more likely with small businesses, so would it hurt to stop in and look just to find out?

The same concept applies to Anttix and our services as well. While there are many large website firms out there churning out hundreds of website per year, Anttix has stayed small and provided hands-on customer service to our clients. As a small business we can work one-on-one to provide outstanding web design services as well as marketing, graphic design, and hosting services. Very few of the larger companies can have the luxury of working directly with their clients and provide custom solutions catering to their specific needs. They are forced to work in bulk, producing template websites and indirect customer service that passes the clients needs through several channels before it gets to the ears of those actually working on the site. This customer service process can take days or months, while small businesses like Anttix can provide web design answers and solutions in as little as a few hours or even minutes. That is the kind of service one should expect from a small business like ours.

So this Saturday consider a small business for your holiday shopping and if its web design services you need call Anttix toll-free at 877-426-8849 or click here to contact us.

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What is Google Looking For Today?

Google Search

As web developers and website owners we have to ask ourselves on a regular basis, "What is Google looking for today?" This means that we are away of how often Google changes and improves their search algorithm to accommodate the best possible results for their visitors. The certainly don't just trust the same algorithm from 10 years ago will do the job. Google's search engine still holds just over 67% of the market share* making it something all sites should be paying attention to, and with it they have the responsibility of employing artificial intelligence-like technology to rank their website search results. So let's review the question of what Google is looking for today.

Responsive Websites

Anttix may be called a broken record for how often we mention responsive websites, those sites that respond to the device and screen width they are viewed on without changing content. Now we one more reason to show you why. Responsive websites are now being ranked higher for Google search results for the simple reason that they provide one-stop-shop content for visitors no matter how they are viewing the site. Google appreciates the efficiency from only having to crawl and index one site without having to review sub-domains and mobile websites which contain similar but different content. Google also ranks these sites higher because they can be shared, interacted with, and back-linked easily from one URL across all platforms seamlessly. In other words, if your site is not responsive you could start taking a bit hit in your rankings.

Local Identity

More often than none, your searches are being conducted with data you may not even know Google has collected. Your geographic location is being taken into consideration, therefore you may find results of businesses and services closer to you rather than just those with the most relevant content. It is more important than ever to stress a local presence for your site and we don't just mean listing your address somewhere on your page. This also includes geographical social media sites like Yelp and Foursquare that help business create a local presence with a rapidly growing network of users trying to find goods and services close to them. Creating a strong local presence for your website can mean big results in your search engine rankings and most importantly, drive the local users you really want.

More Content Awareness

As sites grow, it is not necessarily how often you work keywords into your site but the quality of your content as a whole. Good content includes saying something unique about the keywords you want to be found for. For example, Anttix doesn't want to just plaster "web design" all over our site and hope the spam catches on. In a lot of ways this would be a detriment to us, as keyword spam is detected easily and penalized quickly. Instead, we would rather talk about the web design services and philosophies we offer, and tell people why the web design Anttix offers is different. Not only will inform our visitors more accurately but Google will recognize that quality content as well.

In conclusion, you simply want to continue to put your best website efforts forward while paying attention to current trends. If you find it hard for your business to keep up with important trends like Social Media, Search Engines, and Responsiveness then please give Anttix a call at 877-426-8849 or email us here. We will be happy to help manage these important aspects of your website and get you on track for the best possible search engine rankings.

*Based on the latest search engine market share figures for April 2014, released by comScore.

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Local Pursuit

Community Involvment

At Anttix, we put our best into every project that comes our way but we have a special place in our hearts for local businesses and organizations. The main reason is we get to work side by side and face to face with our client to improve and contribute to the areas we ourselves strive in. Would you want to improve the local energy company or your own chamber of commerce? There is something to be said of that small town mentality where everyone helps everyone else out. It’s comforting and beneficial to everyone involved. In this weeks' blog article we are going to talk about why staying local is import to us and why it may be important to you.

The first advantage to working locally is become a bigger part of your own community. Getting involved with charity events, community fundraisers, and educational programs can go a long way to enrich your business life. Your motivation shouldn't just be to get name recognition and sales leads either, that should be a happy byproduct. Your motivation should be to show your community what is important to you and what you want to be involved with. If you put positive effort into your community then something positive should reflect back. If you are only motivated by greed and profit then chances are you won't get much in return.

The second advantage to local business is probably the most important. This is a goal, and that goal is to become an authority in your community. You can strive to be the best but you simply need to be an outstanding resource in your field of expertise. At Anttix we have a passion for what we do and we want to share that passion with our community. Whether it is web design in Shorewood, IL or application design in Naperville, IL we enjoy each and every chance we get to help our community with technology challenges. If you can be a professional shoulder to lean on for your community you will do more than you think.

The third and final advantage we will talk about today is about making a positive change. Maybe you see something your community needs or a problem your company can help solve. Being poised in a position to help your community overcome difficulties and avoid untrustworthy business practices can be a huge advantage. Perhaps you have found businesses in your community who struggle to succeed where you can help turn that around. As a technology company Anttix has helped many local businesses implement web-based products to fill gaps and solve issues they have suffered for months or even years. When your community grows and succeeds you will too. Find the niche your community may be lacking in and help it succeed.

There are many advantages to working locally but all of them should lead to a sense of community pride and striving businesses that work alongside your own. Your business doesn't always have to be about your needs, it should be about the needs of those around you. This includes both your customers and your community. Contact your local chamber of commerce or local business networking group today to learn about how you can get involved.

Anttix is a proud member of several local organizations including the Plainfield Chamber of Commerce and Joliet Chamber of Commerce. Call toll-free today at (888) 426-8849 if you are in the Shorewood, Joliet, Naperville, Plainfield and surrounding area to find out how Anttix can help you.

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Devices Devices Everywhere

Mobile Devices

As of January 1st of this year Pew Research reports that 90% of American adults have a cell phone, 58% of American adults have a Smartphone, 32% of American adults own an e-reader, and 42% of American adults own a tablet computer. These numbers are only growing by the day so if you do not already own a Smartphone, e-reader, or tablet then you may soon be in the market for one. As prices of these devices become more affordable and their capabilities become greater it may be harder and harder to choose the right one. Let this article help you go about the decision the right way. Here's a few key points to follow as you begin your search.

Get what is Right for You

Nowadays you can't turn a corner without seeing a Smartphone or tablet ad. There are the brands you know such as Apple and Samsung and maybe a few you don't like HiSense and Asus. All of these brands perform similar tasks with their devices. The question isn't how good they are, it’s whether they are good enough for you. Get out there to retail stores, kiosks in the mall, and even your friend's devices to physically try them for yourself. Only you know what you like so don't let flashy ads and even your friends and family tell you which direction to go. What one person favors another many not. Once you get these devices into your hand and see what they are really like you will make a much more informed decision.

You Get What You Pay For

As with just about any product the price will sometimes reflect the value. Just remember that "value" also includes the brand you are purchasing the demand for that product. For example, Apple products often have a much higher price point than other tablets due to the perceived value of such a popular product. At the same time, a tablet in the price range of only $100-$150 may work just as well but have fewer options, less upgradeability, and shorter battery life. For some that lower price point tablet with fewer options is all they need while others want the powerful features from an Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, or a Windows Surface can provide. The key is finding what will satisfy your needs and going from there.

Follow the Deals

Around the holidays we always find good deals on the devices we seek but what do you do when a holiday is not around the corner? Regardless of special sales events electronics stores run ads every week and often include a multitude of sales on different devices. Alongside the brick-and-mortar stores you will often find great deals online with such resources as Amazon.com and NewEgg.com. Shop around and find who has the best deals when you are ready to buy. Also consider resources such as your mobile phone carrier who often package tablet deals with upgrade phone packages and data plans. All of these resources can find you the best deal at that time to satisfy your budget.

Know What You Need

Remember that many devices throw many features at you, most of which can be very cool and cutting edge. One device may show you how well it tracks your health while another proves useful as a POS system for your business. All of these features are great and fill very specific needs, but are they your needs? Know what you want before getting a Smartphone or tablet and gravitate towards the product that simply fills that need while everything else is a bell and whistle. Don't let hype sway you towards what a product MIGHT do rather than what it CAN do. If you are not sure what you need then have a conversation with your local retailer, the technology person at your business, or a local professional like Anttix, Inc. Some of these professionals can help steer you towards what you need and what you don't.

Hopefully these suggestions will help you weed out the unwanted clutter of device purchasing. If you would like to know what these devices can do for your business, consider giving Anttix a call at 877-426-8849 or email us here.

Statistical Data Source: Pew Research Center

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The Power of Email

Communication Methods

When we first started using email it was a simple tool for avoiding snail mail and sending quick messages to friends and family. Once the business world started adopting email into their processes it became a powerful tool for inter-office communication. When businesses took it further and started using email to communicate with their clients it became an even more powerful tool for sharing simple and even critical information. Soon after, email became a means of delivering important information and confirming your identity with many online applications. Social media soon began to dominate the communication world, allowing us to create and associate our identities with their media experience. The figureheads of the internet including Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo provided us with free email services to jump right into the game while utilizing other interesting features. On the other hand, paid email services tied together the power of our business's website with even more enhanced features such as business calendars, task lists, and support systems. As we can see, the power of email only grows by the minute and will likely continue to grow very rapidly.

So what does this mean for business? It means taking a look at your business email services and determining if it is time for an upgrade and if your old services are changing. In late 2014 Anttix decided to discontinue the free email service we provided with all hosting packages. This service proved to be faulty and unreliable for our clients. We no longer wished to provide a less-than-reliable service for our clients and instead steer them towards dependable and powerful email solutions. When we made this important decision we found we were not alone. Many hosting services were also removing free email accounts and offering more sufficient paid services separately as well. The main reason; web hosting services are simply too burdened by sharing server processing and storage with the greater demands of email as it grows more powerful in the industry. Many responsible hosting companies who care about the quality of their client's email services have made this change along with Anttix and for all the right reasons. It is not about charging more money for services; it’s about getting what you pay for.

Your business likely requires more than just a free Gmail or MSN account. These free tools are great for simple, personal use but for a business they simply will not cut it. To communicate effectively between your business and your clients you need to step it up a notch. This solution can be provided by staple companies such as Google with a Gmail Business Account or the powerful services of Microsoft's Exchange Servers. These accounts generally cost $2-$5 per month per user and are quite easy to maintain with the help of industry professionals that Anttix works with and recommends every day. It is simply about peace of mind, and having a service powerful enough to meet your needs.

If you are interested in your email services and what is available for you please give us a call today at (877) 426-8849 or email us here.

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New Frontiers

custom website design

Anttix has been and always will be an evolving company. That means we strive to better ourselves, our services, and our quality of customer care. To do so, every so often we adjust and enhance our services to remain at the cusp of our ever-changing industry. This month we would like to discuss the ways in which we are scaling down, scaling up, and staying the same.

First, comes the unfortunate news. Anttix will no longer offer a full search engine optimization (SEO) package as we have in the past for a small number of clients. We had previously done so to test the kind of comprehensive service we could reasonably provide. Unfortunately, our experiment proved to monopolize too many resources with too few results. In order for us to bring our clients the service they deserve, we would have to increase costs and diminish our efforts in web-based technology research and service. We will, however, continue to offer SEO local listing services and highly marketable sites for our clients. We will further build stronger relationships with reputable SEO companies to provide this service for clients who desire it.

In the area of growth, Anttix is excited to announce the addition of digital video and audio services to our list of web-based features. We have begun offering simple digital media recording, editing, and audio services to highly expand our clients' capabilities. Whether it be a video presentation, promotion, testimonial, or advertisement, we can help record, present, and take your online video to the next level in a highly marketable setting. In the coming months, Anttix will also specialize in video enhancement, including audio narration, slideshows, and more. We believe that digital audio/video services will provide heightened success for our clients.

Lastly, it is important to note that our other web design and development services will continue in the reliable and detail-oriented manner upon which our clients have come to depend. With the refinement of mobile site technology, we will provide the same high-quality services as we always have. These include but are not limited to: website design, web application development, online data management, e-commerce, graphic print design, and more. The strict quality standards we adhere to will not change; they will now encompass our latest services, further benefiting our clients.

We look forward to introducing you to our new services while continuing to provide the same level of quality and expertise. Call today to learn more.

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Benefits of Video Marketing

custom website design

Anttix has consistently been involved with video application and production. We are now pleased to introduce video capabilities among the list of services we offer our website clients. If you want to generate more website traffic, do not rely solely on written content. Even the best text content is enhanced with dynamic video.

Re-purpose your content
Perhaps the simplest way to get started is to make your written content perform double duty by talking about it in a video clip or creating a slide show. Focus on delving into the content you already have, rather than worrying about writing new material. Consider ways in which to bring your text to life visually. Then upload the video to common sharing sites like YouTube or Metacafe.

Captivate the senses
Video goes beyond the written page because it allows more senses to participate in the experience of absorbing content. Research shows that when humans perceive information in a multisensory framework, they are far more likely to recall it.

Attract an extensive following
Let's face it. Most people would rather watch than read. In some cases, this is because the person is a visual learner. In other cases he/she simply prefers a method that requires less effort. Either way, using video will attract a larger audience and extend the reach of your content. Video also makes it easy for people to share your presentation with others, multiplying your audience further.

Increase accessibility
Not only is video available 24/7 via devices such as smartphones, iPods, laptops, tablets and iPads, but it provides a familiar interface for the user. Instead of having to navigate and scroll for information, video brings essential points to one convenient location.

Establish yourself as the expert
If you are regularly creating quality videos, people will start to recognize you as an expert in your niche. This is particularly true of tutorials. Seeing someone explain a product or process automatically elevates him/her to the state of one who possesses valuable knowledge. Using the same figure in several videos can even be used as out-of-the-box branding.

Acquire top rankings in search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.)
The major search engines now utilize universal searches, meaning that video and images will gain recognition for your website above and beyond any benefits that even optimized content can bring. As President/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing Ron Jones explains, “You really need to have more than just text content to compete in today's marketplace. You need to have all of the other media types as well.”1

There are many benefits to using video as a marketing tool. You will gain a competitive edge while captivating the senses. A memorable video means a memorable business or organization that visitors will return to time and time again.

Jones, Ron. "Universal Search 101." Search Engine Watch. 01/02/2010. Web. 19 Sep. 2011. .

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Pluses of Google Plus

custom website design

Since Google unveiled its +1 button in March, some internet users have been waiting for the search engine company to make its mark on the social network scene. Finally, Google Plus (or Google+) joins the ranks, rivaling current juggernauts, including the mighty Facebook.

Google Plus resembles Facebook in that it includes streaming feeds and friends, but there are some unique stipulations. Google Plus requires you to have a Google profile and Gmail account. While you may need to take the extra step of creating these, it may also prove more convenient to have all of your applications integrated into one place.

The five main attributes of Google Plus are: Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, Huddles and Instant Uploads.

Circles allow you to group your contacts. This means that you can share information with certain groups of contacts instead of hitting everyone with one feed all at once. Simply choose which circles you wish to see and share with, and keep your party photos separate from your business associates.

Sparks perform like RSS feed readers or newsfeeds, bringing you information feeds from your personal interests.

Hangouts feature live group video chats, allowing you to meet with up to 10 people. In addition, you can alert certain groups when you are 'hanging out'.

Huddles are group texting features (similar to Beluga) that let you chat with a group via your smartphone.

Instant Uploads takes care of the increasingly important mobile aspect of social networking. This feature makes it possible to post directly from your smartphone. Whether posting photos or videos from your phone, everything goes into a private album. From there, you can decide with whom to share media. If desired, you may also add a geographical location to any post.

In addition to these internal features, Google has introduced the '+1' button next to search results that it generates. This new feature integrates directly with your Google profile and Google Plus account. The +1 button allows you to share your interests without copying and pasting links, as you would have to do on other social media sites. Share a restaurant that you liked or a movie trailer that you just watched simply by clicking the +1 button in your search results.

Google Plus was launched as a limited field trial. Access to the project is currently by invitation only, and a limited number of users were each given fifteen invitations to bring others on board. As use expands, however, it is expected that Google Plus will rapidly gain momentum in the social networking realm. As for Google Plus existing as a serious Facebook competitor, only time will tell. As is often the case, it may come down to new vs. mindlessly familiar.

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Benefits of Local Listing

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In today's competitive business world, old marketing media like phonebooks, newspapers, and television are outdated. People are now turning to the internet or their smartphones for information, particularly when it comes to their routine daily needs.

Local listings appear in search results and on mobile maps, conveniently displayed right after paid or sponsored listings. For example, if you are searching for a plumber in Shorewood, Illinois, results will show a map with points that are highlighted, clearly arranged under the heading "Listing for Plumbers near Shorewood, IL". When searching from a smartphone, there is an added feature that allows one to call immediately. When you add your business to a local listing directory, you draw customers from your own community, maximizing the ability to gain future opportunities, along with current business.

With local listing, you can also include up to ten images. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much more is a video worth? You can determine that for yourself since Google also allows you to post up to five YouTube video links. This is a great way to display/demonstrate your product or to give a brief presentation on your service.

Make your advertising efforts count. If you are already running discounts, coupons, or other promotions, local listing is an efficient way to get the word out about your special offers. The convenience of finding a local business that serves a customer's needs and provides a good deal is often hard for customers to resist.

Finally, take advantage of the marketing research that comes along with local listing. Each listing offers statistics and insights regarding the customers who are searching for and finding your business. Email reports are sent to keep you updated on the trends for your listing. Such useful information can then assist you in further marketing plans.

Listing your business in a local directory has many advantages. For very little investment, you can easily boost lead potential and profits. Public relations, especially in the local community, are enhanced, and deeper networks are formed. Consider taking this simple step to increase your internet visibility.

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Featuring... Plainfield

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Anttix is pleased to feature the local town of Plainfield, Illinois this month. During the past decade, Plainfield has experienced a population explosion that initiated with the sale of many area farms. This made way for a large number of new subdivisions, and savvy developers took note. As young families and exurbanites took root, the face of Plainfield's once agricultural heritage began to change. In less than a generation, the town grew from 13,000 to over 40,000 residents.

Many businesses and services have established themselves in Plainfield since the boom, and the Plainfield Area Chamber of Commerce promotes and supports them in its effort to develop a strong and economically viable community. Over the years, Anttix has provided website design services to the Plainfield Area Chamber of Commerce, developing a close relationship with its members.

Liz Collins, president of the chamber, explained, "The Plainfield Area Chamber of Commerce has been using Anttix for the past several years for all of our computer needs. Anttix is a resourceful, creative, and solution-oriented company who is frequently able to come up with new and innovative approaches to our website." In addition to designing and maintaining the PACC's website, we have also created sites for Plainfield Business Expo, Plainfield Harvest 5K, and Conservation Plainfield.

If you have a Plainfield business and you need a website design that will take you to the next level of professionalism and success, Anttix is ready to partner with you. We offer cutting edge website design services that are reliable and effective for search engine optimization. We take pride in our Plainfield websites, and we believe that attractive design is a vital form of communication between you and your prospective clients. Having a professionally designed website is essential in the age of internet marketing.

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Anttix Partners With Community

Plainfield Harvest 5k

From website design for small and medium-sized businesses, to efficient applications for entire school districts, Anttix provides the quality internet presence that the region demands. Anttix also understands that, in order to return client loyalty, a business must give back to its community. This has been a key component of the Anttix mission since the company's inception. Most recently, Anttix showed its support for the Plainfield area by becoming an emerald sponsor in the Edward Plainfield Harvest 5K Run.

On September 26, runners and walkers left Village Green Park for a 5K race through the heart of Plainfield's historic district. Children's events were held as well, bringing entire families out to share in this healthy, fun experience. (Detailed race results, including names and time rankings, are currently posted on the Plainfield Harvest 5K website.) The true winners, however, are the local charities and community service organizations that benefited from a portion of the race's proceeds. Participants, like the sponsors, were eager to contribute to worthy causes.

Anttix is proud to share in opportunities to serve its community. Just ask the Plainfield Area Chamber of Commerce. Not only does the Chamber trust their web design needs to Anttix, but they, too, have welcomed Anttix as a partner in various community events during the past year, including Plainfield Expo and the Young Photographer's Contest.

Anttix also continues to play an active role in Conservation Plainfield. This unified corporate venture meets on a regular basis to discuss ecological issues and promote responsible environmental awareness through outreach based initiatives. Members realize that together, small efforts can make a big difference to local residents and businesses.

Win-win results are achieved when a business values its clientèle and the local community. Anttix looks forward to expanding its communal involvement as a positive influence for a positive future.

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Gimme a Little Credit

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Now more than ever, anyone with a website should incorporate some form of a blog. This regular communication not only keeps your website fresh, but it goes a long way in establishing your credibility.

Look at blogging from the reader's (blogee's?) perspective for a moment. When he can view a blog that is consistently and faithfully updated, it suggests a foundation of permanence. You were here yesterday, you are here today, and odds are you will be here tomorrow when I log in.

Blogs are also your chance to shine as the expert in your field, provided you are willing to maintain excellent standards. If you stay focused on the key concepts that you want to explore or promote, your readers will determine that your website is the place to go for the latest reliable information in your industry.

It works the other way, too. Knowing that you have a steady audience will keep you on your toes when it comes to researching facts carefully, reporting industry-related news, and honing your overall personal presentation. Suddenly each reader becomes a potential client, and you want to deliver your best.

While we are on the subject of your readers, it may help to lose a few stereotypes of who, exactly, reads blogs. Do not mistake blog followers for web-addicted college kids or celebrity fan groupies; the real picture is far different. In his own blog, coincidentally, Phil Bradley offers the new profile of the average reader. He or she is likely mature, educated, and personally and professionally established. (www.philbradley.typepad.com. See Links section for full article.) In other words, they are as credible as you.

Whether your business or organization deals with multimillion dollar transactions or simple reference information, do not ignore the valuable, far-reaching tool that brings your message to a wide, returning audience. If you are not already blogging, or if you need to link your blog to other social media, contact Anttix for a solution that will make the most of your updates.

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Twitter Goes to the Library

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In some respect, we all have a hand in writing human history. Now that act is more literal than ever before if you are among the millions who tweet. In mid-April, the Library of Congress announced that it would be digitally archiving every tweet ever posted by any little blogging bird. The 210-year old institution adds this ever-growing record to its mammoth collection of every book, print, photo, map, or musical piece registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Yes, now your brilliant diatribe on the proper way to enjoy an Oreo is immortalized. So what does that mean for tweeting habits? Will users change their subject matter or language, self-censoring with the knowledge that it all goes 'on their permanent record' as they used to say in school? More importantly, can posts now, as a matter of public record, be used to a person's detriment?

Some feel that a little fair warning would have been in order, but the fact remains that anything you submit to the internet in any capacity is fair game to come back to haunt you. Only time will tell if blogger habits change noticeably, but someone might think twice before running to Twitter just to tell us that he bought a new pair of socks. Then again, maybe our descendants should know about those socks...

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Flashy Websites

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In the world of website design, ‘Flash’ is defined as vector-graphic animation technology. Simply put, it is a tool that permits movement of screen images, allowing an otherwise bland page to emit visual interest. The goal is to keep the visitor engaged enough to 1.)remember the business/organization, 2.)spend significant time at the site, and 3.)return to the site.


You are probably more familiar with Flash than you realize. If you have ever gone to a website and encountered images that move, change color, or morph in appearance when rolled over, you have witnessed the capabilities of Flash. Of course, just because a feature is able to perform a task does not necessarily mean it should.


How well Flash is incorporated can affect the entire personality of a website. The responsibility to use it appropriately falls to the website designer. Think back to various examples of Flash on web pages you have visited. They all caught your attention—some as intriguing and others as just plain annoying. Occasionally the ‘what were they thinking?’ question pops into mind. Sometimes a good idea on paper does not translate well onto the screen. A site owner may see Flash used on another site to revolve a carousel of pictures or produce a strobe effect, and decide he/she wants the same effect. While it is important to harness the energy of a great brainstorming session, once all ideas are on the table, only the best ones should be attempted. Of those, only one will be excellent enough to use in your website design.


What works for one website will rarely function in the same capacity for another site. Purpose and atmosphere must be taken into consideration. A reputable designer will be able to implement your ideas and remain faithful to your vision, but he/she will also suggest alternatives when it becomes apparent that a certain element of Flash will compromise the integrity or professionalism of the website. The end result will be an engaging product of which you are both proud. If you would like more information on Flash possibilities in website design, please contact an Anttix representative.

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Plainfield Chamber & Anttix Announce Contest Winners

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The Plainfield Area Chamber of Commerce and Anttix, Inc. (a website and marketing company) are pleased to announce the winners of the First Annual Young Photographers Contest.

This year’s contest theme was “Plainfield through your eyes”, which assigned District 202 students to take photographs of Plainfield, Illinois. Each student brought his/her unique perspective of the vibrant and rapidly growing town. Winners were then chosen by the Plainfield Chamber board members.

Submissions from the top seven finalists will be on rotation at www.plainfieldchamber.com. The grand prize winner and first and second place winners will be honored at the Plainfield Chamber awards luncheon on July 21, where they will receive certificates, prizes, and framed prints of their submissions. Invitations will be sent to each of the winners’ schools in the coming weeks.

We would like to extend a special thanks to all participating students, faculty, and administration for making this contest a success.

Winners
Grand Prize- Kayla Malone (Plainfield Central High School)
First Place- Katelynn Eppenstein (Plainfield Central High School)
Second Place- Hiba Mohiuddin (Plainfield East High School)

Honorable Mention
Kitty Chung (Plainfield East High School)
Kristen Driscol (Plainfield North High School)
Jamie Paczkowski (Plainfield East High School)
Sarah Palya (Plainfield Central High School)

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Internet Seniority

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They go to Google most often. Then they stop by Windows Media Player to get their tunes on. From there, they log onto their Facebook profiles to see what their friends are up to. "They" are seniors... and not the ones in high school. According to Simply Amplify (see links), Facebook is the third most popular website for Internet users over the age of 65. Not only are senior citizens the fastest growing United States demographic, but 55-75-year-olds are the fastest growing internet population.

There are several reasons for this trend. First and foremost is the time factor. Retirement and an empty nest leave empty hours in the day. More leisure time often means more screen time. This is also a period to reflect on goals. Home improvements, neglected hobbies, higher education, and travel all become targets for research. If the research leads to making a purchase, analysts estimate that seniors possess as much as 70% of the country's disposable income, some of which finds its way to internet retailers.

In addition to tangible needs, there is also a desire to stay connected socially. Planning outings become easier when event calendars and maps are only a click away. Many clubs and organizations have already figured this out, and they have added specific senior sections or pages to their websites. Likewise, if the easiest way to reach the grandkids is through a social networking site, so be it! Even if bad weather or health challenges keep one inside, the internet can serve as a lifeline to family, community, or institutions of faith.

For many reasons, and in many ways, the mature adult population is making the Internet part of their daily lives. There is certainly no foreseeable end to this trend. As more seniors gain confidence in the security of their favorite websites, as well as in their own computer skills, more rocking chairs are being traded in for laptops. Don't be surprised if one day the local senior center closely resembles your favorite Wi-Fi cafe. (Just remember that grandpa takes an extra shot of espresso in his latte.)

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Extending Your Welcome

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Businesses have a tendency to focus on their standard demographic. If they typically serve a specific age, gender, orientation, or interest group, it is natural to sometimes narrowly define that group when creating a marketing plan. It is important, however, to expand the scope to include other growing markets whenever possible.

As the senior citizen internet user population increases, how should your website respond? The good news is that the 'rules' are largely the same, with a few minor tweaks.

Begin with a straightforward approach
It should not take more than a few seconds of viewing your website to discern what your company does and what goods/services you offer. Use easy-to-find headers, tabs, and links, and do not get overly wordy. Just because a mature user may have some extra leisure time does not mean he wants to waste it reading pointless or repetitive details in your content.

Establish credibility
The essential qualities of honesty, integrity, reliability, and value are, perhaps, more important in the senior market than in any other. Seniors are savvy and experienced enough to know if you are just trying to grab a quick sale. Be sure you can back up any claims you make.

Adopt a multigenerational design
Unless it is specifically suited to your business, avoid using slang or culturally-limiting verbiage. The same principle applies to images. Ask yourself if your design would be equally tolerable to a 25-year-old, a 45-year-old, and a 65-year-old. If you use photos of people, do they represent only one age bracket, or is there variety? Do your visual images of seniors depict them as needy and weak or vibrant and confident?

Highlight your offerings
If you have not done so already, determine if any goods/services you provide might particularly appeal to a more mature faction. If so, highlight them in a separate section or page that recognizes and values your senior clients. Then consider adding any features that would make the search even more efficient.

The recent increase in people over the age of 55 using the internet is a win-win situation, if approached correctly. As seniors fight outdated stereotypes, welcome them to your business. You will gain a solid client base, and they will recognize your quality product or service. Soon word of mouth recommendations will spread among this crucial demographic.

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And Then There Were Two

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While there are countless legitimate search engines available to satisfy your query needs, most of us do not feel too creative when it comes to the routine task of locating information. We tend to choose a search engine as our default, and conveniently pop phrases in as needed.

For all intents and purposes Bing, Google, and Yahoo became the only search engines that even register on the pie charts of the public's preferences. Google, not surprisingly, takes up about two-thirds of that pie. The remainder was split between Yahoo and Bing-- until last month, that is. In December, the Yahoo-Bing shotgun marriage took place. Finalized agreements determine that Bing will now power Yahoo in the hope that together they can take over the world... or at least the search engine world.

Does anyone besides bloggers and die-hard loyalists care? Absolutely, if you are deciding where to best allocate your advertising dollars. Investors are certainly watching and waiting. Despite building drama, the merger has so far proven anticlimactic. While Bing's campaign as a 'decision' engine brings quick tabs and refined search results, most users complain that it just is not streamlined enough for their taste. Advanced features are wordy and sometimes add more steps than they save. Overall search results are different between Bing and Google, but not clearly better or worse. People are creatures of habit, and a pretty background may not be sufficient to make them alter their habits.

If this forces Bing to develop more effective tools in the spirit of competition, hooray for the consumer. If Google responds by improving the refinement of its results, we win again. In the meantime, Anttix continues to submit our clients' websites to all major search engines. Finally, if you want an unbiased, side-by-side comparison of the differences in search results between Bing and Google, simply go to-- you guessed it-- bingandgoogle.com, and bingoogle away!

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Cool Kids of 2009

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Were you among the throngs of fans who googled Michael Jackson back in June? Or did you do some research to find out how much cash Uncle Sam might give you for your clunker? Maybe you followed the Jon & Kate Plus 8 (divide by 2) math. The results from the major search engines are in, and while some top searches reflect popular topics of 2009, a few sites are quietly sneaking upward.

Naturally, the #1 most searched subject by any count was Michael Jackson. The untimely death of the self-proclaimed King of Pop initiated a mouse-clicking frenzy. As did political hot buttons like health care reform. Speaking of health, Ask.com reports several common searches on issues from fertility to flu. Let's also not forget the ever-present question, "When will the world end?" (2012, according to the Mayans, who themselves ended over 1,000 years ago.)

The real surprises, however, are found amongst Google's top 10 most searched websites. Do the names Tuenti, Sanalika, or Dantri ring a bell? If not, it is probably because they are a Spanish social networking site, a Turkish virtual world (think Mideast Manga), and a Vietnamese language site, respectively. There's a lesson in the fact that all of these websites rank in Google's top 10. The business world continues to expand, while simultaneously getting smaller and closer. Don't forget about foreign clients. Brainstorm ways to expand your website's broad outreach where appropriate. Who knows? Your website may one day be the strange name that fills a top 10 slot.

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Your Space, Your Face

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How many friends do you have? Okay, next question: how many would you recognize if you ran into them at the grocery store? Social networking websites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter have not only added new words to our vocabulary, but they have made it easy to collect other individuals, bands, organizations, and even companies. These pages of lists can link you to endless other profiles, raising your quantity of network connections.

When it comes to your business though, is the quality of interactions strong enough on these sites? If you have a well-styled page, and you are gaining easy exposure, why bother paying for a private website? While a great MySpace profile never hurts, there are several reasons to invest in your own professional website, even if you are a one-person institution. Settling for a social networking site as your sole Internet presence severely limits you in several ways:

Limited design options-- Sure you can 'pimp' your page with any number of wallpaper patterns, but none of them convey any real design or personality. On the other hand, custom graphics and truly representative art work stand out in a client's mind. While a picture is worth 1,000 words, you need to ask yourself what those words are saying.

Forgettable-- Because social networking sites are meant to generate numbers, many of your contacts will have hundreds, if not thousands, of friends or groups. Your superior business is relegated to just another tiny picture on one of many pages. It is the equivalent of hoping someone notices your business card, when he is carrying around 500 others in his wallet.

Their commercials; not yours-- If your crucial information is going to be surrounded by advertisements, don't you at least want them to promote your goods or services? When sponsors foot the bill for a website, they determine what to advertise, how much space to take, and where they will place the ads.

Hosting/security issues-- Do you know your favorite social networking website's credentials when it comes to hosting? Likewise, how secure is posted information? Trusting a third party to manage your networking safely can be scary. After all, it's one thing to lose downloaded photos of your vacation. It is another matter entirely to lose pertinent information related to your business.

Unprofessional image-- Finally, no matter how well you present yourself in text and photos, you simply will not be taken as seriously on a social networking website as you will with your own website. Think about it. You send out a notice about a promotion you are holding, and it appears as a comment between one person's report on what he had for lunch, and another person's link to YouTube footage of exploding pop cans. Instead, make the investment that will reap professional and financial rewards for your business.

Websites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter can be great sources of reconnecting with lost friends, meeting new people, or just having fun online. They serve these purposes far better than actual networking (despite their claims), and there is nothing wrong with that. When you want to take your business to the next level, however, consider the difference your own domain could mean. Chances are, the 'friends' you attract will notice you more.

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Bada Bing!

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In early June, Microsoft added another goofy-named search engine to the ranks.  'Bing' was designed to be in direct competition with Google, and to a lesser extent, Yahoo!.  Its primary distinctive feature is that it organizes results in a more structured format, and those results can then be refined.

Though Bing's initial release was well received, interest has dropped off somewhat.  Time will tell whether it becomes a search engine standard, or whether internet users are just too devoted to their old habits.  Whichever is the case, as an Anttix customer, your website content is already submitted to all of the major search engines, including any related to Microsoft.  There is nothing extra you have to do; we take care of this automatically.  So whether your site visitors Google, Yahoo!, Bing, or use any other search engine, they will find you.  Ultimately, it is just a matter of taste.In early June, Microsoft added another goofy-named search engine to the ranks.  'Bing' was designed to be in direct competition with Google, and to a lesser extent, Yahoo!.  Its primary distinctive feature is that it organizes results in a more structured format, and those results can then be refined.

Though Bing's initial release was well received, interest has dropped off somewhat.  Time will tell whether it becomes a search engine standard, or whether internet users are just too devoted to their old habits.  Whichever is the case, as an Anttix customer, your website content is already submitted to all of the major search engines, including any related to Microsoft.  There is nothing extra you have to do; we take care of this automatically.  So whether your site visitors Google, Yahoo!, Bing, or use any other search engine, they will find you.  Ultimately, it is just a matter of taste.

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Building a Blog

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Now that you know the guidelines for writing a blog, how do you actually go about constructing one?

  1. TIME: For starters, allow yourself time to work on it. A blog is more than just an email that you shoot out quickly and cross off your to-do list.
  2. TOPIC: What is the single, central idea that you want to communicate? Address only one per blog, or your ideas will get in the way of each other, and your readers will miss the point. Because we all know that inspiration strikes when we least expect it, consider keeping a small notebook with you to jot down topic ideas as they come to you.
  3. DATE: Include a date near the top of your entry. This allows visitors to quickly check in and see any new posts. People appreciate this time-saver. (This step is not necessary with an Anttix blog since the date is automatically saved and shown.)
  4. OPENING: Create an attention-grabbing ice breaker. If you can't think of one, try phrasing your main idea in the form of a question. Don't be too vague here; get to your theme early on.
  5. BODY: This is a case for quality over quantity. There are no minimum word count requirements, so develop a few meaningful points and support them. Including any keywords that will drive traffic back to your website is always a bonus as well.
  6. CLOSING: Say Goodnight, Gracie. Keep it short and sweet, and relate it back to your website in general.
  7. EDIT! EDIT! EDIT!: Just because you are posting on the internet does not mean that you are above the rules of good writing. Proofread for grammar and style. Is your blog readable and enjoyable? Even if I don't know you personally? Even if my time is limited? When in doubt, it is better to err on the side of professionalism and save the cutesy touches for MySpace and Facebook.
  8. POST: Use your website's standard method of updating to insert the final blog content. Generally, this is as easy as sending an e-mail.
  9. COMMITMENT: You've successfully posted your first blog. Now commit to some sort of schedule to keep your blogs fresh. You don't need to write everyday, or even every week, but if your newest blog is ten months old, you need to update more often.
  10. ARCHIVE: Consider archiving old blogs for future reference. They do not need to be displayed at all times, but you may want to keep them accessible.

As always, contact Anttix if you would like more information on how a blog can be added to your website.

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Everything But the Airline Food

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Business happens quickly, without time or money to lose. To keep up with this pace, you want to keep your employees well informed and well connected-- to you, to each other, and to clients. Anttix is helping our clients meet this ongoing challenge by working with them to implement webinars.

A webinar, or web-based seminar, is a means of online communication that supports a presentation which simultaneously goes out to multiple participants in a workshop setting. Once participants log in, the format allows for discussion, feedback, and even breakout sessions, while watching a live web video. Responses or comments from participants are available to everyone else 'attending'. All graphics used during the presentation are also available.

Webinars should not be confused with webcasts. In the case of a webcast, a single transmission is made, excluding the ability to interact. The difference between a webinar and a webcast is like that between a telephone and a radio.

While presenters of webinars need a few specific tools, including appropriate software, participants need only a computer with internet access and a telephone to listen through. Most webinars work using VOIP (voice over internet protocol) technology. Participants at a single geographic location can work together at one station such as a conference room, or work alone at separate computers.

Why might a webinar be an ideal solution for your business or institution? First consider the time involved. Do you want to lose your employees for two days to attend a workshop, or would it be easier to spare them for two hours? Even if your staff does not typically travel far, chances are they can get to a computer faster than they can get to a training facility. This goes for the presenter as well. Then think about the cost involved. When you are not expending dollars toward flights, gas, hotels, enrollment fees, and meals on the road, you free up funds for other needs. When cost is not a huge factor, your staff can always keep current with the trends in your industry. Speaking of employees, morale generally improves when a person is not burned out on business travel. Happier employees means happier customers. Finally, in today's environmentally-conscious world, webinars are just another small step a business can take to go a little greener. Eliminate some of your paper, and even a few vehicle emissions.

If you are spending too much time and money uniting workshop presenters and participants, contact Anttix. Webinars are an easier solution than you may think.

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Readable (and Even Enjoyable) Content

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You know you have a great business. Your customers tell you so all the time. Now you want a worldwide audience to know what you do, and how well you do it. All it takes is a set of meaningful text pages. Simple, right? Hardly.

Whether you have no idea what to write, or too many ideas to incorporate, staring at a blank page can be intimidating. Before you worry about what to write, familiarize yourself with some guidelines for how to write:

1. Choose a web-appropriate font: You finally have the chance to dump that boring Times New Roman! Don't get too carried away, though. Studies show that fonts where letters don't have dangling tips or stylized edges are easiest on the eyes. Verdana is commonly used on many different websites.

2. Get organized: By now you should have some idea of what pages will be included on your website. Ask yourself why each of these pages is necessary. Your answer will be the main idea for each one. You can then make a few sub-notes that you would like to include. When you have an outlined sketch, check to make sure that there is a logical flow to it all.

3. Consider the visual layout: Leave blank lines between paragraphs to physically depict transition. This also encourages visitors to return because they can find specific information quickly, without sifting through miles of text.

4. Grammar matters, to a degree: Ruthlessly police spelling errors, typos, misuse, and run-on, fragmented, or awkward sentences. Relax the reins when it comes to style. Using 1 space or 2 after a period does not matter, and no one will be counting to make sure each paragraph has 4 sentences.

5. Keep it personal, but professional: Your website content, particularly your home page, is a perfect place to make a strong first impression, and that impression should be that you are over 14. Let your creativity shine, and use humor where appropriate, but save cutesy or clever for MySpace or Facebook. A good strategy is to embrace the key feature that sets your business apart from the competition, and let that be your 'personality'.

6. Sneak in some free marketing: Websites are constantly 'crawled' by search engines to see what information they contain that can be passed along to internet searchers. By working relevant key words and phrases into your writing, you can increase your chances of getting noticed. Just be careful not to overdo capitalization, exclamation points, or bold type. You don't want to run the risk of sounding like a Matthew Lesko commercial gone wild.

7. Slash mercilessly: Okay, maybe not quite that intensely, but real editing means that items will be left on the cutting room floor. Even if you have unlimited space, your readers do not have unlimited patience. Many content writers make the mistake of redundancy. To avoid this, find the best spot for a segment and place it there, and only there.

8. Do unto others...: Many content writers miss the most obvious guideline-- write content that you would read. The only way to do this is to honestly reflect after writing, using the 'who cares?' test. If you have a lot of bonus details about your staff, your facilities, or projects you completed thirty years ago, will your audience truly care? If not, delete it from your text, (but save it for your mom to read).

The best way to prepare for excellent website writing is to take a tour of the websites that you love and hate to browse. Ask yourself what makes them enjoyable or annoying, and take careful notes. Follow your own advice, and you will be off to a successful start.

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Blog Blog Blog or Blah Blah Blah?

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The word "blog" ranks highly among the silliest words invented by the internet community. It sounds like a state of utter unmotivation experienced by a large, science fiction creature. In actuality, "blog" is short for "web log". As the term implies, the author (the website owner or a designated representative) writes and posts a public entry of topics, ideas, facts, and opinions to provide a coherent chronicle relating to the website. That's a technical definition. The results, as you no doubt know, range greatly in purpose and readability.

Unfortunately, this range of quality has given blogging a questionable reputation. What is your reaction when someone asks you if you have checked out his blog? Are you curious as to what he is sharing, or do you picture pseudo-philosophical rambling with a grudge against both grammar and society?

To use a blog effectively, you must first ask yourself if your website can benefit from regular one-way communication. For example, if you are in the healthcare, legal, or technology fields, a blog is an excellent way to keep your audience informed of new developments. Likewise, if you are selling products/services that you can realistically market via your writing, it is a profitable tool. Artists of all media may also keep a personal connection to their fans and patrons by writing blogs about current projects and releases. Contrarily, if you require dialogue, as in the case of product review or posting ideas for discussion, you may wish to use a forum instead of a blog.

Another consideration is the tone of your writing. Do you want a blog to present information, or do you want a blog to present your feelings, opinions, and trivial updates? Of course, both have their place in any communication, but blogs are notorious for going overboard in this area. Unless you are a talk show host, comedian, or personality that is specifically famous for this sort of ranting, omit it completely. In fact, due to the heightened amount of "noise" associated with blog entries, search engines are beginning to ignore them, even when they contain legitimate content. In some cases, they are even having a negative impact on the website's presence as a whole.

The challenging paradox is to compose brief essays that maintain a personal feel, while not getting too personal. When you write a piece, stand back and ask yourself, honestly, "Who cares?" If you can answer that a large percentage of your audience will care, then post it. If you can truly say that reading it will give someone reason to return to your website, then post it. However, if only your three closest friends will care, then send it to them and forget posting it on your site. Of course, if you ever have questions, call us. We are happy to provide further suggestions for blogging on your individual website.

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WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU?

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Whenever we contact a friend, one of the first questions we naturally ask is, "What's new with you?" If we have spoken to him recently, the answer may be short and simple. On the other hand, if it has been a while since we have visited, there may be much to catch up on. When we refer to website traffic as 'visitors', it is because this same principle of updating applies. The longer someone has been away from your site, the more he should find to explore when he returns.

Probably the biggest commitment to updating a website is keeping the content fresh. This does not just apply to event calendars and dated material. This can include current articles that apply to your site, or any information that has changed that a potential client might need/want to know. Never forget that your primary purpose for having a website is for communication with an audience.

The first step to consistent website maintenance is to appoint someone to handle the matter. Having one person in charge keeps your site on track and rolling along in a timely manner. Of course, this does not mean that the 'maintenance chief' cannot have help; it just means that a named person is responsible for making it happen.

Next, determine a regular time interval for updates. For example, if your website posts information that changes daily, then someone must make the necessary changes daily. If, however, your website is a straightforward representation of your business, a monthly content check may be enough. If you are not sure how often you need to update, occasionally browse other similar sites and make a note of how often they update. Is it enough? Is it too much? Adjust as necessary. It sounds like a no-brainer, but many site owners fail to take this simple step of setting up a maintenance schedule.

Once you have someone in charge, and an idea of how often you need to make changes, consider the following checkpoints:

  • HOME PAGE-- Is this first image that the public sees still the best representation of your business/organization?
  • ABOUT US (or equivalent)-- This is one of the most overlooked sections when updating. If you mention the history of your business, do any statistics need to be changed? For example, if you said you had 20 years of experience when you created your site, and that was 5 years ago, say "25 years" or "over 20 years". Have there been any location or personnel changes? Do you need to adjust your philosophy or mission statement? Is your professional focus exactly the same as it was when you built your site?
  • PROFILES/EMPLOYEE INFO-- If you have a section like this, you must keep it current with every hire, separation, or change in qualification or contact information.
  • PHOTOS-- People change, projects change, styles change, and so should your photo images. Rule of thumb: replace any pictures of your staff or your work that would make a site visitor think oh yeah, I remember when that look was popular. You get the idea.
  • TESTIMONIALS-- No one cares if your business got rave reviews years ago. Replace old praise, keeping old testimonials only if they are exceptional.
  • Y'ALL COME BACK NOW-- Ask yourself (honestly) if there is some key feature on your website that urges people to come back regularly. If not consider incorporating a blog or newsletter for this purpose.
  • Updating your site on a scheduled basis is one of the easiest ways to guarantee repeat visits!
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E-readers 101

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A broken-in pair of slippers, a mug of steaming coffee, and your favorite... screen? Handheld electronic book screens, better known as e-readers, popped up as gifts from coast to coast this past holiday season. While Amazon released its Kindle in late 2007, this was the year e-readers really caught on, partly due to an aggressive advertisement campaign as newcomers Barnes & Noble Nook and Sony Reader entered the competition.

Would you convert to reading your books, magazines, and newspapers electronically? You might answer that you already do, via online newspapers or downloaded eBooks, but e-readers are a different concept. Most notably, they work to imitate a physical book in size and readability, as opposed to simply feeding text through a computer screen. So here's the Anttix version of E-readers 101:

Physical Features: E-readers average about 7"-10" diagonally, and weigh roughly 10 ounces. They are about the size of an average trade paperback book. They run on rechargeable batteries (included) that will give you anywhere from 4-10 days' worth of reading time on a single charge. The page view uses E Ink® technology so that it looks like reading a paper page from a book. There is no harsh backlight to produce eye strain, as is the case with computers. You can also adjust font size, and if you purchase an audio book, you can listen through the speakers or plug in your own headphones/ear buds.

How to Obtain Reading Material: Books, magazines, newspapers, and audio books are purchased directly through e-reader units, using cell phone or wireless technology that is built in. Amazon's Kindle orders directly from the Amazon store. Sony's Reader partners with Google Books, also offering a library book borrowing feature. Barnes & Noble's Nook draws from its own stock, but also allows you to borrow/lend books to friends with e-readers... without worrying about their dog chewing up your book.

Cost: When Amazon introduced Kindle, thusly monopolizing the e-reader market, they started at around $400. When Barnes & Noble's Nook came out at a clean $259, Amazon dropped prices almost overnight. Now a low-end Kindle runs (coincidentally) $259, and a deluxe model is $489, according to their website. Sony's Reader is available in three options: Pocket at $199, Touch at $280, and Daily at $399. There is no subscription fee involved with e-readers, but you must purchase the books. Most new releases are priced around $10, and there are always public domain books available free of charge.

Advantages: The biggest advantage of an e-reader is the space it saves. Virtually endless hours of reading fit into the space one book would take up. They are especially handy when reading large tomes. You won't build any muscle hauling War and Peace around, and you won't have to adjust your hold as the page proportions shift from front to back. Environmentally, paperless is always greener, and some would argue that you will eventually save more green in your wallet since eBooks are cheaper than traditional new releases.

Disadvantages: Let's face it. You are holding not a soft, tactile book, but a cold, hard piece of technology. That statement makes some people drool and repulses others. Chances are, your e-reader looks and smells like every other e-reader, and you probably missed out on the romantic experience of hunting for your book in the dusty corners of some curious shop. Though you can take virtual notes on an e-reader, they will not be in your handwriting, with the scribbles, arrows, and afterthoughts that illustrate genius in progress, but I digress...

To e-read or not to e-read: Ultimately, it comes down to whether you are someone who prefers to own a physical book that is a unique piece in itself, or whether you are content to experience content alone.

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Bah, Humbug, and Leave Me Alone!

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'Spam', a slang term for unsolicited junk email, is about as appealing as the box-shaped meat product of the same name. Most people don't really think much about spam until they are getting hundreds of junk emails daily. With each new spam message it takes longer to check email. From a practical standpoint, blocking spam saves time and money in the long run.

So why do you get spam messages? It's not personal; it's business. Spammers get paid by getting people like you and me to buy things online. They advertise through email and have many techniques for finding email addresses and sending out messages. The longer that you have an email address, the more opportunity there is to be found by spammers. Even if you are very careful with online registrations, it will not stop the onslaught of spam.

Email filtering is the solution for ridding your account of spam. Basically, you can have the spam tagged or stopped. Tagging email is what we describe as basic email filtering, and it is included with each account. All email is scanned, and if a spam email is found, then the header is labeled "****SPAM****". Some clients prefer this because all of the email comes directly to them, and they can determine if it is a true slice of spam or not. Other clients prefer not to see spam email at all. In these cases, we utilize advanced email filtering, which scans all of the email and removes the spam. At the end of each day a message digest containing all blocked spam is sent to the user. The user can then quickly review the spam and release any falsely quarantined email.

Whether you prefer basic or advanced email filtering, Anttix can arrange your solution. If you are interested in advanced email filtering, contact an Anttix representative for pricing.

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Google Analytics - What the Numbers Mean

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We all know that it is important to generate site traffic. Most people also understand the value of knowing how many people visit/have visited their sites. The 1990s even added a whole new definition for the word hit to the dictionary. What about the deeper questions, though? Who are these invisible site visitors, and where are they coming from? What path do they take, once on the site? What is keeping them there, and when are they leaving? Most importantly, are your current methods working?

For some time the industry has looked to Advanced Web Statistics (AWStats) for significant data. While AWStats tracked many aspects beyond simply the number of hits, the results still left questions unanswered, sometimes to the point of giving misleading impressions. For example, a regular visitor to your site might be marked as a 'unique visitor' (someone who is new to the site) four different times because he accessed it from home, from work, from a friend's house, and from the local internet cafe. Other similar issues arose... until Google Analytics was born.

Wildly popular, Google Analytics takes the data from AWStats to a new level. They build in more features to explain the true meaning behind the numbers. As an Anttix client, you enjoy automatic enrollment in this valuable service, once your site is launched. From that point, you have dozens of options for what type of information you want to review. You can even specify whom you want to have access to the reports, and at what level. Ultimately, you should establish a specific goal. "To sell more goods/services" is not specific, though. Rather, choose a measurable goal, such as increasing sales by 15% over the next year, or expanding the circle of visitors to include those from the U.K..

With your tools in place and your goal in mind, you can now begin to delve into your personal stats. Whether you have one site or multiple sites, you can set a date range to explore the following external facts:

  • Number of Visits and Page Views: Shows your activity range in a line graph.
  • New vs. Returning Visitors: Breaks down the percentages in a pie graph.
  • Geo Map Overlay: Depicts where in the world (literally) your visitors are from. Hello, Madagascar!

Once you know these parameters, you can examine your finer marketing statistics:

  • Sources: Traces the paths that brought visitors to you. Welcome to the sophisticated version of the "How did you find out about us?" survey.
  • Entrances/Exits: Tells at what point within your site a visitor came in... and when he/she bailed.
  • Keyword Conversion: Acknowledges which words acted as the bait that led visitors to your goal.
  • Return on Investment (ROI) Reports: You're putting your dollars out there. What's bringing them back in? What's not?

To learn more about the many capabilities of Google Analytics, and how your business can benefit from practical data analysis, contact us or pick up a copy of Google Analytics by Mary E. Tyler and Jerri L. Ledford.

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