Ben Montgomery: Lead Programmer

Ben’s too smart. He’s the kind of person that understands things with half an effort, the kind of intellect that studies math, physics and biochemistry at university with no intention of actually entering the scientific or scholastic fields; a raw talent who picks up a trumpet at age nine and is playing Paganini and Charlie Parker by eleven.

We met Ben in 2005. He was making interactive animations to illustrate complex equations. Kinda random. We asked, “Can you animate this logo?” His stoicism can be intimidating, but he acquiesced. The animations created over the following years were among the very best being produced in New Mexico.

Ben never left Meridiansix but kept a long elliptical orbit. Coming in for small projects and disappearing again for months at a time. When my front-end programmer retired in 2013, we offered him the position. I was surprised and excited when he agreed. Over the last fifteen years, he’s become our primary asset.

Adam LaVail: Lead Designer

In 2000, Adam took a leap of faith, leaving his successful contracting career to launch a design agency, with nothing more than a tangerine iMac in his living room.

Meridiansix quickly grew to the second largest web design company in New Mexico. After the 2008 market crash, Meridiansix scaled-down and survived, and so did the clients he represented. The market wasn’t driven by luxury and indulgence anymore, things had become more fundamental, more value-centric. After enduring the second major economic downturn with Covid-19, Adam embraced these shifts and aligned to new expectations. He is a seasoned marketing veteran. He works smart, is aware of trends, and is experienced enough to common pitfalls. A natural problem solver, Adam is interested in giving his clients great value and sustaining long-term relationships.

Print Marketing

It’s just mostly dead. Compared to conventional print marketing, paperless marketing is cheaper, easier to target your audience and transparent in it’s effectiveness. You can actually tell if someone has clicked on your ad, opened your newsletter, or visited your website. When you place an ad in your local newspaper or in a magazine, you can only guess how many people looked at it or acted on it.

Another problem with print marketing is that it’s expensive. You’ll spend as much or more on a single placement as you might spend on a month or two of an AdWords campaign. If you print and mail your promotion, there are design, printing, shipping, and postage expenses to absorb. The general trend across most industries is to move at least three-quarters of your annual print budget into online marketing and website development.

Why not stop print marketing altogether? Don’t stop. Scale it back, for sure. Move some of those dollars into interactive media. There is still an audience for print, we just need to be more selective about when and where we advertise.

In print, bigger is better. Place one full-page ad instead of 3 quarter-page ads. It’s more impactful, generates a greater response, and is remembered longer. Special editions are more valuable than standard issues; a Summer Guide, Winter Guide, or “Best Of” publication has a longer shelf life. Say yes to sales and special offers. Magazines will sometimes reach out with a great price for a great placement. I find those hard to pass up.

Would you believe me if I said junk mail is fresh again? Well-written collateral is getting opened again. Direct mail is back. The USPS offers a single-price delivery to individual postal routes, that’s a great innovation.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the “heavy lifting” of self-promotion. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. Content marketing is generating unique content that’s interesting, educational, informative, or advantageous to your audience. It could be text, photos, audio recordings, videos, or (more likely) a combination of media. It can be unique content, republished content, research, opinion, or candid/personal thoughts and moments. Even if you hire someone to help, you’ll need to be directly involved.

I call it heavy lifting because, on top of everything else you already do to run your business every day, you need to take time out to regularly generate quality content. Writing isn’t easy, nor is remembering to take a lot of photos. On top of all that, you’ll have to get comfortable sharing. What you create needs to be genuinely funny, actually interesting, or somehow valuable. Why go through all the bother?

Because content is king, it’s always been King and it’s always going to be King.

Good content is easy to share: email newsletters, social media posts, articles on your website, lectures, and videos. All of these channels are fast, easy, and often free. Good content has viral potential. Some articles will get quoted, cited, and “linked to” by other websites. You will have more keyword-rich content and inbound links so your ranking on Google and other search engines will improve.

Potential customers will have a higher opinion of you, and anyone you impress is going to call you before turning to your competition.

Beware of companies that say they can handle this burden for you. They fill your marketing channels with boilerplate, reposted, semi-appropriate, non-impactful, and mediocre content. A good agency will pull good content out of you, edit and prepare it for public consumption, send it back for final signoff, and then distribute it appropriately.

Internet Security Is An Oxymoron

Anyone can get hacked. If you don’t believe me, here’s a list high profile websites that have been recently compromised: Premera Blue Cross, Chick-fil-A, Sony, U.S. Postal Service, Staples, Kmart, Dairy Queen, Home Depot, Jimmy Johns, J.P. Morgan, Yahoo Mail, Ebay, AT&T, Neiman Marcus, UPS, Apple iCloud, Microsoft, NBC, Twitter, and the U.S. Government.

Once an exploit is identified, robots crawl the internet looking for opportunities. Even if you do your due diligence, it’s still not unreasonable to assume that, at some point, you will get hacked. If you prepare for it, it won’t be that bad.

Similarly, Symantec, one of the world’s largest anti-virus software companies declared its own industry “dead.” The reality is the computer virus problem is too big. The attackers are too numerous. It takes a certain amount of bravery to admit defeat. Let’s work on mitigating risk.

Don’t host vulnerable data. Use third-party gateways processing e-commerce payments. Don’t “go it alone” to save a few pennies. They have a larger security staff than you ever will. If you are storing records, integrate third-party solutions.

Don’t use easy passwords, and change them once in a while. This doesn’t just apply to your website, it’s basic internet hygiene. A “brute force attack” is just a program that guesses thousands of passwords a second. If your password isn’t complex enough, it will bust down the front door and walk right in.

Invest in automated backups. If your site is ever compromised, identify an uncorrupted version and restore it quickly, patch up the exploitation and get you back on the road with minimal upset.

All Roads Lead To Google

Like Rome MM years ago—Google is that powerful. They knew it would eventually happen. It’s why their internal slogan has always been “Don’t be evil.” Google is so ubiquitous, that it’s achieved that rarified status of being both a noun and a verb, and in the world of science fiction, lies somewhere between George Orwell’s big brother and the master program from Tron—virtual totalitarianism. I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s probably both, but the sooner you admit Google’s strength, the sooner you can benefit by aligning with its methods.

There are three primary avenues for businesses to address Google: organic search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), and Google Maps. There’s more to Google than just those three items: Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Calendar are all extremely useful, and Meridiansix incorporates all of them into our everyday workflow.

Search engine optimization is when you try to make your site show up as high as possible when somebody makes a relevant query for your particular services, e.g. “web design santa fe.” You can make this same query on Yahoo or Bing, and, in theory, good SEO will have a positive effect on all of them. It’s just better to make Google your primary target engine, as they contain the lion’s share of such traffic. There are two parts to SEO, and the first is “relevancy.” Relevancy refers to how well your website seems to match up with the search term, and involves an exact or approximate match to the search terms queried, how many times those keywords show up and at what level of importance they appear on your page. Google’s algorithm is pretty smart. Early attempts to fool their “spiders” that crawl and index the web, e.g. writing keywords in white text on a white background thousands of times, just doesn’t work anymore. Neither does packing a bunch of keywords below the fold, in the footer, or in hidden layers. Google knows exactly where your keywords are appearing and treats them accordingly. This gets technical, but in a nutshell, to score well keywords should appear in: the page name, the page headline, the URL, in the first paragraph, some bolds, and italics don’t hurt, neither do a few images containing the same keywords as filenames and in their filename, “alt-tags” and “meta-tags.” Doing this first chunk goes a long way to increase relevancy.

The second part of SEO is popularity. Google’s algorithm weighs: how many other sites link to your site, what specific text is used when they link to your site and the domain authority of those sites. Known as “link building,” it’s the more difficult of the two SEO requirements because you don’t control what other people do on their websites. You have to reach out and convince them to link to you—not an easy matter.

Though a lot of companies say they offer SEO services—very, very few actually perform these services to industry standards. If the services are being performed earnestly you can expect 1) an analysis of appropriate keywords and their level of competition; 2) development of an overall keyword strategy; 3) a once-over optimization of all pages of the website; 4) monthly reports on current keyword rankings for your site and three competitor’s sites; 4) ongoing keyword optimizations and new content expansions; 5) link building efforts to increase site popularity. If you’re paying for SEO and not seeing all 5 necessary steps, you’re probably getting ripped off.

Google Ads are sponsored links that show up on the top and the sides of the results of a query. If you are trying to compete on keywords organically against competition that is way too strong, this is your best option. It’s a pay-per-click model, in a bidding format. Whoever bids the highest amount shows up on top, and you only get billed if your ad is clicked. Competition defines the cost of a click. If a keyword isn’t very competitive, it’ll cost less than a dollar. If it’s very competitive, e.g. “women’s clothing”, you can expect to pay $3, $6 or more per click. The good news is that you set your own daily budget. Your ad appears until your budget is consumed, then it simply disappears for the rest of the day. There are also great scripts you can embed into your site to pull accurate metrics on actual conversions.

Claim your business profile. Google Maps results are hugely important. They have a decent idea of the location of every business in America. The amount of web traffic generated by Google Maps is staggering. Google Plus allows you to gain control of the business profile used by the maps database, and upload accurate contact information, hours of operation, photos, and other descriptive information. Other Google users are able to comment on your company and give it a star ranking. It’s not difficult to do, and it’s invaluable.



Kathrin Schlenzig: Business Development

The first time we met Kathrin, she was a client. The multinational company she was helping needed everything from brand refinement and a new website to a cloud-based project management database and archive. Even though the project was complicated, it ran smoothly. Kathrin was so good at auditing our work that we tried to hire her to do quality control.

One day her phone rang during a meeting and she started speaking supersonic German. Turns out that English is her fifth language.

Meridiansix and Kathrin collaborated on more projects. She eventually took over our Google Ads and direct marketing campaigns and became an invaluable set of eyes for design and content efforts. She’s the kind of person who says things like vertical integration, value framework, and target validation during meetings. Maybe she’s just showing off her advanced degree in Business Administration, Finance, and Strategic Planning from Justus Liebig University. Kathrin brings her financial background to bear on every project and sees marketing efforts in a greater context that includes everything from operational efficiency to the client journey.