Sunday, June 28, 2015

Search Engine Marketing and Mega Trends

Has my company and our sites kept up or ahead of the megatrends over the last five years?

Here's my list of what happened and how we've done.  The focus of course is on the negative since I'm more interested in galvanizing ourselves to action than being self-congratulatory. I could have built a different list which included items that we've done very well on but that tends towards smugness. So my dear colleagues, don't take it personally, I know that we are doing great on many fronts.

1.  Link Value Changes. The shift it towards Google recognizing higher value from important links, less or even negative value from irrelevant and repetitive links.  Let me start by saying one could say that there are three category of links:
A.  Good links embedded in relevant content on authority sites: newspapers, government sites, and other Google-authority sites.
C.  Good links embedded in relevant content on relevant quality sites
F.  Cheap links in signatures and on sites that are not relevant. 

In 2010, I would say that the:
-  F links might have had a conceptual value of 1 good point,
- C links had a value of 10
- A links a value of 25.  
This means that authority links were maybe 25x more valuable back in 2010 than just a unique link from a unique domain.

Fast forward to 2015, I'd say that the value has changed so that:
F links are a negative 1.
C links are positive 1.
A links remain a positive 25 or 50.  

When we look at our incoming links to our premier site, we have long been dominated by C links and have never had a great strategy for getting A links.  This might account for our slippage in the engines.

Action: Time to commit time and resources to a link strategy for generating A links.
- State school choice websites?
- School district school choice websites?
- PR aimed at generating links etc

2.  Local.  Without going in deep, a large percentage of the top results are now driven by local.  We have not figured out how to drive this to our advantage despite being sold, used, and supported all over the country. Our local strategy on our premier site is limited to having info on each state which fails to enter the competition for local search results.

3.  Social.  We have an average social strategy but I don't that we've optmized it to reinforce our SEO strategy by getting vast discussions with our name in it or generating lots of deep links to our site. I also don't think that it does much in terms of driving lots of traffic the way that I've heard that others due.

4.  Statistics. Search driven stats have become progressively less useful for many reasons. One simple one is that the line has blurred between search and navigation. Specifically, I mean that many users and visitors now routinely use search to get to our site. It's simple to start typing our brand name into the address bar, let Google autocomplete with our name, click on the first search result, and come to our site. So what use to be counted as someone who came direct to our site is now reported in Analytics as search. The result is that it looks like many users who we use to report as direct visitors for conversions are now counted as search engine conversions.  Ideally, we should use a negative keyword strategy to take out every variation of our name from Analytics conversions data and add it back into direct conversions. Has anyone out there done that? Is there a script in Analytics for people to do this?  When I look at this to scope the problem, I see our name and variations on it as the top converting keyword for us so I'm guessing it's very significant. The bottom line is that while our search-driven conversion Analytics data continues to grow, it's misleading in that it does not indicate that our search engine strategy is working, it is distorted by the success of our long term branding strategy being reported as search. 

5. Site Speed. google has increasingly counted site speed as a criteria and with the switch to mobile, it's more important still. I don't know if this is a strength or weakness for us since there is no historical or competitive ongoing reporting in this area.

6. Site management of feeder sites. They've lost their advertising revenue stream. It's not clear to me if they've kept up their traffic year on year.

Organizationally, I think we're headed toward having a person responsible for each of:
- Email marketing, writing, analysis, and results
- SEO and link building: analysis and results
- Paid marketing: PPC, Retargetting, Programmatic Buying, Banners
- Website management: sales funnel mgt, landing page optimization
- social media: analysis and results....

Where we've done well....

1.   Focus only on Quality.  We never had a strategy or stumbled into generating lots of F level links.  We've never had to disavow or remove any links.
2.    Technical marketing.  We are pretty good at reading Webmaster tools data and keeping our site maps and navigation easy and good.  Our basic workplan is good of grouping relevant content in the navigation and completing each page and menu with lots of custom title and alt tags, meta tags, and relevant descriptions and titles.
3.    Responsive.  We beat the deadline for 90% of our important stuff.  Quality work. 
4.   Unique valuable interesting relevant content. The heart of our strategy has been to focus on high quality ideas and writing for our website content. This is an ongoing challenge to understand our big ideas, articulate them in ways that appeal both to our audience including the arachnids. BTW, if you haven't read the classic article of Writing for the Web and Three Audiences, you should. Of course, it now needs an update with the 4th audience being the social media world.
5.   Updating outdated technology and systems.  Unified our email lists etc.
6. Focusing on users and topics in our wriitng, not on keywords.
7.  Thinking big. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Design Process & Software Tools: Photoshop vs Wireframing

I've been involved in designing web sites and pages for a decade now and I've noticed several distinct development paths for web sites or webpages.

 In one, a designer starts with a photoshop rendition of the final version. The layout, graphics, colors, fonts, and then the messages are all worked out up front. Then, the Photoshop image is chopped up into little pieces and some graphics and all the fonts are recreated in HTML.

In the other, a site is first wireframed which is essentially an outline of what the site or page layout will look like. Then it's filled in step by step adding the graphics, fonts, and so on with each addition being a step in the sign off process.  I've found that with this process, there are sometimes "sign-offs", sometimes by me on design made in the early phase which have to be rescinded when I realize what that actually means once we try to fit our messages or key graphics into place.

A third path is do the site in a tool like powerpoint or Google slides so that a non technical person can change the design. This process is often used to kick off the photoshop process or to discuss alternatives in the other process.

Any thoughts on this?

Here's some tools used for the wireframing and prototyping process.

Wireframe - Balsamiq
Colored Mockup - Fireworks 
Simulation of some of the interactivity - Invision,
Full simulation:
 - Bootstrap which has the benefit of generating a real prototype with HTML & CSS,
- Sublime which has the benefit of generating a real prototype with HTML & CSS,

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Gmail and Chrome Identities - What's the relationship?

I have just gotten use to having all my Google identities merged whether I like it or not. My gmail, Google Docs, analytics, Youtube, blogger, adsense, adwords, and Double-click identities are all merged.  I have even accepted the loss of my old favorite homepage, by Google homepage by now keeping bookmarks on my Chromebrowser and a backup copy in a google doc.

But I'm now confused by a new pair of related but distinct Google-owned identities:  Chrome and Gmail.   Sometimes, I'm on a computer and all my bookmarks are there in the Chrome browser. Sometime they are not, I've never really figured out why or how.

Now I have a real problem that I'm trying to figure out.

I was traveling and used Gmail on a borrowed computer. I even carefully copy-pasted in parts of my password to protect against potential keyboard recorders. After I logged out, my email account remains on the Chrome browser that I used which is annoying but not much of a problem. But, somehow, all my Chrome bookmarks remain on the browser. Since I have some confidential URLs that are the management tools for some of my sites, I'd like to remove them but I can't see how.

1. Can anyone explain how logging in with my Google account automatically brought my Chrome bookmarks onto the borrowed computer?  Or, did I do something that I don't remember.

2.  How do I remove a Chrome profile from a computer. It's the Chrome browser on a Mac.