eduWeb 2017: Beacon Shares SEO & Accessibility, Compliance Insights

Considered by many to be the go-to conference for Higher Ed professionals in enrollment management, marketing and IT, the annual eduWeb Digital Summit was one of the year’s most highly anticipated events. This past August’s conference did not disappoint as over 500 attendees from 15 countries and 42 states converged on Boston for networking, presentations, and workshops designed to provide those in attendance with the tools needed to elevate their digital game to the next level.

SEO for Higher Ed

Beacon was pleased to play a significant role in this year’s program. On day one of the eduWeb conference, Andrea Cole, Beacon’s Director of Digital Marketing and Logan Ray, Beacon’s Lead SEO Strategist, shared their insights into Google Analytics, Google Site Search and the ways in which these tools can be leveraged to boost your school’s online presence and help you reach your marketing goals.

Entitled ‘No Results’ No More! Practical Strategies the Pros Use to Improve Site Search and SEO for Higher Ed, this hands-on workshop provided attendees with insights and expert instruction in:

  • Making their websites more visible through Google and internal site search.
  • Optimizing content for optimal visibility in same.
  • Monitoring results to drive improvement and avoid content theft and dilution.

In the event you missed the workshop or wish to review the content covered within, you can peruse the slideshow associated with the presentation below.

Accessibility for Higher Ed

Beacon was represented on day two of the conference by Keana Lynch, Director of UX Design & Development. Entitled Content and Email Marketing Track: The Administrators Guide to Accessibility: Compliance and Beyond, this presentation focused on the growing importance of accessibility and how one can achieve the required 508 compliance. This presentation touched on the major project phases of analysis, design, content, development, and testing.

If you missed Keana’s session, or wish to review the content covered within, you can view the slideshow below.

Andrea Cole, Logan Ray, Keana Lynch, and the entire Beacon team wish to thank eduWeb and all those who attended this year’s Digital Summit. We look forward to seeing you again next year!

Heather Hedges is a Digital Content Analyst, working with Beacon’s clients on website strategy and design. She also manages Beacon’s internal marketing efforts for our websites, email campaigns, and tradeshows. Heather brings over seven years of experience in Higher Education, most recently as the Marketing Communications Manager at Ithaca College.
By | 2017-08-21T07:49:32+00:00 August 15th, 2017|Beacon News|Comments Off on eduWeb 2017: Beacon Shares SEO & Accessibility, Compliance Insights

Our new website has arrived!

I’ve got to hand it to my team here at Beacon.  They wanted to redesign our website and asked me to give them some leeway, politely saying, ”Let us practice what we preach… and own it!”  Okay, I’ll admit it.  I tend to hover over the website.  So I stayed out of it (for the most part) and they delivered – big time!

“Creative Design.  Powerful Web Technology.  Smarter Marketing.”  That’s Beacon, and that’s exactly what the new site represents.

New Beacon Home Page

New Beacon Home Page

As a web technology & marketing firm, it’s always a challenge to redesign your own website when priorities rest with your existing clients and the new clients knocking on the door.  But the Beacon Team (and I mean nearly the entire team) stepped up and made time to clearly take the Beacon website to the next level with…

  • Looping Video for our home page impact area.
  • More imagery and branding. Less content.
  • Simplified, cleaner navigation to our services, products and who we serve.
  • More examples of our work across a variety of specialty areas on the home page and in our portfolio.
  • Cleaner integration of the Beacon Blog on our home page.
  • Much more effective marketing approach incorporated into the website to lead visitors through the right information to various conversion points, or calls-to-action (contact form, audit requests, downloadable PDFs, etc).
  • Full utilization of our SITEXPRESS product, coupled with more extensive tracking using Google Analytics Universal features.

After almost 20 years of business, with clients in ~45 U.S. states and 5 countries and a wide offering of services and products, there’s a lot of information to organize effectively so that it’s both manageable and easily digestible. To accomplish this, we stepped through the same process that we provide for our customers – first, by spending significant time in the Strategy Phase to evaluate all the underlying data, gathering insights to drive the new design.  The Design & Development Phases were expedited thanks to the SITEXPRESS product, but still required ample time for designing all the creative elements to stay on brand and deliver the messaging.  We then completed the process with some custom development and testing to ensure SEO-friendliness, Google Analytics tracking accuracy, 508 compliance, and cross browser & device compatibility (10 different browser/device combinations).

Quite an effort!  We are already looking at some cool new features for Phase 2 to be delivered later this year!

Mark Dirks
Mark Dirks is the CEO for Beacon Technologies, but claims that Senior Web Business Consultant is more fitting. With a Masters Degree from Kansas State in Information Systems and a BS from Wake Forest in Mathematics/Computer Science, his passion is helping clients get the most out of their website and internet technology. Mark co-founded Beacon after spending a couple of years with RJ Reynolds and 13 years at AT&T. Outside of Beacon, he is an avid racquetball and softball player, while also coaching youth baseball and football.
By | 2017-07-21T13:22:20+00:00 July 20th, 2017|Beacon News|Comments Off on Our new website has arrived!

WFU Selects Beacon to Teach Graduate Level Analytics Course

Last year, when I discovered that Wake Forest’s Business School was starting a Master’s Program in Business Analytics (MSBA), I had to see how I could help. After all, it’s my alma mater AND analytics – two of my favorite things! So I was thrilled when our many discussions and planning sessions led to Wake selecting Beacon to teach its graduate level course in Digital Marketing Analytics this Spring.

Farrell Hall at WFU Analytics has been a critical component of Beacon’s offering since almost the day the company started back in 1998. It’s why Beacon is one of the longest active Google Analytics Certified Partners in the country.  The entire Beacon Digital Marketing Team is involved with this class, led by Gus Kroustalis, Beacon’s Lead Analytics Strategist and Andrea Cole, Beacon’s Director of Digital Marketing.  The team meets regularly internally to carefully plan each class around important topics, crafting in-class and homework assignments that expose the students to real world tools and thinking.  For most companies nowadays, their website is the centerpiece of their marketing strategy.  So this course emphasizes Google Analytics and walks the students through 7 intense weeks that includes

  • Key Metrics for the Web
  • Consumer Targeting
  • Engagement Analysis
  • Channel Analysis (SEO & Paid Search)
  • Attribution Models
  • Conversion Testing

The demand for critical thinking skills with respect to analytics data is enormous in today’s business world. Students that have tangible experience will hit the ground running and be able to provide immediate value to their employers.  Certainly, technology and the widespread availability of data are drivers, but it’s also about “brain-power”, the ability to analyze data with all the available tools to gain insights, formulate strategy and communicate well-founded recommendations that will improve ROI and/or decision-making.

Companies are clamoring for critical and creative thinkers. Graduates of Wake Forest’s MSBA program will certainly fill this demand.  The students will experience a rigorous, hands-on course that exposes them to actual live data from several of Beacon’s clients that have graciously agreed to participate.  Although they will learn many different tools, the emphasis will be on stimulating their business minds to develop intelligent insights, drive creative ideas and improve business.

It’s exciting that Wake’s MSBA students have the opportunity to work alongside Beacon’s recognized experts in Digital Marketing to get first-hand experience and knowledge. It will certainly make their resumes stand out.  Likewise, my DMS Team is equally excited to collaborate with, and learn from, the high-caliber students for which Wake Forest University is known.

Beacon's Gus Kroustalis Teaching

Mark Dirks
Mark Dirks is the CEO for Beacon Technologies, but claims that Senior Web Business Consultant is more fitting. With a Masters Degree from Kansas State in Information Systems and a BS from Wake Forest in Mathematics/Computer Science, his passion is helping clients get the most out of their website and internet technology. Mark co-founded Beacon after spending a couple of years with RJ Reynolds and 13 years at AT&T. Outside of Beacon, he is an avid racquetball and softball player, while also coaching youth baseball and football.
By | 2017-08-15T16:00:39+00:00 April 21st, 2017|Beacon News, Digital Marketing, Google Analytics|Comments Off on WFU Selects Beacon to Teach Graduate Level Analytics Course

New Arrival! See the Birth…

After 8.5 hours of hard labor at M3 on St. Patrick’s Day, our newborn officially arrived at 3:20pm, weighing in at a hefty 4,621 pounds. Under trusted and constant care, Team M3 delivered a bright, healthy and colorful addition to the Beacon family.  We are so thankful for all the attention we are receiving for our carefully wrapped bundle of joy, which we’ve named “The BITS-Mobile”.

Beacon’s IT Services (“BITS”), a division of Beacon Technologies, primarily serves the Triad area (Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point). “The BITS-Mobile will not only provide transportation for our technical staff, but also transport equipment such as servers and desktops to our client sites when necessary,” says Mark Dirks, Beacon’s CEO.  “Since our BITS clients are mostly Triad-based, our marketing team recommended a more traditional ‘mobile’ marketing approach through vehicle graphics for local brand visibility.”

Matthews Mobile Media (“M3”) has an incredible team and worked with our design team to produce a really creative and professional design. John Scaramuzzo, Beacon’s co-founder and COO, leads the newly dubbed “BITS” Division and is anticipating continued growth after seeing the client base double over the last 12 months.  “Although my team constantly monitors our clients’ technical infrastructure to maintain system health and deter technical problems, there are times when the staff needs to be on site for installations and to work on specific issues,” says Scaramuzzo.  “BITS is essentially an extension of our client’s organization and it’s important that we can be on-site within minutes.  So the BITS-Mobile is a welcome addition to the Team!”


Special Note from Matthews Mobile Media (M3):

Congratulations!  It’s a BITS mobile!!!

We have been clients of Beacon for several years and have benefited from their expert team’s proactive service.  There is no doubt that the personal attention and dedication to client growth is a reflection of their mission.  What a privilege to be a part of the birth of their next generation by helping bring the BITS-Mobile to life.  To us, it is a natural fit because we specialize in mobile.  We help companies from all over express themselves through vehicle and environmental graphics.

We like to turn heads for our clients; that’s what we do! So helping to design, create, produce and apply that ‘outerwear’ for our Beacon’s newborn gives us an exceptional rush!  Who knew IT could be so sexy?  Well… we did ;)

Thank you, Beacon, for letting us outfit your newest addition!  All of us at Team M3 look forward to watching the BITS-Mobile grow up and have a little brother or sister very soon!

By | 2017-06-16T12:42:10+00:00 March 27th, 2017|Beacon News|Comments Off on New Arrival! See the Birth…

The 12 Days of Christmas (Beacon Style)

The Beacon Web Team was busy this year with customers all over the country!  Our “spin” on this holiday classic covers most of it!  Enjoy!  beacon holiday card

2016 Beacon Holiday Card - Jingle

Mark Dirks
Mark Dirks is the CEO for Beacon Technologies, but claims that Senior Web Business Consultant is more fitting. With a Masters Degree from Kansas State in Information Systems and a BS from Wake Forest in Mathematics/Computer Science, his passion is helping clients get the most out of their website and internet technology. Mark co-founded Beacon after spending a couple of years with RJ Reynolds and 13 years at AT&T. Outside of Beacon, he is an avid racquetball and softball player, while also coaching youth baseball and football.
By | 2016-12-20T14:23:50+00:00 December 20th, 2016|Beacon News|Comments Off on The 12 Days of Christmas (Beacon Style)

Michigan State University Selects Beacon for Web Development Services

We are thrilled to announce that Michigan State University has selected Beacon for a 3-year web services contract (w/ 2-year extension option) that includes the University’s web development (Cascade CMS Support), web hosting and analytics. Beacon will support over 30 different organizations within the Michigan State University system. Due to the recent significant increase in web demand from these organizations, MSU is partnering with Beacon to support expected continued demand over the next 3-5 years in order to increase the continuity, quality, accessibility and security of MSU websites.

MSU Managing brand, quality, accessibility and the sheer demand for web services is causing colleges and universities to consider longer-term, dedicated web partnerships. The Beacon Team is excited about supporting Michigan State’s web projects over the next several years, but also appreciative that such a prominent university recognizes our deep experience in Higher Ed for integrated web services. Emily Ledbetter, Account Executive at Beacon, worked on the contract and will now be focused on all the various campus organizations to build relationships as well as the work queue for the Beacon Team.

Mark Dirks
Mark Dirks is the CEO for Beacon Technologies, but claims that Senior Web Business Consultant is more fitting. With a Masters Degree from Kansas State in Information Systems and a BS from Wake Forest in Mathematics/Computer Science, his passion is helping clients get the most out of their website and internet technology. Mark co-founded Beacon after spending a couple of years with RJ Reynolds and 13 years at AT&T. Outside of Beacon, he is an avid racquetball and softball player, while also coaching youth baseball and football.
By | 2017-07-20T09:19:31+00:00 December 20th, 2016|Beacon News|Comments Off on Michigan State University Selects Beacon for Web Development Services

burton+BURTON Contracts Beacon for New Website

Burton and Burton, the world’s largest balloon and coordinating gift distributor (~15,000 products), has contracted with Beacon to overhaul their online store. While many websites change every couple of years, Burton and Burton’s current site has experienced a solid 6 year run that has seen continuous year-over-year growth. Based on deep studies of the underlying analytics, the new website will not only upgrade to new, leading edge ecommerce features, but also facilitate expedited growth through greater reach and engagement.

We are big believers in data-driven decision-making, our digital marketing team did an extensive analysis of the website data within Google Analytics. They then collaborated with our design and technical teams to lay out a strategy based on insights from the data that will drive the new design and technical improvements.

The new site will be constructed to align with current SEO protocol, which has changed dramatically over the last year… especially as Google moved to heavier emphasis on content relevance. The new website will also bring more visual appeal to the wide range of products offered by Burton and Burton, coupled with new features that improve usability and the entire online shopping experience. The primary technical platform will be basically the same with Beacon’s BeCommerce product wrapped with Cascade CMS, combining the best of both products – flexible product/order management and flexible, easy-to-use content management that is also search-engine friendly.

Mark Dirks
Mark Dirks is the CEO for Beacon Technologies, but claims that Senior Web Business Consultant is more fitting. With a Masters Degree from Kansas State in Information Systems and a BS from Wake Forest in Mathematics/Computer Science, his passion is helping clients get the most out of their website and internet technology. Mark co-founded Beacon after spending a couple of years with RJ Reynolds and 13 years at AT&T. Outside of Beacon, he is an avid racquetball and softball player, while also coaching youth baseball and football.
By | 2016-12-21T10:31:59+00:00 December 16th, 2016|Beacon News|Comments Off on burton+BURTON Contracts Beacon for New Website

A Great Time at HighEdWeb 2016

Earlier this month I joined a couple of my Beacon colleagues at HighEdWeb 2016 in Memphis, TN. They told me many times leading up to it that HighEdWeb is a great conference. Having experienced the conference for the first time now, I wholeheartedly agree.

After helping set up the Beacon booth with our branding, free t-shirts, and YETI cooler giveaway drawing, I made my way to the first breakout session of the morning. I had the honor of presenting a session on how to avoid higher education website redesign pitfalls. The slides can be viewed below. There were a lot of other engaging sessions throughout the conference, some that I was able to attend, and others that attendees spoke about.

Throughout the conference, I met many higher education professionals, both on the marketing and web development/IT sides. The recent challenges and upcoming projects shared by many of them seemed to echo a clear sentiment in higher education: Providing a quality digital experience is critical to each institution’s well-being, as is the measurement and analysis of that experience.

The HighEdWeb conference staff, as well as the support staff at the convention center, made the entire event run smooth. During a little bit of downtime, we were able to experience a little bit of what makes Memphis a unique destination. At the top of the list were some of their famous pork ribs.

At the end of the last full day, the conference hosted a social outing at AutoZone Park, home of the Memphis Birds baseball team, AAA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. A number of us joined together on the field for a marathon kickball game. With live music playing from the concession area, and the NLCS on the big screen, what a fun and unique experience it was.

The conference concluded with a high point, the keynote address by Levar Burton. He spoke so passionately about his mentors, and empowering the youth in our communities with literacy and the arts.

As a last time before heading home, our group made a point to briefly visit the National Civil Rights Museum, built at the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

We were thrilled to participate in HighEdWeb 2016, and excited to experience the great city of Memphis. We look forward to working with many higher education institutions over the next year, and then reuniting with many of them at HighEdWeb 2017 in Hartford, CT.

Gus Kroustalis
Gus has an MBA from Elon University and brings seven years of experience in sales and marketing analytics to the Beacon team. He is the lead Google Analytics Strategist, which includes implementation and setup of GA for clients as well as management of Beacon’s GAFUSION product. Outside of his work at Beacon, Gus has been cooking at the Winston-Salem Greek Festival for over a decade, coaches high school basketball, and still believes that the best movies were filmed in the 80s.

Connect with Gus on Google+.

By | 2017-07-20T09:18:40+00:00 October 25th, 2016|Beacon News|Comments Off on A Great Time at HighEdWeb 2016

Gary Synan Retires!

Today is Gary Synan’s last day at Beacon. Retirement and the beach have wooed him away after 12 years of dedicated service with my company. It’s bittersweet. He has played an important role as a web application developer, serving hundreds of Beacon’s clients over the years, but especially with the many Bassett Furniture projects. His technical expertise will be missed.

 

Gary Synan Retired

Gary Synan

Gary has also been one of those people that contributes to the culture of Beacon – the unique and extensive holiday decorations, especially around Christmas (much of which has been passed to other employees), the pumpkin bread, the sports discussions and his involvement in a wide range of office hijinks and events. During his retirement celebration yesterday, as people shared “Gary Stories”, it was interesting that very few were work-related. That’s the way it should be. His office-fun will be missed.

pic Gary S

When Beacon opened in 1998, the thought of employees retiring from Beacon never crossed my mind. Gary is our second retiree. Prior to Beacon, Gary and I worked together at AT&T and were teammates on softball and basketball teams. And for the last 12 years, day-in and day-out, Gary has worked alongside me and the entire Beacon Team to help our customers…and make Beacon what it is today. That’s a long time! For that, I am very thankful! He will be missed, but we wish him the best as he now focuses his time on golf, beach, family and friends. Enjoy retirement, Gary!

gary pic 2

Mark Dirks
Mark Dirks is the CEO for Beacon Technologies, but claims that Senior Web Business Consultant is more fitting. With a Masters Degree from Kansas State in Information Systems and a BS from Wake Forest in Mathematics/Computer Science, his passion is helping clients get the most out of their website and internet technology. Mark co-founded Beacon after spending a couple of years with RJ Reynolds and 13 years at AT&T. Outside of Beacon, he is an avid racquetball and softball player, while also coaching youth baseball and football.
By | 2016-11-18T14:12:38+00:00 September 29th, 2016|Beacon News|Comments Off on Gary Synan Retires!

Bacon Back to Beacon

We hope you all enjoyed our April Fool’s fun last Friday.  We certainly did.  Members of my digital marketing team had the idea about a year ago, so incredibly funny concepts have been tossed around for a long time.  Got to give lots of credit to Jordan Burleson (Digital Marketing Strategist), Logan Ray (Digital Marketing Specialist) and Keana Lynch (Lead UI Developer) for pulling this off.  Also special thanks to Christy Joyce (graphics), Jordan Lowry (social media) and our Tech Support Group.

bacon logoAs a business owner, it’s always a little scary to push the envelope on things like this, particularly spoofing a company name change.  However, it’s who we are.  It’s our culture, and we like (need) to have a little fun to keep us creative as a team.  Plus, with all the brilliant minds here at Beacon, collectively, this whole process was hysterical.

So, we are back to being Beacon again.  Our website is back to normal, but we saved Bacon Technologies in case you missed it.  Of course, as marketers, we had to assess the results for Makin’ Bacon as an April Fool’s joke.  On Friday, we experienced the SECOND largest volume of traffic to our website in our 18 year history.  It says a lot about the power of marketing that is either shocking, funny or drives curiosity.  We had an overwhelming number of direct responses via email too.  My three favorites were “stands up and does the slow clap”, “That’s funny fools ~ we do love Bacon and Beacon!”, and “You guys win the Internet today.  Dare I say…Well done!”  Thanks to everyone who chimed in.

And yes, we did catch a few people off guard.  One asked for us to send a new W-9 with the new company name.  And another asked for the Bacon logo so they could replace our Beacon logo on their website.

Now I just wonder (and am a bit concerned) about how the Beacon gang is going to raise the bar next year.

 

 

Mark Dirks
Mark Dirks is the CEO for Beacon Technologies, but claims that Senior Web Business Consultant is more fitting. With a Masters Degree from Kansas State in Information Systems and a BS from Wake Forest in Mathematics/Computer Science, his passion is helping clients get the most out of their website and internet technology. Mark co-founded Beacon after spending a couple of years with RJ Reynolds and 13 years at AT&T. Outside of Beacon, he is an avid racquetball and softball player, while also coaching youth baseball and football.
By | 2016-10-31T10:37:55+00:00 April 4th, 2016|Beacon News|Comments Off on Bacon Back to Beacon
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