Spend enough time wading through spam emails and you’ll be amazed at what you find. From dodgy salutations to cringe-worthy formatting, on a very slow day this makes for a good few minutes of entertainment.
Here are some of the most ‘creepy’ elements of bad email-ship:
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
This is usually an attempt at making a company look uber-friendly, since the emails they send you are formatted like a buddy would send them.
The downside is that sometimes we sign up with nick-names, tags or misspellings which can quickly turn a harmless greeting into a spammy annoyance. Seeing “Happy Birthday JaneDoe101!” or “JaneDoe101 we miss you!” littering up your mailbox is usually the first step on the way to an unsubscribe!
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
“Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom this may concern” are clear-cut indicators of cold calling (or cold mailing) – sure they’re gender neutral but boy are they impersonal. They scream “Someone, anyone – please read me!” rather than seeming relevant to the recipient.
Too many imperatives
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
It’s true that the call-to action is a huge part of the science behind a smooth conversion, so putting in punchy phrases like “click here!” and “buy now!” seem standard procedure, but there is such a thing of over-doing it.
Ultimately, I don’t want bossy emails, and legally anything being sold is an ‘invitation to treat’ so in your next sales email, try the passive approach with an A/B test to see what gains a better reaction.
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
It’s been a while and there’s a lot to say, but how long do you think I’ve got? People are time conscious, say less!
If you need to explain something a nifty way of doing so is by linking back to a blog post published on your website. Not only is this considerate of your customers, it’s also potential for indirect conversions; they may just browse other parts of your website…
And in taking my own advice, I’ll keep this short and sweet – but feel free to add any other examples you can think of in our vowel to make electronic mail, sustainable!
Online trading is a fast paced world. Whether it be in stock and shares, grants for start-ups or otherwise, there aren’t many examples to date that show the benefits of waiting around.
Let’s look at some examples of once leading technologies, that have recently or notably had to resort to publicising selling shares, or changing hands to stay (or become) relevant; which of these companies/ventures/subsidiaries do you still associate with “cool“?:
Known originally for: Pioneering the discovery of new music online…
Now thought of as: A dated money leaking endeavour that has passed hands more than a hot potato.
Known originally for: The only key to dial up internet…
Now thought of as: American acronym that we see online from time to time, mostly trying to be spammed-in as the default homepage for your browser when downloading freeware.
Known originally for: Groundbreaking search engine and most famous Google competitor…
Now thought of as: Fairly annoyingly designed interface that we’re surprised is still around.
Known originally for: Quirky news discovery site…
Now thought of as: Recently sold to a company for $500, 000 (much less that it was once worth ($175, 000, 000)
Known originally for: The new zeitgeist and awesome brainchild of cool-techie Mark Zuckerburg…
Now thought of as: Slightly spammy/stalky connect-service offering the chance to re-establish relasionships with distant relatives & old “friends”
Known originally for: Newbie picture service that made Twitter pics look really cool…
Now thought of as: Lovely money-maker for start-up entrapeneur Kevin Systrom (he knew when to sell)
Known originally for: Having a great customizable email service that tied closely to MSN messeger and then windows live…
Now thought of as: Uber-spammy email service that looks outdated & unsure of its design.
Known originally for: Creating the Blackberry; a respectable device for business-people…
Now thought of as: Annoying pingy device taken over by tweens and teeny-boppers who got excited about its messaging service, which is essentially not far from a text message.
Known originally for: Competing with the big boys and girls (basically Google) and doing that respectably…
Now thought of as: A failed Microsoft endeavour, that was close – but no cigar…
Known originally for: Clever algorithms that tailored music choices to the listener based on entering a few personalised details…
Now thought of as: Recently hacked music service that was long out-thought by competitors (Pandora, Spotify and iTunes’ “Ping“)
Known originally for: Pioneering photo technology as we knew it and introducing a sense of class to both the disposable and polaroid camera…
Now thought of as: A once amazing company that failed to follow technology into the world of digital and subsequently faced insolvency.
Don’t get left behind…
…a wheelbarrow in an open field that you drag along every day filling it with this and that – each thing you add to it has some significance and some use.
Now imagine you never empty the wheelbarrow. Each day, not only do the things you found the week before now lie at the bottom covered by the newest additions, but the device also becomes increasingly heavy to pull until eventually, it becomes almost impossible.
Now think of the wheelbarrow as your website, and think of its contents as the factors affecting its speed – Let’s explore these factors…
- Empty spaces between code (This only adds to processing time)
- Missing tags (Causing internal errors & bugs in the site)
- Bulky HTML (such as using unnecessary tags where something more CSS compatible would work better e.g. using the tag “font-size” rather than just “small”)
- Background colour being the same as text colour (making all text unreadable)
- Hyperlinks that fail (Devaluing your site in terms of credibility, and possibly increasing bounce rates)
- Missing images
An overload of HTTP requests:
Whenever your web browser fetches a file from a web server, for example when it loads a picture, it does this by using HTTP which stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol”.
HTTP is an action whereby you’re computer requests for a particular file. One example is a request for ‘home.html‘ (the homepage of a particular website). The web server then sends a response to the computer that says something like: “Here’s the file you asked for” which is followed by the actual file itself.
Understandably, if your server is receiving a very high volume of requests for a range of different things, such as pictures, graphics, photographs, music players and video rendering, it can take its toll and end up really slowing your website down.
Too many cookies:
HTTP Cookies are used mainly for personalization and authentication purposes. A series of saved information is exchanged between the web server and the browser in order to remember things about how you are using the internet. For example if you are shopping online and exit the website returning at a later date, a cookie will enable the site to remember what you had in your shopping cart so you don’t have to spend time finding the same items again.
Web hosting is the business of providing storage space and access for websites. Bad web hosting happens when said storage space is overloaded with many websites, yours is added to the list and so runs slow. Other issues caused by a bad web host include:
- Search engines being unable to crawl your site resulting in a fall in Search Rank
- Your website being “down” (not working, sending out 404-errors)
- Not being able to contact your web host to fix the issue (since the service is so bad the system has probably crashed)
Excess of external media:
Embedded YouTube videos, actually embedded anything that is coming from another website can potentially slow yours down. When you embed something from another site, you are relying on that sites web server, that sites speed, and that sites ability to ensure the embedded item is working properly there, so that it works properly on yours site. Often, even when it works just fine, it might add an extra few seconds to a certain page loading…a few seconds a potential customer may be unwilling to wait!
Spam is so much more than just a bunch of annoying emails. It slows down the Internet and it increases consumer fees.
The internet is a network where spamming effects everyone that uses it. To push spam around the internet relies on a process; it begins with global networks that pass the spam along to their destination, and ends with the message being received by the recipient.
Simultaneously, time, money and resources are used trying to catch and prevent spammers from infiltrating mail servers resulting in higher costs to the consumer because providers are forced to add more security to their servers and hire more staff to manage and prevent the problem.
Be sure to spam proof all web forms by adding “captchas” or similar.
A ‘favicon’ is an image (as shown above) that stays in the root of your server. It’s definitely needed because even if you don’t care about them, the browser still requests one. If there isn’t one, it will respond with a 404 error (meaning not found). Any error message, such as a 404 or 301, is an extra message sent that adds time to the processing of a site.
This image or lack thereof, interferes with the processing sequence by requesting extra components in the load, and since the favicon is the first thing that is downloaded before these extra components, if there isn’t one, the first thing downloaded will be an error.
Too many advertisements:
Any time a site uses advertisements, you are adding to other processes a site goes through in order to function correctly. Programmes like Google Adsense and Microsoft adcenter are external, and reputable, however it is logical to practice the same rules as with external media; everything in moderation – besides, sites with too many ads look un”site”ly!
If any of these apply to you, take active steps to protect your website against sloth! Speed be with you!
September 13th, 2009.
At business school I was taught the way to make money was to make our assets sweat. I think they meant to get the most out of everything you owned and to make sure it was being worked night and day to maximum effect. And so at Datadial we try to do the same for our clients’ websites by making sure that they are focused on developing websites that maximise sales levels by being search engine friendly and that convert users in to buyers.
The usual reaction in squeezing more out of a website is to rush into a redevelopment exercise. Redeveloping a website is expensive that is often undertaken on a whim and without real research into what is working and what is not on the current website. Indeed it’s often the case that the current site is perfectly capable of delivering many more sales and that it just needs refining to improve the user experience.
This doesn’t need to be an expensive exercise. The key to successful marketing is to consistently test and measure everything that you do. Delivering fantastic conversion figures is within reach for us all, no matter how small the budget.
Here are four ways that we have carried out for some of our clients to help increase their onsite conversions at virtually no cost.
1) Online surveys
What better way to really understand your customers than to ask them for direct feedback?Â What is it that makes them want to buy from you rather than your competitors?Â How did they hear about you?
Carrying out market research will enable you to build on what you’re doing well and make any necessary adjustments and help you to grow. You will be surprised by how many people are willing to take the time to reply to surveys.
We recently did a survey for one of our clients Design911.co.uk which gave vital insight into user behaviour. Coupled with Click Tracking report (see below) Design911 have been able to fine tune their website to respond to users’ expectations and behaviour.
Below is a sample of the survey results that were produced.
2) Mouse tracking -
Why do other sites make it so difficult to buy anything from them? We’ve all experienced a confusing website at one point or another. But could your site also be suffering from usability issues? Find out where the sticking points are with Mouse tracking.
You may also find that users are trying to click on things on your site that are not designed to be clicked on. We found this with Design911:
With design 911 we found that that very few people clicked on the middle of the page and that lots of users tried clicking on ads on the right handside of the page which were not actually clickable. We found too that the search box was being under used as it was below the page fold and that users were taking at least 60 seconds to make a click on key navigation items.
3) Study your analytics
It’s all too tempting to gloss over your analytics reports – these reports contain vital information which reveal where users are getting stuck, turned on or turned off. Seems obvious to say it but unless you take the time to check what is going on on your siteÂ you will never be able to intelligently amend your site and measure the effect of your changes.
There is a mass of information to look at but here are 3 basic things to do
Check Bounce Rates: Bounce rates tell you if a visitor who has been directed to your site via a search engine or Adwords likes what they have found. If they leave the site immediately this is called a bounce. If this happens you need to question if you are showing the right products for the keyword search and if you could provide better information, or if they had come via Adwords, are your Adwords set up correctly.
Funnels: You can set up funnels to determine where people are dropping off over a series of pages (typically the shopping cart process). Different funnels can be set up for different goals.
Compare to previous periods: There are a number of trends such as time on site, the number of keywords that you are being found for, the number of pages per visit that are good to compare from onen time period to another so that you detect trends.
4) A/B Testing
Having pawed over your analytics you can then start making intelligent changes to your site. How will you make more people fill in your enquiry form? How can you get them to add one more thing to their basket. Take a look at the forms below and guess which one had the higher conversion rate.
This company carried out A/B testing on their sign up form and increased their conversion rate by 10%.
This is called A/B testing or Multivariate testing which we use to determine which images, copy and design most appeal to your customers and which version increases conversion.Â You can have as many or as few variables as you like when creating your A/B testing. Ideally you would set it up to automatically serve different versions of the page to alternate users but to save money you can do it on a week on/week off basis.
We helped Conference Genie increase conversions on their site by altering the sign up process. Interestingly we did it by making their site more complicated.
Weirdly the problem on this site was that it was too easy to use. Users could not believe that they could just dial a default number, punch in a code and start a conference call. So we made the site appear to generate a specific telephone number and a unique code for them. Turning a one step process into a two step process actually increased conversions.
Making small changes instead of wholesale changes was also recently backed by Peter Fitzgerald, who leads Google UK’s retail industry division. He said that the whole area of analytics – that’s technical jargon for examining the ways that people navigate websites when they shop online – has taken on new importance to retailers.
Simple changes can make the world of difference, particularly since statistics show that 50.1% of online shoppers who place items in their shopping carts still do not buy them.
By subtly altering a website’s layout based on how people use it, websites can increase sales significantly.
“There is often a lot of unimportant information on the top of a web page. If you move this information out of the way it can make a huge difference,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
For example when Comet, the electricals retailer owned by Kesa, the listed stores group, removed two bits of text from the top of its web page (saying ‘top checkout tips’ and ‘you’re safe with us’ respectively), its conversion rates increased by 6.7pc. “Online retailers are spending more time on analytics to see where things are going wrong,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
Department store group Debenhams recently tested the message and positioning of an online sign-up form for its Beauty Club. Improvements to it increased the number of customers the chain signed up by over 89pc. Little such tweaks are being made by online retailers as a means of gaining incremental sales. Experts say that the results of the small changes can be seen almost immediately.
Google’s Mr Brittin said: “By interpreting analytics data and continually testing their sites, retailers can really understand what consumers are looking for online. Often very small and seemingly obvious tweaks can boost sales significantly.”
All of the above exercises can be implemented fairly quickly and inexpensively. However, don’t underestimate the time you need to truly get to grips with your findings.
By constantly analysing the results and carrying out appropriate changes you will be able to squeeze every last conversion out of your site without incurring expensive redevelopment costs.
March 17th, 2009.
Yesterday I tried something new as part of my attempt to release creativity by stepping away from computers. I recycled old printed designs by cutting out the elements, so that the client and I could drag around the pieces to get a layout working.
Initially it was quite amusing – designing a high-spec ecomm website with bits of paper, scissors and a glue stick! But it really worked. We were able to get the page laid out very quickly, interact with it, drag bits around and play with spacing collaboratively – without touching a computer.
I have been finding pencil sketches working well too, but this just took it an extra step as we could so easily drag bits around without having to erase pencil lines to make a change.
Grid style product layouts are now the norm and dare I say it, a little bit dull.Â And just as you are congratulating yourselves on getting all your ducks in a row, as it were, the big players are moving on and showing some more innovative ways of displaying products.
Again Zappos lead the way with their Zappos Product Explore – click on a product you like such as a Red Stiletto, you are then shown 54 similar products in a matrix. Horizontally you see products that are similar in style (more high heels in other colours). Vertically you see products in the same colour (red sandals).”
Compare this with Clarks new website which though quite good, (especially on customer service) pales in comparison to its US rival with regards innovative product display.
Check out also some other retailers daring to try something a little bit different.
Amazon WindowShop – turn onÂ your speakers!
Apple iTunes Cover Flow
February 2nd, 2009.
Before you can make decisions such as keyword targeting and page optimisation, it is first important to understand the search buying cycle and how this can impact on your keyword queries and landing pages.
During the sales process there are several possible points of contact for the seller to influence the buyer. Everything from casual interest at the top of the funnel, though evaluation/research/comparison, and hopefully all the way to sale/commitment and possible referral.
The ability to understand this process is vital to an online marketing campaign, not just during the SEO process, but it should also impact on the website structure and build.
The Buying Cycle
Firstly think about how you yourself might behave online when you’re researching buying a product.
Taking a typical online purchase for something like a television. You might start with a search query for a very general phrase like TV or television. You’ll see that there are several irrelevant results for our purpose such as the BBC and ITV results, but using the informational properties such as Wikipedia, or the Google shopping results you may then make a decision that you’re looking for a plasma TV rather than an LCD TV.
Of course you may also decide to visit one of the commercial websites listed for these queries, or buy from the PPC listings, but it’s more likely you’ll want to research a bit more first.
Next you’ll probably search for Plasma TV, this is looking a bit more promising, there are several relevant shopping results some reviews websites and a few more relevant commercial sites appearing. After reading a few of the sites you decide that the Panasonic 50PZ800B looks fairly impressive and you want to find out a bit more about it.
It’s about now that you feel you’re happy with your choice, you’ve compared it against other makes and models, you’re happy that it’s what you’re looking for and you want to go ahead and purchase.
Points to note…..
- A typical online sale is unlikely to result from one specific query, but is made up of several queries
- Some studies have shown up to 12 separate searches may be made before a purchase
- This process may take several days or even weeks
- At any point in this cycle the customer may decide to buy
- The process may crossover several mediums, the eventual sale may come from a phone call or a shop purchase
- The further into the cycle the higher the chance of a purchase
- The further into the cycle the lower the number of searchers
So how does this affect your actions when it comes to building and marketing your website?
Firstly you need to ensure that you’re targeting a range of search phrases that cover the entire sales process. If you’re only targeting the more general phrases such as TV and television then you’re probably missing some low hanging fruit in terms of the sales trigger phrases such as buy and cheap. Similarly if you’re only targeting the specific phrases then you’re also missing a lot of traffic that can be converted into sales.
Bearing the sales process in mind when building and organising your site can have a dramatic effect on sales and conversions.
Treat your site hierarchy as a representation of the sales process. Undecided visitors making generic searches need to be sent to the homepage where then you can influence their decision and funnel them further into your site using tools like buyers guides and FAQs or offers and other calls to action.
Visitors making more specific searches should be sent to relevant category or sub-category pages.
Product specific searches should of course be sent to the product page. Minimising the number of clicks that the visitor needs to make before buying will have a dramatic impact on search engine visitor conversion rates.
Although all of this sounds obvious, I constantly lose count of sites that try to optimise their homepage for as many phrases as possible when there are far more suitable landing locations on internal pages.
October 21st, 2008.
Please excuse the following rant but I’m increasingly frustrated, bored, let down, despairing, incredulous that there are still “graphic designers” out there who have no concept of how to design for the web, but who insist on designing websites for their clients
It’s fine if they stick to Quark and what they are good at, and all credit to them, butÂ for some reason they think they have carteÂ blanche to roam into areas which are not their concern.
For example, let’s say that you wanted to design a new boat.Â Who would you go to first?Â Would you go to a designer of aeroplanes?Â No, you would seek out people who have experience in boat design, because what you want is a boat,Â and you need someone whoÂ understands nautical things like waves, water, ballast,Â the pros and cons of different hull shapes,Â propellars, and the like.Â Would you really want to go to sea in a craft designed by a designer ofÂ aeroplanes? I think not.
Do you work for a web design agency?Â Does this happen to you that clients get their so called “brand” guardian to do the web designÂ or the guy who did their brochureÂ and aks you to implement it as a web site.
And is it just us or do you receive a complete load of tosh thatÂ disobeys practically every law of web accessibility, search engine friendliness, usability, extensibility and future proofing, font usage and image sizing hell?
What planet to these people live on?Â Why don’t they put up their hands to their clients and say we can give guidance on the design but we are graphic designers for print and you need a professional web designer who can take into account the requirements of the web.Â Because they work in the web every day they will know what is the right way and what is the wrong way to do things.Â Do web designers try to do design brochures?
I won’t get started on programmers who think that they are web designers as I’m far too angry.Â Just for the record, in case you are a print designer and you are still wondering where you went wrong here are few tips:
- Decide the width of your design and what happens to the site when viewed on different size monitors
- Think about usability and consider tried and tested conventions.Â No need to think of your own “unique” style of navigation.Â There’s a reason for some of the conventions.
- Think about search engine friendliness.Â Not enough space here to explain but be aware that 60-80% of traffic and sales on most e-comms might come from search engines.
- A little flash can be nice, it can look good. A whole site built solely is flash is pointless – just drop it.Â Nobody is interested in seeing your logo sliding in and out.
- Think what happens in the future.Â What happens if more menu items, or product lines are added.
- Think about who will administer the site and how many image sizes you really need.Â It’s a pain creating 4 different size images for each new product, (although yes there are ways round this programmatically).
- Splash pages – why? What are they there for? Why do you feel the need to make people click an extra time to get to where they are going?
- Consider the online audience – they do not know your company probably so help them help you by giving as much information about yourself and don’t try to be so cool that they have to be Sherlock Holmes to find out what you do.
Thanks for reading, I feel better now
Spending time looking critically at websites day in and day out, you begin to notice common themes emerging in terms of the mistakes that are made by site owners and we developers. Here are a few of the most common, and what you can do to avoid them.
Many people don’t realise that to target UK customers, then Google must recognise that your website is based in the UK. If you’re using a .co.uk domain then you’re almost certainly fine. If you’re using a generic domain such as a .com or .net then you must ensure that your hosting is UK based rather than in the US or Germany as happens often.
Additional domains don’t mean additional traffic. Having 10 domains doesn’t mean you get 10 times the visitors or sales as you would expect with one site. In fact by dividing your marketing techniques over 10 sites rather than one, you’re probably diluting your efforts and actually reducing the potential traffic you’re receiving. Ensure any additional domains that you own are ’301 redirected’ into your main domain to rectify this.
Failing To Optimise Internal pages
If only the homepage of your website is optimised for your keywords then you’ll be missing out on a huge proportion of your potential traffic. Each and every page on the site should be optimised for its own specific keywords.