Left Bay’s Musings on the Media

Searching for answers in sales and marketing

Archive for March, 2007

Keep Your Website Simple, Stupid

You know about K.I.S.S. –  Keep It Simple Stupid. The same philosophy should be applied to your websites. The prevailing problem with websites has been achieving good site stickiness – keeping visitors on websites — and it’s mostly due to poor usability. There are many successful ways to remedy this, but there’s one persistent answer: Keep It Simple (Stupid).

When a visitor lands on any landing page, they usually know what they are looking for, and if they can’t find it within, say 3 seconds, then they’re out, and you (or your client’s) bounce rate increases with every immediate exit.

I understand there are websites out there that require having a lot of content heavy or dynamically driven pages, but it is still possible to maintain a simple (ish) structure. Jakob Nielsen (www.useit.com), web usability extraordinaire, puts it best:

Where am I?
Where have I been?
Where can I go?

Successful sites have easy navigation, and make it clear to the user where they are. What does that mean? Keep consistency throughout your site. Your logo, header, footer, and navigation bars should remain in the same place and contain the same links across all your pages. If you have a site with a lot of pages, make folders and subfolders clear (“Home > Services > Ad Networking > Case Studies”, for example). Your titles should be accurate and relevant to the content. Don’t clutter. Make it clear to users where they have already been. Use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to define visited links so that once a visitor has clicked somewhere, the link changes color. Have clear navigation bars and sub menus that let visitors know where else they can visit on your site.

Here are some interesting links for more information about usability:
The human factor in gadget, Web design – about YouTube usability, CNET News.com
Great Minds in Development: Steve Krug – article on and video from usability expert Steve Krug, DevSource.com
Great Minds in Development: Designing Your Applications for Usability – article on and video from Jakob Nielsen, DevSource.com

Traditional Brand Advertising is Dumb

I’m a reformed brand marketer. In a previous life, I sold advertising for a magazine called Communication Arts. Selling advertising used to be fairly easy – if company doing B2B marketing wanted to reach its customers, it looked for targeted publications like ours. The fact that Communication Arts was a paid publication and not just a give-away controlled circulation magazine made it all the more valuable. We didn’t have to show that the ads would be effective – all we had to do was provide the audience. Most advertisers found it difficult to quantify the value of their advertising because, well, print advertising was just so hard to measure. The best indicator was sales: if sales went up the following month or year or at least stayed the same, well, the advertiser usually felt their advertising worked. That was branding.

Analytics were always in short supply. The main measurement was determining what the cost-per-thousand (CPM) was to reach our audience. CPM is determined by ad cost divided by circulation per thousand subscribers. Example: An ad might cost $10,000. Circulation is 65,000. CPM = $10,000 / 65 (thousand) = $153.85 CPM. But what’s that mean? Nothing really, except that one publication might be more expensive to buy than another. Does it say anything about which publication sold more effectively? No, of course not.

Some advertisers would put in 800-phone numbers. And everyone had URLs listed in their ads.

But these were dumb ways to buy (and measure) advertising. The smarter way to buy is to go out and do cost-per-click advertising (CPC).

The great thing about CPC advertising is that everything is measurable. You know not only how many people saw your ad, but who clicked on it. Done right, you can custom which page they land on and how they travel through your web site. You know at which point they leave your site, or if they make it all the way through to your conversion event or whatever it is you want them to do.

Print advertising will continue to have a rough time making the kinds of returns it once did. And for that matter, so will other “measured” media like print, TV, radio and online banner ads. In a 3/14/07 article of The Wall Street Journal, it was reported that the nation’s 50 biggest advertisers had cut their spending on “measured” media. Instead, more and more of the money was going to paid-search (CPC) advertising, social networking and online video.

What advertisers seem to be saying is that either they’ll find a medium where they can track their sales (like paid-search), or else experiment with something that’s new and different. But the old ways of advertising and branding, well, they just won’t work any longer.

Hard Copy Newsletter v. Electronic Newsletter

We were asked recently if was still valuable to send out a twice-yearly hard copy newsletter to a client’s 3,000 core customers at a cost of about $2500 per mailing. For the same amount of money, they could send out electronic newsletters at least every other month. The question: Should they dump the hard-copy newsletter?

Surprisingly to them, we suggested that they keep the hard-copy newsletter. The numbers seemed to bear it out. Though they hadn’t done a great job in tracking responses (something we have since fixed), we were able to see a strong spike in sales two weeks after each mailing. Their return on investment was actually better than that for their emailed newsletter. Why? There’s something credible about getting a printed piece. Like magazine advertising, it sits around on a desk longer than does email. And with all of us bombarded by emails, it’s almost refreshing to get a regular mailed paper newsletter.

Like any kind of promotion, hard-copy newsletters need to be constantly tested. Small variations in copy, color or design are all measurable. Compare the effectiveness to your electronic newsletters and blogs. But the key to gathering this information is tracking responses. Whether it’s over the phone or via email, be sure to have your staff always ask, “What made you contact us?” The data is invaluable.

What’s up with click fraud?

Is click fraud for real? We do search marketing for clients on Google and Yahoo and we’re constantly frustrated by the differences in what the search engines count as a click, and what a third-party software program like ConversionRuler counts. They’re NEVER the same. Usually, CR will be a little higher, which makes sense if Google/Yahoo are filtering “invalid” clicks. There’s a report you can run in Google Analytics to see how many of these “invalid” clicks Google identified and did not charge you for. They do not count these clicks among your overall clicks. Yet, do those clicks still go through to your site?

In other words, if Google sends me 1000 clicks per day, and in a separate report shows me that it did not charge me for another 50, should I see 1000 or 1050 clicks on my CR web logs? Or more confusing yet, will it be something in-between?