Tag Archives: Website

A Place We Can Call Home

Many of the questions I get asked these days revolve around social media.  You know the usual suspects: Facebook and Twitter.  Sometimes clients want to know about Tumblr or Google+ or Pinterest.  From there the discussions move on to “outliers” such as Vine, Instagram, and others.  We spend a lot of time going over the plusses and minuses as well as how to advance the client’s goals using these platforms.  It’s a valuable exercise but it points out something that I think is given short shrift and which is today’s topic.

The Homestead of Captain Alfred

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every one of the aforementioned proprieties creates next to no content on its own.  Users generate nearly everything.  Unfortunately, everything users – and businesses fall into that category – put out there isn’t presented to the massive user bases these platforms have built.  So, as Facebook said in a New York Times interview:

On any given visit to Facebook, the average user could potentially see about 1,500 items, the company said, from wedding photos posted by a close friend to a mundane notice that an acquaintance is now friends with someone else.  Since no one has time to scroll through that many Facebook posts, items in the feed are ranked to put the most recent and relevant posts near the top.

In fact something like 85% of the people who “like” a page don’t see posts from that page in their news feed on a regular basis.  As a brand, you’re at the mercy of the news feed algorithm which is constantly changing.  So often in the effort to expand our reach to the broadest possible base, we give up control of the distribution in a platform that we don’t control.  We do, however, have something that we can do – and probably are doing – that should, in my opinion, be our tp priority: our own websites.

We own our websites.  They are our home base on the web.  We can control everything on it although as I’ve written before, if you’re permitting comments be judicious in your moderation and be sure you’re behaving in a way that prompts mostly positive user response.  We can be sure that the new visitor’s first encounter works just as well as the long-time fan who checks in every week.  The time and resources to support social are far greater than those required to support home base, and because the number of outlets is expanding, so too are the resources to support them properly.  But even if they were equal to those required for home base and it became an “either/or” choice, I’d advocate quality of encounter along with assured exposure over quantity and less control.

Don’t misunderstand.  I believe strongly that brands (and my clients) need to be in social channels.  Not, however, by letting their web homes get run down while they’re off in cyberspace doing so.  That’s my take – what’s yours?

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Keeping It To Yourself

We have discussed privacy here on the screed several times. During many of those rants I talked about how companies need to think about their privacy policies (and being transparent about it is a great start) and how those policies will play with the folks whose data the companies are using. My theory is that young people have never really had any privacy (mostly due to hovering parents) and they’re less concerned about the issue than are people of my generation. However, there are netizens of every age who do care, and I suspect that as the “creepy” factor of ads following you around grows due to retargeting, etc., more people will begin to look into what data they’re sharing with the web overlords and how that data is used.

If you care or if you wonder if you should, the folks at Privacy Choice will be of interest to you.  Their research reveals that 20% of sites and apps reserve the right to share personal data freely for commercial purposes. Also, 60% of website privacy policies do not provide any written assurance that users can delete their personal data at the end of the relationship:

The most critical component of a privacy policy governs how a website or app handles personal data, which increasingly includes not only email addresses but also profile and other more intimate personal information gathered through social network integration…Nearly two-thirds of all policies examined (63%) provide assurance that personal data generally will not be shared with other companies, while another 10% promise not to share personal data for “marketing purposes.” However, one in five sites provide no assurance against sharing personal data with other companies.

If you are interested, I urge you to install their Privacyfix tool and the browser extension.  You can check a site’s tracking using this tool.  The results can be eye-opening.  It’s becoming obvious that companies are counting on us to take control if that’s what we want.  What do you think?

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Too Many Cookies Make You Fat And Slow

“What the heck is he doing writing about food on a Monday?”

English: Plateful of Christmas Cookies

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Given that it’s Thanksgiving week here in the US I’ve got food on my mind more than I usually do.  However, while cookies is the theme, it’s not about the sugary kind.

I was reading a bunch of sports sites as part of a research project when I came to one that seemed to lock up my browser   As it turned out, this site (which shall remain nameless since singling them out doesn’t serve any purpose) hadn’t locked me up but it was taking forever to load.  I opened a new tab and hit another site which popped right open.  Returning to the slow-poke, I took a look at what the page was doing as it loaded.  Imagine my surprise when I had a look at all the external (meaning off the site’s own servers) scripts and cookies that were running.

While my browser had taken the site’s primary analytics cookie (hey, I’m in the business so I like to help others learn) as well as their main ad serving cookie and even their Twitter tracker, my browser had  blocked 66 third-party cookies.  Each of those took a call to a third-party server.  These were ad networks, retargeting firms, on site ads from third parties, behavioral targeting firms,  etc.  The page (and each subsequent page, as it turned out) took  a long time to load .  While it came right up the  browser won’t respond since dozens of scripts are running.  Maybe a great revenue experience for the site owner but for we lowly users, it sucked.

One solution to this issue might be Google Tag Manager or deferring the parsing of JavaScript but it really goes beyond that.  Years ago there was a real emphasis on light page weights (the amount of code on the page as well as all the images, etc) and fast load times.  With the advent of broadband, I can’t recall having that conversation with anyone lately and maybe that’s a bit of negligence.   In addition to the SEO benefit fast pages get, they’re better user experiences.  That’s a broader point no matter what business you’re in.  If the focus isn’t on making your product the best it can be for your consumers, you need to refocus.  While I get that for media the “consumer” is the person buying the eyeballs you’re aggregating, without a good experience to bring those eyeballs back again and again, you won’t be in business for very long.

In other words, lay off the cookies!  Thoughts?

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Working Backwards To The Web

When I work with clients on how they’re going to approach digital, I’ve been telling them something a bit different lately.  While I still believe that a company’s website is the primary point of contact, how that site is designed and built needs to be very different   They -and you- need to be thinking mobile first and working backwards to the web.  Sites that aren’t optimized for smartphones and tablets as a primary access channel are going to be out of date very quickly.  How do I know?  Check this out:

Underscoring the mobile migration story, IDC … issues a report … arguing that the number of people in the U.S. accessing the Internet from PC will decrease in coming years. The 240 million consumers currently using desktop and laptop PCs to go online will shrink to 225 million by 2016, they contend. In 2015, the tipping point will be reached where more people will come to the Internet through a device than through a traditional PC (emphasis added).

Think about how you use media these days.  You’re probably watching TV with a second screen somewhere nearby, and more often these days that means a tablet.  More people are likely to leave home without their wallet or keys than without their phone.  The desktop computer and even the laptop is an afterthought – something with which we do work but don’t necessarily consumer media or interact with brands.

Here’s a nagging thought to keep in mind.  Click through rates on mobile ads are awful – even worse than the pitiful rates we see on banner ads.  If it weren’t for the “fat finger” effect (people hit ads accidentally), I suspect these rates would be even worse.  How are you going to overcome that?  Have you been experimenting with mobile search and learning what makes it different from web SEM?  Maybe now is a good time to do so.  Is your site optimized for mobile access?  Maybe we should chat?

Working backwards to the web isn’t really working backwards.  It’s a forward look into the future.  Thoughts?

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Should You Abandon Your Website?

I came across an interesting article on Marketing Profs the other day.  Called “Four Reasons to Jettison the Traditional Website and Go Social it advocates a point of view that I’ve discussed with clients and would like to throw out to you today.  The author puts it out there like this:

Everywhere around me now, I see companies dispensing with the traditional website in favor of integrating the most popular social networks right into the website and communicating with customers in real-time via tweets and Facebook posts. Big players like Skittles and Coca-Cola have completely bought into social, as have savvy small mom-and-pop shops.

He then goes on to explain why brands might not need websites any more, including reasons such as “it’s fresh, it’s affordable,” and others.  I disagree with his point of view.  First, brands need a home base.  As you might have noticed, the social world isn’t exactly a unified place.  Sure, Facebook is the main place consumers go, but they don’t really go there to interact with brands (and as we discussed a while back, brands haven’t figured out how not to behave like brands).  How many companies took a step back in their social effort when Timeline was deployed?  That’s an example of why you need to control the platform as well as the content.

The author also does a disservice to his readers with this statement: “Compared with the cost of building a website from scratch, plus maintaining it, establishing a business presence on a social network is ultra affordable.”   This perpetrates a mindset too many clients have about social – it’s cheap and easy.  Neither could be further from the truth.  Sure, anyone has access to Facebook for free, but many of the support tools needed aren’t free and you still need humans to support the effort.

The gist of his argument is that big brands are very focused on social and they don’t do anything without testing and retesting to make sure it works so you should do it too.  Putting aside the “follow them off the roof” mentality, I agree that everyone needs to be including social elements in their marketing although I don’t think we can simply say get on Facebook and Twitter and be done.  A well-designed and supported website can accomplish a lot more for your brand than can a social front door.

I won’t be advising my clients to shut off or redirect their web efforts any time soon.  What about you?  What do you think?

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Who Doesn’t Like Cookies?

I know it’s not Friday, but let’s ask about cookies today.  Who doesn’t like a nice cookie?  Well, if you believe a recent survey, almost no one.  Web cookies, that is.  The folks at Econsultancy ran a survey and found that just 23% of web users would say yes to cookies.  They asked based on some new rules about cookie-based tracking that are going in to place in the E.U. and part of those rules will be much greater visibility to users about what tracking is going on:

That 69% of survey respondents are aware of what cookies are and why websites use them may cheer some marketers, but it still leaves a large chunk of web users that may react with puzzlement when they see messages about cookies and privacy on the website they visit.

It also found that a good chunk of users are already managing their cookies via browser settings and that 17% of users won’t accept cookies under any circumstances.  Roughly 60% of users might take a cookie but they’ll need to understand why they should.  In short, it’s the “what’s in it for me” test.  I don’t buy that consumers are happy when they see more targeted ads, which is sometimes cited as a reason why cross-domain tracking is a good thing.  I think the “creepy” factor is off the charts, frankly.  Saving site settings for improve a shopping experience or allowing a site to count visitors and understand site usage might be OK in most folks’ minds – it is in mine – but the survey found that any use that isn’t related to a user’s concerns doesn’t pass the smell test.

I keep waiting for the year in which everyone is going to get serious about balancing privacy concerns with the need for data.  The fact that we’re still amazed when unscrupulous people sell “undeletable” cookies and even businesses that use these services claim no knowledge about what a privacy invasion they are is ridiculous.  Maybe this is the year, although what the E.U. is doing is not really a great solution.  Still, as an industry, if we’re not going to act with users in mind, their representatives are going to force imperfect solutions in the absence of grown-up behavior.

Sour milk with those cookies?

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Me No Want Cookie

Let’s begin this week with something that caught my eye at the tail end of last week.  It was an announcement in Media Post with the headline [x+1] Finds Way Around Third-Party Cookie Rejection.  For those of you unfamiliar with the nuances of cookies, a third-party cookie is a little tracking file placed by a site other than the one you’re visiting.  In other words, if you come to Keith Ritter Media to figure out how to hire me and my site places a cookie from a site where I’m hosting an image, thereby enabling that site to track your web browser, I’ve placed a third-party cookie.

The announcement is important for two reasons – first, many ad networks use third-party cookies to track users across sites (my site’s cookie is useless to any other site) for targeting purposes; second, because some browsers default to disallowing third-party cookies and lots of other users have set their browsers to do the same.  Kind of makes one wonder about the announcement – here’s why. Continue reading

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