My Interview with a Full Stack Developer

28 Sep
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Ryan Olson, a full stack developer (FSD) at VIA Marketing. Ryan was super excited to tell me all about what he can do for our clients in the age of new and emerging technologies. However, in our conversation I found that Ryan Olson and FSDs are from a different planet and speak their own language. As a bonus to you the reader, I will ATTEMPT to translate his amazing, brilliant, genius answers for you to plain and simple English.

Michelle: Okay Ryan, what exactly is a full stack developer?
Ryan: Many people may have never heard this term. A full stack developer will think through the functionality of a website during the creative stages and then move to writing code in HTML using CSS3, JavaScript, and Ajax. Then they move to the back-end, using PHP and MySQL to create complex and advanced functions on the server. Full stack developers are skilled and comfortable working in both front-end and back-end environments.

This means: A full stack developer is very smart and many times is a graduate from Purdue. Go Boilermakers! This person makes a website work. They integrate what you see and click on (front-end) with all of the coding and database technology that you don’t see (back-end). Your website needs to have someone with solid programming skills to customize functions. A functioning website makes everyone’s life easier – believe it or not, it’s true.

Michelle: What do you do for our clients?
Ryan: I get involved with the UI/UX aspect of the site and work closely with the designers to bring ideas and mock-ups to life. Having a wide skill set in many programming languages, I can easily transition from one language to another to collaborate on conceptual designs and offer insight on how to enhance functions so they work across a variety of platforms like desktop and mobile. Being versed in server side scripts, such as MySQL and PHP, I work to make sure nothing is lost along the way.

This translation: Ryan understands how today’s websites are supposed to look and function. Ryan will not leave you in 1995. While gallantly avoiding missteps that make many other websites look like train wrecks, he also ensures the security and proper management of your content and data.

Wondering about UI/UX? This term is used a lot by developers and not really by the rest of us, but if you want a good website it should concern you:
UI = User Interface, i.e. visual design
UX = User Experience, i.e. the visitor’s interaction with your website.

Another acronym Ryan uses freely (like we all know what he’s talking about) is server side scripts: MySQL and PHP. This is a block of code written for a specific function that is controlled by the server. By the way, client-side scripts are code that are controlled by your computer. An example would be desktop roll-over effects. Is your head hurting yet? Mine is. Okay, just think what happens when your mouse moves over thingies on your website and then something really cool happens. That is just one of the many, many things Ryan makes happen.


Michelle: So as you are at the forefront of what is the latest and greatest, what emerging technologies should we be aware of?
Ryan: Experience Design (ED). As more and more users move away from desktops and do their web browsing and shopping on mobile and tablet devices, we will start to see new scripts being created for those devices. In the last year we saw the advancement of smart watches with Internet connectability. Thinking about how users experience and use the device will help us come up with creative ways to enhance your customer’s experience when they try to access your website. This is different than user experience (UX) in the sense that UX is how one flows through the content. Experience Design is what the user experiences while using the device. On a smart watch, they may be out for a jog, or out shopping and need to look something up. How accessible is that information?

What you need to know: Devices change, apps change, and your marketing needs to advance with it. We need to be aware of what people are actually using and why they are drawn to it. We’d venture to guess that you are reading this article on your phone right now.

Take a look and think about your website and how it functions across different devices. We need to be where people want us and it has to be good – even on someone’s tiny, practical, accessible wrist.

To find out more about where your company needs to be and how to get there, get in touch with Julie at VIA Marketing at: or call 219.769.2299


Expanded Text Ads, The Next Generation of AdWords

30 Aug

The power of search engine marketing has recently reached another level with Expanded Text Ads in Google AdWords. According to Google’s AdWords blog, it’s the biggest change to text ads since AdWords launched 15 years ago. Earlier this year, Google removed right-hand side text ads to maintain a consistent user experience across all devices. This mobile-first mindset was the driving force behind Expanded Text Ads and we’re here to explain the new features.

Expanded Text Ads (Before)

Expanded Text Ads (After)

Expanded Ads, Bigger Opportunities

Expanded Text Ads are available with two headlines (30 characters each) and one long description line (80 characters), which makes them nearly twice as big as standard text ads. No matter the device, desktop or mobile, the new ads will wrap accordingly. Longer headlines and descriptions are the perfect opportunities to increase visibility on the search results page, which can result in more people clicking on your ad. According to early reports, click-through-rates (CTR) have seen increases by as much as 20 percent.

In addition to more ad copy space, there are two path fields available to supplement the display URL. Your landing page will remain the final URL, but now you will have the opportunity to add two paths (15 characters each) to customize the display URL. For example, your landing page for a new product could be, but in your new expanded text ad, the URL can be displayed as The new path fields provide an opportunity to highlight services or products and potentially reach more customers.

Expand AdWords Opportunities Now

Expanded Text Ads have been available since July 26, 2016, but starting October 26, 2016, AdWords will no longer support creating or editing standard text ads. Existing standard text ads will continue to run after this date, but you will not be able to edit them. We recommend transitioning your current text ads to the new format before October 26th to take advantage of the new features. If you would like help with the transition, please contact Julie for AdWords and Expanded Text Ads support.

VIA Marketing Receives Award for Publication Excellence

29 Jul


VIA Marketing was recently awarded the 2016 APEX Award of Excellence.

The 2016 APEX Award of Excellence for Campaigns, Programs and Plans in Marketing and Communications was recently awarded to the team at VIA Marketing. The award recognized the outstanding logo design and creative development of a stationery system for GIDE, a business consultancy based in St. John, IN.


“The logo, letterhead and business cards that we designed for GIDE are imaginative, eye-catching and effective. Our team appreciates the relationship we have with the team at GIDE and we look forward to more exciting projects with them in the future,” says Julie Olthoff, president, VIA Marketing.


This year, over 1,600 entries were submitted for the Annual Apex Awards. The awards are based on excellence in graphic design, editorial content and the ability to achieve overall communication excellence. The awards are evaluated and rated by a panel of judges in 11 major categories with Awards of Excellence recognizing exceptional entries.

The Apex Award of Excellence is the third award that VIA Marketing has received in 2016. Recent honors include a Silver designation from Service Industry Advertising Awards for work in new media for client, Olthof Homes, along with a Merit designation for the integrated campaign for the Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana’s Parade of Homes.

Based in Merrillville, VIA Marketing provides strategic and inspired thinking with an integrated approach across all media including: internet, print, advertising and signage. 

Does Does Your Marketing Plan Suffer from FOMO?

20 Jun

Pronunciation: \ˈfō-(ˌ)mō\

Definition of FOMO: noun, informal: fear of missing out : fear of not being included in something (such as an interesting or enjoyable activity) that others are experiencing; a sort of social anxiety that occurs when one is concerned with missing a social interaction, experience of value, talk-worthy event, or monetary gain.

This April, Merriam-Webster announced the latest additions to the company’s unabridged dictionary. Among the 2,000 entries this year is FOMO, the acronym for the “fear of missing out.” As a species, we are prone to the anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, which is often heightened by posts seen on Facebook or Twitter. Could your marketing plan be suffering from FOMO too?

According to the latest data from the Grant Thornton International Business Report, a survey taken in 36 countries of more than 2,500 business leaders, more businesses are driven by the FEAR OF MISSING OUT than by a positive desire for growth when expanding.

When it comes to making a marketing plan, business owners can sometimes forget the essence of human behavior. Essentially, we forget that we are marketing to other humans. Our goal should be to start a conversation, attracting our consumers on a deeper level and putting the consumer at the heart of it all.

You believe the more ground you cover, the more you can achieve.

When we choose how we market our products or services, we can sometimes focus too much on statistics and only look at the quantity of people on each marketing channel. We lose the vision of how people are actually interacting on each channel. Just because certain channels are more predominant than others, doesn’t necessarily mean they are the correct channels for your product. Don’t let your “image” get the best of you in having a successful marketing plan.

Target better, tighter.

Understand your business and the problems that you solve. Once you have a good idea what this looks like, you can see who is most likely to benefit from your services or products. Try grouping your audience by location and market sector. Define them in as many relevant ways as possible: Where do they live? What is their income? Are they other businesses, maybe manufacturers? Are they golfers? mothers? Without limiting the market it would be impossible to know where to start.

Now, take a look at your particular areas of expertise: Do you have exclusive capabilities or knowledge? What about you is unique to provide a service or product?

Know who your audience is and study their behavior—they may not be engaging with the most popular channels. You should pick a strategy that is the most appealing to your audience. We live in the world of niche and our audiences are no longer captives of traditional marketing channels such as television and radio. For instance, the web is fantastic at delivering a personalized, more effective strategy through tactics such as targeted email blasts and paid digital ads to your specific demographics.

Here at VIA Marketing,
we can help answer these questions and tell your story. For a targeted marketing plan that details your special place in the market and delivers your ideal audience, please contact us…and avoid FOMO today.

VIA Idea #41:To Yext or Not To Yext?

19 Apr

Yext PowerListings is a popular and award-winning online listing management service. After you enter your company details, they will propagate in various online local search platforms like apps, maps and social media. Yext has made arrangements with directories such as Apple Maps, Bing, Facebook, Yelp, Citysearch, DexKnows, etc.

The advantages of Yext are speed and consistency. Speed, because you can have your business listed across dozens of internet directories almost instantly. Consistency, because all of your listings will have the same information, plus they will all be updated at the same time should you make a change.

Disadvantages include a high price for what can be considered a rental arrangement. Yext’s best value is the “Complete Package” and it costs $499 per year. Once you leave, your listings revert back to what they were before you signed up. Here is a link to their plans.

Do You Need Directory Listings?

Listings in quality directories give you a higher ranking in Google’s search returns. Most people search in Google, not in the directories themselves. Organic and behavioral factors will influence your rankings more than these citations will. Having rich information about your products or services, good links, and more and better reviews than your competitors also plays a large role in determining Google rankings.

On some of the directory sites, Yext is just one way to update your info. On other sites, Yext is now the only way to update or add a listing. Today Yext may be the most popular service with exclusive directory agreements, but rest assured, competitors will arise. Directories won’t want to limit their sources to Yext alone, and will want to grow their data-assets by making arrangements with other sources, too.

Two Alternatives

1. You can use one of Yext’s competitors. Single Platform and Where 2 Get It are Yext’s biggest competitors. Yext offers a monitoring dashboard that the others don’t. I think most of you will probably never look at it.

2. You don’t need to pay for this service. If you spend the time to do it yourself, the listings will be there forever. Most of the directories are free; some charge a one-time fee of $5.

VIA’s Recommendation

With most things, you either have time or money. If you have money, Yext will save you a ton of time.

If driving people to your location isn’t important to your business, DIY is better. After your tech savvy staff member (assuming you have one) gets the hang of entering your listing, expect that employee to take about a half hour per listing. I always approach large, tedious projects by biting off a little at a time. If you post one listing a week, it won’t be long until you have conquered the most important ones.

Not all directories make sense for every business. We can help you look through the directories to see which ones make sense for you. Here is a link to a list of top citation sources.

“Get Five Stars” app helps secure reviews

Any time you use automation, you’re saving time. The GetFiveStars platform helps you automate the customer feedback process to capture testimonials and online reviews. Manage and monitor your online reputation for as low as $29.95 per month.

VIA Idea #40: Rich Media Ads

28 Jan

Rich Media is a digital advertising term used to categorize ads that use video, audio, or other elements to interact with and engage the user. The ads use HTML5 programming and can expand, float, peel down, etc. Marketers often include multiple levels of content that will help achieve the client’s goal, whether it is to send simple brand messages or generate clicks.

There are many kinds of engaging rich media ads. Listed below are examples of common ad formats:


Starts as one size within a standard ad placement on a web page and then expands over the page content automatically or when a user interacts with it.

Expanding (Collapsed Panel)

Expanding (Expanded Panel)


Starts as one size on top of a publisher page, then expands like the expanding example only this pushes down the page content when a user interacts with it.

Push-Down (Collapsed Panel)

Push-Down (Expanded Panel)


Floats on top of a publisher’s web page (also known as an interstitial ad). Because it isn’t assigned to a fixed ad slot, it can be almost any shape or size, and you can place it anywhere over a publisher’s content. The ad usually disappears after about 15 seconds if the user doesn’t interact with it.


Digital ads are served directly to your target audience and are programmed by specifying a variety of criteria including geography, income, gender and even interests. Choosing your budget amount for each audience, you can target and test a variety of messages.

If you are considering buying digital advertising, we hope you find this helpful. For a broader survey of ad types, take a look at Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) 2015 Ad Unit Poster.

To maximize your company’s online ad exposure, look to VIA for rich media advertising solutions. Contact Julie for more information on rich media.

VIA Idea #39

4 Dec

The Buying Power of Millennials

The First Digital Natives

Millennials are defined as people born between 1980 and 2000, and at 92 million, they are the biggest generation in history. The Enthusiast Networkdescribes them as “mobile-first” and “social-obsessed,” but it’s these behaviors that have given them such unique experiences and sets them apart from previous generations. They have been shown to put off huge commitments like marriage, children and buying a house, but studies show that millennials have less money to spend than Generation X and Baby Boomers. Lower employment levels, smaller incomes and student loan debt are contributing factors, according to Goldman Sachs’ infographic on millennials. However, these huge financial commitments won’t be put off forever, and as millennials move into their prime spending years, they will have a significant impact on the economy. Is your marketing ready for them?

Conquering the Digital Frontier

Growing up in the Digital Age has greatly influenced buying behaviors for millennials, and consequently, has reshaped how brands sell its products/services. Millennials are used to instant access to information, reviews and prices, so a smart business should make their website a priority. In 2013, we explained the benefits of responsive websites, and after Google’s announcement this year, they have become even more important. On April 21st, Google announced they will be ranking responsive websites higher. Your website’s search engine ranking is also vital to staying in front of your customers, especially for mobile-centric customers like millennials. SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) are two marketing tools at your disposal to ensure you are staying top-of-mind during online searches.

After searching online, 38 percent of millennials use social media to talk about a service, product, or brand, according to a survey cited by Goldman Sachs. This behavior is why it’s important that your business has a presence on social media, especially Facebook. Instagram and Snapchat round out the top three platforms used by millennials. Many major social media platforms offer advertising opportunities, with Instagram joining the ranks this past summer. Your business can visually convey its message through images and videos tailored to millennials. The word-of-mouth nature of social media can help spread your message.

Traditional and Digital Media Mix

As the first generation of digital natives, millennials have grown up during a lot of technological changes, but the average millennial still watches TV, reads newspapers/magazines and drives by billboards. A custom media mix should be planned after taking into account your product/service, geography, delivery and target demographics. For an objective marketing plan that considers both digital and traditional advertising, contact Julie.