Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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Duct Tape and Paper Clips has moved to its new home at http://blog.nsyndx.net. So come on over and take a look at our new digs.

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Barriers to Entry: See Your Site as Visitors Do

barriersWhen looking at your sales figures for your online store, your business isn’t what you would have liked. What’s up with that, and what could you do to increase your sales? While the answers are as many as the consultants offering their services, this can be looked at from a few different perspectives: assessing your audience, meeting their needs, and removing barriers to entry. All three are related, but each has a different strategy.

Assess Your Visitors
Assessing your potential audience is critical to identifying the viability of your business. You can identify a potential customer in broad terms and cater your product and delivery to their needs, or you stick with a given product and do what you can to persuade prospective customers to buy. Often the solution is a combination of both. But the first step is to gather actionable data (analytics) and find out what they are doing and when.

Once you have gathered the right data (visit depth, time spent per page, path through the site, type of web client, etc.), one of the biggest gains you can make is turning the pyramid upside down as it were, and ask not why they are buying your product, but why they aren’t. And just who are “they”? You may be surprised at what you learn, and the solutions to some of these barriers may be more cost effective than many initiatives designed to increase the rest of the customer base.

The Elevator Pitch: What Stops Visitors
As a metaphor, say you had a physical store on the 17th floor of a building, served by a narrow elevator and a set of stairs. There are 5 stairs to the front door, which opens outwards. If your building doesn’t have a wheelchair ramp or doors that are easy to open, is on a top floor without a spacious elevator, or has a lot of stairs and narrow dimply lit passages, you have reduced your prospective clientele substantially. And it’s not just an ADA issue. Older people, the vision impaired, those in wheelchairs, those who have more weight to carry than a marathon runner– all have money to spend, and comprise a significant percentage of the population. Why keep them out unnecessarily? Some things are easy to change, some are harder, but avoiding them in the first place is infinitely easier than trying to remedy it later. A big street sign leading to an accessible shop will always move more merchandise than an obscure hidden boutique.

Likewise, if your website is too heavy, takes a long time to load, isn’t visible in mobile devices or screen readers, has small crowded print, or is hard to navigate, it’s just like that shop above; you have plenty of people who would love to buy, but they just can’t make it through the process. If all you want is a boutique website, that’s fine, but if you want return visitors who can get what they want or need easily, then it becomes a site that meets their needs and makes the sale. Remember, there are millions of sites out there, and the next one is a click away from your site, no love lost, no energy expended. Get them there, keep them there, get them to come back, and don’t give them a reason to leave early.

Take Action
Fortunately the digital world is a lot easier to correct than the physical world, but it takes the willingness to step back and look at your site and your audience through a different set of eyes to see what barriers might exist and how to avoid or remove them. There are consultants and books that focus on usability, as well as programs that will simulate different user environments. Regardless of your strategy, don’t just focus on who you think your customer is, focus on who it could be. Then you can concentrate on marketing and search placement, optimizing layout, and providing fresh content to establish your customer base and keep them coming back.

Today’s post was provided by Karl Rainhold. Karl Rainhold is a Web Analytics engineer who has been developing and refining cutting edge websites for over a decade at Nike, Inc. and independently through his consulting firm. He can be reached at kgrainhold@crossworldmedia.com.

Site Home Pages: “Sell the Sizzle”

I once worked as a telesales representative for a cruise travel agency. Our new sales hire training contained a module named “Sell the Sizzle”.  The instructor stressed that we should sell the experience, not the cruise.  

As an example, we shouldn’t tell the listener that the cruise stopped in the Virgin Islands. Instead– the cruise let them enjoy the crystal clear waters of the carribean, including access to one of the most beautiful coral reef snorkling experiences available anywhere.

In a nutshell, sell the benefits not the features.   When you sell the sizzle, be creative–  see your site as someone who knows nothing about you.

Site visitors scan your site in seconds, what they see must compel that first click. That doesn’t mean avoid text, it still rules the SEO world. 

When looking at your home page, ask yourself a few questions:

Does a First Time Visitor Know What We Do?

  • Users should understand what your company does with a quick scan of the page.
  • Find a way to encapsulate your business in a few words or short sentence. Use this text on your homepage.
  • Make it easy to find customer testimonials. Satisfied customers love to talk about what you do, and how well you do it.
  • With ecommerce sites, products— big and bold, should be the first thing I see.

Does Your Homepage Describe What Problem You Solve?

  • Right from the beginning, tell visitors how they’ll benefit— sell the sizzle.
  • Numbers work great. If you can reduce costs by 40%, say so– and make sure the words ‘Reduce’ and ‘40%’ are in large type.
  • Convey what makes your business unique. Sure— you sell great steaks, but tell or show me what makes your steaks special.

Do You Have Enough Accessories?

  • Provide information that supports your main point. If you sell BBQ grills, provide great grilling recipes– or maybe a photo of the family having a great time in the backyard watching dad grill.
  • Again testimonials help drive home the point— word of mouth is the best advertising. 
  • Provide answers to common questions. You already know your customers’ most common questions. Provide the answers right up front— there’s nothing else left for them to do but buy.

Do I Establish My Expertise?

  • Provide a very visible link to a basic tutorial about your product or service. 
  • Displaying logos of well known clients provides credibility from the start. Be sure to get permission first.
  • Display logos for professional or trade organizations or certifications. The Better Business Logo goes a long way in making a potential customer feel better about giving you their credit card number.

Do My Images Tell the Story?

  • Make sure your images reinforce the story told by your words.
  • Your images should put your product or services in context. Think back to the image of dad on the grill we described earlier.
  • Always use high quality images.  Hire a professional photographer, it’s worth the investment.

 

The Vonage home page packs a punch. It includes many elements to convince vistors to keep clicking.

The Vonage home page packs a punch. It includes many elements to convince vistors to keep clicking.

 

Test to Find Out What Works

Putting all the elements together into a presentable home page can be daunting.  Take it a piece at a time.  Play with different layouts, and combinations– use multivariate testing to verify you’ve found the right recipe.

Parsing SEO From the Ground Up – Part 2

parserpart2ajaxSEO and Dynamic Content

In our last post we talked about SEO and its relationship to web design.  In particular, we looked at how web crawlers parse pages.  The parser’s functionality provides a guideline as to how your web designer should approach constructing your website.  In this post, let’s focus on some specific web technologies like AJAX, Dynamic Pages and FLASH, to determine how they may effect your website’s parsibility.

Dynamic Pages

The modern website relies heavily on up-to-date and accurate data.  The solution has become dynamic pages such as ASP, JSP and PHP.  These technologies allow for the retrieval of data, that’s not only accurate, but specific to the needs of each site viewer.  They’ve also become the foundation of many content management systems, which rely on storing content  in databases (we’re going to talk about CMS in another post).  Dynamic page data doesn’t become content until the browser requests the page.  The underlying code retrieves the data, and then integrates the content with the existing html– that’s the good news.  Parsers crawl dynamic data, just like any other data.   That fact does imply that your designer must ensure the integrated html utilizes parser friendly coding– using such things as ‘div’ tags rather than ‘table’ tags to arrange data.  You must also be aware of how your links are created. 

AJAX and SEO

So dynamic data parses fine, as long as we follow good CSS design rules.   As part of your CSS design audit, you will want to review page links.  If your links call functions, not urls, you’ll be back in the parser dead zone.  Parsers can’t run script, they look for urls.  So if your links are script driven, the likelihood exists some content won’t get parsed. To figure out if your links are script driven, open your browser to any page.  Mouseover the different links.  At the bottom left hand corner of your browser window, you’ll see the link destination.  If this destination doesn’t contain a url, but something that looks like computer code, bet on the parser skipping that link. 

Look for URLs when mousing over links in your browser.

Look for URLs when mousing over links in your browser.

The Web 2.0 trend has fueled a rise in scripted links.  That’s because more and more websites utilize AJAX.  AJAX is a great technology.  In short, it lets the browser retrieve data from the server without reloading the web page.  The down side of AJAX in relation to SEO– AJAX links generally require scripted links.  The answer is to utilize scripted links only when necessary, or provide an alternative linking system if possible.  If you use AJAX to generate pricing pages for your business’s different offerings, you’re probably fine.  If you utilize AJAX to generate marketing pages containing large amounts of text, you may be better served just creating new pages.

FLASH: The Buck– That Is Parser Stops Here

FLASH provides dynamic content better than any other web technology.  For that reason, it will always have a place at the web design table.  But just like anything else, too much of a good thing can be bad.  FLASH resides on your web page as  a separately compiled program. In simple terms, the parser treats FLASH content like an image– it realizes it’s there, but any text contained in the image isn’t parsed.  You mean I can’t use FLASH? Yes you can, but utilize it strategically.  Avoid FLASH based menus, or presenting core content important to SEO in flash components.  Unfortunately the parser has no way of reading the content.  If you rely on a FLASH driven main menu, the parser can’t follow the links– those are pages that don’t get ranked in the search engine.

There may be reasons you want to keep your FLASH based content.  No problem, just make sure you provide some traditional linking system to access the data in a non-FLASH format.  This is a good idea anyway, as you’ll also make your site more 508.b compliant.

The Great Technology Divide

Web 2.0 and dynamic page technologies are here to stay.  There’s no reason to not utilize these tools to enhance your website.  Just keep in mind when and where to use them.  Understand how they effect search engine parsing, and keep an open dialogue with your web designer concerning parsibility.

In tomorrow’s post we’ll talk about ways to validate that your content is being parsed.

Visits Versus Visitors– Insights Into Copy Quality

 

Visits vs. Visitors

We’ll define their meaning and benefit from their results. Looking at your website analytic report, visits compared to visitors seems simple. In a website analytics report, the two terms’ meanings differ somewhat than expected. Knowing the difference provides vital clues into the quality of your website copy.

 

The Website Analytics Report ‘Visit’

An analytics report ‘Visit’ means someone came to the site and established a session. They may have left the sight and returned within the session time limit (usually 20 or 30 minutes) without closing the browser. Two visits correct— No, this registers as one visit in your website analytics report. That’s because the user maintained their original session. The user switches web addresses without closing the browser. Assuming substantial web traffic numbers, many ‘Visits’ generally means many website hits.

The Website Analytics Report ‘Visitor’

Now consider the analytic report’s ‘Visitor’ metric. ‘Visitors’ means a visit from a new guest. This visit in theory came from a new source. Visitor statistics require a defined time frame. Look at the following example to understand the concept in practical terms.

Let’s consider a website analytics report that covers June 1 – June 30. An individual web surfer’s first visit to the site in June— June 3rd for example, registers as a ‘Visitor’ in the website analytics report. The same user returns on June 21st— this registers as a ‘Visit’ in your analytics report.

Visits:Visitors Ratio

Comparing Visits to Visitors provides valuable insight for judging your website copy. The ratio reveals the audience’s perceived quality of your website copy. Let’s look at what the analytics report reveals.

Visits:Visitors > 1: Quality Website Copy, Find New Market Segments
In fact, the higher this number— the more people are returning to the site. The site audience finds your website copy interesting, and returns frequently. You want to continue producing quality content. Make sure you keep adding new content. Determine if you can duplicate these efforts with another market segment.

Visits:Visitors<1: Improve Website Copy, Verify Market Segment
A very low number here indicates the audience perceives poor website copy. The visitors come– but seldom return. Review your keyword research, an adjustment often produces very different results. Think of unique web article ideas, or find a professional website copy writer. Keep driving visitors to the site. Your new website copy will compel more frequent visits.

Conclusion

By itself the Visits:Visitor ratio doesn’t provide all the numbers. It doesn’t account for the same visitor visiting from different locations. As well, we are assuming substantial site traffic exists to provide reliable data.

Beyond those assumptions, keeping good data over extended periods helps you. Developing a range for your ratio allows recognition of trends. Early trend recognition provides one more advantage in the highly competitive internet arena.

Small Business and Technology, They Shall Meet

 

Are you using the right tools for the job?

Money, that’s the most important issue for small business owners.  We want to save it, find more of it and beg the banks for it all the time.  Most of all we hate to spend it.  How much does your MS Office upgrade license cost?   Could you use that money for something else, like advertising, promotions or to upgrade your proposal?

 

Your answers to the above questions are most likely, ‘more than I wanted to spend ‘and of ‘course’.  This blog can help change your answers to, “absolutely nothing, and I used the money for advertising”. Our goal is to  give you ways to save, and maximize the return on your technology investment. 

This blog comes with another promise.  We won’t blow your mind with techie talk.  Yeah, we’re techies, but we own a small business  as well.  We know you want to manage your business, not your technology.  Our company, Nsyndx (in sin dex) believes that’s the goal of every small business owner.  We understand you utilize tehcnology to save money, and it wouldn’t hurt if that technology saved time, promoted your company and helped drive sales.

That doesn’t mean we’ll talk about marketing your website, though we can recommend some great places to get great advice (The Indie Business Blog and E-Commerce Diva to name two).  We focus on the technology itself.  Like finding software that allows you to spend less than $3 per month for phone service, or free software to help you get more from your web content.

We’re here to help, so comment and ask questions, we love people (even though we’re techies).  Oh yeah, we’ll show you how to avoid the MS Office licensing fees in our next post.