Websites Can Do A Lot of Stuff

The thing I like about websites is that they can do a lot of stuff for you — kind of like an assistant.

I chatted recently with a woman who launched a business and is now about to “launch” a family. She spent the past year building her consulting practice and is now stepping away to devote time to her new addition. “So, no need to bother with a website,” was her thought.

Here’s the thing. If she steps away from the marketplace completely, she truly disappears. All the momentum gained by getting out in front of the people and telling her story in the past year will be lost. And when she does come back, it’ll be from scratch. Again.

Everyone knows from science class long ago that the hardest part of rolling a heavy boulder is getting it moving to start. Better to keep it going, even at a slow roll, than stop and try to restart from a state of rest.

The point is, with a minimum of effort your website becomes your agent, representing you in your absence. And when you are ready to come back, it won’t be like you’ve disappeared altogether and are starting from zero.

Blogging at the VIFF

The Vancouver International Film Festival has come and gone for about a month now. The way the website is set up makes it very hard to find any information about the films as each film has its own blog. I’ve been poking around their site and selecting films randomly and I finally found a few entries but nothing too exciting. As you can imagine, because their website is not user-friendly, there is no discussion to be found.

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Web Marketing is about Serving Searchers

If you’ve read our blog for a while you might have noticed we often quote Gerry McGovern. His article Honest Marketing Works on the Web contains not only a good rant about the frustrations of airline ticket pricing, but some words of wisdom as well:

The Web shifts the balance of power away from the organization and towards the customer. It is the customer who searches. It is the customer who compares. It is the customer who evaluates. It is the customer who is highly impatient, with their finger always on the Back button.

Web marketing is not about finding fools. It is rather about serving searchers. We go to the Web because we have a question and we want an answer. Please answer the question, Mr. Marketer.

The importance of the text on your website cannot be overstated. You might be tempted to focus on how pretty or cool-looking it is. But if your text isn’t doing it’s job, there’s less of a chance that people will find the site in the first place or stick around once they get there. Here are some of the things we recommend to make the most of your site’s content:

  • Ensure the important text is visible to search engines in the way the site is built. Your site should be built with current web standards and including text alternatives to any images or flash that contain important text.
  • Avoid linking to PDF or Word documents, which the search engines can’t scan as well as a web page (if at all).
  • Consider using the services of a professional writer who’s experienced with writing for the web and search engine optimization of content.
  • Aim for a design that supports the text rather than undermining it. Part of that is making it easy-to-use: clear navigation, standard scrollbars, allowing the text to be resized without breaking the design, etc.

Why Use Alexa Widgets?

I was recently asked for my insights into Alexa widgets and in which situations a company would use these on their web page. I thought this would be a good forum to share the answer……

Alexa is a web information company that provides users with web search, toolbar functionality and services that allow visitors and web developers to track traffic ranking and to compare the results with other pertinent sites. The company has a suite of additional add-ins that developers can use on websites: to facilitate search; add thumbnail images of websites; customise the toolbar, to publicize traffic ranking via widgets and generate reports.

An Alexa widget allows visitors to see how the website ranks:
a) in a graph comparing sites
b) in a button showing simply traffic rank or
c) in a button showing site stats (links in and rank).

To set this up simply enter the website you want to track: the code is automatically generated for you to cut and paste into your website where ever you want it.

The widgets would be put to best use by companies with a loyal following on their site or those that are quickly increasing in rank. Bear in mind that Alexa tracks this data using their toolbar so the search results will only include Alexa traffic – making the results rather skewed.

Have you had any success with Alexa widgets?

The Benefits of Google AdWords

GoogleAdWords is a great way to easily target your niche audience and promote your product to that audience. With hundreds of millions of Google searches performed every day it makes sense to tap into that huge potential market and thats just what GoogleAdwords lets you do.

When you next Google something look at the right hand side and the top few searches of the page: these are ads (usually highlighted) placed and paid for by companies using the GoogleAdWords service.

The major benefits companies find in using this service (increased traffic notwithstanding) include:

  • ability to get started on a minimum budget: as little as $5 per month;
  • manage your budget effectively with monthly spend limits;
  • test the waters, try different keywords and ad wording and make adjustments easily;
  • you only pay for actual clicks (people who click through to visit your site);
  • advertising with Google, unlike advertising in traditional media, is highly targeted by location and language;
  • its relatively simple to get started
  • and the service offers advanced reporting options if you are so inclined.

All in all, GoogleAdWords brings great bang for your advertising buck.

Creative Promotional Video

Human FlipbookWith the popularity of YouTube growing, entrepreneurs are understandably excited by the potential of the medium. I’ve consulted with people who are looking at taking their basic web sites to the next level of web marketing, and heard things like “We’ve got to have video. Video is so popular now.” To which I say: maybe. It depends on the video and how you use it.

Unless the video content on your site is somehow great, nobody cares about that video except you and maybe your Mom.

“Great”, on the web, means meeting a need. That need can be to have a laugh, to learn something, to be inspired.

In other words to truly leverage video on the web, you have to create videos that will draw your customers to view them. At it’s best, the video will help new people discover your website.

A fun example of this is The Human Flipbook by the restaurant chain Ebert & Gerbert. This is so creative & wonderful, it was mentioned on a site that I subscribe to. Because the video was embedded in the page at Do Something Pretty I didn’t even realize I was watching a commercial until the end. By then, I was so impressed I didn’t mind.

5 Things you can do to boost your Blog's Success

One of our clients and a fabulous interior designer, Patricia Gray, recently began blogging. Perhaps she was inspired by Christine’s post on why you should have a blog. As a recap, the 3 reasons Christine cited were:

  1. Blogs create relationships
  2. Blogs improve your communication and writing skills
  3. Blogs allow you to promote yourself

Patricia Gray’s blog is living proof of these principles. She’s an avid and effective blogger, writing voraciously and including lots of juicy pictures in her posts. As a result, she’s creating relationships with the many readers who’ve found her site because of the compelling content in her blog.
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5 Lessons In Getting Quoted, Linked & Discussed

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about marketing and how some of these projects seemed really exciting after reading one of Rohit’s excellent articles on the Simpsons movie. Turns out Rohit’s article was so popular it was quoted by very reputable sources and managed to generate an enormous amount of traffic. Which is just what a blog should do.

This article and a few others have gathered such interest because of the following:

  • He targeted new audiences. If you write about the same old stuff, you won’t attract new readers.
  • He gave people soundbites. Quoting facts and figures allows others to quote you in their blog and websites and offering urls allows them to forward these to friends and share the story.
  • He offered links. His Simpsons article had a great resource of links which proved to be fascinating.
  • He used existing buzz. When writing his Facebook article, he picked up on a buzzworthy story created a “halo effect” where the conversation about the topic drove interest and awareness.
  • He provided his contact details. Hiding your contact details may safeguard you against spam, but won’t allow people to find you.

Sometimes I wish I was a marketer

Being a web designer I usually keep my head buried in code all day. I love debugging CSS and writing XHTML but every once in a while I look up and realize that there are people out there doing stuff.

I heard a few weeks ago, while in Seattle, that the Simpsons movie was coming. I used to watch the Simpsons, but got bored of it around year 5 or 6, so I didn’t pay attention to the movie poster. A few weeks later I read somewhere (I forget where) that a few 7-11 stores around town had been converted into Kwik-e marts. I thought that was pretty cool.

I hadn’t realized how big this Simpsons movie is until I stumbled across a post by Rohit. This movie is proving to be something else. I just lost several hours poking around the Official Simpsons movie website. It’s at times like these that I think that marketing would be a cool job.

The flash developers who worked on the site have done a fantastic job and the marketing effort is outstanding. I’m intrigued now and looking forward to the movie.

Serve your clients, no matter what they need

Over the last two days I attended a self-employment workshop at the Sunshine Coast Employment Center, offered by Cassandra Gierden of Prophet Coaching. A valuable idea she offered was to create your own personal “yellow pages” – get out and meet somebody from every possible profession you can think of.

The idea is to be of service to your clients no matter what they need. If they can’t make an appointment with you, don’t just ask to reschedule. Ask them if they need a mechanic and refer them to a great one.

You can make the creation of your yellow pages like a scavenger hunt for yourself: find X contacts by X time.

The concept of serving your clients, no matter the need, is similar to what this blog and indeed many successful sites are all about. Share a little information or service for free, and you become a valuable resource that stays top-of-mind. In the end isn’t that what marketing is all about?