Posts tagged 101
4 Best Practices For User Testing Your Website

So you've built out a new website or landing page, and you're excited to show it to the world. Your colleagues, friends, and family think that your new creation is awesome - and you're feeling pretty good about yourself. You're thinking that you might be ready to launch..

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DO NOT GO ANY FURTHER WITHOUT USER TESTING!

Here at Delegator, we preach the gospel of thorough and unbiased user testing. In fact, we have distilled our approach to using a singular partner (most of the time) that we really enjoy working with, because they have a great platform: UserTesting.com.

Simply signing up for their service, however, isn't enough to get you the actionable data you need to properly optimize your new site.

Here are four best practices that will allow you to user test efficiently and effectively:

Get involved in, first hand, user testing videos AND analysis sessions:

User testing is one of the most important pre-launch protocols.  If you are a decision maker, there is no substitute for first hand consumption of user testing content.  If you pass the task off through multiple degrees of separation, you are opening yourself up to multiple layers of bias. Instead, consume the user tests first hand to see for yourself EXACTLY how people interact with your site.

Do not make definitive conclusions based on just a couple of user tests:

Although you may feel that a random user test is providing you with a goldmine of actionable data, temper your eagerness to make changes with the understanding that one or two tests are not statistically significant relative to hundreds of site visitors.  If multiple users tests start revealing similar faults or potential enhancements, AND your team agrees with said faults, you should probably feel safe making that change.

Find the right balance between instruction specificity and freedom:

Unless you want your user tester to be floundering around the site with no clear direction, be specific in dictating to the tester who they are, and what their goal is.  Don't, however, instruct them on every step they need to take to reach the goal.  You want your user tester to best emulate your actual customers.  You, unfortunately, won't be able to instruct each customer on how to use your website step by step, so take that into account during your UserTesting.com session setup.

Use the convenient annotations feature of UserTesting.com for efficient & effective sharing:

You'll want to share the user testing intel with your team members.  Since the tests are delivered in the form of a narrated video and can often be quite long, take a pass through the videos and annotate the important revelations.  This way, other team members can quickly scan the video and watch the important parts where your tester might be stumbling, or (hopefully) completing tasks with ease.

Delegator is an official partner of UserTesting.com and can help you set your account up,  work through your testing, and analyze the tests to form actionable recommendations.  Contact us here if you would like to learn more!

What the Wire Can Teach Us About SEM - Part 1 of 2

The Wire is everyone's favorite show for a reason. A deep well of characters, a sprawling narrative that felt intimate and alive, a searing critique of the drug war and a top to bottom post-mortem on the heart of a once-great city. It could only be described as, well, "Dickensian." Sorry, Gus! The Wire was one of those shows that kept you on the hook with long-developing plot lines (investigations, mergers, a series of major news reports) that typically extended over an entire season. It also delivered incredible quotes and moments of drama and comedy on a weekly basis - sometimes both in the same scene. It's what gave the show its weekly entertainment punch to go along with its historical level of sophistication and "reporting."

Here at Delegator we're big fans, and we even started using some of those quotes around the office to reference some of the things we were doing for clients related to AdWords, SEO, Analytics, and more. With a recent upswing in attention on the show (thanks Grantland!) we thought now might be a good time to share with our clients and readers what we've been talking about for years. Search Engine Marketing - As Explained by the Cast of The Wire. Sheeeeeeee...

“When you take a shot at the King, you best not miss.” - Omar Little

Omar Little

Taking aim at the number one Google ranking is a formidable task. That’s especially true when you happen to be going up against another entity that a) has a clearly more relevant relationship to the keyword than you do or b) can spend you under the table. Unfortunately for most companies, it’s not a realistic goal.

Now that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn't try, or shouldn’t at least set it as your goal. Sometimes toppling the king is easier than you thought (just ask Marlo). But more often than not, as Wee-Bey found out, you end up eating chicken salad across from Bunk and McNulty. What is realistic for most companies is getting a few corners of their own - corners the big boys  might not know about. The way to do this in SEO is by investigating and then investing in long tail keywords. Maybe Huge Company X has the market cornered on "The Wire Posters," but you could get a real foothold in "Michael K. Williams Posters," "Omar Little Wire Posters," or "Omar Little Season 5 Posters." You won't get quite as much traffic as you would for a generic term, but the traffic you do get will be specific, and motivated to convert.

The only way to achieve a ranking like that for a competitive keyword is perfect preparation, determination in the form of time and money, and luck.

“Look the part, be the part.” - Proposition Joe

Proposition Joe

Joe came in for some ridicule from Avon when he showed up to the annual East/West showdown in full “Pat Riley” suit and tie regalia, but his commitment to looking like a “real” basketball coach helped him coach with more authority and confidence. In other words, getting the look right helped him get the job right. That, and a hired ringer. This is a lesson that can be easily applied to SEM.

Everything starts with your site design. A newcomer to your site should immediately be able to understand what you’re about and trust that you can deliver the goods. Building that initial trust element and creating a homepage that effectively funnels users to the pages you want them to hit is a complicated, multi-faceted process, but it’s a time and design investment well worth making. When you look like a “real” site, you’ll see yourself start to perform like one.

“Our job is to report the news, not manufacture it!” - Gus Haynes

Gus Haynes and Scott Templeton Season 5 of The Wire was about the breakdown of professional ethics within the main character, Detective Jimmy McNulty, as well as the august offices of the Baltimore Sun (where series creator David Simon began his career as a journalist). McNulty, frustrated with the lack of institutional support for his wire investigations, (SPOILER ALERT) fakes the presence of a serial killer by “adjusting” bodies post mortem. Scott Templeton, a hotshot up and comer at the Sun, began his career making up innocuous stories about wheelchair bound children going to Orioles games, but he eventually begins to stretch the truth about the serial killer case - he is the only reporter the “killer” ever contacts.

In the end McNulty loses his badge and Templeton wins a Pulitzer.

When you go with “black hat” SEO - SEO that attempts to get around Google standards and practices through any one of a dozen illicit strategies - you’re taking the same chance. Maybe it will work, you won’t get caught, and your business will go up, up, up. But maybe you’ll get caught, blacklisted, and penalized indefinitely in the organic results, crippling and even killing your business. Is that really a chance you want to take?

At Delegator we only do “white hat” SEO. Be very careful before getting in bed with any firm that doesn’t, and make sure that if you’re running your own SEO operation you don’t cross the line. It’s not worth risking your entire business.

“If Snotboogie always stole the money, then why did you let him play?”

“Got to. This America, man.” - McNulty and Man on Stoop

Anybody can play the AdWords game. Doesn’t matter if they don’t understand it, try to cheat it, or run their accounts into the ground. Because it depends on the quality of your site much less than the value of your dollar, it’s as open as it gets in the land of SEM. The only thing you need to play is money - Google allows you to set up your account and start spending faster than you can run down to your neighborhood game of bones (though your ROI is likely to be higher with Google). You will almost certainly need an expert to guide you through the weeds with no pain and plenty of profit.

Active AdWords management is the best way to navigate the choppy waters of paid search. Active management means going in every day and making changes, re-organizing, raising and lowering bids, and identifying and exploiting new best practices. That's the only proven way to consistently stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the wide open AdWords game.

Come back for more Wire action next week!

Part 2 of 2.

Delegator.com’s New Years Resolutions! (This time we’re really going to do it!)

1. This year, I will stop focusing on the numbers on the scale. I will stop focusing on keywords only when I write SEO content.

2. This year, I will do something active and physical every day. I will regularly add to and refresh the content of my site.

3. This year, I am finally going to get organized - my house, my office, and my life. I am finally going to start utilizing Google Analytics - to track and analyze my traffic, my users, and my conversion statistics.

4. This year, I will quit smoking once and for all. I will stop using Flash to create large or important sections of my website.

5. This year, I’m going to put myself out there and try to meet some new people. I’m going to kick my AdWords campaign into high gear, try some email marketing, and optimize my site every chance I get.

6. This year, I am going to start saving money. I am going to let professionals actively manage my AdWords account, and stop over-paying for keywords that are too competitive or that aren’t going to get me the customers I’m looking for.

7. This year, I am going to be on time wherever I go. I will use Google Calendars to give me reminders about important dates, deadlines and meetings.

8. This year, I am going to learn something new. I am going to try a different online marketing tactic to see if I can improve my results.

9. This year, I am going to indulge my artistic side. I’m going to create banners for my site and start using Display Networks to attract and re-target users.

10. This year, I am going to give some time or money to charity (This is one that should stay on the list). Check out Causeway.org if you need some ideas in the Chattanooga area!

Top Six Ways to Write More, Yes Even More Content

Okay, so you’ve spent months writing content for your new site. You’ve written about every little detail of every product or service you offer, filled in every bit of background information you can think of, and generally driven yourself crazy trying to fill as many pages as you can. But you’re still not quite where you want to be; you need more content. How do you do it? How do you dig down deep and come up with meaningful, useful content when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope? Let this long-time content writer show you the way with my personal Top Six content fixes.

1. Top Five, Top Ten, Top 15, even Top 27 Lists

One of the easiest and most fun ways to bulk up your on-page content is what you’re reading right now - a top (whatever number you choose) list. Come up with something that’s interesting to your readers, and then rank or list them - there’s nothing more compelling to a reader than a numbered list with a juicy headline. Just look at the magazine stands during football or Oscar season and you’ll see what we mean. Because lists are so popular with readers, they are excellent link bait. If you’ve got a great list with a compelling title, you’re sure to generate some interest from other sites and aggregators.

2. Q&A’s

Post question and answer interviews on your site. Talk to the people who started your business, the movers and shakers in your particular sphere of influence, or people who produce the things you sell (if you’re an e-retailer). If you run an appliance business, for example, you might want to send a few emails to the designers and manufacturers of the things you sell and then publish the resulting interview on your site. Make sure these are informative, interesting, and relevant to your site.

3. Transcripts

Transcripts of speeches, videos, or promotional material are a great way to add content to any site. If you work in the real estate business, a transcript from a realtor’s speech or promotional video is a great way to get keyword-rich text on your site. Just make sure the transcript mentions keywords you’re interested in ranking for on Google, Yahoo and Bing (and that you have the rights to publish the material!)

4. FAQ’s

The Frequently Asked Questions section is a great place to serve the readers and the search engines in equal measure. You can create an FAQ on any of your landing pages by collecting real questions from readers/buyers/users, as well as some of your own, to create compelling and helpful content. Make sure to mention the keywords you want to invest in by name, and make sure the answers to the questions are honest, helpful, and easy to understand. Some of the most popular search queries are in the form of questions. How many times have you typed in “How do I...” or “How to...” into a search bar? With well written and thoughtful FAQs, you can make it easier for these users to find your site. FAQs benefit all three parties involved in SEO - the search engines, the users, and you.

5. Compare and Contrast

This is when you take the product you sell, or a particular feature of your site, and compare it to a similar product or feature somewhere else (in a favorable light, of course). You might compare the quality of your product to that of another, or the advances your product has made in reference to an older or more well known model. Just make sure you pick products, services or specialties that make you look better than your competitors, and that the content is sharp and informative.

6. Product Reviews

Similar to Compare and Contrast, except you don’t give your competition any exposure and you get more control over your message. There are plenty of companies who will do independent reviews like this (Delegator is one of them) and still work in plenty of SEO-goodness with keyword-rich content. On page reviews are also a proven reader and link magnet, with users of all stripes wanting to get a little inside information when it comes to buying your product or service. Product Reviews are where you can sell your products, utilize SEO and provide a great service for your customers all at the same time.

These are just my proven techniques. If you know any other great strategies for writing more and more content, let us know in the comments! No matter what strategies you use, just remember that Black Hat SEO is never worth it. Do things the right way, and always create unique, keyword-driven content. You don't want to be on notice, do you?

How to Run Your Own Blog

And lo, Delegator.com journeyed into the wilderness of the 156 million public blogs on the Internet, and returned to the people with commandments; and these commandments numbered 10.

I. Post early, post often, and keep posting.

The most important thing any blogger can do is to keep blogging. At first, you might get very little reader response. You might even (gasp) get none at all. But that’s no reason to panic! The only way you can create an engaged and communicative readership is by regularly updating your blog. People don’t congregate at or return to blogs that are infrequently or indifferently updated. It may be the last thing on your to do list, but it’s absolutely essential that you get it done. You might be talking to yourself at first, but if you keep talking and you actually have something to say, people will start to listen. Trust us.

II. Post early, post often, and keep posting.

This is by far the most important commandment. Brand it upon your brain.

III. Post early, post often, and keep posting.

We are willing to alienate and annoy you to ensure that you do not forget this commandment.

IV. Write what you know.

This is one of those true cliches about professional writing. As important as it is to novelists, journalists and script writers, it’s doubly important for bloggers. Bloggers don’t have to be single issue, but if they seek to gain a larger readership they need to be focused and expert. If you don’t understand a concept, link to it - don’t write about it. Your readers are coming to you for answers and/or entertainment, so write about things you know inside and out. Otherwise you risk losing credibility, respect for you or your companies ability, and worst of all, readers.

V. When readers have a strong response to a post, keep mining that vein of interest - hold their attention.

It’s in the best interest of a blog writer to be responsive to his or her readers. If you get a big response from a post of yours (even if you didn’t think it was that big a deal) listen to your readers. Keep posting about that same subject or in that same style (not exclusively, just regularly). The goal of a blog is to build readerships, transmit information, and connect with potential clients. When you touch a nerve, don’t be shy about pressing it.

VI. Create an editorial voice, and maintain it.

Even if your blog posts are being written by several different people and cover a few different areas of interest, keeping a clear editorial voice is important. It helps readers to feel they have a personal connection to the blog, and it makes your site distinctive and personal. Those are good things because they invite visits, correspondence, and a welcome sense of familiarity.

VII. Every once in a while, go off the cuff.

Having an editorial voice doesn’t mean you should speak in monotone. It’s good to give readers a few breaks from the serious work of digesting your thoughts and evaluating your advice. One of the most popular blogs on the internet, Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish, posts more than 300 times a week. But many of those posts are funny or moving pictures, silly videos, and palate cleansers like a daily “Mental Health Break.” You should think about fun ways to engage with your audience that don’t always include teaching them something. Your blog doesn’t need to look like it was designed by Martha Stewart, but it is important to give it a professional, cared-for appearance. If it’s sloppy, ugly, or too plain, savvy readers pick up on it and take their jaded eyeballs elsewhere.

IX. Spellcheck is your best friend.

Try not to get caught making mistakes in the realm of spelling, fact-checking, and grammar. It takes away credibility, and makes you look small-time.

X. Link to sources, and make sure to be up front about where you got information.

Nothing gets you worse press in the blogosphere than not attributing your sources of information on your blog. Do right by them and they’ll do right by you. Do otherwise, and you could get in real trouble (of the punitive kind, if not the legal).

Social Media and Your Business: Twitter 101

If you’re new to Twitter or you’re setting up your business' Twitter account for the first time, you may be wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into.  Twitter can be a confusing thing at first if you’re not familiar with how to use the “@” symbol, the hashtag (#) or what it means to “retweet.”  This post is designed to give you the very basics in Twitter 101 for your business.

Delegator Tweet

Usernames

First things first, if you don’t have a Twitter account and username for your business - get one!  Every username is unique, and your business’ name may already be taken.  This might require you to get creative (Tip: You can use an underscore in your username which may help.  Try Acme_Business if AcmeBusiness is already taken.)

Profile

Complete your profile.  You’ll need to create a short bio (160 characters or less), add an avatar (your profile image), add your website, and add your location if you choose.  You can customize your profile further, but like I said - we’re just going over the basics here.

The Language

Learn the Twitter language.  I won’t leave you hanging - if you want to learn more about the “@” symbol, hashtag, and retweet, see the Twitter Glossary.  It may take some getting used to, but the more you use Twitter, the more you’ll get the hang of it.

Tweets

If you’ve read the glossary, you know that a “tweet” is a message posted on Twitter with 140 characters or less.  You need to start tweeting for a few reasons:Twitter Bird

  1. You need content on your profile.  If you want people to pay attention to what you and your business have to say, you need to be saying something.
  2. You need to engage your audience.
  3. You’ll get the hang of things.  Learning the Twitter language and how things work takes you actually using it.

Followers and Following

Again, if you’ve read the glossary, you know that there is a difference between followers and following.  (Twitter does a good job of explaining the difference between the two.)  Most people on Twitter want to increase the number of people following them.  When you’re starting out though, you start at zero just like everyone else did.  There are several ways to devise your business’ Twitter strategy, which could be another post by itself.  Since we’re keeping this brief, I would suggest starting with these two:

  1. Follow other respected people in your industry.
  2. Make people aware that you have a Twitter profile.  (Link to your Twitter account from your website, etc.)

Hopefully this post will serve as a good starting point for launching your business’ Twitter account successfully.  Once you’re underway, you can begin tracking your success and building upon your efforts.  If you have any questions about this post or how Twitter could benefit your business, let me know!  Feel free to leave a comment or email me directly at heather.e@delegator.com.

Google Analytics: How Does The Other Half Live?

A recent analysis shows that only 50% of the top million websites have Google Analytics tracking code. This begs the question: What are the other half of websites doing? To those who work in Analytics on a daily, or at least weekly basis, this is a serious question. With the growth of social networks and e-commerce, it would seem that at least a majority of website owners would place a premium on insightful information about their website. To be sure, there are other Analytics software packages that will track useful data about website visitors. But most of these packages are expensive - Google’s is free - and many lack the intuitive interface of Google Analytics that makes all that mess of data clean and actionable. And now that Google’s tracking code is asynchronous, site speed is no longer a reason to eschew Analytics.

So what are these 50% of website owners thinking? Quick answer: They aren’t.

The Other Half

A straw poll of small business owners with websites would probably reveal that a lot of them have never heard of Analytics and don’t know the wealth of information that can be made available to them at no cost. What to do now? Well, we did make getting the word out about Google Analytics one of our New Year's Resolutions.

Stay tuned for a series of posts in the coming weeks on how to get the most out of Analytics for your business or blog. But in the meantime, go ahead and create your Analytics account, and join the soon-to-be majority of websites in the knowledgeable class.

Content, Content, Content

In our initial meetings with clients, one of the questions we hear the most is “How much content do I need?” Businesses want their websites and products and services to be picked up by search engines like Google and Yahoo! and Bing, and they know that content is the best and most practical way to do that organically. So the natural question becomes, how much is enough? But first, a caveat: Volume is not the only consideration when you’re talking about adding articles and information to your site. If that were so, it would be easy for big companies to dominate the market. What Delegator offers is high-quality, well researched and relevant content. We take the time to learn about your business or your site, and what we write is tailored specifically to your needs and the needs of your customers. It’s not good enough to merely rank high; the written content on your site must be valuable to visitors.

The easy answer to “How much?” is, snappily, “However much it takes to get you the ranking you want.” Because the number of words needed to get ranked is different for every website, client and keyword, it’s impossible for us to say exactly how much you need to push your website to the very top of the rankings. For some sites, getting to the number one ranking might be a pipe dream anyway, as harsh as that sounds. So the easy answer is “However much it takes,” but the responsible answer is “Wait and see.”

Google and Search Engine Optimization

For every client who orders content from us, we always recommend starting with a base of content, rather than an arbitrary large amount. For most search engines, unique keyword-targeted content isn’t taken seriously unless it’s at least 500 words long per page. That’s the minimum amount per page, or per topic or per product, that we recommend content-wise. For most clients, we advise going over that minimum; we’ve found that starting with between 1,000 and 2,000 words is a good base layer. After that we watch for the search engine positions of the optimized keywords to change. Soon, the search engines pick up the content and decide how they’ll rank it. For some, that means a meteoric rise into the top ten, or the first page. For others, it means that the content ranks in double digits for the first time (meaning it’s in the first ten pages). Either way, that’s the information that really tells us how much content you’re going to need.

So the easy answer is “However much it takes.” The responsible answer is “Wait and see.” But the correct answer usually is “A lot.” After the initial content tells us exactly where a site and its content ranks in the eyes of search engines, we recommend aggressive doses of content to get them where they need to be. For some clients we’ve written over 100,000 words on various products and product pages. For others, the “base” content was enough. But in general, if you’re really serious about getting ranked as high as possible, you’ve got to load your plate with keyword-rich unique content that draws eyeballs, dollars, and clicks. If this long-term (and sometimes large investment) option isn’t for you, then a good alternative is AdWords. AdWords, is Google’s pay-per-click advertising platform, and it provides an easier way to get traffic to your site in the short to medium term.

Unlike Google AdWords, which is paid advertising, content writing is a long term investment in your website. The fruits of the investment are higher organic rankings and greater organic growth. Your readers will have more information at their fingertips to help them make decisions and clarify issues, and search engines will know who you are. Adding quality content adds value, and in the eyes of search engines, prestige, which can translate into a higher ranking.

If your website needs quality, relevant content, please contact us or visit our SEO page for more information.

Social Media: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

“The world now spends over 110 billion minutes on social networks and blog sites. This equates to 22 percent of all time online or one in every four and a half minutes.”

- The Nielsen Company, NielsenWire

Social media has become a world-wide phenomenon - one that businesses have learned they cannot afford to ignore.  However, as businesses enter this new territory, there’s bound to be some examples we can learn from.  This week’s blog post will focus on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly as it relates to social media:

The Good

The following companies make sure their social media efforts reward loyalty, encourage interaction with their audience, and mimic their brand or business.

  • iTunes: If you want to reward loyalty and increase your fan base, take a look at iTunes Featured tab.  If you “Like” this page, you get 10 free songs on iTunes and you have access to other special offers.  Give your fans a reason to “Like” your page.

Good-Facebook-Example-iTunes

  • Cranium: The Cranium Facebook page encourages interaction through quizzes and games, while promoting their brand and product at the same time.

The Bad

We know audience engagement is key (see my last post on the Rules of Engagement), but there are thousands of companies out there showing us all what not to do.

  • Wealth_Formula:  This Twitter profile (http://twitter.com/Wealth_Formula) completely lacks the human element.

Bad-Twitter-Example

While tools like TweetDeck and HootSuite make it possible for us to schedule Tweets in advance, this user goes about it the wrong way.  Instead of engaging the audience,         Wealth_Forumula “yells” at them and tweets identical posts time after time.

  • Nestle:  Below you will find some of the negative criticism on Nestle’s Facebook page over its use of palm oil in products.  Things went from bad to worse when the employees behind Nestle’s Facebook and Twitter pages fired back at their critics.  Eventually, a Nestle representative apologized to fans for being rude.

Bad-Facebook-Example-Nestle

The Ugly

United Airlines learned the hard way that social media can have a significant impact on your business.

  • United Airlines:  This company had a customer-service nightmare on their hands after a passenger made a YouTube video about how the customer service department ignored his complaints that his Taylor guitar was broken during his travels.  The story was picked up by the LA Times and now has over 9 million views on YouTube.

In response to this customer’s video, Taylor responded in a YouTube video of their own, offering to help the guy out.  The video now has over 489,000 views.  Taylor properly used social media to capitalize on this oversight by United Airlines.

How to Stay in the “Good” Category Make sure your company doesn’t make these same mistakes.  An effective social media campaign requires thought, planning, and time.  At Delegator we understand that time may not be something you have to put toward a social media campaign.  From general consulting hours to comprehensive monthly plans covering any number of social networks, we tailor our services to fit your needs.  If you’re interested in learning how Delegator can help you manage your social media efforts, contact us.