Keeping Track with Tag Assistant

One of my favorite extensions for Google Chrome over the years has been Tag Assistant. Though it is labeled as a Developer Tool within the Chrome web store, it is easily usable by anyone.

When I first began putting Google Analytics tags, conversion tags, or re-marketing audience tags on websites, I had to scour the page’s source code to find the specific tag I had added. It became even more difficult when there were multiple tags on a page, especially if they were not placed simultaneously. The bonus to using Tag Assistant, made by Google, is that you don’t have to understand the tag’s code to know that it is working properly. The friendly little blue tag, with its smiling face, is all you need.

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Simply click the tag extension (circled above) in your chrome browser, and watch as it begins to load all the information needed to keep your tags up and running properly!

You will first be asked what types of tags you want Tag Assistant to check for you. With the “Check selected domains” drop down, you can have the Tag Assistant only check certain sites. This way there are no little warnings popping up when you’re on some external site that does not have your tags within. These domains can be added by clicking on the “More options” button.

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When on a page that has one of your tags, click on the Tag Assistant to get a quick update on how the tag is working. At first you will be prompted to always check the domain that you are on, or to check a single page instantly. Once you have decided how to check the page, Tag Assistant will show you how many tags are present on the current page, and how these tags are working.

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The Tag assistant will immediately begin showing you all of the tags that are present on that page. The above example is taken from the AdWords welcome page. As this is a page owned by Google, there are no issues with how the tags are working. The classifications for tag statuses are as follows:

  • Green indicates that the tag is working properly.
  • Blue shows that there is a minor suggestion to make to your script which will improve the use of the tag.
  • Yellow indicates that there is a minor error, and the tag may not be tracking properly.
  • Red means that there is a major error, and the tag is not working for a majority of users.

Tag assistant will show you the changes that it suggests for your page, or tag implementation when you click on the blue Suggestions notice for that page. A new section will appear in the Tag Assistant to show general tag information along with any suggestions.

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Tag Assistant provides you with the specifics of any changes that should be made to the page, or any notices that the user should be made aware of.  From this point, you can either navigate to the source code for this tag, and make adjustments, or send this information to a developer for implementation. Fortunately, the Tag Assistant answers page includes descriptions of what the various responses or notices mean.

It can be difficult to update and maintain all of your marketing tags, if they are not easily view-able. With Tag Assistant by Google, you can expedite the process of adjusting and optimizing your Google tags.

Don’t Buy an Email Address List!

email-address-book-665x498Buying an email address list containing people who never opted in to receive email communications from you is a bad idea.

If the thought crossed your mind, you’re not alone. I’ve been asked my opinion about the topic twice in the past week.

Here are three reasons why you should not purchase an email list:

Reputable Email Marketing Platforms Don’t Allow It
Email marketing platforms like Exact Target and Constant Contact do not allow users to send mass email blasts to email addresses that haven’t opted-in to receive them. This is considered unsolicited email. Yes, we’re talking about spam. Here’s what Constant Contact has to say about the topic:
Constant Contact has a no tolerance spam policy. Constant Contact’s customer support actively monitors large import lists and emails going to a large number of subscribers. Any customer found to be using Constant Contact for spam will be immediately cut-off from use of the product.

Exact Target takes a similar position
Our clients certify that they will use our software only to send emails to customers and prospects that have directly consented (opted-in) to receive email. They are forbidden to transmit unsolicited commercial email (spam) via our system.
Notice how this language doesn’t just apply to purchased email lists either. “Free” email lists like exports of prospects in LinkedIn, trading lists with other companies, and building lists by searching for prospect addresses online are all considered spam since the users aren’t choosing to interact with your company.

Most Spam is Illegal in the U.S. and Canada
Spam has become such a large issue that the U.S. government passed the CAN-SPAM Act in 2003 attempting to make most spam illegal. The Canadian government rolled out a similar policy called the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act in July 2014. Spam is such a concern that federal governments felt the need to put legislation in place to fine and/or imprison spammers.

People Don’t Like Spam
You know how frustrating it is when you have to weed through a bunch of garbage in your inbox to get to the relevant messages. Everyone with an email address gets exposed to spam and no one is happy about it. Do you really want your business to follow the lead of overseas scam artists, illegal erectile dysfunction pill distributors, and email hackers?

The important takeaway from all of this is that you should not be sending email messages to users unless they completed at least one of the following actions with your company:

  • Requested information
  • Made a purchase
  • Responded to a survey
  • Made offline contact

To be safe, we recommend adding an opt-in check box to all forms on your website that explicitly say, “Yes, I’d like to receive email communications.” If you want to capture email addresses over the phone, be sure to ask and document their opt-in using your customer relationship management system.

Purchasing email address lists is a bad idea. Don’t. Do. It.

The TKG Data Center

Ahh, data centers. Fancy name, but do you know what they really are? Data centers make websites work, and TKG has its very own! In this blog post, I’d like to show you around our data center at TKG to give you an idea of what goes into bringing your website to life from behind the scenes. It’s more than just blinking lights and wires (really)!

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Pictured below is our backup natural gas generator. This generator will automatically kick on in the event of an extended power outage. It works alongside our battery-powered UPS to ensure 100% power uptime!

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Did you know that over 90 percent of the almost 500 websites that TKG hosts run off of two servers? Well, you do now! We utilize the latest virtual machine technologies to bring you improved uptime. Our host servers are configured for high availability, which translates to increased redundancy for your website! Here they are, in all their beauty.

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Fact: the internet IS just a series of pipes, and most places only have one pipe feeding their data needs. But, TKG has two pipes supplying our data center with cool refreshing bandwidth! Both of our pipes are fiber optic, which can be way faster than a traditional copper connection. We only use one of our pipes at a time, and we keep the other one ready in a failover state – just in case.

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The final stop on our data center tour brings us to the air conditioner. It’s pretty cool (pun intended). Running servers 24/7 gets really hot, so we have a dedicated HVAC unit to keep our data center nice and cold (with a low relative humidity).

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We hope you enjoyed our tour. Who has a question about the TKG Data Center? Ask in the comments!

Why Are YouTube Ads Getting Longer?

I’ve noticed something on YouTube lately. The paid ads are getting longer. Have you noticed? For instance, there is one 7 minute commercial from Johnnie Walker with Jude Law. On other channels, there are full 20+ minute episodes of a YouTuber trying to get people to notice and subscribe to a channel.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label YouTube Ad

What should a consumer make of these ads? Should they be taken as just some free content or are they commercial-based entertainment? Obviously the advertiser has a goal. Should we be buy these products? Should we watch the whole video? Should we subscribe to their channel? Are we supposed to click on the video?

Truth be told, I constantly find myself watching an increasing number of ads in the 5+ minute realm. Something about not having too much information crammed in over the course of just 30 seconds. I enjoy a good story. I enjoy being given the opportunity to invest my time in something that could be worthwhile (clarification: Johnnie Walker ads are not necessarily classified as worthwhile).

In one instance, I started getting full episodes from a channel that I keep up-to-date with. I have never subscribed to this channel, but had been checking it multiple times a week to watch new videos. Then suddenly I hear: “Hi! This is … Welcome to my Channel!” starting off the ad between two videos from the playlist I was in. At first I was confused: Did I accidently click on this video? Why am I watching this? What just happened?

Then I realized it was an ad. I skipped it after the allotted five seconds of watch-time and continued on where I was. Is this a sign that I should just subscribe to this channel?

The main thing that caught my attention about these new long-tail ads is that they can be quite captivating. And interesting. And motivating. To me, they are better than 30, 60 or 90 second ads.

I realize that a subconscious process begins in my brain when these ads begin. I feel like the maker of these videos actually took a substantial amount of time and resources to create this – and isn’t just trying to B.S. me into buying something. It’s almost as though the consumer/subscriber in me appreciates the attempt at convincing me to act.

If your customers are anything like me, putting out some of these longer, fun and more appealing ads through YouTube might not be a bad plan. Worth a shot, right?

Just remember YouTube, and subsequently Google, are fickle beasts.

What are your thoughts? Would you try longer ads for your brand on YouTube?

Parallax Web Design: What I Think

parralax scrollingThe other day I was chatting with one of my buddies and he asked me, “hey Andrew – as a web guy, what do you think of the moving scrolly stuff that sites are doing now?”  He was speaking of the emerging design technique called Parallax scrolling as seen on some new highly visible websites such as Spotify, Sony, and dare I say, Google?  So I gave him my 2 cents and thought, “I should write that down.”  So here I am, writing it down!

Generally speaking, I like Parallax Scrolling.  I believe it’s taking web design to the next level and raising the bar, forcing agencies to rethink their “best-practices” and to continue innovating with the web.  However, I also believe there are right and wrong situations to use Parallax Scrolling.

First, let me speak to the technical side of this new technique.  It uses HTML5 and javascript to achieve a vertical, scrolling, storytelling experience.  Usually, content is presented to the visitor in a linear fashion displaying one topic at a time and in the order that’s the most intuitive depending on the subject matter.  HTML5 is key here in maintaining search engine credibility as it allows content to be separated into <section> tags, each section allowing their own <h1>’s to head each topic.  This allows search engines to take into account each section as a relevant topic of content that this web page covers.  It’s almost as if HTML5 were built for this kind of content presentation!  What this also does is keep a very consistent experience on any device.  Mobile devices work best when scrolling top to bottom, so this allows desktops to adopt the same usability and presentation via the “mobile first” design trend.

So from a technical standpoint, there aren’t any hangups in my book.  This brings us to the question, “when should Parallax Scrolling be used?”  I find it to be most effective under several circumstances:

  1. When content is more important than functionality
  2. When controlling the order by which content presented is of particular importance
  3. When there’s a definitive conversion required at the end of the presentation

Put simply, Parallax Scrolling is best used when the page is dedicated to telling a story of some kind.  If we look to our examples above, we see just that.  Sony is telling the story of their new “Be Moved” campaign.  A visitor may not know anything about it at the start, so Sony can safely present the information one topic at a time to fully explain the story bit by bit, without confusion.  Similarly, the Google Nexus 5 page tells the story of their new Nexus 5 smartphone and what makes it stand out from the crowd.  Google highlights each point of the new phone starting with the basics, then getting into each aspect of the phone that consumers are looking for, ordered by importance. Lastly, Spotify – if a visitor doesn’t know what Spotify is or how it works (for shame!) they can simply scroll down to learn all of the bullets that make it great without being overwhelmed with blocks of text and competing elements.

So when should we NOT use Parallax Scrolling?

  1. When functionality is essential.  I suspect that you won’t be seeing any workable Parallax user interfaces for some time.
  2. When several different topics need to be presented at once.  I don’t believe you’ll see any popular news website benefit from this technique.
  3. When ads need to have a home.  Parallax is so clean, ads just muck up the whole idea.

I’m certain that there are more reasons pro and against using Parallax in certain situations, but these should cover the biggest areas for concern.

So, back to my conversation with my buddy.  As I relayed this information to him, he was unimpressed and is thoroughly set on hating Parallax scrolling in any incarnation.  Ah well, not everyone can be convinced!  Let me know what you think about Parallax scrolling in the comments below.

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Don’t Be Content With Your Traditional Content

So what is content, anyway?

And I’m not talking about the state of peaceful happiness and satisfaction. Though, I suppose good content should support that.

Content has been the buzzword of the marketing world lately, as the businesses and brands work to better engage with their audience.

Recently I spent the better part of a week with about 2,600 marketers from around the country who are all working to get better at content marketing. Content Marketing World, a conference developed by the Content Marketing Institute, is the largest event of its kind and seeks to educate marketers and continue to advance the industry.

I could have asked each person at the conference to define content and received a different answer. In my eyes, therein lies the key to developing great content.

It comes in many different forms and is consumed in many different forms. And there isn’t one right answer in how to do it well.

Among several quotes that stuck with me from CMWorld came from Scott Stratten, the president of UnMarketing, in his keynote talk: “Sometimes content is just giving a damn.”

Well, duh, right?

As easy as it sounds, it’s really a fundamental switch from brands just talking at their audience. Or toward their audience. Or kindof near their audience. Or, let’s face it, throwing something out there and hoping it sticks with their audience.

Stratten’s keynote drove home the message that good content needs to be a dialogue between a brand and a consumer. It needs to connect with your audience on a personal level and start a meaningful dialogue that isn’t necessarily about selling your product. It comes down to understanding your customer’s needs – and remembering that your product isn’t the solution – what your product does is the solution.

Gone are the days of traditional marketing, where strategies focused on print or broadcast media. Effective marketing now needs to occur across multiple platforms, be customized to your audience and delivered fast. And, above all, it needs to be accurate.

Audiences are looking for a relevant conversation (umm, content!) about your product that means something to them. Great content can allow you to connect with your audience in a way that is practical and engaging without needing to sell them. “Every occasion isn’t a selling occasion,” Stratten said.

With my journalism background, his message particularly resonated with me because it isn’t far from that world. Marketing shouldn’t be about spin and PR. Much like journalists report the most important elements of a news story, as marketers we should report the most important elements of our brand and get that information out in a manner that is timely, effective, honest and real.

It’s as easy (and as difficult) as that.

Spotlight On The City of Green, Ohio

City of Green Responsive Website

The City of Green, Ohio (CoG) identified a need to refresh and redesign their old website (http://www.cityofgreen.org) that was originally designed and hosted by TKG.

Green has changed pretty dramatically since the former site was created. It is now a bustling suburban community with more than 25,000 residents. Some small farms still dot the landscape, amid 530-acres of city-owned parkland, homes and subdivisions, office parks, businesses and recreation facilities.

Their website served the community well, but a lack of updating meant that it couldn’t be viewed on some devices, specifically mobile. More than 80% of traffic to their website were returning visitors on a weekly or monthly basis, so it was important that they have a site that could be viewed on the go.

At the same time, and most importantly, the website needed a review and restructuring of the existing content to improve relevance and improve findability (it’s a word, look it up!).

Valerie Wolford - City of Green

For the pivotal task of reviewing and restructuring existing content, we were introduced to Valerie Wolford, Communications Coordinator, as the lead of the project. We have worked with only a few project leads that can compare to Valerie. Her attention to detail and realistic outlook on seeing a project of this magnitude through to the end were invaluable and a joy to see in action. We know it will probably be awhile until we get the opportunity to work with Valerie again, but until then we will be looking forward to it.

Valerie lifted the heavy weight in the beginning of the project by rounding up a staggering amount of factual data from the current website. She polled and interviewed actual visitors and employees alike in an attempt to uncover the true areas to be improved. Out of this research, we determined three core objectives of this project:

  1. Create a responsive design to quickly engage visitors by focusing content to their demographic and interest(s)
  2. Provide CoG with a higher level of stability and content flexibility using APOXE 7, TKG’s latest content management platform
  3. Assist CoG to improve site structure and usability

In order to facilitate the objectives, TKG employed these administrative sections behind the update of the website’s aesthetic design of 17 unique layouts:

 

  • Page Content
  • Community Events (with community submissions)
  • News Articles
  • Real Estate Listings
  • Citizen Alerts
  • Contact Forms
  • Image & Document Directories

This project has come to completion and, for all parties involved, it was a huge success. The City of Green, Ohio will continue to be a progressive, technology-friendly city by improving its web presence by utilizing tools such as search engine optimization, content reorganization and other continued strategies to focus the navigation, tone and user experience on the website.

TKG would like to again extend a thank you to The City of Green, Ohio for the opportunity to work on the project. Congrats on a great site!

 

3 SEO Benefits of Responsive Design

With more and more users accessing the internet on their smartphones and tablets, it has become increasingly important to create websites that work across a variety of devices. Because of its flexible and adaptive qualities, responsive design has quickly become the industry standard for website development.

Responsive design is not only a tool for device adaptability though; there are significant SEO benefits that result from a switch to responsive design. Here are three of the big ones:

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Google likes responsive sites
Google typically favors mobile-optimized sites, especially when those mobile users are searching for local goods and services. Because Google is the world’s largest search engine, and other search engines typically follow Google’s lead, it is a good idea to pay attention to what Google likes.

One website with one URL
From an SEO perspective, responsive sites consistently outperform separate desktop and mobile sites. With a single URL, responsive sites help reduce content duplication issues and improve SEO performance.

Reduces bounce rates
A mobile website can suffer from high bounce rates if users are unable to easily read and interact with the content. Users often get frustrated when sites are not mobile-optimized, so they leave. Responsive designs allow users to enjoy their online experience on any device, which helps reduce bounce rates.

If you would like more information about responsive design, contact the development experts at TKG . And make sure you sign up for our Breakfast Bootcamp on Oct. 16, where we’ll discuss even more SEO benefits of responsive design.

Are You Using Twitter’s New Analytics?

Ever wondered just how much of an impact your Tweets have? Is anyone REALLY listening? Are they even doing the basics, like checking out your profile?

Now every Twitter user has access to this information and more. Originally rolled out for verified users and marketers, analytics.twitter.com is available for all users who want to see how well their Tweets perform.

The new dashboards are a little like Google Analytics for Tweets, allowing users to drill down into each individual Tweet to see how it performs on the platform. Take a look at how many impressions your Tweets earned (the number of times users saw the Tweets on Twitter), the number of engagements (the number of times a user interacted with your Tweet), and the engagement rate (the number of engagements divided by the number of impressions).

Twitter Analytics

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The data also shows demographic information about your followers. Check out the gender breakdown of your followers, their location and interests, and who your followers follow to give yourself better insight about your community on the platform.

While cross-referencing this data with other tools like Google Analytics, BufferApp, Hootsuite or Simply Measured will give you a more complete snapshot of just how well your content is performing, this is a good step from Twitter to allow users the chance to craft a more strategic approach to the platform. As a bonus, use the same dashboard to set up Twitter Cards and really boost the media experience for your followers and customers.

Check out analytics.twitter.com and let us know what you think!

Important Responsive Design Tips

PrintEvery responsive site is a fluid and dynamic creation, so it can be difficult to get a handle on even the basics of responsive design. Luckily, there are a few general tips and techniques that serve as the foundation for nearly every responsive project.

Follow these important responsive design tips and you will be on your way to developing mobile and tablet-friendly websites:

Mobile First
A mobile-first approach to responsive design allows you to prioritize content for mobile devices and work your way up to larger desktop displays. This mobile-first approach ensures that your audience sees the most important content first, no matter what device they’re using.

Content Strategy
The goal of responsive design is to offer the best user experience possible, on all devices. A website redesign is the perfect time to rework your content and make it more readable, valuable and accessible. This emphasis on content strategy shifts the focus of your website development back to the needs of the user and their unique online behaviors.

Initial Design
Once you have a content strategy in place, begin crafting a rough website design on a responsive sketch sheet. The various screen sizes, resolutions and device capabilities available today mean more layouts to plan for. By using a tool designed specifically for responsive design, you can refine your ideas and lay your site’s framework before you begin the actual site development.

Framework
While choosing a CSS framework is mainly a matter of individual preference, incorporating one into your responsive design process offers a number of benefits. A framework can help speed up the development process, reduce browser compatibility issues and streamline your responsive design.

Breakpoints
Once you’ve selected a framework for your site, you must set breakpoints to signal the transition between devices. Some developers set breakpoints based on common screen sizes, but that practice does not totally embrace the flexible and adaptable potential of responsive design. Explore your design to find natural breaks in your content. That’s where you should set your website’s breakpoints.

Scalable images
Images present serious challenges for responsive designs because they need to be fluid enough to adapt to a website’s viewports and text sizes. Resources like adaptive images, CSS sprites and jQuery plugins are available to scale images and interactive media, so you don’t have to worry about warped or disproportionate assets.

If you would like more information about responsive design strategies, contact the development experts at TKG. And don’t miss out on our Breakfast Bootcamp on Oct. 16, where we’ll discuss even more tips and techniques for responsive design.