First and foremost, you must know that I’m a Google-a-holic. Everything that the Google team produces, I’ve tested and used. I must say there isn’t too much I don’t love about Google – everything I use really simplifies my every day – busy – life. One particular love of mine is Gmail.
Katie from Katie James Pixelated is providing these tips on how to improve your website and strengthen your presence in online communities. These are also send out in the newsletter, and collected here.
You belong to an email group, and you can submit to it for advice, celebration, encouragement, and more. These groups exist for a variety of industries, from design to finance. You name it, and there is most likely a little online society sending emails to a Yahoo or Google group, or some other generator of list groups. These lists can be very valuable, by way of leading to new clients, sold tickets to an event, participants in a study, feedback to a logo, experienced warnings about participation with a certain company and more. If you do this right, you can earn new clients, increase web traffic, and build relationships. Do this wrong, and you will have branded yourself as just another email to be deleted.
As people's participation online grows, so will ways to flourish, and ways to make fauxpas in a public, usually permanent way online. You want to get the most out of groups that develop online. Here's how:
DO target your message.
For whatever you are promoting online, you must target the message to the group you are sending to. What has become time consuming, as online outlets expand, is the need to target these messages. This doesn't mean writing 1 targeted message about your topic or product. It means changing it for each audience. Yes, you may write this 5 times. Which also means - don't send it all at the same time. Spread it out over the day.
DON'T send the *exact* same message to different groups.
Arg! If you belong to several different groups - be that membership sites, Facebook groups, whatever - so do other people. And there is a very good chance that a percentage of those other people belong to the same group as you. Which means that, if you send out a message to one group, and then send out the same message to another group, a handful of people that received your email received it from both group email lists. Double that if you sent it also to your personal email address book. You can easily send the same message 5 times to 1 person. You know what this means? Spam. People will look at it the 2nd time, and think "I think I just saw this...". Then on the 3rd time, they'll say "Who IS this person?" and on the 4th time, they will say: "Go away!". This could cause them to unsubscribe from a group or mark you as spam in their email program. You don't want that.
DO realize that nobody knows you in these groups.
Ok, some people may know you, but maybe 10% actually remember your name and know how valuable your insights are, or how nice you are. The other 90% really don't know you, especially if you rarely participate in the group. If you are usually quiet, yet read group emails a lot, go ahead and introduce yourself when you first email. Thank everyone for reading or taking the time to help. You don't have to introduce yourself every time, but depending on how often you submit to the group, you'll be able to adjust your tone and assume that they know you. You'll be able to tell how known you are based on people's reactions to you, which include email replies to you, traffic to your website from your submitted email, etc.
DON'T think that poeple read the subject line.
If you write a message to the group, and title the subject line something clever, and the next part of your sentance relies on having read that subject line, you have just written something very cryptic. Your attempt to reach out has resulted in: "Huh?" You must say who you are, and why you are writing, espcially if it's your first time contributing to the group.
DO write an introduction, and end it with a link.
Emails are getting to be a lot these days. The more content, the less likely your email is going to get read. Write a short piece, one paragraph long. Most likely, there is a way you can include more information on a web page or a blog post. Once you do that, copy the URL from the address bar and paste it into your message to your group. You don't want to just write one or two sentences if no one knows who you are or what you are talking about, so think about the balance. Draw your readers in, and give them reasons to want to read more.
DON'T REPOST THE SAME LONG EMAIL
Please don't do this. We beg you. You must get creative, or you will not get a response to your posting. You must think about the group you are emailing to, and why these people in particular would benefit from what you are saying or offering. Before you dismiss this warning, think very carefully about if you really do this. Even if you and other people belong to 5 different email groups, you belong to those groups for different reasons and different motivations. Consider your audience very carefully, and rewrite the email in order to appeal to them.
How to use TinyURL:
1. Get the web page you want the URL for, and copy the URL from the address bar. To copy, highlight the entire URL. You can do this two ways:
a. Highlight the whole thing with your mouse, which could be cumbersome.
b. Place your cursor in the address bar and: hit CTRL A (for Select All) or click on Edit > Copy
(this is the address bar, at the top of your browser window)
2. Go to www.tinyurl.com
3. Paste that URL into the little text box that is on Tinyurl's home page.
4. Click "Make TinyURL!" and you will be presented with...a tiny URL. Copy and paste that where you are going to use it!
As we explore different social networks like Twitter, Plurk, and Facebook, there are new (and usually free) applications that are created by individuals not associated with those companies to help you manage your personal or business identity in those networks. Some of these tools are ones that automate actions you can take on your own, such as following a person on Twitter who follows you.
The trouble is, the whole fun of social networking is to truly interact with others. So when you get into automation, that takes away the personal and turns your online representative at Facebook or Twitter into a robot. Who knows the opportunities you could have missed had you not personally greeted someone, or commented on an achievement or funny statement they made.
Not only that, but your account could get shut down. Twitter is suspending accounts who seem to be robots who may just want to increase followers and look super popular. Case in point: I went to check out a new follower I had in Twitter, but when I got to her account, it was suspended, and Twitter asked if I'd like to know the juicy details. Of course I would. The link went to a Twitter blog post of why Twitter accounts get suspended. I suspect that she went on a mass following spree, and followed a lot of Twitter accounts in a small amount of time. This has been known to silence Twitter accounts.
Patience and personal touches usually work, so stick with old fashioned methods! In the long run, it could save you time.
What if you or your webmaster made an erroneous change on your website, and you didn't make a backup of the code that you changed, and it took you over a day or a week to realize your mistake, which would mean that your website service provider (aka host) also would not have a backup, because they only keep backups of a day or a few days prior.
As a last ditch effort, you hope that www.archive.org took a snapshot of your website from long ago, and archived it. This archiving system may go the step farther by saving the code so that you can "View Source Code," copy it, and put it back into your current site. Archive.org may provide your website to you from 5 years ago, 2, or even 1 if you're lucky.
Archive.org can also be used to track the visual and functional changes that your competitors have made, or that a website you admire has made. You can watch over time to see what they kept, deleted, improved upon, and see if you might want to make simular adjustments to your design and functionality.
According to Wikipedia, Archive.org is known as The Wayback Machine and "...is a digital time capsule created by the Internet Archive. It is maintained with content from Alexa Internet. This service allows users to see archived versions of web pages across time—what the Archive calls a 'three dimensional index.'" The name is a reference to a segment from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
We talk a lot about how alt attributes come in handy for visually impaired Internet users. But what if you are getting your email in gmail, which defaults to not displaying images in a newsletter? And what if you send a beautiful email that is all an image? This is a very popular technique with Anthropologie's enewsletters. Unless the gmail user clicks the link at the top of their message window that says: "Always show images from this source," which allows the image to display, the potential customer could very easily miss your message.
However, if you filled in your alt attribute for at least the first image in your newsletter, and wrote some informative copy in it, like: "Christmas sweaters are now in stock!" vs "splash image," you may have caught the attention of your reader before they clicked Delete. Better yet, if you linked your image to the page where the reader can find this information, the alt attribute will also be linked, allowing the person to click on that catchy text.
A website layout and menu navigation can make all the difference in how your products or services are received (and purchased!) by your users. Meaning, what are they doing when they get to your site? Adding product to their cart? Great! What do they do after that? You'd love for them to buy more.
If your core products or content is layered under several clicks of the menu navigation, or if your users have to rely on the Back button to continue browsing your site, chances are, they are not as mesmerized by your website as they could be, and you could be missing sales to users who otherwise would buy.
Case in point: Sara from PopJudaica.com just transferred from a Yahoo shopping cart to the free ZenCart platform. In the new website, she displayed 3 related products from her new and expanded upon categories that displayed in the left hand menu (see here for a sample product page). Sara reports that the number of products purchased per customer has on average increased. Success! The same type of customer is buying the same products, but buying more of them. If you are thinking of making an enhancement to your website this quarter, or next, consider the "You May Also Like" addition as your next move.