Why Your Website Is Like Muhammad Ali

January 6th, 2014 in Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation google hummingbird marketing search

Muhammad Ali once famously professed that he floated like a hummingbird, but stung like a bee. Thanks to Google’s new algorithm, known as ‘Hummingbird’, your website can have a serious marketing sting in its tail, too – but only if you know how to exploit its new method of ranking sites.

Muhammad Ali Hummingbird

Of course, you don’t need to know. That’s what we’re here for. Google Hummingbird has been in use by the search engine since late August, although its launch was only announced on the internet giant’s fifteenth birth, on 27th September. Hummingbird is designed to render Google’s search process even more user-friendly, and ape the way in which humans think and find.

In order for computers to appear to think like humans, you need an awful lot of clever code and mathematics. Google is a past master at this sort thing. Their search engine has always been based on a particular algorithm – essentially a staged mathematical calculation – which helps it understand a search term and then deliver results which are relevant to the user.

In an interview with the Guardian at the start of the year, the company’s head of search said: “Ultimately I view Google as a way to augment your brain with the knowledge of the world.” As radical as that sounds, Hummingbird is part of Singhal’s journey to that goal.

Hummingbird is now a very significant part of the ‘recipe’ by which Google bakes the cake of your latest search: it focuses learning and understanding the particular meaning of words and how humans use them, in order to make search results more accurate. For instance, if you google for ‘iPad’, Hummingbird will not just match that particular word – it will know that an iPad is a type of tablet, and also deliver to you comparable products to you.

Likewise, Hummingbird is trying to be ahead of the curve on ‘voice search’. This is the relatively new means of using Google via mobile devices, simply by speaking your search. People talking are more like to say, “Where can I find an iPad for sale?” than they are to type “iPad for sale”. Hummingbird is about suiting Google to this future of search.

What does this mean for you? It means your website needs to understand your customers more than ever. In the past, web designers have sort to encode keywords into a website – ‘iPad’, for instance. Now, we’ll need to be smarter: your website will need to be clear that it is the right destination for users wanting to learn more about tablets, but also clear that people asking where they can buy iPads should also make a visit. That imposes a lot of demands on your designer, but it’s important that they meet them if you are now to retain or achieve a positive Google ranking.

There’s a lot of jargon about this: ‘semantic revelance’, ‘market segmentation’, ‘content marketing’. But what it amounts to is the idea that your website needs to be built and populated in such a way that it proves your authority in your area, and meets as clearly as possible the needs of your audience. To repeat ourselves, then: that’s what we’re here for.

The Three Bears Problem: Who’s Been Visiting My Webpage?

June 14th, 2013 in Design, Web audience capture data marketing

This week at Image+, we’ve been making contact with people we know are interested in our services, but whom we’ve never met or even spoken to. This ability to sell to a large number of qualified leads quickly and easily is the power of a website, and most importantly of data capture.

teddy bear and Mac PC

One of the key means of securing ROI from your website or other digital platform is to include some sort of data capture mechanism. Your content and products can build an audience, but it’s data capture which helps transform them into customers. Whether through engaging blogs or enticing social media, your digital communications need to point the visitor towards some sort of relationship with your company.

The details of your viewers are powerful marketing tools: they’ve already proven their interest in your products and services, and by capturing their email address or other contact details you can sell direct to a self-qualifying market. This is the real role of
your content: to entertain and educate your audience, of course, but also to build a community around your company.

There are all sorts of ways and means of doing this. The easiest is a subscription newsletter, offering regular correspondence to your visitors in return for their email address. Competitions serve a similar function – providing something for free in return for contact details. Of course, Twitter and Facebook by their very nature offer direct marketing opportunities without the need for extra data capture – but, as any salesperson will tell you, more information is always useful!

There’s another level, however, and that’s to analyse the traffic to your website. Google Analytics provides a surprising depth of data for a free service, allowing you to analyse a variety of information about your visitors, from favoured web browser to country of origin.

There are paid services, meanwhile, which allow you to capture IP addresses and other details, however, and at Image+ we’re experts in obtaining and then enabling you to use that data to market directly to hot prospects. This method requires no form-filling by your visitors, no input of any kind other than simply visiting your website. That makes it an enormously powerful tool in your marketing arsenal.

In fact, we’ve been doing that ourselves just this week – so why not benefit from the lessons we’ve learned?

Why Web Design Is Like Parallel Parking

May 7th, 2013 in Bespoke, Design, Marketing Branding Design marketing SEO

James and I were over in Belfast last week meeting with a client. Instead of boring you with a field report, though, I thought you’d find this video more interesting. Filmed in Belfast, but nothing to do with us, we only watched it for the first time when we got back home. Put the kettle on, grab a tea or coffee, and settle in: this one takes a while.

You have to feel sorry for the poor woman (and let’s not make a point about her gender, lads – we’re all above that). She’s obviously just found herself in that zone where nothing you do quite works. We’ve all been there, and nothing’s worse than being watched while you’re in that kind of mood. It only makes things worse!

But you also have to kind of admire her. Not for her parking skills, maybe, but certainly for her persistence and refusal just to give up.

We were in Belfast about a website – of course. We build these things all day every day, for all kinds of different clients selling all sorts of different products to all kinds of different people. The one thing all these sites have in common, though, is the need to keep working on them. Whether it’s an e-commerce site or a blogging site, a straight brochure design or something more bespoke, there’s a simple rule of thumb that works for every site we build: keeping going back, don’t give up.

Sites are like anything else. The first draft might not work. You might put it up and not get the traffic you like. It might work brilliantly for a year or two and then suddenly no longer suit your business. The trick is to understand that a website is always a work in progress.

The powerful thing about the internet is that it’s always changing, constantly updated with the latest information. That means that your website should be tinkered with almost daily – and that it’s worth persevering to ensure you get things just right.

Growing your business and your website together doesn’t just make sense – it’s easy once you get the persistence bug. Change your colour scheme with each marketing campaign; tweak your copy so that search engines direct users to your site more regularly; tweak the design so that it looks its best on every platform. Keep going back, don’t give up.

So, like the lady parking that car, you should keep at it. The Image+ team promise not to turn up at your offices and make a YouTube video about it – but over the years we’ve become adept at helping ease your website into the right space.

Statistics and Sales: Getting the Most out of your Website

April 19th, 2013 in Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, Web analytics marketing SEO statistics

They say cliches only become so popular because they have a grain of truth. So while we like to avoid them in our marketing materials, there’s one old saying which we think has a lot to recommend it in marketing circles: practice makes perfect.

seve

I risk over-using a tired old saying because constantly monitoring your activity is the best way to ensure your return on investment is as high as it can possibly be. Like learning to play a musical instrument or improving your golf handicap, tailoring your website is an activity to undertake over time. Practice really does make perfect.

In the last few weeks, we’ve been focusing our attention on the Sleepeezee website, paying detailed attention to the statistics of each and every one of the site’s pages. By going back again and again to these pages and these statistics, we’ve been able to increase their hits by twenty-seven per cent. On our own site, the same attention to detail has seen our ‘bounce rate’ reduce from 63% to just 4%.

But what does all this mean in plain English? The ‘bounce rate’ is simply the percentage of visitors who enter a website and “bounce” (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site. A high bounce rate is bad news: it means people simply aren’t lingering for long on your pages, reducing your chances of converting eyeballs into paying customers. The only way to rectify this problem is to look closely at your pages, and figure out what it is about them that is failing to capture your visitors.

So practice makes perfect. At Image+, we capture, monitor and interpret the usage statistics of our client’s websites, and use this process to improve bounce rates. We can identify which of a site’s pages have the worst bounce rates, and analyse their content to ensure that it is more engaging; once we’ve tweaked that content, we can again monitor the page’s statistics to see the changes – and repeat the steps as many times as it takes to improve and perfect the way in which you site communicates with your potential customers.

This process really is essential if you are to get the most out of the website in which you’ve invested so much time and money. If you hardly ever pick up that guitar, or never manage to get any time on the course, you’re not going to become the next Jimi Hendrix or Seve Ballesteros; likewise, if you don’t pay detailed attention to your website, and spend time tailoring your pages on the basis of active and passive user feedback, your website won’t work for you as it should.

Put it this way: purging your sales copy of cliches is a great way of helping to keep your visitors’ attention; but in doing so you’re proving one of the oldest ones in the book. Practice makes perfect.