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Top ten cities for private tech M&A ranked

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
Washington DC

Washington, DC made this years list of the top ten cities for private tech M&A at number 7.

PrivCo has released rankings of the Top U.S. Cities For Private Tech M&A, based on the number of private tech companies acquired in 2012.

PrivCo has provided its Exclusive Top 10 Ranking below, with Silicon Valley ranking as the #1 metro area with 226 private tech company acquisitions in 2012.

Ranked just behind it were New York (Ranked #2) & Boston (Ranked #3).

San Diego, Research Triangle miss top ten

Interestingly, up-and-coming tech hubs like New York City, Los Angeles, and Atlanta are challenging traditional leaders like Raleigh-Durham’s “research triangle” and biotech hub San Diego, who missed this year’s Top 10 U.S. Cities For Private Tech M&A.

Top 10 U.S. Cities For Private Tech M&A in 2012

(Ranked By Total Number of U.S. Private Tech Companies Acquired in Each Metro Area)

1. Silicon Valley
2. New York
3. Boston
4. Los Angeles
5. Seattle
6. Austin
7. Washington, D.C. (Arlington)
8. Atlanta
9. Dallas
10. Houston

To access PrivCo’s 350 page 2012 Private Tech M&A Industry Report:

http://www.privco.com/products/2012-m-and-a-industry-overview-technology-sector-volume-I

What are the hottest marketing jobs and where do they pay the best?

Monday, January 28th, 2013

social mediaIf you’re in marketing, you can probably guess which marketing positions are hot this year, but a new survey has some surprises. For instance, working in the big city doesn’t guarantee a big paycheck for marketing professionals.

So says the “2013 Aquent AMA Marketing Salary Survey.” from Aquent, a global staffing organization dedicated to marketing, creative, and digital professionals, and The American Marketing Association (AMA). The survey was created to help marketers pinpoint career opportunity by calling out the highest paying cities, most in-demand jobs and the most satisfying careers based on the responses from 2,600 marketers.

“When it comes to a career in marketing, the location and the field you choose can have an immense impact on your future satisfaction and salary,” said Ann Webster , president of Aquent. “Our salary survey empowers marketers to assess their value in the marketplace and decide if relocating or adding new skills to their portfolio is worthwhile for career advancement and quality of life.”

Big City Doesn’t Equal Big Paycheck
The survey revealed that the highest salaries in marketing jobs do not come from top markets like New York, Silicon Valley and Boston. Instead, based on the adjusted cost of living, marketers in Dallas, St. Louis and Atlanta are making more than their big city counterparts. While Silicon Valley tops the list with the highest average marketing salary of $107,802, when adjusted for cost of living, it adds up to $48,034.

Surprisingly, the survey found that Dallas marketing professionals take home the biggest paycheck at $82,418, which really is more like $89,707 when adjusted for cost of living.

Happiest Cities and Happiest Jobs
While many turn to a career in marketing for its creativity and a wealth of opportunity, there are some cities and jobs that marketers find more satisfying than most. Topping the list of the cities with the happiest marketers were Phoenix,Indianapolis and Houston.

Professionals working in public relations, web analytics and strategic planning were found to be most happy with their jobs.

Hottest Jobs In 2013
While location and satisfaction were the key takeaways, the survey also revealed that 25 percent of marketers predict social media marketing will be the most in-demand job in 2013.

Closely following, 21 percent of marketers anticipated online content creation would be most in-demand while 17 percent projected that brand or product management would top the list.  In addition, the survey found that social media and mobile marketing are expected to be the hottest jobs in the next two to three years.

Salaries To Increase
Additionally, the survey found that two-thirds of marketers anticipate salary increases in 2013, with one in five expecting an increase of 10 percent of more, showing optimism compared to recent years.

To find out more information on the study, including details on marketing salaries by position and metro area, download the executive summary “Marketing Salaries, Strategies and Trends for 2013″ at: www.marketingsalaries.com.

 

Is your city mobile-savvy? Houston tops list

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Houston, TXIs your city one of the most mobile savvy in the United States? As numerous reports say up to a quarter of shoppers will use mobile devices this year, Houston has claimed the top spot for the second year in a row  on the  Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and its Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence “Mobile Shoppers” study.

Houston’s number one ranking, driven by its mobile shopping versatility and dexterity, is closely followed by Seattle-Tacoma, which catapulted to the second spot from its number ten perch in 2011, followed by San Francisco, which is new to the top ten list. Among other notable changes, Boston made its debut in the top ten, while New York and Atlanta both saw slight declines. In comparison, Los Angeles and Chicago held steady in their rankings between this year and last.

The complete “2012 IAB U.S. Mobile Shopping Savvy Cities Index” is:

1. Houston 9. Boston
2. Seattle-Tacoma 10. Philadelphia
3. San Francisco 11. Washington, D.C.
4. Los Angeles 12. Detroit
5. New York City 13. Tampa-St. Petersburg
6. Atlanta 14. Phoenix
7. Chicago 15. Minneapolis-St. Paul
8. Dallas-Ft. Worth

The rankings were determined by reviewing data about mobile usage patterns, as well as the frequency of usage among mobile-savvy shoppers across major U.S. cities. For research and survey purposes, “mobile shopping” refers both to completing purchases via a phone or tablet, as well as to using a phone or tablet to research or shop for products that are later purchased in physical retail locations or online.

“Mobile is a growing digital retail platform that provides consumers with incredibly valuable, timely and convenient information touchpoints for product research and purchasing,” said Anna Bager, vice president and general manager, Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence, IAB.

“Identifying mobile shoppers and delivering relevant consumer messages to them on the go, as they shop, represents a key opportunity for brand marketers.”

“Determining which cities are more receptive to mobile can be a critical component in driving successful campaigns that reach audiences in the palms of their hands,” said Pam Goodfellow, Consumer Insights Director, Prosper Mobile Insights. “Whether planning for a last-minute holiday push or looking to mobile platforms for other advertising opportunities, this sort of regional intelligence can make or break a marketer’s efforts.”

Some of the other findings explored in this report include:

  • More than 80 percent of smartphone owners have accessed retailer websites or apps on their device
  • Sixty-eight percent of Americans owned a smart mobile device (smartphone, tablet, or eReader) in 2012, up strongly from 57 percent in 2011
  • Nearly half of U.S. consumers say they have a QR code (barcode) reader app on their mobile device
  • Smartphone shoppers are evenly split between males and females and tend to be younger than users who are desktop-based retail shoppers
  • Over half of smartphone owners, and nearly 30 percent of tablet owners, have used their devices in a store in the past three months

To download this years “Mobile Shoppers” study, please visit www.iab.net/mobileshoppers2012.

To view the 2011 top “Mobile Shopping Savvy Cities” list, please visit www.iab.net/mobileshoppers2011.

Salaried workers see small raises, performance pay more common

Monday, August 13th, 2012

AonIf you’re like most U.S. workers, you probably saw only small salary raises if any the last few years. But you may also be able to put more money in your paycheck by meeting performance goals.

If you’re in Denver, Austin,Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, San Diego, Houston or Kansas City, however, you may be seeing a bit more than the average raise in your paycheck in 2012..

A new survey by Aon Hewitt, the global human resources solutions business of Aon plc (NYSE: AON), reveals that salaries for U.S. workers continue to rise incrementally as concerns remain about the stability of the global economy.

However, workers have the potential to offset low base pay increases through performance-based awards.

Salaries rose 2.8 percent in 2012

According to Aon Hewitt’s survey of more than 1,300 U.S. companies, base pay increases for salaried exempt workers were 2.8 percent in 2012, up marginally from 2.7 percent in 2011. Salaries have inched upwards year-over-year since 2009 when pay increases reached an all-time low of 1.8 percent.

Pay increases are expected to rise slightly in 2013. For executives, salaried exempt and salaried nonexempt workers, Aon Hewitt projects base pay increases of 3.0 percent in 2013.

“It is unlikely that salary increases will reach pre-recession levels of 4 .0 percent or higher any time soon,” said Ken Abosch, compensation marketing, strategy and development leader at Aon Hewitt.

“Companies are more impacted by the global economy than ever before, as a result organizations continue to be conservative with their spending, but we anticipate that attitude will remain even after the economy rights itself—holding down spending on base pay is the new normal.”

Historical U.S. Salary Increases
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

 (projected)

Executive 1.4% 2.4% 2.8% 2.9% 3.0%
Salaried Exempt 1.8% 2.4% 2.7% 2.8% 3.0%
Salaried Nonexempt 1.9% 2.4% 2.8% 2.7% 3.0%
Nonunion Hourly 2.0% 2.4% 2.7% 2.7% 2.9%
Union 2.2% 2.5% 2.6% 2.5% 2.6%

Performance-Based Awards
According to Aon Hewitt’s report, employers continue to offer variable pay, or performance-based awards that must be re-earned each year, as a primary way to drive performance and increase engagement while minimizing their fixed costs. In 2012, 90 percent of companies offered at least one variable pay program, in line with 2011.

Variable pay spending continues to rise

Overall spending on variable pay as a percentage of payroll continues to rise steadily for salaried exempt workers. In 2012, companies spent 12.0 percent on variable pay, compared to 11.6 percent in 2011. Spending is expected to rise slightly to 12.1 percent in 2013.

Nonunion hourly workers saw the biggest jump in variable pay in 2012. As a percentage of payroll, employers spent 6.0 percent on variable pay rewards for nonunion hourly workers in 2012, compared to 5.2 percent in 2011. However, spending is expected to fall slightly to 5.6 percent in 2013 for this group.

“Organizations are being more strategic with the limited compensation dollars they have to spend,” explained Abosch. “They are spending less on base pay increases for all workers, and instead, are rewarding high performing workers with larger performance-based awards. This allows them to better control spending, while still providing incentives for their best employees.”  

Historical U.S. Variable Pay Increases
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

(projected)

Salaried Exempt 12.0% 11.3% 11.6%

 

12.0% 12.1%
Salaried Nonexempt 6.5% 6.0% 6.3 6.2% 6.0%
Nonunion Hourly 5.8% 5.3% 5.2 6.0% 5.6%
Union 6.6% 4.6% 5.0 4.9% 4.5%

Salary Increases by City
According to Aon Hewitt’s survey, workers in some U.S. cities can expect to see salary increases higher than the national average in 2013.

These cities include Denver (3.6 percent); Austin,Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit and San Diego (3.4 percent); and Houston and Kansas City (3.3 percent).

Cities that can expect lower-than-average increases in 2013 include San Francisco (2.7 percent), Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul (2.8 percent).

Salary Increases by Industry
The industries that can expect to see the highest salary increases in 2013 include mining/milling (3.8 percent); computers/related products and energy (3.6 percent); and automotive/vehicle manufacturing (3.3 percent). The lowest increases are projected to be in education (2.5 percent), rubber/plastic/glass, government and health care/medical services (2.6 percent).
PR Newswire (http://s.tt/1kGAD)

Apple’s iPhone leads mobile video messaging use, Samsung gaining

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

iPhone 4SThe Apple iPhone continues to lead mobile video messaging usage, increasing from 7.4 percent to 23.6 percent since August 2011, however the use of Samsung devices is quickly gaining ground, increasing from 2.9 percent to 21.9 percent over the same period.

These numbers are according to the semiannual 2012 Mobile Marketing Analytics Report released by Mogreet, a multimedia-based mobile marketing provider.

“As the installed base of smartphones surpasses 50 percent in the United States, MMS provides a unique opportunity for marketers to reach all of their consumers with high-quality, engaging mobile video”

Currently, over two-thirds of all multimedia messaging delivered by businesses to consumers in the United States is done via the Mogreet platform.

This saturation of the mobile market provides the company deep insights into what messaging consumers view on their phones, giving unique types of useful knowledge for mobile marketers looking to improve and strengthen their messages, according to carrier, handset type and geography.

In addition, the semiannual report includes the following key statistics:

Percent of mobile multimedia messaging (MMS) delivered by mobile carrier:

  • Verizon Wireless – 45.4 percent
  • AT&T – 42.9 percent
  • Sprint – 8.2 percent
  • Cricket (Leap Wireless) – 2.4 percent
  • T-Mobile – 0.7 percent

Percent of MMS delivered by handset type:

  • Apple iPhone – 23.6 percent
  • Samsung – 21.9 percent
  • LG – 17.8 percent
  • Blackberry – 5.1 percent
  • Motorola – 5 percent

Top 5 U.S. regions using MMS:

  • Atlanta
  • South Carolina
  • Phoenix
  • Texas – Houston
  • Las Vegas Area

“As the installed base of smartphones surpasses 50 percent in the United States, MMS provides a unique opportunity for marketers to reach all of their consumers with high-quality, engaging mobile video,” said James Citron, CEO of Mogreet.

The expanded report is available for download at http://blog.mogreet.com

Competition for talent creating tech-oriented sub-markets

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Jones Lang LaSalleStrong growth in high-tech sector hiring and increasing  competition between firms for talent created new  tech-oriented submarkets around the U.S. and Canada in the first quarter of 2012, according toJones Lang LaSalle’s High Tech Industry Report.

“Despite high-tech’s relatively small footprint in office markets, accounting for just 8.5 percent of all jobs using office space, it has had a tremendous impact on the absorption of office space in the top five tech-oriented markets.

Additionally, the sector’s recent employment growth — roughly three times the overall U.S. employment rate – has begun to affect a growing number of other markets around the U.S. and Canada,” said Colin Yasukochi, Northwest Director of Research, Jones Lang LaSalle.

Top five markets see rent growth

Jones Lang LaSalle estimates that high tech accounts for nearly one-third of recent office market absorption nationwide.

The top five markets of Boston, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Silicon Valley recorded annual rent growth across key tech-oriented submarkets between 16.8 and 57.9 percent in the first quarter.

“We’re now seeing strong evidence of the ‘high-tech effect’ spreading out beyond the five major markets as companies in the technology sector both expand their business models and engage in a vigorous battle to land new pools of talent.

This quest for more human capital is increasingly pushing firms to look outside traditional tech cities to set up new operations,” Yasukochi said.

The submarkets that saw positive annual rent growth in the period included Vancouver’s Yaletown submarket; Boulder, Colorado; downtown Pittsburgh; Washington, D.C.’s East End; and the West Loop submarket of Houston, Texas.

High-tech demand for office space, which has led to rent recovery in many markets adversely affected by the financial downturn, is now spurring speculative construction activity in the office sector for the first time in more than five years.

“In markets like San Francisco, where high-tech demand is intense and tenants have been snapping up creatively configured office environments, there are very few large blocks of space available to accommodate additional growth.

With rents rising, we are now at the point where new construction — for those with access to capital to build – is now coming to the drawing board,” Yasukochi said.

Recently, a New York-based developer announced plans to build a spec office tower in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, the first such development in the city since 2006.

Where the social media jobs are and what they pay (infographic)

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Where are the social media jobs and how much do they pay? The most jobs are in New York, San Jose, San Francisco, LA, Boston, DC and Baltimore, says Onward Search. They pay the most in New York, San Francisco, LA, Boston and DC.

Social media jobs initially fell into the hands of traditional marketers, but more and more it is separate job category. Onwardsearch.com not only offers advice on how to find a job in social media, it has created a series of infographics outlining the best cities for social media positions, and now a social media salary guide.

The blog also offers some solid advice to those in social media. Brian Chappell of Ignite Social Media, for instance, suggests, “Steer away from fuzzy metrics and focus on social media marketing that can move the needle.”

For more, see Onward Search feature, “Social Media Advice from Leading Marketers.

Here’s the firm’s infographic on social media salaries:

infographic social media

 

 

 

 

salary infographic

Worst domestic and international airports for business travelers

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

delay screenLow fares business class specialist Lets Fly Cheaper (LFC) has compiled its first “world’s worst airports” list of international and domestic airports with the worst records for delayed flights.

LFC culled through several sources to ultimately come up with its own criteria and list of worst performing airports.

“There are tons of year-end worst airports lists out there. Some are based on overall satisfaction, while others focus on details like how easy it is to sleep in the airport,” said Ramon Van Meer, Lets Fly Cheaper marketing director. “We wanted our list to be relevant to our customers, who travel primarily for business, and to our company, which specializes in getting customers the best travel deal, right here, right now.”

“Business travelers live in the moment,” said Van Meer. “They care about making their flight connections today, not whether they could have made them 11 months ago. Their #1 concern is getting to their next big deal on time. Period.

That’s why LFC has shortened our time horizon from all year to the past month and focused exclusively on delays, not airport amenities. Our data is based on December 2011 statistics only. This gives us the flexibility to publish new results monthly, if customers find our list useful.”

Lets Fly Cheaper’s 10 worst airports based on delayed departures:

International Airports:
5. Pu Dong, Shanghai
4. Madrid-Barajas, Madrid
3. Charles De Gaulle, Paris
2. Changi, Singapore
1. Capital International, Beijing

Domestic Airports: 
5. George Bush Intercontinental, Houston
4. Denver International, Denver
3. Hartsfield-Jackson, Atlanta
2. O’Hare, Chicago
1. Dallas/Ft. Worth International

Not surprisingly, all “winners” are among the world’s busiest airports. LFC’s international list includes three Asian-Pacific entries and two European entries. Charles De Gaulle is one that appears consistently on almost every “worst” compilation across the board.

Yet it only clocks in midway down the LFC list. The “top” honor for most delayed flights – by a margin of almost 2:1 is Beijing, with a whopping 12,864 delayed flights for December.

Domestically, the “usual suspects” that seem to always top other worst lists (Miami, JFK) are notably absent from LFC’s picks for delayed flights. LFC’s list includes two Texas airports, plus three that come as no surprise, given the volume of air traffic they handle.

WORST INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS:

5. Pu Dong Airport (PVG), Shanghai
Number of Delayed Flights: 5,175
Shanghai Pudong International Airport (sometimes noted as Pu Dong) is the world’s 20th busiest airport and China’s third busiest, hosting over 40 million passengers annually. The airport is a hub for both Shanghai Airlines and China Eastern Airlines.

4. Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD), Madrid
Number of Delayed Flights: 5,448
Madrid-Barajas Airport is an international bridge connecting Europe with Central and South America. The airport serves Spanish carriers, members of Star Alliance and Skyteam Iberia Airlines, as well as international carriers.

3. Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG), Paris
Number of Delayed Flights: 6,731
Charles de Gaulle Airport is Europe’s second busiest airport (after London’s Heathrow). The airport serves international travelers, Air France and other European airlines.

2. Changi Airport, (SIN), Singapore
Number of Delayed Flights: 7,428
Changi Airport in Singapore is the world’s 17th busiest airport serving 100 international airlines to more than 60 countries. The airport handles over 19 million passengers every year. Changi has received the “World’s Best Airport” award from Ultratravel Magazine the last four years.

1. Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK), Beijing
Number of Delayed Flights: 12,864
Beijing Capital International Airport is the busiest airport in Asia and the second busiest in the world. The airport hosts over 73 million passengers annually with 70+ airlines flying to more than 200 cities worldwide.

WORST DOMESTIC AIRPORTS:

5. George Bush Intercontinental (IAH), Houston
Number of Delayed Flights: 4,919
George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston is the eighth busiest airport in the United States and #3 for non-stop domestic and international service. It is also provides service to 30 destinations in Mexico.

4. Denver International (DEN), Denver
Number of Delayed Flights: 5,300
Denver International Airport is the fifth busiest airport the United States and 11th busiest in the world. Denver Airport opened in 1995 and in less than 20 years has become a major transportation hub, handling some 50 million passengers annually.

3. Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL), Atlanta
Number of Delayed Flights: 5,472
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world’s busiest, serving 90 million domestic and international passengers. The airport has spent the last decade making major improvements. The Air Transport Research Society named Atlanta the world’s most efficient airport in 2011. [Note: Considering the tremendous volume it processes, we’d say Atlanta is doing pretty darned well with “only” 5,472 delays for the month!]

2. Chicago O’Hare International (ORD), Chicago
Number of Delayed Flights: 6,817
Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is well known as the second busiest airport in the states. It’s also the world’s fourth busiest. O’Hare is the major hub for United/Continental Airlines. The vast airport has four terminals, with three serving both domestic and international flights and one serving international flights only.

1. Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW), Dallas
Number of Delayed Flights: 7,231
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is the fourth busiest airport in the US and eighth busiest in the world. The airport has five terminals with two dedicated exclusively to serving American Airlines passengers.

Small businesses hiring, boosting pay, anticipate rebound

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

InsperityHOUSTON – Small business owners are hiring more workers and boosting compensation in anticipation of increased business in 2011, according to the most recent Business Confidence Survey released today by Insperity (NYSE:NSP), a  provider of human resources and business solutions. While 23 percent believe that an economic rebound is currently under way, 40 percent expect it to occur in the last half of 2011 or later and 35 percent remain unsure.

While business owner sentiment as gauged by the survey indicated an increasing willingness to be more aggressive in coming months, Insperity internal data suggests that these same entrepreneurs are still taking a more conservative approach to employment-related business decisions.

Compensation metrics from Insperity’s base of more than 5,700 small and medium-sized businesses indicated that compared to last fall, average commissions paid to sales staff  were down to 5.4 percent versus 8.8 percent last November.

In the survey conducted April 19-21, when asked how they are managing the number of company employees, 37 percent of respondents said they are adding new positions, up from 24 percent previously; 57 percent stated that they are maintaining current staffing levels, down from 67 percent; and only 6 percent are laying off employees.

Starting to move in the right direction

“Small and medium-sized businesses are taking steps consistent with a slow-growth economy, while finding ways to convert obstacles into opportunities. We’re starting to move in the right direction, led by the flexibility and adaptability of this vital segment of the business community,” said Paul J. Sarvadi, Insperity’s chairman and chief executive officer.

The economy was again listed as the leading short-term concern by 68 percent of business owners, but down from 77 percent in November; followed by 46 percent specifying rising health care costs versus 54 percent previously; 45 percent citing government health care reform; and 36 percent listing controlling operating costs.

For longer-term concerns, 73 percent said they were either very concerned or had elevated concerns about the federal deficit and the total national debt; 61 percent designated the economy; 60 percent listed potential tax increases; and 59 percent cited government expansion and its effect on business.

When asked about their pipelines for new business for the remainder of 2011, 53 percent of survey respondents said that they expect sales to rise versus 38 percent last fall, representing a significant increase; 31 percent predicted it will stay the same; 8 percent anticipated decreasing sales and 7 percent were unsure.

In addition, 76 percent of owners and managers of small and medium-sized businesses said that they are either meeting or exceeding their 2011 performance plans, up from 67 percent in the last survey; while the remaining 24 percent reported that they are doing worse than expected.

Increased service is leading strategy

The survey also found that 54 percent of participants expected to maintain employee compensation at current levels throughout 2011; 31 percent planned increases – up from 26 percent in the last survey; 3 percent expected decreases and 13 percent were unsure.

Concerning their current profit-generating activities, 72 percent named increased levels of service to clients as the leading strategy.

This was closely followed by 69 percent who expected to sell new accounts; 41 percent who said they were adding new services or products; 30 percent of survey respondents listed negotiating with vendors; and 27 percent named investing in new improvements.

 

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Many miss big web design opportunity

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

By Allan Maurer

Kelley McDonaldMCLEAN, VA – If you spend much of your time, effort and money working on your web site’s landing page, you’re probably missing a major opportunity to capture more attention from your visitors. So says Kelley McDonald, director of Information Architecture with Navigation Arts, a McLean, VA-based web design and development company.

“Most traffic goes to content pages within your site,” McDonald tells us. “Only 15 percent goes to the landing page.” Nevertheless, it can be difficult to get clients to listen when he tells them that, McDonald admits.

“Three quarters of the doors through which people come into your site are content pages. You’re missing a big opportunity by not thinking about how to serve people where they are actually landing,” he says. “Think of Google as your homepage. People experience you through your content pages and they don’t march through your site as if they’re in a house.”

If our own analytics are any guide, McDonald is right on with his. Half our traffic comes from search engines and almost all goes to content pages rather than our landing page.

Design from the inside out

How do you take advantage of knowing people arrive at content pages rather than a landing page?

“Design from the inside out,” says McDonald. “Ask yourself how you can build on the question that brought them to the content? It’s important to have highly relevant links to other content that builds on the user’s question.”

That doesn’t mean services that automatically provide links to somewhat relevant content, he adds.

He also recommends avoiding “happy talk.” It’s all the “Hi, welcome to our site, we’re here to server your needs,” type of copy so prevalent on business sites. “It’s a highly ignorable block of text that people quickly gloss over,” says McDonald.

More technically, he also suggests separating content from its display, creating relationships between objects and systematically relating pages.

It’s not magic

There will always be a large percentage of users who come to a site for one item and leave, he notes. “We don’t think you’ll ever catch more than 35 percent (to click on other content).” But the idea is to “Move the dial closer to what you want.”

“The key thing is relevancy. It’s more about the content than technique.” Eye-tracking studies show where people look and where they don’t, but “It all comes down to content people need or want and what’s relevant to them,” McDonald says. “It’s about taking that extra step to connect things. I don’t think it’s magic.”

Treat ads as content

The same concept works regarding advertising on the web, he says. “Advertising online is in many ways a blind spot for people. Studies show people avoid it if it looks the least bit like advertising. Eye-tracking shows them avoiding ad spaces.”

Making ads more relevant and more digital increases the chances that people will engage with the ad,” he points out.

“It’s about personalization and localization,” he adds. “If you can serve up ads related to the user and what his questions are (that brought him to the content), and if  they’re treated and shaped more like content, they work better. If they’re shaped like print ads, no amount of trickery will work.”

“The user experience is the bread and butter of what we do at Navigation Arts,” McDonald says. The 70-employee company includes 19 information architects.

McDonald is one of more than 50 Internet and digital media experts who will converge on Tysons Corner, VA, Oct. 18 for the first Digital East event.

Diversified DC market good to the company

McDonald tells us the Navigation Arts founders, who ran and sold Bethesda-based Iconics during the dot com boom era, wanted to “Give it another go and focus on quality.”

They filed their company papers the day before Sept. 11, 2001 at the Watergate Hotel, but despite those inauspicious beginnings, established a solid reputation in the Mid Atlantic region, Houston, and upper MidWest.

“The DC market has been good to be in for user experience,” says McDonald. “There are so many different kinds of organizations here. It’s the capital of non-profits, there’s the federal government, telecom startups, and different startups in Northern Virginia.”

That multi-faceted DC economy means that during the downturn, Navigation Arts business “Didn’t skip a beat, we had irons in the fire with so many different buyers, all focused on the user experience.”

Designed city portals

While the company doesn’t pretend to be a large government IT integrator, it does find projects where it can have a big impact, McDonald says. “We look for projects such in e-government, anything that is citizen-facing.”

It’s been working on a major project, not yet live, for the State Department consulates to streamline its processes to make finding information on Visas, passports and fraud much easier and faster, for instance.

It also redesigned the Charlotte Observer’s Charlotte.com site to make it more focused on social media, and a city portal site for Richmond, VA.

“Both have done well and we created each in two months from inception to launch,” McDonald says.

The Navigation Arts site follows the company’s own advice. It is user friendly and offers lots of short videos, including several by McDonald, on improving user experience and other topics.