Archive for ‘General Marketing’

April 6th, 2014

I Was Shocked When I Learned About This Fatal Flaw in WordPress Websites

Wordpress Logo

Before I let you know what stunned me about WordPress websites, let me provide a little background.

The 60 Second Marketer uses a customized approach for the back-end of our website. By that, I mean we use Freeway Pro to design many of the pages on the site, then we use WordPress as the platform for the blog portion of the site. This approach for our website has worked for us for quite some time.

When someone visits our website from a smartphone, they’re redirected to a mobile version of our site, which can be seen here. This is  an adaptive version of our site (as opposed to a responsive version).

Image of adaptive mobile site

Adaptive versions of websites use sniffer code to re-direct smartphone visitors to pages designed specifically for smartphones. In other words, there’s a line of code at the head of the website that sniffs out whether someone is visiting from a desktop or a smartphone. If they’re visiting from a smartphone, they’re re-directed to a mobile page on website (often designated by an m. subdomain, as in m.60SecondMarketer.com).

(If you’re interested in using sniffer code to re-direct people to a mobile version of your site, you can read this blog post on the 60 Second Marketer blog).

Responsive versions of websites serve up web pages based on whether someone is visiting from a desktop, a tablet or a smartphone. In other words, they respond to the size of the screen the site is being viewed from and then change the layout based on that information. Most people use responsive designs for their websites, but there’s a fatal flaw if you’re using WordPress.

What’s the Big Problem with WordPress Responsive Themes?

The problem with WordPress responsive themes is that most of them simply re-package all of your content into one long, cumbersome mobile page. In other words, they take all of the existing content and simply lay it out vertically onto one super-long page. This means your mobile visitor, who is looking for short and specific information, is served up a big, clunky web page that gives them too much information. (Special shout out to Desiree Scales, CEO of Bella Web Design who helped clarify a few questions I had about this issue with WordPress themes.)

This approach ignores the fact that your mobile visitor doesn’t want a ton of copy. In fact, because they’re typically visiting your site when they’re at walking through a mall, at a coffee shop, at a stoplight or in a parking lot, they’re interested in just the essential information.

Here’s how I addressed this issue in Go Mobile, the book I co-authored with Jeanne Hopkins:

The first step to developing a mobile website is to get inside the mind of your customer. When you step outside yourself and go inside the mind of your customers, you begin to see things from their perspective.

Typically, given the medium, your mobile website will be more streamlined than your corporate website. People who will be visiting your mobile site are themselves mobile, and they have a very specific set of needs—none of which include the desire to read a lot of extraneous information. Thus, you can do without company press releases, employee bios, case studies, company philosophy, and photos of your employee holiday party.

So, in the end, most responsive WordPress themes don’t take context into consideration when they serve your website up to your visitors. In other words, they ignore the fact that most visitors don’t want a ton of information when they’re visiting your site from a smartphone. This is a fundamental flaw in the way WordPress themes currently work.

How Can You Solve This Significant Flaw?

Here are some steps you can take to adjust and fix this issue:

  1. Try to find a responsive WordPress theme that adjusts the amount of copy based on the size of the screen. So far, I haven’t been able to find a WordPress theme that does this, but maybe a member of our community knows of one. (If so, please make a comment below.)
  2. Alternatively, create an adaptive site by adding re-direct code: Ask your web designer to install a browser re-direct feature onto your website the way we’ve done with the 60 Second Marketer website. That’s a line of code that “sniffs” out whether your visitor is coming from a large regular browser or a smaller mobile browser. With a browser re-direct feature, your website will be able to re-direct mobile users to the pages on your website that were set up to be viewed in a mobile browser. (You’ll find the line of code to accomplish this by clicking here.)
  3. Redesign key pages: In most cases, you’ll want your mobile website to be a smaller version of your regular website. After all, visitors are typically looking for a few key pieces of information — directions to your store, information about your services, special offers, etc. In our case, we set up the 60 Second Marketer iPhone website with 6 key pages — Videos, Blog, About Us, Work with Us, Call Us and Speaking.
  4. Follow best practices: Here are three key tips to make your re-designed mobile web pages the best they can be: 1) Reduce the amount of content — mobile visitors want essential information about your products or services, not in-depth information, 2) Make it thumb-friendly — mobile visitors are often in a parking lot, a coffee shop or at a stop light, so keep navigation simple, 3) Take context into consideration — mobile visitors only want the key facts. Will your mobile visitors be looking for directions? For hours of operation? For a click-to-call button? Think this through as you re-design your mobile site.

In the end, if you’re a small business that handles its site in-house via WordPress, you may be stuck with this less-than-optimal WordPress responsive theme approach. If you’re a mid- to large-sized business, you’ll want to ask your agency or web design firm to fix this issue for you. After all, there’s no point in having a mobile website if it doesn’t take context into consideration.

Image of Best Practices

 

Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, a marketing communications agency that works with national and international brands. He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.

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Archive for ‘General Marketing’

March 24th, 2014

How Amazon Increased Sales 29% Using One Important New Technology

ArrowSelect

Recommendation engines have had an enormous, and paradoxically invisible, influence on the typical consumer. Today’s consumers buy products recommended by Amazon, watch movies recommended by Netflix, and listen to music recommended by Pandora. They read Facebook posts organized according to its internal recommendation engine, and they visit restaurants recommended by Foursquare. Even the ads they see are recommended based on their previous online behavior.

Without question, recommendations can boost profits for some companies. After heavily incorporating its recommendation engine, Amazon saw sales increase by 29 percent.

But recommendation engines typically require massive computing resources, and they don’t necessarily pay for themselves. Worse, many of them don’t actually work very well, and can even leave consumers baffled or amused… in a bad way.

The reason for this is that recommendation engines are trying to solve a very complicated problem with limited data. The reality of the situation is that the best way to resolve this probably isn’t with better algorithms. Instead, it might be better to simplify the problem itself.

The Absurdity of the Perfect Prediction Engine

 

Recommendation Engine 2
Image Credit: Flickr User Mel Silvers

Recommendation engines exist to connect users with options better than something designed for a generic audience. That’s it. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly common to expect recommendation engines to act as a go-to source of information, as though an app could really recommend a better restaurant than a chef.

This problem is virtually difficult to solve. To put a user in touch with the ideal solution to their problem based on dozens of data points or fewer is a statistical impossibility.

Every data scientist knows this. And yet apps, e-commerce sites, and start-ups are launching, betting on the promise that a recommendation engine will act as their selling point. A few companies have the right idea. The rest are missing the mark entirely, because they:

  • Have a relatively small number of recommendations to choose from anyway, rendering the engine effectively pointless.
  • Have a relatively small user base, making it difficult to draw any correlations between their behavior.
  • Have a relatively small number of interactions with each user, making it difficult to segment their users in any meaningful sense.

The idea that these businesses can simply insert their database into a machine learning algorithm, crunch it, and output good recommendations for their users, regardless of the variables, is out of touch with reality.

Is there a better way?

Embracing the Simple Recommendation

The core problem with most recommendation engines is twofold:

  • They make too many recommendations, and they do it too often
  • They attempt to make recommendations that are simply too specific based on the      available data

Let’s start with that first problem.

Too Many Recommendations, Too Often

Recommendation Engine 3
Image Credit: Flickr User Chris Devers

In 1995, Sheena Iyengar, a professor of business at Columbia University, conducted a landmark study into the effect of options on choice. The researchers set up a jam booth at a gourmet store. Every few hours, they switched between a booth with 24 jams and a booth with only 6 jams.

They study discovered that while more people were drawn to the bigger assortment of jams, more people actually bought jam if they saw the smaller assortment.

If your recommendation engine offers too many recommendations, it might paralyze your users into indecision.

Don’t get me wrong: users might like having a large number of options when they visit your site and shop around. Variety might be the thing that draws them to your site. But when you make a recommendation, offering too many options is counterproductive. If a customer asks a waiter for their recommendation, they don’t want to hear twelve options. That’s what the menu is for. A customer who wants a recommendation wants to hear one or two options, maybe 3.

Offering too many recommendations has another downside. It reduces the perceived quality of the recommendations.

In 2005, researcher Kim weaver investigated exactly this problem [PDF link]. A hundred participants were split into “evaluators” and “presenters.” The presenters were supposed to compile a resume of their best work by sharing 1, 2, or 3 publications.

While only 10 percent of the presenters opted to share only their single best work, the evaluators rated these portfolios highest.

In other words, while we tend to think that we will give ourselves the best chance if we make the most recommendations, the opposite is the truth. Consumers will tend to be more pleased with the recommendations if we share only the best option.

Likewise, most recommendation engines tend to offer suggestions too often, when they don’t make sense, and when they aren’t particularly useful.

Put simply, there isn’t always enough data to make a good recommendation. If our sites are designed to offer recommendations regardless of the quality of the data, users will become accustomed to receiving lackluster recommendations. This leads to ad blindness. Users will simply ignore the recommendations and fail to see the good ones when the right data is available.

A smarter engine will avoid sharing any suggestions until a statistically significant result is available.

Jumping the Gun: Specificity without Data

Recommendation Engine 4
Image Credit: Flickr User Lena

Most recommendations are simply too personalized.

That statement might sound heretical, but it’s true. Amazon often jumps the gun and makes recommendations based on products that you’ve seen, even if you didn’t make a purchase. Facebook tends to show you posts only from people that you’ve interacted with, despite the fact that you only interact with the people that you see to begin with.

All algorithms have faults, and we routinely forgive Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook for their imperfect suggestions. But you have to remember that these companies also have massive datasets to work with. If you used the same algorithm on your very limited dataset, your recommendations would almost certainly be terrible.

The reality of the situation is that most of these algorithms place too much emphasis on personalization, and not enough on conversion rates. For larger companies, the approach almost certainly boosts overall conversions. But for small companies, with insufficient data, the predictions overreach and underperform.

With limited data, it’s almost certainly a better idea to go with a less sophisticated algorithm.

Here are a few ideas worth considering when your datasets are limited:

  • If you have a limited number of products to begin with, a manually coded, flowchart-based algorithm is probably going to outperform anything a machine learning algorithm can come up with, especially if your number of customers and actions is limited. It might even be less expensive to freelance it out, and manage the project with a tool like WorkZone.
  • Even with relatively large datasets, an algorithm based on carefully designed regression analysis is probably going to do better than a machine learning algorithm. Most machine learning algorithms need to make mistakes in order to improve, and there’s no reliable way to train them on anything other than a real set of customers. Small businesses will likely hurt their      reputation more than they will help their sales if they use machine learning early on.
  • Recommendations based on direct input from the user will almost certainly be better than recommendations based on their behavior, especially if you don’t have sales data to work with. By recommending items with high conversion rates in      categories that users have self-selected, you are not only likely to get a sale, you’re also less likely to creep customers out by monitoring their behavior. Of course, asking customers to fill out preferences before a sale is probably a bad  idea, since it can make the purchase process more painful.

To Wrap Up

Advanced recommendation engines are great for big companies with product diversity and large datasets, but these same engines will almost always overreach when used by smaller businesses. If you think a recommendation engine will enhance your unique selling proposition, it’s probably best to keep things simple by:

  • Not overwhelming the user, and offering only a few high quality suggestions
  • Offering  suggestions only when statistically significant results are available
  • Using simpler algorithms, possibly manually coded, with tried and true systems like regression analysis
  • Considering the use of direct user input

Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts on recommendation engines, and how small businesses should approach them?

Rohan Ayyar works for E2M, a premium digital marketing firm specializing in content strategy, web analytics and conversion rate optimization for startups. His posts are featured on major online marketing blogs such as Moz, Search Engine Journal and Social Media Today. Rohan hangs out round the clock on Twitter @searchrook – hit him up any time for a quick chat.

 

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Archive for ‘General Marketing’

March 19th, 2014

The 5 Best Google Marketing Tools You Didn’t Know Existed

SocialWork

A short while back Mashable published a great piece on Google tools that people probably didn’t know existed.  As we were going through the list, we found many helpful tools that could be of great use to marketers in particular.

While Google Trends already seems to be a favorite among marketers, we’ve listed 5 more tools and resources that Google offers that will help you get more out of your marketing experience.

Google Correlate

Google Correlate Screen Shot 2

Google Correlate, a part of Google Trends, goes further than showing the ups and downs in people’s interest toward a given topic by enabling you to see correlation data by time and geographic location.

Once you’ve logged into the tool you can upload your own data set to view any correlations. This is especially useful if you want to see whether searches for your product were higher while you were running a particular campaign for that product.

The tool is essentially Google Trends reversed. With Google Trends, you put in a search term to reveal how it has performed over time. Correlate, on the other hand, allows you to find searches that were similar to the data series (either a time frame or state-by-state comparison) entered into it.

Don’t have a data series to enter into the program? Just by drawing a graph using the “Search by Drawing Function,” you get a list of search queries that match. You can check out our creation above!

Google Think Insights

Google Think Insights

Google Think Insights offers marketers a wealth of resources on consumer trends, key statistics, industry research, and marketing insights.

Whether you’re looking for a report on LG’s Smart Banner ads, interested in an article that explores the relationship between engaging content and brand perception, or looking for an in-depth research study on driving donations digitally, it’s all in there.

Unlike Google’s other tools, Think Insights presents data in a very accessible and visually appealing way.

The best part about this tool is that it allows marketers to search for insights according to industry, marketing objectives, ad and content type, and by region to get information that is most relevant to you. The ease of use combined with the wealth of information Google has access to, makes this a very valuable tool for all marketers.

Google Public Data Explorer

Google Public Data Explorer Screen Shot

Google’s Public Data Explorer allows you to easily explore a number of international databases and makes it extremely simple to visualize uncovered data and to communicate your findings with others. This tool is a great starting point for researching new markets and conducting demographic research.  It enables you to easily examine any publicly released information about unemployment rates, census data, and spending trends and presents the data in a visual graph.

This is a great tool for exploratory and in depth research alike. Whether you’re interested in the finding out how the United Kingdom compares to the United States in terms of cellphone ownership or want insight into how countries compare based on buyer sophistication, you can find this information just through a few clicks. This enables you to better make decisions about product positioning and marketing products to consumers according to their spending power and economic and social conditions.

Google Full Value of Mobile

Google-Full-Value-of-Mobile

The importance of mobile to the success of a marketing campaign is understood by everyone, but many marketers still do not understand how to measure its performance and impact. With Full Value Mobile, Google provides marketers tools and benchmarks that enable them to gauge to what extent mobile drives business and how customers interact with them through their mobile site, apps, calls, in-store and cross-device.

Full Value Mobile offers a calculator that lets you to measure how many in-store sales mobile is driving. Or if your goal is to drive app downloads, you can use another calculator to figure out how many app downloads come from your display ads and mobile search ads. This is a great tool for those who are looking to measure the performance of their mobile efforts in a convenient and hassle-free way.

Google Fonts

Google Fonts Screen Shot

With Google Fonts you can get access to 632 (and growing!)  high-quality, open source web fonts. Finding the perfect font is made super easy with the search function that allows you to search fonts by thickness, slant, and width. The best part is that the fonts are all free for public and private use.

Whether you’re a Google fan or find its ubiquitousness a tiny bit disconcerting, it’s hard to deny that they offer a lot of great resources to marketers at absolutely no cost. Do check out a few or all of the tools mentioned above according to your particular marketing needs. We’re sure that you’ll go from exploring to finding some indispensable to your marketing efforts in no time!

About the Author: Devna Thapliyal is an account executive at 60 Second Communications and blogs regularly on the 60 Second Marketer.

 

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March 17th, 2014

Facebook Paper: Is It the Next Big Thing in Social/Mobile?

Facebook Paper App

iPhone users in the U.S. have already begun using Facebook Paper as an alternative to the typical way to access their Facebook accounts on a mobile device. The no-nonsense repackaging of a user’s news feed into full-screen content that is quickly navigated (and without any sidebar ads or recommendations) feels to many like the way Facebook ought to be.

Of course, like every Facebook update, it is often the businesses who are first to adapt to new layouts or features that reap the biggest benefits from them. So should your business be developing plans to utilize Facebook Paper as soon as possible? Is it going to negatively impact businesses? Or is this a non-issue altogether?

Does Less Adspace Mean Less Attention for Businesses?

Ask yourself when the last time you felt even remotely tempted to click a Facebook ad was. For most people, it might as well be a pop-under or banner ad – it’s just space needed to put more money into Facebook. And even though the capture rate for these ads tends to be extremely low, Facebook won’t be getting rid of them any time soon for this very reason – people keep trying.

The way most people interact with and are marketed to on Facebook is through brand connection; that is, by liking brands or by having their friends do so, content creeps its way into the news feed from time to time that may be of interest to each user. And when it is, they “like”, share, and in the best case scenario, they follow the page. Now they’re a member of a captive audience.

This kind of marketing is not going to be impacted by the changes in Paper, and perhaps could benefit greatly from it. Now as users are swiping from story to story, they’ll get a full-screen ad for your business, and they’ll be interested to read through with nothing else vying for their attention.

Image of Facebook Paper

Early Adoption is Not Always the Solution

Many believe that like Facebook in its early stages, Facebook Paper is more of an experiment than something indicative of a finished product. There is speculation that in later updates, traditional ads will be supported as well, though how or even if that will be implemented remains to be seen. Sometimes the smarter course of action is to sit back and see how these things play out. People might never be using Facebook Paper by this time next quarter.

For those who have a lot of text rather than visual presentation, or those who tend not to be trendsetters even if they adopt best practices, Facebook Paper probably shouldn’t even be on the radar. If it becomes a big enough phenomenon, reaches other devices, or ultimately shapes the way Facebook is used on all platforms, then it may be time to revisit the issue.

Facebook Paper Image

It’s a Matter of Image

Facebook Paper is the hot new thing right now, with lots of buzz behind it. If your business is the kind that benefits from being among the first to try out new tech, then there probably isn’t any conceivable harm behind trying out a Paper-focused marketing strategy.

If your brand is more conservative, restrained, or just not a hit with the “brand new app” crowd, then give it time, see how things pan out, and check in every so often to see if it’s a good idea yet.

But if you aren’t even excited or interested in trying out Facebook Paper for yourself, there probably isn’t much of a reason your business ought to be.

About the Author: Russel Cooke is an online writer who spends most of his time researching and sharing new marketing strategies, unified communications, and branding methodologies with other businesses. He also often contributes to the blog of VirtualPhone-Number.com. He is honored to have had the opportunity to share his insights of what Facebook Paper may mean for business with 60SecondMarketer.com’s audience.

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March 16th, 2014

How to Use Mobile to Deepen Customer Relationships — On Air with Jamie Turner

 MobileSocial

Are you interested in learning how to use mobile marketing to engage customers and drive transactions? That’s what Jose Puente, the Director of Mobile Product Strategy at AutoTrader.com does day-in and day-out.

In our newest episode of On Air with Jamie Turner, I interview Jose and find answers to the following questions:

  • How to properly leverage mobile marketing
  • How to define mobile marketing
  • Why setting goals and objectives is so important
  • Why deciding what kind of relationship you want with your customers is critical to your mobile campaign’s success
  • Why mobile marketing is our best tool for humanizing the digital experience

If you’re ready to think strategically about mobile, then you’ll want to check out this interview. It provides several high-level insights about mobile that can help frame your thinking about how to use mobile, and how not to.

Special shout-out to our friends at digital agency three squared who handle the video production on this and all episodes of On Air with Jamie Turner.

 

Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, a marketing communications agency that works with national and international brands. He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.

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