Guest comment: Beware of optimisation ‘best practice’

source: http://www.netimperative.com/news/2008/may/12/guest-comment-beware-of-optimisation-2018best

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Added:
May 15, 2008

Are you becoming overwhelmed with best practices and wondering which ones are actually best? Greg Kelton is Managing Director, Optimost EMEA, lists some key standards to aspire to when creating a website.

To design the best site experience for your customers, you may not need best practices. Good (and even not so good) practices tested on your customer base may be the “better” way to reveal the best practices for your online business.

The only way to find out is to start testing – your customers will soon tell you what is working and what isn’t. It’s useful to have an idea of where to test though, so here are some of the best areas we’ve found based on recent client work.

Heavy Mouse

No this isn’t a mouse who’s had too much cheese but rather a complaint of website owners who aren’t enjoying high levels of click through – their visitors therefore suffering from heavy mouse syndrome. To lighten the mouse and increase click through test variations of copy that provide an incentive for the visitor to visit another page, e.g., sell them the idea of what is on it.

HIPPO Heavy

Test removing elements on the screen to avoid overcrowding. Often too many ideas from HIPPO’s, (Highly Important Persons’ Personal Opinion), i.e., everyone in the company has a view of what must go in to the company website, can cause the screen to become overbearing for the visitor. Test a more simplistic view of your offerings while ensuring that all the relevant KPI’s are maximised.

Mind Candy

Be sure to consider what frame of mind your customer is in at the moment – hour of day, day of week. Delivering an experience that matches to the goals of the customer can derive significant results. For example, during the weekday, a stay at home parent may only have a few minutes to get online to accomplish tasks. On the other hand, a weekend visitor may have time to spare and is more likely to respond to additional content or cross sell opportunities.

Got Space?

Just because your template includes several areas does not mean you have to fill the open space. Test completely different layouts to meet the specific goals of the page in question. Don’t allow your technology boundaries to dictate how you interact with your customers.

Guru vs. Newbie

Do your existing customers react differently to different promotions on your site? Do they expect a different type of interaction with your site than brand new customers? Test more advanced features on your long term customers that can help them derive a more efficient and rich experience. Test easier, less busy presentations for your brand new customers to ease them through the sales funnel.

Just Do It

Is there a change or addition to your site that will obviously provide an uplift in conversion? Don’t be so sure until you test. Often, the most obvious changes to you may not align with customer needs. Delta found that adding credit card logos to the billing page, in fact, had a significant negative effect on conversion.

An oldie but a goodie

How much change does your site really need? Before revolutionising your site to meet the needs of the new generation of visitors, consider the value of your “classic” version to existing customers. Often we are lured into the excitement of overhauling our site with whiz bang features to keep up with competitors and the anticipated expectations of the new generation of web users. Before leaping, test to see how your users will react. When Yahoo launched the new version of their email client to keep pace with Google, it smartly kept the classic view to ensure the retention of a large existing customer base. Similarly, Microsoft provides classic views of several operating system elements as well.

All your eggs in one basket

Do you have a clear view of the impact of site changes to all KPI’s and not just one or two? When making changes to your site to improve conversion are those changes negatively impacting average order value? When simplifying your site to drive the first sale are you decreasing retention due to limited content? When changing your site, be sure to measure the impact of those changes on as many KPI’s as possible to mitigate the risk of losing a bigger opportunity for the sake of another gain.

Having conducted some or all of these tests, you’ll have a better understanding of what your customer considers to be good or best practice and in the end that is all that matters. What works for you may not work for another company so the best advice I can give is to ignore handed down best practice advice and discover your own truths.

Greg Kelton is Managing Director, Optimost EMEA (An Interwoven Company)

www.interwoven.com

Top 10 social media sites in the UK

source: http://www.netimperative.com/news/2008/may/12/top-10-social-media-sites-in-the-uk

Added:May 22, 2008

YouTube remains the star of the UK social media scene, being the most popular site for the seventh consecutive month, according to new research from Nielsen Online.

Facebook becomes only the second social media brand to pass 10 million Unique Visitors in a single month. YouTube passed this milestone for the first time in November 2007.

Compared to April 2007, Slide (8th) and WordPress (10th) are new entrants at the expense of Google Video (dropping from 8th to 20th) and Friends Reunited (dropping from 10th to 14th)

The most popular social media sites in the UK: April 2008

Rank

Social Media Site

Unique Audience Apr 08 (millions)

YOY Change Apr 07 – Apr 08

Last Quarter Change
Jan 08 – Apr 08

1

YouTube

11.6

+46%

+11%

2

Facebook

10.2

+277%

+19%

3

Wikipedia

8.9

+9%

-7%

4

Blogger

5.2

+30%

+1%

5

MySpace

4.7

-31%

-6%

6

Bebo

4.5

+25%

+9%

7

Yahoo! Answers

3.5

+51%

+5%

8

Slide

2.7

+108%

-19%

9

Windows Live Spaces

2.5

-8%

-21%

10

WordPress

2.0

+128%

+1%

Source: Nielsen Online, UK home and work data, April 2007 – April 2008

The ten most popular social media sites a year ago: April 2007

Rank

Social Media Site

Unique Audience Apr 07 (millions)

Rank – Apr 08

Rank Change
Apr 07 – Apr 08

1

Wikipedia

8.2

3

-2

2

YouTube

7.9

1

+1

3

MySpace

6.8

5

-2

4

Blogger

4.0

4

5

Bebo

3.6

6

-1

6

Facebook

2.7

2

+4

7

Windows Live Spaces

2.7

9

-2

8

Google Video

2.3

20

-12

9

Yahoo! Answers

2.3

7

+2

10

Friends Reunited

2.0

14

-4

17

Slide

1.3

8

+9

22

WordPress

0.9

10

+12

Source: Nielsen Online, UK home and work data, April 2007 – April 2008

Alex Burmaster, European Internet Analyst, Nielsen Online, said: “Although social media is the undoubted web phenomenon of the moment, the leading players cannot afford to rest on their laurels. The space remains extremely competitive and the most popular sites have experienced contrasting fortunes over the last year and the last quarter.

“Social media consumers are ‘the fast and the curious’, always looking for, and moving to, the next social media service that can meet the need to organise and showcase their lives and interests more effectively.”

Source: www.nielsen-online.com

Q&A with Chris Nodder: Writing for the web

source: http://www.netimperative.com/news/2008/june/2/q-a-with-chris-nodder-writing-for-the-web

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Added:Jun 06, 2008

How does writing for the web differ from other media? Last week, Netimperative spoke with Chris Nodder, User Experience Specialist at Nielsen Norman Group, about common pitfalls to avoid when producing content online.

What are the main differences between writing for print and writing online?

People are looking to find information online, it’s not like a novel where they read the content from beginning to end. It’s all about getting useful information fast. Our site data analysis indicates that on average, a person reads only 20%- 28% of a webpage.

Our eye tracking studies show that users will scan the page until they get to content which they feel meets their needs. Then (and only then) will they start reading in detail. Because of this, I always tell my clients to ‘suppress their ego’ when writing online- many people use big words just to prove they can, but this can turn away readers. It’s not a case of dumbing down content- it’s about writing for people in a hurry.

We have found that users spend very little time on individual pages. For instance, in a newsletter study we found that even for newsletters that users chose to read rather than junk, they still spent on average only 51 seconds reading the newsletter.

When writing for the Web, you are writing for people who are essentially scanning for information first and foremost, so you need to think about how you are presenting your information. This can mean tried and trusted journalism practices, such as front-loading your text with the most important information. I would also recommend using bullets points where applicable. Although this is frowned upon in some circles, people love to read them online. It makes the information far easier to digest.

Are there any areas that are commonly overlooked when creating Web content?

Links always show up as bold blue words on the screen- they instantly draw the eye. This factor is often neglected and useless phrases, such as ‘click here’ become the focal point of the page. Instead, writers should pick the most interesting word in the text to insert the relevant link.

Another overlooked factor is images. Many corporate websites feature bland images of smiling people that convey nothing about the company’s products or services. This is a big misuse of space- the images should add to the information on the page. For example, a medical company we worked with included an image of people using the equipment it sold- helping to demonstrate the large size of the product. This is a vital piece of information that the reader will be grateful to have.

What are the best ways of measuring usability?

In terms of qualitative metrics, we tend to use surveys measuring users’ satisfaction. This can be unreliable as the users tend to be over-generous in their ratings, so you can’t always trust survey results to be honest representations of how people feel – what they say and what they do are often two different things.

In terms of qualitative metrics, the best measurement is time spent performing a task. You can also measure the number of errors made during a series of tasks. However, I would recommend putting the final measurements in terms of ‘cost’ by translating time lost into potential sales lost- it gives you a way to set more actionable goals.

What typical barriers do you encounter when encouraging getting clients to implement changes to their website?

Too often we find companies are making guesses concerning what their readers actually want. The hardest part is convincing a company to research their own readership, as this can be time consuming and labour intensive.

As technologies converge across TV, online and mobile, what does the future hold for usability. Do emerging platforms present new challenges?

There are many new platforms and user interfaces out there, and this number is growing. But essentially it will be the same thing all over again. Whether is via mobile or digital TV, the same basic usability principles will apply.

About Chris Nodder, User Experience Specialist, NN/g –

Chris works with clients across Europe and the US, and has coauthored NN/g reports on B2B usability and wishlists and gift giving. He has also conducted focus groups, user studies, and field research.

Before joining NN/g, Nodder worked as a usability consultant at NatWest Bank in the UK, and then as a senior user researcher at Microsoft Corp. His experiences managing the usability group at NatWest are captured in the book The Politics of Usability. During his seven years at Microsoft, Nodder was responsible for many products, including the user experience for XP Service Pack 2, a major upgrade to Windows XP (documented in the book Security and Usability).

This summer, Chris is running a full day tutorial entitled Writing for the Web in San Francisco and Melbourne.

Guest Comment: Using web behaviour data to drive follow up marketing

source: http://www.netimperative.com/news/2008/june/9/guest-comment-using-web-behaviour-data-to-drive

Added:
Jun 19, 2008

Working out why some email ads fail can be crucial to improving future campaigns. Andrew Robinson, managing director at Lyris UK, looks at how web analytics can help marketers get the most out of their communications.

There is a lot to be learnt beyond open and click-through rates on email marketing campaigns. By employing a web analytics tool to analyse the behaviour of respondents, valuable insight can be gained into just how effective an email campaign is – or isn’t.

Many marketers consider ‘conversion’ the holy grail of campaign success. An email generating a lead or a sale is considered successful; one that doesn’t is the opposite. But a lack of conversion doesn’t necessarily constitute a failure. By examining two key metrics – visitors’ average time on site (ATOS) and campaign exit rate – it is possible to understand where the conversion process needs improvement, and use those valuable insights in follow up campaigns.

Focused analysis

Segmentation is the key to gaining actionable insight on any marketing activities, including email campaigns. Marketers need to be able to focus on visitors who share common behaviour when responding to a particular campaign. Using a web analytics program to segment campaign respondents will provide valuable information in formulating follow up campaigns.

Are website visitors interested…

Time on site measures a web site’s ability to successfully maintain each visitor’s interest. It’s also a good indicator of how well visitors’ expectations are being met – what they thought they were getting when they clicked through, and what they found once they arrived. The average time spent on the site by the users that came in via an email campaign can be analysed and compared with the benchmark value of the average time on site for ‘all visitors’.

We all like to be sure we’re getting the most for our money – and on the web it only takes a few clicks to move from store to store or to a review site to validate (or decide to rethink) our choice. In general, higher than average time on site is a pretty good indicator of interest. However, it can mean that respondents are struggling to do what they want on the website – or what was promised in an email.

It’s also important to remember that a short time on site and high exit rate on the right page, such as basket/purchase confirmation, can be a good sign. But if large groups of visitors have a high ATOS but few conversions, email marketers need to examine their campaign offers and build a reason for quick action into the follow up campaign. Lingering window-shoppers need to be given a catalyst to convert.

…and are their expectations met?

The campaign exit rate is another effective way to gauge whether or not visitors’ expectations are being met. For example, an email message offering free shipping must be matched by a landing page that clearly restates the offer that got the recipient to click through in the first place.

The first action of online marketers dealing with high exit rates needs to be to see how well the the landing page reflects the promise made in the email campaign. Using the same (or at least similar) graphics and promotion wording is a good start.

However, the time on site must also be correlated with the number of pre-defined goals (such as making a purchase, submitting enquiry forms or signing up to email) completed. A long time on site is a good sign if a lot of these goals are achieved, but indicates a need for improvement if few or no goal activities are undertaken.

Triggering action

Having put time and effort into analysing users’ web behaviour, it is important to use this information to enhance the online marketing programme. One particularly successful tactic is to implement a triggered email function. This uses web analytics to track people who spend a lot of time on a particular section of a website as a result of receiving an email, but then don’t reach a goal. A follow-up email 24 hours later reminds them of what they were looking at with the aim of encouraging them back to the store to make a purchase. For example, someone who doesn’t buy anything despite having spent 30 minutes browsing on shoes could be sent a follow up message the next day with a reminder such as: “Did you know you can return up to four pairs of shoes in one order if they don’t fit you?”.

Final judgment

It is also important to note that no one metric should be looked at in a vacuum. Instead, a holistic view of metrics – including ROI, conversion, and visitor volume/response rate – should be adopted to ensure an accurate picture of the value of each campaign.

By combining the email provider’s metrics with a few key metrics from web analysis software, the experience for customers can be improved, both in their inboxes and on the website.

By Andrew Robinson

Managing Director, Lyris UK

www.lyris.co.uk

Roundtable Report: B2B Email Marketing

http://www.netimperative.com/news/2008/june/9/roundtable-report-b2b-email-marketing

Added:Jun 27, 2008

B2B email marketing has come of age as companies improve their communication strategies, but will it ever match the sophistication of its B2C counterpart? This month, Newsweaver brought together some key industry figures to discuss the latest issues facing the sector.

Presentation

Jennifer Curtin, marketing manager at Newsweaver, began the discussion with some new statistics Newsweaver had conducted in conjunction with B2B Marketing Magazine. This was the second year in a row that the two organisations had conducted the survey, meaning this was the first time the data could be used to look for trends over the past year.

The results showed that B2B email marketing had risen in most companies priorities, with only 4% considering it ‘not important’ compared with 13% a year ago.

In terms of recepients, existing customers topped the list. However, in terms of objectives, most companies said they were using B2B email marketing to attract prospective customers, a significant shift from last year, when customer retention was the primary objective.

In terms of frequency, the average company sent out a B2B marketing email once a month. The volumes of recipients and share of overall marketing budgets remained smaller than typical B2C email audiences, but this was showing signs of increasing, with over 32% now sending to more than 10,000 recipients a month.

Another significant trend was the growth of companies opting to conduct their email marketing via ASP-based systems rather than desktop systems (such as Outlook).

In terms of metrics used to measure recipient behaviour, click-throughs surpassed open rates as the main metric of choice amongst those surveyed. In terms of variables tested, subject lines and sending times were the most experimented with. The survey still found that not many people used personalisation in their emails, opting for changes to the name when they did.

When quizzed on the top challenge facing the sector in the near future, most respondents said that ‘inbox overload’ was the biggest problem. This contrasted with last years’ number one- spam. Jennifer suggested that this is the result of improved spam filters. On one hand, this improved deliverability for legitimate email marketers, but on the other hand this was increasing competition to be read in a cluttered inbox.

Session 1

After the presentation, Denise Cox, newsletter specialist at Newsweaver, began the debate by looking more closely at the findings of the survey. She said the increases show that B2B email is thriving, despite naysayers prediciting the death of the medium following the rise of social media sites. She thought it was more a case of looking at how the two channels could best be integrated.

Phil Williams at Rocketseed said many people see sending emails as a task to perform and not follow up, and stressed the need for making use of analytics tools to help imrove the sending process.

Gareth Gainer, Communicator Corp, thought email suffered due to its ‘cheap’ status. “People see email as cheap, and therefore something which doesn’t require a lot of time,” he said. Sheema Luca at Webgains agreed, saying email is often not seen as important as other forms of marketing so it is subsequently pushed onto junior staff, althoguht she added that the open rates of some campaigns indicate this should not be the case.

Jennifer said B2B email still had some way to go to match B2C email campaigns, but this was largely due to significantly smaller volumes making it hard to justify the ROI on big tasks. Gareth thought this was an issue for client education, getting them to define their goals . He advocated the use of more life cycle marketing in email campaigns, when follow up emails and cross selling are used at specific points depending on recipients behaviour.

However, Denise said there can be intelligent uses of B2B marketing that don’t require sophisticated technoliogy, citing a company that followed up an email with a second two weeks later offering a discount, resulting in much higher conversion rates. Graham Jarvis added that another opportunity was being missed by not giving recipients an option to give a reason when unsubscribing.

Ian made the point that in the US, email marketing is much more commoditised than it is here. He cited research that indicated some 70% of US firms use ASP-based email solutions, compared with around 30% in the UK.

He went on to add that one of the biggest issues likely to emerge on the back on technological advances is inbox rendering for mobile devices. As the barriers towards mobile internet access are coming down, marketers need to ensure their messages are looking good on mobile devices- for example, making sure key information is included ‘above the fold’ on a mobile screen.

Denise agreed, and cited devices such as the iPhone making the internet much more accessible on the move, resulting in many people using their phones to browse ‘urgent emails’ while leaving less important messages for when they return to the office. Gareth agreed, but though that in the professional world, the Blackberry is the device of choice rather than the iPhone.

Denise said this move to mobile represented an interesting challenge for email marketers, as it required a renewed focus on making text look good, rather than relying on flashy HTML graphics and layouts.

The discussion then moved on to the feasibility of running videos in emails. Ian said again this was a problem in terms of inbox rendering again, and suggested instead an image of a video player, which linked to a video page on a website.

Session 2

The panel kicked off the second half of the debate looking at some of the biggest problems facing B2B email marketing today. Ian thought that not enough marketers were linking their email campaigns with analytics software. Phil agreed, and pointed to Newsweaver’s research which showed most advertisers are not using the technology available to them.

Denise then looked at the recurring problems of spam and deliverability. She pointed to a trend of recipients marking an email as spam, thinking it is the same as unsubscribing, meaning legitimate email marketers are getting blocklisted by email service providers as a result.

Gateth agreed, saying it’s easier to delete or mark emails as junk as opposed to going through an unsubscription process.

The panel went on to look at some good examples of B2B emails. Newsweaver worked with oil giant Shell to create a dynamic company-wide internal email system. The emails could be personalized to ensure each department received only relevant content, which resulted in high open and click-through rates across all the board.

The panel drew the debate to a close by looking at the future of the medium. Ian cited research indicating that the UK and US markets were slowing down in terms of growth, from 40% a few years ago to 20% now. Germany was one of the biggest growth markets, now reaching a growth rate of around 40%.

The group agreed that optimszing emails for mobile screens was going to become more important, while linking email to customer relationship management (CRM) systems was also a going to play a key part in the year to come.

Customised domain names get greenlight

http://www.netimperative.com/news/2008/june/9/customised-domain-names-get-greenlight
Added:Jun 27, 2008

ICANN, the nonprofit organisation that manages the Internet domain name system, has voted to open up the rules for top-level domain names.

Previously, the endings of top-level domain names were limited to a limited group of generic top level domains such as .com, .net, .org, as well as individual country code domain names such as .ca for Canada or .uk for the United Kingdom.

New names won’t start appearing until at least next year, and ICANN won’t be deciding on specific ones quite yet. The organization still must work out many details, including fees for obtaining new names, expected to exceed $100,000 apiece to help ICANN cover up to $20 million in costs.

Adding new suffixes can make it easier for Web sites to promote easy-to-remember names — given that many of the best ones have been claimed already under the .com suffix.

The streamlined guidelines call for applicants to go through an initial review phase, during which anyone may raise an objection on such grounds as racism, trademark conflicts and similarity to an existing suffix. If no objection is raised, approval would come quickly.

Jonathan Robinson, Chief Operating Officer at the domain name management specialist NetNames (www.netnames.com), said a yes vote meaning that companies or individuals will effectively be able to buy generic top-level domain names ending in whatever they want.

“While it is clear the Internet domain name structure needs to evolve, the ICANN vote in favour of opening up Top Level Domains (TLDs) leads to complex questions for marketers and trademark owners.

“It can be argued that the expansion of available suffixes is the equivalent of opening a can of worms in terms of online infringement and cybersquatting – it seems logical to assume that as domain numbers increase, so too will the levels of speculative activity.

“Brand owners may find themselves in the position of having to register numerous new domains to protect themselves but, with varying fee estimates, that could well turn out to be an untenable marketing expense for some.

“Nonetheless, the impact on existing domains remains to be seen. In the case of a big brand, presumably any browsers visiting a newly registered domain would be redirected to the original TLD in any case. There will also be question marks over how new domains will affect Search Optimisation and consequent site traffic and PPC advertising rates.

“One thing that does seem clear is, with the final pricing and potential refund and dispute procedures not yet in place for applicants, brand owners and the trademark community will be keeping an extremely close eye on developments in the coming months,” Robinson concluded.

ICANN also voted unanimously to open public comment on a separate proposal to permit addresses entirely in non-English languages for the first time.

Addresses partly in foreign languages are sometimes possible today, but the suffix has been limited to 37 characters: a-z, 0-9 and the hyphen.

In other action, ICANN approved recommendations designed to clamp down on ‘domain name tasting’. This is where a loophole in registration policies allows entrepreneurs to grab domain names risk-free for up to five days to see whether they generate enough traffic and advertising dollars.

That practice ties up millions of Internet addresses, making it even more difficult for individuals and businesses to find good names in the crowded “.com” space. The new guidelines would withhold refunds if too many are returned.