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Welcome to another weekly digest of material from my website grahamjones.co.uk. Enjoy. And what about when you are in conversation with colleagues who need a solution to an issue? You know you saw a website that would be of real help to them, but your recollection is vague. In any of these instances the failure is not in our memory, but in the websites’ ability to make their recall easy. Most business websites appear to prevent us remembering anything from them. But why? Well, a new study on the memorability of social media posts has provided a clue. It turns out, according to research conducted at the University of California San Diego, people find it much easier to recall Facebook posts which are poorly written than “proper English” in other settings. It seems that “good writing” is less easily memorable than conversational English. This is no real surprise. Conversational language was developed in our evolutionary history to enable us to communicate without any memory aid. So conversational language had to be memorable, otherwise it failed. Yet written language is always something we can come back to, hence it developed in such a way that it didn’t need to be so immediately memorable. The problem is, written language was developed at a time in our developmental history when writing was rare. Nowadays we are surrounded by millions of words every day – and the formality of written language is showing it cannot cope so well under those circumstances. Business writing is even worse. There is this theory that business writing “has” to be formal and “correct”. But that makes it unmemorable. What this Facebook study shows – once again – is that businesses which focus on “proper writing” are likely to do less well online than those who write their websites in conversational language. Related posts 1. How to Add Value to Your Article Writing Skills 2. Make your website more human 3. 7 Psychology Books for Internet Marketers
Facebook “proves” most business websites are poorly written
Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/grahamjones/~3/M-oNH21uOOo/ facebook-proves-most-business-websites-are-poorly-written.html
Every day tens of thousands of words pass before your very eyes – how many do you remember? The problem with almost everything we see online is that it is largely unremarkable and unmemorable. For businesses this is a real problem. If people cannot recall what you have written they are unlikely to act on it. In other words, triggering the memory of your visitors is essential if your online business is to succeed. For instance, imagine you have a great long sales page in front of you. You scroll down to the bottom – can you remember what was at the top? If you can there is a greater chance of you pressing that “buy now” button. But if your memory is not triggered then you don’t really know what that “buy now” button is for. Similarly, imagine you read a short web page offering you some kind of service, but you don’t want to buy it just yet. You close the web page and go back to the rest of your work. Two days later how is your memory doing for that website? The chances are you can remember you saw something related to your interest, but can’t recall which website or anything particular about it. That’s a “fail” for the website trying to get your business.
Don’t do what other Internet Marketers do
3. Fasthosts Launches Review Website for Customers
Facebook’s new Graph Search is a non-event
Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/grahamjones/~3/wlDrD6xco0Q/ facebooks-new-graph-search-is-a-non-event.html
Students are keen to make notes when studying and to highlight key words and phrases in their text books. Visit any school or university and you will find students in every class using highlighter pens, underlining sections of text and writing summaries of what they have just read. The commonly-held view amongst teachers and students alike is that these study techniques aid memory and help people learn their subject well. But it is a view – that is all. It is not necessarily proven fact. And actually, in a comprehensive review of study techniques these commonly-used ideas to help students learn have been shown to be, frankly, rubbish. Prior to this research there appears to have been a widely-held assumption that these study techniques were worthwhile. And that’s probably because they do help some people. But they do not help these people anywhere near as much as other study techniques. (If you are wondering, the best study technique is to read something then test yourself on it shortly afterwards and do the same again a few days later and a few days after that – and so on.) This research is an all-too-familiar example of something which is “accepted practice” being put under the spotlight for the first time only to discover that what everyone thought was the right thing to do actually turns out to be rather negative and that an alternative is better. Throughout the world of Internet Marketing we see all sorts of commonly-held beliefs with people quoting the “mantra” that this works, or that something else is essential or that you should never do a particular activity. The problem with many of these beliefs is that they are just that – what people believe to be true. Yet there is often no evidence to support them other than “they work”. In the studying research, highlighting does work, but repeated testing using flashcards, for instance, is far superior. So just because an Internet Marketing technique works does not mean you should do it automatically – there may well be a better alternative. Essentially you need to be constantly vigilant for new techniques and put everything to the test. Don’t just do what other Internet Marketers do; do what works – and the only way to find that out is to conduct constant testing and review. Related posts 1. Even young people prefer face-to-face 2. Internet distractions cut your earning power
Mark Zuckerberg was full of enthusiasm yesterday for his company’s latest development, “Graph Search“. But he wasn’t the only one who was excited – all across the web there was plenty of “live blogging” from the “packed” press event where Facebook was announcing its latest plans. The Facebook-philes, of course, loved it; high praise was heaped upon the company for coming up with a “Google killer”. It is no such thing – as many expert pundits said after the launch which also preceded a 3% fall in the company’s stock price. At face value this is nothing more than Facebook attempting to provide a service by delving into its data but only doing so with high privacy levels as default. In other words it probably will not tell you anything you don’t already know. And even if it does, there are probably better ways of getting the information. For instance, according to Facebook it will tell you what restaurants your friends in San Francisco like. Great. If I had friends in San Francisco and I needed to know what restaurants they liked there’s a really easy way of finding that out – I’d ask them. Equally, the fanfare launch of Facebook Graph Search reckons we’ll be able to find out what music our friends like. Whoopeedoo…! Again, that’s information I either already know, or I can ask them directly. Facebook appears to have launched a solution to a non-existent problem. And that’s a fairly typical response of businesses in difficulty. Difficulty? Facebook? Here’s the problem – Facebook simply has to provide much greater financial returns for its investors. So far it is not really doing as well as many might expect, in spite of earning billions in revenue. The real value inside Facebook is in the massive amount of data it has on its 1bn users. But the problem is that those users are so privacy-aware that delving into that personal data and using it is largely a non-starter. Already Facebook appears to be at the “peak of inflated expectations” which according to The Gartner Hype Cycle is where a technology reaches it’s tipping point before people start
to dislike it. Already in the UK Facebook has lost 600,000 users within the space of a month. So, just at the time Facebook needs to make more profit it is losing users who are increasingly becoming privacy-concerned. In that business environment the bosses of Facebook are likely to want anything to help them. And that’s what Facebook Graph – on first looks – appears to be: a fantastic piece of technology, doubtless, but something which many users will not actually need. The crucial question for Facebook and its investors is whether the proportion of people who will inevitably use Graph Search will generate enough profit. Note: I am happy to admit I may be wrong as my thoughts are based only on the initial media coverage of Graph Search and not of any use of the tool. Once it is available I will do a proper analysis and review. Related posts 1. 6 Facebook Open Graph Applications That Serves Business the Best 2. Is Facebook slowly killing itself? 3. Snooping bosses should ditch the Facebook habit
Of course, people do not like change – we would prefer it if things remained the same because that makes it so much easier to cope. The difficulty that managers have to face these days is that there is dramatic and rapid change taking place. We have witnessed more changes in retail in the past decade than in the previous couple of centuries. But it is not UK retail alone that is being affected. Apple is starting to face difficulties it might not have envisaged with less demand for the latest iPhone and increased competition combined with loss of legal action preventing such competition. And the giant computer company Dell is considering going back into private ownership in a bid to deal with the current turmoil in PC-buying. Ten years ago people were selling five-page business planning documents online for $97; nowadays they can’t give them away for nothing. Whatever your business area, change is happening and it is happening fast. All that the HMV story really tells us is that we need to monitor our business environment constantly and react and adapt to what is going on. If we do not, we go the same way as all those oncefamous retailers. Just ask yourself this question: do you want to be the HMV or Woolworth or Comet of your industry sector? Related posts 1. UK High Street Struggles With IT Amidst £11bn MCommerce Boom 2. How to Optimize Social Media for Retailers 3. How stupid can you be as a retailer?
HMV’s woes mean your online business needs to change
Online social networks have inbuilt major weakness
It had to happen really; HMV is calling in the administrators in a last-ditch bid to salvage at least something from the business which has been going downhill for ages. Less than a week ago, of course, embattled camera chain Jessops was closed down. And before Christmas we lost Comet. These are high profile retail problems; so much so, we seem to have forgotten that Woolworth disappeared, or that Robert Dyas only survives because retail superstar Theo Paphetis bought the ailing chain. JJB, the sports retailer closed down its stores in 2012 and several retailers went into administration, such as Peacocks and Carsite, the Tesco-owned second-hand supermarket car dealership. The “bricks and mortar” retail sector is ailing. There are several issues, such as consumer demand, online competition, increased travel costs and the world economy. But for most failures these are not the issue. They are mere excuses for the management. The real issue is slowness to accept or implement change or a complete failure to respond to the various changes in the business environment; indeed some managers in business appear to not even know that changes are taking place which could affect their business. It is a cliché, but many of the business failures are down to the ostrich-like behaviour of their managers and directors.
The British songstress, Adele, was apparently only a new mum on a night out with her friend when she just happened to win a Golden Globe Award for the theme tune to Skyfall which she cowrote with Paul Epworth. In her acceptance speech for the hardly unsurprising award she was ecstatic and said she was only having a night out with her mate. Some night out…! Now, set aside your thoughts that she was confident of winning, ignore the plaudits from the critics who have already said the award was in the bag and forget your cynical view that if all she was doing was having a night out with friends, how come she managed to get tickets to The Golden Globes? What you will have witnessed is someone who was enthusiastic and pleased. Plus if you had been a young mum in that theatre, boy oh boy, would you have
empathised. Indeed, young mums who may have seen the clip on TV will have warmed to her and had the same kind of feelings about a fun night out with your mates not long after giving birth. That’s because when you are party to the emotion of another human being special brain cells get triggered, called “mirror neurons”. What happens is you start to feel the same emotional responses as the individual you are with, especially if there is some kind of bond, in Adele’s case being a new mum would have helped her connect with other new mothers, who would have empathised with her thanks to their mirror neurons firing into action. New research on mirror neurons shows that they are active in spite of the cognitive load we face. In a study conducted at the University of California psychologists found that even if they gave people complex memory tasks, the activity of mirror neurons were unaffected in social situations. In other words, mirror neuron activity is automatic and subconscious and appears to occur even if your conscious brain is doing other things. It is part of our brain’s way of ensuring we rub along together well and that we don’t have to think in order to be social. But here’s the problem – mirror neurons work best when we are actually with other people, when we can interpret body language, facial expressions tone of voice and so on. As I wrote almost four years ago, we can benefit from the triggering of mirror neurons online, however it is when we are with people that they really come into their own. So, when we are using social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, we are dealing almost entirely with often emotionless text or images which bear no direct relevance to our present situation. The result is that our mirror neurons don’t get triggered and we don’t empathise with the people trying to communicate with us. Indeed, because social media generally lacks body language, tone of voice, facial expressions and so on they also lack the ability to trigger those mirror neurons as much as they might – in spite of the system being automatic. So, what can you do about it if you are running an online business and you need to get your customers emotionally hooked, automatically? The answer is simple – stop being business-like, which is devoid of emotional language and the potential to trigger mirror neurons. Instead, be like Adele – be real, be full of emotion and produce your content “from the heart” rather than from your mind. Being business-like is actually what is holding back many businesses online. Related posts 1. Sitting at your computer is not good for your brain 2. Should you smile online? 3. Don’t be too honest on Facebook
Twitter works best if you are already well-known
Justin Bieber, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Cristiano Ronaldo all share a common feature; they are amongst the Top 15 people in the world on Twitter. Between them they have over 89m followers. Plus their Tweets are amongst the most Retweeted items worldwide. When Barack Obama won his second term as President of the United States of America his Tweet about it became the most Retweeted item ever. But there is something else these individuals share – we all knew about them before Twitter became popular. Indeed many people knew of Oprah Winfrey around the world before the World Wide Web itself was invented. The success of these individuals on Twitter and other social media is linked to their success in the “real world”. And that’s not just the case for celebrities and Presidents either. Look at the top commercial brands on Twitter in terms of their reach and you find names like McDonald’s, Nike, Adidas, American Express, Coca-Cola and Starbucks in the Top 20 list – all companies that existed before the Internet began. Social media success follows real world success. If you want to do well on social media, then your business needs to be well-known in the real world first it seems. As ever, offline branding is important. This is made clear in new research which analysed how news organisations use Twitter to spread the news. The study found that the best performer in terms of length of life of their news Tweets and the amount of Retweeting which went on was the BBC. In comparison, Forbes magazine performed less well on Twitter as did The New York Times. The BBC is helped because it is a global brand – people have heard about it everywhere and it is available worldwide – and has been so for decades, well before the invention of the Internet. The New York Times, in comparison, is less well-known as a global brand. True, many people will have heard of it, but they will probably have come into contact with it less frequently than they have done with the BBC. In other words, the offline presence of a brand appears to have an influence on its online presence too. Whether you are a celebrity or you run a business it seems the impact of social media is greater when you are already wellknown. That means if you are trying to use social media to improve your business and grow your sales you will actually do better if you concentrate your efforts in getting your business known in the
real world first – and then using the likes of Twitter to improve things once that has happened. Picture credit: By vargas2040 (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_0861.JPG) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons Related posts 1. The Tweeting Pope has a lesson for your business 2. Why Branding on Social Media Sites is Important
Web content or a blog post which doesn’t make people consider whether or not you are right is so bland that it will simply wash over them. What you want is blog content that sparks debate, which people might either disagree with or want to nod their heads in complete agreement. You need web content which has a “position” or “take” on things and which is not merely a statement of fact. People engage with controversy and conflicting argument more than they do with the bland and boring.
The Five Cs of Great Web Content
The best web content is human, it involves people and has identifiable characters and names. We all love stories, particularly when they revolve around other people. Having real, identifiable individual characters within your blog posts and web pages is a brilliant way of ensuring you get greater engagement with your content. Focus on providing human interest in your web content – after all that’s what Martha Payne did in her blog about her school dinners or Susan Kelley does in her blog about the fashion worn by the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton. So, there you have it – five central components of content for your website or blog which will help make your blog terrific.
Creating fresh web content is essential if your website is to succeed; all the evidence on web success points to the fact that websites which get regularly updated are the ones which have the most readers and ultimately the most business for their sector. If you want to truly succeed with your website or blog, you need to be constantly adding new content. But what kind of content should you add? If you follow these “Five Cs” you will automatically create terrific web content which will attract more readers and keeps them loyal.
To get advice on producing content for your website click here to discover my Content Strategy Service. Related posts 1. Using SEO Keywords to Improve Writing Horizon 2. 5 Ways to Make your Blog Popular 3. Write right to create positive emotions
Your web content needs to be current. Having web content which is about topics that are no longer “of the moment” is a waste of time and effort. Your web content needs to be about “the latest” or things which are topical or in the news. Write about the most recent things, the activities that are going on today in your business sector and you will attract readers. People love to read about stuff that is up-to-date; they don’t want to read old, out-of-date material. So don’t write about the past – write about “now”.
Search statistics reveal interesting behaviour
People want content which is compatible with their needs and requirements. It has to be relevant to them and to their interests. Writing stuff you are interested in, but which is not compatible with your readers is a sure-fire way to fewer visitors and readers. So, you need to write content that your readers want – and if you don’t know what they want, find out. Do a survey, speak to them – anything to find out how to make your content more relevant and interesting to the people you serve. You are not writing for yourself, you are writing for them.
Your web content needs to spark interest in people by making them say things like “that’s amazing” or “wow” or “I didn’t know that” or “that’s different”. Telling people what they already know or what is so ordinary they are not curious is likely to make them click away from your pages. What you need is unusual content, material they haven’t heard of before or something that adds a new twist to existing ideas. Steer clear of being ordinary…!
Your customers search online every day, of course, but are they searching for you? The Search Engine Optimization industry would have you believe that getting your site prepared for searchers is important – and indeed it is a valuable way of gaining traffic. However, each year the statistics reveal that search behaviour is getting more and more focused, squeezing many websites into greater obscurity. The latest information from Hitwise, for instance, shows that a third of all Internet search traffic in the USA goes to just 10 websites, owned by a mere five companies – Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and eBay. The data also reveals once again, that the principal use of search engines is navigational – using a search engine to go to a previously known website, rather than
to find a new one. Indeed, one of the most popular searches last year was for “www.facebook.com” – something people could have typed directly into the address bar, rather than searching for it. Furthermore, four out of the top 10 searches in 2012 were for Facebook.
to question the web designer or the owners of the business they’d say “But it is obvious…!” The difference is they understand the context, they already have the background information and prior knowledge necessary to understand things. Similarly, consider switching on the radio and hearing the phrase “great tits like coconuts”. You might, at first think you have stumbled into a rather rude and offensive discussion about female anatomy because you lack the context of the programme which is actually about the food that you should serve up to garden birds. Human beings make relatively instant decisions, but if the context is misunderstood we can make the wrong inference. Walk into a meeting late and hear the boss shouting and ranting and you might think that the individual is extremely cross with someone. That’s until you sit down and realise they were merely mimicking a TV programme that was on last night. Lack of context could lead to the wrong decision by you. New research shows how important context is to human beings. According to common “popular psychology” folklore you can tell someone’s emotional state from their facial expression. This new study put that notion to the text by using photo-editing software to put the faces of tennis match winners onto the bodies of their losing opponents. It turned out that people found it difficult to analyse things; in fact the “happy” faces put on the “sad” bodies were interpreted as negative. In other words, we don’t assess emotion solely from the face, but from the context of the entire body. It is an example of the need for us to use context to analyse things. So, when it comes to your website is the context immediately understandable to your visitors? If they have to work at it to find out the context, they’ll end up with the wrong message. Context includes the colours, the kind of design, the fonts you use, the images on the page and the words in headlines and “page furniture” (the titles and so on). But is also includes the name of your website, the presence or absence of logos, of advertising and other peripheral features. Often people concentrate on the “main business” of their web pages, forgetting that everything around that main content is a potent mix of signals setting the context. So, rather than focus on the main aspect of your website this week, perhaps it is worth taking time-out to consider all that surrounding context to be sure it is sending the right subsconcsious signals. Related posts 1. Are links not as important as you think? 2. Make your website more human 3. Print this page if you want to remember it
Brands are winning the search engine wars
Each year the statistics are showing a growing and common theme – that the bulk of search is for well-known, online brands. Each year, the search for “stuff” and general information is being squeezed out into an “also-ran”. Of course, it is true that two thirds of search traffic does not go to just five businesses. But that twothirds is shared by millions of websites; we are all really getting slim pickings in comparison. Of course, you stand no chance of being found in the ever growing haystack of information if you do not make your web pages search engine friendly. But what the statistics continue to emphasise is that you can no longer rely on search traffic alone – indeed, you never could. However, the latest data on search behaviour demonstrates that as each year goes by the value of search traffic is being eroded. What this means is that in addition to trying to gain search engine traffic you also need to ensure you use other methods of gaining visits to your website. And there is a clue in the latest search statistics. All the winners in the search engine game are wellknown in the “real world”. They are brand names that are “tip of the tongue” for their sector because the companies spend most of their marketing initiatives in offline PR activities. Do that and you could well win the search engine battle in your specific sector. You are much less likely to succeed if you put all your online marketing eggs into the search engine basket. Related posts 1. SEO Positive Review Recent Social Media Statistics 2. Search engine traffic is falling
Context is important online
Every day you will visit a website which you have never been to before and say to yourself “What….?” That’s because the website lacks clarity as to its message – you have no idea what to do, where to go or what benefits it might bring you. However, if you were
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