Category Archives: Websites

Sorry Kevin – An Open Letter

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Dear Kevin

I just want to apologise for criticising your website in public last week – it was unfair of me to call it a “piece of shit” in front of a room full of people.

I know that you must have spent quite a bit of time and money to get it launched seven years ago. And anyway, word on the street is those particular shades of brown are going to be big again in 2015… so you’re actually on the cutting edge there. Respect.

Just who the hell did I think I was when I said that the stock image on your homepage looked ridiculous?? Hey, that was my mistake – two suited-up alpha-males facing off on a chessboard is powerful stuff. I should have seen it for what it was: a multi-layered business metaphor.

And what about that totally cheap crack I made about you not having your telephone number anywhere on the site? A contact form alone is perfectly fine for people who need to get in touch with you. On reflection, I hate it too when potential new clients call me on the phone – usually right when I’m in the middle of something!

Bigger, brighter, wider websites – who needs em? The way your little site floats in the middle of my computer screen all surrounded by black is a statement of confidence in of itself – you just don’t see enough of that  ‘devil may care’ attitude anymore.

Here it is: my core misunderstanding was that I didn’t appreciate what a super-busy operator you are – there’s really no way a guy like you should ever need to spare a passing thought for his primary, branded online presence. Just let it be, everything’s cool Mac. Sheesh, like you I’ve got to learn not to get so uptight over the little things.

So Kevin, I’m totally back in my box where I belong. I’m sorry. Can you forgive me?

Best,
Tim

P.S. Fully loving that Facebook page you guys have happening. To help make up for my potty mouth in public I’ve gone ahead and liked your page, boosting your fan-count almost into double figures. And I’m really looking forward to seeing your stuff on my newsfeed. I showed my wife your last post, the one with the cat rollerblading… we both laughed until it hurt. Keep it coming!

 



We need to talk about your outsourcing…

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You’re outsourcing too much. You’ve made, and are making, unnecessary payments to others for those simple tasks which you need performed repeatedly. You know the sort: basic image manipulation for a branded social media banner or post; adding, amending or deleting content from your website; analytics reporting (to name just a few). It seems like an easy out but it’s counter-productive for both you and your business:

It’s a mystery
It looks complicated and it’s not. Because of your triple-digital IQ and open mind we can teach you how do all of this stuff within minutes or hours – with the same ease your consultant/ agency learnt how to do it. Better still, get your agency to show you how any of it’s done next time rather than getting them to parachute it into you directly.

No feel for the tools
“But you never asked us for that.” You’ll hear that after discovering a new tool, application or process all by yourself and then asking your agency why they never offered it to you as an option. When you play with the tools yourself you get a feel for them and their wider application (because you don’t know what you don’t know).

Life in the slow lane
In the time it takes to communicate your requirement you could have done it yourself (really). And get it the way you wanted it the first time before your brief was misinterpreted.

The axe
Lots of little costs =  one big cost. One day you’ll announce “Let’s cut this big cost.” i.e. axe this consultant/ agency. Then a bunch of small but important things will stop getting done because neither you or anyone else  internally knows how to do any of it (most of the internet’s stale websites have gone down this path).

The fun police
Don’t be your own fun police. Get hands-on with the tools – YOU’LL LIKE IT. You may even decide to set up your own consultancy once you work out how simple it is, how much fun it can be, and how many people are willing to pay easy coin to get others to do it for them.

 



The Trunk.

Your website: the truck which must support everything else you have online.

Email: an outbound marketing channel without equal; always be inviting visitors to your website to opt into your comms loop, and then invite them back to the site from within the newsletter.  Social media: your community… eventually they’ll end up back at the website (hopefully). Search engine optimisation: a website without wide and varied market-aligned content is like a guitar without strings… you won’t be able to play the informational tunes your target audiences are hungry for. Analytics: track website conversions and value via your most valuable referral sources: email, social and organic search.

Respect the trunk.

trunk

 



Stains Down Your Front?

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Would you turn up to a business meeting with a honking great food stain down the front of your shirt?

You’re welcome of course to present anywhere in any which way you choose, and granted, you’d still be the same cool individual underneath regardless of your appearance. But why force yourself to push uphill against the weight of a negative first impression? That dance-step we know as the initial business introduction can usually be reduced to one inner-thought in the mind of the person opposite: demonstrate why I should trust you.

Nobody wantonly sabotages their professionalism, yet a shit website will cruelly and silently undermine the credibility of the brand and people sitting behind it. For many of us the organisational website will be our first touch-point when undertaking pre-selection research: decisions on who we will select for a purchase, for an interview, for an invitation to speak, to partner with, to fund, or to work for. The website is a brand’s 24/7 reception area – make it a solid visitor experience… nay, make it bloody amazing. You’re only setting the scene for all future engagement after all.

So why do so many business-owners and brand guardians let themselves down by presenting an ugly, confused, piece-of-rubbish website to the world? The very same people who wouldn’t be caught dead walking into a business meeting with tomato sauce down their shirt-front? Here’s why: people will readily check themselves in a mirror before entering an important room, but rarely ever do they look at their own website. Business owners and executives are often shocked when somebody holds up a mirror to their primary online branded asset, finally getting to see what the rest of us have been painfully labouring through for years.

The underlying truth is that a website needs constant grooming – left on its own for an extended period it starts to take on a deranged, even menacing appearance… parents can be seen protectively turning the heads of their children away, and decent folk will cross to the other side of the street to avoid making eye contact. And to think it all started with one lousy little food stain.



Strange things oft seen

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Strange things oft seen:

  • A website without a telephone number
  • An ‘About Us’ section devoid of information about people
  • A website without installed analytics
  • A website with installed analytics that no-one is analysing
  • A contact form with no response-time commitment
  • A cheesy stock image already seen on 1089 other websites
  • A negative online business review without an owner response
  • A positive online business review without an owner response
  • A social media profile page without fully customised branding
  • A query/ complaint/ comment on a social media account gone unacknowledged
  • A personal LinkedIn profile without a profile pic
  • A blog post posted from a person named ‘Admin’
  • A Facebook brand page with no codified and visible House Rules
  • A public or private event of size without a centrally communicated hashtag
  • A repetitive hard-sell newsletter
  • A repetitive hard-sell newsletter

Ooh, look over there!



How to Embed Tweets into Your Website or Blog

Embedding specific posts from Twitter into a webpage or blog post is a simple 2-step process. The embeds render as fully interactive and look smart within their individual frames. Embedded tweets can be displayed as customer testimonials or as part of a narrative from one or several Twitter users.

Here are a two embed examples from people who tweeted about my courses:

Here’s the 2-step embedding process in action:

Step 1 – hover over the bottom of the tweet, click on the ‘… More’ link and then select ‘Embed Tweet’

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Step 2 – grab the embed code from the dialogue box and paste into your website or blog via the HTML or text editor of your CMS

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Google+ Releases a New Set of Interactive Badges for Your Website or Blog

 

If you don’t have a brand presence on Google+ you should correct that sooner rather than later (yes, that’s what I’m saying). If you are on board already Google has released a smart new set of badges. These interactive badges are designed to lift the visibility of your personal profile, brand pages or G+ communities by allowing people to add any of them to their own circles directly from a badge on your website or blog. Customise and grab your own own G+ badges here.

Layout Examples

Personal Profile
 

 
 

 
 
Brand Page
 

 
 
G+ Community
 

 
 



27 Tasks Every Marketer Should be able to Perform Online

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There are DIY skills every modern marketer should have in their virtual toolbox to handle the numerous small tasks which need to be frequently performed online. Tackle the simple stuff yourself when you can – quickly and inexpensively – and only outsource the big hairy jobs. So, do you have the digital chops to get the everyday basics out of the way?

You Should Know How To:

1. Customise the branding elements on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ (if you have a presence on these platforms).

2. How to activate and deactivate automatic cross-posting between social media platforms.

3. Adjust your personal privacy and visibility settings on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

4. Use permalinks to link to specific posts on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.

5. Comment on a blog post, and comment on a comment.

6. Use a wizard tool to manually create one or more of the following social share buttons for a webpage: Facebook Like, Google +1, Twitter Tweet, Pinterest Pin-It or LinkedIn Share.

7. Upload a video file to YouTube, and then embed that same YouTube video back onto your webpage.

8. Subscribe to a specific blog, YouTube channel or podcast series.

9. Apply hashtags to a post, search on specific hashtags within a social media platform, and know the meanings of basic courtesy hashtags such as #HT (hat-tip).

10. Compress the file size of an image for web use, change its horizontal or vertical orientation, or resize it to a specific pixel width and height.

11. Add text as an overlay to a digital image, e.g. general text, a brand name or a URL.

12. Customise the metatitles and meta descriptions on your own webpages or blog posts.

13. Insert a hyperlink into a webpage.

14. Insert an image onto a webpage and add alternate text to it for increased search visibility.

15. Create a basic customised Google Map.

16. Embed an interactive Google Map or a Streetview frame into a webpage.

17. Post an online review for a specific business (and how to delete it later if you choose).

18. Run a search engine keyword query which is limited to blog or forum results from a specific country.

19. Clear cookies from your browser and surf the web anonymously using a free proxy server.

20. Open a Google Analytics account and set up visitor tracking for your website or blog.

21. Scan a QR code, and how to create your own QR codes selecting from multiple response options.

22. Reuse other people’s digital content under the conditions of an assigned Creative Commons licence.

23. Apply Creative Commons licencing to your own original online content.

24. Claim the Google+ Local business listing for your organisation or business.

25. Provide an ‘owner response’ to a Google+ Local review of your organisation or business.

26. Use a free voice and video conferencing platform such as Google+ Hangouts or Skype.

27. View the cached search engine version of a webpage when a website is down or the page has recently been deleted.

 

Image by  Visit Greece



Looking into Your Website’s Past Using The Wayback Machine – ANZ as a Case Study

Looking at old photos of yourself can be jarring: past iterations of your physical self that are familiar yet detached. Websites are no different – if you look at past snapshots of any organisation’s homepage it’s like watching a child growing up through an awkward adolescence.

If you want a glimpse of your own website’s past try the Wayback Machine at archive.org, a digital time capsule created by the Internet Archive, a non-profit organisation based in the US. You won’t be able to find snapshots from every date since your website was launched, but you will be able to retrieve enough to marvel at how far you’ve come.

I’ve used ANZ’s homepage as a case example with snapshots spanning from 1996 to today.

1996

 

1997

 

1999

 

2000

 

2001

 

2003

 

2008

 

2009

 

Today

 



9 Dumb Ideas for Your Next Website

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1. Get your website built on the cheap so it looks like a road accident involving farm animals. El cheapo comes in a range of flavours: DIY (particularly dangerous); outsourcing to an Indian guy named ‘Charles’ who contacted you out of the blue last month; your next-door neighbour’s daughter – she’s a second year multimedia student after all.

2. Underestimate the time required to write half-way decent copy for your new web pages. Go into task avoidance mode. Alienate your web developer by not responding to requests for content. Launch website 14 months late.

3. Throw $5 photostock images like graffiti across your pages, preferably shots of power-dressed business folk (yes, you know the ones I’m talking about). Now your site is bursting with North Americans sporting unnatural grins, gesturing meaninglessly into the air.

4. Only let people contact you via a contact form (no-one uses telephones anymore). Get back to any queries within 2-3 days – don’t appear too keen with an immediate response.

5. Proudly display icon links to all of your social media accounts. Too bad you’re not doing anything in social media yet.

6. Provide a link to your blog. You’ve only posted on three occasions, all during the first week it went live. Tumble-weeds have since rolled in.

7. Display today’s date and time on the homepage as a reminder that I’ve got better things to be doing with my time than being on your website.

8. Feed your Twitter stream onto your homepage – the last 5 tweets will invariably be some fragmented conversation thread between you and another person about something not at all related to the needs of your customers.

9. Run with a site-wide jungle theme… cleverly shape all of your web buttons as bananas, and play a random animal noise every ten seconds or so. Talk about getting cut-through!

Bonus Dumb Idea

Place a QR code on your homepage that if scanned takes people to your homepage.

 

Image by Thomas Hawk



Steal Online Images or Source them for Free Legitimately?

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I frequently use other people’s digital work across my various web properties – mostly image based content, and all for free with the implicit blessing of the original creators. I do this under Creative Commons Licensing.

CC Licensing is a sub-set of copyright. Is provides flexibility for digital content publishers to state how their works and ideas can be copied, modified or remixed, and within a commercial or non-commercial context. You can view full descriptions of the different Creative Commons licences here. The commonality among the licences is attribution – you must explicitly credit or reference the creator of the work you’re using.

Sourcing images from Flickr, here’s one example of how it works.

I’m always on the look-out for interesting (read non-cheesy photostock) images and illustrations for my course pages. Let’s say I want an edgy shot of the iconic Vinegar Skipping Girl neon sign in Melbourne. I go to Flickr and run a search for ‘skipping girl melbourne’. I then run an advanced search and tick the ‘Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content’ box at the bottom of the page. Searching again filters in only images sitting under a CC licence.

I find an appealing shot of the skipping girl against an emerald sky background:


I download the image and adapt it – I might crop, compress or change its orientation. The CC licence associated with this image specifically states I’m allowed to ‘remix’ or adapt the work in these and other ways. 
The image now sits prominently at the top of my course page: 

But importantly the attribution appears within the same page:



I have both attributed the creator by using their Flickr account name and provided an active link back to the original work.

There are numerous online platforms which allow content creators to publish their digital media works online under Creative Commons licencing. Look out for this symbol or variations:

And of course you can publish any of your own creative works under the CC licencing for others to use or remix. What goes around comes around.

 

by Bruce McKay Yellow Snow Photography 

 



Using cheesy stock photography online looks, well, cheesy.

Nothing lets a site down more than $5 stock photography that took all of 5 minutes to source. Images of this sort lack authenticity and undermine credibility. And it indicates laziness.

A homepage, back-page or post should capture interest within the first few seconds of being viewed – well considered images can do that. But you’ll need to invest more than $5 – don’t be a tight-arse when it comes to the imagery and design elements online which are speaking for you in your absence.

Here are a few of the hackneyed classics that haunt my browser…


The Smiling Businessman
Is he high on drugs or what? And those teeth.

 

 


The Signpost
Of course, over there silly…

 

 

 

 

Writing on Glass
Because business is easy.

 

 

 

 

Inspirational
…and I’m feeling queazy in the tummy now.

 

 

 


Chess Pieces
So super-strategic it hurts.  

 

 

 


The Bullseye
Get it? Do ya?

 

 

 


The Contact Centre Babe
Call me… or at least someone not vaguely like me. 

 

 


The Lightbulb
More of the same original thinking. 

 

 


The Superhero Kid
Super annoying. Not quirky. 

 

 

 

The Dealmakers
Taking your money – we’re laughing all the way to the bank.

 

 

 


The Thinkers
Here’s our workplace… well, not literally.

 

 

 

The ‘Upward And To The Right’ Graph
Dumbing it down (while magically making it go up).  



Online Content Publication and Market Alignment Steps

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Positioning your website content to take full advantage of organic search and the ‘long-tail’ is a smart business investment –  the continual addition of quality content over time is the recommended approach. Here are the 3 steps:

1. Realignment
Enhance existing web pages with fuller product or service level detail, e.g. specs, geographies. Align page headings, meta titles & descriptions. Insert aligned ‘alt text’ to all images

2. Micro-Segmentation
Identify exiting web pages containing more than one key market concept and break each into a separate page. Begin the process of publishing new pages that are targeted at specific micro-segments (use ‘buyer personas’)

3.Content Marketing
Inform and empower your marketplace by publishing layer upon layer of quality information via the website and/or a blog

 

 



8 Agency Do’s & Don’ts Within the Online Space

Online agencies – some of them are helpful and others, well, not so much. Based on my own observations here’s a hit-list of what any client should reasonably expect from you as their agency or consultant:

1/  If a client expresses interest, take the time to explain what you are doing, why and how – empower them at every opportunity to help themselves.

2/  Don’t charge for jobs which only take a few minutes to complete – even if the client thinks it must have taken you much longer.

3/  Freely hand over the login details for any online accounts which you have set up on behalf of your client.

4/  Don’t charge to send through data-laden reports – only charge for actionable insights you’re able to pull from the data.

5/  Don’t engage in black-hat SEO techniques (if a client seems to want this, explain the risks).

6/  Don’t pretend you can do everything – refer work onto specialists where appropriate (what goes around comes around).

7/  If a client is still without a website CMS that they can easily handle internally, take the time to explain to them why they are being disadvantaged in terms of time and money.

8/  If a client’s business is not suited to Facebook, don’t sell them a Facebook presence.

[Image by Nomadic Lass]