Quit Pooping On The Page And Make UX A Priority

Husky With Pooping In A Dog ParkRecently, during a meeting hosted by our CEO where we discussed do’s and don’ts of web design for Advice Interactive, I couldn’t help but go ranty.

“Don’t put poop on the page,” I said, which was met by raucous laughter. “No seriously, we wouldn’t put poop in the page and expect it to convert, so don’t use stock images, don’t over-power pages with piles of text, don’t use the main nav as a trash bin. User experience is a priority I think many of us tend to forget.”

I couldn’t help but “go in” on UX (or lack thereof), a topic I think content marketers as a whole give short shrift. Yeah, we say we care about conversions, but the road we travel to get there is convoluted, messy and winding. It’s as though UX, IA and content strategy are nice-to-haves, thrown in to add flavor to an otherwise bland, inedible dish.

We don’t recognize the fire we’re playing with, a fact laid bare in a recent piece on Portent.com.

“UX is the new way to optimize sites for search engines because Google said so,” writes Marianne Sweeny, senior SEO strategist for the company. “Yes, that benign search giant has decided that links are no longer as important as they once thought. Out of deep concern for its users that click on the search ads, Google has decided that user experience (UX) is a much better determinant of relevance. This left the entire SEO is gob-smacked and floundering, at least those that have not already stepped off the ledge are.”

Sweeney’s point is not that algorithms are the best judge of useful content. Rather, she smartly suggests that by taking an interdisciplinary approach to SEO, IA, UX, Interaction Design and content strategy, we effectively prove that humans are perfectly equipped to handle the task of assigning value to content.

For the moment, however, let’s place aside the notion of whether or not Google should be the final arbiter of UX. Instead, let’s focus on how we can take advantage of this reality, rescuing our blogs from the clutches of mediocrity in the process:

  • Stop it with the thin, too-long content. Come on, people, we all heard of Google’s Panda updates, and how they slaps sites with thin content. Why are you still slapping up pages, then, that do nothing but drive prospects away from your site without converting? I’ll tell you why: We all know how to game the system to get people to the site; the best SEOs keep them there with engaging, inviting content that is quashes objections, answers questions and reinforces the brand as the go-to resource in the category.
  • Keyword stuffing—Don’t do that! I’ve analyzed client’s sites and found so many keywords on the page that I wanted to congratulate the writer for being so talented. How about 87 exact match keywords in a 376-word document? I witnessed that recently. It was neither pretty nor effective. Google gave savvy content marketers a gift with the Hummingbird algorithm, which rewards content that speaks to user intent. Why not use this to your advantage. Instead of thinking “keywords,” think “language of the user.” For example, some with a computer issue is likely to type “Why is my Mac screen blank?” not “Where can I find a computer technician in…?” See my point? While you’re thinking keywords, those SEOs welcoming semantic search are eating your lunch.

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  • Reward, not punish, your site visitors. I hate to keep highlighting the Google menagerie, but when Panda slammed sites for a poor user experience, it provided a great opportunity for content, SEO, UX and IA folks to work together to drive value to site visitors, rewarding them with rich design, content and navigation. Many of us ignored the “mandate,” preferring to focus more on appearance than substance—i.e., recency of content with blogs, well-placed social buttons and content folks would find useful. Join the game by making site speed, site readability and content layout priorities. Simple steps that can have an immediate impact include doing away with the main page slider in place of a large static image; breaking up blocks of text with “other related content” sections; linking to similar pages on tour site; and making it easy for visitors to share your content by making social share button obvious, not hidden at the bottom of the page. rsz_meme_home_page_slider
  • Lose the graphic-vomit. We all received the memo to “cut it out with the Infographics.” Apparently we listened, for there are fewer of them showing up on sites. However, now everyone apparently thinks it wise to make the home page a depository for every bad image in their Dropbox account. The key to stellar web design is simplicity. Visitors came to your site for a reason. Make it simple for them to complete their desired task. Instead of you listening to me “go in” on the topic, here’s a screenshot of a whiteboard presentation detailing what successful website design looks like from Moz’s Rand Fishkin:
  • Stop hiding relevant content. I’ve said in meetings that, “Few website visitors know what an IA is, but they sure as hell know when one has not been involved in the layout of a website.” It’s like finding the toilet in the sink: testimonials hid in the footer, calls-to-action (CTAs) all but impossible to find, blogs obscured by layers of tabs in the main navigation, and no discernable strategy to the content offered. I know many web design projects do not have an IA involved, but you can still ensure that your website features a layout that mirrors your goals by following these three steps:
    • On a large whiteboard, identify the four to six categories that must go in your main navigation using Sticky Notes
    • Under each one of these categories, add the secondary and tertiary categories that should fall underneath each using Sticky Notes of a different color
    • Look again at the items in the top level—can any of them be combined?

A good place to start on this journey is Centerline Digital’s Content Planning Jumpstart Guide:

 

In my experience of “grading” small business sites for redesigns, the top level in the main navigation is where things go awry. If we can keep the wheels on there, things seem to fall into place more naturally underneath, which can have a cascading effect on the rest of the site.

In case you haven’t noticed, I was tickled pink at Sweeney’s blog. User experience must take greater prominence. By placing users first, we worry less about disciplines, approaches and put the focus on helping our audiences attain their goals.

What do you think?

Top Pubcon New Orleans Presentations Day 3

Pubcon New Orleans actually began on early in the week down in The Big Easy with Masters Group sessions beginning on Monday. Since not everyone attends the Masters Group sessions, we are calling Tuesday-Day 1, Wednesday-Day 2, and Thursday-Day 3. If you missed any of the events from Thursday, don’t worry we’re giving you some of the top presentations below! Several topics, including Organic SEO, Social Media and much more were covered Thursday with it being just as action packed as the rest of the week!

Here is a list of the top presentations:

Organic Search:

Paid Reviews on Amazon – NOLA Pubcon 2014 Dwight Zahringer from Dwight Zahringer

Social Media:

Social Pr Therapy – Pubcon NOLA 2014 from MelissaFach

10 Most Frequently Asked Questions about Measuring Social Media from Alan K'necht

Expert Spotlight with James Loomstein:

2014 Pubcon New Orleans – "Getting The Most Out Of Your Agency" from James Loomstein

Expert Spotlight with David Vogelpohl:

Maximizing Affiliate Commissions – Pubcon NO 2014 from David Vogelpohl

6 Things Anyone Managing Social Media Should Do

Everyone thinks managing social media for a brand is easy, but it really isn’t. I think it can be made easier if you do a few things first. The ideas in this article were inspired from my presentation at Pubcon NOLA 2014, Social PR Therapy.

Choose the Right Team Members

Fitting togetherTo have an effective social media team you really need each person to have the same values and beliefs about people and a drive to do things right.

The team needs to function as a true team. This means that each person should be the type that wants to back up and help other team members. They should be genuine about supporting one another. And everyone needs to agree on how everyone that reaches out will be treated.

A team that believes in & wants the same things = a strong team. 

Set Guidelines for Yourself

Every company that really understands social media has guidelines in place for social media management, but I suggest you set some of your own guidelines as well. If you have expectations for yourself you will be better able to handle any situation.

  • What professional standards would you abide by?
  • What do you want the person to walk away with?
  • How do you avoid causing harm?
  • How would you want to be treated?
  • How can you make people reaching out brand advocates? (responses and conversations can do this)

One of mine – avoid causing harm.

You never ever know what is going on in the life of the person speaking to you via social. They could be having the worst month or year ever. I personally do not want to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I want to possibly be the one interaction that didn’t suck in their day.

Tip – See everyone that speaks to you as an individual that deserves respect and kindness, no matter what they say to you or the brand you represent.

You Have to Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Put-Yourself-in-their-shoesIf you are going to manage any kind of social media account you have to be able to see every situation from every angle. What is right in front of you is not always a good perspective.  Before you reply to a negative comment you have to try and put yourself in their shoes. What would you want to hear? Be helpful and understanding.

Do they have a right to be upset? If yes, you have to find a way to validate their feelings and find a way to help them.

What if they don’t have a real reason to be upset? You have to find a way to validate their feelings and find a way to help them.

No matter what the situation is you have to validate feelings and help the person reaching out to you. That is your job. If you allow yourself to see things from their perspective their anger might make sense to you. Then you can find a solution to help them.

Tip: Don’t take anything that is said personally. It isn’t about you it is about the brand they are reaching out to.

Protect the Brand

Your job is to be there for those reaching out to the brand on social, but protecting the brand you work for should be a very high priority. To protect a brand you really need to go beyond just looking at your feeds and really take the time to read conversations.

There are times that I will go read long conversations about Moz that are not attached to our Twitter feed. I try to determine if there is something we need to know about, something we need to work on and also make sure that I protect the brand if the things being said are incorrect.

To be good at social you need to know how to protect the brand and serve the people as well.

Have Plans in Place

Proper planning can make all the difference during the good times and the bad.  If the brand has not anticipated potential issues that might arise then the social media manager should. Create some scenarios that could come up and create plans for the different situations.

Example 1, your website goes down (it happens).

  • What steps does a social media manager take?
  • Who to they contact within the company?
  • What procedures need to be followed?
  • What do they say to the community?

If plans are in place it takes a lot of pressure off of whoever is handling social media, and the entire company. Everyone knows what to do and how to handle it.

Example 2, someone openly attacks you on Twitter and others join in.

Situations like this can be intimidating and stressful and it could be handled really well or really badly! So you need to figure out:

  • How should your team handle angry people?
  • How should your team handle someone that is just mean and rude?
  • Is it ever best to ignore a conversation?
  • What notes need to be taken so the brand and the social team can reflect and learn?
  • When does the social media manager reach out for help?
  • Who do they contact?

If there are plans in place for difficult times the stress on the person handling social will be reduced because they know what to do. It is really hard handling tough situations and also having no idea what to do.

Learn and Define Your Audience

Evaluate-your-audienceEvery audience is different. They are comprised of many different personalities and demographics, but if they are a part of your community they have something in common. What is that? As you are working and communicating with your community? Get to know who they really are separately and as a whole.

I work as an associate on the community team at Moz and we have taken the time to really assess who our audience is, what differs based on location and what commonalities our diverse audience has. One thing is for certain, our audience tends to be on the cool, trendy, intelligent and geeky side of things.

By understanding the audience we know how to speak to the audience no matter what the situation is. In times of crisis we know what the audience expects. We recently had a DDoS attack at Moz and because the community team knows our audience well we knew what to say and how to say it. We knew what the audience expected, and we understood and validated their feelings.

Recommendation – Get to know your audience on a deeper level because it gives you great insights in how to help them, how to speak to them and what you need to do during the hard times to meet the needs of your community.

Top Pubcon New Orleans Presentations Day 2

Pubcon New Orleans actually began on St. Patrick’s Day down in The Big Easy with Masters Group sessions beginning on Monday. Since not everyone attends the Masters Group sessions, we are calling Tuesday-Day 1, Wednesday-Day 2, and Thursday-Day 3. If you missed any of the events from Wednesday, don’t worry we’re giving you some of the top presentations below! Several topics, including Organic SEO, Paid Search, Local Search and much more were covered Wednesday with tons of great speakers which I won’t even begin to name because there are so many good ones!

Here is a list of the top presentations:

Organic Search:

Social Media Signals and SEO from Eric Enge

Paid Search:

PUBCON 2014: Hacking AdWords – Winning at PPC the Weird Way by Larry Kim, WordStream, Inc. from Internet Marketing Software – WordStream

Local Search:

< Local SEO – It's No Laughing Matter from Greg Gifford

The "Big Easy" Guide to Google-Friendly Link Earning from Casey Markee

Building a Future Proof Plan for Organic Local Search Rankings by Mike Stewart PubCon New Orleans 2014 from SMB SEO

Social Media:

Google Authorship Kidnapping: Why Authorship Photos Disappeared from Search from Mark Traphagen

Expert Spotlight with Michael King:

Personas: Understanding the User Behind the Visit from Michael King

Top Pubcon New Orleans Presentations from Day 1

Pubcon New Orleans kicked off earlier this week with Masters Group sessions beginning on Monday, March 17, 2014. But for most, Pubcon started on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. If you missed Tuesday of this event, don’t worry we’ve got you covered! Several topics, including Organic SEO, Paid Search, Content Marketing and much more were covered Tuesday with tons of great speakers.

Here is a list of the top presentations:

Organic Search:

Algorithm Chaos – PubCon NOLA 2014 by Jake Bohall of Virante from Jake Bohall

Paid Search:

PPC Basics "5 Steps to PPC Success" – Pubcon New Orleans 2014 by Mark Barrera from Mark Barrera

Content Marketing:

Visual Side of Content Marketing from Mat Siltala

Possession (of Content) with Intent to Distribute from Ben Cook

Optimizing Content for Discovery and Conversion from Copyblogger Media

Selling Guns to Gandhi: Getting Content Buy-In – Pubcon New Orleans 2014 from AXZM

7 Quick No-No’s on Mobile Site Design

irritated mobile userWhen it comes to mobile website design, keep it simple. Less is more is a good motto.

Remember your mobile website users are fast-paced. When they are on their phone, they want everything easily accessible and on the fly. They do not have the time or patience to sort though website that is clunky and full of salesy BS trying to sweet talk into their wallet. They want to get right down to the point and get their fast. Make sure you that the first thing they see when they land on your mobile site is the most important information.

Here are 7  quick mobile website design no-no’s:

1. Using Pop-Ups. Pop ups can be a pain in the you know what, and just downright annoying. On mobile devices they are a HUGE problem! The mobile user has to fight to try and get the screen just right in order to be able to close the pop up. Don’t leave them on your mobile website to distract that on-the-go mobile user.

2. Burying Company Contact Info. Make sure your contact info is easily accessible. After all, don’t you actually want the customer to be able to contact you if they are interested in your product and services?!

3. Too Much Text. People using mobile devices are moving. They want to find the information that they need as quick and easy as possible. So don’t make them sift through loads of text and other crap that they DON’T need in order to find what they DO need. Less is more when it comes to mobile website content.

4. Links and Objects Too Close Together. It doesn’t matter who you are, ALL fingers are fatter when navigating on a mobile device! When links and objects are placed too close together it leads to wasted time, effort, and energy for all parties involved.

5. Buttons Too Small. Guess what?! Fat fingers strikes again! Buttons should always be big enough for our fingers. And they should be a safe distance apart so users are not tapping the wrong button. That is so frustrating to be meaning to hit one button but hitting another because it is so close to it. Then you have to spend twice as long navigating you way around because you have to keep backing up. This can lead to mobile users just completely abandoning the effort involved to view your mobile site.

6. Burying the Call-to-Action. As you know, mobile screens are very small, so keep your call to action within the visible screen people see when they land on your mobile site or your conversion rates will suffer. I mean if they can’t see your call to action they certainly probably aren’t going to do what you desire them to do.

7. Long Confusing Forms. Remember your mobile users are on-the-go and often in a hurry to get the information they need. Only use a form if absolutely necessary, and be sure to ask for as little information as possible. If it isn’t essential, save it for your desktop site. The best forms are probably just name and email address unless it is absolutely necessary to obtain more information from the user. The last thing you want is them to get frustrated having to fill out a long form and just abandon your mobile site. We have all been there and done that.

By using the tips above when doing your mobile website design you should create a better overall user experience for your mobile website users, making them appreciate your brand and efforts. Hopefully you will see great strides in your conversion rates. And don’t forget to have your analytics set up for your mobile site as well! You want to be able to track your efforts!