The Mysterious Billboard, Part II: Tracking your results

um... what?

Someone was half clever.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a mysterious billboard and why, after some thought, I realized that sometimes “What??” is exactly the response you want.

After I wrote that post, I considered calling the people who had bought the billboard ad and asking them — did it work? Did you get the website traffic, physical visitors, and increased sales you wanted from the mysterious billboard? What were your results?

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How we predicted and prevented a client’s shipping nightmare

One of our clients’ sites uses a shopping cart with real-time shipping calculations from the US Postal Service. The shipping module adds up the weight of the order and phones home to the USPS to ask how much it will cost, then displays the result to the customer prior to checkout.

Last November, the Postal Service announced that they were going to raise rates on January 22, 2012, add a number of new service classes to Priority Mail and change up the parcel classes. I knew from similar experiences in 2009 and 2010 that this would break the shipping module and shut down her shopping cart until the software company fixed it.

In mid-December I sent an inquiry to the software company explaining this potential problem, reminding them what happened the last two times, and asking if they would have a patch for the shipping prior to January 22. The company rep responded that “it would update itself” and there was no need to worry.

I was not so sure.

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When lack of progress becomes an act of creation

Yesterday this Tweet from Steve Plunkett in my stream caught my attention. At first glance, I wasn’t sure why, but I’ve learned to heed these nags — it means my subconscious is poking me. “Hey! Here’s something you need to know!”

At first glance, this implies that running at 90 miles per hour with a roadmap in mind is normal, that it’s desirable, that everyone should be doing it. Following the analogy, though: where can you run 90 miles per hour? In a speedboat on open water… in a racer on the Bonneville Salt Flats… in a fast car on a major highway where the land is wide open and there are no speed limits and no obstacles.

Either no obstructions, or else you are running wide open on a highway paved by someone else, going to the destination they have chosen.

Aha.

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When “WTF?” is exactly the response you want.

um... what?

On Saturday, my husband and I drove to a city about an hour north of us. It was a lovely day and we enjoyed getting out for a bit.

Then I noticed the billboard. Oh, billboards are everywhere, and I’m pretty good at ignoring them. But this one was really strange.

A generic graphic: a leaf in the center of water ripples. Directions: “Take next exit, 2 miles on right.” And a website domain name.

That was all. No company name, no indication as to what the billboard was advertising. Just those three elements.

At first glance… huh?

Who in the world would spend somewhere around $2000 a month for such an ineffectual advertisement with limited reach? Are passersby really likely to zip off the next exit and drive two miles out of their way to see what in the world this thing was talking about?

But… it creates a sense of mystery, doesn’t it? A sense of curiosity. Now I wanted to know what the billboard was about, what company or place or thing it was advertising. I was driving at the time or I might have whipped out my smartphone and looked up the URL to find out.

Later, I did look up the URL. Unfortunately, the site is built in Flash so it wouldn’t work on my iPhone anyway. Note to website designers: if your target audience is mobile, it might be a good idea to make sure the site will work on mobile devices, don’t you think?

Creating curiosity = good.

Take this same idea and apply it to your own marketing. Can you create a sense of mystery, infuse your readers with the itch to explore and discover?

Publix, a chain of supermarkets headquartered in Florida, frequently runs an ad with a coupon for a “Mystery 1¢ Item.” The coupon is good only on Sunday. The item costs only one penny and you only get one at that price, but it’s always something good, something that most people would find worth trying. They use it to promote house brand products and sometimes to clear out overstocks, but you never know what it’s going to be. A package of bathroom tissue? a 5-pound bag of flour? pasta or rice or a half-gallon of milk? Hey, we need a loaf of bread anyway — why don’t we run by there and see what the one cent mystery is this week?

In your next newsletter or sale event on your website, why not offer a mystery item for a low price, perhaps with a minimum purchase? Use it to clear out a slow seller or offer a sample of something that your customers will want to come back for once they’ve tried it.

Sometimes, “what??” is exactly the response you want.

Give it a try and see.

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Visitor Statistics in your WordPress Dashboard

Once you have your WordPress blog up and running, you’ll naturally want to know how many people come to visit you. Google Analytics is the gold standard of statistical information, of course, but that means opening another browser tab or window and signing in to a separate service.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your visitor statistics right in your WordPress dashboard?

Here are three plugins that allow just that.

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3 Quick Fixes to Increase Your Site’s Visibility

You’re familiar with the usual search engine optimization advice: put keywords in your site and page titles and meta tags; make sure your page copy contains the words you want people to find in search. Those are good places to start, and you’re probably doing them already.

If you’re ready to do more to help your site be found, here are three less-obvious tips that you can quickly start utilizing on every new page you publish.
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Posted in How To, Marketing, SEO | Leave a comment

How to add Title tags to links

In the edit window, type in the text that you want to show as your link text, such as “More information.” Select it and click on “link” if you are using the HTML editor or the link icon if you are using the visual editor. (Note: the link icon won’t be active until you select the text you want to link.)

Location of Link button on HTML edit window

Location of Link button on visualedit window

A lightbox window will pop up where you can either enter the URL to want to link to, or choose a page or post from your previously-published material.

Where to add your title link text

Click on the Add Link button, and you’re done!

Note: Are you wondering why it’s a good idea to add title tags to links? The answer is coming tomorrow on 2FishWeb.com.

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Posted in Blogging Basics, Tips | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Curly quotes and inch marks

When you type a paragraph into WordPress, the software automatically converts your straight quotes into angled or curly quotes, like so:

"Good morning, world!"

becomes

“Good morning, world!”

But what if you are writing something that requires straight quotes, such as measurements? Then your dimensions will be displayed this way:

Artwork is 12″ wide by 18″ high

To use the straight quotes for inch marks, you’ll need to tweak the HTML just a tiny bit. Finish your post and save the draft. Then switch to HTML mode. Wherever you need an inch mark instead of an angled or curly quote, change the " to " . Save your draft in HTML mode and preview. You should now see your dimensions displayed properly, like so:

Artwork is 12" wide by 18" high


 

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WP Writers: please date your posts

A number of high-profile bloggers (mostly the ones who blog about how to blog) recommend that you turn off date stamps on your posts and in the site URLs. Write “evergreen” material, they argue, and your posts will show up high in Google search pages even if the searcher asks for recent results.

If you are writing about WordPress — or indeed, any software program or system — this is bad advice. WordPress is constantly being updated and improved. Old code is deprecated and new function hooks and features are added with every release.

The WordPress code hack or snippet that you feature today may not work in future versions. The plugin you recommend now may conflict with the next release — and will the plugin’s author maintain and update it for compatibility?

Please, WordPress bloggers: put dates on your posts so that future searches will indicate whether it might be relevant to solving their problem at that time. (There’s nothing worse than finding the exact solution you need — written for WordPress 2.2 and never updated.) If you want to be really helpful, tag your post with the WordPress version current at the time you write it. Yes, your time- and version-sensitive posts will drop from future search results (as obsolete information should), leaving opportunity for you to write new material.

WordPress users and developers will bless your name and come back to your site for continuing authoritative and useful information.

Practicing what I preach: WordPress all versions; current version 3.3.1.


 

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Frugal Spending is In. What now?

Pinching penniesEverybody loves to save money, especially when times are lean, and many people choose to put off buying nonessential items or shop strictly on price. But you don’t have to be “the low-price leader” to benefit from frugal shoppers. A great opportunity to build customer loyalty, even in difficult times, is to offer discounts or special deals to your repeat customers.

If you send out regular newsletters (and if you don’t, why not?), your email list is one of your greatest assets. Let your subscribers know that they are special by offering “secret discounts” once or twice a year only to newsletter recipients. Your shopping cart software can be used to offer percent off coupons or special prices on a particular item or category of products. If you sell services, you can offer discount coupons through PayPal or your payment provider. We can help you set it up.

On your website, your newsletter signup form should include a teaser: “Want to be the first to hear about special deals and discounts? Sign up for our insiders’ newsletter and get advance notice of sales!”

Can you offer a small product or service at a specially-discounted price? Think of it as one bite-size taste of a product or service that might be seen as expensive enough to make a buyer pause. A bakery that normally sells cupcakes by the dozen or half-dozen might consider offering one especially luscious flavor at a discounted price. Coaches and service providers who charge by the hour could look at a half-hour session for an introductory price. Writers — put a short story on Kindle or the Apple bookstore at $0.99 to whet a reader’s appetite for your longer works. Even in frugal times, people feel the need to treat themselves, and if you give them a small way to do that, you’ve made sales you may not have gotten otherwise.

Make your customers feel special. They’ll love you for it… and your bottom line will show it!

Need help setting up your marketing plans to take advantage of these opportunities? Give me a call at 205-924-5146 or shoot me an email. I’m here and ready to help make 2012 your best year ever — despite challenges.

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