Walking the bridge between usability and search engine optimization practices to enhance user experience since 2000.

Conversions and Gurus Rant

It’s time for me to back away from the Internet again.  The things that some SEO’s say and do are as obnoxious as the situation was during the birth of the public Internet.

Pic of man with head on desk

Give us a break!

Gurus
If you are to believe the claims, there are at least 2 billion SEO self-proclaimed “guru” SEO’s on the planet.  This means that 2 billion SEO’s know everything there is to know about search engine marketing, past – present – future.  They’ll make you rich, powerful, famous and do all that for cheap and by using every possible spam technique known to mankind.

SEO’s Have Keywords.  They Don’t NEED to Worry About Conversions
The way this line of thinking goes is like this.  “Marketers are only responsible for getting web pages ranked high in search engines.”  This is all they’re required to do.  It’s a freaking easy job too!  All a company has to do is pay several thousands of currency each month to pay for rank via any number of ways that search engines and social sites permit, because of course, buying off rank passage on a big ship like Google is the key to riches, power and fame.  Building a web site that works for everybody is not, nor has ever been, and may never be, part of the plan.

The evidence is everywhere.  From SEO conferences that don’t educate the value of conversions from people of all types, to the SEO spam we get each day and comments I see  in search marketing sites.

Enjoy:

Need Help With Your Spam
Seo Hall Of Shame – Are You Kidding Me?
Blog Spam – This Guy Wins An Award
Does Buying Facebook Likes Really Work?
 

Fed up with marketing that drops the ball and doesn’t care about your company and its long-term success? Here’s where to go for the best talent ever brought together by an Internet Marketing company for a full-service, compassionate, service satisfaction is number 1 type of company.


Beat Your Competition – Ask for User Interface Conversions Testing

Angelina’s Leg and User Friendly Web Design

In case you missed it, Angelina Jolie made quite the impression at the recent Oscars by showing off her right leg. One small act was a marketing sensation.

Would it not be truly incredible if web designers were able to find and flaunt their web site’s sweet spot, I wondered? (Because of course, I see a woman’s leg and immediately think of usability, right?) I mean, come on. Another winner from a different category, a man, after seeing Angelina strike her pose on stage, proceeded to copy her and stuck his own man leg out while raising his head high in the same “I am Queen of this Universe” gesture that she did earlier.
Angelina Jolie in the news
It didn’t have quite the same effect, but since he was the first to follow up and repeat what she did, he is now famous too. Facebook meet Google Plus.

If you think your web site has the same type of stunning surprise for your target market and your data proves otherwise, what is the secret to making it zing and sizzle? What was it about Angie’s bared leg that compelled someone to create a Twitter account for it called “Angie’s Right Leg”?

Was it the element of surprise? I don’t think so. This is the Oscars and historically, the more drastic the ploy to get attention, the more chance for success. She had competition (a supposed nipple and tossed pancake mix for starters). We know who she is, so it’s not like she HAD to remind us by doing something spectacular.

Was it because she showed off her leg? I doubt that too. Had it been a long, slender hairy leg, the reaction would have been different. So, she knew enough to not only plan ahead by creating a strategy for implementing her pose (Had she seen the Super Bowl and Madonna’s hot “Strike a Pose” number?), but she made darned sure her presentation of the object, in this case her leg, was polished and perfect. She likely practiced before ever stepping foot on the red carpet and did user testing with Brad.

This is where web site design runs into trouble. There’s no plan. No planned strategy. No practice runs and user testing on a targeted, specific user group. There’s often no thought of mental models, persuasive design or getting experts to review the web site before launching it to the public. Angie was not posting in front of her bathroom mirror. She knew exactly what she was doing and was flawless in her presentation (however, I think she’s far too skinny.)

The magical power and subsequent global reaction was simply the smart decision to deliver exactly what people aren’t consciously aware they even want. She knows that buried somewhere deep in the DNA of every human is our love for beautiful things, including bodies. She knows that hordes of today’s women are strong willed, independent, proud of their achievements and sexier than ever. She knows her movie history too. While a black and white silent film won for Best Picture, the sad fact is that in those early days of film making women were covered up. Even Howard Hughes had to find a way to cover up Jane Russell’s breasts to make the censors happy.

Sure, Angelina Jolie and her right leg stepped out to show the world a few things that, whether or not we are fully aware of it, spoke to us. Not everyone accepted her pose with humor or good nature. Women called her a “whore”. Some people were angry. Others took the opportunity to complain about her life, movies, Brad, kids, causes, etc.

Kinda reminds me of the variety of reactions we may have whenever Google, Facebook or Twitter stick out a leg. Nothing keeps a brand (or famous person) front and center better than causing a ruckus.

Capitol One Owns CNN

Banner blindness? How about the practice of owning a web site’s real estate and holding it hostage in the name of marketing?

CNN.com does this often and each time I wonder at the logic of placing 3, 4, 5 or more ads from the same company on a homepage.

Click images for a better view.

Isn’t this a bit overkill?



Treat Yourself to the Affordable Online Media Boot Camp

Nothing beats affordable training with reputable teachers and that’s just what’s coming up on November 3, 2011 at the Online Media Boot Camp. Held in the historical Valley Forge area outside Philadelphia, in King of Prussia, PA, you’ll be treated to a day of sessions offered by three lively ladies who love to teach.

Liana Evans, Kim Krause Berg and Sarah Doheny are ready to help you learn new skills or update your present knowledge on:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Conversions factors
  • Public relations
  • Online marketing
  • Web site usability
  • Social Media
Online Media Boot Camp

Online Media Boot Camp, King of Prussia, PA November 3, 2011

Early registration for the Online Media Boot Camp (that means now!) saves you $125.

You get a full day of intense, online marketing training that connects nicely with user friendly, conversions oriented web site design by three women who are passionate about their topics and work every day applying the same skills they’ll be teaching you. The smaller venue allows for more one on one conversations and specific help. Treat yourself to a comfortable stay at the Radisson Hotel Valley Forge and splurge at the nearby gigantic King of Prussia mall. Your day will include breakfast, lunch and networking reception, access to the trainers, FREE WIFI, course materials and much more.

Speaking for myself, I love meeting people in the industry and those who are enthusiastic about learning more, sharing their ideas and polishing their skills. Please spend the day with us, enjoy the fall colors in Valley Forge and treat yourself to affordable training at the Online Media Boot Camp.

See you there!

Internet Marketing Awards and Contests Do Not Cover Entire Industry

Being recognized by one’s peers can be a happy moment. It’s far better than being ignored. But what happens when your name appears on a winner’s list and you don’t know why it got there?

What about awards lists that name people you know don’t deserve to be there or there are exceptional people who were left off the list?

I wrote about a contest in December that didn’t make sense to me. With today’s winners announcement for that contest came a viable rant by Rae Hoffman, CEO of Outspoken Media. As she wrote in Most Influential Online Marketers of 2009 FAIL for her company’s blog,

In addition to the obvious haste in publishing the final results (at the time of this writing there are numerous typos in the bios of multiple marketers), Invesp decided to taint both the nomination and selection process, left out some of the most obvious and influential marketers in the industry, while including some folks that you’d have a hard time even having heard of, much less name anything influential they did for the community at large in 2009.

A lot of the marketer bios sound as if they were scraped from conference bio pages and it was obvious no real research was done into deciding or explaining why some of the marketers on the list were considered influential enough to make the list.

With the SEMMYS coming out, as well as numerous other yearly nods, I wish someone would do them with some common sense, without bias by judges (because not everyone in the SEO/M industry likes or gets along with each other), and tell us what the winning criteria are.

This past year I feel I wrote some of my best articles ever on the topics of search engine optimization and usability. I wrote them for 4 other publications, however. Unless THEY are followed, I most likely will not get any notice for that work. It is something that contests don’t take into consideration.  There are no categories for cross-skilled people and no categories for experts who conduct training or live on the speaker circuit.  It’s as if those contributions to their field don’t matter in the least and I take issue with that.

A contest worth its salt to me would:

1. Obtain extensive user generated feedback. It should be mandatory to give a solid reason for making a nomination. Being a fan should not count.  Related:  Judges should be experts in the category they are judging.

2. Allow have user instructions that make it easy to understand how the process works.

3. Put up a form for feedback on that process and correct the issues that come in.

4. Explain the judging criteria. What makes someone a winner? Is it something they did?

5. Define your terms. What does Internet Marketer mean, exactly? Does it include all the branches of online marketing and if so, isn’t it logical to break out into categories?

6. Research nominees and candidates, please. Some people are very clever at hiding behind their computer monitor, making it look like they even have a business when in fact, they do not. Check employment history. Check to see if they left the industry. Just because someone was once well known doesn’t mean they are still active anymore.

7. Get references for any work related accomplishments. Make it known exactly what a winner’s specific achievement is.

8. Give examples of what you are looking for in a winner rather than accepting anything.

9. Do not cut and paste bios from conference materials or their site bios. If they won, allow winners the opportunity to tell you what they want published. Related: Avoid grammatical and spelling errors. It just makes your contest look sloppy.

10. Do not use the contest to market yourself. This is link bait, not a true competition.

Maybe it’s part of the gene pool of marketers to keep rewarding themselves. I crack up when I speak at conferences because I find that in the real world, nobody knows me. I’ve been in the SEO and Usability fields for going on 15 years and yet when I was hired to train new SEO’s for a company in November, none of the trainees had ever heard of me. So, if  “influencing the industry” is a criteria for winning, who the hell cares?

I like to be acknowledged, don’t get me wrong. I love a good pat on the head once in awhile. But I want to earn it. I want to know what I did that you liked. By the same token, it is sad when I know I’ve accomplished something that goes unnoticed. I think this is also what bothers other people. We’re each unique. I know of no one who combines SEO, software QA testing, usability testing and information architecture like I do. I know some people who may have two of these skills and that’s all that is required of them or all they are interested in doing.  I’m usually excluded from contests because I don’t fit into their square peg.

Finally, there are some people in the internet marketing field who fit in somewhere as part of a team, with their specialty, such as copy writing.  Categories most often missing in Internet marketing contests include mobile marketing, video marketing, online radio, social media, teaching and education (forums, schools), niche blogs and search usability (findability).

So my final request for those who would run awards and contests is to be sure you know and fully understand your own industry first.

Contest Illustrates Disconnect Between Marketing and User Experience

This is the time of year for annual polls and content. They make for great link bait. If you make such a list, this may be proof your work was noticed by your peers.

Perhaps you are overlooked.

One recent example is Vote for the top 100 online marketers of 2009, in which they ask you to  ” pick the top 100 most influential online marketers, leaders, and thinkers”.   Where were the marketing user experience people?  Where was search usability?

One name jumped out as a person who I know for a fact includes usability audits by a usability consultant in her SEO packages. Another “marketer” on the list is associated with the usability industry’s persuasive design segment. Sadly, many others like them are not on the list because they are aligned with the usability camp, even though they provide SEO services.

I am unable to vote on a list of 100 names. Many people on the list specialize in different types of marketing, such as affiliate, links or social media. There are “thought leaders” from these areas who stand out among their own niche but who may get lost in a mass clump called “marketing”. There is no criteria for what makes the “top” marketer. Top for who? Peers? Customers? Clients? What field? Healthcare industry? Products? Conferences?

What type of marketing is this contest interested in recognizing? Brand reputation? Search engine placement? Rank? What types of sites? Some categories of sites are easier to market than others. Adult industry marketing has its own criteria. Target markets are different between financial sites, healtchcare and news, for example.

User instructions are missing, which is another signal user experience is not the point of the contest. Do you choose one from that list? Who knows? The true thrust of the contest is to get the nominees to put embedded code on their sites to get traffic into the contest site. Marketers love traffic. You and I don’t count.

How can it be that the top marketers and a contest that promotes them, however well intentioned, has no one that works inside the circle of site development from the ground up? How can you market a site that’s not built for the people you are trying to sell to?

A truly representative annual round up, in my opinion, calls for teams of people or companies that work together in the interests of the client and end users from the whiteboard stage on up to production. A “thought leader” understands the mechanics of marketing, AND site performance, database performance, user expectations, search usability, accessibility, findability and information architecture. Such a group is not an overnight sensation. They have spent year upon year testing, trying new methodologies, growing (rather than doing the same things year after year), teaching and educating their clients and peers and providing exceptional services (most of which we never hear about due to NDA’s.)

Please don’t expect me to choose one person when I work with and support so many talented and skilled folks, some of whom never make the Big Lists. I know I could not succeed without their knowledge, letting me ask questions (no matter how dumb) and definitely their loyal friendship, year after year.

Team work, versus a solo act,  meets every nook and cranny of web site promotion.

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