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52

by Mike Moran



When I was in Stockholm, I visited a very cool museum dedicated to the Vasa ship, a huge Swedish warship launched in the 1620s. The ship was on display for all to see, with lots of explanations about the

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way it was built, what life was like back then, and many other interesting facts. But this is not your standard museum of history. Because the story of the Vasa has huge implications on the way we operate in business today, even the way we launch websites.


You see, the Vasa had a rather short life. It was launched to great fanfare with a beautiful ceremony and sank 20 minutes later. Yeah, that was no typo.


So, the question is, how could this colossal failure have happened?


There was an investigation that followed, but no one was ever punished. You can read the whole story from the Wikipedia link above, but I have my own theory on why no one was punished. The king knew that it was his fault.


Sweden was in the midst of a brutal war and they were doing anything they could to get the Vasa and other warships built and launched as rapidly as possible. The Vasa had a different design that hadn't been tested and when it was run through some stabilization tests before launch, the results weren't very good, but they were ignored because the king was adamant that the ship be sent into battle NOW.


Instead, it went to the bottom of the Stockholm harbor as rapidly as possible.


So, what are the lessons of the Vasa ship when it comes to our websites (or any digital marketing)?



  • It is OK to experiment, but keep them small. Don't "take a shot" with a complete web redesign without testing.

  • You need a culture that listens when people say "stop." If people are afraid to call a showstopper or those calls are ignored by executives, disasters might occur.

  • Don't bet your results on a big change. Instead of a "Hail Mary" pass to save your business results, you are better off doing dozens of small changes that can each be individually undone, rather than one sweeping change from which there is no retreat.


If your idea of improving your website is to wait for the next redesign, you might find that your site sinks into the harbor. Instead, aim for small improvements each day that are low-risk and easy to undo. That's how you Do It Wrong Quickly. Otherwise, you are just doing it wrong.



Originally posted on Biznology.


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14

by Mike Fleming



Last time I shared here,
I established that a major problem affecting your site performance is
that (because you designed or contributed to or commissioned and
approved the site) YOU don't have to think when YOU use the site because
YOU know what everything means, how everything is supposed to work,
where everything is located and where every click

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is supposed to go.
Your visitors are left to interpret things that you already know the
interpretation for.

A second major problem affecting your site
performance is that you designed it for people who use the web in a
similar fashion to how a straight-A student would study for a final
exam; mulling over every last detail of information presented for fear
that a question will be on the test regarding information skipped over. I don't have exact numbers, but the amount of people that use the web in this way is--close to none.

Final Exam.jpg

Instead,
users typically scan pages looking only for the information that is
relevant to the specific task at hand while blocking everything else
out. During their scan, they many times don't even pick the best option
for their task (could it be your fault?), but pick the first option that
seems like it's what they're looking for. After all, a benefit of the
web is supposed to be the speed and ease with which you can get things
done, right? If your choice to complete the task was wrong, you can
simply hit the back button and start scanning for the next best option.

No, web users aren't studying your pages for an exam.
They're scurrying to complete their task. Therefore, your job isn't
just to provide all the information they need to do so, but to provide
it in a way that makes it quicker and easier for a scurry-er to process
and move forward.

In his book Don't Make Me Think,
usability expert Steve Krug gives five important website usability
actions you can perform to help make it a better environment for the
scurry-ers that are using it...


1. Create a Clear Visual Hierarchy


Instead of making your visitors figure out the importance and the relationships between things on your page/site, you need to use design principles to communicate
these things. For example, more important things are bigger, bolder, in
a more prominent spot on the page, etc. Things that are look related.
Things that aren't related have visual cues (like whitespace) that
communicate they're not related.

This helps the scurry-er to be able to
process all of the information on the page without having to "figure it
out," allowing the scurry-er to scurry (because that's what they do!)
instead of study the page.

Take a look at the site below. By the looks
of it, they are communicating that something NEW! is the most important
thing on the page with their use of text size and color scheme. In
second place is whatever is being promoted by the lightning (which is
animated on the site btw).

Just an FYI to the marketing department for
this site: If the majority of your visitors aren't coming to your site
to get your new catalog, you might consider some changes to your visual
hierarchy.

 

Dwyer Homepage.png

Usability Tip: Use design principles to communicate a clear visual hierarchy [tweet this]


2. Take Advantage of Website Usability Conventions


In all media, there are certain ways of doing things that become standard over time (they're called conventions). Why? Because they work.
Because they become standard, users come to expect that every outlet
(website in our case) is going to use them.

Since they expect it, they
are likely to be frustrated if the convention is broken. The site logo
is at the top-left of the page. The section navigation is at the left.
The search box is at the top-right, and so on. The temptation for
designers is to get cute and try something different in an effort to set
themselves apart as all creative and artsy and innovative.

Really, we
love their spirit and encourage them to do so--except when it comes to
conventions. Here, you get cute at your own risk. You've got to be
absolutely positive you have a better solution before breaking a
convention. The site above puts the search box to the left, undoubtedly
causing some people to assume there isn't a way to search on the site.

Usability Tip: Use website conventions (standard placements) to your advantage. [tweet this]


3. Break Pages Up into Clearly Defined Areas


Website
usability is at its best when users aren't asking questions about what
things are and where they would go if they clicked something. When a
site visually separates elements of a page in ways that make sense,
users are able to scurry to the place that applies to them and get on
with their task quickly, which is exactly what they want to do. This
misalignment of the elements in the main part of the page above causes
mental fatigue and confusion.

Usability Tip: Avoid mental fatigue & confusion by breaking pages into clearly defined areas. [tweet this]


4. Make What's Clickable Obvious


Again,
the goal of the scurry-er is to get to the next step quickly and
efficiently. Therefore, links and buttons should look like--wait for
it--links and buttons! For the web page above, notice the "digital
catalog" graphic at the very top of the page. Am I supposed to click on
that to get the catalog? If I can click on it, is that going to take me
to another page, or will I instantly begin downloading the catalog?
There are too many questions in my head.

Usability Tip: Links and buttons should look like links and buttons. Make what's clickable obvious. [tweet this]


5. Minimize Noise


You
know that feeling you get when the radio station isn't quite coming in
perfectly clear? Yeah, you might put up with it for a bit because you
really like the song. But, eventually you can't take it anymore and
change the station. This can happen on your site if there's simply too
much going on.

The temptation is to make the user aware of every
possible thing available to them and how important each thing is at
that. The problem is that once you cross a certain threshold, the user
will just want to "change the station." You've got to be careful with the amount and the intensity of what you display
so that the user experience on the site is nice and clear.

For the last
time, look at the above site. Are we trying to help the user accomplish
their task, or blast them with as many advertisements about our great
stuff as we can fit in one space?! Also, how is the user supposed to
discern the importance of things when everything is promoted as being
important?!

Usability Tip: Be careful with the amount and intensity of what you display--minimize noise. [tweet this]

Bonus Tip:
Notice how you have no idea what this site sells since I covered their
brand name in the upper left corner with a black bar. (Actually, the
brand name really wouldn't clue you in either.) That's all bad!

By
applying these five simple website usability principles, I'm confident
you'll be surprised at how many things you've never noticed that are
affecting your site performance. I'm also confident that you'll start
getting ideas for improvement instantaneously.



Be sure and visit our small business news site.



12

Make your website search-engine-safe to ensure visitors.As long as there have been search engines, there have been people seeking to game search engine results and move their pages to the top of the list. With more than a decade of experience filtering out spam, malicious websites and duplicated content,...

34

by Mike Moran



Don't give me that look. Depending on where you work, that might sound like a silly question. Everything needs a business case in some places. And I understand that. I used to work for IBM, which is one of those places in love with justifications for how you spend money before you drop a dime. And you can put together business cases for Internet marketing projects, but there

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is another way, too. In fact, I actually started the IBM search marketing program without any business case at all. You might be able to follow my lead where you work, not just with search marketing, but with any kind of digital marketing.



How did I do it? It wasn't easy, but there are a few things you can do to make it happen for you:



  • Don't spend any money. At least at first. I know that rules out a lot of marketing ideas, such as paid search, but it still leaves you with plenty of marketing tactics to try, including organic search, social media, and more. Start with one of those.


  • Neutralize your boss. You might be lucky, as I was, and have a boss that you could just tell what you are planning and he would go along. (My boss, John Rosato at IBM, actually thought it was a great idea.) But not everyone is so lucky. Even if you spend no money, you'll have to spend some time, so you might need to hide this work from your boss, or do it on off-hours. Somehow, some way, you need to be able to do enough of the work required so that you can show some results. In my case, I needed to make a few changes to some critical web pages to improve the search results.


  • Get help. You are unlikely to be able to do everything on your own, so you need co-conspirators. Find some allies who are willing to be equally stealthy as you are and enlist them in the cause. Some people are not the right ones to approach, but you probably know who they are. Find the others that are as excited about this idea as you are and get hem on board. In my case, I needed to find some people who controlled some important web pages at IBM and get them to make some changes so we could see the resulting search ranking improvements.


  • Keep score. Trying out your idea is great, but how will you know if it worked? Choose some tangible measure of success (higher search rankings, more traffic to the site from your social media content, higher conversions from your tactic--pick something) so that you can show the before and after picture. It is OK if it is not earth-shattering. After all, you did this with no money and no assigned resources, so let the powers-that-be think about how big this would be if they actually worked on it for real.


This might seem sneaky to you. It is. But it has a few redeeming qualities. First, it allows you to try a lot of ideas, because some of them won't work. Second, it helps you make a good idea work that needs a few tries. If no one knows that you are doing it, then if it fails twice before you figure it out, you have the time to make it work. Third, it can change your relationship with your boss.



Why do you think my boss at IBM, John Rosato, allowed me to try these things? One reason is that he is a sharp guy that gives his people freedom to try things. But I think he gave me a bit more freedom than some other people because he had seen this approach work for us before. When your boss sees that you know how to make big improvements by experimenting with no money and little risk, you'll get treated differently, too.



So, you might not have the kind of boss that I did, but if you succeed at this a couple of times, you might change the way your boss thinks about you. And then you might be able to try a lot of different kinds of Internet marketing with no business case at all. At least it's worth a try, no?



Originally posted on Biznology Blog.



Be sure and visit our small business news site.



54

Increase Page RankIncreasing Website Page Rank will allow for more visitors to your site.

42

by Jayson DeMers



This is an issue that has received a great deal of attention over the last month or so. Ever since Matt Cutts' article 'The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO', marketers and webmasters have been scrambling trying to figure out whether there's still a place for guest blogging in their marketing strategies.
Matt wrote, "Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it's j
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ust gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn't recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn't recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy."
So, does this mean the end of guest blogging? 
No; not even close. I would argue (along with many other marketers), that Matt's post isn't telling us anything we didn't know before. 
We've known for a long time that guest blogging has the potential to be spammy, and that both publishers and guest bloggers need to be careful about whose company they keep. But in light of Cutts' recent post, it would be helpful to briefly recap some of the key rules of non-spammy guest posting.
Rule #1: Know why you're guest blogging
If you're guest blogging for the sole purpose of building inbound links, you should stop. If, on the other hand, you're guest posting in order to drive traffic, increase awareness, or build up your reputation through Google Authorship, there's no reason you should stop. 
Cutts even writes, "I'm not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they'll continue into the future."
Guest posting is, and always has been, a fantastic way to reach outside the bubble of your own community and expand your reach. If this is the intention behind your guest blogging strategy, then you're on the right track.
Rule #2: Guest blogging is about building relationships, not links
While there are few hard and fast rules for guest blogging (even in light of Cutts' blog post), one general rule to keep in mind is to focus on building relationships, not on links. What I mean is this: both publishers and guest posts need to be careful about whom they form relationships with. 
If you have a site that typically accepts guest posts, there's no reason to stop. However, you should be even more diligent about ensuring you only accept top-quality content from people you know and trust.
Rather than accepting guest posts from a bunch of random bloggers, consider asking a few contributors to write regular posts. In the long run, this will mean less work for you, and potentially better results for both parties in terms of SEO.
Rule #3: There are some types of sites you should never guest post on
For this one, I'm speaking directly to those of you who are wondering how you can determine which sites are 'worthy' of your guest posts. Fortunately, there are some good general rules you can follow to avoid posting on less-than-trustworthy sites that may be seen as 'spammy'. Avoid guest blogging on:
  • Blogs with very little content, or content that is consistently poor-quality (typos, short articles, grammatical errors, etc.)
  • Blog networks
  • Blogs that have no obvious social proof such as social media followers or comments
  • Blogs that allow anyone to guest post (the higher the standard the better; while it will be harder to be accepted, at least you'll know you're in respectable company)
  • Blogs that act as link farms
  • Blogs that only have old, outdated content. 

These types of sites are unlikely to help you grow your audience or your reach, and in fact, may do you more harm than good. 
I don't see guest blogging going away anytime soon, but I do agree that 2014 will be a year of changes for online marketers. With the internet being built on the principles of connectivity and collaboration, guest posting is far too critical a piece to ever be completely eradicated. That said, it's incumbent on publishers and guest posters alike to be informed and aware of changes and developments in guest posting guidelines.
If you're looking for more information about guest blogging, check out my Forbes article, which is still relevant in light of Matt Cutts' announcement: How to Run a Successful Guest Blogging Campaign After Penguin 2.0.
Is guest blogging a core component of your marketing strategy? What changes, if any, do you plan to make in light of Matt Cutts' announcement?


Be sure and visit our small business news site.



60

Website owners who create a website must consider the title of the website. A website title is important because search engines use website titles to scan sites for search results. Insert a website title into the header HTML code of a webpage between...

48

by Mike Fleming



Google's Universal Analytics (UA) is a more flexible alternative
to a standard Google Analytics account; making it easier to customize
account settings and providing a new opportunity to collect data that a
standard account doesn't automatically collect (like data from any

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digital device).


Do it now, or have them make you do it later


Google just launched a two-step process for upgrading your existing properties from Classic Analytics to Universal Analytics (called the "Upgrade Center").
It's starting to roll out in the Admin section of all accounts. Once
you see it there, you can go ahead and complete the upgrade. Apparently,
any properties that don't initiate the transfer will be auto-transferred eventually,
but there are no details as to when this will happen (sometime in the
"coming months"). Therefore, you might as well go ahead and do it now,
as long as you don't use the dc.js JavaScript and related features
(Remarketing, Google Display Network Impression Reporting, DoubleClick
Campaign Manager Integration, and the Google Analytics Demographics and
Interest Reports). If you need to use these, wait until dc.js is
supported.


Upgrade with computer mouse.jpg

Set up and configure


After you upgrade your properties, you'll need to implement the new code on your website (here for cross-domain tracking situations).
Once the code is implemented on your site, you'll want to configure the
available setting options below that help make Universal Analytics
unique. They are located in the Tracking Info option of the Property column of your Admin settings.

  • Session and campaign timeout handling.
    The user behavior on a website depends on the site and business. A bank
    may automatically sign out users after being inactive for a short
    amount of time, while a content site might have users that spend a long
    time engaging with articles. Or a retail store may run a weekend sale
    campaign, while a B2B might be pushing their new whitepaper for a few
    months. In this setting, you can specify the timing of sessions and campaigns to match your visitor behavior.
  • Customize organic search sources.
    If you get a search visit from a search engine that isn't recognized in
    Google Analytics by default, it is recorded as a referral visit. If you
    get a visit from an image search from images.google.com, but google.com
    is listed first on your list, that visit is attributed to google.com
    (because it's the same domain with the same query parameter). UA gives
    you the ability to avoid these inaccuracies by allowing you to add,
    edit, reorder or remove from the list of recognized search engines in
    your property.
  • Exclude domains from referral reports.
    A common application for this is if the interaction path on your site
    takes visitors to another domain and back to your domain (like a
    third-party shopping cart). If you exclude this domain, the return of
    the visitor won't count as a new session. Note that you have to exclude
    domains even if you have cross-domain tracking set up.
  • Assign specific organic search keywords to direct traffic.
    For example, you can tell the UA property to count all brand keyword
    visits from organic search as direct traffic. You may want to do this to
    better organize traffic by user intent. Users that type in your brand
    name or URL into a search box are typically just trying to navigate to
    your site.


Get creative in constructing a complete picture


As I've already mentioned, you have the ability to collect data from any digital device. Part of Google's mission is to help business owners be able to better tie online and offline behavior together into a complete picture of customer behavior. UA allows you to do this with some tricky development work using what they call the "Measurement Protocol."
You can track things like gift and loyalty card usage, or where and how
people end up using online coupons they print off, or what locations
people come from to attend your event. The possibilities can be
customized to your business environment. You can then analyze how this
lines up with your strategy and implementation. This is HUGE for analyzing and attributing marketing investment to customer acquisition, behavior and outcomes.

But
be aware that the terms of service prohibit sending personally
identifiable information like names, email addresses, unique device
identifiers, etc. to Google Analytics. If you do so, your account and
data can be confiscated by Google.

If your business has a mobile
app, you can now track usage of that app to gain insights for
improvement. You'll be able to see metrics and dimensions like device,
network, location, language, path, screens per visit, number of
installations and number of purchases. You simply choose "App" instead
of "Web Site" when setting up your new property.


Gain better insights about your users


UA brings a new movement in tracking technology that helps analysts examine data by users instead of visits. [tweet this]
No longer being used are first-party cookies, which are unreliable,
often get deleted and expire after two years anyway. No longer will the
same person who uses two different devices in two different sessions be
counted as 2 unique visitors. Now business owners will be able to see a
user's behavior over all their visits no matter how far apart they are
or how many devices they occurred on. It's the next step in providing a
clearer picture of what is happening with your business and customers to
help you gain better insights from your data and improve your business.

Have you implemented Universal Analytics? What do you think?



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21

Search engine rankings are an important part of Internet marketing today. Various popular search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, have unique characteristics that make a website rank higher on the specific search engine. Improving the ranking...

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