Why I hate your website

Standard

The obvious purpose of marketing is to sell by attracting potential customers and communicating them the value of a good. When it comes to online communication, thanks to social media, paid ads or SEO, catching users eyes is a lot easier than convincing random people on a street to enter your shop. Unfortunately, this is only half way to a win: encouraging users to stay on the site longer, and eventually convert, is the real challenge.

High bounce rates, short average visit duration and a low number of pages seen per visit; all of these metrics may suggest that your site’s visitors are not entirely happy with what they see when they land on your pages. It might be that your meta descriptions and title tags are misleading or the keywords that attracted visitors don’t reflect your site’s offering. This can be fixed be re-defining your target audience and updating your content strategy. But what if the site is well optimised for the right audience and the engagement is still worryingly low?

There are many aspects that might discourage users from staying on a site, some of them are more common than others but most of them are… purely annoying. Does your website annoy your visitors? If it has one of the following elements, then it most definitely annoys me.

“About” page

The point of an About page is to show people that enter your site who you are, what you can do for them or what have you already done for someone else. This is a place that should be on every single website on the internet. It is a place that explains to everyone what website they are on, who is talking to them, and most importantly, WHY they should stay on this site.

Surprisingly, there are still many websites that don’t have an About page or have it, but don’t provide simple answers to the questions “who” and “why”. It might be (slightly) annoying to find yourself on a website that provides good content, but doesn’t explain who is the author. Even worse is if all that can be found are lines and lines of self-promotion and  desperate attempts to sell. This, very likely, would be ineffective and could cost you a valuable space that would be beneficial if used for the right purpose.

The best About pages will ALWAYS tell users who you are and what you can do for them. Everything else on this page is of secondary importance. The more creative you are in introducing this information, the higher the chances that your visitors will actually read through the page and gain a better understanding of your company. You might want to present your team with photos, background descriptions, quotes and contact details. You could use cartoons and animations or videos of your offices and production line. The sky’s the limit when it comes to telling your story in the most creative way.

An excellent example of a great and insightful About page is the “chic and unique” wedding company ruby+diva

Great and simple "about" page

Through the use of storytelling, this page takes its users to the stylish and quirky world of eclectic brides. The founder’s love story and video showing snaps from ruby+diva’s clients’ weddings completes this picture and helps visitors “feel” the company’s mission.

Website Loading Time

I am not discovering America when I say users’ expectations towards websites’ speeds are growing. We have less and less tolerance for websites that make us wait a little too long. Time is money, so don’t waste mine. As shows Amazon tests: “Every 100 ms increase in load time of Amazon.com decreased sales by 1%.” Bearing in mind how many customers buy products on Amazon daily, a 1% decrease in sales will cost a fortune and all because of less than 1 second.

If I managed to convince you to improve your website’s speed, visit this website for specific suggestions on how to achieve that.

What a mess!

Do you know the feeling of landing on a page and having no idea what to do next? A few navigation bars, loads of red, flashing arrows “screaming” to click this and that, 15 categories of news and 10 suggestions of other stories you “might be interested in”. By the way, what is the damn difference between industry news, company news, blogs and articles? Aren’t news and articles kind of the same thing?

It can get even worse if you need to click thousands of buttons to find a very specific product and look through many similar sounding categories when site search doesn’t bring the desired results. Who could explain this issue better than user-loving Google?

The easiest way out of that issue is to divide the entire site into categories and subcategories that create a logical path for users to follow, allowing them to find every single item on your site within 3 clicks from your homepage.

Rather than assuming that your site is simple and easy to navigate, ask someone from outside of your company to use it and measure the time and number of clicks it takes them to find certain items or information.

You might have the most competitive prices in the whole world wide web, but if we can’t find them on your site, we won’t be able to buy them. Don’t keep your stock in the basement, bring it into display.

What should I do next?

Imagine the completely opposite situation: you land on a page with a beautifully written, insightful, fascinating article located on this long, empty page containing nothing but navigation, title and the text of the story you just read. Yes, you can try to find out more about the site, click through different tabs in navigation, but what if all you wanted to read was on this one page? You would leave. I would leave. The bounce rate surges.

Users need to be more than just attracted to enter a site. The next action they can take on your site must be suggested. Lead them through your pages, point them in the directions that will help them to find the most relevant content. Show them things they want to see, even (or especially) if they don’t yet know if they want to see them.

If you have ever used Amazon, you might remember this little trick:

Picture 10

“Customers who bought this item also bought” – simple, logical and a brilliant play on emotions – suggesting products that are not only relevant and in our interest, but other people have already bought them.

Analogical tactics you could use all come down to suggesting other related articles, white papers, videos on similar topics or complementary products. Never forget to use breadcrumb navigation that will show your visitors exactly where they are on your site and include the name of the category and subcategory allowing your visitors to sort the content using those. If I landed on one of your news pages, displaying a list of news categories might convince me to stay on your site a little longer to have a look at other stories you have within this one category I find interesting. Of course I’m not every user and we all are a little different from each other so make sure you have a nice selection of “next moves” and Calls to Actions to stimulate the majority of your visitors.

Coming to an end

Finally, I cannot finish without commenting on my own blog that has almost nothing in common with all those suggestions and recommendations I mentioned above (as they say: The shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot). I am speaking here today as an addicted internet user, who spends 12 hours a day online and does grocery shopping or buys Christmas presents using her laptop. If you care about the opinion of online shoppers, you will care about mine.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Why is Google scaring us with its monochrome animals?

Standard
Why is Google scaring us with its monochrome animals?

We had Panda, we had Penguin and Zebra is just around the corner…

Panda and Penguin – quick summary 

Panda algorithm, released in February 2011, was designed to lower rankings of the low quality websites. Since then, Panda received 25 updates, the last on March 2013 and was announced soon to be integrated into the core algorithm.

Penguin algorithm, initially released last April, is a link quality filter that was designed to reduce web spam and also hit website that had link profiles that appeared unnatural (have low quality, irrelevant and paid external links)

The latest announcement 

Matt Cutts, who is  the head of webspam at Google, announced (warned?;)) that the new major Google algorithm update is coming. According to Matt, the newest update will aim to protect searchers by lowering the rankings of those using e-commerce (merchants! Suite-up!). Quoting Matt: “We have a potential launch later this year, maybe a little bit sooner, looking at the quality of merchants and whether we can do a better job on that,”- he revealed at SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas earlier this month.

Merchant Quality Update

The update already has an unoficial name: the Merchant Quality Update, although some call it Zebra as Search Engine Journal dubbed it. There’s been a lot of speculation about the update and its effects. As it will be designed to clean the search engine results from bad quality online merchant websites, it is very likely that factors that will affect SERPs might be:

- how the site has been listing in Google Shopping

- Google seller rating

- the brands that are being sold (the more well-known brand – the higher ranking)

A few more clues that may shed a little light on preparing for the update could be found in Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines. According to the document, that was made public only recently, elements that will determine whether the site is a real merchant include:

- a “view your shopping cart” button that doesn’t redirect users to other websites, but stays on the site

- whether the shopping basket updates itself every time a new item is added

- a return policy and an actual address that allows customers to contact the company

-an ability to register/login

-working user’s forum

-an ability to postpone the purchase, such as a shopping or wish list

- clear information on shipping charges (shipping charge calculator)

The above lists present potential factors that may or may not affect the rankings, but keeping in mind “the slaughter” done by Panda and Penguin – it is better to get ready and be safe rather than sorry.

Having this all said we come to the final question: why does Google hate us that much that it regularly turns our online lives up-side-down?

Google loves you…

Let’s stop here for a moment, before mean words toward Google will be said.

Don’t you google movies reviews before booking the tickets to the cinema? Don’t you search for recipes for salmon pies/chocolate fudge brownies/ducks in oranges/sex on the beach or others? Don’t you try to diagnose yourself on the basis of dr Google’s advice? Don’t you order DVDs online, because it’s cheaper than buying it in the mall? Don’t you check in Google, who the hell was this guy Bulgakov that your colleagues were just talking about in the office? Don’t you google almost everyday?

Google does all it can to help us find the answers for our questions as easy and quickly as possible. Google needs us – it wouldn’t exist without its users – it cares about us, our comfort and our time. It removes all the low quality websites that were trying to get our attention using black hat tactics from our view. Google does it all for us. Because it loves us, it gave us these cute animals. Stop hating Google.

Content in context and Social Media

Standard
Content in context and Social Media

It all started with Panda, followed by the Page Layout algorithm in January 2012 and Penguin in April, completed by the Exact Match Domain algorithm update in September. 2012 severely changed online marketing, punishing those using “dirty” tricks to manipulate Google search results. Not all marketers have been using these techniques, but above updates affected the whole industry. Content became King, as marketing jargon puts it.

Content Marketing

The process of creating and distributing content is called content marketing. However, it is essential to create valuable, high quality content that results in meaningful engagement. Good quality content  placed in the right context is being reposted, quoted and shared on social media networks building credibility, trust and authority. It is also a straight way to the top of search engine rankings.

While there are loads of tricks (such as adding hyperlinks under the article leading to the author’s G+ account to boost SEO), it is essential to follow a simple set of rules:

1. Published content is more likely to be shared if it is written by experts, professionals or enthusiasts – anyone, who knows what they are writing about.

2. Interesting, relevant and useful articles and posts will encourage more readers to recommend it to their friends. Adding funny comments, guidelines or controversial facts and statements would all work in an author’s favor.

3. Grammatical and spelling mistakes will make content less readable or even annoying. It is important to double-check every post or even to ask someone to read an article before publishing it.

4. Adding pictures or charts will make content more searchable and easier to share on social media.

Context Marketing

As Deanna Brown, CEO of Federated Media Publishing, said: “Content, in the right context, is ultimately king.” Understanding the audience is crucial for creating content that should target and engage the right people. Content marketing is about presenting yourself as an expert that can provide relevant solutions, therefore knowing the audience is the natural foundation. According to the definition, context marketing is a process of “delivering the right content, to the right people, at the right time”. Knowing the audience means being aware of their favourite type of content, the channels of communication that they prefer or any other information that could help with the creation of highly targeted and personalised content.   

Social Media’s Role

According to a study mentioned by Matthew O’Brien in his article What’s Next for Social Media and Content Marketing in 2013? “65% of British consumers surveyed say that they would stop using a brand that upset or irritated them as a result of their social media behavior”. Therefore, it’s important to take care with the social media strategy. Aligning social media channels along with the whole content marketing strategy would help to create or maintain the desired image. After all, the same rules for content marketing apply to social media strategies. One personalised and interesting message, posted at the right time in the right place is worth more than 10 posts published one by one that might not only be ignored, but even irritate the audience.

However, content (or context) marketing and social media are not the same thing. Social media’s role in content marketing is to distribute links leading audiences to the content. Where content marketing educates people, social media builds relationships with them. They are just two parts of the same game.

If content is king, social media is its sceptre .

The psychology of Christmas advertising

Standard

What is so special about Christmas that makes people overjoyed? Marketers ask themselves this every winter and the best conclusions result with the top Christmas ads and campaigns.

It’s all about giving

Christmas is an emotional time – memories from childhood floating in our minds and a great desire to bring those moments to life once more.  We feel Christmas joy and we want to share it with others, to please those we love.  Yes – this is why all the Christmas decorations, fairy lights and glittery ornaments hang in shopping windows – to make you feel more emotional. This is what marketing does.

According to the research published by Science  journal, spending money on other people promotes happiness.Therefore, campaigns referring to giving and pleasing others, rather than receiving, have a better chance of success. This John Lewis ad broadcasted last year is an excellent example:

The fact that money will be spent is irrefutable. The real challenge is to convince customers to purchase one product over another. Shannon Webster in her article devoted to holiday shopping psychology claims that there are words that are particularly effective in motivating people to purchase when used in promotional materials around the festive period. Words that “generate sales include: sale, limited edition, hot, collectible, shortage, delayed, must-have, and in-demand”.

Santa, Rudolph and Christmas trees

William M. O’Barr in his article “Advertising and Christmas” claims that Christmas arouses nostalgia for traditional celebrations; the closer to Xmas, the more sentimental people become. Nothing fans those feelings better than an image of Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Christmas trees. Choose an object, add a little bit of snow falling from the sky, colorful Christmas lights and ornaments, a sound of jingling bells and a dash of humor – you’ve got the perfect ad. This Apple TV ad is an accurate example:

 

“All I want for Christmas is… you”

Afterall, the essence of Christmas is not something wrapped in red ribbon. Our family, friends, those we love – that is what really matters. We look forward to bonding with family and that fills us with hope and cheer. That is why family-focused advertisements evoke nostalgia in our hearts. At the end of the day, all we want for Christmas is them.

 

The deeper marketers get into our brains – learning about our needs, desires and habits – the better campaigns they create. Ads that get into our hearts – make us cry, laugh or give us goose bumps – are made by marketers who knows us best

aSmallWorld – social media for the elite

Standard

There was a time when everybody was equal on the internet, but this time is officially over. Don’t you believe? Have you ever heard of aSmallWorld? It’s just another website on the long list of social networks. It’s private, international and exclusive. aSmallWorld (ASW) was founded in 2004 by Swedish couple Erik and Louise Wachtmeister as an invitation-only network of affluent and influential people. If you don’t belong to the elite, are not wealthy or have no connections, it is very unlikely that you will ever become a member.

The purposes of the website do not differ a lot from other social media sites: connecting with old friends, meeting new people from your “class”, swapping advice, organising parties and flirting. There are, on the other hand, forbidden activities and behaviors which may lead to being exiled into  aBigWorld. The management decides to transfer from ASW- to aBigWorld those members who try to connect to too many people they don’t know, who try to promote and sell their products or services (too aggressively), or who simply do not fit in with the community. Being transfered to aBigWorld is a punishment that results in loosing access to ASW while all the person’s data remains there, visible for others.

ASW user profiles contain five elements: basic information (name, surname, date of birth) education and profession (academic level, employment status), portrait (a photo), clubs and interests (you can choose from the list or add it by yourself) and expertise (areas that you are specialist in). The picture below shows a user’s profile as other members see it.

As soon as you accept an invite and become a member, you can search for new connections by giving details (gender,name, industry, etc) of the people you are looking for. ASW allows all members to exchange emails even if they are not connected to each other, so you can send a message to a person who you would like to hire, create a partnership with or just ask a question. The easiest way to get in touch with other users is by forum, where you can start or join a conversation in more than 10 different categories such as business, fashion or sport. On the website, you can also buy or sell almost everything from a pair of shoes to a boat. A fascinating element of ASW is its regular events (exclusively for ASW members) that take place in the real (not virtual) world in fancy places all around the globe.

The idea of a social space on the net that isn’t open to everyone may not feel right. How can “class-system” – and that’s what critics say about ASW – be created even in a sphere so free of discrimination as the internet? It  might not be fair but the time for us has come to accept that the virtual world is no longer Utopian. It has started reflecting reality with all its good and bad sides.

A Pinteresting Display of Ads

Standard
A Pinteresting Display of Ads

Another major player joined the group of social networks in 2010  - Pinterest. Only two years after being created, Pinterest, with 11.7 million users, became the fastest-growing and the third-biggest social website right behind Facebook and Twitter.

The idea of Pinterest is very simple: to share pictures. Users create their own thematic boards in cathegories such as “Quotes”, “Tattoos”, “Weddings”, “Food and Drink”, “Architecture” or “Home Decor”  and pin to them pictures loaded from their own collection or re-pinned from other users’ boards and the internet. These topics may suggest that Pinterest is a female site and in fact, nearly 70% of users are women.  What isn’t surprising is the fact that half of the users are between the ages of 25-44.

None of the above sounds extraordinary, so what is so cool about Pinterest? Kary Delaria – a Pinterest user - explains that going through the website is “the equivalent of flipping through a magazine”. Mariam Shahab compared her visits on Pinterest to “window shopping”, while Drew Hawkins claims that the website is an amazing source of creative ideas that inspire him and help him with his job.

There is another thing about Pinterest that makes it different from other social networks. It is a space on the net far away from talking, chattering and questioning – you can simply relax, get ideas for the dinner party and then leave and not come back for the next few days without worrying about your profile’s appearance. There is no pressure on pinners to visit the website regularly, to update it, post news, take part in a discussion. It’s a calm and quite place, where users can simply enjoy their time.

One final interesting fact; Ben Silbermann - co-founder of Pinterest – before creating his online pinboard, was employed by Google to design products such as display ads. That naturally led to the conclusion that Pinterest is not only a social network, it is a collection of ads. Ads that users do not avoid or ignore, on the contrary – they search for them and treat as entertainment and inspiration.

Sex Sells

Standard

Nowadays sex appeal is being used to advertise almost everything: food, cigars, clothes, alcohol, fragrances and cosmetics. Sex appears even in social campaigns  such as those focused on proclaiming women’s rights. It isn’t a secret that provocative and ambiguous pictures catch the eye. Very often they draw people’s attention from other objects – it’s biological and instinctive.

Gender plays an important role when it comes to the effectiveness of an ad. Richard F. Taflinger in his article entitled Biological Basis of Sex Appeal claims that it is in male’s nature to try to impregnate as many women as possible to sustain the species. Women on the other hand look for a healthy and strong male in order to get the best type of genes and give birth to their offspring. Since male and female biological prerogatives differ, they are also receptive to different kinds of sexual ads. While men positively react to a sexual picture itself, women are more likely to respond to romantic connotations.

There are many types of sexual advertising content: nudity, sexual behaviour, physical attractiveness or sexual referents. All can be equally effective, no matter whether they advertise new perfumes, ketchup or a pair of jeans. They play with our deepest, subconscious instincts which push us to purchase. It’s just a case of ethics as to where the line should be drawn.