Posts tagged "web optimization"

The Web Engagement Tag Team: Testing and Personalization

Engagement is all the rage, yet achieving it requires many skills. Key to the deal is the ability to test and refine your content, with a goal of increasing personal relevancy.

Companies must engage website visitors on a one-to-one basis by providing personalized, relevant and proven content. By optimizing content, organizations can significantly increase revenue as well as augment search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) efforts.

Prioritizing Personalization

One-size-fits-all websites are old news. You have less than seven seconds to capture a visitor’s attention, while delivering a relevant and engaging experience. Is your site content prepared to keep all your visitors engaged, no matter where they click?

Providing personalized content to website visitors is a key step most companies miss. While every website visitor has a unique profile, repeat visits are almost assured if the content offered is targeted and engaging. Targeted product and service recommendations are the most widely recognized forms of website ‘personalization’, however, true personalization — recognizing each customer’s known interests and attributes on the individual level — gives a powerful platform from which to optimize content and offers, a vital key to long-term engagement and loyalty.

Don’t forget that the design, layout and presentation of site content are equally as important as relevancy. Testing content ensures that each individual visitor is compelled by what they see, finds the content relevant and increases the chances of visitors converting to customers.

The Magnitude of Multivariate

Even minor changes to font size, color and language on a webpage can significantly increase conversion — which multivariate testing then analyzes in a live environment to statistically determine which content yields the best results. By simply removing the "Add–to-Cart" icon below each product image, a leading online retailer realized a 63% increase in conversion — proving that the dollars really are in the details.

Multivariate testing is largely recognized as the most effective way to increase conversion of website visitors to website buyers, as well as helps e-commerce enterprises discover the navigation paths of their traffic.

However, in order to be truly effective, testing must be integrated into a company’s culture and repeated in multiple variations to be effective. A leading travel site who was looking to quickly evolve its website to stay competitive, decided to test 15 call-to-action variants, which led to an 18 percent increase in seating revenues. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, this allowed the company to make decisions based on analysis rather than subjectivity, while safely removing re-design risks and reducing innovation timelines.

Pieces of the Same Puzzle: Content, SEO and SEM

Purchasing keywords to drive traffic to an inefficient landing page or website is like putting the cart before the horse. But content optimization is a powerful way to augment SEO and SEM efforts.

When a website uses the most effective content and design elements throughout the site (including landing pages), the cost of acquisition through search marketing is reduced, making it easier to translate clicks into lasting consumers.

Remove the guesswork from design and content decisions through accurate testing abilities, and prove exactly what drives your visitors to make purchase decisions on your site. This indisputable data will ensure that your search marketing and SEO budget results in more than just increased page views. At the end of the day, converting traffic to dollars is the only metric that matters.

About the Author

Mark Simpson is one of the founders of Maxymiser, a London-based firm focused on conversion management practices.

Facebook To Automatically Share User Data with External Sites?

facebook_logo_10.jpg

Surprise, surprise! Facebook's making changes to its privacy policy yet again. This time it looks like they foreshadow some of the features and changes to be announced at the f8 Developer Conference in April. Among the most notable—and jarring—is sharing your personal data with select Facebook Connect partners without your consent. 

Say What?

What it sounds like in the proposed policy change outline is that third-party sites will be able to use a person's browser cookies to automatically sign them into Facebook Connect:

Today, when you use applications such as games on Facebook.com or choose to connect to Facebook on sites across the web, you are able to find and interact with your friends. These applications require a small set of basic information about you in order to provide a relevant experience. After feedback from many of you, we announced in August that we were moving toward a model that gives you clearer controls over what data is shared with applications and websites when you choose to use them.

"In the proposed privacy policy, we’ve also explained the possibility of working with some partner websites that we pre-approve to offer a more personalized experience at the moment you visit the site."

 

This move feels a bit similar to when Facebook quietly made their 'Everyone' setting a default toward the end of last year. The setting made user content available to not just everyone on Facebook, but everyone on the entire Internet—including search engines and third-party sites. 

And though Facebook proudly told the Federal Trade Commission that 35% of their users had noticed the popup indicating a policy change and adjusted their personal settings accordingly, that still left 65% in the dark. Social Media researcher Danah Boyd made the following observation during her keynote at this year's SXSW conference: 

…I started asking non-techy users about their privacy settings on Facebook. I ask them what they think their settings are and then ask them to look at their settings with me. I have yet to find someone whose belief matched up with their reality. That is not good news. Facebook built its name and reputation on being a closed network that enabled privacy in new ways, something that its users deeply value and STILL believe is the case.

Absolutely Positively Connected

We admit, it's nice to have one-click access to third-party sites. Proof can be found in the popularity surrounding Facebook Connect, as well as the big names that've followed suit with the technology, such as Twitter and their upcoming @anywhere feature. 

“The right way to think about this is not like a new experience but as making the [Facebook] Connect experience even better and more seamless," said Barry Schnitt, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications and Public Policy at Facebook in an e-mail to ReadWriteWeb. "People love personalized and social experiences and that’s why Facebook and Facebook Connect have been so successful. We think there are some instances where people would benefit from this experience as soon as they arrive on a small number of trusted websites that we pre-approve.”

Then again, Boyd's talk on privacy struck a chord in a lot of people. Sure, we all appreciate one-click action, but that doesn't mean we want zero-click action. 

Additional rumors about upcoming stuff from Facebook include the infamous "Like" function being spread out to sites outside of the social networking platform. Imagine everything you enjoy on the Web, no matter what site it's on, feeding back into your Facebook stream. The benefits for all sides are obvious. 

Though details aren't rock solid, it's obvious that Facebook is working on spreading its tentacles out to the far reaches of the Web and everywhere in between with as little permission from its users as possible. Which side of the fence are you on? Read through the latest privacy change proposal and let us know.

Microsoft Betters Bing with New Design and foursquare

In addition to some sunshine, the next few months are going to see interesting updates from Bing. Microsoft previewed several new features for their search engine at the Search Engine Strategies 2010 Conference in New York this week, highlighting foursquare integration and new design concepts.

Better Looking Bing

The self-proclaimed "decision engine" has always had roots in the visual side of things. For instance, unlike the simple Google interface, Bing results include a list of links for enhancing your search. Dubbed Quick Tabs, the left-side column of links offers drilled-down suggestions based on your initial query. For example, if I search the word 'sheep', in addition to the regular top results, my Quick Tabs will list links for sheep facts, sheep breeds, cute sheep pictures and raising sheep:

bing_search_results.JPG

Bing search results

It looks a bit busy, doesn't it? In order to remedy that, Microsoft is moving the results to the top of the page (we're not sure whether or not they'll be hidden, but it would be nice).

"We have a vision for Bing to serve as a vital assistant to your online decision-making," said Jeff Henshaw, GPM of Bing's user experience team. "In these latest designs, you’ll see a lighter, cleaner presentation of results that highlight key actions that will efficiently guide you toward your goal."

Fun with foursquare 

Microsoft will also be incorporating foursquare's popular location-based data for a real-time experience with Bing Maps.

"The foursquare map app is a powerful combination of the spatial canvas that Bing Maps provides, combined with foursquare’s user reputation service … making it easier to explore any city in the world as if you were a local," Schwartz continued. "It's like an interactive day planner, designed to help find the best things to do in the area."

Additionally, Microsoft plans to involve Bing with everyday activities as well. Recent focus has been on the world of real-time, and partners include big names like Twitter. Microsoft hopes to incorporate much more significant data into the Bing search experience—an effort you can already see being tested. For example, when you search for a publication like New York Times, Bing now gives you both access to specific sections of the destination website, and the most popular shared links from that publication.

Users can expect all of these updates to be rolled out before the weather goes bad again, and our best guess is they're interesting enough to gain the search engine a few more fans.

Webtrends Optimizes Social Media Marketing for Facebook

Today it was announced that Webtrends (site) has decided to expand their analytics capabilities for Facebook yet again. The upcoming measurement tools—slated to be released with the next iteration of Webtrends Optimize—will enable both marketers and developers the ability to test, segment and target their specific campaigns inside the popular social network.

Marketers + Facebook

Webtrends has been poking around Facebook for a little while now. In February of this year the company gave marketers a peek into their promotional efforts (tabs, apps and share features), claiming Facebook to be a critical step in the marketing journey. 

“The ability to have concrete measurement on investments within Facebook and compare them apples to apples with other digital channels is critical to marketers,” explained Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, Webtrends' vice president of marketing. “Our comprehensive approach to measuring Facebook, beyond just applications, allows marketers to understand the broader picture of how their Facebook investment is performing.”

Making Sense Of It All

The Webtrends Optimize platform allows users to test content in real-time. Add that to the massive level of popularity Facebook has reached and the climbing interest in social media marketing, and you get a ton of campaigns and investments being made within the social network. The need to optimize them seems like a natural next step.

"Giving marketers the ability to optimize Facebook campaigns is an important step for us,”  continued Kaykas-Wolff.  “With the ability to measure ads, custom apps and tabs, Flash, and testing, Webtrends undoubtedly provides the most comprehensive way to measure and optimize what marketers are doing inside the most densely populated and active site on the web.”

Meanwhile, Coremetrics offers a similar solution. Fully integrated into the Coremetrics Optimization Platform, Impression Attribution enables businesses to analyze how Facebook investments drive website sales and conversions. The tool links activity around Facebook fan pages, ads and applications, to behaviors and conversions.

"Facebook campaigns – just like any other marketing program – must support strategic business objectives,’ said Coremetrics’ Chief Strategy Officer, John Squire. ‘Our approach to social media analytics is built on the premise that people interact with a brand in many different ways, through many different channels, and that the true measurement of ROI demands a fully integrated view of your customers."

Basically everyone's on the same page. To learn more about Webtrends' approach, head over here for a detailed look at Webtrends Optimize.  

#SXSW: Twitter Copies Facebook Connect with @Anywhere

Twitter announced a tool called @anywhere at this year’s SXSQ event. The new feature enables users to enjoy the Twitter experience (almost) anywhere and anytime, without signing into their actual account.

Are you reminded of Facebook Connect? Yeah. Us too.

Oh-So-Convenient

Just like Facebook Connect, Twitter’s @anywhere enables users to plug their Twitter credentials into popular sites and share information across platforms. For example, if you see a video you like on YouTube (an @anywhere launch partner), you’d be able to tweet about it from within YouTube’s site, rather than redirecting to twitter.com or your Twitter application of choice.

"When we're ready to launch, imagine being able to follow a New York Times journalist directly from her byline, tweet about a video without leaving YouTube, and discover new Twitter accounts while visiting the Yahoo home page — and that's just the beginning," explained Twitter’s co-founder Biz Stone on the company’s official blog.

We initially caught wind of the possibility of a Connect-like tool for Twitter back in January. Like we said then, considering the number of Facebook Connect fans (today more than 80,000 sites have integrated the tool), it makes a lot of sense to see Twitter following suit. After all, the microblogging superstar has made it quite clear that they’re aiming for a very successful 2010, and this new release proves that.

However, the tool isn’t exactly like Connect. "For example, while both permit easy sharing of content to one's networks, Twitter @anywhere seems poised to do more distribution of content across the Web,” said Forrester Research analyst Augie Ray. "The idea of allowing people to access relevant, real-time information from the Twitter network wherever they surf is a bit different than I've seen done with Facebook Connect, and it promises to open up the Twitter experience to people who as of yet may not have seen a reason to visit, register and participate."

Doomsday?

We can’t help but wonder what this means for third-party developers. We talked a couple weeks back about a cryptic tweet sent out by Twitter engineer Alex Payne:

If you had some of the nifty site features that we Twitter employees have, you might not want to use a desktop client. (You will soon.)

Back then developers worried that Twitter would soon lose the need for them. Payne has since removed the Tweet and told developers not to worry, but now that @anywhere is upon us, it might be worth it to worry just a little.

Optimizing Content: This Article is for Information Purposes Only

Do not act based on anything you might read in this article. It is purely for information purposes only.

Information is the "communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence," according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. But that's not how most organizations see information; written information in particular.

When most organizations say the information on their websites or in their documents is for information purposes only, what they're really saying is: Reader Beware. They're telling you that if you act on this information, you are acting at your own risk. In other words, there is a whole world of information that is published by commercial organizations and governments on which we are not meant to act.

The reason for this is that, historically, much content (written information) was created under the assumption that an expert would be interpreting it. In other words, before the Web most information was not written for self-service.

Take for example information that is written in a sales, marketing or promotional vein. If you act on what you read and something positive happens, that's great. However, if your action results in something negative, the organization that created the content does not want to be held legally responsible.

"If it is reasonable to assume that someone will act in reliance on information given to them by a professional," my lawyer colleague James Buckley states, "and that action transpires to be to the person's detriment, and the information given wasn't of the quality you would expect from the professional, then even though the parties never signed a contract and even though the "client" did not pay for the information, the professional (or company) can be made liable for the negligence in compiling the information simply because it was reasonable to expect that it would be relied upon."

That's why when organizations want to protect themselves they write something like: "This document is for information purposes only." That's a key reason why web teams have said to me over the years: "We don't have tasks. We just have information." A great many writers are terrified by the very idea that what they write might be acted upon. That's why so little content that is published on the Web is action-oriented. It's for information purposes only, which means that it's vague meaningless waffle that takes as long as possible to say as little as possible.

That was at least somewhat acceptable before the Web, when content (written information) was nearly always there as a support to a human-to-human interaction. But the whole business case of the Web is self-service. It means you read something, act on it on your own and complete the task you needed to complete.

We need a new generation of content writers who are focused on helping the customer complete tasks. We need to reward not the creation of the content, but rather the completion of the task. This is a big mental shift, but a very necessary one if we are to create websites that work.

 

About the Author

Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.

MediaFunnel Consolidates Social Media Marketing Activities

MediaFunnel, the “Team Tool for Social Media” previously known as TweetFunnel, has rebranded to reflect the company’s focus on providing a single interface from which businesses can manage all of their social media channels.  

All Together, Now

Imagine a funnel. Toss all of the social media outlets you utilize into that funnel. Watch the combination of information flow out the other end in a kind of supreme social concentrate. This is MedaFunnel.

Simply put, it’s a tool for managing corporate or social media network workflow. The company’s streamlined dashboard houses team-generated posts from across the social realm, and allows them to be reviewed before publishing to multiple feeds. 

When in Doubt, Add Facebook

You can probably tell by the  tool's original name that Twitter support has been covered, but with re-branding comes new and exciting functionality, and this time that means—surprise, surprise!—Facebook.

MediaFunnel now allows multiple users to post text and attachments to their company's Facebook Wall, and features that same handy editorial control previously offered (cross platform messages can be posted immediately, scheduled or released in pre-defined intervals).

Businesses can respond quickly to both queries and complaints using MediaFunnel’s nifty assignment feature, set alerts for brand monitoring, submit posts by email/SMS, use co-tags to personalize posts, or review analytics to gain market knowledge. 

“Social media marketing has gone mainstream,” said Andreas Wilkens, MediaFunnel Co-Founder. “What’s important are conversations, real-time engagement and meaningful content, not so much the application it streams on. We’ve seen networks fade and new ones emerge. That’s why we’ve built MediaFunnel—so businesses can concentrate on creating genuine dialogue from one familiar dashboard while we connect the platform to their social networking channel, whatever it might be.”

Social Media Marketing

Yeah, it's kind of a big deal right now. We've seen a good number of solutions crop up this year alone, including TweetShare, a Twitter-based marketing application, Seesmic Look (also for Twitter), and Facebook analytics tools from both Webtrends and Omniture. 

“The ability to have concrete measurement on investments within Facebook and compare them apples to apples with other digital channels is critical to marketers,” said Webtrends' vice president of Marketing, Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, when his company's solution was announced earlier this month. 

We imagine that means good things for solutions like MediaFunnel—especially considering the fact that it's not limited to one network. Ready to try it for free? Off with you.

Web Economy: The Shift to Service

Cloud computing and virtualization reflect a general movement driven by the Web: a shift towards a more service-driven economy.

There are two major trends that are now coming together to reshape our economies and societies. One is the continuing replacement of humans by computers in the workplace. Computers are essential in manufacturing and in the office. They continuously replace human effort and boost productivity.

Consider this: most of the products we design today could not be designed without computers. A new computer from Dell, for example, can only be designed by using computers from a previous generation. In other words, an older model of a computer is helping in the creation of a newer one.

So in which areas are computers not likely to replace humans (at least in the short term)? Service. The caring industries. People like being cared for by other people. A genuine smile and a friendly voice have a powerful affect on us. The computers will look after the hard space, humans will look after the soft space.

The Web thrives on interconnections; cloud computing and virtualization live on the Web. If you are not connected-if you live on a remote island with no outside connections-then to live you must physically have everything you need beside you. But if you live on the Web, it doesn't matter where what you need resides, once you can make use of it. It's not the owning or the physical proximity that matters-it's the use. And what are the implications of all this? Service.

Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, said in March 2010 that Microsoft was "betting our company" on the cloud. I hear the same sort of statements in other big companies I deal with. There's a shift to the cloud; a shift to service.

Part of this shift is of course technical. But there's an equally large cultural part . A service-driven economy will be different from a product-driven economy. Why? Because the most important thing will be the service. You pay 10 dollars a month, not 400 dollars as a once-off payment. That changes how you think about what you're getting.

Most organizations are structured around a launch and leave project-based culture of products, marketing and communication campaigns. The reward is for producing things (products, websites, brochures, videos, advertising campaigns). In a service-driven economy, the reward-structure will be based on how happy the customer is with your service.

How does a service-based brand thrive? By showing customers that you care about meeting their needs, month-in, month-out. These customers have not bought your product; they've bought your service. And that means they judge you on your service and can leave you more easily if your service declines. In service-driven economies people are locked in by trust and satisfaction, not by the fact that they have made a major investment in a product and must stick with it.

Are you ready for service? Because that's where the Web is at. Great websites are run by service professionals. People who want to help their customers succeed. People who care more about whether the customers are happy than whether the organization is. If you focus too much on the organization — the internal politics — you invariably lose focus on the customer.

 

About the Author

Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.

TweetShare Markets Your Brand Social Media Style

FuzeBox kicked out a new Twitter-based application for rich media, publishing content, promoting offers, and creating conversational threads. Basically, it’s like Twitter plus FriendFeed, wrapped up in a neat little package for marketers.

TweetShare

The application works by feeding content into what is arguably the most viral stream out there. Users can integrate online video, presentations and images with TweetShare, as well as create polls and lists of followers.

Like Seesmic Look or Facebook fan pages, brands can also use TweetShare to create their own branded pages, which immediately gets fed into Twitter as well. 

Speaking from a marketing point of view, the Chief Strategy Officer at FuzeBox, Patric Moran, said, "We love Twitter, but it is very limited. TweetShare will take Twitter from a useful listening device to a way to truly engage consumers with a brand through compelling content."

 tweetshare_screenshot.JPGTweetShare screen shots

"Content is still king," continued Moran, "but conversations need some kind of context. We believe that context needs to be a piece of video or written content. The suggestion that people are going to come and seek brands out is not the best way to engage business. [With TweetShare] there can be a message from the CEO, an offer from the marketing department and a how-to from the product department."

Product Highlights

Here's a quick rundown of what you'll get with TweetShare: 

  • Create branded Twitter page to host and promote any type of content
  • Generate a landing pages around events, promotions or contests
  • Host an online media room with videos, presentations, images and PDFs
  • Perform market research on new campaigns, post surveys on different topics and get immediate feedback from the Twitter community
  • Syndicate content to the Twitter community concurrently with other fan pages (Facebook, YouTube, blog, PRWeb)

Consumers can join in on the fun as well by providing feedback on tweets or any uploaded content.

Ready to market? The platform is available to anyone with Twitter credentials. Check it out.

Business Optimization: People Are Not Always the Business Optimization: People Are Not Always the Problem

Managers in large organizations are too concerned with downsizing and cost cutting and not concerned enough with efficiency, productivity and customer satisfaction.

"Much of the conventional wisdom about downsizing — like the fact that it automatically drives a company's stock price higher, or increases profitability — turns out to be wrong, Jeffrey Pfeffer writes for Newsweek in February 2010.

Pfeffer writes that there is "empirical evidence showing that labor-market flexibility isn't necessarily so good for countries, either. A recent study of 20 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) economies over a 20-year period by two Dutch economists found that labor-productivity growth was higher in economies having more highly regulated industrial-relations systems — meaning they had more formal prohibitions against the letting go of workers."

"Buy new technology so that you can let people go" is a golden rule of modern management. There is a belief that the very purchase of technology will in and of itself make the organization more efficient. People are the problem. Technology is the solution.

At some point, letting go of people becomes a counter-productive strategy. At some point, managers need to focus on the people that are left within the organization. A manager needs to ask: How can I make my staff more productive and efficient, not with a view to letting some go, but rather with the objective of making the organization more competitive?

Organizations bemoan the loss of customer loyalty to brands. Loyalty is a two-way street. From an organizational point of view, loyalty begins after the customer has bought the product or service. Loyalty is built or lost when the customer has a problem and needs help from the organization. The downsizing devotees invariably try to spend as little as possible in customer support. Long term, they reap the consequences.

The end objective of technology should be to extend the capabilities of people, not to replace them. Sure, as technology drives efficiency some people will lose out, but that should not be an objective in and of itself. The objective should be to become more efficient and deliver a better service to the customer.

Properly managed, an intranet can deliver greater efficiency and reduce costs. It can help staff carry out tasks faster. It has that potential, but it is a potential that is not being realized in most intranets because of a lack of focus on the tasks and the staff who need to carry out the tasks.

Technology must ultimately be for people, not a replacement for people. I have met many managers over the years who have little or no concern whether the time of their customers or staff is being wasted by websites with confusing menus and links and poor search results. However, if I tell these very same managers that I've found a way to reduce headcount, they get very excited.

The goal of the organization should not be to fire as many people as possible. The goal should be to become as efficient as possible. To achieve efficiency we need quality people working with the technology to test, tweak, mold, refine, adapt, plan.

People are not always the problem. And technology on its own is rarely the solution.