Graphic design… or graphic art?

Tuesday, 03 May 2011 by

An interview with polymath (including being ex-lead singer of Talking Heads) David Byrne in this month’s Creative Review mentions the work of graphic artist Marian Bantjes (here’s an example, right, from her website).

And here’s a video of her talk at TED last year, which sums up her philosophy about graphic design/art and offers some examples.

But does her visual art, which is now requested by many commercial clients, work? To answer that herself, she asks: “Does it bring joy, is there a sense of wonder, and does it invoke curiosity?”

How many of your clients apply those criteria?

Here’s a bit of video fun highlighting just how many technology firms rely on food for their marketing inspiration.

It comes from “old school” comedian Ronnie Corbett, ably assisted by Harry Enfield, and reminds me of the wee man’s classic sketch with Ronnie Barker about “fork ‘andles” (four candles).

From prospects to evangelists

Wednesday, 09 March 2011 by

Inbound marketing specialists HubSpot have produced an eBook showing how to use social media to generate prospects and turn them into evangelists. After a quick registration, you can download it.

The value of social media

Monday, 07 March 2011 by

Here’s a link to StopGap’s 20-minute podcast about the value of tweeting (and social media in general) to customer service.

It’s an interview with Alex Brown – Senior Manager of Customer Experience at Virgin Media – that offers some interesting insights. Worth a listen…

The tyranny of email

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 by

A recent blog by marketing guru Robert Middleton provides 10 Top Tips on how to better manage your emails, based on John Freeman’s book “The Tyranny of Email“.

These range from “Don’t Send” through to “Don’t Look” and there’s also some good advice (points 5 & 6) about receiving and sending emails that can apply to any written communications.

Meaningless management-speak

Friday, 14 January 2011 by

As a professional copywriter, I sometimes have to spend time trying to understand what a client has said or written before I can ‘translate’ the words into something more meaningful. Why is this? Because jargon and management-speak have taken over.

Technical and sector-specific jargon (including acronyms) can be a useful short-hand when workers are communicating internally or with industry colleagues. But it can blur the message when you’re trying to reach your external audience or, worse still, actively deter customers and prospects from bothering to pay attention again.

Management speak (e.g. win-win situation, blue-sky thinking) can also detract from the intended message, either by hiding the truth or – thanks to over-use – becoming meaningless.

If you’re also a bit of a pedant for these things, listen to this entertaining podcast by the FT’s Lucy Kellaway entitled “My awards for management guff“. It only takes 5 minutes but it’s fun, interesting and unerringly accurate in its targetting of award-winners.

Thanks to my former Sony colleague Alastair Chesson for sharing this with me earlier this week, and to Wil Taylor for the image (from Flickr).

Improve your Google ranking (3 of 3)

Tuesday, 11 January 2011 by

In this final post of this 3-part series on search engine optimisation (SEO), I’m going to look at keywords and links.

If some of the words on a given web page match the terms being used in a search, that page is more likely to appear in the search engine results pages (or SERPs). The exact ranking of that page relies on various factors, including the keyword frequency – the number of times a keyword phrase appears on the page – and, to a lesser extent, keyword density (the ratio of keywords to the rest of the text on the page).

Use Google Analytics to help you identify your keywords, remembering to imagine yourself as a potential customer for your own product or service. What would you enter into Google as your search term(s)? Try and limit your list to three or four keywords (or phrases) per page.

Use your keywords (or keyword phrases) very naturally in the text and avoid keyword loading – obvious repetitions that don’t make for easy-to-read copy. Loading not only detracts readers, it also sounds alarm bells for the search engine spiders crawling your site.

To be attractive to both your human readers and the machines, try and keep your keywords (or phrases) within the first 100 words or so of the page’s content. Aim for at least 250 words per page, where possible.

Also, try and use keywords in your image alt files and tags as well as in the more obvious places such as title tags, headlines and body copy.

The lifeblood of the internet, links are another vital SEO element. Here’s a bulleted summary of what to do:

* Link to relevant content early in the body copy

* Use descriptive text within the flow of the copy (not “Read more”, “Click here” etc stuck at the end of a sentence or paragraph) – see my example above “Google Analytics”

* Keep your descriptive text short (2 or 3 words rather than long sentences)

* Make links easy to identify (so they’re not missed or clicked by accident)

* Link to relevant internal or external pages every 125 words (approximately)

Once you’ve made these changes, review your site periodically and update it as required. You should also stay on top of changes to SEO best practice, to make sure your site retains its improved ranking.

(Image from Corrine of Kingston University’s MA Creative Economy project)

Improve your Google ranking (2 of 3)

Tuesday, 04 January 2011 by

In the second of three posts on search engine optimisation (SEO), I’m going to focus on a couple of the behind-the-scenes elements – the metadata – from your website: the tags.

Unlike the gift tags on the presents you opened on Christmas Day, these online tags are hidden away (although they can be seen by using the Page/View Source option within Internet Explorer’s tool bar). Despite being out of sight for most users, the tags are highly visible to the search engines you’re trying to attract – so ignore these recommendations at your peril:

Title tags
Use a different title for each page, making it brief (between 50 and 65 characters, including spaces) yet descriptive and relevant to the page content.

Ideally, use the keywords that are relevant to the page within the title – as near to the start of the title as possible. (See the next installment of this 3-part post for more on keywords.)

Description meta tag
This gives search engines a summary of what the page is about. Make it one or two sentences long (between 150 and 180 characters, including spaces), interesting and relevant since it’s likely to be used in the search engine results pages (SERPs) to describe your page.

Make the change
It’s worth noting that you can create your tags at the build stage of your website, or go back and make changes once it’s published – so there’s no excuse for ignoring the imperative of making your tags as SEO-friendly as possible.

Next time, I’ll be looking at a more immediately visible element of your website: the written content (including keywords).

Improve your Google ranking (1 of 3)

Thursday, 30 December 2010 by

To kick-start the New Year, here’s the first of three posts on search engine optimisation (SEO) – the process of improving your website’s rankings.

Is your website an online version of your corporate brochure, a more complex transaction-based sales tool and revenue generator, or a combination of these elements? Whatever the answer, you’re probably hoping that some prospects will find it some day via a search engine (be it Google – the most widely used – Bing, Yahoo! or some other search tool).

But we all know ‘hoping’ isn’t enough.

First of all, you need to know how well – or badly – your website is currently ranking on the search engine results pages (SERPs) and Google Analytics is a good starting point for this exercise. If your site’s not built yet, work with your web development team to plan your approach to SEO (as well as all the other aspects of your website) and then start testing after launch.

If your site doesn’t appear on the first page of the Google results for a specified search term, then the chances are you won’t be found. (How often do you go beyond the first page of results?!) By the way, thinking like your prospects and figuring out what they might search for will help you create keywords for the content of your site… but more of that in the third installment of this series.

To build your website from scratch, or improve your existing online presence, it’s worthwhile optimising it with Google’s “SEO Starter Guide” in mind. This is a straightforward and (generally) non-technical guide that will help to inform your thinking and improve your online marketing.

Executing Google’s tips and tricks will probably fall under the remit of your IT specialist, webmaster or digital agency, but it’s still important to understand the basics well enough to manage or oversee the project.

Next time, we’ll look at the ABC of SEO and the first three ways to improve your web’s ranking in Google (and other search engines).

French Radio London launches today

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 by

If you love holidaying in France, drinking its great wine or eating its fine cheeses (and other gastronomic delights) and like to speak a bit of French too, listen up: French Radio London launches today at 12 noon on DAB for London.