Web Processing Series – Part Three: Launch, Optimization, & Training

Web Processing Series - Part 3: Launch, Optimization, & Training

Pre-Launch SEO


  • Hosting
  • Training

30-day optimization

Support and Hosting

  • Maintenance
    • Updates
    • Fixes

Ongoing partnership opportunities

Launching Your Website

Once your site is launched, CMG will continue to apply enhancements to meet any business changes and improve your website. Your CMG representative will continue to communicate with you regarding ongoing strategy and optimization. Within the 30-day optimization window post-launch, CMG provides detailed support when needed, and uses that time to further optimize your site. Any questions you might have will quickly be attended to by your representative.

A new website design is a strong investment for your business and your story. CMG proudly partners with businesses in many industries, and we look forward to interviewing with you to take your online presence to the next level and beyond. Contact us today to get started!

Web Processing Series – Part Two: Design & Development

Web Processing Blog Series - Part 2: Design & Development

Content Creation

  • SEO strategy
  • Sitemap
  • Website design strategy
  • Framework


  • Creative direction
  • Branding (if applicable)
  • Moodboards
  • Website page design (either mockups or in development)


  • Code
  • CMS
  • Content added

Website Design Kick-Off

Now that we’re underway with the assets and website expectations, a CMG internal kick-off meeting provides our team with the huddle needed to launch into the content creation, design, and development phases. What’s so invaluable about this part of the design process is for the meeting of the minds and known variables to come together, as well as any additional brainstorming that could spark.

CMG carefully selects each team for a web design project, so when it comes to kick-off, the project already feels well into production, and the seamless transition from one phase to the next naturally occurs. In each kick-off team, you can expect us to discuss design direction and inspiration, sitemaps and calls to action, internal and client expectations, and timelines.

Discussion of market competition, successful metrics, and more also are discussed at kick-off. We’re not in the business to destroy others, but we succeed in the business because we create a product that achieves greater results.

Content Creation

Web content strategy is just as important to the website design as the design process itself. At this point, your CMG content strategist will have been immersed in your brand and business marketing strategy and will be able to craft a message designed toward leads and conversions. Website content is a vehicle created to promote your brand and entice users to act, whether that be to purchase a product on your e-commerce site (conversion) or to call or fill out a contact form (conversion and/or lead).

While written content doesn’t always dictate the overall design of your website, it has a heavy influence on the design direction. You’ve probably heard that content is king, which rings true in SEO, so we work hard to achieve your brand’s reach in the market. We do this by telling your story and answering any question your potential customers might have. That way, you’ve provided them with informed decisions, and they come knocking, digitally or physically.

Here’s a boring list of the amazing things that go into content creation:

  • Competitor research
  • Content review and research
  • Keywords and phrases research
  • User and market research
  • Sitemap creation
  • Editing existing content to maximize its potential
  • Website outline
  • Writing new content based on analytics and goals
  • Content writing for calls to action and conversions

It’s okay to admit the weaknesses of your existing website. It’s also great to know the strengths. We’ll be there guiding and assisting you in every step, so any weaknesses can be turned into strengths. Let’s find what can be done better, and we’ll work that into your site’s design.

Website Design

As you can tell by now, it takes a lot more than just signing a contract and getting a site built in a couple of days. At CMG, we want your design to do the talking for you when you’re unavailable to sell. And when your site is operating as your storefront or point of contact, we aim to maximize those opportunities using the strategy and energy needed to reach your ideal customers. Our expertise is applied and communicated to you in every step of the process.

When it comes to the design phase of the website design project, our web designer takes the content written by our content strategists, the design assets provided as well as the branding, the design direction discussed, and the goals of the project, and works to build a strategic website design in congruence with the team’s research and strategy up until this point. Because the magic happened way back in the discovery phase and with your business marketing goals, our designer has been well-equipped to hit that ball out of the park.

Design Direction

Creative direction is not only given to our web designer, but is also expected of our web designer. CMG has been building a team for you before they even were part of CMG, because our confidence in our team is second to none. We’re so confident in that because of our dedication to communication with you all along the way.

Your Website's Design: Getting the Goodies

The first set of deliverables you can expect to see in your website design can be either flat mockups or actual interactive designs (preview site), depending on the scope and size of the project. These visual design drafts represent the user interface (UI) of your website, and you can expect your CMG web team to demo the site to you upon delivery (in person or via video conferencing).

Upon review of the initial website design, you’ll take note of how our designer crafted your vision, message, and goals into the visual user experience (UX). The following are common parts of a website’s design:

  • Visual branding and brand colors
  • Complementary typography
  • Easily accessible navigation
  • Phone number and address
  • Calls to action
    • Buttons
    • Content for lead gens
    • Various hyperlinks
  • Contact forms
  • Whitespace
  • Images (large images are common)
  • Headlines
  • Mobile menu options
  • Responsive layouts

User Experience (UX)

The UX represents a user’s overall experience of your website. When you receive the first draft of the website, you’ll want to give it a thorough critique, from your perspective and the perspective of your users. How did the designer capture your story? Where do you see your users taking action? How does the flow of the visual experience on each page sell your brand? Was there anything missed that can be added to enhance the user experience?

A good design will lead users naturally from start to finish, from page to page, etc. CMG’s expertise in UX design speaks for itself, but that doesn’t mean we will always deliver exactly your vision for your users, so it’s crucial that we collaborate from the first draft through to launch day.

Design Approval

CMG website design most likely takes multiple rounds to reach the final draft, but it’s always possible that you reach design approval early in the design process. Design approval simply means that you agree that you approve of the designs created for your website. For large scale websites, design approval can occur before all content is placed within the framework of your preview site, as it’s expected that some pages of the site will follow a template created within the design rounds.

Per the design phases and our contract with you, there is room for revisions and changes between each round. You can expect to see these changes at the start of each round, which you can then review and provide additional feedback. Once you’ve approved of your website’s design, it moves into development, which is exciting in its own way!

Your Website Design and the Development Phase

The last person to perform magic on your website design is our web developer. The web developer’s job is to make the web design user experience functional and enjoyable, so users can fully interact with the various working parts of your website. Our web developer will set up the content management system (CMS — most often WordPress), work in the code, and build the site per the design.

In the end, you’ll have a site made up of HTML, CSS, PHP, JS, blah, blah, and it’ll be splendid! At CMG, we regularly maintain our sites for best practices, up-to-date software, performance, and more. If we’ve agreed on ongoing partnership, our development team will continue to provide support and maintenance to ensure your online presence stays strong.

Web Processing Series- Part One: Contract & Preparation

Web Processing Blog Series - Part 1: Contract & Preparation


  • Site goals
  • Educating the client, educated by the client
  • Defining scope
  • Providing website timelines and phases
  • Gathering and creating

Discovery Phase

  • Assets (photos, logos, etc.)
  • Sitemap
  • Content received


  • Internal meeting
  • Design approach
  • Client and internal expectations
  • Timelines

Creating a Successful Website Design

In order to create a successful website design, Columbia Marketing Group focuses on the following core elements:

  • Aesthetics
  • Client goals
  • Usability
  • Conversion opportunities
  • Partnership

CMG believes that, in order to achieve success, a respectful partnership with you is not desired, but required. Without our ongoing collaboration and understanding, your website design will look beautiful and propel your business, but it might not meet your goals or performance standards. We don’t sign a contract with you so we can take over your business’s website design; instead, we sign a contract to help you grow your business.

Preparing for a Successful Website Design

Prior to designing your business website, CMG learns your story. What does your product or service deliver to your customers and clients? How does your business benefit the community? How does the community benefit your business? What are your short and long term marketing goals? Tell us about your customers. Provide information about customers and clients you want calling you and entering your doors. Tell us about you and your team.

Through telling your story and entrusting CMG with your goals, we discover the areas your brand can have its greatest impact, which will maximize your market reach and potential. Our greatest partnerships in website design and development come from ongoing, authentic relationships.

Prior to Contract

Are we the right fit for you? Are you the right fit for us? Let’s discuss!

The following list describes our sales process needs and expectations prior to signing a contract with you to create your website:

  • Your website’s goals
  • We learn from you, and you learn from us (more on that later)
  • Explanation of our approach and what you can expect from us
  • Definition of project scope
  • Budgets
  • Website timeline estimates and phases
  • Gathering any pertinent information and discussion of content strategy
  • Confirming what your needs are regarding the new website
  • What to expect post-launch

Signing a Website Design Contract and The Discovery Phase

CMG provides all of our clients with a thorough, detailed contract, with both CMG and client expectations laid out ahead of project kickoff. We take communication and collaboration very seriously because the greatest website success comes from engaged parties on both sides. We want you to achieve success, and because you are passionate about your business and growth, we know signing that contract is a way to share your enthusiasm. Let’s get excited!

In the discovery phase, you can expect a heavy amount of asset and content gathering. The more you have, the more we have about you. Tell us your favorite success stories — it’s even better if you have testimonials from your customers. Send us your logo and its variations. Any favorite photos, fonts, and content you have to share? Let’s see it all. Remember, this is your story; we’re wanting to tell it authentically and in a thorough, engaging way.

Brownie Points for Analytics!

If you have an existing website, and you’ve had analytics tracking installed on your site, we’d love to chat! It’s kind of a cheat sheet to your users’ preferences on your current site, and it can provide us with an idea of how they have been navigating through the content of your site prior to the redesign. It might not provide us with the direction of your website redesign, but it will most certainly give us confidence in driving toward your online goals.

Consistent Communication is Key

You’ll hear us say this a lot, but that’s only because we know how important it is to have consistent communication throughout the website design process. It ensures that, as a team, we meet and maintain expectations. You’re the main visionary, and while CMG prides ourselves on execution, we know that your presence in it leads to your success and growth.

If there are any changes to the goals initially set, we will append the initial plan for you and gain your approval prior to launching into the new success-driven direction.

The point of all the communication stuff is simple: we’re genuinely interested in you and your business, and your success is our goal. It gets us all tingly!

To Boost or Not To Boost on Facebook

How to get results from boosting your company’s Facebook posts.

A boosted Facebook post can gain more interactions, such as comments, reactions, and shares, with your organic content already on your page. Boosting your content will reach potential customers that don’t already follow your business with content that they would see daily from your page.

Advantages of Boosting on Facebook

  • Simplicity: Facebook makes boosting posts as easy as it is to create them. You’ll simply go to a post on your page and click the “Boost Post” button. After a couple of questions, your post will be in front of hundreds of potential new customers. With boosting, you don’t have to create more content for Facebook  advertisements — you use what already works with your original audience. 
  • Customizable: When boosting your post, Facebook will have you define your targeted audience and location. If you want more engagements on your posts, you could set your audience as just the people that like your page. If you want to increase your brand awareness, you could set your audience to a custom demographic in your specified location. If your company wants a mix of more engagement and brand awareness, you could choose to have your post boosted to people that like your page and their friends. 
  • Pay as much as you’d like: Any budget works with boosted posts. Facebook will let you choose how long you would like your page boosted for as well as how large or specific the audience for the post will be. The more specific your audience, and the longer your post will be up, the more expensive the ad will be.

Disadvantages of Boosting on Facebook

  • Too customizable: Facebook allows you to boost your post for as long as you would like, as well as creating any audience you like — whether that’s a wide range or a super-specific one. However, your boosted post won’t be successful just because it’s boosted for a long time or if the audience you picked isn’t right for your content. 
  • It won’t fix a bad post:  If you’re seeing less engagement than usual on one of your posts, the solution may not be to boost it. Dramatically less engagement could mean that your content may not be meeting the needs of your audience. Putting this content in front of more eyes wouldn’t be the solution.
  • It only gains engagement on Facebook: If your goal isn’t to increase your company’s social media presence and engagement, you shouldn’t be boosting. Boosting your posts on Facebook can get you more reactions, shares, comments, and follows, but it doesn’t guarantee link clicks or conversions. If social media interactions aren’t your goal, consider a different form of marketing.

The Bottom Line of Boosting on Facebook

When choosing to boost posts on Facebook, know what goals you are trying to achieve before you decide to promote. Whether you are trying to increase brand awareness with potential new customers, or increase engagements with existing customers, use what already works well with your original audience. At the end of the day, remember to always be true to your brand.

Logo Development

Creating A Strong Logo

A strong logo is one of the most important design elements you can have for your business. It’s what your prospects see first. It shows your identity, distinguishes your business from your competition, and you can put it anywhere from water-bottles to letterhead. So, how do you develop a strong logo for your business? Here’s the process our talented artists use for designing logos.

Do Your Research

First and foremost, you must know your brand. What is your brand about? What do you want your brand to say about your business? Pick words that resonate with you about your brand. Knowing your brand clearly and concisely will help in creating meaningful designs for the business.

Did I Mention Research?

As with anything in the world of consumerism, know your ideal customer. Do they like sleek and modern designs or fun and playful? Do they resonate with a formal tone or more relational in nature? Knowing your customer can help create designs that will appeal to them.

Curate Inspiration

Once the research is out of the way, we start preparing for the design process. The best way to get started is by creating an inspiration board based off of the information we gathered from your research. We start gathering images, typography, colors, etc. that we feel will embody the branding you want.

Sketch It Out

Now it’s time to start sketching. This is where we will explore different ideas based on the information and inspiration that has been gathered. We challenge ourselves by seeing how many different thumbnails we can create in five to ten minutes. You’ll be amazed at how many we can create in that amount of time.

Ready, Set, Illustrate!

Once we have chosen the design we want to run with, we take it into Illustrator. Here, we will explore different types of fonts that will complement the planned design. Logos are most effective when they are simple, yet striking enough to be memorable.

Add Some Color

Next, we add a little color into the design. For this next step, we will choose and refine a color palette for your brand.

Mock It Up

Last, we create the mockup. Mockups help to understand and get a context for the design. These are created by using examples of where the logo might be found (like the water bottle and letterheads mentioned above).

Show Off The Hard Work

Once we have all of these steps completed, it’s time to present our work and the rationale behind all of our choices. Why did we go with a serif font rather than a sans serif? What is the logo supposed to mean? Here, we will show the mockups and the design by itself.

Edit The Design

After the presentation is complete, we will make changes based off of any suggestions or requests that were made.

Create a Style Guide

We’re almost done. Now, it’s time to make the brand style guide. This will be a guide to show how to and how not to use the logo, typography, colors, etc. so the brand will remain consistent throughout all platforms.

A strong logo can say a lot about a business. Do you need help making your logo up-to-par? Contact us and we’ll get started on a good design for you and your business.

Behind CMG’s Pricing Strategy

At Columbia Marketing Group, we like to do things a little different. Typically, the agency model has structured their revenue streams to be based on billable hours to the client, which leaves things open-ended and vague. It’s therefore not unusual to get bills with higher than expected costs and surprise fees.

CMG believes their commitment to the client should be made on a pre-agreed fee structure. We use a guide for how much we charge for projects based on desired scope of the project, our internal expenses, anticipated number of hours, the resources we invest in, and the market value of our services.

However, once we reach an agreement with the client on the scope of a project and a timeline, we believe fully that it is up to our team to be efficient with our time and to deliver on our promises. The price will not change regardless of circumstance whether it’s for graphic design, a brand development project, a new website to be developed, social media management, or your ongoing SEO efforts.

Additionally, we are more than happy publishing our pricing. It is our goal to always live up to our two most valued traits of authenticity and accountability. Would you like to know what your project will cost ahead of time with no surprises? Perfect. We do, too. Would you like to be able to compare our prices with other providers during your research and investigation phase as you pick a provider? No problem. Here it is. What else do you need? We want to make sure that you have all the information necessary to make the best choice when choosing your partner for marketing and communications. Your marketing firm is a very important partner. The group you select will be casting the vision of your company and will be a reflection of you as a person to the world. You need a partner that you can know what to expect from always.

If you’d like to discuss our pricing or potential projects that you have, we’re happy to meet with you. Let me know what you’d like to discuss … our pricing, your culture, or my recommended reading lists … and we’ll do that over coffee.

Redesigning Masonic Outreach

Cassidy Shearrer - Graphic Designer - Columbia Marketing GroupI am a loud extrovert who loves bright colors. My favorite movie is Point Break (the old one, obviously), and I’ve never met a pink I didn’t like. If it has aliens, glitter, or a crazy costume, I will be interested. So, the shocker of my career at the Business Times Company thus far has most definitely been that I LOVED redesigning a Masonic magazine.

At first, I was skeptical. Aren’t all Masons stuffy traditionalists? Would they be willing to try anything new with their design? I had no idea what to expect from the client, and I hoped to find some common ground so that I could enjoy the process while reviving their brand.

One of the challenges of being a designer is that I’m not making art for myself. Instead, I solve visual communication problems for other people. I have to take off my, literally, rose-colored glasses and look through the lens of the client. What colors work best for their content? What font is best to reach their target audience?

Happily, I found a great partner in the ladies at the Masonic Home of Missouri. We shared a passion for history and generosity. It was very exciting to work for the charitable branch of the organization, knowing my work would help provide financial assistance and health information to people in need.

And best of all, they wanted to revive their brand and give their magazine a facelift to reach a new, younger demographic. Queue up the hot pink! Just kidding. But I did get to use illustrations and develop a brand that gave some structure to their content and made their articles more accessible. We were able to provide them with some top-notch photography and a cohesive brand that makes both Masons and myself proud to display the magazine on coffee tables. Creating strong brands that our clients are proud to show the world is just as exciting as designing in my personal style.

Check out the before and after:

Masonic Outreach - Spring 2016 Cover - Masonic Home of Missouri

Masonic Outreach - Summer 2017 Cover - Masonic Home of Missouri

10 Guiding Principles for Working Together

I don’t mind saying it. Working for COMO magazine and Columbia Marketing Group is pretty great. The community has tended to agree in the past by awarding us the 2017 Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year and the 2017 Debin Benish Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year.

But it’s not like it just magically shows up every morning like fairy dust delivered by flying llamas with magical carafes of coffee. It takes hard work and consistent commitment by all parties to a unified vision. Here is the approach we use to ensure we protect the most important part of our company … our culture.

The Business Times Company culture involves three core areas:

  • Care for the cause.
  • Care for our community.
  • Care for ourselves.

Individually, and as a group, we commit to:

Care for the Cause.

  1. Manage by objective. Our goal is to deliver a high-quality product, on time, without pissing off our co-workers! We actively respect the product, the process, and the people, and take responsibility for delivering on what we promise.
  2. Do whatever it takes. We are not bound by roles or job descriptions. We know it takes us all, chipping in, to meet our objectives. Some weeks that means going the extra mile.
  3. Prioritize the mission. We understand that our company mission stems from our love for Mid-Missouri, small business, and healthy team dynamics. For the sake of that mission, we collaborate always, yet respect clear decisions by the person responsible.

Care for our Community.

  1. Acknowledge problems early. We open and honestly embrace conflict before it becomes toxic. We share concerns when they are a 10% problem, before they become a 70% problem. We acknowledge the difference between a problem to solve and a tension to manage.
  2. Share feelings appropriately. We agree to give the benefit of the doubt and work to understand where the other person is coming from. We process our emotions before venting, qualify conflict, and respectfully give constructive feedback.
  3. Refrain from gossip. We commit to talk about a problem with someone who can solve it. We understand that gossip is a fireable offense.
  4. Embrace both sides of the coin. We strive to know the whole person (personality, skills, and strengths), and we understand that we can’t eliminate the qualities we dislike without damaging the ones we love.
  5. Communicate with perspective. When problem solving, we let our co-workers know if we’re talking about a $10, $500, $100,000 or $1 million-dollar issue.

Care for Ourselves.

  1. Work and play hard. We give 110% to the job during office hours, but also prioritize rest, down time, self-care, and self-awareness. We take advantage of the time given by the company to divert daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annually.
  2. Understand emotions. We work to stay emotionally healthy and keep our emotional cups from overflowing. We strive to bring our full and best selves to our jobs (and lives) daily.

A Holiday Gift Guide for the Creatives in Your Life

Are you a Sadie, Cassidy, or Jordan? Which one of our designers’ suggestions could you gift to the creatives in YOUR company?

Sadie’s Picks!

  1. Ampersand Ring: I’m obsessed with ampersands and love minimalist jewelry. (If you are a fan too, follow theampersandstorm on Instagram.)

  2. Pantone Mug: I just think Pantone swatches are so cool. (Yes, this is a “tea” cup, but it holds more than your standard coffee mug, sooo….)
  3. NEVER Tote Bag by Wasted Rita: Because I’m obsessed with typefaces. And I love bags.
  4. A magazine subscription to The Magnolia Journal: Designers can always use more magazine subscriptions (of their choosing, not just any ole mag). I love watching “Fixer Upper” and Chip and Joanna. I think their publication is just so beautiful, and I always feel comforted and relaxed while looking through it.
  5. Letterpress Cookie Cutters: Did I mention I love typefaces?

Cassidy’s Picks!

  1. A subscription to “Tapas”: “Tapas” covers are amazing. I’m dying to know what is inside. Bonus points for supporting print media.
  2. Gradient Puzzle: This is how I hygge.
  3. Locally made cookies: Check out the Berlin Bazaar Winter Market and get allll of Shelly La Fata’s Amaretti cookies. I love supporting local creators.
  4. Stocking stuffer affirmations: This guy was a riot at our design conference last year.
  5. Bougie oyster accessories: I’m obsessed with “Garden & Gun” magazine’s field shop. And oysters.

Jordan’s Picks!

  1. BOOKS! So many books, so little time! It can be hard to know where to start, but these are my personal picks for topics I want to cover in the new year: creative team management, practical day-to-day business stuff, and some classic inspiration from industry legends. (Bonus points if you pick them up from a local bookstore or directly from the author’s website.)
  1. La Croix planter: Handmade ceramics + La Croix = a perfect desk accessory. #teamcoconut (p.s. These come complete with an air plant, perfect for a lazy – uh, I mean, busy – designer.)
  2. Enamel pins: Pins are an easy way to jazz up my daily uniform of black skinny jeans and striped t-shirts.
  1. Pocket Art Director: It’s funny because it’s true.
  2. Anything and everything from Parks Project: Some of the best memories of my life have taken place in National Parks. I got married in Joshua Tree, vacationed in Yosemite, and moved my life across the country, stopping in many along the way. Rather than donating a percentage of the profit, Parks Project partners with conservancies to fund their most immediate and needed projects. So, the parks get some much needed TLC, and you get a beautifully designed good in return. That’s what I like to call a win-win situation.

On the Road Again

Ever feel stuck in a rut? Lacking in creativity and innovation?

It’s so easy to come to work, stare at our computers, and execute the same tasks day after day while losing sight of the bigger picture. Our work can become boring and lifeless – for us and our clients.

That’s why I’m a big advocate for getting out of the office to learn and brainstorm with my teammates. My most recent opportunity was a road trip to Minneapolis with our editorial team to attend the City and Regional Magazine Association’s annual conference.

More than 350 magazine professionals from around the country gathered in the Renaissance Hotel on Third Street to learn from and encourage each other in our craft.

The highlights included hearing from Bob Love, editor in chief of AARP magazine, David Stillman, author and expert on bridging the gap between generations, and David Granger and David Curcurito, former partners in crime at Esquire magazine. 

Did you know AARP has more than 38.6 million readers? They are a lesson in intentionality. According to Bob, mission is their superpower. They are the industry leader in audience segregation, publishing three unique magazines, each targeted toward a different decade of reader. They also stay faithful to reader engagement, ensuring content is focused on their three main priorities – health, wealth, and self.  

Did you know that Generation Z will comprise 40% of all consumers by 2020? According to David Stillman, this generation is a misunderstood group and very different than their millennial counterparts. Born between 1995 and 2012, Gen Z grew up during the recession, has a “Hunger Games” mindset, is competitive with their peers, and is incredibly price-conscious. They are digital natives, our future employees, and unlike their millennial friends, only 8% prefer an open-concept workspace.

What’s the craziest, most creative thing you’ve tried recently? Two former members of Esquire’s editorial team shared example after example of crazy stuff they tried looking for new ways to tell a story. From hand lettering a cover to sending an amateur photographer across the country, they were never afraid to think outside the box. Their talk was a lesson in what can come from letting your wordsmiths and visual artists play.

As for the rest of my takeaways, well they’re staying with me. I can’t give away all my secrets!