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design & marketing blog

Straightforward design, marketing, and technical advice for making your marketing communications more effective.

The Secret to Writing Blog Posts that Get Noticed

June 16th, 2010

Google Wonder WheelAs you may be aware from the myriad of past SEO posts we’ve made, the holy grail for getting more customers from Web searches is getting more backlinks (or linkbacks if you prefer). Specifically, multiple high quality link backs from other Websites in the same or related industry to yours. These are the “votes” Google uses to decide how high up on the search results page your site should be listed for a given keyword search. Google itself provides two incredibly powerful tools that have the potential to exponentially improve your return on blog writing time.

The strategy is simple:

  1. Research current hot topics and searches on Google using Google Trends and Google Wonder Wheel.
  2. Find a keyword that fits within the realm of a hot topic, applies to your area of knowledge, and appeals to your target customers.
  3. Post a quality blog focused on the hot topic keywords for your target customers.

Here are the tools:

  • Google Trends Find out what search terms and topics are currently high traffic. Self explanatory and intuitive to use: http://www.google.com/trends
  • Google Wonder Wheel Expand keyword options and refine a topic to find a keyword topic that fits you and your client base best. To utilize Google Wonder Wheel simply perform a Google search, then expand the “Search Tools” in the left hand column of the result page and click Wonder Wheel.

If you use these tools I would love to hear about your experience.

Should you market through Twitter?

May 3rd, 2010

Twitter Usage in America 2010 from Tom Webster on Vimeo.

Edison Research just released an insightful report entitled "Twitter Usage in America: 2010".  This report is important because it cuts through the fanatical hype and provides a basis for establishing a rational decision about how much or how little your firm should incorporate such social media channels in your marketing efforts.

Many write ups I’ve read on this report have painted the findings in a negative light, emphasizing that "only" 7% of American’s actually use Twitter.  However, 7% of Americans is 17 million people and as it turns out these people appear to have many favorable characteristics for most businesses. Here are some selected findings from the report about Twitter users:

  • 7% (~17 million) of Americans use Twitter; 41% (~126 million) Americans maintain a Facebook profile.
  • 51% of active Twitter users follow companies, brands or products on social networks.
  • Twitter users are 3 times more apt to follow brands using Twitter than other social networking services.
  • Twitter users have higher than average incomes.
  • 4 out of 10 Twitter users own three or more computers.
  • About 1/2 of Twitter users post updates using Twitter; 70% of these same users post updates on other social networking sites like Facebook.

It’s easy to incorporate Twitter into your marketing plan

When considering if you should incorporate Twitter into your marketing efforts I think of the adage, "If it might help, it’s easy to do and won’t hurt then why not?" For those who are already publishing any sort of news or advertising communication on a regular basis it’s a no-brainer; we can put together a streamlined process so the same message is published to multiple mediums all at once. A typical scenario goes like this:

You provide your newsletter, advertisement to us. We take that message and immediately:

  1. Post on your Website or Blog
  2. Generate an optimized RSS feed that notifies Google and other major search services of your new article
  3. Post on your business’ Facebook page
  4. Tweet through your business’ Twitter account
  5. Format, test and distribute in HTML email to your mailing list using an email marketing service like VerticalResponse or Constant Contact

Feel free to contact me for more information about electronic and social media marketing distribution.

Adding HTML email signatures to Gmail

April 9th, 2010

As you may know, Google’s Gmail is the most popular, and arguably best featured, free email service available. One of the challenges that I’ve encountered with it however is its default text-only email signature when composing emails via the Web.

The Best Solution

For Gmail users who would like to utilize graphic/html email signatures, the best solution is to link your Gmail account to a POP client Link opens in seperate window (like Outlook or Entourage). You can then install a custom designed html email signature. If you’re a client of ours the instructions for installing the custom email signature in Outlook or Entourage are posted in our FAQs.

This means of course that to have your custom HTML email signature inserted in outgoing messages, you’ll need to compose those messages using Outlook or Entourage.

If you would still like to use the Web based Gmail as your primary email platform, simply click on “Settings” in your Web Gmail account (in the upper right hand corner), then choose the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” tab, and select “Enable POP for mail that arrives from now on” then on the next option select “keep Gmail’s copy in the Inbox”. Make sure and hit the “Save Changes” button when you’re done.

Now all your incoming and sent email (including that you send from Outlook) are accessible on your Gmail Web account. You won’t have to worry about going back and forth from Outlook to the Web to find old emails, they’ll all be on the Web.

Custom Email Signatures When Only Using Web Based Gmail

There are a few existing solutions for achieving this, the best probably being the Better Gmail Firefox extension Link opens in seperate window. The downside here is that this only works with Firefox and with the “older version” of Web based Gmail. The newer Better Gmail 2 Firefox extension for the newest Gmail version (as of 1/9/08) does not seem to offer the email signature feature of its predecessor.

The other existing option is to drag-and-drop/cut-and-paste a section from another open HTML file displaying the formatted text and images of your email signature into the compose window of your Gmail account as described in this post at Digital Inspiration Link opens in seperate window.

Using the Google Tool Bar to Send HTML Emails or to Insert HTML Email
Signatures

A third option that I don’t think is documented on Web anywhere is to utilize the Google Tool Bar’s “Send to” button to send HTML formatting/graphics via Web based Gmail.

Note: I’ve tested this for Firefox on Windows XP and IE7 on Windows Vista. I does not work for me using Firefox on Windows Vista.

Here are the steps:

  1. Download and install the Google Toolbar by visiting: http://toolbar.google.com/ Link opens in seperate window
  2. Close and restart your Web browser.
  3. In Firefox go to “View”, “Toolbars” and make sure there is a checkmark next to “Google Toolbar”. If using IE7 go to “Tools”, “Toolbars” and insure there is a checkmark next to “Google”. You should then see the Google toolbar in your browser, similar to the screen-shot below. Then on the toolbar, go to “Settings”, “Options”, “More” and make sure there is a checkmark by the “Send to” button.

    google toolbar

  4. The HTML file you want to include in your outgoing Gmail message will need to be uploaded to a Web server. If you plan on adding the same HTML to outgoing messages on a regular basis (such as is the case with a HTML email signature) just book mark that URL.
  5. To send a Web based Gmail message with the HTML formatting, open the bookmarked URL (e.g. http://risingline.com/sample.html) then click the “Send to” button on your Google Toolbar and select “Gmail” from the drop down menu. You should see the HTML formatted page, simply type you message above that and hit the “Send” button.

    HTML formated Gmail email

Additional Notes:

If you’re a user sending a HTML page or email signature that was already developed for you, ignore the below.

When coding the HTML page to be sent. Make sure the path to graphics are absolute, insert a non-breaking space in the title tag (otherwise a hyperlink of the page title will appear above the HTML), and add alternate text to images for those email clients that block graphics. Here’s the code used in the above example:

HTML code for Gmail email siganture

Amazon Ends Support for Internet Explorer 6

March 17th, 2010

As an addendum and emphasis to my recent post about importance of upgrading from IE 6, Amazon posted the following announcement to their seller accounts on March 11th:

Internet Explorer 6 no longer supported

Mar 11, 2010

We would like to inform you that as of the end of March 2010, we will no longer develop Seller Account pages to be compliant with Internet Explorer 6.

Internet Explorer 6 is no longer supported by Microsoft and is widely considered to be obsolete. It has multiple security flaws and is considerably slower than recent browsers.

This decision allows us to use all modern web development technologies and create an up-to-date user experience.

Although existing seller tools might continue to work for some time with older browsers, if you are still using Internet Explorer 6, we strongly recommend updating your browser to a more recent version now to make sure all Seller Account pages work properly on your computer.

If you are unsure which browser version you are running or how to update your brower, please contact your local system administrator or help desk for assistance.

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