As a follow up to my post last week on staying regular with blogging , I wanted to touch on some actual data for added motivation to start or keep blogging. I came across several great charts that touch on the power of blog content and the benefit to businesses so I wanted to share some of my favorites:
The first thing you may notice about this chart is that Very Much is a low percentage. I would encourage you to look at the bar for They Don’t. Why? Because that bar is by far the lowest percentage of users. So, if you aren’t blogging, congrats, you are reaching a very tiny number of people making decisions about buying your products or services!
If on the other hand you would like to reach the vast majority of online buyers, it probably makes sense to start blogging…
I know that many small businesses we work with tell us that they never read blogs and can’t imagine that any of their customers do either. What we’ve found is that many small business owners spend as much time on blogs as my kids do on a davenport… but neither know that that’s what they’re on.
When it really comes down to it, most small businesses read blogs regularly, they just don’t realize it. The chart above certainly shows that blog readership is huge. It may not be a dedicated following in most cases, but through searches and shared links, we ALL read a lot of blog content, regardless of the industry.
Almost 70% of respondents to this question said that they read 5 or more blogs. Over half of those read closer to 10 blogs. These are just the blogs that they follow and read regularly. This should show a small business that you don’t have to be the 1 or 2 top blogs that readers of your industry read. These number show that you capable of being regularly followed with steady consistent blogging. Who’s going to follow a blog that posts once a quarter?
Blogging gives you a chance at being the first thing many readers think about in the morning and potentially stay with them all day… Clearly it must be noted that respondents were allowed to specify all of the times in a day that they read blogs, thus the percentages add up to much more than 100%. This isn’t a catch to this data. I think this is an exclamation point on this data. You have 3 times of day that you will reach over 50% of readers. Top that with a newspaper!
For the love of God, please start blogging if you’re not or pick up the pace on content generation if you already are. Need some help staying on track? Check out my post from last week on keeping on track.
Small Businesses can compete against the biggest companies in the world with a solid content strategy. We would love to help you get there.
I have never said that I loved Bing or any Microsoft search engine prior. I won’t try to hide that I am addicted to just about nearly everything Google from Android to Analytics, so this may be a little bias, but I still think relevant.
In the search engine battle there is always one number that comes up and that is market share. One of my biggest pet peeves with Bing is how they go about getting increased searches from somewhat deceptive means. This is not something that started with Bing, this has been going on with several versions of the Microsoft search engine. You may remember the Live Cashback program that pushed sponsored advertising, or the Live Search Club (Club Bing) that gave you points for searches to the newer Decode Jay-Z interactive game. All of these were activities that a user would play that would utilize the search engine at some point in the activity, thus increasing searches. In my opinion many of these searches add false market share for the engine. I understand that given the enormous number of searches done everyday, these activity type of searches are just a small drop in the bucket, but if the goal behind the ideas is to increase market share it is still a valid point.
Again, this is more of a pet peeve to me than anything else. Bing is not a bad search engine and it has been growing in popularity since launch, but why force searches? For the end user it is not always the best practice. Take this for example:
This was an article from MSN’s home page. Yes I am a fan of ugly Christmas sweaters and the picture in the article sure is a gem. So I want to find out more about ugly Christmas sweaters, this is a fairly short article with a few links. I would expect that ‘How to find the perfect ugly sweater’ would take me to another small article about how to find my own ugly sweater. Unfortunately not…it is just a link to a Bing search for that specific question:
What they are doing is not wrong ethically, but in my opinion it is wrong from a usability perspective. It may not even bother me as much if they haven’t used the previous activities as a means to more searches. There is some value to the user for the activities but in the end it seems that the question asked when the idea arose was, “how can we increase searches?” instead of “what other things can we do to benefit our users?”.
Sure there is a small business takeaway from this, isn’t there always? Here it goes: Think about the user. We have heard non-user friendly ideas for a website many times before…even if it may increase a metric on your site that you can report to the boss, think about what you would think if you approached it from the user perspective. When you launch a site with extensive functionality have several people try it and report back their feelings. From there you can adjust as needed. Usability is a key factor of any successful website!
Maybe I am being to nit-picky with the Bing example, but if they were a little more clear that the link they provided would be doing a search instead of going to an actual article it wouldn’t bother me quite as much. Bing is not the only engine that does this type of thing, it just stands out more to me given their history.
In the past, using custom fonts on a website was typically frowned upon. It’s important for a website to display consistently to as many users with as many types of web browsers and operating systems as possible, and since web fonts rely on the fonts that are installed on the visitor’s computer it was important to use a fairly standard one like Arial, or Verdana.
One obvious solution to using a custom font was to convert the text into an image. All browsers display images the same for the most part, so you could create a custom graphic in a program like Photoshop, using a custom font, and everyone would be able to see it in the browser whether they had Comic Sans installed on their computer or not. However, as the SEO-savvy web denizens that we are, we know that this has a negative impact on how a search engine can index our small business’s website. The search engine bots that crawl websites in order to rank them in search results love text and can’t get much from an image.
The good news is it has been possible to implement custom web fonts that will render in all web browsers since the release of CSS 2.0. Using some CSS magic a web developer can load a custom font into the stylesheet itself, which causes the web page to render with the font that’s located on the web server rather than on the visitor’s own computer, so that even if they don’t have Comic Sans installed they’ll see the website as you intend for them to.
Additionally, I recently came across a really cool (and very free) tool that Google offers called Google Font Directory which includes their Font Previewer. The Font Previewer lets you select from a list of Google fonts, customize that font by adding styles to it with dropdown boxes and sliders, and finally when you’re happy with the way the font looks they’ll even automatically generate the CSS you need to import into your website in order to use that font.
With all of that said it’s still important to make sure that whomever is developing the website that will be representing your small business understands the importance of maintaining a consistent look across all web browsers. Even though it’s now possible to use these custom fonts to make websites more attractive, it’s still a good idea to setup a backup font that is more common. For instance, Comic Sans might be your first choice, but also choose a more standard webfont like Arial as a backup, just in case. A developer can setup the stylesheet so that your “safety” font will be used in the event that an error occurs with the custom font, ensuring that your site will still be readable no matter what.
Adobe’s Flash technology is pretty incredible. With it a developer can create beautiful websites and applications that include complex animations and robust user experiences. However there has always been a concern from a search engine optimization perspective, after all search engines like Google crawl text and links in order to rank sites, and it’s much easier to analyze a well-structured HTML file than it is to analyze a complex flash object. So then, is Flash still a relevant technology for your small business website?
Although it’s true that Flash can be a huge deterrent for Googlebots (the web crawlers that visit the websites on the internet so that they can be indexed and ranked), they certainly provide some cool experiences on the internet. Take just a few seconds and visit this website, then come on back. I’ll wait.
Back? The WaterLife website is excellent from a user experience perspective. It engages a visitor’s senses with motion and audio, and it presents content in a unique layout that is more engrossing than a typical HTML webpage. We’ve often said that good design can lend credibility to a small business’s website, after all if you’re a new customer are you going to trust a website that looks like it was designed in 1995? Probably not. So Flash much be the way to go, right?
Not so fast. Although Flash is beautiful for human eyes to look at, it turns out the web crawling bots (often called spiders) that I mentioned above can’t really make much of a standard Flash object. To them, a typical Flash website just looks like a black box because there’s no text or links for them to munch on. Taking WaterLife as an example, did you notice that as you navigated around their site the URL in the address bar didn’t change? That’s because oftentimes Flash is not implemented with deep linking which can provide an indexable structure for the googlebot.
Another big downside to using Flash is that not everyone has it installed on their computer. Adobe Flash is a separate plugin that must be installed before a user (or more importantly, potential new customer) can view the Flash content on your website. In some cases, such as with Apple’s iPhone or iPad, they can’t install Flash even if they want to! This means that it’s important to have HTML-based content that these users will be able to fall back on. Another issue can be system performance, as Flash can often times bog down older computers. Even on my relatively new computer the WaterLife website took 20 – 30 seconds to load the first time, and had I been impatient that might have been just long enough for me to decide that I want to go back to my email, check Facebook or update my Twitter status instead.
Despite the downsides, you don’t have to avoid Flash entirely. In the past 2 years the major search engines have added the ability to examine Flash objects to a certain degree, and although it’s not as simple as implementing an HTML page, web crawlers CAN navigate your Flash website to index it properly.
On June 18, 2009, Google announced that it could now crawl external resources associated with a Flash object, including text and XML. As a result, the best approach to keeping a Flash website search-friendly is splitting it into two separate layers: a content layer (XML or similar text-based file) and a presentation layer (Flash). The content layer is indexable by web crawlers and essentially feeds data to the presentation layer which provides the user with a great interactive user experience.
That was a whole lot of technical mumbo-jumbo that you, as a small business owner or employee, should never have to worry about. However, knowledge is power, and if you’re going to approach a developer it’s good to keep these issues in mind. If you need a Flash web application developed, make sure to ask the developer how they promote search engine optimization. Do they have separate content and presentation layers? Will they provide an alternative HTML version of the website for visitors without Flash, or folks viewing the website on a mobile device? If you find a developer that answers these questions correctly you’ll be much happier with your web presence in the long run.
Tomorrow marks the end of voting for the 4th Annual Mashable Awards. If you haven’t already voted, check out the nominees and get voting! My favorite category this year is the Most Creative Social Media campaign. All of the finalists in this category show that creativity is more important than budget. Yes, some of them are able to hire a room full of creative people to come up with the ideas and implement…but in the end it is the 1 initial idea that sets them apart from the rest. Let’s take a look at the finalists for 2010.
Although the Old Spice Guy has retired, this marketing campaign was awesome. The ‘guy’ was Isaiah Mustafa, an actor and former NFL practice squad player. He was the original actor in the “Your Man Could Smell Like” commercials. The original marketing campaign was pretty good, but it really took off when they started creating YouTube video responses. The responses were mainly sent primarily to celebrities, including 4 to Alyssa Milano…followed by actual roses. Overall this idea could have been done using an inexpensive camera, microphone and celebrity, the IDEA to send individual responses through YouTube to people was priceless. Check out the latest video to everyone:
The WWE has gotten some bad publicity lately regarding the ignoring of possible steroid use in their sport. Their social campaign called, ‘Stand Up for WWE’ revolves around asking for the WWE fans to speak out and back up the WWE. People that ‘stand up’ for the organization should believe that the WWE is not turning their back on steriod use, although many are probably just fans that may or may not care about the actual situation. The image shows 10 ways of how the WWE is asking for fan support, more than half of them directly correlate with social media. This is not as much of a small business strategy, as they rely heavy on the current popularity of the sport. Overall it shows that they are aware of the power and popularity of social and are willing to use it as their main support channel.
Groupon is a social style ‘couponing’ service. They claim groupons are more fun when you share with friends! The idea behind their Live Off Groupon campaign was to try and get 1 individual to live off of nothing but groupons for an entire year. This individual would be the ‘Groupawn’. Josh Stevens received this challenge from Groupon:
First, say goodbye to your routine, your apartment, and your signed photo of Elvis punching Nixon. You’ll end your lease and put your stuff in storage. You’ll close your bank account, cut up your credit cards, and put your money in escrow. You’ll have nothing but a stack of Groupons and a suit of clothes made from Groupons.
We’ll give you a camera, phone, GPS, and computer to document your experience. We’ll expect you to blog most days. We’ll also give you unlimited Groupons in any of our 60 cities, including Groupons for lodging and transportation and special Groupons for cities that don’t exist yet.
If you last a year without breaking the agreement, we’ll give you $100,000.
Who shouldn’t apply!? Probably everyone shouldn’t apply. We want to be honest from the beginning: this will be a catastrophic disruption to your life. But you will have zero expenses for a year. You’ll get to travel across the country trying all the cool stuff we feature on Groupon. And you might get $100,000…in money.
This is definitely more of a costly campaign for the marketer, but builds a very cool following around the ‘Groupawn’ through the social media environment. Definitely not a task that everyone could handle, but the idea of the campaign itself and promoting everything through social media was a very creative idea.
This campaign was started by Jennifer Windrum. Her goal is to bring attention, in turn growing funds for lung cancer research. She explains that lung cancer research is the least funded of all cancers, likely caused by the negative stigmata that revolves around it. She is explaining to the public that lung cancer can affect anyone. The cancer no longer affects only smokers, it affects people that have never smoked before or quit decades ago. She has a personal connection with the cause as her mother was diagnosed and had never smoked in her life. If her campaign is successful she will increase awareness for lung cancer research and funding.
Although this is a worldwide cause, this is definitely much more of a grassroots campaign. Other than time, this style of social media marketing revolves around creativity, not budget. Jennifer is doing a great job with all of her social avenues as well as keeping up with her blog. Keep it up Jennifer!
Bonnaroo, one of the biggest concerts of the year. 2011 has over 160 acts…definitely a scheduling nightmare. Zoltaroo, The Bonnaroo Mind Reader was created to help you choose who you are going to see as well as creating your own schedule for the event, social media was the basis for their campaign.You can log into the Zoltaroo network using your Facebook login…even cooler, it combs your interests and is able to suggest acts for you! This is definitely a development heavy social campaign that has a huge following around the event, nonetheless an extremely creative idea!
I am going to go with the Old Spice Guy. They were creative enough to take a small following around a TV commercial and make it HUGE through social media. The best part is they could have done this on a budget that was next to nothing.
This may come as no surprise to some of you, but Forrester Research just released some survey results that show that the average American now spends as much time online as they do in front of their TV! The survey, which had over 30,000 responses, also revealed that Younger Baby Boomers (between 45 and 54) are included in this group.
With these data, it is very hard to make the case that the web is only successful in marketing to younger demographics!
As the chart above indicates, the the internet (including mobile) is the only channel that has shown notable growth in usage, with some of the traditional channels declining significantly.
Small Businesses should be evaluating this data very carefully when making marketing decisions in 2011. If you need a hand developing a strategy to take advantage of the web, contact us today!
We have spent a lot of time this year discussing mobile marketing options with clients and prospects. Most are very interested in 2D Barcodes, location-based social media, and even text messaging campaigns. We often have to bring people back to their own site and what experience a mobile user will have with it. It’s usually not very pretty!
Recently, Google announced that search volume through Google.com from mobile devices had increased 130% year over year. That’s huge! Now, what does a mobile browser see when your site shows up in the mobile search results?
Many small businesses have put time and money into optimizing their sites for search engines. We have helped a good number ourselves. With mobile searching on the rise, why would you want to waste your investment by showing a search visitor an unusable site? The obvious answer is that you wouldn’t.
Through advanced detection on your website, the user can be directed to the appropriate experience for your site depending on the platform they are using to view it. If the user is using a desktop, show them a full website. Using an iPad? Show them an html 5 optimized site. Using a Blackberry? Trim it down and show them a smaller version of your site.
If you are ready to make the mobile leap, give us a shout. We can get you started on the right foot.
Content, Content, Content… It’s all we hear these days right? If it’s any consolation, it’s because a content strategy is highly effective at gaining very targeted traffic. Much like dieting and exercise, content creation is great for you (or your brand), but something most people dread doing… Why is this? It would seem that most people struggle with what they should write about from day to day or week to week. Another similarity to dieting and exercise is that there are a million excuses you can use for not sticking to it.
At protocol 80, we have not always been the best at posting regularly to our blog, and as we get busier and busier, it often gets harder and harder to stay active. Because we see the importance of continuing to create and share content, we have come up with the only solution that works for us…
In order for us to ensure that we are blogging regularly, we had to establish a blogging schedule in our marketing calendar. You may have noticed that we have been writing one post per day for a while now. You may have also noticed that 3 of us take turns throughout the week. I’m posting today, Josh will post tomorrow, and David will post on Wednesday.
This is truly the only way we stay after blogging. Every day the person whose turn it is knows that the other team members will be looking to read their post. That added pressure helps to ensure that the posts do happen and that the schedule stays intact.
Although we have in the past, we do not schedule the daily topics for the blog posts. It can be very helpful to have topics all lined up ,but it can also hinder timeliness of some of our posts, as our industry literally changes daily. Not scheduling the topic also gives us all some freedom to think about what we want to write about and have our own opinions.
When you are first getting started with a content schedule, I would actually recommend that you schedule the topics for the first couple of weeks. It will help to ensure that you stick to the schedule and don’t use the easy cop-out of “I can’t think of anything to write about today…”.
The boost in traffic that you will see by regularly blogging should be incentive enough, but it often doesn’t convince everyone on the writing team. We have just implemented a policy that says that anyone that misses their blog post on their scheduled day has two write 2 posts the next day. For some, it may be just enough to get them to tackle the post when they are supposed to.
Having recommended this policy myself today, I will be writing 2 more posts today, as I missed a day last week, and today is one of my regularly scheduled days.
We stick to one post a day, but that may be impossible for your small business. The important thing is that the posts are regular. Post twice a week if you want, but do 2 posts a week, EVERY week. Readers will soon pick up your schedule and start expecting your content on the days that you regularly blog.
The bottom line is that content creation is where it’s at. Start by creating the content. Then start sharing through social media, and soon you will see how the content impacts your traffic and conversions.
Last week Donny discussed social rank and Danny Sullivan’s post on the topic. Today I came across an article called, “Why ‘Social Rank’ Will Die in 2011“. It seems as though the author believed spammers would kill ‘social rank’ as they kill many other things in relation to SEO…and he may be right, but I want to be the devil’s advocate.
I have different view on Twitter and social rank. The only way that a true social rank algorithm would work is by taking into consideration the authority of the social user. For instance someone on Twitter with 30k followers that only follows 500 people likely has a better reputation than a user with 30k followers that follows 50k people. The ratio MUST be taken into consideration. Post frequency or the amount of followers alone is too subjective. Twitter has also allowed popular users to have a ‘verified’ account. These types of account will offer more weight for links an mentions.
Twitter accounts that would by considered authoritative got that way for a reason. They are reputable in their industry, well known in general, or a very good at taking part in the social atmosphere. Given the work (usually) that goes into growing a social following will not likely be compromised by that person for the reason of ranking a particular website better.
If a Twitter account becomes diluted by sponsored posts, spam posts, and purchased accounts, at some point the reputation that the account had earned will start to decline. Users will stop following if they aren’t getting the same value from the tweets as before. It will take time and not everyone is going to stop following said user when they sponsor tweets…but it will happen. In this case that account would no longer be considered authoritative in the social rank graph.
I am not saying that the social rank won’t be muddied by spam, but I don’t think it will kill it. Spam did not kill the link graph, it just changed the way links were looked at. When links started to get spammy, the engines had to move from a quantity to quality basis. The social graph will be starting with quality, therefore should see less spam issues.
The future of the social rank is very up in the air, so by no means am I saying this is definitely how it will happen. It is very hard to fake a reputable twitter account. Obviously it can be done, and has been done, but both the search engines and social platforms are very advanced and will/have developed social spam detection.
Don’t avoid social and don’t try and fake it. For social rank to work you will need mentions from somewhat reputable users. Don’t create 15 Twitter accounts just to link to your website…I know some of you are thinking about it. Social is now extremely beneficial on various planes as long as you can honestly embrace it.
Your first question might be “What do you mean Google is launching Chrome OS, it’s already been out for a year and a half,” and you’d be right. However, Google held an official launch event today in which they detailed some of the advancements the OS has made during its time in development and, more importantly, outlined when and how consumers will be able to get their hands on official Chrome OS-touting hardware. Let’s start with the features.
As a company that provides a host of great web applications it certainly behooves Google to claim that, when it comes to computing, everything is better when it’s served on the web. When you live in the cloud you can access all of your files and applications from any computer, you never have to worry about backing up because all of your information is stored elsewhere, and you don’t have to worry about computer specs because almost any modern computer has enough processing power to run a web browser.
With Chrome OS you don’t run traditional desktop applications, everything is web-based, and you can hone in on all of the benefits mentioned above. Google has refocused on speed, simplicity and security. If you’ve ever used the Google Chrome web browser Chrome OS will be a familiar sight, but because Chrome OS runs on the hardware directly (you don’t need an operating system like Windows or Mac OS X to run the browser), browsing speed and computer boot times are increased significantly.
It’s fairly apparent that you can get most of your daily computing tasks taken care of via apps, but how are you going to get the applications in the first place? Google has a solution for you there as well. At today’s event they went into a little more detail about the Chrome Web Store, which gives users access to a huge selection of web applications that they can run from Chrome OS. Think Apple’s iOS App Store, or even Google’s Android Marketplace except every app runs in the browser.
Amazon’s offerings were featured at the event today as both the Windowshop and Kindle applications were highlighted, and I was very impressed with the translation these apps make to the web-only platform. I’ve used Windowshop and Kindle on my iPad and they both provide great user experiences, so to see that developers are starting to create well-rounded web applications that mimmick their desktop counterparts is impressive.
Google also announced that all of the Chrome OS laptops will come with a built-in data connection provided by Verizon. As a heavy user I’m a little concerned about the data caps Verizon has placed on the built-in data plans (only 100 megabytes per month, a limit that anyone of the folks at protocol 80 could probably blast through in an afternoon), but Google has noted that you can also buy “day passes” for $10 that will give you more access. Presumably there will also be plans that you can pay monthly for that will give you a higher cap as with Verizon’s mobile phone plans, but they didn’t announce pricing or availability on such plans today.
Folks will actually be able to purchase a Chrome OS device by mid-2011, but if you just can’t wait that long you can toss your hat in the ring and hopefully be picked as apart of Google’s Chrome OS pilot program. As with any new platform Chrome OS needs to be tested, and right now they’re accepting applications from various types of users so that they can work out the kinks in the hardware and software before traditional consumers can buy a Chrome OS computer. Head on over to Google’s pilot program form to maybe get your hands on a laptop, and if we are selected you can look forward to future posts detailing the Chrome OS hardware and software!
Do you use the Chrome web browser, and if so do you think you could make it through a day using only a web browser to complete your computing tasks? Let us know in the comments below!