In honor of end-of-year reflection and round-ups, I wanted to use my last blog post of 2010 to pay homage to the classic Top 10 List. From popular radio to Cosmopolitan to Letterman to your best friend’s blog, Top 10 Lists have always been able to captivate the curiosities of many an audience. They can be fun or insightful, they make us laugh, they make us think…and sometimes they might even rile us up. Put that sucker on your website and BAM: you’ve got a simple little viral SEO tool.
December 30, 2010
December 27, 2010
Oh, the power of easy-to-understand copy.
Reading an important document should not feel like navigating the DMV: frustrating and confusing. Whether it’s instructional text, a technical document, or medical information, clear and simple wins. Any industry—business, legal, healthcare, education—should consider plain writing guidelines for all of their documents and marketing.
Plain writing just means straightforward, audience-specific communication.
Plain writing has existed as an initiative for government agencies since the 1940’s. Hoping to filter legal and political jargon and produce straightforward, succinct papers, the movement gained further acknowledgement after the formation of the Plain Language Action Network (PLAN) in 1998, directed by then-Vice President Al Gore.
In October, President Obama declared plain writing as law, signing The Plain Writing Act of 2010 into effect. The Act defines plain writing as “writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience.”
Hurray! Plain writing! Let’s take a look at some best practices for writing plainly:
1. Identify your audience.
- Who are you writing for?
- What do they know?
- What do they need to know?
2. Organize the content.
- State the purpose of the document. (“This document provides care guidelines for wombats.”)
- Use descriptive headings (“How to wash a wombat,” “Feeding wombats”) and short sections for your content.
- Charts, lists, and tables visually break up the document, making it easy to read.
3. Write actively.
- The document should drive action and highlight benefits. (“Feed your wombat tomato soup to ensure that he will sleep well at night.”)
- Use active voice.
December 22, 2010
Some may say that 2010 was the year for Facebook, and honestly, who are we to say otherwise? Facebook has grown into something that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself couldn’t have even imagined, and after an aggressive year in 2010 is one of the top dogs (and probably making some other companies a little nervous, Ahem…Google). Lets take a look at some of the accomplishments Facebook has undertaken this year, and the reason why it seems like we all have the Facebook fever.
When looking at growth for Facebook in 2010 they not only reached the 500 million user mark (yes, 500 million), are worth an approximated $7.6 billion, but (according to comScore) also achieved an increase of 55% in U.S. unique visitors compared to 2009 (topping Twitters 30%), which makes it the second most visited site world wide (only trailing Google). Wow, those are some good numbers, not to mention that the average Facebook user spends about 55 minutes on the site daily. It used to be a Facebook vs. Twitter battle, but now it seems that Facebook has jumped that hurdle and is now on the way to give Google a run for their money. On top of that about 83% of businesses use Facebook, and there are 700,000+ active local business pages on the site.
Oh yea, did I forget to mention that The Social Network is nominated for 6 Golden Globe awards, and to top it all off Mark Zuckerberg was dubbed the 2010 Man Of The Year by Time Magazine (the second youngest to ever win the award). No big deal right?
December 20, 2010
I thought for my last post of the year I’d give you something fun to read. After all, I know you’re all getting holiday-antsy. Yep, we are too. Multiple cookie breaks throughout the day, quick MI Ave runs during lunch, a YouTube video or two to end the day…so here’s something fun for you to take a look at. And if you get caught watching videos at work, I’ve provided some educational tips to YouTube Search as well
This week, YouTube announced their top videos of the year. You may have seen some of these, and some may be new to you. Either way, check it out. My all-time fave is still David After Dentist but I think that’s a few years old….
Now for the educational part…
If you still don’t think video is an integral part of a marketing mix as we begin 2011, you are mistaken! During 2010, over 700 billion YouTube videos were viewed. 700 BILLION! People are watching video, folks, and if there is any opportunity to add video to your website as well as to YouTube, DO IT. In fact, since YouTube is the second largest search engine right now, and it does have its own algorithm for ranking videos, you should also do the following:
- Create a customized channel with your company name and look and feel to be consistent to your site or other marketing materials – but give it a kick! Have fun!
- Upload all your videos first and use the Embed functionality to showcase them on your site. This allows YouTube, not your website, to host the video (less bandwidth and hosting expense for you) as well as the ability to have more people view them – one important ranking feature that is part of the algorithm
December 13, 2010
At one point in time, fanatic internet users wrote online diaries, chronological musings of … whatever, really. That practice gave way to the blog, a series of reverse chronological musings of … whatever. And finally, we arrive at the microblog, a touch point for a person’s general miscellany.
Microblogging is especially fun because:
- It ignores the single-subject blogging convention, so go ahead and post … whatever
- It’s short, because we all have Twitter-sized attention spans these days (Twitter being perhaps the ultimate and most micro version of microblogging)
- It’s very little work—it’s more than acceptable to pull content from somewhere else and cite the source.
Tumblr is surely enjoying a shining moment as microblogging darling of the moment with an impressive growing number of users. Two Tumblr outages within a 48-hour period of time certainly speak to its popularity (or faulty servers).
Tumblr is a prevailing choice for microblogging because it is easy to use—bare-bones registration and simple methods for uploading specific content, be it your text, pictures, video, or audio—and offers a quasi-social aspect, allowing users to “follow” one another, a la Twitter.
Though Posterous has given Tumblr some contention within the microblogging platform sphere, the latter is the clear leader, boasting usage from Newsweek and ELLE, clearly two of the hippest news and fashion publications, respectively.
But like any social channel, microblogging becomes valuable when you consider what it does and what it will do for you. Start conversation? Showcase cute pictures of baby animals? Or take the advice of Mark Coatney, editor of the Newsweek Tumblr: “‘Just go and do whatever you want with it.’ Which is, I think, the only way it really works.”
December 9, 2010
Nowadays everyone is starting to realize (if you didn’t already know) that social media is an excellent way to captivate your audience, and with the 500 million strong on Facebook and 200 million more on Twitter you can reach ANY demographic (my grandmother just friended me a couple days ago). Not only is everyone using it (including my grandma, and probably yours too), but the spaces themselves encourage action and interaction, which can be extremely valuable. Instead of someone talking to their friends in their living room while your 100 thousand dollar commercial spot is running that they aren’t paying attention to, you can reach the same amount of people, get an instant action/reaction from them, and its all for free.
Ok, with that said, its hard enough to create awareness and get people to become a fan of your Facebook page as it is, but the hardest thing of all is keeping them engaged AFTER they become a fan. Do you know how to keep them engaged? Do you want to learn how to keep them engaged? (See what I did there ) Just be conversational with them! Use open-ended questions that relate to your product, relate to your fan base, and drive consumer action. People see plain old’ boring promotions all day long (and trust me they know how to tune them out), but if you tailor your updates and promos to something that not only promotes your product and brand, but also gets the user involved and thinking about your product you will create much more retention amongst consumers.
Oreo is a great example of how to structure that perfect balance of conversation and promotion and utilizing it in the social media space.
Here are some examples of Oreo’s promoting on Facebook that Ad Age so kindly provided for us.
December 8, 2010
Our team continues to grow! Meet our new copywriter and Sr. website developer.
Deborah Fellinger, Junior Copywriter
Deborah’s whole life has been one big multichannel writing project. When she was in fourth grade, she created her own print magazine. When she was in college, she wrote a snarky fashion blog. When she graduated from Columbia, she took her journalism skills to Yelp and The Local Beet. Now that she’s joined our creative team, she’s revving up our interactive projects with her wit and writing prowess. And when she’s not writing for us, she’s writing for her own two blogs and tweeting about everything else in between. Prolific much?
Mick Wroblewski, Senior Web Developer
Mick can tackle any interactive programming challenge we throw at him. It’s sort of like adding another superhero to our already inhuman interactive team. Before joining us he worked at an interactive agency in Evanston and developed for apartments.com. Before that, he earned his degree in computer science from the University of Iowa. When Mick’s not schooling us on the finer points of database development, he stays busy schooling his nephews on the finer points of Chicago sports fanaticism.
December 3, 2010
Surprise! Google recently rolled out another change in their results pages. This time it’s to the local search results. When you do a “local” search in Google—something like “pizza Chicago”—you used to see a contained space at the top with a map and 3-10 short one-line listings of local business, each pulled from their associated Google Places pages. Now you’ll see Google Places results incorporated right within the regular organic results.
Let’s look at an example. Say you’re looking for something unique to do this weekend and search for “dueling pianos Chicago.” You might get the following results.
The 1st listing (our client, Howl At The Moon) and the 5th are both supplemented with great information from their Places pages—imagery, address, reviews, etc. But the title and description being displayed are still from the main website. Organic results and Local results living in unison…it’s a beautiful thing.
Okay, so why should you care?
Well, the buzz in the SEO universe is that this new combo of information is giving sites a boost in Google when their Places page is well optimized. Plus, take a look back at that screenshot—the 1st and 5th listings are more robust than the rest and look a bit more appealing, right? They just might encourage some higher click through rates.
So what next? Well, we told you in April to claim your Google Places page, so if you haven’t yet done so, get on it! And given the new impact we’re seeing on organic results, here’s a few tips to keep in mind:
- Be sure to fill out your profile completely…it makes a difference
- What keywords are most important to your business? Use those in your Places description and in your categories, if possible
December 2, 2010
The whole first page on Google game has gotten a bit harder recently. This is because Google has started showing up to four pages from the same domain on one page of the search results. The reason? Google wants to present the most relevant search results based on a searcher’s intent. If that searcher is interested in a particular domain or topic they might see up to four results for one domain based on relevance.
Google’s reasoning from their blog: “As before, we still provide links to results from a variety of domains to ensure people find a diverse set of sources relevant to their searches. However, when our algorithms predict pages from a particular site are likely to be most relevant, it makes sense to provide additional direct links in our search results.”
It’s important to note that when more than one page is shown from the same domain, the website descriptions for the additional pages change from two lines to one. This makes the first 10 words of a meta-description tag even more important.
Previously Google would only show up to two pages from the same domain on one page, but in the past two weeks there has been a dramatic change. Showing four results from one domain instead of one or two can create a substantial advantage in the search engine real estate game. Just like back in the day, the number of times your website is visible on a search page the more opportunities there are to click it.