With Thanksgiving approaching, most have pushed aside the turkey and stuffing and are focusing on the upcoming sales. Everyone is trying to get a head start on shopping, and Black Friday is slowly becoming Black Thursday. Well, maybe not completely Black Thursday since it’s still Thanksgiving. More like a Cloudy Thursday and a Black Friday. But, what about avoiding all the hassle and waiting for Cyber Monday? You can do all your shopping in the comfort of your own home. There are no lines, no crazed shoppers, and no elbows to the face. It sounds like waiting for the sales are worth it.

However, just as Black Friday is slowly inching into Thursday, Cyber Monday is slowing inching to Saturdays. In addition, with businesses offering selective in-store deals, cyber stores are now offering separate online sales. Each is competing with the other to win the consumer’s heart.

While I have never been a Black Friday shopper, I have worked in plenty of retail stores on the infamous day enough to offer a few suggestions to keep in mind:

  1. Create a team. The more people you have to spread out, the better the chances are of getting the item you would like first. Too many times I’ve seen people shopping in a group asking each other questions such as, “Is this the one he wanted or is it this one?” Whether you use walkie-talkies or push-to-talk, communicate which stores you are at and where you are going next. Divide and conquer, trust me, it works.
  2. Know what you are buying. In relation to number one, most people have no idea as to what item they want. Sure, they might have a vague idea, but that doesn’t work on this eat-or-be-eaten day. When looking in local flyers or even online flyers, there will be an item number listed with each product. This is your golden ticket. This will ensure you are getting the exact item you want. Sure you’re going to have to play a hunt-for-numbers game in the store, but you’ll walk out with something you know your loved one will enjoy.
  3. Use both online and in-store mediums. We all know that every team has one of those nerdy tech characters. Find one for this day. If you can’t find one, designate one. Place this person in an area with great Wi-Fi reception on his/her tablet, iPhone, or laptop and have this person shop online. While the rest of the team is conquering the stores, this person will be conquering the internet. It’s another way to divide and conquer.
  4. Be kind to the workers. As someone who has been a cashier for years on Black Friday, let me tell you to be kind to the workers. They do not want to be there anymore than you do. They have about a dozen people asking questions at any given time. Most of them were just hired a month prior as ‘holiday help’ and don’t have the answer to any of your questions anyway. Yelling at them does not help. In fact, it does nothing. You will not receive personal assistance on this day. These workers cannot leave their station to show you where the luggage is located. Again, this is not the worker’s fault. Be kind to them and they will be kind to you.

Now that you have received insider knowledge, I wish everyone the best of luck in this shopping season. While it’s going to be frustrating from now until Christmas, remember that it is still the holiday season to spread joy and cheer. Be thankful for those in your life and be happy that you have made it to the end of this wonderful year. Season’s Greetings!

Jessica Falkowski is the Writer at Flying Cork.

In a previous post, we addressed how Google is fine-tuning their search algorithm for longer, more complicated searches to provide the best results to their users. When looking at the big picture, this is just the most recent change in a long line of updates from the search giant. Though there has been a large increase in the number of these changes recently, there are doubtlessly more changes coming down the pipe, as Google continues to move closer toward providing higher quality search results. What does this mean to your business? One thing: Don’t get comfortable.

It’s no secret that SEO has changed drastically over the past few years, and Google has proved it’s not afraid to roll out an update that throws conventional SEO wisdom out the window. It wasn’t long ago that copywriters needed to write with a specific percentage of keyword density, and buying links on link directories could prop up your page rank. These types of practices just don’t work anymore, and your SEO strategy has to be flexible enough to adapt to these and other changes in the landscape. There is no magic bullet in SEO; only solid strategy.

So, how do you build a plan for SEO in this constantly-changing environment? Start with the basics:

1) Develop a solid content strategy: This is by far the most important piece. Content is king in
SEO and should be relevant, well-thought out, and implemented correctly across your entire

2) Optimize your web presence: Make sure your users can connect with you across multiple
channels. Occasionally overlooked, social and mobile are very important channels for SEO.
Consider making your site responsive and investing more energy into your social presence.

3) Out with the old, in with the new: If your site was built using any of the older methods of
SEO, you may need to re-evaluate their effectiveness and remove what is no longer relevant.
Keyword stuffing, directory backlinks, paid links; all of these should be purged to avoid any
possible damage to your SERP’s.

Above all, remain focused on how SEO is changing. Preparing your site for new algorithm changes is important, but even more important is focusing on why the changes are happening in the first place. In this ever-changing landscape, you have to look farther down the road to avoid the potholes.

Mike Perri is the Digital Account Executive at Flying Cork.

If you haven’t noticed, Flying Cork has gotten a new facelift. Our new responsive designed site was the pivotal first step into truly adopting the methodologies and strategies we recommend to our clients. The truth is, over the past six months, Flying Cork has shifted our focus from a full-fledged media agency to one that is 100% focused on interactive & digital marketing.

Why the switch?

At Flying Cork, we believe all insights are in data that syncs across systems. Digital marketing is the best way to quantify and measure dollars in and dollars out. To do great work, we knew we needed focused experts on staff whose skills and abilities were tailored towards all aspects of digital marketing. Simply put, our goal is to show our customers their marketing ROI on all digital initiatives. We do this whether that’s through a new website, SEO strategy, adoption of a marketing automation solution or improvements in their paid search efforts. We ensure your data is correct and accurate from your web analytics package all the way down to your CRM.

To avoid being hypocrites, Flying Cork is fully adopting and implementing every strategy we recommend to our clients. We’re taking what we preach and implementing it into our company’s digital marketing strategy. This started with a fully responsive website, but it certainly doesn’t stop there.

Moving forward every week, we will discuss a new strategy or tactic we have implemented into our own marketing efforts here at Flying Cork, along with expectations and results. Topics will range from why we chose Hubspot over Pardot for our marketing automation efforts to what the latest Google Algorithm update did to our rankings. This series is going to be 100% transparent, because at the end of the day, there is no secret sauce to a successful digital strategy; it’s all about execution (ok and it makes for some great unique content too…see full transparency). Until next time…

Dan Monarko is the Director of Digital Media & Data Integration at Flying Cork.

There is an active interest in searching for health and medical content online. The number of searches and visits to health-related sites is well into the hundreds of millions with WebMD’s network of sites reaching an average of 86 million visitors per month. According to a current Pew Research Center project, 72% of internet users looked online for health information within the last year (2013) and 77% of those same users began their exploration on a search engine. Currently, this trend is likely to grow and spike as health reform continues to spur conversations online and as older generations search the internet more frequently. This data and turbulent online environment are both signals that a strategic search optimization plan is becoming an increasingly vital marketing tool for the health and medical industry.

No matter what opinion you stand by, health reform is one of the most outspoken topics online, from news articles to social media, personal blogs and forums. Internet users are seeking fresh content as well as authoritative information. Competitors will be working hard to own keywords and queries related to the health exchange, especially on a state and local level. After analyzing and comparing your rankings, you may notice that the search volume for keywords you’d like to rank for is extremely high. However, it is important to remember that competition is exceptionally aggressive. Along with producing timely and accurate content on a regular basis, it would be valuable to discern some long-tail keywords to focus on. Since we are talking about health care, some ideas to start with are specific ailments or relevant questions that are receiving a lot of searches but are in striking distance. For more on keyword research, Moz is a great resource.

It is also important keep varied user demographics in mind for SEO efforts. Search, mobile search and social media have been focused primarily on younger internet users in the past. Yet SEO and digital marketing efforts that exclude or ignore senior generations are becoming a serious mistake. The personas of internet users are already changing and multiplying- even social media platforms are seeing their average demographic rapidly maturing each year. Termed ‘silver surfers,’ these users are increasingly tech-savvy and what some consider more valuable than any other demographic. According to Gartner Fellow David Furlonger, “The younger market has only linear growth potential and decreasing purchasing power, while the silver surfers offer exponential growth opportunities and growing purchasing potential.” Since health and medical concerns significantly affect these silver surfers, SEO should not be downplayed due to a more mature age group.

Keeping a constant pulse on SEO and actively assessing ranking results, linking opportunities, and competition could produce short- and long-term successes for health care or medical businesses. With interest in health and medical related topics peaking and a valuable, evolving audience actively searching online, SEO greatly increases exposure and trust with potential clients.

Samantha Barnes is the SEO and Content Manager at Flying Cork.

It’s no secret that people enjoy play. We spend our free time, away from our work, at play. In fact, as of 2008, a significant portion of the average American’s income went toward entertainment spending ranging from companion animals and their care to video games. We want to make ourselves happy, and play, in its many forms, accomplishes it.

We should engage our users in their free time by providing them with a tool that is simultaneously useful and enjoyable to use.

This enjoyment goes beyond aesthetics. Our specialty is not in the realm of creating beauty, but instead creating functional beauty. As such, a web app should not only look nice to attract a user, but function in such a way that both keeps the user from leaving in frustration and retains the user in the long-term.

Gamification: an introduction

Gamification is widely defined as using play to engage users in non-play situations. To avoid getting into the neuroscience, we will operate under the following explanation: Completing goals and earning rewards are addictive. Once we earn a reward, we want to earn more. Thus, to build engagement, one must set goals for the user and reward the user for continuing to use the app.

Who is gamifying, and how does it work?

Many existing applications and services have used gamification to great effect.

As an example of how gamification works, fitness app Fitocracy leverages gamification to encourage users toward physical fitness through incremental (such as “experience points”) and cumulative rewards (such as trophies or achievements). All of this is wrapped into a social platform for tracking exercise, which on its own, would be a mundane, almost maligned activity.

How can we gamify our app?

Quantifying something as “fun” is extraordinarily subjective. However, there are a couple rules that one can follow to promote an engaging gamified experience.

Offer Encouragement

While the user uses your application, they should be guided along by positive language, encouraging them to keep working at what they’re working at, or telling them that they’re doing well.

Offer Rewards

Whether tangible or intangible, offer the user rewards. Many modern video games offer points, achievements, or in-game items as a reward. Similarly, apps should offer similar achievements or points for bragging rights. Some even offer discounts or free products as incentives.

Game Over

Play is the way to stay in your user’s day. Give them an enjoyable product, and they will reward your efforts with repeat visits and higher user buy-in!

Tim Snyder is the Front-End Developer at Flying Cork.

New Terminology in Advertising is never in short supply. CEOs and VPs that have attended the latest trendy marketing conference returned excited about the new strategies for increasing or measuring advertising and marketing performance. After the strategy discussions and implementation, there is sometimes a letdown when the initiative fails to deliver in the test phase or can’t be implemented because of integration challenges. If you have experienced this, you like many others may have just fell for buzzword bait. Don’t feel bad though, we all know how big data affects our KPI’s. That gamification is essential to achieve synergy and gain social commerce across all earned media.

Then there is inbound. For many of us, we hear, “inbound, inbound, inbound,” so many times we are sick of it. Most would quip, “you mean content marketing or content strategy?” No matter what your buzz word is, this strategy is legit, because you will be pulling a consumer toward a message rather than push one at them.

So, why is there a buzz around inbound/content and marketing/content strategy? Because traditional advertising is constrained by cost, time, space and is difficult to measure. TV is expensive, radio is a fight for airtime, and billboards are limited by physical space. Also, times have changed; we skip ads with our DVR, and pay a premium for streaming to remain ad-free. And, when you do hear of something that peeks your interest, maybe from a social post, news feed, or word of mouth, what is the first thing you do? You search via whatever device that is handy and start making decisions based on search results.

This is where inbound gets fun. Why? Because clever Inbound Marketers can make sure that their clients are findable throughout the search results for short & long-tail search phrases. You see, true inbound is about being findable by your target audiences. That is exactly what inbound does; it helps your company be found, by the ideal consumer. By understanding buyer personas, leveraging social content, keywords, and every other tool, you can wrap a brand around consumer interest. In short, I search for what interests me online, and I find your brand wrapped around my interests. I find the content I am looking for conveniently, and I consider myself lucky I stumbled upon it. I think to myself, “Score,” when in reality, that score is one more for inbound marketing and that is buzz worthy.

Justin Sperandeo is the Account Supervisor at Flying Cork.

With the multitude of different web-enabled devices in use today, a responsive web app can help you reach a wide range of users while maintaining a single code base. If you’ve decided to take on the challenge of building a responsive web app, here are some tips to help you get started.

Mobile First is Essential

One of the biggest challenges of building a responsive web app is considering how the app will work across a range of devices with various capabilities and screen sizes. Rather than trying to consider all devices at the same time, think about the smallest screen first. The limited screen size of a mobile device forces you to prioritize the features of your app so you can decide what is most important. With the core features already established, you can consider how the app might be enhanced as additional space becomes available on larger screens. A mobile first approach also helps you to keep the app’s UI simple and clear from the start, which serves as a solid foundation for progressive enhancement.

Modularize Components

With the features of your app established, you will probably notice there are design patterns or functional components that are reused in various contexts throughout the app. Building the app in a modular fashion can help keep the code clean and the app’s components transportable. By breaking down the app into individual modules that can be combined to form any number of possible layouts, you will keep the app flexible and easy to maintain.

Add Responsive JavaScript

CSS media queries can be used to adjust the presentation of content based on screen size and various other features. Unfortunately, applying different JavaScript functionality based on media queries isn’t so easy. One solution is to use the window.matchMedia method to apply JavaScript to certain breakpoints. However, that method can become difficult to maintain on larger projects since it requires the developer to keep track of breakpoints in two places: CSS and JavaScript. One alternative is the open source js-breakpoints library built by 14islands. This library syncs CSS media queries to breakpoints in JavaScript, so you only need to maintain media queries in one place. Using one of these techniques can help you add layers of functionality to your responsive web app based on device features.

By approaching the project mobile first, keeping components modular, and adding functionality based on device features, you will be on your way to building a responsive web app. This not only provides a consistent user experience on a variety of devices, but also can be easily maintained and enhanced with future updates.

Breanna Wong is the Front-End Developer at Flying Cork.

The Holiday season is upon us which can only mean one thing…lots and lots of email will be flooding the inbox. Make your message stand out by following these quick tips to make this season merry and bright!

1. Test Your Holiday Subject Lines. Offer your subscribers a mix of promotional, whimsical and informational tones to see which performs best. Also, evaluate your subject line length. A solid subject line can be the difference between a subscriber opening or deleting your email, so it is important to understand what appeals to your audience.

2. Emphasize Holiday Email Navigation and Footers. By highlighting a “Gifts” link or section in the navigation you are catering to your subscribers will to shop allowing for an opportunity to increase revenue. Add shipping date deadlines, store hours or customer service options to the footer of your Holiday email to encourage subscribers to spend more time viewing content below the fold.

3. Design a Responsive Email. Accommodate your audience by offering a responsive design that is both functional and aesthetic. It’s no secret that it’s a busy time of year, so make it easy for subscribers to view and interact with your Holiday email message.

4. Segment Your Lists. According to Exact Target’s blog post titled, “The Email Marketing Holiday Calendar”, subscribers are expected to receive an average of 52 promotional emails during the Holiday season. Make sure that your message is reaching the right audience by segmenting your lists. This will help minimize unsubscribes and maximize engagement.

5. Send a Message of Good Tidings and Cheer. Take the time to thank your subscribers for being part of your Holiday email campaign. Compose a simple Holiday greeting to nurture relationships with subscribers and ensure their continued loyalty in the New Year.

Krystal Clark is the Email Account Manager at Flying Cork.

When I think of the dynamic of the Marketing & Design team members, I always think of the movie Gladiator. Proximo states, “Listen to me. Learn from me. I was not the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you will win your freedom.” Now by no means am I suggesting you grab the closest sword and take on your front-end developer at the nearest Coliseum. However, I do believe it is vital for us marketers to win over our design & development teams to truly make headway in your marketing efforts.

Below are a few simple rules to live by in order to ensure your relationship with your design & development team allows for successful implementation of your marketing strategies.

1) Never use the words “make it pop” or “jazz it up a bit”

Nothing else to explain here, just never use those words!

2) Communicate what you want both verbally and visually.

I am in no way, shape, or form a designer, but I make the effort to give the designer some rough ideas as to what I am thinking for a certain project or landing page. A great tool to do this is Snag-It (give the 30 day free trial a try; your life will never be the same). Not only do you give the design team a glimpse into your vision, but you also give them fodder for ongoing humiliation and ridicule due to your poor attempt at design.

3) Get their buy-in

Sometimes design and development team members get the crazy idea that we are just giving them busy work. Everything we do in marketing has a specific goal, whether that is to increase engagement or conversion rates on a landing page. Tell your team the purpose of a specific effort, your hypothesis, and assumptions associated with the effort. At this point, the team becomes vested in helping achieve these goals and add a fresh set of eyes and thoughts to improve on the initiative.

4) Share the results of their efforts

Share the results with your team. They took the time and effort to work on your project, make sure they know if it was a success or not. This will get the wheels turning for the next steps or providing critical knowledge to apply towards future projects.

5) Make an effort to learn their language

By no means am I telling marketers to learn to code; however, you should make an effort to understand terminology & basic HTML. A great resource to get started is Code Academy; take a few basic courses and you will be able to immediately communicate more effectively.

Designers are the first line of offense towards successful implementation of marketing strategies. The less friction between teams will ensure a quicker turnaround of projects and a better end product.

Dan Monarko is the Director of Digital Media & Data Integration at Flying Cork.

Patent wars between smartphone manufacturers have been waging fiercely since smartphone usage began to surge in 2009. Since then, lawsuits and counter-lawsuits have been escalating to what is now the most brutal attack yet on Google by its major competitors. This latest patent claim expands beyond mobile technology to include Google’s main source of revenue, AdWords. Digital advertisers should be aware and follow the news attentively – the landscape of paid search and display advertising may change drastically depending on the outcome of this case.

Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Sony and Ericsson formed what is now Rockstar Consorium Inc. in 2011. They bid against Google for a trove of over 6,000 technology patents left behind by the now-bankrupt company Nortel. After an initial bid of $900 million, the auction soared to the amount of $4.5 billion with Rockstar as the victor. According to the case file, “[d]espite losing in its attempt to acquire the patents-in-suit at auction, Google has infringed and continues to infringe the patents-in-suit.”

Ultimately, this is a battle for your advertising dollars. These patents-in-suit revolve around Google’s method of matching a user’s search request and user data to generate relevant advertising – the foundation of AdWords. No estimates or figures have been released yet, but one can only imagine how much monetary damage Rockstar is seeking. In 2012, Google surpassed $50 billion in revenue with 95% coming from advertising. Since SEO does not deal with paid advertisements, the claims do not involve organic search results and page ranking. However, if Google fails to win this lawsuit, the Yahoo Bing Network (a Microsoft partnership and AdWords’ main competitor) is likely ready and waiting to take its place as the new digital advertising giant. Could Rockstar’s eventual goal be a future of BingAds on Google search results and display network?

Samantha Barnes is the SEO and Content Manager at Flying Cork.

Since the birth of design, trends within it have come and gone. One of the latest trends to arrive is the long shadow. Long shadow is a trend that started immediately after flat design; it adds a 45-degree shadow, which is far more dramatic than a drop shadow to an icon or logo. It is meant to give the icon or logo some depth and be a solution between skeuomorphism, which is making a design concept look like its real-world counterpart (giving a notebook application a simulated leather cover) and flat design.

Some people call it an evolution of flat design, which is an already established, very popular style.

Flat design was created due to responsive design and websites now being viewed on smaller screens such as phones and tablets. Flat design makes the website faster, more functional and is in response to some of the issues that skeuomorphism presents. With more and more people viewing websites on mobile phones, load time is a very important issue since the average person will not stay on a website if it takes more than 4 seconds to load.

Long shadow adds some depth to a flat element, but it presents an issue which is load speed. It is purely added for aesthetic reasons and does not increase usability. However, it does make the page load time slower since it is an extra element, which does have to be loaded. The additional load time may be minimal but every byte counts. Being a web designer, the most important task is to not only make the design fit the content of the website and be aesthetically pleasing, but also be a well-functioning website once live.

Flat design is a design style created out of need. Long shadow is a unique take on design; it should be used sparingly. If long shadow is over used, it will become a nuisance which hinders usability and thus will eventually be abandoned.

Joe Ickes is the Interactive Designer at Flying Cork.

Remember back in the day when things were simpler? Web design was confined to tabular layouts, local fonts and bandwidth-sucking web 2.0 buttons? Desktop was king and smartphones were still years away. Fast forward to now; devices of all shapes and sizes have but one common thread…content. People want to be able to access the same information from any device, and not some watered down version.

Enter Responsive Design.

With new techniques come new challenges, especially in a team environment. As an interactive designer, knowing some basic html and css can come in handy when you’re designing. But when you get into the development phase, a little bit of flexibility goes a long way.

Designing in the browser.

Now, I’m not going to tell people how and where they should conceptualize their ideas, I’m a firm believer in finding what works for you. However, I can tell you that I prefer to build my ideas in Photoshop first so that I can experiment visually and not in code. While I stand firm on this, there may be a place in my workflow for designing in the browser just yet. Getting back to the idealism of pixel perfection and preserving the integrity of our designs, responsive design will force us to change the way we work.

Working as a team.

The roles of designer and developer are now intertwined to the point that a designer can no longer just hand off their design and call it a day. Designing responsively means considering how your design is going to be viewed at a plethora of sizes. Setting up comps or even wireframes for every breakpoint is cost prohibitive, and even if we did, you cannot always anticipate how your design is going to look at every size without going through the motions of resizing your browser window and testing on different devices. That’s where designing in the browser comes in.

Should a developer know how to design?

Just as interactive designers are well served to understand the structure of code; it would be helpful for a developer to have a trained eye when it comes to design. In reality though, this sometimes takes even the most naturally gifted designer years to perfect.

What’s the solution?

The solution is having an ongoing collaboration between designer and developer. Being willing to throw off the shackles of pixel perfect design and adjust our designs in development ensures our design will be effective at every break point and on every device.

Trish Duffy is the Senior Interactive Designer at Flying Cork.