Category Archives: What Not To Do

Web Design Mistakes – 3 That Seem Like Great Ideas

Is your Website “Naughty or Nice”? Are there web design mistakes that seemed like a good idea at one time?

web design mistakes

We’re in November, which means it’s officially the holiday season and digital marketers can pound holiday metaphors into oblivion. At Alter Endeavors, we’re always happy to audit a website and give feedback. We fundamentally believe that every website should be unique in its branding, calls to action, and user experience. Over the years, we’ve seen a wide array of web functionalities and marketing ideas that are designed to increase engagement or conversions. Most of them work, but here are a few ideas that seem “nice” but are actually web design mistakes that could end your website up on the “naughty” list.

1. Slide Show Carousels

If I’m a business owner and my business offers different service lines or promotions, a slide show carousel may seem like a great idea. It allows pictures to scroll through so that users can see my business’s versatility. But, that’s the problem. Your website should be designed to optimize interaction. When someone visits your website, they should be clearly directed towards the engagement that maximizes conversions for your business (or your call to action). By presenting multiple options, such as a carousel, you’re actually encouraging users not to click further into the site. Need more proof of how a carousel can frustrate users? Click Here.

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Carousels can also be web design mistakes because they create an issue in regards to load time. When the page is pulled up, all of those images must load as well, which increases your load time. How does this translate to dollars? According to a recent study, for every second your website takes to load you are losing 16% of your traffic. If a carousel adds an extra second or two to your load time, you’re potentially losing up to 1/3 of your traffic before visitors even see the site. And while load time isn’t a major factor in Google’s search algorithm, it does play a part—so there’s that to consider.

2. Keyword Stuffed Copy

There’s a reason that black hat tactics exist in SEO. Because originally they worked. Keyword stuffing was a very popular technique 5 years ago because the content was designed to be recognized by crawling google bots rather than the users. In that respect, keyword stuffing seems like a “nice” idea to boost your SEO rankings. However, keyword stuffing is a web design mistake and a fast way to end up on Google’s “naughty list” and actually hurt your SEO rankings.

First, Google’s algorithm changes frequently. It’s designed to find optimal content for the user based on their search. Over time, Google’s algorithm advanced to the point where it is able to recognize what is valuable content and what is not.

Second, keyword stuffing is not designed to create easily digestible content for the user. Often times, the content overwhelms the user. Optimized content should encourage the user to engage further—either taking them deeper into the site or directing them towards a call to action. As Amy Renken of Amy Renken Writing Services put it, “when writing content for the internet, focusing on appealing to the human audience is just as important as writing for the search engines bots.”

3. Autoplaying Videos

If you’re considering a video on your homepage, first, I would like to highly recommend this idea. Video creates a palatable means of engagement with visitors and even helps your SEO rankings if executed properly. However, multimedia such as video that “autoplays” can actually decrease engagement on your site and are widely considered a mistake for website best practices. Here’s Sarah Murphy’s take, from our video partner Golden Arm Media:

“Autoplay videos on your homepage take viewers by surprise, particularly because of the audio. Instead, when a viewer clicks play to view the content, they are already more invested because they had to opt in to view it. It gives them the chance to be curious first, and dig deeper. Forcing it upon them with autoplay is an almost guaranteed way to turn them off before they have the chance to learn about your company. Just think about when you’re reading an article online, and a video ad starts playing—it’s not a very pleasant experience.”

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Web Design Mistakes to Avoid

In whole, these are three ideas that seem like a great concept on your site but could actually put your website on the “naughty list” with your users and customers. Rather than a carousel, focus on one clear call to action. Instead of keyword stuffing, create content that is relevant to your business focused on creating engagement. Finally, video can be an excellent way to reinforce branding or give further insight to your business—just don’t force it upon your users!

A Marketing DON’T: Contact Form Spam

contact form spam is not a good idea

Contact Form Spam Makes Puppy Sad

Hey guys, Nick here to remind you that it is not okay to market to businesses randomly through their contact forms. The cost of contact form spam far outweighs the benefits. Oftentimes the people abusing these forms for marketing purposes are scammers or bots set up by hackers looking for a way into your site. However, there is a disturbing trend amongst marketing consultants and B2B groups in the U.S. who are employing this tactic. Stop it. I recently ran across a guy who actually sells this service to other businesses. We had words, none of them nice. Here are a few reasons why you should never pursue this as a marketing tactic:

1. Wrong Expectation

The expectation for most contact forms is either for support or leads. The people reading these forms typically involve either a sales team or a support staff. In smaller businesses, owners might be reading these, but the expectation for this space is not to be sold to.

2. Conversion Goals Through Analytics

More often than not, contact forms are linked to conversion goals on systems like Google Analytics. The folks analyzing those conversion goals and the analytics that support those goals have a tendency to gnash their teeth every time they have to manually extract the information they need to assess from the noise created by contact form spammers (I’m talking to YOU Jeff, stop it!)

3. Terrible, Lazy First Impression

Because of the first two reasons, now you face every sales person’s worst nightmare. Contact form spam comes across as lazy and annoying before the conversation has even begun. You didn’t take the time to research who in the company you should have reached out to talk about your service or product. Instead, you are blindly hammering on the door and trying to force a company or organization to respond to your summons. It’s like trying to pitch your service through Facebook Messages, nobody is going to take you seriously.

There Are Better Outbound Sales Tactics To Pursue

Cold calling can and does work, if done appropriately. Lead Forensics provides a great example. We actually signed up for their service. Don’t get me wrong, they have a really interesting (read as useful and unique) product. However, to get to the decision maker (me), they did their homework. They asked for me by name. The sales guy referenced something that I had tagged in social media to align himself with me. He stroked my ego by complimenting my work, citing specific examples of some of our recent projects. That took all of 20 seconds. He then jumped right into how his product could help Alter Endeavors track other businesses visiting our site and a way to connect with those folks. He had me hooked in less than 45 seconds. I was impressed and intrigued in under a minute. That’s how you cold call. It won’t always be that way, but with an approach like Lead Forensics’, your rate of success will definitely increase significantly.

• LinkedIn targeting. It’s another research tactic that, if treated properly, can lead to successful connections and conversations with decision makers.

• Setting up seminars and speaking engagements to give away valuable information in exchange for trust and conversation.

• Networking groups are still effective. We participate in BNI (Business Networking International) over here at Alter Endeavors.

These are a few ways you build trust through outbound sales and all are better than contact form spam. Even if someone doesn’t sign up for what you are selling, they are much more likely to speak of you, and maybe even speak well of your brand to others.

That’s all I’ve got for now folks. Go get it done!

Avoid Negative Online Reviews With Good Communication

avoid negative online reviews

Hey folks, Nick here to continue our talk about the “Trust Puzzle” as well as briefly talk about negative online reviews and good customer service. Here’s the deal: build out your private lines of communication with your customers as quickly as possible, and then spend the next year refining the (insert expletive here) out of them. One of the most important lessons we have learned with our service-based clients and dealing with their customers online stems from the level of accessibility our clients have available for their customers, especially via digital means. From our own data we have found that more than 65% of dissatisfied customers will reach out to your brand privately to resolve an issue before taking it public. The “Yelp Elite” aside, many folks do not want to speak ill of a brand in a public manner if they can avoid it. However, if a brand does not have readily apparent avenues for dissatisfied customers to pursue (with near-immediate response times from said brand), then social media and review sites like Google Places become the only recourse. This is dangerous for any brand, no matter how big it is. 

Get Proactive, Send a Survey… AND PAY ATTENTION!

The best way to see how your customers feel is by sending a survey. When building out an online strategy with our clients, especially those with high-dollar, infrequent services that folks only use once in a great while (like moving or painting or roofing), we harp on getting a survey system in place immediately. We actually built a system called Catch Engine to help with individual communications with each customers’ experience, a service we now implement for all of our clients. With Catch Engine, you can actually grade customers based on their answers. The system will then respond to the customer with the appropriate response page based on the customer’s responses. More importantly, you can set up alerts using the Catch Engine system to immediately notify you when someone is likely to post a negative online review, simultaneously letting the client know that someone will be in touch with them shortly about their issue. 

With a system like this in place, more often than not you can head customers off at the pass before they go announce their displeasure with your brand to the rest of the world. What’s more, you now have redemption—the opportunity to make it right with said customer and possibly even win them over as a brand ambassador in the future. 

A Teachable Moment – What Not To Do

On the other hand, if you have a survey in place, but do not have a rock-solid system for responding to negative online reviews in a near-immediate manner, you might actually make an annoyed client into a furious client. For example, I thought about writing this blog because of a recent experience I had with the Austin branch of a high-end furniture company who shall remain nameless. Although the sales experience was pleasant enough, their follow-through and delivery was lackluster at best. For buying such expensive furniture, their level of communication during delivery was practically non-existent.

I reached out to their support department about my frustration without ever receiving a response. After my furniture was finally delivered, I then received a survey; which, again, I let them know how frustrating their fulfillment process was for me. Weeks later, still no response. This is normally where review sites would come into play, and not in a good way. I appreciate the company providing me with a teachable moment, but do NOT be like them! Don’t get me wrong, I love my furniture. It’s awesome, but we are not very likely to order from these folks again or recommend anyone else do so either. At least, not until they fix their fulfillment and delivery issue. 

A Teachable Moment – Be Like These Guys

On the flip side we have a number of companies I have no reservations about naming. Square Cow Movers, Patriot Pools and Spas, Austin’s Paint Guys and Soleil Floors actively seek their clients’ feedback. All of these folks use the Catch Engine System to better understand and react to their customers’ feedback. The secret here? Respond within 1 business day to negative feedback. 

The other trick is to have a system in place for those who respond positively. Even if someone is happy with your service, take 2 minutes to follow up with them a week or two after they take your survey to let them know how much you appreciated their patronage, and how you look forward to serving them again. If you are in desperate need of reviews for your brand, cross check the positive responses to your survey with your review sites. Consider incentivizing your past clients who responded favorably to leave honest reviews of your service. But also, do NOT forget about your unhappy clients. They should be responded to immediately. 

It doesn’t matter what system you use, as long as you take the time to respond and act to every client, then it’s well worth the effort. 

The AgroAmerica Example Scam With Google Emails

agro

AgroAmerica most likely has nothing to do with this scam, but since the scam artists are using it as their primary form of legitimacy, this is why we call it the AgroAmerica Example Scam. The primary target appears to be small to medium-sized web agencies and freelancers building/designing sites.


 

The scam starts either with an email or with a text message that looks like this:

THE EMAIL:

From: James McGrew <mcgrewj1967@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 12:07 PM
Subject: Re: New contact submission from Alter Endeavors
To: Nicholas Alter<nick@alterendeavors.com>

​Hi-

I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in KY and the company is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Gacillia Nut and Cocoa so I need a best of the best layout design for it. I hope you can handle that for me. Check out this site: http://www.agroamerica.com, I will be happy if you can give me something better than this if its possible. The site would only be informational, so I need you to give me an estimate based on the site I gave you to check out. The estimate should include hosting and I want the same page as the site I gave you to check out. I have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.

Note:

1. I want the same number of pages with the example site I gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
2. I want only English language
3. I don’t have a domain yet but I want the domain name as McGrewFarmproducts.com
4. you will be updating the site for me.
5. I will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
6. I want the site up and running before ending of next month.
7. My budget is $4000 to $5000

Kindly get back to me with:

I. An Estimate
II. Cell-Phone Number

Regards,
James McGrew

THE TEXT MESSAGE:

Hi-

I’m hearing impaired. I would love to know if you can handle website design for a new company and also if you  do you accept credit cards? Kindly contact me at: trmillerglobal@gmail.com, so I can send you the job details if you are interested.

Regards

Tracy Miller

Sent from iPhone


When we received the first one of these things, the “hearing impaired” thing was not a tipoff for us. Neither was the request if we accepted credit cards. It wasn’t until we got about 3 emails into it with the first scam attempt that we realized this was not legit. Once we started to get suspicious, we tried to get a bit more information out of them to see if we could uncover who was doing this, or at least be able to provide a lead to authorities when we submitted this to them. Typically we just ignore crap like this, but this particular approach proves a little more put together, a little more crafty than your typical scam.

We didn’t go through the process accepting their “payment”. They want you to send money immediately to their “marketing consultant” after they have paid you. This could either be a money laundering scheme or it could be that they force a charge back to your credit card AFTER you have paid the consultant, which would result in a direct loss to either you, your merchant services provider or both.

We have submitted reports to Google that Gmail accounts are being used for this scam operation. Per Google’s policy, they did not contact us immediately about our report. However, we do encourage anyone else who has experienced one of these emails or text messages to speak up, submit a report, contact your local authorities, etc.

More importantly, be sure you have very strict policies in place about how you process credit cards and pay monies out from your company. Be sure you have a signed contract along with a payment processing page where credit card information can be filled out and a signature provided. Yes, many of us have e-commerce solutions in place, but for sums of money larger than $500, we strongly recommend getting a signed agreement before processing any credit cards. Check with your merchant services provider about chargebacks. We use CynergyData Texas specifically for this reason. They help protect us against situations like this.

Also, it’s our policy that we have a face-to-face with every client before signing a contract, even if they are hearing impaired. IM and video-conferencing equipment make it very easy to have a face-to-face meeting with someone even if they live far away and/or are hearing impaired. Stay vigilant people! Let’s build a better internet, and let’s please do away with crappy scams.

Dr. Pepper, Dublin Dr. Pepper, Texas Tradition and a lot of Pissed-Off Fans

The Dr. Pepper Snapple (DPS for short) group has just forced the 120-year old tradition of Dublin Dr. Pepper to stop production. Unfair Park has an excellent blog giving the details of this particularly poor decision on DPS’s part. More importantly, the Dr. Pepper brand is now under duress. An immediate and severe backlash is taking shape on the Dr. Pepper Facebook page, their Twitter account and more dangerously, on spaces they do not control. And so far? Silence.

The decision was made final and acted out yesterday at 5 PM. Unless DPS comes up with an incredibly good reason as to why their international brand was threatened by this small-town company, then they are going to lose a lot of business over the next few months. And the Dr. Pepper brand will NEVER be the same again if they do not handle this situation correctly. DPS claims Dublin Dr. Pepper violated their distribution rights, but in light of the entire lawsuit, the allegations are pretty weak-sauce, especially from a PR perspective.

DPS executives might blow this off, and so far that is what they are doing on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. They were not prepared to deal with the incredible onslaught of negativity now plaguing their FB page and Twitter account. So far, as I am writing this article, they have not addressed this situation with their 11,062,677 fans on Facebook or 82,302 fans on Twitter (really, that’s all y’all have on Twitter?), which is only making it worse. If they were hoping that their stalwart fans would defend them, they were fatally mistaken. Look on their FB page, and folks claiming 40+ years of Dr. Pepper enthusiasm are tossing their loyalty and paraphernalia in the trash, claiming a DP boycott. The comments are coming in the thousands and man, are they upset.

So what are you going to do Dr. Pepper? Social Media will not let you hide, that is both its beauty and its curse.  Here are a couple sample snapshots of what I’m talking about.

Underutilized Austin URLs…

As I’m working on content for a client, I am looking for online Austin-centric resources, and here are some URLs that surprisingly do nothing:

http://austin.org
http://austintexas.com
http://austintx.com
http://austintx.org

I understand ownership, but when you own the rights to a domain name like austintx.com, IT SHOULD DO SOMETHING! I cannot believe we live in one of the most forward thinking communities in the United States (in terms of high-tech and social media) and some of the most prominent Austin URLs are just floating.

Web developers: Internet Explorer only platforms are the devil’s work. Participate and you are on the fast track to Dante’s Inferno

I have student loans, a naive participant in an unforgiving $1 Trillion industry. Yes, it is an industry, and one you can only get out from under if you labor for ten years, or if you get really lucky, or if you die (well, maybe if you die…the jury is still out on this one.) You would think that an industry with this much damn money would get on board to make it as easy as possible for folks to pay their student loansOr maybe not, if they really are criminals.

At this point, there is no excuse for the folks at Citibank or Hinsen-Hazlewood to have sites that are inoperable on anything but Internet Explorer. It is lazy and it is dishonest. I bring this up because I experienced first-hand what happens when you accidentally use another browser. You can go through the entire monthly payment process, submit your payment, land on the confirmation page and for some reason, because you didn’t use IE, your payment fails to process. What the hell is up with that? And because you were given a confirmation page, you don’t double check until you get a late notice in the mail and a penalty fee. Continue reading

Real Mature Singles Need a Lesson in Facebook Advertising

Alright, I don’t get it. Quite frankly I’m surprised Facebook let this one fall through the cracks, even if it was the advertisee’s fault.

On one of my client’s personal accounts today, I saw this add for realmaturesingles.com. Here is why you should always consult someone like me before you run an ad on Facebook. I checked my client’s interests, his marital status and everything else, and even though he is an older man, this advertisement means nothing to him. At an average of a $1 per click, can someone like this really afford to be advertising to someone as irrelevant as my client, if they really are after single, sincere, older men? I can guaruntee you that this advertisement will lose this company hundreds, if not thousands of dollards unless they fix their demographic target. Not only that, but eventually Facebook will most likely catch on and kill the ad completely, meaning they will have to start all over again for trying to solicit older men with “married” set as their status.

This is just one more example of what you need to watch out for when advertising on Facebook. If you are nervous, confused, unsure, whatever, feel free to drop me an email about your ad before you publish it.

The Black, Rhinestone-Encrusted Glove is Not Going to Protect Your Content

I was driving and looked to my right to see a black-gloved hand was dangling a cigarette out the window of a what appeared to be a wind-scrubbed ’94 Tahoe. The woman with no chin and wearing the glove brought the lit cigarette to her lips, took a drag, looked at me and exhaled in a cloud of grays and blues before turning back to texting with her other hand. The light turned green and her car chugged and rattled in an even larger, even more depressing swirl of exhaust fumes. As I accelerated through the intersection, it dawned on me she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt either.

The woman would either die of lung cancer, asphyxiation or a car accident but dammit her hand wasn’t going to get a nicotine stain on it. People are weird.

I added this little anecdote to my blog because I think it defines something about people’s misconception when “protecting” their content online. Nothing short of a watermark directly on your image is going to keep it out of the hands of those who really want it, and even that isn’t going to stop someone with photoshop skills necessarily. The same goes for what you write or what you film. If someone really wanted to steal your content, they are going to get it and “disabling” your right-button mouse option is not going to save you. It’s like the woman’s black, rhinestone-encrusted glove in the long run.

The National Association of Realtors, Their Political War and the Resounding Voice of Dissent of NAR Members on Facebook

This morning I was quickly scrolling through the CCIM Technologies* news feed looking for stories to share when I stumbled across this little gem. The National Association of Realtors® posted a link to a blog article recapping a virtual town hall meeting presented by NAR President Ron Phipps to thousands of NAR members.

Understandably, this organization is scared. Things are changing rapidly on a political front and some systems, like real estate, are scrambling to protect themselves from local and national governments looking to fill empty coffers. I get it. Phipps response to this, however, has caused a severe backlash from NAR members who feel like they don’t have a choice to support the NAR’s political agenda or not. How do I know this? The answer is Facebook, obviously, and the NAR better deal with it soon. Continue reading