Cutting Through the Mumbo-Jumbo of Search

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, semantic search, Hummingbird and Rank Brain are just part of a dizzying array of technical terms and reserved words used by search professionals at the developmental and marketing levels.

SEOArtificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, semantic search, Hummingbird and Rank Brain are just part of a dizzying array of technical terms and reserved words used by search professionals at the developmental and marketing levels.

These terms, at their very base, all refer to processes and technologies used to determine if a page on your site should return as No. 1 in the search results.

It is my contention that this bewildering and ever-growing vocabulary can be easily turned into operational SEO, if the site owner simply focuses on a few clear principles and then executes against them. This may sound simplistic, and it is at the 20,000-foot view. Look out — the ground-level view is much more complex. Here are the principles:

Search Is About Users Wanting to Find Your Site

If you are an e-commerce vendor and have on offer a nice selection of desirable merchandise, then the task is straightforward.

You must make sure that your site clearly conveys what you are selling — more clearly than your competitors do, or Google will put them ahead of you.

This requires a single-minded focus on making sure that your users know what you have on offer, can find it on your site, and that your content and navigation facilitate the process. Focus on what you are selling, and on guiding the customer to your merchandise.

Search Is About the Customers, Not About the Company

I once had a strange experience evaluating a business-to-business site. After reading the entire site carefully, I had no idea of what the company did. I actually had to call the site owner and ask for the elevator pitch on the company.

The company had a talented and experienced management team (or so the site said). There were lots of references to Six Sigma and lean manufacturing, as well as an impressive list of clients; but nowhere was it clearly stated what the company did.

The content could have applied to dozens of different manufacturing companies. They did not have a search problem — an SEO problem. What they had was an internally focused site that did not consider who would want to find it, and what the searcher coming to the site might need or want.

The business wanted more customers and had built an impressive site in hopes of attracting more customers, but they had forgotten about what the customer might want.

Takeaway for Marketers
Years ago, when sites were little more than brochure-ware, the website functioned as a corporate capabilities document. Some of this thinking still leaks into site development.

Search is then expected to be layered on top of the final construct. This is backward.

The searcher should be front-and-center if you expect to garner lots of traffic from search. Every decision should be made with the finder, the searcher, and the end-user in mind.

Search Is About Words and Content

Until artificial intelligence advances to a non-verbal level of understanding, words and content are essential for guiding users to what they want. It does not matter if the searcher is using a voice or a keyboard, words will be streamed together to articulate, however poorly, what the individual wants.

If you want searchers to come to your site, you must make sure that your content meshes with the words a searcher might use. We have freighted this process with the terminology like keyword analysis, but it is really much simpler in principle. It requires an understanding of your user’s intent and the building of a rich vocabulary for describing what a searcher might want to find at the site.

Takeaway for Marketers
If you build your site with these three simple principles in mind, then all of the rest of the technical aspects of search will fall into place more easily. Yes! It gets very messy at the ground level. Each section and each page must be agonized over (I do mean optimized). That is the stuff for future posts, so as they say: “Watch this space.”

Gmail’s Tabbed Inbox: What Is Your Risk?

Marketers are vacillating between “no big deal” and “panic mode” when they think of Gmail’s interface that automatically sorts incoming emails. There are two questions that every emailer needs to ask: “What’s our risk?” and “How do we prepare?”

Marketers are vacillating between “no big deal” and “panic mode” when they think of Gmail’s interface that automatically sorts incoming emails. It continues to be a hot topic for users and marketers. Early feedback from Google suggests that users like it because there has been a strong retention rate of the tab experience. This isn’t surprising because the automated sort process simplifies life in the email world. Marketers can expect the tabs to stay.

The effect on email marketing results will fail somewhere between a complete derailing of campaigns and very little change. There are two questions that every email marketer needs to ask: “What’s our risk?” and “How do we prepare?” Answering those questions now makes it easier to respond if the changes have a direct effect on your business.

What Is Your Risk?
Assessing your risk begins with a review of your subscriber list. Estimating how many subscribers use Gmail isn’t as simple as one might think because there are two types of Gmail users. The easiest type to identify includes addresses that end with @gmail.com. They are confirmed users. The second is impossible to identify because Gmail provides email services to corporations, schools and government offices. You would have to have Google’s proprietary list of Gmail clients to know who to tag.

Judging by the databases we’ve analyzed, B-to-C companies have a better ability to measure the risk than B-to-B because people tend to use personal email addresses for consumer shopping. B-to-C companies can look at known Gmail users to access the risk. B-to-B companies will have a harder time because their subscribers tend to use company or organization email addresses. There are always exceptions. One exception for B-to-B is companies that market to soloprenuers.

A large base of Gmail users doesn’t automatically translate into high risk. The tabs have no effect on emails opened in applications like Outlook. There are studies that suggest that direct Gmail opens are less than 4% of total opens. Globally, there may be very little risk. What happens globally doesn’t matter if your database houses a high percentage of direct Gmail users.

How Do You Prepare?

  • Segment known Gmail users. This makes it easier to monitor open rates and times. The timing is especially important if your company sends limited time offers. Placing promotional emails in a separate tab may delay opens instead of reducing them. If the delay extends beyond the offer expiration, it will have a direct effect on revenue.
  • Watch for consistent trends. Gmail users tend to be a bit erratic with their open rates. It’s not unusual to see fluctuations. A small drop may be a hiccup instead of the beginning of the fall.
  • Monitor individual behavior. If you can identify individuals who use Gmail and consistently open your emails, create a segment for them. These are highly engaged people that want to read your messages. A drop in their open rate indicates a problem.
  • Ask for help. If there is a negative Gmail tab effect, ask Gmail users to flag your emails so they will go to the Primary tab. Some marketers started doing this shortly after the tabs became available. I don’t recommend this preemptive move because the new inbox is being tested by users now. If there isn’t a problem, why bother subscribers with information that may be confusing for them? It may not work anyway. While people are in test mode, they may switch between the classic and new versions. When they do, the flagged addresses revert to their original status.
  • Make your content more valuable. When people want to read your emails, they will find them. It doesn’t matter where they are hidden. Avid subscribers look for the messages and will email you if they don’t find them.
  • Watch for trends. If one or more segments start showing declines in response rates and revenue, look for similarities in email addresses. It could be a Gmail issue where the service is being provided to a third party.

What Social Sites Should YOU Be Using?

Most people know about mega-popular social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, I get a lot of questions about other, underutilized sites that are on the tipping point of mass popularity—specifically, how these sites can be leveraged for marketing purposes.

Most people know about mega-popular social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, I get a lot of questions about other, underutilized sites that are on the tipping point of mass popularity—specifically, how these sites can be leveraged for marketing purposes.

But before I go into that, I’d like to clarify the differences between various “social”-type sites:

Social bookmarking, news and tagging are sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Delicious and Pinterest. These websites allow users to “bookmark” things they like—content, images, videos, websites—and allow others in the community to see what’s been bookmarked and “follow,” if they wish. This is the epitome of viral marketing and community interaction. When groups of people are like-minded, it’s fun and easy to share feedback of things of common interest. For business purposes, it’s also a strong way to bond with your audience through content, news and images that are synergistic and leverage those interests for increased website traffic and more.

Social networking sites are communities like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus. It’s a way for groups of people to meet and stay in touch with each other, for personal and professional purposes. People can friend, follow or fan someone based on affiliation or interest. Another new site is Quora.com, which is a social question and answer site. Users can view by category and post questions or answers on virtually any business-related topic.

Social media refers to sites like Youtube, Flicker or Tumblr, where groups of users share media content such as video, audio or pictures (photos). There’s also new sites like Spotify.com, which are social music sharing sites, where users can listen to mp3 files themselves, as well as with friends, via Facebook.

The following are some social sites that you may want to include in your online marketing mix as well as some other tactical tidbits:

  • Pinterest.com is a social community where users “pin” (think of a bulletin board) things that they like. Quite simply, it’s a virtual pin board. Users can re-pin (which promotes viral marketing) or follow someone with the same interest. Pinterest is a fun site because it focuses on the visual element. You can leverage your keyword-rich content when you add your descriptive text to your “pin.” In addition, Pinterest asks for your URL, which will be a back-link to that webpage. This will encourage search engine marketing, branding and webpage traffic. Pinterest uses graphics, images (pics) and video pictures. And that’s what will grab community members’ attention, along with well-written descriptive text.

Important Tip! For marketing purposes, you can use Pinterest to promote your business or websites related to your business, such as landing pages, squeeze pages, product pages and more. What’s important to know is that if your website, or the webpages you’re thinking of pinning are flash (dynamic) webpages, you will be unable to “pin” it, as there’s no static images on a flash page for Pinterest to “grab” for posting.

So if you’re thinking about using testing Pinterest in your social marketing plan, make sure to pick websites or modify your own webpages to be graphic-, image- or video-rich. Also, like any marketing tactics you’re testing, make sure it’s in sync with your overall marketing plan and target audience.

If you’re target audience is an older crowd, then this may not be the best website, or channel, to reach them.

  • Quora.com is a great online resource community of questions and answers. If you want to reinforce yourself as an expert, you can search questions related to your area of expertise and post responses that are useful, valuable and actionable. If you have a legitimate question about any topic, you can post by category and view replies from others who may be versed in that field. Quora is a great way to create visibility for yourself. As well, it allows you to upload relevant back-links which encourage website traffic and linkbuilding.

Important Tip! It’s important to keep a steady presence on Quora. Stick to your areas of expertise (categories and topics). Make sure you have a keyword rich descriptive bio about yourself and include back-links to relevant websites. As with most all search, social and content marketing strategies—relevance and usefulness is key. All of these things help with credibility and branding. In addition, Quora’s pages are indexed by search engines and do appear in organic search engine results pages (SERPs). That, in and of itself, can expand your reach and visibility, which can lead to increased website traffic, which can then be parlayed into leads or sales.

  • Digg.com.com is one of my favorite content bookmarking sites. You can upload content “snippets” or news nuggets. The site will also pull in any images and well as back-links appearing on the same page as your content. Content can be given a “category,” so that the right readers will find it. The more popular your content (number of “digs”), the more people in the community it gets exposed to. Viral marketing and traffic generation (to the source website in the “digg”) are typical outcomes from this website. Reddit.com is a similar site, which allows users to upload a content excerpts (article, video, picture) and link to the full version. This is a great site to increase your market visibility and extend reach. It’s also a powerful platform to drive website traffic.

Important Tip! Use content that is “UVA”—useful, valuable and actionable, something newsworthy and/or interesting to your target reader. It’s very important to have a strong, eye-catching or persuasive headline that people in the community will want to read. There’s so much background noise on Digg that you want your content/headline to jump out at the reader. Also, include a back-link in the body copy you are uploading. This will help with branding, link-building and traffic generation. With Reddit, your content excerpt space is limited, so make sure to pick content that will not only resonate with the target audience, but also screams out to the reader to “click here” to read more. Then link to your full article, which should be posted on an inside page of your website.

  • Google+. Google Plus is Google’s attempt at social networking. It’s not as popular … yet … as behemoth Facebook (900 million users as of April 2012), but it’s got “teeth,” at around 90 million users. And because it’s Google, there’s some great search-friendly benefits built right in. For example, it’s indexed by Google, so your messages can get found faster. This helps with search engine visibility and website traffic.

Important Tip! For business purposes, you can share relevant information and personalize your “social” circles; thereby, targeting your message better for each group. It’s easy to share and rank (a combination of Digg and Facebook) content such as posts and messages. And there’s also a variety of sharing options like content, video, photos (similar to Pinterest, Flickr and YouTube).

With social marketing, it’s a matter of matching the content type to the most synergistic platform and audience. Social marketing may not be for every business. But I believe it’s certainly worth a strategic test. Just remember an old copywriting rule of thumb, which is “know your audience.” If you know who your target reader (prospect) is, then you can craft enticing messages and pick social platforms where those prospects are likely to congregate.

Most any social marketing site can be leveraged for marketing and business purposes. But make sure to keep your messages fun, entertaining, engaging and interactive. Because, after all, that’s what the “social” in “social marketing” is all about.

Optimizing Paid Search Campaigns for the ‘Third Device’

It’s time to think of tablets as a distinct “third device” and devise performance marketing strategies to engage tablet users. Advertisers must take advantage of the ability now offered in AdWords to target smartphones and tablets separately.

Tablets are the fastest-selling consumer technology device in history. According to eMarketer, 24 million U.S. consumers will own a tablet by the end of this year. By the end of 2012, 12.8 percent of people in the U.S. will own a tablet.

As of June 1, Google AdWords began separating “tablets with full browsers” as a distinct device within AdWords reporting. Previously, tablets were grouped with all “mobile devices with full browsers” (i.e., smartphones). Thus, June gave us our first look into tablet paid search impression and click volume. Impressions and clicks were immediately high in June, showing that tablets have likely been materially contributing to Google mobile paid search share for a number of months.

For Performics’ aggregate client base, 12.1 percent of all June desktop and mobile paid search impressions came from mobile devices. Of this 12.1 percent, 14.3 percent came from tablets. Based on these numbers, tablets now compose 1.7 percent of all paid search impressions. Additionally, tablets contributed to 13.3 percent of all mobile paid search clicks. Tablet cost per clicks track at about 50 percent of PC cost per clicks. The bottom line is that consumers are now on tablets searching for your brand, and it’s not expensive to engage them.

It’s time to think of tablets as a distinct “third device” and devise performance marketing strategies to engage tablet users. Advertisers must take advantage of the ability now offered in AdWords to target smartphones and tablets separately. At Performics, we’ve seen that tablet usage patterns resemble mobile patterns — people do most of their tablet searching in the evening. However, people use tablets differently than smartphones, which reveals opportunities to optimize your paid search campaign for the third device.

Unlike smartphones, tablets feature advanced scrolling functionality. Since tablet users can scroll with a gesture, they’re more likely to peruse search results and landing pages. This makes tablet users more likely than smartphone users to click on search results that are further down the page. Thus, bid strategies should differ when targeting tablets versus smartphones.

Tablets have bigger screens than smartphones. Tablet traffic should therefore be driven to desktop — not mobile — landing pages, where users have more room to browse.

A different device means different copy optimization opportunities. Once tablets are separated into distinct search campaigns, copy and links can be geared specifically to tablet users — e.g., “purchase now from your tablet” or “buy an accessory for your tablet.”

As the device landscape becomes increasingly fragmented, performance marketers must capitalize on every little opportunity to optimize advertising by device. Brands that tailor advertising to support tablets will achieve a first-mover advantage as tablets increase in popularity. This advantage comes in the form of data — e.g., nuances in how your customers use different devices — which reveal opportunities to engage consumers in more effective and efficient ways.

Have you noticed ways that your customers interact with tablets differently than smartphones or PCs? If so, please leave a comment below.

The Social Media Sobriety Test

From the now-I’ve-heard-it-all-file: Ever send a message on Facebook at 3 a.m. after a night of alcohol imbibing that you regretted? Don’t even remember doing it? Then the Social Media Sobriety Test, a free Firefox plug-in from online security company Webroot Software, is for you.

From the now-I’ve-heard-it-all-file: Ever send a message on Facebook at 3 a.m. after a night of alcohol imbibing that you regretted? Don’t even remember doing it? Then the Social Media Sobriety Test, a free Firefox plug-in from online security company Webroot Software, is for you.

The plug-in was designed to prevent drunk people for publishing anything they might regret when sober. It requires users to perform a series of tasks before allowing them to post messages or photos to a social media site.

More specifically, after downloading the plug-in, users of networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube can choose to block these specific sites at the hours of the day (or night) they consider themselves most at risk to drunken posting. The plug-in asks users to pass a randomly selected sobriety test such as dragging the mouse in a straight line or typing the alphabet backwards before being able to log on.

“Nothing good happens online after 1 a.m.,” reads the web page promoting the plug-in, which promises to help “put an end to the embarrassment that follows regrettable, late-night posts.”

“Pass a simple test to prove you’re sound of mind,” Webroot Software says. “Post away or, if you fail, maybe just go to bed.”

As evidence of the need for its service, the app’s page features a scroll of Twitter posts (some with the hashtags #drunk or #drunktweet) that could have been avoided:

  • “THANK GOD, it worked. Now I better not be charged for stalking.”
  • “I better get to sleep. I have to get up early to call in sick to work.”
  • “wah I hate my boss.”

Google also offers a tool for its Gmail service designed to prevent users from sending drunken emails. Mail Goggles forces users to solve five simple math problems in less than a minute in order to send a late-night message.

I’ve yet to try either service, but might after a few drinks during the upcoming Fourth of July holiday. Have you tried either? If so, please let us know how they worked by posting a comment below.

What Would the Korean Taco Truck Do?

Some of the most interesting marketing ideas aren’t coming from big consumer brands and award-winning agencies, but instead from scrappy local businesses such as Kogi BBQ, AJ Bombers and The Roxy. Los Angeles-based Kogi BBQ, for example, started the mobile food truck Twitter trend and is now a marketing legend, its story covered by everyone from the New York Times to the BBC (and, coincidentally, eM+C).

It’s 12:30 in the morning and you need a Korean taco fix. No worries, Twitter is there to enable. If you live in a metropolitan area, odds are there are a dozen or more mobile food vendors that are broadcasting their latest location, specials of the day and wait time via Twitter.

Some of the most interesting marketing ideas aren’t coming from big consumer brands and award-winning agencies, but instead from scrappy local businesses such as Kogi BBQ, AJ Bombers and The Roxy. Los Angeles-based Kogi BBQ, for example, started the mobile food truck Twitter trend and is now a marketing legend, its story covered by everyone from the New York Times to the BBC (and, coincidentally, eM+C).

Another small business that’s getting its share of headlines is AJ Bombers, a Milwaukee burger joint. It made news in March when it attracted over 150 foursquare users to its restaurant who were looking to earn a coveted “Swarm Badge” — awarded when 50 or more foursquare users check in at the same time. It has since held another Swarm Badge party, most recently on foursquare day. Yes, there’s a foursquare day. It’s April 16th, mark your calendar.

When the new owner of The Roxy took over the famed L.A. nightclub, one of the first things he did was replace its website with a blog. He also collaborated with other entertainment venues on the Sunset Strip, including The Viper Room and The Comedy Store, to promote each other’s events via Twitter and Facebook. And then came the Sunset Strip Tweet Crawl, now an annual event, where tweeps (Twitter followers) enjoy free cover charges to bars and clubs on the Strip, prizes, and drinks specials announced via Twitter throughout the night.

What they’re doing right
These businesses have all succeeded in standing out by embracing new marketing techniques, letting their unique personalities shine through. But above all, they’ve maintained a relentless focus on pleasing their customers. What they’re doing feels personal because it is personal. Here’s a look at how you can do it, too.

1. Lighten up. Have some fun and don’t take yourself so seriously. Over 230 foursquare users showed up at A.J. Bombers last month to claim a custom “I’m on a Boat” Swarm badge by checking in at the kayak located at the front of the restaurant. It’s not always about the “value exchange” of coupons and points; often, good old-fashioned silliness can be an incredible motivator to join in. What’s your kayak?

2. Stay in touch. Communicate frequently with your customers. Use digital media to reflect the vibrant, living, breathing company you are. This is especially important for social media. If you have a Twitter follower base or Facebook fans, these are your hand raisers — i.e., people who want to hear from you. Talk to them; tell them what’s going on.

3. Play nice in the sandbox. Man cannot live on kimchi quesadillas alone. Many of these small businesses have a collaborative approach with their competitors. Koi Fusion, a Portland, Ore.-based Korean BBQ truck, regularly banters and sometimes smack talks with competitors such as Whiffies (the deep fried pie guys) and Potato Champion via Twitter, but also wholeheartedly cross-promotes them on its blog. Might there be alliances with “frenemies” that are mutually beneficial?

4. Behave like a person, not a “brand.”
Think about the way you’re treated by your favorite supermarket cashier, bartender or restaurant waiter. That’s the standard by which you should be addressing your customers. If you’re going to start a Twitter account or already have a Facebook page, get ready to respond. Want to see this in action? Just mention JetBlue in a tweet and see how quickly you hear back from them.

Think small

Imagine yourself in the place of these entrepreneurs. What would your company do differently if you just started a brand new business? Is it getting by on a shoestring marketing budget (OK, maybe that part doesn’t take that much imagination) with just a few hundred customers, most of whom you know by name? What would the Korean taco truck do?

Most Twitter Users Follow Brands

A new report from Edison Research’s Arbitron/Edison Internet and Multimedia Series, Twitter Usage In America: 2010, contains all sorts of interesting Twitter facts. It presents three years of tracking data from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,753 Americans conducted in February 2010.

A new report from Edison Research’s Arbitron/Edison Internet and Multimedia Series, Twitter Usage In America: 2010, contains all sorts of interesting Twitter facts. It presents three years of tracking data from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,753 Americans conducted in February 2010.

A key finding for marketers: Fifty-one percent of Twitter users said they follow at least one brand on a social network, according to the report. That number drops to just 16 percent for users of all social networks.

What’s more, 42 percent of Twitter users said they use the tool to learn about products or services, and 41 percent said they use it to provide opinions about them. Twenty-eight percent said they use Twitter to look for sales or discounts, 21 percent use it to purchase products or services, and 19 percent use it to seek customer support.

Here are some other key findings from the report:

  • Awareness of Twitter has exploded from 5 percent of Americans age 12 and over in 2008 to 87 pecent in 2010. By comparison, Facebook’s awareness is 88 percent.
  • Despite near equal awareness, Twitter trails Facebook significantly in usage: 7 percent of Americans (17 million people) actively use Twitter, while 41 percent maintain a profile page on Facebook.
  • Nearly two-thirds of active Twitter users access social networking sites using a mobile phone.
  • Blacks make up nearly one-quarter of the U.S. Twitter population, twice their share of the total population of the country. In contrast, whites make up more than 69 percent of internet users, but about one-half of Twitter users.

The report said that high usage in the black community could be related to the mobile nature of Twitter. While many users update their status with a PC, mobile devices are a major conduit of microblog posts. Research shows that blacks and Hispanics are both more likely than whites to use the mobile web, especially among younger users.

Pretty interesing stuff. Were you surprised by any of these findings? If so, please leave a comment below.

Easy Fixes for Your Website Mistakes, Part 2

Last week in this space, I discussed the first five web design mistakes highlighted in an Oct. 13 Target Marketing-sponsored presentation titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the event’s sponsor. I moderated.

Last week in this space, I discussed the first five web design mistakes highlighted in an Oct. 13 Target Marketing-sponsored presentation titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the event’s sponsor. I moderated.

(To tune in to a replay of the presentation, register here.)

This week, I’ll discuss the last five mistakes, which were presented by both Amy and Matt.

6. Blocking your users’ progress. Don’t make people go through extra steps to get the information they need from your site, Schade said. Instead, make your users feel like they’re flowing through your site and making progress toward reaching their end goals.

7. Saying way too much or way too little. Before offering any details about a product, offer a synopsis of the product you’re selling, Schade said. Users will not scroll through pages and pages of information about a product unless they know exactly what the product is. Also, be specific when categorizing your products.

A good way to do both of these things, according to Schade, is to use a concept called layering, where you offer different layers of product information on your site.

At the top of a page, for instance, you could show a picture of an item, along with some identifying characteristics. If users are interested, they can scroll down the page and see a highlights tab that summarizes more detailed information about it. Then if they’re still interested, they can click through and read more detailed information. This is a nice balance of presenting the right amount of information in a very usable way, Schade said.

8. Not taking a walk in your users shoes. This applies to users web usability and technical perspectives, Poepsel said. Make sure the experiences they have in terms of website availability, performance and load time are excellent. If not, users will be frustrated, your brand will be at risk and you’ll incur higher operational costs, among other potential problems.

9. Not checking your work twice. Validate how your website looks, displays and performs not just in the most popular browsers — such as Internet Explorer 7.0 — but in all the possible browsers consumers may use when visiting your site, Poepsel said.

10. Not preparing for success. Make sure your website can perform well in both your lowest traffic times and your highest, Poepsel said. You don’t want to have the performance of your website flounder after sending out an email blast about a special promotion. Despite the influx of people going to your website at the same time, it should perform just as well as it normally does.

Easy Fixes for Your Website Mistakes

Target Marketing presented a webinar on Oct. 13 titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the sponsor. I moderated.

Target Marketing presented a webinar on Oct. 13 titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the sponsor. I moderated.

Since the topic turned out to be very popular — more than 500 attendees listened in and stayed for the duration of the 60-minute presentation — I thought I’d present the mistakes discussed. Here, I’ll discuss the first five mistakes, which were all presented by Amy. The last five mistakes, which were presented by Amy and Matt, will follow next week. (To tune in to a replay of the presentation, register here.)

Mistake 1: Believing people read what you write. Users don’t read; they scan, Schade said. As a result, when writing copy for the web, simple and straightforward are best.

Mistake 2: Reflecting your priorities, not your users’. Balance your goals and your users’ goals, Schade said. While you may want to promote your latest offer, sell off inventory, promote your brand or collect leads, your users probably want to get the answers to specific questions or get in and out of your site quickly.

Mistake 3: Ignoring standards. Some design elements on web pages already work and are de facto standards, Schade said. The search box, for example, is usually located in the upper right-hand corner of a web page. When a search box is moved to another spot on a page, this may give users the impression that a site is trying to hide the search box or that the search isn’t very good.

You don’t want to convey that information just because you changed the design location of where something appears on the page, Schade said. There’s room for creativity in web design, but make sure any new designs you try are usable.

Mistake 4: Using the wrong images. While pictures can go a long way on a website in terms of conveying information and getting users interested in your site, products or services, you don’t want to use the wrong ones, Schade said.

Examples of the wrong images include the following:
• generic or stock art;
• boring graphics;
• images that are not related to content; and
• graphics that look like ads.

The right images, on the other hand, include the following:
• images that are related to content;
• images that are clear and the right size; and
• pictures of approachable, real people.

Mistake 5: Not speaking your customers’ language
. It’s so easy getting caught up in the lingo and language used internally at your company when writing web copy; you forget about your users’ perspectives, Schade said. Big mistake. Instead, always think about how users may define or categorize your merchandise. Good places for inspiration on this front are your product reviews. Since they’re provided by users, they speak your users’ language.

Virtual Worlds Marketing Is Kids Stuff

Remember virtual worlds? You know, those 3-D computer environments where users are represented on screen as themselves or as made-up characters and interact in real time with other users?

Remember virtual worlds? You know, those 3-D computer environments where users are represented on screen as themselves or as made-up characters and interact in real time with other users?

A few years ago, these online “other worlds” were the place to be for brand marketers. You couldn’t get through the day without reading about how such big brands as Cisco, Dell, Starwood Hotels and Toyota were plunking down a big percentage of their marketing budgets to be a part of the buzz — and hopefully get some returns.

These companies ran campaigns in these online worlds to build their brand names, test products and in some cases even sell digital merchandise.

The buzz around virtual worlds marketing has died down for sure. Many of these companies didn’t get the results they were looking for. The virtual worlds didn’t either. Second Life, for example, has even switched its business focus to training, promoting itself as a place where companies can hold meetings, conduct training, build product prototypes or simulate business situations “in a safe learning environment,” according to its Web site.

But despite the changes, virtual worlds marketing should not be ignored. Know why? Kids are now visiting these sites regularly, albeit not Second Life.

In 2008, eight million children and teens in the U.S. visited virtual worlds on a regular basis, according to a recent eMarketer article. What’s more, the online research firm projects that number will surpass 15 million by 2013. The report references an eMarketer report, Kids and Teens: Growing Up Virtual, which provides some more noteworthy findings.

The article estimates 37 percent of children ages 3 to 11 use virtual worlds at least once a month. By 2013, it projects that 54 percent will. In addition, 18 percent of teens will visit virtual worlds on at least a monthly basis this year; by 2013, that figure will rise to 25 percent.

What’s more, the article cited research from Virtual Worlds Management, which found that as of January, 112 virtual worlds aimed at children younger than 18 were already up and running worldwide, while another 81 were in development.

As a result, virtual worlds still offer tremendous opportunities for engagement, the article points out, such as offering marketers the ability to gain new insights into how consumers perceive and interact with their brands.

So, if you’re marketing to kids, why not give virtual worlds a try — especially those targeted to kids — either again or for the first time? You’ll be able to reach a captive audience with a unique marketing approach. You may even get a real ROI this time.