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  • 12 September 2013
6 Reasons Why Visual Content Is Great For SEO

6 Reasons Why Visual Content Is Great For SEO

The Power of Visual Communication...

As I was reading about the power of visual communication the other day, I came across a number of statistics and infographics outlining why visual content is so important in not only Marketing, but in communication in general.  And why not? After all, in 30,000 years of human communication, textual communication has only been with us for about 3,700 years. (Source)

How the brain processes visual content

Image courtesy of The Science Daily

The main reason that causes our high affinity for visuals is the wiring in our brains that is skewed towards processing visual content. Did you know the following facts about the magnificent machine we call a brain?:

  • Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. (Source)
  • Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about 7 bits of information (plus or minus 2). Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched. (Source)

  • Half of the brain is dedicated to visual function (the eyes are regarded as a physical extension of the brain). (Source)

  • Images are processed simultaneously while text is processed sequentially. (Source)

  • Most people only remember 20% of what they read and 80% of what they see and do. (Source)

6 Reasons why you should use Visual Content

Now that we know how well we process visual communication, let’s note 6 important statistics that illustrate why you should use visuals in your marketing efforts:

1.  Articles with images get 94% get more views. (Source)

2.  Engagement rate on Facebook for photos averages 0.37% where text only is 0.27%. (Source)

3.  46.1% of people consider a website’s design as the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of the company. (Source)

4.  Videos are shared 12 times more than links and text posts combined. (Source)

5.  Viewers spend 100% more time on pages having videos. (Source)

6.  Colorful visuals increase people’s willingness to read an article by up to 80%. (Source)

One important thing to note is that it isn't enough to just insert visual content into your blog posts or social media channels; you need to optimize the images to generate traffic. Derek Halpern has the following 4 tips for optimizing images for SEO.

Visual content optimization

1.  Add alt text to your images to make sure that the search engine understands the images.

2.  Make image file sizes as small as possible for faster page load times.

3.  Give your image a file name to help with your search engine rankings.

4.  Use captions for your images because they are one of the most well-read pieces of content on your entire site.

    visual content in SMM Cave Art Comic-Image courtesy of Mashable Comics

Visuals have long been part of our social network as humans. How have you used visuals in your marketing efforts today?

~Ramya        

  • 15 August 2013
Bridging the Internal Communication Gap in your Organization

Bridging the Internal Communication Gap in your Organization

‘35% of executives from companies with 20 to 49 employees said their employees were not aware of their firm’s overall objectives compared with just 9% of executives at organizations with more than 1000 workers’. -Robert Half Management Resources

The above statistics are the result of a recent study and at first sight, they seem counter intuitive. I mean, isn't it easier to communicate the organization’s objectives to 20 people as compared to 1000 people? However, after some thought, I could see how it is possible.

I believe that the reason why employees in larger organizations are more aware of the objectives comes down to a two-fold aspect of communication:

1. How well the message is documented.

2. How frequently the message is distributed.

Let’s see how this concept works using an example.

Imagine an organization occupying a substantial office space. There are plaques with the mission and objectives displayed prominently on the walls. In this case, whenever employees walk by the plaques, they are reminded of the organization’s purpose and their contribution to this purpose. The plaque serves as an effective document while its placement on the walls serves as a good and frequent distributor of the message.

On the other hand, smaller organizations have limited resources and they strive to get as much work done as possible within their resource limits. Therefore, there is a chance that communication of goals and objectives takes a backseat. For one, the objectives might not be clearly documented and even if they are, they are not communicated as frequently as required.

However, here are a few steps that smaller organizations can take to increase the awareness of their objectives:

1. Document your objectives

This is pretty straightforward. It doesn't have to be something fancy like a plaque or a billboard but there should at least be something written that can be kept on record and distributed to the staff to serve as a guide as well as a reminder of why the organization exists. In addition, having a documented list of objectives also ensures consistency whenever you have new people joining your team. It brings everyone together and puts them on the same page.

2. Use technology for effective communication

George Bernard Shaw's view on communication

In this internet age, there should be no room for such an illusion because there are so many tools for multiple-way communication and collaboration; and the best part is, some are free while others are quite affordable.

Take email for instance, it’s free.

Google Docs for easy communicationGoogle Docs is a great collaboration tool that is free too; you just need to have an account with Google which is free to setup.

At WebServes, we use Google Docs extensively while working on projects and even use it for training. For instance, in the Marketing Team we have documents outlining how we should conduct our marketing activities. These documents serve as reference manuals for current marketers whenever we need to refresh our memory as well as training manuals for new marketers. The best part about these documents is how easy it is to update them. There is no need to send emails back and forth within the team any time a change is made to the document. The change is reflected in the document and anyone who has access to it can see it by signing in with their Google account.

Another tool we use at WebServes is BasecampBasecamp for collaboration and communication

I was introduced to this Project Management software on my very first day at WebServes and immediately realized what a great tool it is.

The best and most important aspect of Basecamp is how easily we can communicate with our team. The interface integrates with our respective emails such that if a message is posted on a project’s board, all the people involved in the project will receive the message in their email inboxes and they can reply from their email without having to log into Basecamp. This makes sure that we are all kept in the loop about the projects we are working on. It serves as a great tracking tool and helps us to keep our efforts trained towards the successful completion of our projects. Though Basecamp isn’t free, it has a range of pricing options (starting at $20 per month) so that you can choose what works best for your organization.

3. Tell stories to engage and excite your staff

It is easier to remember stories as compared to single statements; which is why we still remember the stories we heard when we were younger. Storytelling can also be an effective way to communicate your objectives and values to your staff. This is especially easier for nonprofits since we have a cause that we work towards and there is no better story than how we worked towards a cause. Such stories will also help to motivate your staff to continue working hard and being passionate towards the cause.

How do you bridge the internal communication gap in your organization? Share your comments with us and let's expand the above list!

~Ramya

  • 9 August 2013
The Intersection of UX and SEO Content

The Intersection of UX and SEO Content

The term User Experience (UX) is popping up all over recently. New courses at universities and company job postings are emerging more and more, everyday. In a recent WebServes blog post we explained ways to improve UX on your site. That post has been getting a lot of views recently, which got me thinking; where is Search Engine Optimized (SEO) content writing and UX headed? And how are they connected? Intersection of UX and Content The SEO buzzword for the last few months has been ‘content,’ and, as an English Major myself, I’d like to say that I have always believed this to be true, but it took an algorithm change by Google Search Rankings to bring many others to my camp. The intersection of content and User Experience is now the key prize for the Internet marketer and SEO strategist. Quality content must also be accessible, easy to navigate, and esthetically pleasing. Herein lies the artform of UX and SEO Content. The intersection of Search Engine Optimized (SEO) Content and User Experience (UX) provides us with these signs to help us on our route: Sign 1: SEO Content is only as good as its surrounding cast and presentation (I've said this before here) I began this thought process while reading an article on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network entitled 'Your Company Is Only as Good as Your Writing' in which the author, Kyle Wiens lays out his thoughts on what makes quality content. While I do not wholeheartedly agree with all of his assertions, I do agree that writing is a complex and difficult task; even an art, if you will indulge me. He was precisely correct when he said:

We like to think that we learned everything there is to know about grammar in our 10th grade English classes, but the conventions are constantly changing. The standards shift. That makes writing hard — and difficult to talk about.  

Doesn't this sound an awful lot like SEO and much of web development, for that matter?

Language is constantly melding, coding is constantly evolving, and the way that users want that information presented to them is constantly changing. Wiens, CEO of iFixit, explains that his organization is built upon a collaborative framework because of these evolutions. He sites "that topics that are the most uncomfortable are usually the ones that need the most discussion. Writing is one of them. It's a conversation that is crucial to have — with everyone." An open forum is a valuable asset to have in UX and in SEO writing, They are becoming more interconnected. Idea exchange, and ways to keep creativity flowing, as I have discussed in our previous post, 4 Steps to Keep Your Organization Creative are crucial to keeping companies and organizations relevant, but relevancy is only as good as the SEO content and UX that surround it and explain it. Sign 2: George Orwell can teach us a thing or two about UX and SEO content George Orwell can teach us a lot about content writing, as you might already have figured, but he also schools us on SEO and UX, too. Orwell knew more about these subjects than you would expect. To be fair, Orwell was only professing good journalistic writing when he wrote:
  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
  4. Never use the passive voice when you can use the active
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday equivalent
  6. Bonus: Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous!
These seem rather banal to anyone who has ever read a newspaper, but the Gotham Writers' Workshop adds that Orwell:
"in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?
Orwell professes SEO and UX standards in these questions (even though he didn't know he was). Any SEO strategist knows that current/relevant pictures and images are 'sticky' and encourage many more 'shares' and 'likes.' And as a UX developer, it is always best to put the most relevant information in the appropriate place, and even though Orwell knew nothing about things being 'clickable,' he definitely knew what made text more accessible and popular. Some of our greatest knowledge can be dredged from past experiences. Sign 3: UX and SEO content still work along the same principles of early journalism, it's just easier to access the archives On his Webcredible blog, 5 web writing tips – Content & UX, Alex Anderson also uses Orwell as a starting point in much the same way that I have. He adds to Orwell's premise by citing another journalistic tool, front-loading content: "The first line of each paragraph should contain the conclusion for that paragraph." This idea is popular, and gets a lot of initial traffic to websites because it has a 'hook' to draw the reader into the content. If the paragraph begins by saying that it will answer your question, then you are very likely to continue on and click through to the content, but I am wary of this only because many sites say that they are answering your question but often are aggregating information from other sites, or just setting the hook and not giving much in the way of information. While it is a great way to draw people in, until Google can write the algorithm in such a way that it eradicates aggregating sites, quality content with h1, h2, and keyword rich content should be all you need, without the need for a strict 'first line stating the conclusion' method. If you are interested in reading more about Search Ranking tips, like the ones that I just mentioned, check out our previous blog on Search Ranking Correlations. UX and SEO Content styles are evolving and changing month after month, but the thing that stays the same is that they are interconnected and intertwined. What do you think is next in the evolution? ~Josef

  • 24 July 2013
Want Higher Search Rankings? Four Things to Consider

Want Higher Search Rankings? Four Things to Consider

Search rankings matter a lot!

I am not just saying that to join the chorus of the blogosphere. It truly is one of the most important things for a company or organization. The appearance of a keyword in Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s) is at the top of every marketing managers’ to-do list. The ideas of search ranking are floated along in an endless parade of buzzwords like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Analytics, Metrics, Big Data, keyword targeting, and on, and on. The problem is, what does it all mean? Now is not the time to shrug this off as just another marketing scheme that will have its day in the sun and fizzle out. It’s not! Saying that would be as ridiculous as saying that the “internet is a flash in the pan.” If this is your thinking, then you will be left in the dust. For those that believe that Internet search is here to stay, come along on a journey with me through the land of optimization. The core elements that constitute Search Optimization are, putting it simply:
  1. Social – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
  2. Backlinks – Companies or other sites that are linked to your site as partners, or in content sharing.
  3. Onpage (Technical) or Coding – This is the behind the scenes work. Making sure that the titles of your pages, the URL, the titles, the Headings (H1, H2), and of course, the speed at which your site loads in a browser are all things that effect your rankings.
  4. Onpage (Content) – The voice of your brand is important, but it is also important to know that the layout, the targeting of keywords, and even the title of your content is involved in where your site ranks in SERP’s (even more so now).
Google has been tweaking its metrics and algorithms in the recent months. They do this to root out fakers and abusers of the system. In the distant past of eight years ago, it was possible to “keyword stack” or “keyword stuff.” This meant that you would embed a certain keyword that helped your site rank higher in search engines, in your code or in the header and footer. I have said all of this to emphasize that the algorithms for search rankings have been changed a lot in the last ten years, and it is for the better for legitimate websites. Searchmetrics has published a report on search ranking factors and it has a wealth of information that shows the new direction of SEO. In this figure Searchmetrics ranks the “correlation between Google's search results and the various influencing factors." Searchmetrics Search Rankings

Social

It is simple to see that Social has increased in importance, as you may already know, but this graph shows just how important. As you might have suspected, Google has weighted its social platform Google+ the most. Any marketer would expect that you’d want to promote your own product, why should Google be any different? Second on the list is Facebook Shares. Since Facebook is the preeminent social platform (especially in terms of data), it only seems fair that Google would weight the number of shares a link to your website attained. The social ecosystem flows through each one of these other topics. The way that your website displays on a Facebook post is directly influenced by the way it is coded and whether it has images included in it. The better a post looks, the more likely it is to be clicked, shared and liked. Also the links that are made through social media can directly influence who is involved in your content creation and in your link building strategy. A Twitter follow, can lead to an RT, that connects your business or organization to its next client, donor, or patron. Each building block is necessary for the next to be possible.

Backlinks

The concept of backlinks, also known as inbound links, seems simple, but alas it isn’t. Creating content that others want to link to is the core of this metric. The problem is that you only want “quality” backlinks. This is to say that you want backlinks from other companies or organizations that are looked upon highly by Google as well. Monitoring the “digital reputation” of your brand is an emerging marketing manager’s responsibility. Here are four ways to begin your link building strategy:
  1. Link Building has always involved a certain amount of “snooping” because it is integral to see where sites that are ranking better than your site are linked. Majestic SEO allows you to see the linkbacks of sites.
  2. It is also easy to look at the footers or headers of pages to see what types of “emblem” links they have positioned on  their site.
  3. Contacting the local chamber of commerce is usually an easy way to attach a reputable .gov link to your site, or to partner with a university or nonprofit in your area or field is also a nice way to coexist in the ecosystem of SEO.
  4. It is important to have current information and content with links to referenced pages, because very often a piece can be reblogged or, even better, a guest blog can connect your page to a page that is viewed to have reputable and trusted information.

Onpage (Technical)

This part may seem the most daunting to the novice SEO practitioner, but it really can be boiled down to a few easy steps.
  1. Make sure the Length of your URL’s is not too long
  2. Assure that the keyword that you are targeting to be searched is included in the title and ultimately in the URL
  3. h1 and h2 tags are increasingly important to Google. These are header tags; in reality it is the HTML code that makes titles and subsection titles bold and stand out. These show the search engine that your site is well laid out and that it is easy to read. If you are unsure if you are using h1 and h2 tags, check the “View Page Source” by right-clicking on the page you wish to check and find (control+f) the h1 or h2 tags. If you don’t see them on your blog, check the CMS or content delivery system for your site and play with the different settings (in Wordpress there is a drop down menu at the top of the text block, where you enter content, that allows you to set text as “Heading 1” or “Heading 2.”
  4. Last, by certainly not least important, make sure that your site loads quickly. If your site is bogged down it may take too long to open and you will lose traffic because of this. Convert images to .png files that take up less memory.
Searchmetrics shows the top 30 search ranked sites site speed in this figure: Site Speed How does your site load time compare? These are the top ranked sites in Google SERPs with load times of 1.14 to 1.29 seconds. If your site loads in under three to four seconds, you should be pleased, but use these times as a goal.

Onpage (Content)

These factors refer to the visible elements of a website; outward facing, if you will. This section may seem less frightful than the technical section, but it is no less intricate. Here are a few elements to focus your attention on:
  1. Word Count – this factor has climbed to the forefront of SEO checklists. While months ago Google ranked this as a non factor, it now has doubled its importance. This is to say that a website is ranked higher if it has more content, which is Google’s response to every business starting a blog. Simply, if you are not blogging on your website, start now.
  2. Image Count – Google also doubled the importance of images on a website. This metric is directly correlated to the technical side because these images should be named for what they are and should be keyword rich. Lots of images are good. Lots of images with keyword rich alt attributes are even better. Images are also “sticky,” to use a marketing buzzword; images grab attention and can make the difference between a person clicking and not clicking.
  3. Internal Links – These links refer to another blog post, or another page contained within your own domain. For example, when a blogger refers to a previous post in order to further explain a point, or when a website says “For more information” and this link leads them to the “Contact Us” page.
  4. External Links – This is important because it goes hand in hand with the link building framework. Within a blog post or on a content page of a website, a link can be inserted to the source material for the information or it can give credit to another site for lending ideas or inspiration to a post. These links can build a community and an ecosystem that is especially important in the nonprofit environment.
Tell us how your organization is ranking in SERPs; did these tips help? ~Josef

  • 18 July 2013
Facebook Privacy for your Nonprofit’s Constituents

Facebook Privacy for your Nonprofit’s Constituents

What is Facebook's Graph Search and how does it affect privacy?

Facebook rolled out its Graph Search feature this month and expanded the scope for social connectivity by providing a user with the flexibility of searching on Facebook using a variety of phrases such as the ones in the screenshot below. Graph Search   In a previous post, we outlined a few steps that you could take to Optimize your Facebook Page for Graph Search. However, this exciting development has brought with it a whole host of privacy issues. Most of the privacy issues apply to individual Facebook users who might want to limit the audience with whom they share their Facebook activity. For organizations such as nonprofits, Facebook is one of the primary ways of creating awareness for their cause. The main idea behind having a Facebook page is to create visibility so it would not make much sense for nonprofits to restrict their Facebook activity. Thus, it stands to reason that the privacy issue may not be much of a headache for nonprofits. Privacy But wait, what about your nonprofit's constituents and staff? They are individuals who may have Facebook profiles and who may be concerned about their privacy. Granted, your nonprofit cannot control how an individual constituent or staff member ensures their Facebook privacy but it is possible for your nonprofit to have a privacy policy which could include the following two points to ensure that you are not breaching an individual’s right to privacy. 1. Make sure that you take a user’s permission before posting or tagging any photo of them that will be visible publicly. Facebook does offer the option for individual users to be notified of a tag and whether they want to accept or reject it. However, not all users enable this feature so it would be wise to take users’ consent before posting any information about them. 2. Outline your nonprofit’s policy of ‘friending’ your constituents, that is, do you want to allow your staff to ‘friend’ your constituents on their personal Facebook profiles? Would that create a conflict of interest? An article by Idealware talks about how a certain nonprofit had a social media policy of not allowing its staff to friend any of its constituents on Facebook to avoid a breach of privacy. Do you have additional ways of ensuring your constituents’ privacy? Share them with us! ~Ramya  

  • 26 June 2013
3 Ways to Attain Sustainable Innovation

3 Ways to Attain Sustainable Innovation

Creativity is difficult to harness, but it is necessary in order to move forward. The French artist, James Bertrand put this sentiment very succinctly when he said:

"Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future."

— James Bertrand

Business growth has a direct correlation with creativity. The easiest examples are from the “app revolution”; when the tiny start-up/developers write code to create an app that goes viral, and others say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Often it is the environment that surrounds the individual that enables creative thought. The National Defense University Press (NDU Press) published US Navy Admiral James G. Stavridis’ Partnership for the Americas: Western Hemisphere Strategy and U.S. Southern Command in which he says:
“It is often assumed that all innovation is technology related and therefore occurs primarily at the operational and tactical levels. True, technology has formed a large portion,” though, often these “come hand-in-hand with ‘strategic innovation’—that is, the creative, imaginative, and insightful thinking that targets the organizational, cultural, and paradigmatic levels. Examples of this type of philosophy include initiatives such as process improvements, nontraditional partnering, and business engagement, among others.”
Citing the military on innovation may appear to be odd because of its bureaucratic stigma, but in reality the US military gives millions of dollars to fund innovation through universities and private companies. Admiral Stavridis understands the fundamental necessity to breed innovation through the structure of the organization. The leaders create a culture of innovation and spur those that are working for them onto new procedures, new ventures, and new project structures to bring forth innovative end products. Development Dimensions International’s (DDI) study Creating the Conditions for Sustainable Innovation prescribes a way to encourage innovation in businesses and organizations. The notion that innovation is necessary in business is not a new one, but the office culture that is needed to promote great innovation is an art form in itself.
“Seventy-two percent of CEOs ranked innovation as one of their top three strategic priorities, up eight points since FY’09.” (Innovation 2010: A Return to Prominence and the Emergence of a New World Order).  

3 Ways to Attain Sustainable Innovation:

Promote the Big Picture: Encourage employees to learn about business trends and emerging issues so that they feel like they are a part of developing a solution. Every employee will want to help the cause and increase business. Be Self-Aware: Know your organizations’ limitations and learn from past mistakes. The DDI research shows that only 47% of employees think that their organizations learn from their mistakes. Champion your employees: Flaunt the ideas, business models, and innovations of your employees to upper management. Praising your employees and giving them credit will create a feeling of teamwork that can foster an innovative spirit amongst the office environment. The need to innovate continues in business because of the revenue that is generated by being first in innovative development. “First movers enjoy a 36 percent better stock return.” (The Global Innovation 1000: How the Top Innovators Keep Winning. Strategy + Business). Those organizations and companies that are on the front end of innovation enjoy more profit than those that are late adopters. Knowing what idea will be the one that produces those outcomes is where great thinkers and business minds are separated from the others. Socialmediatoday.com noted that “when asked whether their leader demonstrated unwavering openness and appreciation for unique ideas and opinions, just 43% of employees agreed. A whopping 78% of managers thought they demonstrated these traits though” from the DDI study. This inconsistency is attributed to a basic human instinct to project a good self-worth. Those managing styles that analyze employees' outward perceptions of their bosses seem to work best. The road to Creativity is paved with self awareness, and this is much more evident as management level increases.
Creating the Conditions for Sustainable Innovation

Creating the Conditions for
Sustainable Innovation

  Figure 1 from the Creating the Conditions for Sustainable Innovation study shows how challenges to innovation can be changed into practices that drive innovation. How does your organization deal with road blocks to innovation? ~Josef

  • 20 June 2013
Is Your Website Donor-Friendly?

Is Your Website Donor-Friendly?

In one of our previous posts, we talked about how you can improve your website’s User Experience (UX) and for nonprofits, one of our most important user groups is the Donor community. Our donors make it possible for us to succeed in achieving the causes we stand for, but did you know that there are certain ‘donation-killers’ on our websites that could potentially drive donors away? Take a look at these statistics that are the results of a Donation Usability Research conducted by the Nielsen Group in 2009:

  • 47% of the 'donation killers' were usability problems relating to page and site design such as cluttered pages, confusing workflow, and unintuitive information architecture. To quote Jakob Nielsen, 'If the customer can't find the product, the customer can't buy it'.
  • 53% were content related issues such as including unclear or missing information and unclear terms.
These donation killers fall under the big umbrella issue of poor communication. As Nielesn says, nonprofits must clearly communicate their value proposition if they want to attract online donations and, sadly, this is where nonprofits are falling short. So, how can we make sure that our websites do not have the above donation killers? Nielsen's study offers more valuable information as well as a few insights on how nonprofits could improve their websites and make them a great fundraising tool.

1. What does a donor want to see?

According to the study, donors want to know what the organization does (mission, goals and objectives) and how it will use their donations. In short, Take a look at your website. How easy is it to find this information? How many pages do the users have to navigate through to reach this vital information? Here is a screenshot of WebServes' Home page with the Mission and Objectives: Mission

2. Where is the donation information?

Surprisingly, on 17% of the sites in the Nielsen Research, the users couldn’t find where to make a donation. In a previous post, we touched on the topic of the necessity of having a prominent ‘Donate’ button and a good Donate page with enough information and a call to action. At WebServes, our 'Donate' button is part of our header that appears on every page. donate button on the header for donor convenience  

3. How can a donor contribute?

“Giving money on charity websites is 7% harder than spending money on e-commerce sites.” In a follow up study conducted by Nielsen in 2011, the researchers found that “completing the actual donation process took the users 7% more time on average than it took users to complete an e-commerce checkout process.” This is partly because e-commerce websites have a quicker and more streamlined checkout process and partly because it is harder to give money away than it is to spend it. So, make it easier for the donor to give! Have shorter forms to fill out. Have flexible, secure payment options. For example, we have a short, 3-step online donation process powered and secured by WePay. Donation payment process - Donor view  

4. Who can a donor communicate with in case of questions?

This can be addressed very easily by having an up-to-date 'Contact Us' page and having the Contact information displayed on the Donation page as well. You could also have it as a page footer like we do: contact information accessible to donor   The study notes that fixing a minor usability problem could potentially increase donations by 10% which is a significant amount for donor-dependent organizations. As Jakob Nielsen puts it, 'to improve fundraising, speak plainly and answer donors' main questions, and money will flow your way.' Do you have other ways in which websites can be improved to be more donor friendly? Share them with us! ~Ramya  

  • 5 June 2013
Value Proposition: A Sure Source of Competitive Advantage

Value Proposition: A Sure Source of Competitive Advantage

A recent post on the Kissmetrics blog started off with one line that has ingrained itself in my mind, ‘Almost regardless of what you do, you have bigger competitors.’ There will be competition on the basis of price, quality, quantity… and the list goes on. So if there is always someone better than you, this means that you cannot be a market leader right? Wrong! As ironic as it sounds, even in the face of the stiffest competition, you/your organization can be the leader if you have a strong value proposition.

What is value proposition anyway?

As Peter Sandeen puts it, value proposition is
a believable collection of the most persuasive reasons people should notice you and take the action you’re asking for.”
I decided that I would dissect the above definition and expound on what each part of the sentence really entails and how your organization can work to build a value proposition which could give you, as Sandeen puts it, an ‘unfair advantage’ over your competitors. Believable It is good to be self confident and hold yourself in high esteem, but for you to appeal to customers, it isn’t enough to say ‘we are the best digital marketers for your organization’s needs.’ How can you prove that you are the best? Who has said you are good enough to be called the best? The best way to prove your worth is through testimonials. Think about it. When you plan to go to a restaurant, do you go to its website and read all about it or do you go to Yelp and read customer reviews about the restaurant? Just as reviews are important to you as a customer, make sure that your prospective customers have the opportunity to read reviews about your business. Let your past customers help you in marketing your organization. Collection For you to have a strong value proposition, you should have a collection of reasons why customers should buy your product or service. The testimonials would be one good reason. Another great reason, especially for cause related organizations, is the cause itself. Most people would want to be associated with a cause in any small way possible to spread the word about the cause and to get more people involved. For example, I remember when Morton Salt had a campaign in which a certain percentage of the proceeds from the sale of each tin of salt would go towards funding the breast cancer research efforts. In this way, people who wanted to contribute to the research in any way possible, ended up buying Morton Salt even though it was slightly costlier than other brands. Most Persuasive  Every customer perceives value differently. For a price sensitive person, a suitably priced service holds the most value while for a trendy customer, the latest fashions would be the most valuable. Therefore, the key to creating a good value proposition is to focus on your target market; how does your target market perceive the value of a product? Once this has been determined, it is your task to persuade your customers as to why your product offers the most value to them. At WebServes, for example, our target market is nonprofits and small businesses that need internet technologies to fulfill their missions. Many times, such organizations have a limited budget so to them, value would be determined by cost to a certain extent. Therefore, our value proposition to them is providing effective internet technologies at an affordable price. Action As we have stressed in our previous posts, the purpose of your marketing efforts should be to propel your customers to take action. One way of doing this is through repetition. Repeat your value proposition in all your marketing channels; website, social networks, advertising campaigns, events; so that the information does not get lost as soon as your customer leaves the room after a meeting! Peter Sandeen has developed a 5-step system for finding the core of your value proposition; the ideas that make you the best choice for people. You can download a PDF version of the 5-step system here. What do you think of the whole idea of value proposition, and how do you use it? Share your ideas with us! ~Ramya  

  • 30 May 2013
Unexpected Marketing Lessons Through the Transparency of charity:water at IWNY 2013

Unexpected Marketing Lessons Through the Transparency of charity:water at IWNY 2013

Internet Week New York 2013 (IWNY) was held last week at the Metropolitan Pavilion, “in the heart of Silicon Alley,” as the IWNY website put it. The pavilion is an open space with a warm feel to it, an apt place for the startup and tech world. This is the view as I walked in on Thursday:

The view from the IWNY entrance.

The view from the IWNY entrance.

Every time that I attend one of these events, it motivates me. Perhaps it is the people, maybe it’s the innovation, or generally it could be that everyone is there because they want to learn and explore. Unlike, NY Tech Day a month ago, this event is more about the community of, and the culture of innovation in the Internet business world. NY Tech Day was a place for startups and small businesses to exhibit their wares, but IWNY had much loftier ambitions. IWNY was about large companies that are changing the landscape of the media and digital workplace. On Thursday, May 23rd when I arrived at the pavilion, Scott Harrison was the keynote speaker who was up next. He is the founder of charity:water, a non-profit organization that aims to bring clean water to everyone in the world. I have seen Harrison speak in videos, I follow him on twitter, and I know that charity:water is one of the biggest stories in NYC non-profit news over the past two years, but even with all this knowledge, it was still motivating to see someone, like Harrison speak about a cause in person, and to feel the passion that the person brings to their organization. As a marketer for a nonprofit technology company, I took many of the initiatives that he spoke about as gospel. ScottHarrisonWater charity:water has a strategy that makes sense; they want to be as transparent as the water that they seek to provide to the world. By this, I mean that the organization wants to show its donors exactly where their money is going, and, at the same time use 100% of the donation for the cause. Harrison said that his friends always talked about the “black hole of charities” and I have heard this reasoning as well. Many people are disillusioned by charity organizations because they don’t believe that their donation is going to the people that they aim to help; or it is lost to fees and overhead expenses. This brought up a great point for me: Show, Don’t Tell – I had an English teacher in high school that always said this. He meant that the students in the class should use description of a scene, or an emotion in their writing and not just a general statement: “The lines furrowed my forehead as the thoughts swirled through my head” instead of “I was so mad.”

Marketing Lessons

This lesson translates to nonprofit marketing strategies in a simple way. Think of an organization’s website or its Facebook page as the “face of the organization.” Now, show the visitors, don’t simply tell them with your content and discussions.
  1. Share things that exemplify what your organization does and support things that your audience will relate to and, in turn, will relate back to you.
  2. Be transparent in your writing, and by this I mean that your content should reflect a personal/human touch and not be proselytizing.
  3. Show your audience the end results of your work. Let those that support your organization see that results are happening and that the money donated, or the time given is well worth the effort.
The goal of this is to relate to those who would be your patrons, or your donors. The core message that came from Scott Harrison, with all of his wonderful stories of hope and change, is that organizations need to, more now than ever before, in this new Internet landscape, to be transparent and relatable to the people that support them. ~Josef  

  • 22 May 2013
5 Steps to Improve Your Website’s User Experience (UX)

5 Steps to Improve Your Website’s User Experience (UX)

In our last Marketers’ meeting at WebServes, we talked broadly about the importance of User Experience and how it defines major aspects of Branding and Marketing. This got me thinking about how we can make the improvement of User Experience (UX) a step-by-step process; starting with website design.

Improve your website for a better User Experience

Whenever we talk about why we should improve our websites, the first reason that comes to mind is ‘better SEO’. While this is a very important reason, it is just a part of the process aimed at the end-result which is ‘happy customers’. A basic rule of thumb in business is that the ‘Customer is King’ but sometimes, we get so caught up in ensuring that our websites appear in relevant searches, that we forget how important it is to ensure that once users do arrive at our website, what kind of User Experience are we giving them?

According to User Experience Consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group,

"User experience" encompasses all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the company, its services, and its products."

This is a very broad definition and it is practically impossible to outline all the ways you can improve your UX in just one blog post. I really do believe that there can be a four year course focused on improving UX in all aspects of an organization! So for the sake of brevity and do-ability, I will focus on how you can improve certain aspects of your website (the User Interface) to improve your Users’ Experience.

 
1. Faster Page Loading Time 

“Improving speed to make something 25 percent faster is a much more valuable feature than a brand-new feature.“ - Jason Fried

Have you ever tried opening a web page and abandoned the site entirely because it  was taking too long to load? Some people are more patient than others, but a whopping 40% said that they abandoned a website that was taking longer than 3 seconds to load. With just 3 seconds to make a good impression, it is no surprise that many websites go unnoticed.

So how can you improve the loading time of your website? Luke Clum of Tutorialzine says first use a site speed testing tool to assess how your website is currently performing and then do the following:

a)  Resize or remove large images and files.

b)  Reduce the number of plug-ins in your site.

c)  Eliminate flash files, which greatly weigh down performance.

d)  Cache your site so that it won’t have to take time to fully assemble every time a user  accesses it.

 
2. Clickable logos that redirect to the Home page 

Sometimes, when I visit a website, I visit so many pages that it becomes hard to click on the ‘back’ arrow on the browser to go back to the Home page and this is when I appreciate a site that has a clickable logo that takes you back to the Home page, as is the case with our WebServes website. It is an easy addition that makes for a great UX.

  ws home      
3. Mobile optimized view 
  Patience of mobile web users

People are increasingly browsing the internet on their mobile devices and the thing with these devices is that people use them during ‘in-between times’ as I like to call them.

For example, browsing on the phone as you wait for the bus, or during the time it takes for your meal order to materialize into the food itself.

Since these time periods are relatively short, the need for instant gratification overtakes our minds such that as many a 30% of mobile web users said that they would wait for only 6 to 10 seconds before abandoning a webpage. It is therefore important to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile view so that it loads faster.

 
4. White space 

Text is good and we all know that pictures speak a thousand words, but of what use is content that makes no impact? You need to absorb all this information and white space helps you do just that. Note: White space does not have to be white; it may be of any color as long as it is empty.

Make your website an aesthetic work of art by simply including some white space. In addition, having white space increases the prominence of the points you want to highlight. For example, enough white space around your mission statement ensures that it stands out.

Connect a million minds' has a clear website with lots of white space that clearly highlights their mission and the call to action; 'Pledge, Connect, Share'

 white space for better user experience

 
5. Search bar 

Having a Search bar makes it easier for users to find what they are looking for instead of combing through every page and using the browser’s ‘Find’ function.

It is better to have a user who finds what he/she needs, takes action and leaves happy, rather than having a user who spends a lot of time searching for what he/she needs and leaves unhappy.

These tips just scratch the surface in terms of improving a website for better User Experience. Do you have more to add? Share your thoughts with us!

~Ramya