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Best of 2012: June

Last week we brought you the start of our roundup of the most noteworthy articles I’ve written in 2012. This week, we continue, starting with six from back in June.

1. Magazine publishers clearly aren’t encouraging their advertisers to set up response mechanisms which can be tracked. Most abandoned their own systems (such as “bingo cards”, and online “more information” numbers under the advertisements) long ago. You’d think they didn’t want you to measure the response. But why?

2. One thing which most engineering and scientific companies can’t get away from on their websites is tabular data. Unfortunately that’s also something which can be slightly irritating to produce in HTML, the code behind web pages. Most web design applications cope with creating tables reasonably well, but the way they appear on the page can be haphazard and slightly unpredictable. Some content management systems, including WordPress, don’t really support tables at all, although there are some decent plug-ins which help. However, there is a solution. Create the table in any application you’re comfortable with, such as Microsoft Word, and save it as an image.

3. Google has been penalising slow sites for some time. The load time measured by Google will not just be the time taken to see all of the visible elements of the page, but also any add-ons you might have running behind the scenes. So it might be time to ask yourself if you really need that counter saying how many people have visited the page, or how many people are apparently on the site at the moment. Take a look at the source code behind one of your web pages. If it goes on for screen after screen, even when the page has only a few words and pictures, then it might be time to get a new, more efficient content management system.

4. It’s quite fun to ask yourself “How many internal links have I got on my home page?” The answer which you’ll get from a tool which counts them will probably surprise you. Do you seriously need all of those links?

5. “Bait and switch” involves customers being deliberately offered one thing, even though it’s not available and they would have to settle for a poorer alternative. None of us would do this, right? It’s a con. But there’s always a risk that you could be perceived as doing just that, even when you’re not. An offer needs to integrate tightly with the call-to-action which gets people to it.

6. A marketing manager at an engineering company came up with the idea of asking her company’s customers to write about how they were using their products. But how could they be encouraged to do that? The company has offered to make a charitable donation for every article received. It’s a strange thing about the human condition that we’re often prepared to go the extra mile for someone deserving. If I was fund raising, and someone offered me £100 to write a few paragraphs (and to get my boss’s agreement), I’d probably leap at the opportunity.

My quote of the month is this: “Starting an email or a sales letter (or even a phone call) with “sorry…” or “apologies…” suggests you’re considerate. But it also immediately implies that what you’re about to say is probably not going to be worth the prospect’s time.”

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