Conversion Optimization has taught me… If a User does not extend Trust to your website, they are not going to communicate or transact. The lessons seem familiar. Could it be that I learned all I need to know about User Trust from the Superheroes?
Loss of Identity = Loss of Trust
Once, we were somebody. Overnight, we became nobodies. The internet took away our identities, made us invisible beings. We began writing on people’s screens from the other side. Our true identities were masked.
So, we took on pen-names, usernames. Our faces disappeared and in their place, avatars sprang up. It was thrilling and exotic, to think that we could become any persona we chose. Some took on the anonymity for Good. Some, for Evil. Google Authorship and verified Social Profiles (OpenID, OAuth) returned a semblance of identity, order and credibility.
Readers all know that Batman is really Bruce Wayne, but he still wears a mask, and Gothamites seem to be taken in. Choosing when and in what company to be known is a powerful strategy, for good or for evil. Batman wears a mask, which hides his identity, but that same mask makes people mistrustful, even fearful. If Batman tried to buy a Batarang on credit, the merchant would doubtless ask to see some ID. People trust him best when he wears no mask.
Demonstrate Trustworthiness in Motivation to Earn Respect from Stakeholders – and Carry a Big Stick
This occurred during the rise of SEO. The coincidence of anonymity with the power of inbound links led to massive abuses of that power. Irresponsibility flourished. Hidden in the folds of the cloak of invisibility we built links in the spammiest, least relevant ways, based solely on ease of execution. Google took it on the chin for showing ridiculously bad search results, until they rewrote the Algorithm and applied Filters and Updates to rein in the masquerade of relevance by removing the rewards, and punishing offenders.
Google may be like Bruce Banner. A brilliant mind, an ingenious scientist. Bruce Banner is a nice guy, but nobody wants to piss him off. Those who don’t know his true identity may be very sorry. Those who do not know what will provoke his rage revile him – it’s not easy being green.
Stamp Out Falsehood and Users Can Detect Emotional Resonance
False identities still skulked the Web, but their deeds went unrewarded. Concepts, topics and Keywords were unmasked. Search quality flourished.
Superman still walks among Metropolis as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent. HIs identity is largely concealed, and yet he manages to inspire humans with his, “Truth, Justice and the American Way” credo. We trust in the truth of the message.
Trust in a Name Exists in the Collective Consciousness
DNS is the backbone of human ability to use the web. Numeric IP Addressees (12-digit numbers which humans find a challenge to remember) are mapped to Domain Names (which humans recall with greater ease). Domain Names are leased from Registrars. Domain Names are limited, finite. The Gold Rush on Domain Names led to the dark ages of cyber-squatters who Registered millions of names, demanding a bounty for their use. Abusive profiteering created huge obstacles to brands wishing to use their trademarked names. Then, .com names started running out.
No-name stores and oddly-named services sprang up, with more monikers than a barrel full of… well, you know (WebMonkey, SockMonkey, FunkyMonkey, SurveyMonkey). Conventional wisdom dictated that the funnier the name, the more memorable. So even corporate entities took on masks, deliberately. Inherently, this was an obstacle to trust, at first. Since these new brandnames were unfamiliar, it was the shared experience of the masses that provided evidence of trustworthiness. People shared their user experiences via E-mail and on forums. Cagey websites provided evidence of User Trust in the form of On-Site Reviews.
What’s in a name? Only the trust that people extend to it. Ford and Chevrolet started as family names. It was only after innovation, products, racing and service that the public afforded them the trust that makes them the respected Brand giants that they became. We made them.
Would you trust S.H.I.E.L.D. or HYDRA? S.H.I.E.L.D has been variously known as Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division, then changed to Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate and finally became Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.H.I.E.L.D.) Is it important that we know IBM stands for International Business Machines? No, that name is outmoded. It is the combined might of billions of dollars of advertising and decades of customer trust that tells us what the IBM brand is all about.
If It Looks Like a Duck, and Quacks Like a Duck…
The ‘Wild West’ years peaked on the World Wide Web. Viewed differently, it was the nadir of Trust on the Web. Brigands, Pirates and Highwaymen lined the Internet Superhighway. Phishing schemes created false fronts, exact replicas of Trusted websites, where users could be tricked into entering their secret Passwords.
Mystique could probably charm me out of my Log-ins since she could imitate anyone she pleased. Can’t simply trust in appearances. Security calls for multiple factors: who you are, what you know, what you have.
E-mail was the ‘killer app’ because it created an environment of direct communications with trusted individuals and known entities. Your contacts were kept in your Address Book. How quaint… and limiting!
Outmoded Solutions are Insufficient to the Stormy Present
Real identities have become a hot commodity. Our own identities are now subject to theft and resale. Passwords can be jacked or stolen by the millions. It is advisable to use unique Passwords for every different user profile, yet management and security of hundreds of Passwords is beyond most mere mortals. To be riven of one’s identity could lead to years of expense and misery, as marauders impersonate legitimate beings to drain their bank accounts and buy things on their carefully-cultivated credit.
Social Log-in (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_login) may have helped turn the corner by leveraging one verified identity for use on equipped websites. Google Wallet (http://www.google.com/wallet/) can store all your credit and debit cards, offers and more, with access from your smartphone. Do you trust Google? With 24/7 fraud monitoring, instant transaction notifications and Purchase Protection, you might. It may be time to update your website’s ability to recognize identities in a way that suits visitors.
Green Lantern has to rely on cosmetic jewelry and outdated light fixtures for his power. This causes him no end of misery as the items are stolen and abused. He obviously needs a tech update.
Trust Marks – Symbols of Those Who Fight the Good Fight
Symbols of trust evolved from the royal seals of the Pharaohs, to marks on coins denoting their alloy and weight, through the Good Housekeeping Seal on up to the Trust Marks that are employed on E-Commerce sites today. 93% of online shoppers say it is important for an E -Commerce site to include a trust mark of some kind on their site. ~ TNS study
Common Trust Marks include:
SSL Certificate – [https://] secure link that encrypts customer data in transit
BBBOnline – Reliability Seal for issue resolution in case something goes wrong
Bizrate.com - Gathers and shows ratings of users for Trusted Peer Review
Mcafee Secure – Detects code injection and malware to prevent Identity Theft & Phishing
Truste – Privacy Seal – a sign of trusted and clearly-stated policies
The presence of these symbols represents the effort on the part of the website to protect the visitor, enabling prospects and customers to transact.
Superman could wrap you up in his S-symbol from his Super-suit and it would protect you from a thermonuclear explosion. Seeing the arrival of that symbol provokes a feeling of awe and security, expressed as, “Look, up in the sky!…”
Trust in Peers Extends to Trusted Peer Reviews
50% of B2B buyers turn to social media / peer reviews.
70% of Americans now say they look at Product Reviews before making a purchase.
~ Google, Zero Moment of Truth – March 2011
63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews.
~ iPerceptions, 2011
Google’s Schema microdata can be used to structure Reviews on-site to improve their perception by automated crawlers.(https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/146645?hl=en); and
Gandalf left his rune on Bilbo’s door so the Dwarves would trust to enter and the adventure could begin. the wizard had previous knowledge of the inhabitant and his word was trusted. The rune he inscribed stated, “Burglar wants a good job, plenty of excitement, and reasonable reward”. (http://www.hmhbooks.com/files/content/sites/hobbit/files/pdfs/Hobbit_trivia.pdf) ;
Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted (nearly 12 times more) than descriptions that come from manufacturers, according to a survey of US internet users by online video review site EXPO.
~ eMarketer, February 2010
Ratings provide evidence of others who have trusted this brand entity before, and can predict a favorable outcome (https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/172705?hl=en). Those little yellow stars that appear in Search Engine Results (sometimes called “Rich Snippets”) can boost clickthrough rates by 8%.
Captain America knew the value of stars… and stripes. He dictated the appearance of his own uniform as an inspiration to the troops. Rally users to your cause by inspiring trust with relevant Ratings.
Superheroes have a lot to teach us about Trust, but the most important lesson of all, may be: we do it not for ourselves, but for the public. Web businesses needn’t be altruistic or charitable… only trustworthy, in order to protect Users and, thus, their own profitability.
All Trademarks have been used referentially and all rights remain the sole possession of their respective owners.
There are some pages on sites that you don’t necessarily want to have indexed. Some of them are easy to find because they fulfill important purposes on sites, but still shouldn’t be crawled and indexed. Others can be considerably more difficult to find.
For example, on one site, I found widgets that appeared on only 28 pages of a site, that inflated the amount of URLs on that site from around 3,500 to over 90,000 in Google’s index.
It was one of the first assignments I had at an agency I went to work for years ago, and looking at the URLs that were being returned in a site search at Google [site:www.example.com], it looked like there was an almost infinite number of URLs for the site, in the form of URLs that weren’t very search friendly, which made understanding the architecture of the site extremely difficult. Was this a bug, or was the site truly that large? The first part of SEO for a site is often a matter of discovery.
On some sites, there are some pages you want to keep from being crawled and/or indexed, and these can include pages such as “Email to a Friend” pages, “Write a Review” pages, “Compare Products” pages, and other pages that have little unique text on them, are unlikely to be linked to by most people, will rarely if ever be shared socially or “emailed to a friend.” Sometimes these pages only show one or two lines of unique information, and then something like a map or a calendar.
Sometimes there are pages are near duplicates of other pages, and contain substantially similar content that might differ by how content (often products) on a page is sorted:
- Best selling
- Alphabetic order a-z
- Alphabetic order z-a
- Price high-low
- Price low-high
- 15 items per page
- 30 items per page
- 50 items per page
- List display
- Grid display
Limiting which versions of those sorted (and filtered) pages get crawled and indexed, and using canonical link elements and pagination link elements wisely can be helpful.
For example, when you have multiple pages within a product category, you may want to limit (using robots.txt disallows, robots noindex meta elements, hash URLs (#), Java Script, option dropdowns, etc.) which sorting order and other parameters to one version, such as pages that display: (1) Best sellers, (2) using a Grid display, (3) with 15 items per page, and have that be the sorted version that gets crawled and indexed by search engines.
Sometimes the way elements of a content management system work can cause issues outside of those sorting pages, or pages that add features but shouldn’t be indexed (email to a friend pages). For example, as I noted above, I once worked on a site that had approximately 3,500 URLs that I wanted indexed. I didn’t know that when I started working on the site. All I knew was that Google estimated that there were about 90,000 or so URLs on the site.
Shortly after I started on the site, I tried to crawl it using a program intended to find broken links (Xenu Link Sleuth), and I noticed that there were times during the crawl when URLs just started to get really ugly. Some of the pages on the site had widgets on them that expanded or contracted sections of content on those pages.
Everytime a section was expanded or contracted, the URL for the page changed. For example, if the page had 21 of these widgets on it, and the first three widgets were clicked upon to expand them, the URL would change to look like this:
If I then contracted the first widget and expanded the 15th widget, the URL might then look like:
Notice how the order of the different parameters can change, and the number of parameters can change as well. All of these can be listed in any order, and there was a very large number of variations of that URL on pages where there were 21 of these expansion/contraction widgets.
I ended up spending about 15 hours running Xenu Link Sleuth on the site. I disallowed crawling of the pages that had those widgets on them, one at a time, to find that there were 28 pages on the site that did include those widgets with the changing URLs. If I kept the extra parameters from those pages from being crawled, I ended up with only 3,500 or so pages.
Within a month of so, Google had removed many of those expanding and contracting URLs that appeared only because of the widgets. Instead of Google estimating 90,000 pages for the site in its index, it reported “about” 3,500.
Having a manageable amount of URLs on the site, and being able to understand why the inflation of URLs had happened on the site previously made it a lot easier to manage and make changes to the remaining URLs and content on the site. It was like the sun was shining on the site:
One of the first steps that I take these days is in looking for URLs for unnecessary pages, so that I can remove and reduce pages (from being indexed) that don’t provide value in a meaningful way. Pages that allow you to email a friend with the URL of the page, or that enable you to rate and review a specific product are important, but there’s usually no value in letting those pages get indexed by search engines.
By removing unnecessary pages from being indexed, I can then move on to pages that should be indexed, to make them even more valuable with added content, faster loading and rendering time, and in other ways that both improve the experience of visitors on those pages and help meet the informational and situation needs of visitors to pages as well as helping to meet the objectives of the owners of the site.
Recent SEO news has been heavily focused on off-site content, such as the seemingly unending war that’s currently going on between people who think we still need to focus a lot of energy into linkbuilding efforts, their opponents who think it’s time to lay it to rest, and those who are steadfast proponents of the notion that it’s a profoundly mediocre SEO tactic. The recent (but, arguably, pretty mild) Penguin 2.0 update can probably do all the explaining as to why SEO enthusiasts are discussing social media, guest blogging, and, well, everything BUT on-site content in their recent contributions to the community, but we can’t let the importance of having well-optimized on-site content slip through the cracks.
Since Penguin 2.0 did introduce some important changes, that should probably be rule number one: Don’t neglect your on-site content! You should be refreshing this stuff relatively frequently, especially, of course, if any of the information changes. There’s speculation that frequently-updated sites are better kept on Google’s radar, so that never hurts.
More specifically, stay on top of your keyword usage. Something I’ve seen all too often is webmasters who think they need to use their keywords in their exact forms as the anchor text for their links, and this is actually pretty punishable behavior. If your keyword is “lawn care New Jersey,” do yourself a favor and include a few stop-words to make that keyword sound more natural. Doesn’t “lawn care here in New Jersey” just sound easier to fit in a sentence?
In addition to that, make sure you’re varying your anchor text. Don’t target the same exact keywords over and over again on the same page – Google now sees this as spammy. A good way to switch up similar keywords is by branding them (Sprinkler King’s New Jersey lawn care).
During your content refresh, always do some thorough proofreading. You can never have enough proofreading. It might sound like common sense, but in my few years’ experience in SEO writing, I’ve seen a shameful number of pages that have spelling, grammar, and syntax errors…right on the company page. Not only will that make a visitor question your company’s authenticity, it’ll be a red flag to Google, too, since spam content is usually similarly low-quality. This is why the person writing your on-site content should never be just a writer or just an SEO expert – it should be someone who is well-trained in both, or two experts working side-by-side.
A lot of webmasters also have a hard time resisting the urge to ignore their e-commerce pages. It makes little sense – product descriptions are easy to optimize, but if they go neglected, they can easily account for duplicate content. Take advantage of your ability to optimize your e-commerce; it’s like free SEO real-estate on your website!
And, finally, don’t get too link or strong-tag happy. When a site visitor is just trying to get some basic info, it’s distracting when every other word is bolded or linked. Let the keywords come naturally and don’t put a crazy emphasis on them for a better experience.
So, your homework for today is to go home and refresh your content to make it Penguin 2.0-friendly!
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read a first paragraph, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of a blog post. So if you’ve gotten to this point, you are part of the 80% of people who read the headline copy. Now, with the tips below, you can ensure your readers join the 20 percent who enjoy the entire blog post.
Regardless of how good your content is, if the intro doesn’t grab the attention of the reader, it’s no use. You have probably wasted your time writing a complete post that your audience simply won’t finish reading.
While blog posts are ideal for SEO purposes, as well as ways to spread interesting and engaging content, your opening statement should leap off the page and get readers engaged. As the first thing readers see, it should give readers a clear idea of what to expect to read. To ensure your posts are being read, here are a few tips on creating unique and captivating blog posts openings.
Have you ever found yourself completely caught up in an article? What was it that grabbed your attention? See what I just did there? I got you thinking by asking a question.
Questions engage readers immediately as a way to get them thinking while setting the tone of your blog posts as well. By asking a few questions, readers already have their wheels turning and have a good idea of what the blog post may be about.
- State Facts
79% of people scan web content rather than read it word-for-word. By stating a fact such as statistic as an opener, you are showing readers that you’re giving them well-researched and therefore reliable information. You can use facts to give readers a better idea of where the blog post is going.
- Quotable Quotes
“Blogging is good for your career. A well-executed blog sets you apart as an expert in your field.” Capture your readers’ attention with a quote and set forth the overall theme of the post. Whether you quote an opinion or words of wisdom, the quote you choose should set the stage for the rest of your content.
Writing a unique and captivating opening for every blog post is important, but it is only half the battle. Engage your audience by creating user-friendly content including bullet points, lists, subheadings, relevant links, white space, and various forms of media. Blog posts are ideal not only for SEO purposes, but for solidifying your stance as a thought leader in your specific industry. Ensure that your blog reflects this by creating appealin
Infographics are a fun way to create a visual element for presenting information, and they give clients content that embodies the essence of share-ability. Infographics can be wonderful promotional tools, but only if they’re made correctly (for examples of excellent infographics, visit the Daily Infographic for examples from around the web). If you’re thinking about making an infographic for your company, remember to keep these five tips in mind:.
Tip #1: Remember that it’s not about you
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they create an infographic is intensely focusing on their company or a particular product. Infographics are meant to share information with others, not act as a blatant advertisement. Filling the infographic with the company logo and product descriptions will almost ensure that it won’t get shared, and sharing is the entire goal of creating an infographic. Discretely placing your company logo somewhere in the graphic is fine, but avoid making your company the focus of it.
Tip #2: Keep it simple
When it comes to infographics, simplicity is important. If you pick an idea that’s too complex, your infographic will either be too wordy and difficult to understand, or it won’t engage the reader. Instead of picking a complicated and very specific topic, think of an overarching idea that you can easily break down into different sections.
Tip #3: Show, don’t tell
Infographics should be able to tell someone information about a certain topic, but they shouldn’t heavily rely on words. Sometimes you need a sentence or two to be able to get the point across, but avoid making your infographic full of lengthy paragraphs. Photos and graphics often speak for themselves.
Tip #4: Avoid the obvious
Infographics should be teaching the reader something that they didn’t know before, and if you fill it with common sense facts, you won’t be seeing a lot of shares on your Pinterest or Facebook pages. If you’re creating an infographic about filing taxes, don’t tell your audience that April 15th is tax day and that they could face penalties if they don’t file on time. Tell them pertinent information and statistics about the number of audits the IRS gives out each year, the most common mistakes people make when filing, and the average refund amount Americans receive.
Tip #5: Create a unified visual theme
Infographics are supposed to be informational and visual, so it’s very important for your infographic to have a unified visual theme that flows well. Some people find that it’s easy to use their company’s colors to design the infographic, and others use the same font as their company logo or slogan to covertly slip in some subtle advertising. Avoid using clashing colors or using different fonts, as it can make the infographic look unattractive and disorganized.
The door shuts, the drinks are gathered and before the first trash bag hits the can, the hosts of the party are already talking about their guests. “Did you see the shirt Bill was wearing?” “Did you notice how much Jack was talking?” “Don’t you already miss Michelle?”
The world of guest blogging is a lot like the social world we live in today. You may get invited to a party once, but if you leave a bad impression – you probably aren’t going to be welcomed back. So, how do you get your hosts to miss your content? It’s all about minding the P’s and Q’s of guest blogging.
Follow the House Rules – Is there anything worse than a guest who shows up and gets a little too comfortable with the phrase “make yourself at home?” While you certainly don’t want to completely change your writing style to appease the needs of your host, you should view the guidelines or parameters that a hosting site has put forth. Stay on topic, meet their word count and ensure your information is valuable to their audience. Mutual respect is essential to building strong blogging networks. A disregard for the rules is as annoying as a guest commandeering your iPod doc to blast the latest Nickelback hit.
Don’t Bring Unannounced Friends – While follow links may be a great friend in link building circles, they aren’t invited to most guest blogs without bringing something to the table. Much like a party that only invites guests who bring something for everyone to enjoy, most blog hosts won’t allow random links. And, guess what? That’s the way it should be. In the same way you wouldn’t show up to a party with a few unannounced friends, don’t provide a guest blog with some unwanted links. Instead, add links that boost the value of your content.
Confirm the Theme in Advance – Have you ever felt the chill of showing up to a Halloween party in a costume only to find out that it wasn’t a costume party? What? Just me? Anyway, matching the theme of a party is just as important as matching the theme of a guest blog. When your content is submitted for posting, there shouldn’t be any surprises. By confirming the theme of your piece in advance, you won’t metaphorically be left at the doorstep in your Raggedy Andy costume.
Socialize – Throwing on the headsets and playing round after round of Call of Duty is a great way to eliminate any possibility of appearing on future guest lists. Who wants to spend time with an antisocial person? This same concept is perfect for the guest blogging community. Not only should you look to provide engaging content that starts a discussion in the comment section, you should also work to promote your content. While you will certainly enjoy the increased number of eyeballs reading your content, your host will greatly appreciate the increase in quality traffic to their site.
Much like the unwritten rules of social etiquette, the guest blogging experience requires certain courtesies. Be respectful of your host, mindful of your readers, and follow some good old fashioned common sense. Following certain standards will build your reputation within the blogging community. It won’t be long before word spreads that your content is the life of the party.