Our Daily Articles: Complete Index 2008–2020

Tracking your promotions properly

If you use Google Analytics, one of the best tools you have at your disposal is the rather low-profile URL Builder (so obscure it doesn’t even appear to have a nice URL to call its own). What this tool does is to enable you to create URLs for all your promotional campaigns, such as advertising, emails, etc, which then allows you to track the visitors they create to a fine degree. This is the sort of thing I regularly find myself helping out our Insider Programme members with, but once… Read More »Tracking your promotions properly

Seeing through the figures

When I do my introductory seminar on effective Google AdWords advertising, I do my best to convince people that although managing an AdWords account is intricate and takes a lot of time, it’s not conceptually difficult. I show how it’s important to measure conversions (the number of responders to the adverts who take actions), rather than just the number of responses. “Cost per conversion” becomes an extremely important measurement, and is what usually makes Google AdWords so much better value than other forms of advertising. But is the better advert… Read More »Seeing through the figures

Show them just enough

There are two great things to learn from the blog post I’m going to point you towards today. It’s called 10 Essential Rules to Help You Create “Ready-to-Buy” Customers With White Papers and it’s on Michael Stelzner’s Writing White Papers site. The first thing to note is the rules themselves. Producing one or more White Papers is an excellent marketing tool for almost every business. And the tips listed in this article are really good ones, from not holding back with your secrets, to embracing the reader’s issues. The second… Read More »Show them just enough

Er… sorry.

It seems like ages since we had one of Seth Godin’s pearls of wisdom here. So I’ll refer you to his recent post Why are you apologizing? for some of the usual food for thought. In summary, he says that if you’re sending out something with an apology for sending it, then don’t send it in the first place. He’s right.

Why the iPad is the key to the future (but not the future)

I’ve described all this week how the mobile phone system of “apps” is a far superior way of interacting with a PC than the present one, where the operating system rules all. But who’s going to design the computer that makes the giant leap of dispensing with the conventional operating system interface? It’s already happening. Step forward the Apple iPad, which is everything I’m describing. Future iPads may well take on the form factor of current laptops and desktops – who knows? – but the key to this new gadget… Read More »Why the iPad is the key to the future (but not the future)

The future of computing is app-shaped

Yesterday I showed how dedicated apps on mobile devices are easier to use than websites and browser-based applications on the PC. So if you want the latest news on your football team on the PC, you find their website and once again, there’s a daunting, inconsistently designed nightmare of options to put you off. But download their app on your iPhone and it’s a vastly more pleasant and efficient experience. More importantly to the content provider, on the iPhone you’re enclosed in the football club’s own little ecosystem, whereas on… Read More »The future of computing is app-shaped

Why an app is better than an application

Yesterday I looked at how a simple screenful of applications would be a better way for PCs to work. What would that mean? Well, each of these applications runs in their own little world. When an app is launched, the computer becomes a dedicated device for that purpose. It throws away thirty years of PC development, which has been organised around a prominent operating system (such as Windows) keeping as many plates spinning as possible, and often failing to do so. Applications on a PC today are all designed to… Read More »Why an app is better than an application

A PC interface which just does what it says

Yesterday I mentioned that football clubs making their own iPhone apps is more significant than you’d think. I promise to explain why. But first, here’s something else. For many years I’ve wondered why nobody’s devised a good computer interface which, at startup, just offers us giant icons representing the applications we usually use, and nothing else. It would be a joy to use, and not just for my Mum, who only ever needs a web browser and iPhoto. Me, I’d have the screen divided into four: Safari, iTunes, Tweetdeck and… Read More »A PC interface which just does what it says

It’s the end of the web as we know it

All this week I’m going to be writing about the whole future of the way we use computers, so if you don’t want to know the score, look away now. This is the sort of thing we geeks daydream about when we’ve got an idle moment. You may be more interested in what’s for dinner tonight; I wouldn’t blame you. While watching a football match on the TV the other day, something happened which made me sit up in a way I haven’t done for about 15 years. That earlier… Read More »It’s the end of the web as we know it

You can’t have it all ways

Ever heard of the “project triangle”? It’s something a lot of engineers will be familiar with. Normally it demonstrates that you can have two out of three things, and any two, but never all three. The typical example is “fast, good and cheap”. Any two of these can overlap, but it’s not one of those Venn diagrams where all three overlap in the centre. I’ve often had to hire subcontractors in my career, and as an engineer by training, I’ve always kept the project triangle at the forefront of my… Read More »You can’t have it all ways

Why we need B2B publishers to wake up

An opinion piece from What’s Working in Marketing in the US asks What Happens to Communications Without the B2B Publishing Model? The answer is that manufacturers will be worse off, and all of us in marketing should hope that this channel recovers from the pretty hopeless situation it’s currently in. Publishing is, however, a horrendously macho business where it’s more normal to go to the wall before admitting weakness. That’s why you don’t see many publishers make the sensible move of reducing the frequency of their titles. There is simply… Read More »Why we need B2B publishers to wake up

A little bit of lateral thinking

B2BMarketingSmarts suggests in To make big B2B marketing strides in 2010 – go lateral that we try to think differently in the way we promote our companies. It’s not a bad idea; just as with generating new product ideas, the most cost-effective strategy in your marketing ideas toolbox may well be a long walk in the park. Brainstorming internally, bringing in outsiders and looking at the marketing from another industry are all good ideas. But just as in the 70s, nobody ever got sacked for buying IBM, is being radical… Read More »A little bit of lateral thinking

Where do visitors look on your pages?

Here’s a nice tool if you’d like to see how people look at your web pages. AttentionWizard is not a proper “eyetracking” tool, which requires laboratory levels of testing, but it uses some AI and geekery to come up with a good estimate of how people view your pages. You need them to look at the most important thing first (or at something which will lead them straight on to the most important thing), and that’s an aspect which even good graphic designers can often get completely wrong. Worth trying… Read More »Where do visitors look on your pages?

Google PageRank, Rest In Peace

You may have heard of Google’s “PageRank”. Indeed, you wouldn’t be alone if you found it very important. It’s a score from 0-10 relating to how “strong” a page is in Google’s rankings, and you can see it in the Google Toolbar, if you have that installed on your browser. Anyway, there was a time when Google PageRank was a brilliant indicator of how a site would perform in the Google results. That time has now passed. Let’s not hear any more about Google PageRank, please. Let it Rest In… Read More »Google PageRank, Rest In Peace

How healthy is your website?

The technology enabling anyone in the world to look at your website (their governments permitting) is horribly complex. Trust me, you do not want to get into the world of nameservers, DNS records, CNAMEs and SOA. Unfortunately, someone has to, but the drive to ever-cheaper web hosting means you’re probably not getting the care and attention behind the scenes that you’d like to think you are. However, there are some tools which will inspect the settings and performance of your website, and you don’t need to be an IT professional… Read More »How healthy is your website?

Make it easy for the world to beat a path to your door

Twice in the past few days I’ve been on the website of household-name companies, and found something really irritating which prevented me from doing business with them easily. Why this happens isn’t really relevant, although it’s probably down to the functionality of the website having been left to a bunch of computer programmers, rather than it having been specified implicitly for them. The fault was that I was quite prepared to spend a couple of moments telling them what the problem was, so that they could fix it …but they… Read More »Make it easy for the world to beat a path to your door

Should we care about Internet Explorer 6?

There was a time, five years ago, when Microsoft’s “Internet Explorer” web browser had such a dominant market share that it was hardly worth web designers worrying about what websites looked like in other browsers. Remember those “Best Viewed in Microsoft Internet Explorer” badges you’d see on some sites? That was an attempt by designers to persuade as many users as possible to standardise on one browser, so they’d never again have problems with display incompatibilities. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer never really adhered to the agreed web standards, and that reached… Read More »Should we care about Internet Explorer 6?

Opening up your sales presentations to the world

I’m currently putting together the material for a series of free seminars for all you good people. As with any such event, I’ll have a slide presentation to illustrate and emphasise what I’m saying (which I’m putting together in Keynote, but I could have used Powerpoint if I had the patience of a saint). Now, although the core of the seminar will run for two hours or more, it only takes 5-10 minutes to read through the slides. Sound familiar? Do you have a good presentation like this in your… Read More »Opening up your sales presentations to the world

Don’t be lazy: go that extra mile with your emails

Email is alive and well as a marketing channel in the B2B sector, as I’m sure you’re well aware. But where does email fall down? An interesting Marketing Sherpa discussion might prove enlightening. In What Motivates Buyers to Receive and Engage with Vendor Email? it’s made quite clear that the biggest weaknesses in emails are that the content isn’t relevant and the offer isn’t compelling enough. No surprise there of course, although it’s amusing that content not being relevant isn’t considered as big a problem by marketers as it is… Read More »Don’t be lazy: go that extra mile with your emails

Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow

Back in December I took a look at the importance of having a fast-loading website and although Google has set the record straight about some of the more outlandish fears people have had, speed is certainly a factor now in Google’s considerations. But like so many of the aspects of your website which Google looks at in assessing your importance, this is just a reflection of what’s important to your visitors. We so often forget that. If your web pages don’t appear instantly, visitors won’t necessarily hang around waiting for… Read More »Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow

You don’t need to worry about everything

In this last of my short series about “on-page search engine optimisation”, I’d like to quickly look at some of the things which don’t help you with your Google rankings. As it happens, the meta description tag is thought to have very little effect on the position in which a page is returned. However, if the key search phrase you’re targeting for that page is included in the meta description tag, the contents of that tag will be shown as the description in Google, and what’s more, the search phrase… Read More »You don’t need to worry about everything

Tweak, by all means, but don’t go overboard

If you thought things were starting to get a little complicated yesterday, we can actually tweak things to make them even more effective. For example, I’ve said that you need to get your key search phrase into the page title. However, it’s believed that the closer to the start of the title, the more effective it will be. So to rank well for “fast blue widgets”, a title of “Fast blue widgets launched as part of new 2010 widget range” will carry more weight for the “fast blue widgets” search… Read More »Tweak, by all means, but don’t go overboard

7 places you need to include your key search phrase

Yesterday we looked at the importance of having a target search phrase in mind when writing any web page. But where does it need to go? It turns out there are seven different places. They are: 1. The “Title tag” 2. The “Meta Description tag” 3. The Headline (or “h1 tag”) 4. The Body Copy (main text) 5. The Page URL 6. The main image URL 7. The main image “alt tag” So, if you’re creating a page about your range of fast blue widgets, and you’ve decided that “fast… Read More »7 places you need to include your key search phrase

Think before you write

If I’m ever asked an impossible question, it’s got to be “How do I make my web pages perform better in Google?” The answer is by paying equal attention to two things: the “optimisation” of the content on each page, and the quantity and quality of external links coming into the page. The best way I can suggest to learn about all this – and a lot, lot more – is to join our very cheap (£100 month!) Insider Programme. You can start as soon as next month. Dozens of… Read More »Think before you write

It’s only an electronic gadget.

Right, now that all the fuss has died down about that Apple gadget, we can start to think about whether this is just another electronic toy or – like the smartphone – if it’s the start of something which might affect the marketing landscape. Let’s say we believe the iPad is the start of a whole new class of device. I do. If you disagree, I’ll see you again on Monday. Still with me? Right, let’s say you do find the device as potentially interesting as I do. The difference… Read More »It’s only an electronic gadget.

The Effortless Blog.

A few days ago, I mentioned that a couple of industrial clients have asked us to start doing some technical writing for them, in the form of additional pages for their websites and blogs. This instantly generated further interest, along the lines of “how much would it cost for you to write a blog for our company?” and I thought it was worth passing on the reply to a wider audience! So… you’d like a blog for your company, and you’d like it written too? Here’s what we can do.… Read More »The Effortless Blog.

Don’t overlook Wikipedia

I’d be prepared to bet that in your website analytics report, no external site comes even close to Google when it comes to the quantity of visitors it sends. Well here’s something you might find interesting. I have a site where Google gets a run for its money. The referrer which does nearly as well? Wikipedia. Now, it’s well known that links from Wikipedia are tagged so that they don’t pass on any of the link strength which powers your website’s ranking in the search engines. However, many people forget… Read More »Don’t overlook Wikipedia

Evergreen renewals: a modern hazard

I read a blog post on Modern B2B Marketing the other day which made me nod my head vigorously. Beware of the Evergreen Renewal describes clauses hidden in the back of contracts to automatically renew as “evil” and I agree. It’s bad enough being forced to sign up to some services for a minimum period, but when it comes to the end of the period and you find you’ve already been signed up to a further term …that’s just unacceptable, in my opinion. I know one industrial concern which claims… Read More »Evergreen renewals: a modern hazard

Two free seminars for marketing managers

I’m delighted to announce that we will be hosting two free seminars here at Business Marketing Online (BMON) in a few weeks’ time, presented by yours truly. If you’re responsible for marketing at a small- to medium-sized industrial or scientific company, I think you’ll find them a highly worthwhile day away from the office. To start with I’m only announcing them to you as An Article A Day readers, but there are nearly 1000 readers and we have just 20 places at each event, so you will need to reserve… Read More »Two free seminars for marketing managers

Which of your pages are underappreciated by Google?

A smart idea today from the SEOmozBlog on how and why you should Find Invisible Pages Using Google Analytics. If you’ve got a fairly extensive website, this is a really good exercise. ‘Invisible pages’ in this context are pages which might as well not be there as far as Google is concerned, because it’s not sending them any traffic. If you’ve got pages which nobody is finding from Google, but which you think have some value, they need some work. This applies particularly to pages which do get a fair… Read More »Which of your pages are underappreciated by Google?

Writing. The great comeback story.

It’s been my fairly consistent experience over the years that about half of the companies which issue press releases in the industrial and scientific sectors use PR consultancies, and the other half do the job in-house. Disappointingly, fewer companies than ever seem to be using PR consultancies’ full expertise in press or public relations; more and more are simply using them as subcontract writing and distribution services. Maybe that just reflects the changing media. It’s easier than ever to guarantee publication now, with web sites that publish everything they receive,… Read More »Writing. The great comeback story.

The dangers of email you never see

As a magazine editor for many years, the most stressful task was always putting the final corrected proofs in the envelope, knowing that if the issue which would be distributed to 25,000 engineers was less than perfect, it was down to me. However, assuming the printers did their job correctly, I did know exactly how the issue would look. Sending out emails raised different concerns, perhaps because any problems would be seen by a lot of people almost instantly. However, as Editor of Engineeringtalk, I was helped by the decision… Read More »The dangers of email you never see

Is your ad being seen, rather than “shown”?

Yesterday I looked at how to ensure you keep important things “above the fold” for the large majority of visitors to your website. But what about other sites which link to you, especially ones which you’re paying to be on? In particular, I’m thinking of banner advertising. If your advertisement is entirely above the fold (i.e visible to viewers without scrolling down), every visitor has a chance to see it, and evidence says that 60% of visitors do so. If it’s below the fold, only a proportion of visitors will… Read More »Is your ad being seen, rather than “shown”?

Are you keeping your message under wraps?

“Above the fold” is a newspaper analogy which describes the part of a web page which appears before you scroll down. There’s plenty of research to show that a very large number of people arriving at a web page never see “below the fold”. I’ve been conducting an experiment on our own website recently, replacing the whole site with a series of fairly unexcitingly-designed pages which have a single download on each page, a single “next step”, and – crucially – nothing out of sight, “below the fold” for as… Read More »Are you keeping your message under wraps?

Lots of things you didn’t know about your website

A website called SEOmoz has long been an important resource for those of us who analyse and improve websites for a living, particularly for a range of tools which it offers. This week it added a new tool, called Open Site Explorer, which is available free until Friday afternoon. I’d urge you to go and have a one-off look at the sort of thing which we data geeks play around with all of the time. One way you can find out what the tool can do is to simply plug… Read More »Lots of things you didn’t know about your website

The onward march of WordPress

When we rebuild websites for industrial and scientific companies, we always use free, open-source ‘content management systems’ (the engine behind the site). This is not because they save you, as the client, a lot of money (although they do!), but because they have so many thousands of users worldwide. You can therefore be assured that the system will continue to be maintained and updated, and you won’t be tied into a particular subcontractor (including us!) if you need new features in the future. There are a number of open-source content… Read More »The onward march of WordPress

Answering the unasked questions

In my previous article I said that customers no longer wait around until they’re sold to, they go looking for things. That means you need to have the answers to as many questions as possible pre-answered on your website. This can mean something as simple as “yes, we have large blue widgets”, for people looking for large blue widgets. However, most questions, and particularly the way they’re going to be phrased, can’t be predicted in advance. The best chance of catching them is to have plenty of informative stuff on… Read More »Answering the unasked questions

Don’t annoy them. Help them.

Yesterday I talked about how the promotional side of marketing was no longer just about trying to stand out from the crowd. On the internet, which is now by far the most important place to reach new prospects, it’s all about being found. But if you thought I was suggesting that traditional publicity channels were now redundant, far from it. They’re just a smaller part of the mix. In the old days, things were as easy as shouting as loudly as your budget would let you. Successful promotion involved attracting… Read More »Don’t annoy them. Help them.

Standing out from the crowd

When you think about it, the promotional side of marketing has always been about attracting attention. Whatever advert you’ve created, press release you’ve written or exhibition stand you’ve designed, you’ve been viewed alongside competitors and you’ve had to stand out from the crowd. Even with items like direct mail, you’ve had to be the most attractive-looking item in your customer’s in-tray. The problem with the web is that it doesn’t work like this. You’re not put in a row alongside all of your competitors, with the object being to stand… Read More »Standing out from the crowd

Why don’t banner ads work?

OK, I’m being provocative. Many of you will be running modest banner advertising campaigns on well-respected industry websites, and you’ll think the branding they give you, and the clickthroughs you get, are well worth the investment. I’m sure you’re right. But the price of banner ads has had to come down a lot over the years to become good value for the advertiser. Why is this? If you take out a £500 advertisement hidden away in a 20,000-circulation trade magazine, I’d be surprised if as many as 1,000 people see… Read More »Why don’t banner ads work?

Speak as you are spoken to

One of the great things about writing web pages which are optimised for certain search terms, or “keywords”, is that it makes you think a little harder about the actual words you use. The benefit of this is that it may prevent you from lapsing into jargon, or – just as bad – marketingspeak. Jargon is technical terminology which some readers may not understand. Marketingspeak is woolly catch-all terminology which nobody ever uses in the real world. We all know about the dangers in these, and none of us ever… Read More »Speak as you are spoken to

Double the value from surveys

Companies which are extending their promotional outlets into new areas such as email newsletters, blogs and Twitter, have two tasks: to let customers know what they’re doing, and to find out what the potential reach of these initiatives might be. One way of achieving both objectives, together, is to use a survey. It’s a day or two’s work in-house, but it’ll produce excellent return on investment if you get it right. Here’s the recipe. You will need: – An account with an online survey service, such as Surveymonkey – Your… Read More »Double the value from surveys

Keeping customers off your website with AdWords

I doubt this is available in the UK yet, but advance warning of something which Google is testing with AdWords – giving people the chance to request a phone call from you. I immediately felt a little uneasy with this, but Why Marketers Should Be Dubious of Google AdWords New Lead Capturing Tool on Hubspot’s Inbound Internet Marketing blog explains what’s happening and expresses my reservations perfectly. It also adds a few things I hadn’t considered. You may of course think that this would be a good feature for your… Read More »Keeping customers off your website with AdWords

Making your name synonymous with your product

They say that many of the changes at Google in the last year or two are going to make the strong brands stronger, and the weaker brands into also-rans. This is the reverse of the “level playing field” which Google has offered in its first ten years, and potentially bad news for less well-known manufacturers. But don’t forget a “strong brand” at Google means a strong brand in terms of online presence, which is something that smaller companies still have a chance of influencing. Something which is coming increasingly into… Read More »Making your name synonymous with your product

Data tables aren’t just for data sheets

Occasionally I like to get into graphic design, because although I’m no expert at implementation, it’s essential to understand what works and what doesn’t when subcontracting work to professional designers. Sadly, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by their ability to choose nice colours and fonts, and forget to see if they actually understand usability, structure and organisation. Few of us in technical marketing will have websites without tables of data. However, tables can also be a great way of displaying and summarising simple arguments (“us: tick – the competitors: cross”).… Read More »Data tables aren’t just for data sheets

The birth of New Marketers

A fascinating article on the Forrester Blog for Interactive Marketing Professionals called 2010: The Year Marketing Dies …or at Least Marketing as We Know It! will make you think a bit about the trends in marketing. It even goes as far as to say that in 2009 “we witnessed the most profound evolution the marketing world has seen in fifty years or more”. Now, in technical marketing, we’re usually between a year and (let’s say, charitably) five years behind consumer marketing. This is a combination of the conservative nature of… Read More »The birth of New Marketers

The most-read articles of 2009. Probably.

As I wrote yesterday, the different ways in which people can access the content we all produce, and the difficulty in making absolute measurements, makes it hard to rank one item against another. But I’ve had a go here at selecting the most popular articles of 2009 on this blog, and made some notes about what we can learn from the readership numbers. Most traffic from search engines What you need to put in your email signature 26th February 2009 – A fantastic example of “long-tail” traffic, this article received… Read More »The most-read articles of 2009. Probably.

So who’s reading the stuff we all write?

Thank you all so much for continuing to read these daily articles. I hope you’re getting something from them. Over the past year, the circulation has grown tremendously, but putting a number on it illustrates exactly the problem which all of us in tech marketing have. For instance, the headline number for this blog is probably the 876 marketing managers who elect to get the blog by email. But how many actually read a given email? “Email open rate” reports bear very little resemblance to reality. Someone whose email application… Read More »So who’s reading the stuff we all write?

7 marketing activities to review every New Year

There are some things in marketing which are so fundamental that they need to be reviewed on a regular basis. For most firms, who make plans in the autumn for the following calendar year, it should probably be late summer. But there’s so much activity then, preparing for the autumn (when there’s more exhibitions, more web traffic and more of just about everything). So let’s resolve to review things at New Year. That’s now, by the way. 1. How are you trying to position your company? Are you the reliable… Read More »7 marketing activities to review every New Year

Changes we saw in this decade on the internet

These things rather speak for themselves. Typical domestic internet access speed 1999: 56kbps 2009: 10Mbps Time to download a 4Mb file (approximate) 1999: 10 minutes 2009: 4 seconds Typical internet service costs 1999: £49.99/month anytime access, or 1-4p/min 2009: £10/month Browser Market Share (approximate) 1999: Internet Explorer 75%, Netscape Navigator 25% 2009: Internet Explorer 60%, Firefox 30%, others 10% (note Internet Explorer usage peaked in 2004 at 95%) Search Engine Usage (approximate) 1999: Yahoo 40%, AltaVista 12%, Lycos 5%, Excite 4% 2000: Google 95%, Bing 2%, Yahoo 2% UK Internet… Read More »Changes we saw in this decade on the internet