Category Archives: Websites

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

 



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]

 



Money for Nothing and your Chicks for Free – Agencies, Google Analytics and Asymmetric Information.

I’ve harped on plenty about the importance of getting some sort of analytics installed on all of your web properties. And I’m an unashamed fan of Google Analytics because it’s quick to set-up, boasts powerful reporting, and is drop-dead easy to use. Ah yes, it’s also free. Unfortunately I come into regular contact with businesses that are paying significant money for their Google Analytics set-up, reporting or ‘maintenance plans’. I have no issue with agencies charging fair market prices for their services, including a premium for their IP that comes from years of experience in the game; I do however have a problem when an unfair advantage is taken.

Asymmetric information is the cornerstone of many service business models – if I know something you don’t, but you need something done requiring my knowledge, then I can charge you for it. But because online marketing and social media are such new business disciplines it’s too easy (and tempting) for agencies to position very simple work as being more complex, expensive or time consuming than it really is.

Here are some of the common ways which simple tasks around Google Analytics are being manipulated:

Being Charged to Set Google Analytics Up
As I’ve said, it’s a free service from Google and takes no more than a few minutes to follow an online bouncing-ball registration process. Even if it took a full five minutes, I find it hard to believe that an agency could include that as a line item expense (and keep a straight face).
Being Charged to have Google Analytics Installed
Most modern websites use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) – drop Google’s analytics tracking code in once and it automatically propagates through to every present and future website page. Another five minute job.

For websites requiring a manual page-by-page insertion of tracking code, the usual hourly fee would reasonably apply. There are also instances where the tracking code needs to be altered to perform non-vanilla functions – the client will need to pay something for this.

Being Charged for Google Analytics Reporting
The Google Analytics auto-reporting feature is quick and easy to activate. Reporting data can be exported in a range of formats – including PDF, Excel & XML – and be pre-set to auto-generate as an email attachment to one or more addresses every day, weekly, monthly or quarterly.

There are two main variations of agency money-for-nothing Google Analytics reporting – 1. the agency simply forwards an automatically generated colour PDF report onto the client, or 2. the agency exports their client’s raw data and pumps it through an overlay of their own branded graphs, charts and lists (typically an intern or a junior gets this very boring job).

Agencies are perfectly entitled to charge their clients for reporting, but it should be for sales and marketing insights drawn from the data, and come with recommendations or action based options. After all, data in its own right is of limited value to anyone. On rare occasions I’ve seen agencies churn out some pretty good segment level custom reporting – a solid value-add that can and should attract a client fee.

The Agency Holds Their Client’s Google Analytics Account to Ransom
If an agency has set up a Google Analytics account for their client – and we know they didn’t pay Google any money for this – then as far as I’m concerned, it’s the client’s account and not theirs.

I’ve seen agencies refuse to give their clients direct access to the own analytics accounts and data – can you believe? I’ve also seen instances where a client is told that if they leave the agency, their Google Analytics account will have to be closed down, i.e. they will forever be denied access to their own website data. This forces the client to go through the set-up process again and get new tracking code reinstalled. And they loose all of their historical data. Talk about mean spirited.

Betting on Dumber
Seth Godin’s blog post, Betting on smarter (or betting on dumber) talks directly to the issue of agencies and individuals who are making a (healthy) living by exploiting the ignorance of others:

“Marketers fall into one of two categories: A few benefit when they make their customers smarter. The more the people they sell to know, the more informed, inquisitive, free-thinking and alert they are, the better they do.

And most benefit when they work to make their customers dumber. The less they know about options, the easier they are to manipulate, the more helpless they are, the better they do. Their perfect customer is someone in a hurry, with plenty of money and not a lot of knowledge about their options.”


Setting up your own Google Analytics account
A recommended analytics guide: Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik



Come Back Here and Tidy Up Your Room!

“It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how!” – Cat in the Hat

The web is a giant playground, with bucket-loads of cool and mostly free stuff for businesses to play with: cloud based apps, Google’s magic box of marvels, or any number of social media platforms. But don’t run out there and start playing until your room is tidy… I’m just saying I wouldn’t be toying with the likes of Facebook or Twitter until I was confident I had the online business basics firmly in place. Here are the ones to tick off first:


The Look

Do you have a website that looks bloody fantastic and performs just beautifully?

All roads lead back to Rome; sooner or later – probably sooner – your social media connections will visit your organisational website. For most of us sitting here in 2011 our websites represent the pointy end of our online activity – it’s where we’ll likely have the most success converting our associated online traffic into sales, registrations, donations, job applications, newsletter sign-ups, phone leads, store foot traffic, referrers, etc. So make every visit to your website as pleasant and productive as possible: it should be drop-dead easy to move through, should immediately engage with relevant content, and could possibly even express a bit of personality (here’s a ‘best-of-breed solution’ for you: lighten up on the corporate speak).


The Smarts

Do you have a website with robust analytics reporting in place? Without analytics you’re limiting your ability to measure the effectiveness of your online inputs – time and money.

If you’re investing in online advertising, affiliate programs, directory listings, social media or organic search, you’ll want to know what you’re getting back in return from each. Because at some point, at least somebody has to perform an action of value to your organisation somewhere (see conversion goals above). Analytics will help you identify which referral sources, including those within the social media bucket, are delivering the goods and which aren’t. Analytics can’t track everything – word of mouth for example – but it can measure a lot more than you’re probably measuring at the moment.


The Slice & Dice

Do you understand your market from a segmentation perspective? This is a must when positioning your website content for search, but it’s equally important for any online activity beyond the borders of your website, including social media. One size, one message, one value proposition does not, cannot, fit all.

Different people with different needs hang out in many different places within the online universe. Unless you have a keen sense of the different need based sub-segments that make up your overall market, and the online rituals of each segment, you won’t be able to tailor the message and the delivery. Segmentation allows you to deliver your value propositions, your ideas and views, your assistance to the right place, at the right time, and in the right tone of voice. Traditional marketing was all about the overarching big message. No more. Online marketing, which includes social media, is [pick a huge number] messages to just as many micro-segments.

Now, is your room tidy?



Web Developers & Agencies: Poor Service and/or Limited SEO Insight

It’s a fact that too web developers and agencies aren’t doing their clients many favours when it comes to search engine optimisation. From my observation this can be the result of laziness or ignorance, but often it’s a cynical play to extract additional payment for work that should be included as part and parcel of the job. We’re talking very simple but important stuff – the sort of work that takes literally just a few minutes to execute and requires only junior level technical expertise – usually nothing so complicated or time consuming that could justify inclusion as a separate line cost.

This is the first of a small series that will include 301 redirects, meta, analytics, conversion pages, and in-site search. Basic stuff that any web developer or agency should know about, and should be an assumed part of their service provision.

# 1 – 301 Permanent Redirects

When a website is relaunched the search engines need to know where the previously indexed pages have moved to. A permanent 301 redirect is the instruction that what used to be here, is now sitting over there. Neglecting this process causes inconvenience for web users who click through on search results, web links or bookmarks that go nowhere. For a website owner however it can be disastrous – drying up their organic traffic, and squandering the valuable Page Rank any of the older pages may have built up (a 301 passes along a page’s Page Rank).

Web developers before relaunching any website should be placing 301’s from every old web page, to the appropriate page on the new website. If a client has a larger amount of old pages – maybe more than 20 – they should be offered a time-based quote to have each of them redirected.

Most clients will also need the importance of doing this explained to them. Few website owners would have any issue paying a couple of hundred dollars at most to have all the redirects put in place if they knew the implications of not having it done.

Image by Slaff