Awaken the Sleeping Giant that is Your Customer

I am going to make some pretty broad based assumptions.

Everyone of you has a website that you are directly or indirectly involved in.

Either it’s your own personal site, or it’s your company’s. If it’s the company website, you probably have some type of responsibility or influence over it’s content. Assuming I know the audience that read this blog, chances are you have some type of input into your company website.. If that is true, then you have to ask yourself a very simple question.

Are you giving your first time visitors a reason to stay or a reason to come back?

This question delves into a deeper set of questions that if you cannot answer with a resounding yes, then you are flat out leaving money on the table. Those questions are:

  • What do you want your customer/first time visitor to do on your site?
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • What is the call to action?
  • How do you interact with them?
  • and lastly Is it mobile ready or friendly?

Your new customers or visitors are like sleeping giants. You need to awaken that sleeping giant who, with the right kind of online experience on your site, can be turned into a brand advocate or brand champion. Go look at your website right now-Is it really meeting the needs of the audience that it’s intended for? What are you waiting for?

12 Random sites to make the week go quicker.

So every once in awhile I will go through my bookmarks and try and prune stuff that I bookmarked for a reason that might escape me when I actually revisited it. In this case I’m going to share some sites that have some value or bring some value to what I do. Or at least they did at the time… Some of you, actually I suspect a good portion of you have never heard of Vivisimo a little tech company out of Pittsburgh. Besides the fact that Pittsburgh is a jewel in the rough, this company is too. You will do the same as I did and ultimately bookmark them.

Next up, a friend once told me the way to go in regards to investing was to look at Vanguard, so I bookmarked it. Though when I look at the site, I blink and keep it and then I move on. I suspect that a lot of people besides myself do the exact same thing with some of their bookmarks. Made sense at the time. Though, I’m not sure Vanguard is hip to the payment plan.

So I have this one, The Sand Trap bookmarked and I never go to it but hey, that’s 75% of my bookmarks. If you have zero interest in golf, then don’t bother going here. But if you want a mortgage calculator then go here. Seems to be a timely site.

 I think thats the great thing about what you save and why, it’s a total glimpse into what you do and what you like etc etc. I would say that the majority of my bookmarks are marketing, internet and social media marketing type sites and the rest are just what I’ve shown you above. Though, I do love a good  Stone IPA brew.

Lastly I came across the Big Idea site hosted by Donny Deutsch It’s kind of a cool site for all of us dreamers out there. On the site they mention a product called the Body Buddy, I decided to check it out and the website looks great and the product has some genuine potential. Except… As I’m clicking thu the site, I wanted to check out some of the press they were getting and lo and behold I was transported to PDF land which I cannot stand. Nothing annoys me more then when a site feels the need to run with PDF’s instead of  converting pages to html, xml or php. I can understand white papers and case studies, and in that case I will print them out. But nothing is more of a deal killer for me then to have to put up with PDF”s. I know it’s one person’s opinion and we’ll leave it at that.  But every machine I’ve ever had handles PDF’s differently and it’s just an uneccessary step for a very, in this case, slick site.Though I do hope the fine folks from Oklahoma do succeed with the “Body Buddy”; it does seem to fill a need/niche.

Here is your last 2 killer sites that all of you should actually bookmark and then go back to: Gruvr and Liferemix

I know, I know, you can thank me later.


I came across the site of one of the people who has ventured upon our blog here and decided to check it out. The site is called ThoughtOffice<—Dispel any notions you might have of the “thought police”. This site is essentially an incubator for your ideas.

Here’s a blurb…

“Get creative. Solve big problems fast. Craft intelligent, compelling presentations in minutes. Instant access to PhD, MBA and Domain Expertise. 13,920 Questions. 7,420,000 answers. Develop your ideas, perfect, organize, protect and share with ThoughtOffice.”

With ThoughtOffice you will:

  • Develop an idea a minute.
  • Install and get productive in under 5 minutes.
  • Craft a winning presentation in 10 minutes.
  • Solve a big problem with precision in 30 minutes.
  • Coach an executive in real-time.
  • Craft a term paper at the 11th hour.
  • Storyboard a video in 30 minutes.
  • Comp 5 killer ad concepts in 30 minutes (with stock photos!)
  • Write a business plan in 1/5th the time.
  • Solve a personal or business conflict in an hour

    Check it out. I’m tempted to try it. Maybe Mark Effinger, will let me test drive it??? That’s not too blatant is it?


A Word to Mobile Marketers: Dumb it Down.

 By 2010, over 300 million people  will be using mobile phones and PDA’s. The five big verticals of mobile marketing and search will be : Consumer Package Goods, Fast Food, Entertainment, Travel, and Financial. Two other  industries not to ignore however, are gaming and adult.  In all of these market segments though, there will always be a need to vomit the information to the consumer, if you will.

Graphic analogies aside, what marketers need to have, to steal a line from “Top Gun”. Is a “need for speed”. having said that, internet marketers and web designers have to build their mobile sites in a completely different way for mobile users. Below is a short list of things that will need to be done in order for the experience to be a positive one for mobile users.

1) Keep the layout simple and compliant to the device(more on this later)

2) Small URL’s. At some point, someone will have to type in your mobile URL into their device.

3) No Forms. Why you would want forms on a mobile site escapes me, but if you stay in the business long enough, you tend to see it all.

4) Make the naviagtion simplistic and linear. Keep the user going down  a logical path.

5) Be specific in the content, so that the user finds what they are looking for quickly. Bear in mind that mobile users have an immediate need and reason for surfing mobile content, give them a quick result.

6)  Limit the number of clicks and drill downs for the user to get their information.

7)  Refrain from using graphics and ads. They will only cloud the page and the result and slow the results to a crawl.

8)  No scripting, no plugines and no tables.

9) Try and develop a page that can be navigated using one hand. I know it’s virtually impossible but, put yourself in the users place.

10) Make the content accessible regardless of device and regardless of bandwidth needs.

11) Keep the following specs in mind as well:

  • 120 pixel screen width
  • Use XHTML
  • Use UTF-8 character encoding
  • Use JPEG’s and GIF’s
  • Page size should be 20Kb’s
  • Color: 256 min.
  • No scripting
  • Css1 style sheets
  • Http/1.0
  • No image maps
  • Limit Links

You’ll save yourself a lot of grief and headaches if you, wanting to cash in on mobile marketing, subscribe to certain design constraints when building your mobile ready websites. I know there are others that still need to be discussed, but the above should help in at least giving you a small checklist to utilize in your quest to be part of the next great marketing boom. Remember KISS! (Keep it simple, stupid.)

Dumb People and Technology

According to Wikipedia:

Dumb may refer to:

  • Stupidity, the state of
  • Dumbing down, a term referring to over-simplification

I recently wrote about the fact that sometimes technology and the use thereof, may be too complicated for some “slower” people to grasp, therefore what they might use their computer for, might not neccessarily be what others use it for. Is that ok?

In creating web apps and websites, we always try to dumb down what we are creating, in the hopes that its simplicity will push it over the top in terms of the broadest possible audience grasping what we are trying to convey. In lieu of words sometimes we create icons. Yet other large manufacturers choose to assume that people will “get it” and if they have problems just call the help desk. Can you say focus group? Or lack thereof?

Maybe Dumb people shouldn’t operate computers? Maybe we underestimate the dumb person; Or perhaps they use it to go to YouTube? Do dumb people use email? Has anyone or any company actually looked at that sector of the public to see, just what they use the computer for? Is it a group that we should market to? Are we missing out on this demographic? Or do we just assume that they will get it? Isn’t it the goal of all technology innovations that they are accessible to all? If so, doesn’t that mean regardless of your mental capacity, that that person will be able to grasp it? That you, the slow one, will get it?

Is technology biased towards people who are educated? If it is, do they leave the dumb people in their wake? What are dumb people supposed to do? Rely on smarter people? Or the Geek Squad? Do dumb people want a  crack at technology and what it has to offer?  Does technology provide a fair shake to people who want to learn but just are really really challenged?

A dumb person might have the grandest of intentions when buying a computer, but what are they to do when they have to install software, get an internet connection, download updates, install security software, burn a disc, download some music from itunes, buy some porn, etc etc etc…?

You see the world is moving more and more towards a paperless virtual high speed electronic environment. But it moves at a speed that not a lot of people are comfortable with. And you know what? Technology could not care less! Social networking sites are great but I’m willing to bet the affluency of the users is solid middle class and up. Educationally, we provide our 1st graders with a solid foundation for technology, but we’ve forgotten about the boomers and some gen X’ers even, and those who may have slipped through the cracks and those that it just passed right over. For whatever reason, those people are missing out on what technology can do for them. But now that I think about it, maybe they don’t care. Maybe to them, playing FreeCell, Bejeweled and watching Videos on YouTube, is just fine…

Web Sites with Bad Design

Web Sites with a bad UI. They are not hard to find. But what I find hard to fathom, is large companies and organizations which green light projects that produce such fodder? Where is the disconnect? I once worked for an interactive web design company, and we would sit in these meetings and this is what happens: 10 people providing input into what “they” would like to see on the “new” website. No central voice, except that all were allowed to participate and contribute.

What happens is the website loses all workflow and navigation sensibility. Why? Because you have decisions made by committee. By people who have no background in web design and UI design. This seems to be more prevalent the larger the organization, but can also happen on a smaller scale, when decision makers fancy themselves and the masses for that matter, as intuitive web designers.

One of the areas where you would think that creativity would reign supreme but does not, is on college campuses. Why? In a lot of  academic settings, each department may be autonomous of each other and thus have an idea how their departments “look and feel” should be articulated online. Trust me it, it doesn’t work. What you get is 20 departments with 20 different looks. All sites should flow, they should have the same layout so that students and parents and prospective students know exactly where to look for critical information.

Which leads me to the bigger picture. At all large corporations and small as well. You need to have a plan. But the plan needs to work in the context of a) does it meet and serve the needs of the visitor and b) does it meet and server the needs of the search engines and c) is it visually effective.

Unfortunately, form over function sometimes wins out and thus what you get is, sites that are not so hot.

Let’s critique a few really quick, shall we?

Harvard I’m a little shocked by the lack of interest this landing page conveys. It’s almost arrogant in nature. The thought being, “We’re Harvard, so having a cool website is not a priority. So Much for PR.

Oxford  Not bad.  At least it’s a little more inviting to visitors than Harvards. It still has a stuffy academic “We are Oxford” feel to it.

Coke Might have been cool but the load was slow, but interactive and engaging, maybe a little too busy, but then again it’s a brand that really has to speak to a lot of different demographics, so it’s understandable. But still slow and confusing.

Pepsi  Absolutely love this. Very fast load (because its PHP?) The UI is broken into segments immediately, it’s hip and engaging and Clearly they understand who is hitting their site. Mad props to the folks at Pepsi. they get it. They understand their brand and their users and how to get them where they need to go.

McDonalds I’m surprised at the corporate nature of this. given the amount of urban advertising and the tremendous push for fresh and new, I’m not feeling this from the landing page.  They have one little drop down called,”havin fun”… NOT!

Burger King Not Bad, but the initial landing page is a map and you have to choose your country. I get that for an internationaly branded product but.. After selecting the proper country there are some nifty flash pages but overall I would think it needs to play up current themes versus current specials??? Who’s your audience?

Los Angeles  The city of Los Angeles, I know, whenever you venture into the public sector, especially government sites, expect the worst. so I wasn’t surprised by what I saw.  As citizens, you expect to muddle your way through any type of state or local government site. I wish they(the sites) were better, but they are because they are.

NYC I actually liked the NYC site. It was laid out a bit better than the LA site; and it also has a feel for who might be hitting the site. The LA site was like their freeways. Confusing. The NYC site actually understands it’s sites visitors better and what they need and want. Kudos to the Big Apple.

I’m curious as to what others might feel about this and would not mind seeing some examples of good and bad sites. I know some orgs. know they have a bad site and others are just clueless, maybe we can help them? Let me know.


Building a website? Don’t forget about the user!

In the golden age of SEO and SEM often websites are built with the search engines in mind. This is not necessarily a bad thing its just that sometimes one of the key elements is forgotten. The user. The person who brings revenue and eyeballs to your site in the first place.

We know that content is king, always has and always will be. We also know that content is one of the keys to a search engine friendly site. But when the content does not speak to the user and is geared more towards the SE’s. Then we have a problem. As a Search engine marketer, you have to be intrinsically aware of what you are trying to achieve.  Simply put, you want…web nirvana. That happy place where you have achieved the goal of creating a search engine friendly site with a user friendly design.

It can be done, but remember that it has to be built from the inside out. That means your pages have to have ample room for content. Sure Flash is cool but really, what does flash do for a site? It makes it sexy and it’s visually appealing but the SE’s are not too wild about it. But… “What about my user? They like it!” And there my friend is the Catch-22. What’s good for the user is not necessarily good for the search engines. Thus the thinking that has to go into any and all web deployments. You have to straddle the beam like an olympian. Balancing between the users needs and expectations and the SE’s criteria.

Keep the flash to a minimum if you must use it, and spare the flash/splash as some organizations are wont to do. I would say that most users skip the intro anyway. Once you get past the flash, crank copy that you as a user would want to read and that is relevent to the site. After a rough draft, you can then go back and possibly tweak with some of your key words.

After you have crafted the content, then you can work on the structure, site maps, alt tags, metas and linking, all which speak to the SE’s and really won’t affect the user too much. Lastly once you have the site done, go back and see if it flows; and if you the user think the content is relevent to you, the user! While you’re at it, I would highly recommend one of the few Naples based seo companies