May 13, 2012
Every now and then, over the years, I write a blog that focuses on email communications sent out by people who didn’t bother to properly proof read them.
The screenshot below shows a recent example. The first part was the hook of the email received, designed to interest most people who read it …
Reading on a few lines I saw the date …
11th June is my birthday. I know it’s on a Monday this year. Now I’m wondering whether I have to shift it to the Wednesday instead. Further down the email the erroneous date is repeated …
It’s a simple mistake to make (and we’re all human) but it happens so much and is totally avoidable. In this case it was from a business coach so it hardly inspires confidence.
So let’s recap how even the smallest business (i.e. one person) can avoid such problems …
- Create the marketing text.
- Read it through for errors.
- Give it to someone else (ANYONE!) to check through.
- Get them to confirm it’s all correct.
- Launch the marketing promotion feeling safe that no-one will rip it apart in a blog.
April 22, 2012
Online Reputation Management, Website Analytics
Very few companies pay much attention to their website analytics. We ‘do’ analytics day in and out and what most people call ‘rocket science’ (website analytics) is ‘routine’ to us. Recently though we had a challenge that was particularly interesting to work on and it was best summarised in one word:
The company (Maxim) are the type of company we like – they look at their website analytics and make decisions based on what it tells them. On this occasion though there was much scratching of Maxim heads, trying to work out why they were getting high numbers of visitors from Vietnam, a snapshot of which you can see in the screenshot below …
That was the view that Google Analytics showed. However, we compared it to A1WebStats data, which showed no Vietnam visitors at all.
A dilemma: one analytics system showing visitors from Vietnam and another analytics system showing none. Very strange indeed.
So we dug deeper into the Google Analytics, which showed examples such as the view below, which implied that the website page /tin-tuc/47/Cham-soc-khach-hang had several page views. That wouldn’t be so unusual if the Maxim website had a page with that name but, call them traditional, but their pages have much more plain English names such as media_relations.
To cut a long story short, we searched for that url in Google and it took us to a Vietnamese website page. So we tried another url and we found another page, as you can see in the screenshot below …
Now, compare the general style/layout of that page above to the general style/layout of the Maxim page below …
They look pretty similar but the more obvious part comes when you compare the foot of each of those pages …
Different languages and words but the same style/layout.
So what’s happened here then …
What had happened was that the Vietnamese company had blatantly stolen the format and style of the Maxim website and plonked their content into it.
Stupidly, they neglected to take out the Google Analytics code, which meant that visits to their pages were showing up in the Maxim Google Analytics reports (and also explained why A1WebStats wasn’t recording the visits, because it hadn’t been installed on the Maxim website at the time of the design theft).
The offending website has now been taken down and Maxim now have ‘proper’ data to analyse in their analytics.
And that’s the point of this blog – you never know what website analytics will help you uncover about your website. In the case of Maxim it meant that website visitor figures were artificially inflated (by visits to the Vietnamese copy website), which made it difficult to properly assess what contribution the website traffic was making.
Website analytics has taken a really long time to become accepted by the majority of businesses (big business has been doing it for years) and it’s going to take a lot longer before it becomes common practice. Companies like Maxim are a breath of fresh air because they are looking at what their website data is telling them so that they can make informed decisions. And in the future, it’ll be those companies who are proactive about such things who will be the winners while the ‘heads in the sand’ companies will start to go into decline.
And if you’ve got a website analytics question that’s puzzling you then please do send it our way – we love a challenge!
March 31, 2012
SEO, Website Analytics
We’ve all had it – companies who contact us via our websites, offering some sort of product or service, flattering us, or making comments (to make us buy) about our website along the way. Typically these would be SEO or marketing companies.
Because we help a lot of our clients understand more about their website visitors we see a lot of this happening. Here’s an example email received by a client …
name: Adam Barham
company: The WebMarketing Group
tele: 0113 251 5887
I hope you don’t mind me contacting you directly, but my name is Adam Barham and I am the Senior Marketing Consultant for The WebMarketing Group. I have worked with many companies of various sizes and assisted with their Online Marketing strategy in order to grow their businesses.
I was looking at your site which I really like by the way – but there are definitely some things we could do to help it rank naturally much better for a wider range of important search phrases, and with that in mind I wondered if you would like a free SEO audit looking at the meta-data, the keyword density and a detailed analysis of the back-link profile.
That should give you an excellent insight into how your site is performing, and allow us to develop a plan for getting your site some much better search positions.
The audit is free and with no obligation.
So please do get in touch by phone or email.
So let’s dig deeper (via A1WebStats) into the actual visit this person made to the website …
The screenshot above shows that they spent 4 seconds on the home page before going to the Contact Us page (which sort of contradicts with the wording ‘I was looking at your site which I really like by the way’).
They then spent 30 seconds on the Contact Us page, which would be just about enough for them to input their contact details and copy/paste their standard text. It’s certainly not enough type to type it afresh plus their contact details – I’m a fast typist and I couldn’t do it in that time!
So what we have here is basically a lie. He didn’t look at the website at all. He doesn’t care. He just wants to be contacted. He is one step up (or down, depending on your viewpoint) the employment food chain from a telesales person. He, and his employer are stupid to think that he won’t get caught out one day.
A lot of this goes on. And, being a numbers game, sometimes these companies strike gold and they catch someone at just the ‘right’ time and it all becomes worth it for them. The conversation strikes up. A deal is done. And monkey boy on the end of an email or telephone gets his slice of commission to add to his tiny basic wage.
I have nothing against people trying to gain business via contacting companies through their websites. However, I do object to people who make no effort and I especially object to SEO companies who seem to think that ranking in Google is everything in life when we all know that it has little value if the website doesn’t perform strongly enough. How many SEO companies do you know who say “actually, we could help you but first of all your website could do with being stronger”. No, they’ll happily take the clients money, do the work, and leave the client wondering why their new Google positioning isn’t getting them good results. Sometimes it’s embarrassing being in this industry.
Back to the title of this blog – if people pitch to you and what they’re offering looks of interest, do a few things:
- If you have a strong webstats analytics system in place, see for yourself how much they actually looked at your website. If their visit was similar to the example detailed above, then just for sport respond to them and lead them down a path of wasting their time until you finally tell them that they lied about the time they spent looking at your website.
- Ask around about that company – speak to people you trust and get their opinions. Also put their details into Google and see what people are saying about them.
- If they’re an SEO company, type some phrases into Google (that you think they should be visible under, such as ‘SEO companies’) and see if they appear under them. If they don’t, then you’ve already answered your question.
March 31, 2012
Google love to tell the world how they’re so focused on ensuring that high quality websites appear in their search results. If you look at the page http://googleblog.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/finding-more-high-quality-sites-in.html a couple of sentences jump out:
“Our goal is simple: to give people the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible.”
“So, we’re very excited about this new ranking improvement because we believe it’s a big step in the right direction of helping people find ever higher quality in our results.”
So there’s this big focus on ensuring organic search results are very relevant and high quality. That point itself is debatable BUT not the argument point here for this blog. What bugs me is that on one hand they can talk about quality (organic results) but when it comes to the Adwords (PPC) listings ‘quality’ gives way to ‘money’ (for them).
To give an example, I searched for ‘pink trousers’ (don’t read anything into that – it was genuinely the first thing that came to mind!) and I got this search result page, which I’ve added notes onto …
The Adwords results are in the coloured box on the left and all down the right-hand-side. Bear in mind that I’ve searched for ‘pink trousers’ …
The top three adverts (coloured box on the left) are all relevant – no arguments there. On the right-hand-side though there are 4 listings that contradict the ‘quality’ message that Google bang on about.
Top of the right-hand-side you have an ebay ad, which has a description and picture that has nothing ‘pink’ about it (but are trousers). Two below that you have an advert that has no reference to pink, and then the same two below that. Then there’s the Amazon advert which refers to pink clothes in general, but not pink trousers specifically.
Towards the bottom of the right you’ll see the adverts titled:
Super cheap Pink Trouser
… both of which are more relevant to my search for ‘pink trousers’ than are the 4 offending adverts.
So, how is it possible for non-pink-trousers listings to appear above listings that are more relevant?
The answer is: money. Those 4 offending adverts will be offering budget, probably to be visible any time someone searches for ‘trousers’ (with the exception of the Amazon one, which is probably triggered more by the ‘pink’).
Here’s a bit of proof – type something rubbish like ‘abcdef trousers’ and you see that www.marisota.co.uk advert appear in exactly the same way as shown in the screenshot above.
This is where it’s all a bit unfair on both advertisers AND the searcher. The advertisers who don’t get high positioning for the phrase ‘pink trousers’ are probably in that position because they can’t afford to pay a higher cost per click allowance than people like www.marisota.co.uk will offer for any variation on ‘trousers’. Is it fair to penalise advertisers who have a relevant advert matching up to the search phrase typed?
Is it also fair to make the searcher (me) have to see adverts appear that are irrelevant to the subject of ‘pink trousers’?
In both the case of those advertisers lower down (and onto the second and more pages of Google results), and also the people doing the searching, the answer is the same …
It’s not fair.
And it stinks because it appears that companies have to adhere to certain rules to get listed in the organic positions of Google but when it comes to the Adwords listings, what counts is who offers the most money, not the relevance of adverts that appear.
And that, everyone, is the way Google have gone over the years. They may make a lot of money out of it but in time people will tire of irrelevant Adwords listings and will start to ignore the adverts. At the same time, advertisers will tire of being unable to get their relevant adverts above the irrelevant (to the search phrase) stuff and will vote with their feet.
How long before we see Google report a decline in advertising revenues? I give it two years maximum. Shorter if Bing/Facebook ever get their act properly together.
March 31, 2012
Most types of businesses could offer some form of guarantee related to the product or service they’re providing.
Those who don’t should consider it.
Those who do should consider testing the guarantee in different ways.
Basic guarantee message
Some websites have text within the website that refers to their guarantee. For example, ‘Our widgets are the best you’ll buy and are covered by our 100% satisfaction guarantee.’
That text links off to a page that gives more details about the guarantee.
Taking the concept of the guarantee further, you can still refer to it within website text but also, within the main body of the text, or ideally within a permanent position on each website page, there should be a guarantee graphic. A search on Google Images for ‘100% guarantee’ will show many examples.
That graphical guarantee will usually act as a link to the specific page about the guarantee and will sometimes also have an extra link similar to ‘Find out more’ (to encourage people to look at the guarantee).
Many companies get as far as putting a graphical guarantee within their website and leave it at that. For sure, that’s better than having no guarantee or having just a text guarantee. But there’s the opportunity to test further.
By using website statistics tracking it’s possible to track how many website visitors got as far as the Guarantee page (within a given time period). That number can be compared to the overall number of website visitors and worked out as a percentage. Let’s say that the figures showed that 3% of all website visitors went as far as the Guarantee page …
The next step is to change the guarantee graphic for a different type of guarantee graphic and test for a period of time. Then you can assess whether the visitors to ‘guarantee page views’ traffic has got stronger, weaker, or is about the same. If the result is stronger then assess what the differences were between the old and new guarantee graphics and then find another type of guarantee graphic that’s used as a further test.
At some stage (realistically, over months) you will get to the point where you’ve found your best-converting (meaning: clicks to the guarantee page) guarantee graphic and text combination.
March 31, 2012
Look at the online calculator below and see if you can see anything significantly wrong with it …
It’s from a website that sells a type of machinery for which people may need to gain financing. The website wants people to buy their machinery and so, in theory, they’d want it to be easy for people to get an idea of how much the machinery will cost them over a period of time.
However, the form is fatally flawed because it has two compulsory fields that will put anyone off:
- Email Address
The form may as well say “you won’t get a guideline calculation when you click on the Calculate button, but you will get contacted by one of our people to discuss your needs”.
I fully understand why the calculator works that way – its purpose is for the financing company to grab hold of people’s contact details so that they can try and sell to them. However, people don’t want to part with their details so readily. People want the ability to tap in a few numbers and get a rough estimate of how the financing would work out. THEN they may be ready to make contact with the company offering the machinery for sale, or the finance company themselves.
I know the owner of the business where that online calculator is available. Take a guess how many times the form has been completed?
And yes, we see via website statistics that show people consistently going to the page that offers financing (for the machinery). They just don’t follow through with getting a financing quote.
So the business is selling machinery that costs many £thousands but their associated finance providers are making it hard for people to self-assess whether they can afford to buy it on financing or not. That’s what leads to losing many potential customers.
Unfortunately, this is common practice with such online calculators and it’s rare to see one that doesn’t insist on people putting in their contact details. What’s perhaps more surprising is that there isn’t a financing company who understands this and who offers a more intelligent calculator which would work in the following way:
- Ask people how much they want to borrow and the loan time etc.
- Give them a rough figure.
- Encourage them to supply contact details to discuss further, or to contact the business offering the products for sale.
Such a financing company, having foresight, would then be traversing the Internet finding companies that have the inefficient types of online calculators, and offering their own instead.
Businesses who have such archaic online calculators, if reading this, will hopefully consider ‘demanding more’ from that aspect of their websites. Or at the very least start measuring how many people get to such a website page and compare it with the numbers who have requested financing.
March 31, 2012
Many people create Google Adwords adverts but don’t include reference to the cost of the product or service on offer.
The result of this is that they will get higher clicks to their websites but if the price on the website doesn’t match up well with the ‘willing to pay’ price in the mind of the potential buyer (who clicked) then that could be a wasted click. Multiply one such wasted click up by hundreds or thousands and you can see why so many Adwords clicks lead to nothing positive.
“Ah, but if I don’t put a price then my website content may still convince people to buy from me” (is something people say).
Yes, perhaps that works sometimes but the majority of people will have price in mind and if the price on the website is too high then they’ll go elsewhere.
Compare the following two adverts …
Advanced Sailing Courses
14 weeks quality sailing training
and adventure. Kent.
Advanced Sailing Courses
14 weeks quality sailing training.
£7,950 all inclusive. Kent.
If people are searching Google for advanced sailing courses then the first advert will get a lot more clicks than the second advert. However, those clicks will often convert to nothing because people then realise the costs when they land on the website.
The advert that has the cost included sets an expectation. Many people will be instantly deterred by the price tag and so won’t bother clicking. That’s fantastic because they’re not the type of people who could afford it anyway. Those who do click would hopefully have observed the price and so there’s an initial expectation of cost in their heads. The advert could be made even stronger by putting the price into the title line.
Because the second advert will get less clicks the advertiser can afford to increase their budget and visibility, knowing that most clicks will be from people who may be able to afford what’s on offer. With the first advert, the budget can be used up faster, having attracted numerous clicks from people who won’t pay the price that they discover on the website itself.
This applies to all sorts of products, not just expensive ones. If, for example, you sell high quality party bags and you want to be visible when people search on phrases such as ‘quality party bags’ then it would make sense to put the cost of your product in the advert so that some types of people are deterred from clicking. One person’s idea of ‘quality’ is quite different to someone else’s – by putting a cost of the product in the advert, the word ‘quality’ suddenly has a price tag associated with it and so the advert should deter some clicks.
Whether or not you go ahead and put prices in your Adwords adverts very much depends on your view of how well your Adwords clicks are converting to enquiries. It would certainly be worth experimenting on a small scale (perhaps with one product type or group in your Adwords campaign).
It often shocks people how much money is needed to keep Adwords adverts visible most of the time. By putting prices in your adverts you’ll get less clicks but your adverts will be visible more, waiting for the ‘right type of people’ to search and then click.
March 31, 2012
Online Reputation Management, Website Accuracy
Websites sometimes have glitches. Those glitches are sometimes highly visible but other times you would have no idea there’s a problem.
One such example is the Search functionality you may have on the website.
As of today, there’s a problem with the search box that I went to use via the page http://www.cardellmedia.com/about.html. It could have been a problem for ages. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for that problem to be picked up on and fixed. Here’s the view of the top of that website home page, where the search box is:
I typed something into that box (nothing too heavy, just the name of the business owner, Chris Cardell), and I clicked on the button to search within the website. I got this page come up:
So I tried other words that would also definitely be in the website – same problem.
There are a couple of issues here:
- The website hasn’t been set up to come up with a nice error warning page (it just falls over).
- The business may not be aware that such errors are happening.
In many businesses they could be excused for not knowing that their website search functionality isn’t working but Cardell Media turns over £millions and (this is the best bit) preaches about how businesses should be testing and measuring everything with their websites. And yet they have their own Search functionality that falls over.
This begs the question: is anyone there picking up that people are getting to a page called http://www.cardellmedia.com/searchresults.php and are they digging deep into what’s brought people to that page? I suspect not.
So, putting aside companies who really should know better, what can you, as a ‘normal’ company do to avoid such problems?
- Speak to your web developers about what happens if the website has a glitch (in general) and comes up with a ‘404’ type page. Ensure that a nice error page appears instead of the example in the screenshot above.
- Also speak to your web developers about how you could be automatically notified if something has gone wrong on the website. Or at the very least, feel that they will pick up on any such problems and fix them, notifying you that there had been an issue (before a website user does!).
- Keep an eye on things yourself – if you have a search functionality on your website then you should be aware (from your website statistics system) of whenever people are using that search functionality, and what they searched for. If you do this routinely then you will identify when things have gone wrong.
- At the very least, test your search functionality yourself periodically as you think important (e.g. weekly). Better to catch a problem a few days after it’s happened rather than it drag on for weeks or months.
The Search functionality of a website can be something that’s beneficial to people but it can also cause you problems. If it falls over or it’s weak in the way it presents search results then you could find that it’s hindering your potential to gain business from website visitors.
March 28, 2012
Google Adwords, Website Analytics
Here’s a comment received this week from an A1WebStats user who has an Adwords campaign they created, with many phrases set up as broad match …
“I have gone through the list in detail. It’s an eye-opener and it’s obvious that there is a lot of waste here. I’m appalled at the current situation.”
Most people who use Google Adwords will take a simplistic view of clicks gained. The Adwords system will show something like:
Keyword: Sailing courses Clicks: 95
Keyword: Learn to sail Clicks: 52
… and the website owner wonders why they’re not getting enough enquiries.
After all, if Google says that there have been clicks for those phrases then surely more of those people should have got in contact?
The reality is that Google Adwords set up as broad match (i.e. what the system defaults to) is a recipe for disaster. As an example, when someone searched for ‘sailing to Australia from uk’, Google showed the advert related to the phrase ‘sailing courses’ (and the person clicked). Here’s the evidence from A1WebStats below …
What’s happened here is that Google has seen the searcher phrase of ‘sailing to Australia from uk’ and has thought that it’s related to a keyword phrase of ‘sailing courses’. Yes, there’s a tenuous link but not a strong enough link to warrant showing the advert and gaining a rubbish click.
We can 100% guarantee that if a company is using broad match phrases in Google Adwords then they will be getting numerous wasted clicks but just weren’t aware of it because the Google system doesn’t exactly shout out “actually, you had some clicks from people who typed something that wasn’t closely aligned to what your keyword phrases are”.
And that’s one of the beautiful things about A1WebStats because any company can pick out all website visitors who came in via Google Adwords and it’ll show them the actual phrases that resulted in clicks on their adverts. The clever users of the system do it all within their 30 days free trial, perhaps thinking that they won’t pay for it thereafter. They soon realise though that the cost vs what it can help them with, including identifying Adwords wastage ongoing, is a no-brainer.
March 9, 2012
A question that came up recently was “how long does it take a blog to become live in Google?”. Here I hope to be able to answer that question.
I’ve chosen the phrase ‘AF2 reading questions’ – it’s a phrase that has nothing to do with the Custwin business, isn’t going to be typed by millions of people, but those who do type it would be interested in landing on a website that helped them in some way.
I don’t remember the day that I realised Custwin blogs would get listed in Google immediately – I just recall thinking “that’s cool that it happened so fast”. I do believe that having the blog in WordPress is an advantage but also, having a history of being a blogger will also help. There have been many Custwin blogs over the years, quite regularly, and so there will be some trust built up with Google. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a blog – it could be any page of your website that you want to be visible.
The first test you can do is to copy/paste a chunk of text from a website page into the Google search box and see if your website page appears in the first page of results. If it doesn’t immediately, put quotation marks around the text (use a good 10 words or so) and see if it gets visibility. In most cases you’ll see your page appear, which means that Google knows it’s there.
Assuming that you see your page appear (and if you don’t, ask me for advice!) the question in your head is “how quickly did that page get picked up by Google?”. The only way to find out is to create a completely new page on a particular subject and make sure the url of the page is the phrase you want to be visible under (perhaps with a modification such as the ‘how long does it take?’ added to the ‘AF2 reading questions’ of this blog posting – so that it looks more ‘plain English’). Ensure that the page has a reasonable amount of content (a few hundred words) and then publish it as a new page.
Check after a day to see if your page appears when you input the phrase that you focused the page on. If it appears after a day then brilliant – run another test page but this time check to see if it appears in Google an hour after publication. If it doesn’t appear after a day, check after another day … and so on. The longer your page takes to get picked up by Google, the more work you have to do. Write more pages/blogs – keep it quite regular, and make the content useful/interesting.
To be honest, the actual wording within this particular blog is rubbish – thrown together in a few minutes and not given the attention it could be. So please don’t take this as the definitive guide to getting a blog listed quickly. The primary purpose is to show that, once Google starts to ‘like’ a website then it’ll display pages/blogs quickly in the search results. But that trust has to be earnt.
Sods law says that, having focused on this subject of AF2 reading questions, and going public about how quickly Custwin blogs usually appear on the first page of Google, it won’t work this time. So here goes, the time is 22:05 on Friday 9th March and I’m just about to hit the publish button. If it’s quick, I’ll add a comment. If it’s not, I’ll cry.
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