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Google Web Guidelines Summarised

Webmaster google guidelines. 

Key points of web master guidelines: 

Syndicated content-

Syndicated content is content which is copied from another website, some sites copy content which stays on topic, but they don't add any of there own value. Other sites copy completely random and irrelevant content to increase their search traffic. Scrapped content alone, even high quality content, does not add any more value to your users. 

Affiliate Content-

Similarly, if your site participates in Affiliate programs make sure your site adds value and gives the user a reason to visit your site. An example of a high quality affiliate site would be a bicycle blog with original reviews and commentary. 

An example of a low quality affiliate site would be a bicycle blog that only uses copy product descriptions, accompanied by affiliate notes. 

Doorway Sites-

Doorway sites are created purely to another website and often try to crowd the search results for a particular term or phrase. This provides the user with a poor experience as more than one search will ultimately lead them to same site. 

A violation of the web master guidelines can negatively impact your performance in our search results and in some result can result in removal from our search results. Our primary goal is to serve users with high quality relevant information.

These guidelines are in place to ensure a good user experience so its worth your time to give them a thorough reading. 

Design and Content Guidelines. 

  • Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.

  • Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site. If the site map has an extremely large number of links, you may want to break the site map into multiple pages.

  • Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number.

  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.

  • Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.

  • Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn't recognize text contained in images. If you must use images for textual content, consider using the "ALT" attribute to include a few words of descriptive text.

  • Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.

  • Check for broken links and correct HTML.

  • If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a "?" character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few.

  • Review our recommended best practices for images, video and rich snippets.

 

 

Email 101 || Opens, Clicks and Conversations

Email 101 || Opens, Clicks and Conversations

 

A badly-written email is about as effective as a love letter addressed “To whom it may concern.” Don’t waste your time writing them.

There are some basics to writing emails, some simple rules that you can follow to maximize the chances that your email will be opened, clicked, and ultimately convert.

A good open rate is regarded as anything above 20%, depending on your content. Open rate is a crapshoot at best. It relies on a mail client preloading a single-pixel gif, which varies depending on everything from the mail client, to whether you’re in the address, to the browser that Gmail is loaded in. With most modern email clients giving a generous preview, it often means that an email can be read without being “opened”, regardless of how you even track opens. Like I said, a crapshoot.

 

You can achieve a good open rate at any list size. If anything, the larger your list grows, the more likely it is that people are opening, unless you’re scamming people into subscribing. So, in this regard, if your open rate takes a nosedive it should be cause for concern, and not simply something that happens as you expand.

Readers slip away over time

However, reader fatigue, like activity churn, is a reality of growing a list of subscribers. Someone who hung on your every word 6 months ago might feel, 24 mails later, that you’re repetitive, or losing touch. The email marketer’s equivalent of the sophomore slump. There is no easy way to combat this, the tactic is “Stay Relevant”, but there’s no quick hack for that, no matter how often people try.

Some tactics will improve your open rate. Subject line and from field are your best weapons here. Barack Obama’s campaign team achieved some stunning results with subject lines such as “Today’s decision”, “I wanted you to be the first to know”, and perhaps his best, a simple personal “Hey”. Other quick hacks include things like interesting characters in the subject line, changing sender for emails to break from monotony, or tweaking time of sending. But remember, over time all marketing strategies result in shitty click-through rates, at first they work, then they don’t.

The "Thomas the Tank Engine" ethos to creating products.

usefulengine.jpg

Many of you will now think I've finally lost the plot. Probably a fair assessment.

For those of you, like me, with a 1 - 6 year old - you'll know exactly what I'm talking about before I even start talking about it.

The lesson I have learnt, from reading the same damn books a thousand times over and over again, listening to the same set of stories again via sky plus over and over again, is one overarching rule of thumb that I think we would all do very well to remember in our pursuit of technological and entrepreneurial greatness.

"Be a Really Useful Engine"

It really is about ensuring that the thing you are creating is ultimately REALLY useful for someone. Just one person. Hopefully a lot more people, and if it's really useful for one person chances are it's going to be such for a number of others too. Then, the only question is how many?

Thomas and friends frequently find themselves spewing off onto a tangent, normally driven by the pursuit of fun, a short term, short lived thrill-seeking journey that normally ends with some form of disapproval from the one Sir Toppum Hat. It normally is followed by the wrong-doing engine putting right, by remembering that whilst it's fun to: 

  • Play tricks
  • Speed along the tracks
  • Annoy farm animals
  • etc.

It's even more important to be a Really Useful Engine.

So next time you think it's a great idea to build another geo-location checkin app, a facebook for chefs, an airBnB for dogs... ask yourself. Is it REALLY USEFUL?

Video SEO: Simplified

Video SEO: Simplified

According to video SEO experts, Simplified.TV,

Video is the richest, most engaging form of online content. It transmits the most information in the shortest amount of time.

Given a choice, most people prefer to watch a short video over reading a long page of text. With steadily cheaper equipment for production and ever greater bandwidth for delivery, online video content will represent 90% of web data by 2014.

What you probably didn't know is just how powerful video is for great SEO. Now think about , we want to appear high up in Google Search rankings, right?

We know Video SEO is powerful - Videos, properly submitted, are 53 times more likely to generate a first page Google ranking than traditional  SEO techniques, according to a (not so) recent study by Forrester Research.

We know that the powers that be have a vested interest in the success of Video - Google owns Youtube, well, you knew that, right?

My Tip - make sure your videos and the pages on which they reside are indexed and submitted to search engines properly.

You should submit an XML sitemap for both your content permalinks and your videos which are identical (same title tags, descriptions etc.)

It's hard work keeping up to date with the ever changing world of SEO, video SEO, search engine submissions, video hosting. So, if in doubt speak to someone who is doing it - not experts - but people who are learning the lessons the hard way, through experimentation, testing, breaking things and measuring the results.

Creating an Explainer Video: Taking a Shortcut

Time is of the essence, I need something and I need it now.

So one option is to cheat and use a template. There are more and more resources available to use as the basis for your explainer video. Since a good explainer follows a particular model and is made up of a number of components it's safe to assume you could bottle that process, apply a theme and just change the content.

Yes and no.

It's always going to be a compromise. So much of what makes a great explainer is about the personality and the narrative, it's not always possible to take some pre-existing template and have it instil the same message you would get from a custom made fully owned video.

But, you can get something done quick and inexpensively and that's in and of itself, part of the challenge. So here's what I did.

I really like the Envato marketplaces and a particular favourite is the VideoHive site. Predominantly, these are Adobe After Effects and Cinema 4d templates with some stock footage and motion graphics resources. 

There seems to have been a surge in explainer type templates, so worth checking out what's available., but also great for logo stings, openers, video slideshows and lots of others things.

I found a template which fit my style - bright, colourful, clear text placeholders, optional use of screencasts and I also liked the default music which I had to buy separately via AudioJungle.

Here's the video I chose http://videohive.net/item/explainer-promo/2512991 and here's the result.

The key to these templates is that they need to be put together properly and this one was, so it's easy to dig in and change the easy things like colours, logos, text.

I wanted to customise mine  bit further, so I tweaked the timing to kind of fit the voiceover, added additional compositions and effects. This is where hacking away at a pre-existing template starts to get messy - because it flies in the face of best practise. 

1. You're trying to fit the voiceover to the video until that sounds too false, so then reverse engineering the video to fit the butchered audio... and so on...

2. Depending on how the originator structured the compositions, applied effects and used the original assets, it's difficult to manage since you didn't create it, so your knowledge of where everything is maybe counter intuitive.

So, if you're going to use a template, my advice is spend time finding one that's as close as dammit to what you want and avoid over customising. Any customising you do, make sure it's key to what you're trying to get across or because you're having fun practising playing with someone elses project.

Take that understanding and move on to perfecting your own process and make the video of your dreams from scratch, which is what I'm now doing but safe in the knowledge I have a half decent fall back in the meantime which cost me £20 and half a day of buggering about with it (and a lot longer rendering it).

Creating an Explainer Video: The Script part 1

Why no-one wants to write a script - it's harder than it looks.

So, as it turns out, the script is where you should start. Even if you're outsourcing the production to an agency, the script is yours. It's your chance to get your message across in your way - which is very important.

It's strange that you see quite average looking videos (in terms of technical production) that create very compelling and often viral explainers - because the message resonates with the audience perfectly. Often, it's the script and the voiceover (we'll cover that later) which makes the difference.

So, here I am armed with this knowledge and a story to tell - but where the hell to I start in writing a script? In my own style, I try to break it down as to the anatomy of an explainer script, guided by various resources I found online, including this neat little article by Video Brewery and Brad Chmielewski's "Four Questions To Ask When Writing An Explainer Video Script"
 

Here's what I came up with:

SCRIPT ANATOMY

Total - 2 minutes (or as close to as feasible, 1:30 if possible)

[SECTION 1 = Identify Problem]

    [SCENE A - dramatic opener, macro scale problem]

     [SCENE B - reinforce problem with impact on society]

    [SCENE C - relate financially - macro (economy) to micro (individual) scale]

     [SCENE D - reinforce and relate to individual through examples]

[/SECTION 1]

[SECTION 2 = Present Solution]

     [SCENE A - Present Product / Brand Name]

     [SCENE B - build credibility of technology / principles]

    [SCENE C - overview of what it does]

     [SCENE D - benefits]

     [SCENE E - reinforce ease of use / low cost]

     [SCENE F - close and refer call to action]

[/SECTION 2]

So, I used Google docs to write the script, so I could add to it, edit it wherever I was and had a moment of inspiration or reflection. I could also easily send access to other people (and continue to do so now) to get thoughts and opinions.

I marked up the script with some labels to denote sections, scenes and formatted text to a key of my design to denote some guidance for the voiceover recording stage.

Here's the script as it exists today...

Creating an Explainer Video: Research

Everyone Wants an Explainer Video

This is the first of a series of posts I'm going to do on the subject of creating an explainer video. To kick things off, I want to share with you all of my resources I've collected on the subject, including:

  • Providers of video explainer production services
  • Loads of examples
  • Pricing (where available)
  • My thoughts and notes
  • Freelancers and independant providers
  • Tips and Techniques
 Click to load the MySpareBrain viewer, and find the Video Explainer Research Tab to load the chart.

Click to load the MySpareBrain viewer, and find the Video Explainer Research Tab to load the chart.

It has to be said, this is a very interesting area of video production, digital communication, motion graphics, marketing - whatever you want to label it.

The rise of the Explainer Video is quite staggering, and has become necessary for anyone with a technology startup to have in their basic marketing toolkit - for new customers, for potential investors, for prospective employees. But, not just technology, real worldy, traditional companies like builders, accountants, solicitors, hairdressers and estate agents are getting in on the act too.

With a very limited budget, every startup entrepreneur will face similar challenges:

  • How to communicate my complex idea in a simple, entertaining and compelling way?
  • How do I afford to get this actually produced - prices and quality in the marketplace vary hugely?
  • Where do I start? - Script, Music, Sounds, Graphics, Animation, Production, Copy, Effects?
  • How do I know the end product will be what I want?
  • I want a viral video - how do I get that? (ha)

I asked myself all these (sometimes dumb) questions and more, and then decided that it was such an important thing to get right, I repeat

to communicate complex messages in a simple and entertaining way 

I would go ahead and learn to do it myself, since the investment I make in myself would stand me in good stead for the future.

So armed with my relatively new found passion for Adobe After Effects (yes, I'm taking this very seriously), some ideas and a new microphone I'm embarking on a mission, and I hope you'll join me in figuring this stuff out...

The Bootstrappers Manifesto

More After Effects tomfoolery. But under the Who-Framed-Roger-Rabbit-Judge-Doom-style voice, there's a clear message for all of us early stage entrepreneurs.

Original text by Seth Godin (King of Marketing-World)

Apple Customer Service - FAIL

Yesterday I decided that I wanted to buy an ipad (as you may have gathered by now). So, before heading out to purchase one, I realised that I wasn't entirely sure which retailers outside of the official Apple store, actually stocked the ipad. Not wanting a wasted journey, the first thing I did - as we all do, was Google "buy ipad bournemouth". First page - all that turned up were articles about ipad applications, in particular from some digital agencies in Bournemouth (I'll come back to them, because they look like a funky agency) who created a nice looking eye test app. I never look past the first page (don't know why, maybe just impatient), so I decided to phone the Store number on the Apple website, hoping to get a quick answer from a qualified person. After waiting 12 minutes to get through, I was put through to a customer services person who, if wasn't actually in India, definitely sounded like she was from India. Straight off the bat, she was hard to understand. I am glad I wasn't trying to buy something there and then. I asked a simple question - can I buy the ipad from any other store apart from the Apple store (the nearest of which is over 1 hour away). "Don't know". Where is my nearest store I can buy an ipad from? "Don't know". Four or five attempts later at restructuring, rephrasing, re-emphasising I was getting extraordinarily frustrated. She was still talking nonsense nothing to do with the question I was asking. I seem to remember hanging up whilst I could hear her chattering through the receiver. I'm sure you would expect someone on the end of the most visible number on the Apple website to be able to advise where you can buy their products from, wouldn't you?

The Future of Social Networks

Social networks will be like air, in that they will permeate everything that we do online AND offline. We'll look at the underlying technologies that will make this possible, how it will evolve, and the business models that will support it.

Charlene Li, Thought Leader of Altimeter Group

This was a great video, from SXSWi 2009 which, believe it or not, actually took place a year ago. Hell, a whole year! That's donkey's in digital terms. I revisited it, to refresh what Charlene was talking about and to compare to trends that are happening right now to see if her view is being realised.

Firstly, Charlene talks about the reasons why social networks will become part of the very essence of our being. "Like Air", what a statement! The three things Charlene says will make social networks like air; Identity,  Contacts and Activities. These are the core things that make us social and what Charlene believes will make the inevitable integration of Social Networks a logical step, not the wishful thinking of network creators looking to make a buck out of becoming the "Facebook".

So how is this reflected in Social Networking a year on?

Identity - the ability to determine, as an individual, which "persona" we allow the public to see has developed to the extent that, through niche social networks, we can put on our different hats on demand. You're a gadget lover - you GDGT it, you're a movie lover - you Flixter it, you're a music lover - you Myspace like crazy, you are a professional - you are definitely LinkedIn and more relevantly, you're adventurous so you Fidgetstick it. You identify with one or any number of these social networks and so you create an identity that mirrors those networks values and culture. This is still in it's infancy, but we are seeing a global trend that this is increasing.

Contacts - Your contacts, the people you interact with in real or digital life, are a huge influence of your decision to join a new social network and keep returning to existing ones. You choose to or are persuaded to interact with certain people, whether professionally or personally, and by doing so you go to where those people hang out - special interest social networks. That's how we grow, we seek out influencers, celeb's, role models, mentors, investors, friends - relationships - that enhance us and enable us to achieve our goals.

Activities - We do stuff. We may not do enough of the things we like - it's a common fault, but social networks when applied correctly, are an enabler. Through networking we can meet people, companies, get information, receive benefits that can enable us to do more. As social networks grow, their ability to leverage influence over commercial enterprises empowers members to do more exponentially. This is a positive trend and a direct sign that social networks can be a natural way of life for positive people that look for enablers and opportunity to do what they want to do.

Charlene also talks about how the "aggregator" of these multi-faceted networks will evolve. We don't just go to a Facebook, or a Myspace, or a Friendster (remember the days...). No, we go to all of them with purpose. The aggregator Charlene was referring to is Facebook. Through Facebook Connect, the most pioneering social evolution mechanism I have ever seen, is the tool that has empowered network creators to fit seamlessly within the framework that is "Social Networking". And now we know where we fit in, it's easy to communicate with potential members - we're not having the "are you a new Facebook" conversation. We're having the "We are to {insert niche area} as Myspace is to Music" conversation. People get that and if you create a well branded, engaged and interested community, they will join.

Now, it's clear we're a million miles away from the "air-like" nature of social networks. There's much work to be done by Network Creators and advocates of the online social framework, but we are on our way. We've perhaps cast the lines and some very eager people are pushing the boat from it's moorings. Personally, I'm looking forward to getting the sails up and really opening her up.

Want to get your Video on TV? This will blow you your mind!

 Credit to Slate V and Frank Kern for bringing this to my attention. I duly forwarded to my friends in the City's largest full service agencies. I can only imagine how this'll go down in the "Wastage" departments of Broadcast Media advertising and I can hear the cogs whirring already of the digital minds and how they're going to be breaking the news in company cafe.... To be a fly on the wall.

So, all you have to do is create an ad? Yeah - I think so. Obviously Google control ad quality through their guidelines and approval processes but you'd expect that right? It's amazing to think anyone can access anything on the web, but put it on a bigger box in your living room and suddenly everyone's a critic!

I think that with a bit of figuring out, this could be a major coup for smaller and newer companies, with an edgy story to tell, who otherwise wouldn't have dreamt that TV advertising could enter their mix. Awesome. Truly awesome.

I'm off to film Cheryl Cole, posing in a bikini so I can just superimpose a Fidgetstick/ logo onto her butt cheeks later...

The dawn of a new era - R3trosteve flies the nest

A momentous occasion in my world, as I have now left the security of a "day job" to concentrate my time, effort and the little cash that I have on evolving, developing and growing my my internet based businesses.

Madman? Crazy? 

Perhaps. But this is now my moment, everything I have been dreaming about since I was a teenager - having the independence, responsibility and freedom to control my own destiny and career rather than relying on the abilities - and often inabilities - of others.

In my mind, this is the perfect time to be starting out. That said, I'm not just starting out. I have created and tested a concept that I believe will work, whilst maintaining by day job, and and am now able to put the learnings from that into a distinct strategic plan for the future. One that hopefully, as the economy climbs out of the sespit it is in, will only serve to strengthen and solidify the work me and my team put in now.

So, what am I working on?

Fidgetstick/ - adventure sports community


The main part of my time over the next 6 months will be spent on the redesign, redevelopment and relaunch of Fidgetstick/ (www.fidgetstick.com). Fidgetstick/ is an online community for adventurous people who love to take part in adventure sports and activities or believe they should be taking part and for whatever reason, can't do it enough, want to try new things or want to improve in different areas.

Fidgetstick/ is a noble gesture, one that stands for something greater than just a quick fix internet business. The team at Fidgetstick/ and our community believes that adventure sports are a symptom of a greater human need - to live a varied and adventurous lifestyle. A lifestyle that involves taking risks, reaching for something big and doing it with the best of intentions.

 

  • Connections - Fidgetstick/ aims to make it really easy and intuitive to connect with people of similar interests - such that those connections assist you in achieving your own adventure goals and those of others. 
  • Participation - On a more macro scale those connections will assist in improving participation - through the forming of social connections and sharing resources such as equipment, knowledge and training. Fidgetstick/ will work tirelessly to breakdown the barriers to participation and retention.
  • Content - Increase in participation leads to an increase in content generation, sharing and distribution - articles, photos, videos, blogs, forums, reviews etc. The valuable content will attract new members through search and viral means, creating a culture of growth and continuous improvement.

 

It all starts with getting out there (in the big wide world) and taking part, mucking in, having a go, challenging yourself and others. Break sweat, scare yourself and then come back and tell the community all about it.

The site will give information through community generated content or provide routes to the best information through the thousands of poor quality sources that exist. Fidgetstick/ will become the first port of call for adventure sports enthusiasts seeking information. 

Fidgetstick/ needs to be a sustainable business entity in order to grow and survive, no question about that. Through the correct setup and planning, we have created a model that doesn't rely on traditional CPM/CPC ad campaigns in order to generate revenue. We have multiple revenue streams available, that can be activated at different stages, according to the growth and development of the site. 

In these early days, it is imperative that our cause gets the backing from the commercial world. Such is the is the potential benefit to our corporate sponsors, we are encouraged and deeply grateful for the support we have received so far - but it can't end there. If your company wants to get behind our crusade, then now is the perfect time. Contact me for more information about how you can get involved steve@fidgetstick.com. 

I am so excited about what lies ahead for this community and the team can't wait to get the Fidgetstick/ 2.0 site out there. We've had a lot of positive feedback about the current site, but this will blow that out of the water in every way.

 

Other Projects 

Well, it's a bit early to goo into any great detail. Needless to say, I will be a busy boy. I am also working on a couple of other projects in the online gaming and traditional marketing services (with a twist!) industries. Watch this space for more updates.

So, there we go. All change in my world - what's going on in your world? I would love to hear your thoughts on what I've done, am doing and what you plan to do to live a more interesting, varied and personally gratifying life. Hit me back!

 

R3trosteve