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Archive for August, 2010

30 Aug
Posted by Kay

Having a great ‘About’ page

About pages on websites are like your calling card. It’s quite often one of the first places prospective customers will click on your web site if they are curious about your business, and want to see if they are going to think further about working with you.

But ‘about’ pages can be difficult to write because, let’s face it, few people like to talk about themselves. Even fewer know how to start!

Our copywriter Leticia recently posted an article on this very topic. She talks about why they are often difficult to write, and gives you some great tips on how to get started.

Click here to read The Hardest Text to Write.

17 Aug
Posted by Kay

4 Reasons not to use your personal Facebook account for business

It might be tempting to promote your business on Facebook from your personal account. Before you do, stop and think carefully because it can be a bad idea. Here are 4 good reasons why you should avoid it.

1. Personal is personal, business is business

If you are considering promoting your business from your personal account, let me ask you something. How much do you want your clients to see what you post as your status? Chances are, not much.

We all have times where we like to whinge about things, swear, get excited, share content that shocks, or whatever. If your clients are connected to your personal Facebook account, it is likely that you will eventually regret it. And then you can’t delete them, because they would get offended.

2. You don’t want to bore your friends

Sure, your mates all know you run a business, but how many of them want to hear you go on about it? Not many, I bet. Bore them enough, and they will simply ignore you, or – worst case – hide you from their news feeds.

More to the point, your friends are unlikely to be your business’s target audience. You are far better off focusing your business on where it will have the most impact.

3. Dedicated pages = dedicated fans

One of the most important things about a dedicated business page on Facebook is that it is specific. Focusing specifically on what you do, how you do it, and interesting things about your business is easier to promote. It also means that when you start getting active about growing your network, it keeps you personally out of it. You will have a ‘product’ (your business’s page) that you can promote, rather than trying to promote yourself.

It’s a pretty tight Catch-22. And this alone is a great reason to keep your personal account personal, and to set your business up as itself.

4. Personal accounts don’t go viral; pages do

The viral nature of social networks is what makes them so valuable to businesses and products. With this in mind, it’s worthwhile noting that personal accounts don’t go viral. Pages do.

And if you have a dedicated page, you can make sure it starts to do the rounds by creating a growth strategy for it.

Very few network growth strategies would work effectively from a personal account. But there are some excellent ways of doing it for pages.

Keep your eyes peeled, because in our next article we bring you key strategies and tips for growing your business’s Facebook network.

6 Aug
Posted by Kay

What’s a bounce rate?

It sounds fun, but your site’s bounce rate has nothing to do with trampolines, balloons or pillow fights. ‘Bounce rate’ is a term used to describe the percentage of new visitors to a site, then leave without visiting any other pages. Essentially, they’re ‘bouncing’ off.

What your bounce rate means

Your site’s bounce rate could be telling you a number of things about your web site content.

If your bounce rate is low – under 40% – then it’s telling you that your site is engaging and invites users to explore further. That is, you’re doing a good job – keep it up!

If your bounce rate is high (over 50%, for example) it could mean that:

  • visitors are not being engaged by your site’s content
  • they’re encountering something that drives them away – like an error, a broken link, or confusing text
  • your site is not what the user was expecting. This can be the case if you have an advert or link on another site that is misleading. If a user clicks on a link expecting to see dog grooming information, they’re going to be very surprised if they arrive on a site selling hammers. Chances are they’re going to hit the back button – and quickly!

But wait – it could be a good thing

While a high bounce rate often means that your site’s content needs attention, it may not be a bad thing.

If your site is simple and contains all the information that your visitor needs on one page, then might not need to click anywhere else. In this case a high bounce rate isn’t negative.

Your page’s page’s primary goal might be really specific. You might want users to:

  • call a phone number
  • send an email enquiry
  • download a file
  • watch a video
  • click a link to another site.

Users who do this will still contribute to your bounce rate, even though the page has successfully ‘converted’ them.

Blogs and news-oriented sites often show high bounce rates. Visitors will follow a link to a particular post, read it, then move on.

There’s always room for improvement

A high bounce rate may not harm your business. But lowering it will almost certainly yield benefits for your online marketing efforts.

If you have a high bounce rate – even if your site is in one of the typical high bounce rate categories – there may be ways to improve it. You might want to think about:

  • looking for possible errors
  • changing the site’s structure
  • reworking the copy
  • looking at your ‘call to action’ statements
  • asking some representative members of your target audience to give you unbiased feedback.
5 Aug
Posted by Kay

Analytics: hits, pageviews and visits

It used to be common to track web site ‘hits’. But this is not a valuable metric, and relying on it could lead you astray. In this article we’ll explain the difference between hits, pageviews and visits.

Hits explained

A web page is made up of lots of different pieces. When you watch a page load – especially on a slow connection – you’ll often be able to see this quite clearly. The page builds bit by bit: first the structure, then text, then other elements. Large images often take longer to load than the rest.

Each piece of the site is a separate file, and every request to each file generates a new ‘hit’ on the web server. Loading a single page could generate anywhere from 1 to 50 (or more) hits.

Pageviews

A pageview is a much more useful metric. As the name suggests, it tracks the number of times a page is viewed.

If your site works well, you will find users visiting multiple pages. This is why, although valuable, a pageview metric is not a true indication of your web site’s traffic. A high pageview count is great, but a high visitor count is even better.

Visits

A visit is the most useful metric of all. Each number of visits tells you the number of single people spending time on your site in one sitting.

For example, let’s say I visit your web site in the morning, and look at 5 different pages. This represents one visit, five pageviews and a large number of hits. But, unless I count how many images and other assets are on the page, I’m not going to be able to easily estimate the number of hits.

Later that day, I fire up my browser and return to your site, looking at 3 different pages. This represents a second visit, three more pageviews and again, a large number of hits. My activity on your site has generated two visits, eight pageviews and a lot of hits.

Unique and returning visits

Visitor statistics are split between unique visitors and returning visitors.

What is the difference? A unique visitor is one that has never been to your web site before. A returning visitor is someone who has come back to your site.

A high number of unique visitors and a low number of returning visitors may indicate that your web site’s content is not engaging enough to keep bringing people back.

Conversely, if your unique visitors’ rate is low, you might want to think about ways of bringing more people to your site.

The best visitor metrics have high number of both unique and returning visitors. That would tell you that you are not only drawing people in, but you are good at keeping them coming back.

Measure it, improve it

It is good to keep an eye on each part of your web site statistics. Whatever you can measure, you can improve! Knowing the difference between hits, pageviews and visits is the first step towards better understanding your web site visitors.

4 Aug
Posted by Kay

Demystifying ‘RSS’

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, but RSS feeds are often referred to as “news feeds” instead – they’re the same thing. This article will help you come to grips with what news feeds are all about.

What is RSS?

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a way of being notified of new web site content as soon as it’s available. The beautiful thing about RSS is that it allows you to pull updated content from a number of different sources, without having to visit each web site individually. It’s a really efficient way to stay up to date with a large number of sites.

How do I use it?

To subscribe to a feed, you need a feed reader. This could be a dedicated desktop program, a web-based application, or an add-on to another program such as your email client or web browser.

There is an overwhelming number of feed readers available. To keep it simple, at least in the beginning, I’II recommend one of two: Microsoft Outlook or Google Reader.

Microsoft Outlook

If you use Microsoft Outlook 2007 or newer, there’s a handy feed reader built right in. If you’re the kind of person who spends a lot of your day in Outlook, it can be a very quick and easy way to read your feeds.

For instructions on setting up RSS feeds in Outlook, go to this location.

Google Reader

Google Reader is a web-based application for reading RSS feeds. It has some great heavy-duty features, such as a facility for sharing feed content with your contacts.

If you need to access your feeds from a number of different computers, Google Reader is the ideal solution. It’s also my personal RSS reader of choice.

To start using Google Reader you need a Google account. Further information can be found here.

About the universal feed icon

There is a standard icon that you can now see on many web sites that provide a news feed. It is used to identify feeds themselves, and to identify how to subscribe to them.

You’ve probably seen it before. It looks like this:

image

The icon became an industry standard for identifying RSS back in 2005, when Microsoft and Opera Software both announced they were adopting it. It first appeared in Mozilla FireFox web browsers.

If you’re interested in reading more about how the icon came to be used, visit the feed icon Wikipedia page.

Autodiscovery makes finding feeds simple

If the site is set up properly, your browser will tell you when there’s a RSS feed available on a site by showing an icon (usually the recognisable orange feed icon). The sceenshots below show where in some popular current browsers:

firefox

ie

safari

All you have to do is click on the icon, and the feed will be added to your RSS reader.

No autodiscovery? Add feeds manually

If you can’t see the feed icon in your browser’s toolbar, then there might be an icon or link on the web page itself. Often all you need to do is click on the icon and you’ll find out how to subscribe to the feed.

In another article, we’ll look at whether you should consider providing an RSS feed for your site, and how you go about doing it.

3 Aug
Posted by Kay

Email newsletters: environmentally friendly good reads

This is the first in a series of articles that highlight some email newsletters that I read regularly. While I enjoy the newsletters’ content, I also like to try to learn from them.

Analysing newsletters you subscribe to is a great way of learning how to get your message across. Look at the content and format, and learn from the techniques other people use.

Today I’m looking at two high-profile environmental protection organisations with vastly different approaches to many of the same problems: Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd.

Both organisations send regular newsletters. They keep their subscribers informed about important environmental issues that are left out of mainstream news.

The Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd newsletters include similar things. Such as:

  • prominent appeals for donations
  • highlighted items for sale in their respective online stores, as an important fundraising avenue for each
  • high impact visual design
  • clever placement of ‘call to action’ messages.

The difference is the tone of the content.

Greenpeace takes a more factual, research-driven approach to its articles. Sea Shepherd appeals to the emotions with personal messages from its high profile head, Cpt. Paul Watson.

Both newsletters are very effective, but for different reasons.

Now look at your newsletter. Which style fits your product or service and newsletter audience?

Sign up to Greenpeace’s email newsletter
Sign up to Sea Shepherd’s email newsletter

2 Aug
Posted by Kay

Absentee Posting

If you read my post last week about Kay and Dave’s European adventure, you might note that we’re not here right now. In fact, if you’re reading this on the 2nd of August, right now we’re in Hamburg, Germany. Guten Tag!

Don’t worry though – I’m not working on this site while we’re away. Neither is this post one of our staff members pretending to be me. They’re far too busy keeping up with Starfish work! This post is brought to you by the minor miracle of WordPress’s scheduled posting.

Leading up to our departure, I finished off sites and tasks that needed my personal attention, and made last-minute travel arrangements. But I was also wrote and planned news posts and articles. I scheduled these to appear every weekday morning.

It took quite an effort – five weeks of week-day posts adds up – but I think the effort was worth it. And of course, I did have the help of Leticia, who helps with our copywriting and edits almost everything that is published here.

If I hadn’t revealed my secret, visitors would have assumed I was at my desk turning out articles each day, not gallivanting around Europe. While I enjoy myself, these regular instalments of fresh, new content brings Clever Starfish new visitors from Google and other sources.

So that’s my secret. You can take advantage of scheduled posting too – and you don’t even have to be in another country.