Of SEO and Parmesan Cheese

Magnifier image advertises that the topic of this post is 'search.'The jar labeled “Pimento Parmesan Cheese” sat on my kitchen windowsill for weeks. It contained brownish granules. I didn’t remember leaving it there myself and couldn’t figure out how it got there. I couldn’t imagine how pimento parmesan cheese had gotten brown but didn’t dare to open the container.

Ready to throw it out today, I looked a little more closely and realized that it contained finely chopped walnuts – a kind neighbor had brought over some of his surplus so I could use them in baking.

The essence of search marketing lies in two related concepts: First, label your content properly so that the reader can quickly understand what it contains. Second, make sure your content passes the “sniff test.” This post will give you two tips for labeling and sniff-proofing your content.

Why Search Engine Optimization?

As marketers, we tend to think of search engine optimization (SEO) as a way to drive more traffic to our websites. From a customer perspective, search is about helping readers find the content that they value – quickly. As much as we have qualms about how much information Google collects, it does a good job of serving up relevant search results. That’s because Google and other search engines are constantly trying to improve the way their searches perform from the perspective of the searcher. In the process, they reward honesty.

This is good news for marketers who suffered for years in a business environment that viewed content as a commodity. Your content needs to be informative, accurate, and helpful; your readers are your customers. Just as you “pay” money for goods, you “pay attention” to content.

An ethical and efficient approach to SEO makes search results advertise your content in a compelling but fair way.

Labeling Your Content

The Headline Before the Headline

A search engine result includes a page title and a description. This is the first part of your content a reader will see. It’s like the lid of my walnut jar – they will read this headline before they click.

So, make sure your page title and your description (in HTML, the title and meta tags within the page’s <HEAD> section) describe your content fairly. If you don’t create a description for your content, search engines tend to pull out the title or the first paragraph; someone searching for a walnut-based parmesan cheese recipe might be sorely disappointed if they find this post. (If you’re one of those HTML geeks who right-clicks to “view source,” you’ll notice I haven’t done that with this post yet. To make up for this failing, here is my favorite vegan walnut parmesan recipe).

Here’s how to use meta tags in WordPress and regular HTML (along with some more good information about meta tags).

Alt Tags in Images

An image ALT tag (short for “alternate”) helps tell the story behind the images to visually impaired audiences, including search engines and humans who happen to be looking at your content with images turned off.

If you hover over an image in a browser, you’ll see the ALT tag – try it with the image of a magnifying glass.

Because search engines look for text strings, ALT tags can help them by presenting valuable information about the content of a page. For this reason, many an intern wasted the late 1990’s stuffing alt tags with keywords. The honest SEO will make sure that the alt tags describe the images fairly and in a way that is useful to humans and search engines.

This doesn’t mean that the ALT tags must describe the images literally or refrain from presenting extra information; your alt tags can contain some keywords relevant to your topic or your marketing goals. For example, the alt tag in the image used with this post is not simply”magnifying glass sketch” — I used “Magnifier image advertises that the topic of this post is ‘search.'”

Here’s how to add ALT tags in WordPress and regular HTML, along with more information about how to use ALT text properly for a visually impaired audience.

Passing the “Sniff Test”

You’d best believe I sniffed the walnuts before sprinkling them on my cereal. Similarly, you should check your content before publishing, and make sure it meets two important criteria.

Actually Answer the Question

Are you ready to vote for a politician because he understands your pain? Has this misled you into thinking he will actually solve your problem?

Make sure that your content actually answers the question that your title and description promises. These days, where “content is king,” too many people are cranking out low-quality fluff designed to attract visitors to their site.

It’s true that you can’t sell aspirin unless your audience has (or thinks they have) a headache. But if they still have a headache after they’ve bought the aspirin, they won’t be back for another bottle.

Give your page an honest reading and ask yourself if it answers the questions or solves the problem that you are posing at the beginning. If it doesn’t, hold off on publishing the page until you have done some more homework.

Don’t Put Everything Behind a Form

If you’re a marketer, you are accustomed to writing content aimed at getting people to provide you their names and email addresses so you can continue to market to them.

There is nothing wrong with “gating” content behind a form. But do consider that if someone clicks on “23 Ways to Melt Belly Fat While Growing Your Career and Improving Your Love Life,” he is going to want to read at least two or three of them, and perhaps even test them, before subscribing to your marketing offers.

The same holds for anything else that interrupts the user’s ability to read the content she has been promised by your search engine results. Live chat windows, survey invitations, and ads are all okay as long as they don’t get between your user and the value you offer. Consider adding a delay of 60 seconds or more before popup windows appear, and make sure that the popups don’t detract from the credibility of your content.

After All, It’s All About Trust

If you take this approach to search, you will begin earning your audience’s trust right away. The more your content is worth what your audience “pays” for it, the better chance you stand of inspiring their curiosity, arousing their interest, and gaining their loyalty.

 

 

Less Push, Longer Batteries . . . Or, Do You Really Need To Know This Right Now?

Who knew that the iPhone sucked through its battery juice so quickly? My old MetroPCS phone (“smash your phone to smithereens to stop getting spam texts from Fashion Bug”) used to last me a couple days, even when I spent my entire lunch break chatting with my darlin’.

Today I got a couple of text messages and suddenly noticed my battery had gone down to 23 percent. Yikes! A quick search on “how to preserve your iPhone battery life” yielded the following insights, among others:

  • “Push” notifications drain your battery faster
  • You can manage these by clicking “Settings” and then “Notifications”
  • Facebook’s notification settings are located within the Account Settings within the actual Facebook app.

After having received a “push” alert that an acquaintance is going grocery shopping at DeMoula’s, I got a little more intimate with my Facebook app. I had to tick off fourteen separate boxes to tell Facebook not to ping me when I was tagged in a photo, or a friend was nearby, or someone wants me to participate in the latest app from Appville.

Otherwise, these things would have come through with the same alert level as a text from my son saying he was locked out of the house. And/or, drained the battery so my son couldn’t reach me at all if he was locked out.

Really, Facebook?

Where, Oh Where, Is A High Res Logo?

Here’s a frustrating situation that designers, printers, and yes, even bloggers, face from time to time.

You’re looking for a company’s logo. I’m not talking about using a logo for the wrong reasons … I’m talking about when a company has asked you to create a web page or an ad for them . . . or they’re working with a partner and need to feature the partner’s logo . . .  Sure, you can find something on the Web, but it’s a .GIF, a .JPG, or even a .png format, and it’s the wrong size for your needs. Or it doesn’t have a transparent background. You end up doing tons of production work using Photoshop to make it look right. And it still doesn’t work because of pixels (which my son calls “pickles,” but that’s another story . . . no, this is not a soccer mom blog. At least mostly not).

Fortunately, through a combination of Google, a bunch of friendly “logo” websites, and Acrobat Reader, you can solve about 90% of these problems. (Disclaimer: I am making up the 90% figure).

Here are four helpful tips:

  1. Do a Google Search on “[company name] logo vector” — if the company you are looking for is at all in the public eye, chances are you will pull up one of a number of “free vector logo” websites that offer this material free of charge.
  2. If you don’t find something on Google, go to the company’s website and look for a PDF of the company’s annual report or even press releases. You can often open a PDF in Acrobat and copy-paste individual images into Illustrator. Failing that, you can open individual pages of a PDF in Photoshop and get images at much higher resolution than you’ll find them on the Internet.
  3. If all that fails, do a Google search for “company name” and “pdf” or “psd” or “.png”
  4. Or even “company name” and “.ppt”. It’s amazing how many PowerPoint presentations are floating around in directories not indexed in companies’ main websites, but find-able through Google.

If you would like to save your designer this trouble, please make sure that a vector version of your company’s logo is stored where everyone in your company can find it. Where I work, we have a company Wiki that contains everything from employee expense reimbursement forms to links to our logo in various formats. Whenever I get an email from someone looking for our logo, I point them to the right page on the Wiki.

After all, pickles are great on your cheeseburger, but pushing them around one at a time to try to make a yucky JPEG look better is no one’s idea of a fun time.

A Recipe for Webinar Registration

Using HubSpot to Register Leads for Citrix Online’s GoToWebinar

Disclaimer: Are you a HubSpot customer? Are you a super geek? Then this post is for you. Everyone else: Check out more entertaining content, like the other posts on this site.

If you are planning a webinar, you face some confusing decisions about how to communicate with your leads and store information about them. Both Citrix and HubSpot offer lead intelligence and automated follow-up communication with your registrants. However, neither system does everything that you might want to do, and there is some overlap. This article is intended to help you combine the best features of both systems to make sure you can take advantage of Citrix’s automatic reminder tools without losing any of the benefits of having your lead data in the HubSpot database. For those who are comfortable tinkering with HTML — okay, let’s face it: you have to be ultra-comfortable tinkering with HTML — there are some notes about how to jerry-rig a form so it feeds data into both Hubspot and Citrix.

If you use GoToWebinar’s email marketing tools and landing page to register people for the website, you are missing an opportunity to store the registration data in your Hubspot database. But you do need to use GoToWebinar’s automated follow-up tools to provide your participants the registration link. To avoid having to manually enter data from one system into another, here’s the recipe I used for registration the last time I produced a webinar.

The Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Your own website or web server, capable of hosting PHP scripts
  • Your Hubspot website and database
  • Your Citrix GoToWebinar account
  • A few cups of patience

In Brief

  1. Create a HubSpot-hosted landing page for your webinar and populate it with any persuasive content and images you would like to use
  2. Set up the webinar on Citrix GoToWebinar
  3. Create a form on your non-Hubspot hosted website to capture webinar registration. Set it up so that it spools data to Citrix’s webinar registration database.
  4. Add the form to your Hubspot-hosted landing page.
  5. Test the form to make sure it properly registers you for the webinar.
  6. Use all of Hubspot’s tools (lead nurturing campaigns, email campaigns, calls to action, and links from relevant content sections of your website) to drive traffic to the landing page.

Creating the Form

  1. Make sure your webinar is already set up GoToWebinar. When you come to the Registration tab, set up the form with the fields you want to capture.
  2. In GoToWebinar, click the “Registration Web Page” link and leave it open in your browser. You’ll have to reference the source code for the next few steps.
  3. Read the excellent articleon the HubSpot Wiki about how to use the PHP script that integrates GoToWebinar and Hubspot. Copy and configure the PHP code there and post it to your web server as gtw-process.php. You will need to change the code in three lines:
    • Line 4: You should add the URL that you’re going to re-direct your newly converted leads/registrants to once they submit the form. This should likely be a thank you page of some sort.
    • Line 14: Line 14 references the URL of the GoToMeeting registration process. On the GoToWebinar registration page that you left open in the browser, look at the first part of your GoToWebinar URL (e.g. www3.gotomeeting.com) and change the URL in line 14 to agree with that. This will direct the registration data to the right server in the GoToWebinar system.
    • Line 34: You’re going to need to input your HubSpot Lead Tracking API URL on this line in the place of the “<YOUR HUBSPOT POST URL HERE>”. This can be attained from your HubSpot portal under ‘Settings -> Integrations -> HubSpot Lead API” and then clicking on the ‘Create New Form’ button. If there are questions around this, please contact HubSpot support. They’re great.
  4. Create an HTML page on your own, non-HubSpot hosted website. This page will only contain the form. Here is a sample form with comments on how you may need to adjust the HTML. You can simply copy-paste the following text into the body of your new HTML page:
    <form method=”get” action =”http://<path-to-file>/gtw-process.php”&gt;Comment: Make sure you reference the path to your PHP file correctly.First Name: <input name=”firstName” size=”40″ type=”text” />

    Last Name: <input name=”lastName” size=”40″ type=”text” />

    Email: <input name=”email” size=”40″ type=”text” />

    Comment: The PHP code maps the Hubspot-friendly field names such as firstName and lastName to the field names that GoToWebinar uses, such as Name_First and Name_Last. If you want to add more registration data, create more fields in the GoToWebinar registration form, and view the source of that page to see how GoToWebinar names the fields. You can then add lines to the PHP script to map more form fields to the GoToWebinar system.

    <input name=”WebinarKey” type=”hidden” value=”‘<ENTER WEBINAR KEY HERE>’ />

    Comment: The way this field is named can be a stumbling block. In the land of Citrix tech support, the webinar key is a proprietary, hidden number that you can only get by calling your corporate account representative and acting like a smarty-pants. In this context, webinar key actually refers to the webinar ID. It is the string of numbers that appears at the end of the webinar registration URL you left open in step 3.

    <input name=”Form” type=”hidden” value=”webinarRegistrationForm”>

    <input name=”template” type=”hidden” value=”https://www1.gotomeeting.com/en_US/island/webinar/registration.tmpl“>

    Comment: This references the URL of the GoToMeeting registration process. On the GoToWebinar registration page that you left open in the browser, look at the first part of your GoToWebinar URL and change the URL in line 14 to agree with that. This will direct the registration data to the right server in the GoToWebinar system.

    <input type=”submit” value=”Submit”>

    </form>

    Comment: If you like, change your Submit button to read “Register” by changing the value to “Register.”

  5. Post the HTML page to your website and test it to make sure it registers you for the webinar.

Add the Form to your HubSpot-Hosted Landing Page

  1. View/Edit your HubSpot-hosted landing page.
  2. Click “Add Module” and choose HTML/Javascript.
  3. In the HTML/Javascript window, enter HTML code for an inline frame and set the source to the webinar form you’ve published on your website. For best results, use the width, height, and scrolling parameters in the following example: http://www.your-domain.com/your-webinar-form.html
  4. Save your landing page and test it.

Kicking Off the Campaign

We used a lead nurturing campaign to repeatedly invite the leads in our database that we knew would be interested in the webinar. Because you have set up the form to spool data to Hubspot and to GoToWebinar, when they convert on the form, they automatically are removed from the lead nurturing campaign and are entered into GoToWebinar’s email reminder system.

Now you can use all HubSpot’s other great tools to drive traffic to your landing page and convert it into leads — and still get all the benefits of the GoToWebinar automatic reminders.

So You Think You Can Talk?

singing birdNearly thirty years ago, the great avant-garde art rock composer Brian Eno told a small group of college students: “Hundreds of people send me tapes of their compositions. One thing nearly everyone does is apologize for the poor production values of the recordings. Often the poor production values are the only thing that make the recordings at all interesting.”

Nowadays, fairly sophisticated recording equipment is available at the consumer level. If you are producing an online tutorial or demo, you might be tempted to simply record your own voice. After all, we hear podcasts, webinars, and audio from Flipcams online every day. Here are a few reasons why you should think twice before taking a D.I.Y. approach to voiceovers and consider hiring a professional voice-over artist.

  1. Talent. They call it “voiceover talent” for a reason. I once recorded a scratch track for a Flash demo I was working on so I could get the timing of the actions right. I thought it sounded pretty good. When I heard the final recordings by voiceover artist Jill Goldman of Goldivox, I was stunned. Her warm, earthy tones made the material — a tutorial about how to use a nonprofit research organization’s website — come alive. Her tracks sounded so much better than my speaking voice that she will always be my first call if I need to record voiceovers again.
  2. Convenience. You might think it won’t take you all that long to record a quick voiceover, but you might be surprised at how long it takes you to set up equipment, arrange the time to do the work, and perform the voice tracks many times until you get it right. When you consider the costs of your time to do this kind of work, it usually makes sense to outsource it.
  3. Quality. A voiceover artist usually has several choices of places to record, whether it’s a basic decent home sound recording setup or a professional recording studio. Don’t be like the young lady who had to include a credit for “Dad on lawnmower” on her first recording.
  4. Experience. Whether you need help with audio formats or finding background music, a professional voiceover artist has dealt with a lot of the issues around adding voice tracks to projects before. This expert advice comes with the territory when you’re working with a pro.
  5. The Leaky Pipe Rule. As my plumber once told me while repairing a catastrophic situation that I had caused, “Do what you do best, and pay for the rest.” Why not do things right the first time?