Interview with Hessie Jones from Due North Communications

I met Hessie Jones during the Infopresse Conference about Alternative Marketing. I consider Hessie one of the Guru’s of Social Media. I follow her on Twitter and I read her blog : HessieJ . Her presentation on Social Next provides advice for brands looking to standout by focusing on Social Media. Hessie Jones gave some examples of relevant strategies to use in this medium. She also gave some tools on Facebook strategy for brands and fans.

My interview with Hessie Jones centers on Social Media and ROI or ROE (Return of Engagement). Sorry for my accent!

SES Toronto 2010 Kick-Off Party

Tomorrow marks the beginning of SES Toronto 2010. Well, to get this conference started, NVI has teamed up with Acquisio to bring you the SES Toronto 2010 Kick-off Party on June 9th at 7pm.

The party will be held at the Charlotte Room which is only 3 block from the conference hotel (map with directions). There’ll be plenty of snacks, and we’re even giving free drinks to the first 100 people who either write on the Facebook Event wall or RSVP through MeetUp.com.

We hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it, NVI will also be there the following days, June 10th-11th. You’ll be able to find us at Booth #1, or catch one of our presentations listed below.

Topic: Successfully Integrating Search & Social Media
Guillaume Bouchard
June 10, 2010 | 1:00pm – 2:00 pm

Topic: Search & Social for Online Publishers (SES Theater Presentation)
CT Moore
June 10, 2010 | 4:40pm – 5:00 pm

Topic: Canada-Specific SEO & PPC Issues
Guillaume Bouchard
June 11, 2010 | 1:45pm – 2:45 pm

PodCamp Toronto: Zoe Siskos & Death of Pie Charts

I sat in on a session by Zoe Siskos at Podcamp Toronto 2010.  Zoe Siskos is a Manager of Influencer Relations at Syncapse.  She runs her blog at mediumandthemessage.com.

Her session was a very brief look at infometrics, and why one can use so much more than a pie chart to represent data.

Zoe begins by saying that she doesn’t have a problem with pie charts themselves, but with the rampant abuse of pie charts.  She gives an example of a pie chart used in a mainstream US media outlet showing a pie chart representing the popularity of presidential candidates during the last campaign.  She says it’s hard to take pie charts seriously these days because “they usually make you feel high.”

She says that we gather large amounts of data, gain valuable insight and then find boring and unsophisticated ways of displaying all of that information.  Our brains like to put information into categories.  Good infographics should be an accurate visual representation of the data, combining words and visuals into one to stimulate that side of our brain and engage us.  Engage your clients, she says, the same way you would engage their customers.

Zoe proceeds on to show a number of classic examples of successful historical infographics, the earliest recorded being Egyptian heiroglyphics, and another being the periodic table of elements.

She says that creating a good infograph combines both science and art, and takes an open mind and a different way of seeing things.  There are five key points to consider:

  • Know your objective.  Make sure your starting point is your focal point.
  • Know your information, whether it be spatial, graphical, emotional, etc.
  • Know your audience.
  • Know what others are doing, and learn and be inspired by them.
  • Know your friends and turn to them for feedback.  They’ll help you keep things simple and to point out things you may have missed.

Wordcamp Montréal 2009

The first edition of Wordcamp Montreal was organized this past week-end at la SAT (a nice change from the usual boring hotel venues!).  I was excited to go along with two of my work colleagues, both of which are advanced and experienced WordPress users. My main goal going into this was to really see what kind of people are using WordPress in Montreal right now and see what could I  learn from the people coming here from other cities and countries. I found it quite interesting to see what kinds of technical and marketing goals people had using the WordPress platform and how/if they were different depending on where they came from.

The Wordcamp was split in two rooms with constant rotation of presentations and discussions over two days. Here’s what I got to see on the first day (unfortunately i missed day two due to some hardcore partying – What do you expect? I’m from Montreal!).

Lifestreaming: The New Future of Blogging by Erin Blaskie

Erin did quite an interesting presentation on how to manage your online social life using WordPress. As advanced online users, we always try to stay on top with the new social networking sites and tools to make sure our company or name is well represented but it’s become quite a puzzle nowadays! How do you make sure that your content stays fresh, interesting and not redundant?

Well I think Erin has managed to give us some quite useful tools that can bring flows of information to your WordPress blog and also update the different websites that should know when a new blog post has been added.

WP-MU 101: How to Install and Avoid Common Mistakes by CT Moore

CT Moore introduced the not so old Wordpress MU platform and the right steps to follow in the installation of this more complex platform. Wordpress MU basically lets you host unlimited WordPress blogs with the same admin account but different users on different blogs. I think it’s a great tool to use if your website plans on having multiple subjects of blogging on the same domain using sub-domains or sub-directories (which wasn’t recommended by CT Moore).

Q&A Session with Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress

Yes, we even got to meet THE creator! The Q&A session went well even if Matt seemed quite tired and as a result was more vague in his answers.

I think the most important question coming from our Montreal users was if a language tool will be added to the core of WordPress. Living in a bilingual city such as Montreal, developers would love to see this problem fixed so we could stop having to duplicate content. Matt wasn’t surprised by the question and actually told us that it was the main request all over the world. From what he said, I don’t think it will be added  soon but he did mention a plugin that could do the job. Only thing is that he couldn’t remember the name! Matt said he would try to remember and blog about it. For now, there’s always qTranslate which I heard mentioned many times throughout Wordcamp.

Another topic was whether P2 was going to be reworked to cover more options available in Basecamp. Well, I never had the opportunity to use any of those before but I think P2 is a pretty sweet tool to share at work if you don’t already have a task management system!

WordPress Security by Brad Williams

I was quite impressed and pleased by Brad’s presentation. The title made it sound like the presentation would be long and boring but I found myself unable to stop taking notes and feeling stupid for not having thought of many of the things he was throwing out!

He gave a lot of great tips on small things that can be changed or improved in the installation of WordPress which apparantly made it quite a bit harder for hackers to get into the system and use the content to post spam that wouldn’t be directly viewable.

Cooking with BuddyPress by Andy Peatling

This is another great tool! What if I told you that you could make your own personal version of the Facebook on WordPress? BuddyPress is based on Wordpress MU and basically turns your blog into a social platform including great features like status updates, profiles, private messaging and more. I think it’s a great tool for intranets or blogs that want their readers to have more presence on the site.

Caching and Optimization for WordPress: Keeping your site fast and stable by Jeremy Clarke

Jeremy, one of the organizers, gave us a great presentation on what makes a site slow or fast. Sure it sounds fun to add a million plugins on your WordPress (yes, there are some amazing plugins out there and i’ve never seen a framework with so much collaboration.) but you have to make sure that the browsing experience stays quick. Using tools such as WP Tuner (a WordPress plugin), Firebug (a Firefox plugin) or YSlow (a Firebug plugin), Jeremy leads you in the right direction.

Overall, I had an awesome time at the first edition of Wordcamp Montreal and I was quite impressed by the way the event was organized considering it was only 30$ for both days! It was great to see the joy brought to people through a truely open-source framework which catered to users with a myriad of different backgrounds. I think that there’s only going to be more great things coming our way in the future. All I want is more events like this to make sure everyone is able to stay on top of what’s out there and can find exact answers to their problems wheter it be for a social network, a WordPress CMS or just a simple blog.

SES Toronto – Photos Day 2

Day two of SES Toronto 2009, and the energy was still there, even after the party that stretched into longtail hours the night before.

More expert wise words were spoken during a day full of speaker sessions, these and the first day’s all captured here in live blogging form.

Guillaume’s talks rocked the room as usual, and Naoise enjoyed his speaking debut – an enjoyment shared by the interested and inquisitive crowd (many of the questions coming from SEOs – go figure).

A lot of handshakes, hacky sack, and chit-chat later, NVI scooted home.

SES Toronto – Photos Day 1

With a car convoy, a trainride, and a flight, the NVI uniformed militia converged at SES Toronto 2009.

The booth and cocktails buzzed with happy chatter between new faces and old friends. During the day, the speakers spoke, and at night the drinkers drank ’til drunk at the Drake.

The co-sponsored event was enjoyed by all (except one angry waitress…), as NVI, Page Zero Media, and Acquisio invitees filled the party space. A little SEO-wiser, a little offended at NVI’s new t-shirt, and a little tired, SES attendees retired in good spirits in preparation for the next day’s events.

You could also see photos of Day 2

SES Toronto 2009 Live Blogging – Extreme Makeover – Live site clinic

Lyndsay Blahut, Director of Online Marketing, Canada’s Web Shop
Mitch Joel, President, Twist Image

The moderator is not Mike Grehan actually, I’m not sure what her name is, I think it’s Samantha. Samantha, if that’s not your name, please don’t take offense, in fact, pretend I was talking about someone else entirely, someone named Samantha.

First site to review:

Torlys.com

Care to tell us something about the site?

Site Owner

I’m not sure what the biggest issues are – the site is marketing flooring products to both consumers and builders/designers. Splash page to split the audience on the home page. We’re a marketing company (of this flooring) – the call to action we want is a consumer subscribing, locating a dealer – not trying to sell from the site, trying to push people to dealers.

Lyndsay

My first comment is the links you have at the bottom – you’re targetting consumers or contractors – I’d maybe make that split a little clearer. For your home is fine for them, torlys contract (interjection that’s standard nomenclature) – try and make it more clear that these links are for two different ppl.

Mitch

You said you wanted email and stuff, you’re lacking a major call to action – not one level in, at the home. It’s a little awkward for users – bottom right is not where you want to put your action link.

Love the flash keeps the vision – but keep in mind this home page is not likely (it’s all flash) indexing a lot of stuff. there’s not enough stuff to make it findable by search engines.

Samantha

Do you ask contractors for a log-in?

Answer: yes

Samantha

I work with a site that has this challenge, contractor and consumer side. We’ve toned the contract area differently and make it an obvious that it’s a log-in for contractors.

Mitch

You’re lacking some basic text content which is going to make you more discoverable.

I might personally make the pictures smaller, leave some room for content, make it more a ‘what do you want me to do now that I’m here’ kind of vibe. Some people want to be driven by action.

Once you surf in your nav is at the top – but it’s not consistent from the index, and a different colour.

Mitch

what is your bounce rate?

Answer: 26%

Lyndsay

Does your traffic come in to the home page primarily?

Answer
both home and product specific pages

Lyndsay

one thing I noticed is i wanted to surf back to the main index, so clicked on your logo, but that sent me to splash page – but if they’re already in the consumer side that should send them back to the consumer home

Mitch

good news or bad news?
the bad news is there is a lot to do – the good news is it’s mostly little things, and they aren’t expensive.

Site owner

On the right hand side, I find the navigation particularly dark.

Mitch

The main thing I see is your navigation is all over the place – different colours different fonts different places. It’s a lot of stuff that need little changes

ppl would b ehighly confused ont his page – make your calls to action more clear, replace some of the current elements and make them very clear calls to action

Site owner

where should those calls to action be located?

Mitch

test it

Lyndsay

I think the problem is that the calls to action aren’t easy to notice.

Mitch

Is that bit navigation too? It is? Yeah you need to make your navigation more clear and consistent – you need more white space to show off the product shots which are nice

Samantha

so much is about the fold, there isn’t much of any call to action below the fold

Mitch

I would test this a tonne – I would put five different versions of that out there.

Samantha

I want to go to dealers

404? it’s a strange page, not what she expected

Oops.

Site owner

dealers and contractors are different – you clicked on dealers, that’s a dealer log in page.

Mitch

block the dealers only link off visually, make it less clickable from the place we clicked it from

Samantha

Who uses the log-in in the top right? and there’s a shopping cart here too.

Mitch

I would throw a usability expert at it, you’ll see a difference

They find a ‘coming may, 2009′ page – out of date. Apparently the webmaster quit and the out of date stuff is just waiting to be removed. It’s still not clear what you want me to do on this page. I don’t see any real meat of content in terms of words.

Samantha

Ohhhh viewstate. what’s it going to do to your content/code ratio?

The cooperators.ca

Site owner: we’re one of canada’s largests home/auto insurers – we inherited this site

Mitch

good news its you’re ahead of a lot of other canadian insurance websites

Calls to action?

Site owner

We have a quote tool, we want quotes and find an agent for you.

Samantha

It’s not symmetrical – I have to get from the text link for get a quote, diagonally. The order in which they appear

Mitch

My first comment, from a general branding perspective – I like get a quote, but I’m not sure why I should get a quote from you. You go from nice and fun get a quote imagery, then you go directly to stock photography, boring.

If you tested it I bet you’ll have a lot of usability issues – alignment, colours, etc.

At the top of the page, I’m not a huge fan of roll over navs. On firefox it’s wonky, you’re not optimized across browsers.

Your title tags are not particularly targetted. I think in general, it sounds to me that you want them to do what you want them to do, as oppposed to what they might want to do. It’s talking down to me, not making me feel empowered.

I’m not even sure I like the names you have in your navigation. It seems all over the place. Farm, life events, etc. Too much choice, you’re going to give me anxiety. Is this bring it home contest a big deal ? It’s really redundant

Site owner:

yes it’s important

Samantha

I don’t like the alt tags – they are long, and they are actually repeated. If you were blind and this were being read to you, a screen reader would read the alt text.

Site owner:

for stock photos, should I put an alt tag? Should I describe the image?

Mitch/Samantha

just keep it clean, don’t use the same one on multiple images

Mitch

I would bring in some web strategy people before a designer.

Site owner

Is it salvageable? Or should we redo it?

Mitch

You should re-do it. You’re a big brand in Canada.

Samantha

You’ve got a lot of stuff that should be folded up – it would make it more intuitive for the user.

Mitch

What’s your bounce rate?
Site owner
35%

Lyndsay

Kudos for having content on the home page – make it more keyword driven.

Mitch

You’ve got a great brand – ditch the stock photography, use real pictures.

Samantha

I’m going in – I want to get a quote for a home.

Lyndsay

the logo in the top left is not a link

Mitch

show me where I am in the process? (hey mitch, notice the steps 1,2,3 at the top?)

Lyndsay

1800 number on every page

Samantha

Live chat too – talk to an agent now.

Mitch

Give me a time to complete, 15 minutes, or say step one is 5 minutes,

Site owner

Not one of our competitors do that

Lyndsay

Do better than them

Mitch

Don’t look at your industry, if you have a form on your site, look at survey monkey, they’re good at forms. If you want to sell things, look at how Amazon does it.

Highlights & Lowlights from SES Toronto 2009 – Day 1

NVI managed to live-blog every single SES session today – here are the highlights, lowlights, and links to all of our live coverage!

Highlights:

Session: SEO then and now

  • Page content is even more important now because Search Engines can interpret surfers actions and behaviour more than before – your content has to engage the user, it will become an SEO metric eventually.
  • Sergey Brin attended the second SES conference ever and announced that he was about to unveil the Google search engine, which would be unspammable. Har.

SessionTwitter ins and outs

  • Twitter search is like an old search engine where you just have to keyword stuff to rank.
  • So far there are lots of mashups of twitter, but not a single one is profitable.
  • Amazing use of twitter: Freshbooks was following one of their users on twitter, and noticed she had been stood up by her boyfriend – Freshbooks tweeted that they would never abandon her (cheese!), and the next day they sent her flowers (genius!)

Session: Relevancy Indicators Search Engineers are Watching for Today

  • New ‘search engine’ Twitter search needs to quickly improve their search algo and filter spam – they could define relevancy at the account level like: number of tweets divided by number of RTing followers

Session: International SEO

Two approaches to domain structure:

  • Country specific (TLD = market)
  • Head office structure (yoursite.com/uk/ etc)

The country specific TLD usually fairs better in results (be sure not to duplicate your content across domains!) – Apparently nobody really talked about my issues with international SEO.

Session: Optimizing for Video Search

  • Over 45% of discovered videos get discovered via youtube. SE’s and social networks fill out the rest.

Session: Universal Search

  • Three quarters of users are dissatisfied with search results, while 50% don’t find what they’re looking for on their first try.

Lowlights – Things that made us Groan or Sigh:

Session: Copywriting boot camp

Question: so is there any limit to the number of keywords I should be targeting on a page?
Horrid answer: My rule of thumb is 3 keywords per page – 6 keywords per press release – answer these six questions: who, what, when, where, why, how. There you go, six keywords.
Our interpretation: I think maybe the panelist may be confusing ‘keywords’, with you know, regular ‘words’.

SessionUniversal search

  • Did you know that search engines now index and return multi-media files in their search results? Yeah we did too. The whole session was a low-light.

Session: Landing page clinic

This session reviewed audience member’s PPC ads and landing pages – but the panellists never mentioned what may have already been GOOD about the ads and LPs, they only highlighted what was being done poorly. A better balance between learning from good and bad could have been struck.

Session: Beyond Linkbait

Apparently going BEYOND linkbait is trying to be funny. Wrong guys, that is just plain old linkbait, nothing beyond. NVI happily hires pro and semi-pro comedians regularly in our social marketing department. There should be a lot to talk about when discussing what it means to go beyond linkbait, but it was not covered here.

SES Toronto 2009 – Interview of Bryan Eisenberg

SES Toronto back! The largest search marketing conference in Canada will take place June 8th-10th, with wide coverage of the different spheres of web marketing.  NVI will maintain a booth at SES Toronto 2009, with Guillaume Bouchard and Naoise Osborne offering speaker presentations.

As an appetizer, we present to you an interview with one of the SES Toronto speakers, Bryan Eisenberg, co-founder and CPO (Chief Persuasion Officer) of FutureNow.

1.  Can you give two or three quick tips on landing page optimization specificly for web-savvy technical oriented audiences, such as computer components sales?

The first thing you need to do is make sure your ad message and landing page message are related. In the usability world this is called scent. People abandon their experience when they lose scent. You must be sure to maintain scent from the ad, to the landing page and all the way to the goal you want them to complete.
The second thing you need to do is do everything to establish credibility and build trust. Make sure they understand who you are, how to contact you and any guarantees you may offer.
The third thing you have to do is test. Always be testing. Test your headlines, your images, your offer, your forms, etc.

2.  Who does a better job, generally, of creating effective paths to conversion – small online presences, or large?

I don’t think it is a matter of size but those companies that do well are ones that have dedicated resources (even as little as 10 man hours a month) to engaging their customers in conversation after the click from an ad. Businesses must realize they don’t make money from people clicking on their ads but they do make money when they invest in improving the experience post click and engage people in relevant conversations. We need to think of PPC not as pay per click, but as pay per conversation. These conversations need to evolve and be continuously improved.

3.  With the economy changing there seem to be some general marketing budget allocations shift. How do you see these shifts being distributed? Is more money going online? What is the split like between highly trackable ROI investments like PPC/banners, more opaque mediums like SEO, and downright impossible to track offline advertising?

Money will be spent on accountable and profitable media. Just because it is online does not mean it is profitable or in some cases not even very accountable. Smart marketers will realize that more of the customer purchase cycle is happening online than ever before and is true across almost every business category. Marketers need to test their advertising mix to see which pieces have a real impact and not have a set it and leave it mentality.

4.  How do you see the future of offline advertising pushing online sales, including challenges in tracking conversions?

Around the beginning of 20th century John Wanamaker famously remarked: “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half”. Here we are a century later and not much has changed. The problem isn’t a technological one, it is a people one. Successful ads are about relevance (it has to matter to the ad viewer), repetition (how often they come across your message) and the impact of the ad (how powerful and persuasive your ad is). Search is dominated by relevance. People are specifically broadcasting what their needs are and our job is to fill their need. Offline media does a better job at getting people to remember you if you repeat your ad often enough and it is powerful enough to get buried in their mind. The human part of memory and when they have a need is the variable that is almost impossible to measure. What we see now and we’ll continue to see is a drive from offline media to websites that then can push people to offline again if the purchase can’t be completed online. Businesses will still have to engage in some faith-based initiatives as my friend Avinash Kaushik refers to them as.

5.  Given the general difficulty in converting social media user sales, how do they fit into your overall strategy? With social media use on the rise, is there at least indirect potential?

Social media is like a big cocktail party. You want people to remember you were there and you were interesting to spend more time getting to know. Just like at a cocktail party your job as a marketer is to try to be the center of attention without being obnoxious and engaging in enough conversations to get to meet the right people, so they know about you at the right time for them.

Highlights from Pubcon South: Day 1 summary

Austin is unlike any other US city I’ve been to – everyone’s friendly, skinny, and a hippy. It’s like I’ve stumbled into some lost tribe of British Columbians. Day one of Pubcon South was … ummm, what’s the word? Good. You can read my in-depth (not in-depth thought, just a lot of fast typing, live) live coverage in earlier posts on this blog, but here’s a recap of the juicy bits (that I managed to be around for).

Social Media Session

The social media presentation by Guillaume Bouchard was, as I expected, kick ass, but don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself . The summary of where to place your social content and the pros/cons of each was the kind of thing people go to Pubcon to figure out.

Brand and Reputation Management Session

The brand and reputation management panel was great – we got to hear from people who really manage brands, not just push around SERPs a little. Read the recap of Tony Wright’s presentation here, he knows his stuff. Basically, if your company is really interested in brand management, be proactive and not just reactive.

Have a plan, and be aware of who is responsible for what in the face of these four types of brand nightmares:

  • physical disasters
  • financial disasters
  • ethics disasters
  • false rumors

The best tip in this session came in the Q&A, and it was a caveat more than a tip: if you’re using your real name while you do reputation management for another person, you could quite easily become a victim of their reputation, inheriting the bad into your own, so be real careful. I’m thinking that means when you do reputation management don’t ever attach your personal brand to the work.

Conversion Rate Testing and Optimization

The conversion rate testing and optimization session really had a lot of great information – sure a lot of it was checklist style stuff that you want to make sure you’re paying attention to or testing, but that’s what the people wanted to take away. The highlight tip of the session for me (because I didn’t realize it before, but it makes perfect sense) Taylor Pratt mentioning that having a promo code box on your site can damage your conversion rate. People notice and realize there is a deal somewhere that they’re not privy to, so they leave the site in an effort to find a promo code, interrupting your sale.

Brian Massey was just damn entertaining with his game-show style presentation, quizzing the audience on what types of conversion elements should be shown to which types of personas. It’s a good exercise actually, and a skill every online marketer should work on.

Overall the conversion testing panel pushed through two big ideas imho:

  • That doing personality or persona based research, and coupling that with your conversion elements is the shiznits
  • That getting someone to fill in a web-form should not be our standard measure of a conversion – it is simply one step in a larger conversion process. Change your focus to ‘post click’ and ‘post web’

Local Search Engine Optimization panel

The Local SEO panel was great with a lot of good hands on advice from real people with real businesses who compete locally. The thrust of the presentations went without some of what I feel is necessary context, so I’ll provide that now: modern local SEO involves writing for and about your community, independent of what your business is. Of course the basics of using location + business was talked about a little, but really, these guys were talking about writing up events in the community, being very generous with your outbound links, and using this content and that generosity to gently prod neighbouring sites for some reciprocal recognition (reciprocal links are not such an evil demon in the local world, especially when they’re logical).

Michael Dorausch’s description of writing for and about the Austin Marathon encapsulates this. He suggests that any local business should be doing a write-up on the marathon, and expanding on this idea, should do the keyword research to see what people in the community are searching for. Turns out some are searching for road closure information (give it to them!), some are searching for their names and where they placed in the marathon (publish a congratulations post to all who completed it, list their names!) – these little content gems add up to little bits of link love, which eventually translate into a strong, locally linked site. Once you’ve got that, a little on-site SEO can go a long way in dominating the SERPs in your business niche.

The best nugget from the local SEO panel came from the Q&A session, where somebody asked (as I was going to if they didn’t beat me to the punch) what factors go into Google’s local rankings – in other words how can I be business “a” that is returned, as opposed to business “h”?

The answers that came back are surprising, but honest: it’s based on immature things:

  • Your business brick and mortar location – the closer to Google’s idea of the city center the better
  • The number of comments and ratings that your business has in the system
  • Keyword stuffing in tags (keyword stuffing is relevant again, yeeeehaaaw as they say in Texas)
  • Get your business address out there on other sites that Google crawls, like yelp and yellow pages – literally publish your address a lot of places
  • The more content on your site the better

Now, they admit that they’re not sure which of these techniques is the most powerful (these aren’t scientist SEO’s they’re local businessmen!) but a combination of them is what is working, and so what they will continue to do, and you should too. Other great tips came for the basics of how to earn local links, read up on my live blog post from the session.

Back to the live blogging!