Thursday, 28 February 2013
We all get bombarded with email newsletters, and no matter how many you unsubscribe to they seem to just keep on coming.
There are several things you can do to make your next email newsletter more effective, and although they may seem very obvious when you read straight through actually they’re not, and the mistakes are made over and over again.
Headline – This is what will make people interested in the first place. Write your headline in a way that is attention grabbing without being overtly so – in other words you know it should appeal to the people you’re sending this missive to, make it well written and punchy and make sure that there are no typos.
Length – We don’t read online content, we scan it. Keep the message short and the content concise and relevant as well as interesting. No one is going to read paragraph after paragraph. Forget about it. It won’t happen.
Message – If you want to make your email newsletters stronger send one message at a time. Don’t try and combine different subjects – you’re much stronger with one.
Links – Check your links from preview to test email. Make sure that all of them work and don’t leave any checking out. Broken links look unprofessional and as if you can’t be bothered. A sure fast way to lose a reader.
Typos – No matter what you do if you’re in the business of content creation you will make typos. We all do. Having edited and proof read several books, once published I still found typos. They are a part of life. They don’t need to be a part of your next email newsletter. Once your piece is ready, concentrate. Stop thinking about anything else and read, word for word. It sometimes helps to read out loud so you can catch punctuation errors and other typos. If in doubt get someone else to read as well.
Do not rely, as I have just seen suggested, on your spellchecker, that won’t catch all of the typos. Reading and reading again is the only thing that will work.
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Wednesday, 27 February 2013
There are hundreds and thousands of books about websites out there, some completely out dated, some for the professional where if you don’t understand the lingo you won’t get any of it, and some that every web owner should read, even if they employ others to do the work for them. There’s nothing as powerful as your own knowledge of a subject.
No 1 is without a doubt Steve Krug’s Don’t Make me Think. Yes it’s been around a while, and some things have changed where web design has changed, but human nature hasn’t, and this book is about how humans use and react to websites, and how they should be designed to make navigation simple.
It’s a friendly, well written and illustrated book with more than a few tongue in cheek comments, and if you haven’t read it already, now’s the time. It won’t take you long, and you’ll go back over and over again.
A word about SEO – This is now a thorny topic, with all the changes that Google made to its algorithms last year that changed the landscape of SEO completely and sites that were well ranked for various reasons plummeted in days.
The most important things to look for are books that are post Penguin and Panda (Google updates) in fact as recent as possible, but also structured in a way that is readable and understandable by us mere mortals, rather than code writers and developers, who all need this information, by the way. What it has meant is that books that were very good only a few months ago are now no use to you, so be careful about what you buy.
My recommendation, and No 2 on my list, is Tim Kitchen’s How to Get to the Top of Google. This is an easy to read book covering a lot of ground in a few pages, and you may want to move on to something more in depth once you’ve read it, but what I particularly like about it is that it gets to the main points of what you need to do quickly.
Remember when ordering any of these self-help books on SEO that if they don’t mention Penguin and Panda they’re probably not worth having, books take a long time to get into print from manuscript and during that time they can easily become out of date. And I know these things…..
Thirdly but by no means last, I recommend that you buy 500 Social Media Marketing Tips, by Andrew Mccarthy, as a small book full of short sharp and very good advice on all the main Social Media sites including of course Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The tips are all there, but the in depth help to achieve the suggestions are not, such as ‘Get your LinkedIn Vanity URL’. But then this book is about tips and tricks, and not the detail, which you can easily find online.
There are a lot of books on ‘Social Media’ out there, but most don’t give us what we want, which are the specifics for success. If you do choose to buy a book solely on Facebook or LinkedIn etc make sure it’s right up to date, as the platforms have changed endlessly. Best of all look for the huge amount of information available online, and also check out my blog at Web Hints for specifics on things like getting your LinkedIn Vanity URL and endlessly useful Twitter Apps such as Buffer.
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Monday, 25 February 2013
Last year saw Google completely change the way it viewed your website, from title tags to landing page optimisation and anchor text, so if you haven’t put in place a plan yet to update your site or blog you need to do this as a priority if your ranking matters to you.
Google ranks up on what is relevant, natural and makes sense to both search engine and reader alike. Now over-optimisation, keyword stuffing (almost the same thing) and unnaturally written content can damage you.
1. Check your title tag field and make sure that it is relevant and readable, with your main keyword at the front. You don’t need to use more than one keyword or phrase per tag and keyword dumping here will be frowned on, as will a blank or non relevant title tag field.
Your title tag is the main description of your page – make sure it’s set up correctly and create something that people will want to read. Make sure that each title tag on your website is unique and relevant to the different pages.
2. Put your brand name at the end of your title tag unless you run out of space using more search worthy terms. If you know people are searching for you then all well and good, but if they’re more likely to be searching for your products, emphasise those instead and restrict your brand name to your home page title tag.
3. Your H1 header should reinforce the message of your title tag, but can also bring in other keywords, as long as your main keyword is at the front. This is the framework for your page but can also help you introduce other keywords which you will optimise for in your page content.
4. Reflect your main keywords in the body of your page, but don’t over use them. There’s a hierarchy here, from Title Tag to Headline to content, and by using those specific keywords right the way through you’re sending a reinforced message to search engines and site visitors alike that goes ‘this page is about………’, making your website usable and reader friendly.
5. Keyword stuffing and repetition are out. There are so many websites still doing this. Search is about readability and relevance and providing a high quality user experience. Go through your title tags and content and make sure that you’re not doing this any more.
What used to work a few years back is now harmful to your website. Keep this in mind and either to this work yourself or get someone to do it for you – either way it’s a priority.
Wednesday, 20 February 2013
You may or may not follow everyone who follows you on Twitter – and I advise you not to unless you’re happy to collect a whole pile of useless….worse….spammy followers, but who has the time to go through and get rid of the ones you really don’t want?
This morning I received a notification from someone who apparently had a proper name, a picture, and a well written bio, with a link in it which looked useful. Just about to click something in my head cried out STOP!!!!! So I hesitated, checked on the number of followers (usually, I cannot say always, a good indication) and blocked them, reporting them as spam as I went.
So first lesson to anyone who doesn’t take the time to check is don’t click on links from people unless you trust them and second lesson is check how many followers they have, regardless of their profile. If it’s a ridiculously low number (it’s usually 1 or 2 hapless souls) don’t click, don’t follow, immediately block.
A useful tool for checking your followers ratings and whether they’re ‘in good faith’ is http://twitblock.org. Depending on how fast your PC is, and if you have a lot of followers, it’ll take a while to run right through your list, but it’s worth it to get rid of the junk.
Twitblock looks for duplicate pictures, aggressive following and whether the profile has been blocked by others. It doesn’t know who all the spammers are, inevitably, but produces a score based on junk characteristics which helps it to identify the likely baddies.
This is a useful app and well worth using, however the most important message here to anyone on Twitter is – don’t click on links unless you’re absolutely sure they can be trusted – you never know what you might unleash.
Sunday, 17 February 2013
It’s inevitable that you’re going to have broken links on your website, and you probably don’t have the time to check manually (if such a thing was really possible, which is isn’t in many cases), so here are two pieces of free software you can use to check for broken links, both tried and tested.
In the past I have always used Xenu to check for broken links. It’s fast and accurate, but the reports can be tricky to read until you’re used to them. However it’s reasonably easy to install and you can use it over and over again, for free, of course.
The other software I have tried recently is LinkChecker. Not quite as fast as Xenu, but equally as thorough and it’s easier to read the report, line by line although the broken links window is very small.
Have a go with both of these and correct any links that are broken – some of the results are a bit confusing at first but it’s worth persevering. Broken links can affect your rankings, and how professional you look to those who visit your website.
And lest I forget, if you happen to visit www.thesiteguide.com – which is being updated at the moment, and you find any broken links, please blast me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org – all help always gratefully received………
Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Writing home page tips always takes me back to my own websites, where I always find things that need doing, urgently. Ever wonder why you’re not making the rankings in Google? It will most likely be because of something you haven’t done. I know in my case it always is.
The first home page tip is to check your title tag and description. You may not have done this for a while, or you may think the last time you looked that it was fine, it had several keywords in it, separated by dashes and your brand name front or back. Well forget about that. Identify the one, medium to low competition keyword that best sums up your website, and put it at the front of your title tag in a sentence.
Forget about trying to go for more than one keyword, Google is looking for concise relevancy and keyword stuffing will get you right down the page rankings. You need to do this right through your website but start with your home page. And don’t think that your keyword competition won’t change, it will, so you need to keep this one up to date.
Second home page tip is check that all of your links are working. They may well be, but a duff link on your home page, on a banner that no longer works, or a link to a page within your site (or externally for that matter) will tell people that you can’t be bothered. If you can’t, they won’t.
Thirdly, just how up to date are you? Christmas is over. Valentine’s Day soon will be. But there are still so many websites out there with the word Christmas…..and even worse Christmas Deliveries staring you in the face on the home page. Again it’s a matter of relevancy and appearing professional and on the ball.
Check all of these three immediately and I’ll be back with more home page and website tips.
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Tuesday, 12 February 2013
When did you last do a cross browser check? I’ll bet it was a while ago.
This morning I went on a luxury brand website as it was developed by a company I know. It’s a slightly simpler website than I would have expected for the brand, and there are ways in which it could be improved to my mind, mainly tweaks, but what surprised me the most, and what throws out the elegant navigation on every single page on this website – as it’s persistent navigation we’re talking about here – is the fact that in my version of Firefox the main category navigation doesn’t go right across, but creates two lines, whereas in Chrome and IE there is one, as intended, at least on the versions that I looked at.
This brings me to the importance of a browser check for everyone, as code will look different in various browsers, and you need to ensure a consistent look across all browsers. In this case the lack of a browser check made the website, in certain browsers, look unprofessional, and this is a brand that would hate that.
I looked into free browser tools you might like to try, and this was my favourite.
Browsershots – this website will test a huge number of different browsers for you, however the site is distracting and filled with advertising. Get past that and you’ll get some very interesting results. You can only ask for a certain number of free screenshots in a day (reasonable) – if you want priority processing you have to sign up properly and pay.
Never assume, however large or small you are, that your website pages work on all browsers, they probably don’t. Browser check is one more task to add to your list.
Saturday, 9 February 2013
You know those great days when your PC crashes and you realise that you haven’t done anything to check your history, remove cookies and any other rubbish that all too easily seems to accumulate in the background, slowing you down and causing endless problems. Today was one of those for me and reminded me (which I’ll almost certainly forget) that cleaning up my PC is something I need to do regularly. Or crash most inconveniently……
There are so many ‘desktop cleanup wizard’ tools advertised out there offering to clean up your PC (or laptop or whatever). How on earth are you supposed to know which one is best, and not to fall into the trap of subscribing for one which you don’t use and then forget about but that leeches money from your account.
I’ve been using Piriform’s CC Cleaner for over a year now, recommended by my computer Mr Fixit, and have installed it everywhere I work. The basic version is free (no you don’t have to give your credit card details) and it does get rid of much of your rubbish – you’ll be surprised how much.
Upgrade – as I have done very happily – to the Professional version for about $24 and obviously you get more speed, cleaning and security.
This is what they say ‘CCleaner is our system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system - allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner. But the best part is that it's fast (normally taking less than a second to run) and contains NO Spyware or Adware!’
Piriform are the creators of this software – and I do think it’s well worth installing. You can download it here.
Thursday, 7 February 2013
It seems obvious, you need to show your images, to have zoom, to give your product an optimised title, show the price, the details and invite ‘add to bag’, or ‘buy now’ but how much time do you give to the other essential items that can have such a huge impact on whether or not your page will convert? Uplifting poorly converting pages and improving pages you think are already not doing so badly. Product page conversion is a science, not an art.
When you look at some of the most successful e-commerce sites, and dare I mention John Lewis, you see the same amount of detail, although of course always laid out in a different way, which confuses the issue when trying to tie down the essentials. However they do offer the same information and here are five that you need to consider adding and making obvious if you don’t already include them.
Delivery and Returns Information – needs to be shown on each product page.
Size Chart access made obvious – don’t just include this in your utilities
Contact information – so that any immediate questions can be answered, not just with a form, but with a phone number, and preferably, as on the Simply Piste page above, with live chat. It’s understandable that not everyone can offer this, but if you can it will prevent some abandoned orders. An immediately accessible phone number is essential in any case.
Stock availability – there’s nothing more annoying than trying to order something, and being allowed to do so, and then finding out later that the item you want in the colour you want isn’t available. Give immediate access to what’s in stock, and what is not. You can offer an email update when something comes back into stock, or simply not show items that are not, it’s up to you. I personally think the best option is to show that some items have sold out, or you’re waiting for re-delivery, as this can enhance demand.
Save for Later option. Customers aren’t always ready to buy, but they’ve reached your product page and found something interesting. Make it really easy for them to return to that page. They’re far more likely to order a product they’re already researched and they won’t want to go looking for it again.
There are no short cuts to great product pages, include all the essentials and watch your product page conversion rate rise.
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Sunday, 3 February 2013
This is the first of several posts about and around product pages and product page design, and part of a presentation I’ve written for the NEC Spring Fair next week.
Product pages have moved on enormously over the past few years, and the best practice standard has pretty well been set. However this means that if you’re going to get the optimal performance from each of your product pages you have to work extremely hard. It’s not enough to create a clear and simple home page – there are some things we have now come to expect on product pages, particularly from the larger e-commerce retailers, and when we arrive at a site that doesn’t include them we wander off quickly. One of the reasons for so many abandoned shopping carts is poorly designed product pages.
Inevitably product page photography is extremely important, and we all know that one great shot just isn’t enough any more, we want to see a product from as many angles, and in as much detail, as possible. We also now look for (and are coming to expect), large zoom, 360 spin, video (where appropriate) and each and every product shown in each and every colourway.
Here are my first 5 Essentials for Great Product Pages.
Main information and photography is above the fold.
Each product is shown in each colourway
Offer detail thumbnails of each product
Zoom is as large and clear as possible
Title, Price and Add to Bag are given priority.
The main point of all of this is that each of the best practice items you add to your product pages in terms of information or functionality will increase your conversion rate, many times by a large amount. There are no short cuts to great product pages. If you want to be seriously successful and compete online you need to include everything, there’s a reason why they’re called essentials.