Posted by Peter Otte on February 1, 2016
I’m really proud of our latest site launch: www.sbfilmfestivals.com
This is a companion site to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, one of the top film festivals in the world. Attendees to the film festival can log into the site and rate individual films and share with other friends in their group, helping others quickly figure out what they should see and what they can ignore. The site also can broadcast last-minute schedule changes via text message.
The site was built from scratch using the Code Igniter PHP framework. We began the project almost a year ago and completed it on time before the 2016 SBIFF Film Festival, which is due to begin on February 3rd and will run until February 13th.
In addition to the web site, we expect to launch a companion iPhone app. It is still in the testing phases but we will update this post when more information is available. Congratulations to the team on a fine job and the visionary support of Jon Kechejian.
Posted by Peter Otte on January 12, 2016
Traffic prediction websites have been around for years now. Alexa is probably the most visible of them, but there are actually several out there. They’re routinely used in a wide range of endeavors, but notably for business owners, they’re often used to help formulate marketing plans. Don’t fall into this trap. Several recent studies have found that not only are these sites disappointingly inaccurate, but they’re largely a waste of your time and money.
None of the sites measured, which included SEMRush, Twitter, Google AdWords, MOZ, SimilarWeb, Alexa, Compete.com and Quantcast, provided useful marketing insights. Some, however, were more usable, and the studies showed how they should be used.
SimilarWeb and Compete.com turned out to be the most useful. This wasn’t because their predictions were accurate, but because the correlation between their numbers and ongoing traffic trends were consistent. For instance, while Compete might have shown you had two or even three times the amount of traffic per month as your own analytics, the correlation between traffic spikes and drops would be accurate. These sites are also useful in comparing one site against another (again, due to correlation, not prediction accuracy).
When everything is said and done, there is no site out there that can accurately predict your traffic. What should you do about marketing, then? This is where marketing savvy comes in handy — useful content, clear offers and calls to action, reputation management, and excellent customer service — combined with the ability to drill down into your own analytics and make informed connections and decision based on accurate information. Using Alexa and other similar sites seems to be largely a waste of time, and in a worst-case scenario, could see you throwing all your marketing money behind an ineffective campaign that won’t benefit your bottom line in the least.
Posted by Peter Otte on November 3, 2015
Look, I’ll be honest. I don’t think there are any shortcuts to building great content. Not all of us are media savvy, look good on camera, or have a way with words. But I can provide a little insight into what happens when you do post something that others want to share with others. By now you’re realized that it’s not enough to just put it out there and hope for the best. Build it, and they may not come.
You have to spread the word. How? In a couple of ways – shares and links.
Sharing is exactly what it sounds like – picture a Facebook post where one of your customers has shared a post with his or her friends and family members. Links are different – these are links back to your site, or specific pages found around the web. In a sense, shares are links, but links aren’t necessarily shares. Do they perform the same way, though?
They do work similarly, and there’s a strong correlation between links and shares at a high level, but there are differences. For instance, the content type and format affects the relationship between links and shares. Shares also happen faster than links, and are more important in generating traction. Some content has little to no relationship between links and shares – quizzes, for example. You’ll also find that where the content is published makes a difference. Buzzfeed’s content gets almost no links, but an incredible number of shares.
What does this mean for your marketing plan? Simply put, if you want to build real success, you should probably avoid things like link bait and quizzes, focusing on evergreen content so that long-term links will have value down the road. If you’re simply looking for traffic, then sharing short-lifespan content like lists might be fine. I prefer and recommend evergreen content with a little pruning now and then: go back and look it over every so often, and if necessary do a little update.
When everything is said and done, it really comes down to having the right long-term strategy underpinning your actions. That way you build your future content on a strong and honest foundation.
Posted by Peter Otte on September 23, 2015
In a previous post, we touched on the topic of localization rather than just translation. We talked about how localization ensures that you’re reaching your audience in other countries in the language they actually speak, not some stilted version of it. However, localization is pretty complex, so here are a few important tips to bear in mind.
Name: Your service or product name is important. You spent a lot of time coming up with the English version, and you should spend the same effort when localizing it. You need to determine if you want to keep the name (which could work if there is no correlating word in the other language). You may want to change it if there is a local word or phrase that encapsulates what you’re trying to convey with the name.
The Entire Experience: It’s important that your entire experience is localized for each target area. For instance, if you were marketing an app, you would localize the content within the app, from screen to screen. However, it’s also important to localize the app description in the store, as well as your terms of service and other elements to create a cohesive experience.
Format: When localizing, it’s important to format for different lengths. While it might not seem that way, English is pretty concise, and our alphabet doesn’t take up a lot of room. However, other languages are different, and you might find that your content takes up three times as much space on the screen as it did in English. Account for this in your localization efforts.
Language: It’s far easier to localize simple, direct language than it is complex wording or legalese. Keep your language simple so that it’s easier to localize.
In the end, localization might be complex, but it’s very achievable with a solid strategy underpinning your efforts.
Posted by Peter Otte on September 7, 2015
For companies hoping to take advantage of the “world wide” aspect of the World Wide Web, translation is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Sure, English might be the international language of business, but what if you’re marketing housewares or bed linens? What if you’re marketing cookware or automotive accessories for consumers? In that instance, you’d want to translate your content into the other language.
There’s a problem here, though. Translation apps like Google Translate don’t always do such a great job. In fact, you can see for yourself just how awful it is if you read this post in Google Chrome and then click the blue page icon in the upper right:
Google Translate Icon
When you translate this post into another language besides English, the results look very strange to a native speaker. That’s because software-based translation methods like Google Translate are only good at rough translations and often don’t take into account variations like slang or idioms. This can be easily seen in American vernacular. The phrase, “That’s cool” has nothing to do with temperature. It means something is acceptable or approved. Now, consider that from the perspective of a non-native English speaker with a literal translation in hand. You will find the result somewhat embarrassing.
So, what’s the solution if Google Translate isn’t the right option? Localization is what you need. This is a process that ensures your content is not just functionally translated into another language, but put into words that your readers are going to understand.
Of course, this goes much deeper than just localizing the way your content reads. It should apply to all aspects of your marketing, from technical and structural to cultural elements. For instance, if you have an app that pulls a lot of data, but are marketing it in an area where cell phone data is expensive, it’s going to fall on its face. Likewise, if you’re marketing something with an English name that’s similar to an offensive word in another language, you’re not going to see much success.
Localize all aspects of your marketing campaign and you’ll be positioned to really benefit from the connectivity offered by the World Wide Web.
Posted by Peter Otte on August 21, 2015
SEO continuously evolves as Google, Bing and other search engines strive to provide consumers with a better experience and more accurate search results. While there have been several new considerations in 2015, there have also been changes to existing factors that you need to know in order to ensure you’re staying in Google’s good graces (as well as playing nice with other search engines).
Mobile: Mobile has been an important component for business SEO for a long time now, but it’s becoming increasingly so. In fact, both Google and Bing now look at how mobile friendly a website is before assigning it a rank. You should also pay attention to app indexing and linking, as this is part of mobile optimization and something that’s gaining increasing focus in the world of SEO.
Keyword Stuffing: Once upon a time, stuffing keywords into your content everywhere you could was considered a good practice. Today, it’s a death knell. In fact, it’s become increasingly important that you avoid this. Use a natural keyword density in your content – 1% or even less. Google (and now Bing) is increasingly focused on the quality of content, and keyword stuffing does nothing but reduce your users’ experience on your site. Don’t get penalized.
Spam: Spam is never good, but it’s gotten even worse. Google’s now penalizing websites whose domains are associated with spam. Don’t be that business. Connect with your audience, by all means, but do it ethically and deliver valuable content. Spammers never prosper, and this tactic has absolutely no place in your marketing tool kit.
There you have it – three existing factors that have gained increasing importance within modern SEO practices. If you’re struggling to achieve good SEO without using blackhat techniques, get professional assistance and watch your online presence grow.
Posted by Peter Otte on July 31, 2015
Google’s become a fan of taking serious action when necessary, and the search engine giant’s latest such move had a massive impact on businesses across the country (and around the world, truth be told). What happened? Tens of thousands of website owners woke up one morning to find that their sites had plummeted in the SERPs. In fact, Google dropped the rank for almost 50% of non-mobile friendly websites.
The update, termed “Mobilegeddon” was expected to be big. In fact, the company told everyone that it would have more impact than Panda or Penguin, two updates that caused serious changes to the SEO world a couple of years back. True to their word, Mobilegeddon was a game changer, despite some claims that it was a non-event.
In short, 46% of non-mobile friendly websites plummeted in the rankings. In comparison, 25.4% of mobile-friendly sites were downgraded. The increase in rankings for mobile-friendly pages was a relatively modest 30.1%. One of several factors impacting the perceived significance was that the rollout was done slowly, with a quality update in between two segments of Mobilegeddon. This made the results less immediate.
Another factor here is that Google’s not quite done. It’s normal for Google to roll things out slowly and test their impact. Once they’re sure that everything is performing the way they want it, the full update rolls out and changes take place immediately. It’s very possible that Google hasn’t yet released the full Mobilegeddon update into the wild.
What’s the takeaway for business owners? If you’re not already mobile friendly, get there now. If you were affected by the initial release, optimizing your site for mobile will help you regain some of your lost traction. If you haven’t been affected yet, it’s only a matter of time.
Posted by Peter Otte on July 16, 2015
A great deal of focus is given to optimizing your website content, and that’s as it should be. However, there are many other elements that go into building a strong online presence for your business, and your URL is definitely one of those. Don’t get us wrong – it goes deeper than just choosing the right domain name. What we’re talking about here is relative versus absolute URLs. Not sure what that means? Don’t worry. It’s actually pretty simple.
Here’s an example of an absolute URL: http://www.XYZWidgetCo.com/Samples/
Here’s an example of a relative URL: http://XYZWidgetCo.com/Samples
They look pretty similar, right? Well, they are and they’re not. Technically, the two URLs above could lead to two different websites, which creates duplicate content on the web and incurs Google’s wrath.
It also means that you’re relying on Google to send your visitors to the right version of the site, and that’s never a good thing. Google’s great at what it does, but it’s not so good at determining which version of the many possible iterations out there is the right one for individual customers.
You can change this, though. By using the right strategy with your URLs, you can force Google to send traffic from all of these different sites to the same place – your canonical site. This eliminates duplicate content, and ensures that your visitors are going where you want – to your store or business page.
There are benefits to using relative URLs, certainly. They’re faster and easier to code, for one thing. It makes things simpler with staging environments as well. However, there are good reasons to use absolute URLs, as well, including the fact that it’s harder for nefarious individuals to scrape your content and steal it.
The most important takeaway here is that you need a unified strategy. Fix the problems on the server side, and those with your internal links. Absolute URLs are the ideal way to do this.
Posted by Peter Otte on July 8, 2015
Businesses hoping to build a successful online presence should definitely understand SEO best practices, but given that they change from year to year, just keeping up with the times can be difficult. That’s compounded by the fact that you’re not an SEO expert – you have a business to run. Here are three key changes to SEO that will affect your success in 2015.
Vertical search pulls in a wide range of search results for specific terms, including local results, images, news and video results. The days when Google served up a page with nothing but 10 links to top-ranked pages are long gone. Make sure you’re capitalizing on this trend.
HTTPS indicates a secured website, and Google has made no bones about the fact that it gives secured sites higher rankings in search results. If your site isn’t secured, it’s worth considering for the enhanced visibility.
Many consumers search the web using a question. For instance, “What are the symptoms of diabetes?” Google often serves up results that provide answers to those questions, and you can gain immense visibility for your business if you’re able to get your content scraped in this manner. Pay attention to the questions your customers ask, and then answer those questions within your site’s content. Being selected as a direct answer website might not seem like that big a deal, but consider the fact that your site will be at the very top of the page, and that you’ll be receiving direct, targeted traffic.
These are just a few of the ways that SEO has changed so far in 2015. There are more changes coming down the road, so stay tuned and keep your business ranked as high as possible.
Posted by Peter Otte on June 30, 2015
As mobile continues to grow in importance, more and more people have questions about how to best design for the platform. There is, of course, a lot of nuance to the subject; however, there are – in my estimation, at least – four essential principles:
- Economy: Not long ago, the whole web game used to center around who could have the flashiest website with the most bells and whistles. The exact opposite is the case with mobile. You want to prize a minimalist design, which allows for the user to easily navigate your website.
- Speed: Like it or not, we live in the “give it to me now” society, and mobile devices are a big reasons for that. Therefore, it’s exceptionally important that your mobile website run as quickly as possible. Your customers, clients or readers are conditioned to expect things instantaneously. Giving them anything less will damage your reputation.
- Function: Just the same as with speed, the people visiting your website expect things to work exactly as they should. When your mobile website breaks down, those thumbs and fingers are going to tap their way to some other webpage. Don’t give them the opportunity; check your website thoroughly for broken links, faulty redirects, and other common issues.
- Aesthetics: Even though you should cultivate a minimalist design, that doesn’t mean your mobile website needs to be unattractive. Pay just as much attention to design elements like color, font, layout, and everything else as you would with a desktop website. Your visitors have slick phones in their hands; your website should look equally slick.
If you design a mobile website that attempts to achieve the utmost in each of these four principles, you’ll be well on your way to having a mobile website that gets results.