95 posts categorized "agencies"

September 27, 2013

The Google Encryption Dilemma

If you've been only moderately interested in looking at your search reports in Omniture, Google Analytics, or whatever tracking software you're using for your website, you've probably noticed an alarming growth in the number of referring search keywords that are (not provided) for you to see. If you're in this space heavily, you're probably well aware of it, and you may be  a bit miffed at Google for taking away these insights from you.

I've also come to enjoy the sorts of insights made available by this data, but take some comfort knowing that the sky is not falling. Your jobs just got a little more interesting.

Why did Google do it? Folks are saying it is a response to being dinged in the public arena for cooperating with NSA's prism program to track what people are doing online. 

If you understand how we actually get our data in Google Analytics, you know this explanation is curious. Excepting third-party CRM applications, we can't actually see who is searching. In Google Analytics, we can only see what they are doing in the aggregate, once they get to our site. Why can't Google send the aggregate data as they have been, so we can see which keywords are having the greatest success, so that we can optimize our site for the better-performing keywords?

Happily for us, there is a solution, which unfortunately means more specialization and attention than before, with fewer actionable insights. But it isn't nothing.

Note for beginners: Always have a Google Analytics profile with no filters applied. If you don't know what this means, I recommend picking up the excellent Avinash Kaushik's Web Analytics 2.0. I may address this at a later date, but he's your man, if you want to learn how to do this stuff.

Essentially, you have to "trick" Google Analytics to tell you what landing pages people are arriving at, when you're examining keywords from Organic Search. This doesn't tell you the keyword, but you see where they're going. Here's an excellent tutorial by Kiss Metrics that explains how this is done.

Also, install Google Webmaster Tools. From there, you can see which keywords are bringing people to your site. Even the "encrypted" ones (See? Was that so hard, Google?). What you can't see is what they did when they arrived at your site.

Examine your paid search performance to use as a proxy for organic search. In this case, Google isn't really telling you what people did, they're telling you what you're paying them for.

Continue your keyword research using whatever you've been using to try to identify opportunities for content development and writing. 

Rinse and repeat.

So what's coming? I have no idea. It's crossed my mind, however, that either Google is leveraging this unnecessary move in the name of a specious allegience to "privacy" to sell more stuff -- either more AdWords, its DoubleClick advertising platform, or access to Google Analytics premium -- meaning free access to Google Analytics basic gravy train would be on the way out (Hopefully a lower-cost option than GA Premium or Omniture, or else smaller companies just wouldn't be able to afford it).

Until that happens, the sky is not falling. And if it does, it will be time for smaller companies to look at other solutions. It's always good to be prepared.

December 06, 2012

Appeal to Their Virtues: A Christmas-Season Reflection on Modern Marketing

Sex sells, many say. 

And they're right. Also big sellers: gluttony (of a particular type), sloth, envy, pride and the rest of the seven deadly sins. But sustainable commerce isn't going to belong to those who market to our vices, but those who appeal to our virtues.

This is not to say that we are a virtuous people. A trip to Walmart on Black Friday would strongly suggest that we fall quite short of that standard. However depraved we really are, each of us likes to think we subscribe to some sort of higher calling

There are two ways acheive this in advertising and marketing: 

  1. Encourage bad behavior and lead people to believe it is good
  2. Encourage good behavior 

Of the two, only the second option is sustainable. While necessary to communicate how a product or service advances the audience's self-interests, it's the relationship between that interest and a higher calling that keeps self-interest from devolving into envy and gluttony, which affect not only by the private market, but also public politics. 

When it comes to commerce, every person is a hedonist, and every company is a narcissist.

In practical terms, this means that everyone is more receptive to products and services that A) reduce pain or B) increase pleasure, and every company markets to them in a way that belies a belief that they deserve more attention (Why else would they advertise?).

What are you selling?

  • If your livelihood depends on people buying your brand of beer, are you selling beer, or are you selling a responsible community?
  • Are you need people to buy trucks, are you selling power steering, or are you selling freedom to traverse vast distances to maintain familial relationships? Or are you selling the appreciation that comes when a friend takes an entire day to help his friends move?

As marketing budgets are shifted over the next few years from traditional to digital (including social media), it's useful to ponder what sort of company people will want to listen to regularly, and what sort of things they'll want to hear. Will it be endless promotions? Or will it be information and advice on how they can become better, more worthwhile people?

"I would rather have it said 'he lived usefully' than 'he died rich.'" - Benjamin Franklin

- Cam Beck

 

February 03, 2011

Call Your Game. Play to Win.

Mike-tomlin At the recent AFC Championship game between the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers, near the end of the game, the Steelers clung to a narrow lead and faced 3rd down with 6 yards to go. The Jets were out of timeouts, but there were 2 minutes left in the game. Should the Steelers not convert in that situation, the Jets would be hard-pressed to march down the field on the NFL's best defense to score the touchdown they would need to win and advance to the Super Bowl. Conventional wisdom (as articulated by the announcers of the game) was to run the ball, eat as much time off the clock as possible, punt and let the Jets try its hand against that stout defense with just over a minute left to play.

It was a pretty good bet, all things considered, but a risk either way. Their punter had a kick nearly blocked earlier in the game, and quite frankly, he hadn't exactly been booming his kicks since he joined the team earlier in the season when their original punter was injured. A long punt return -- even for a score (which was the ruin of several Steelers games last season) -- wasn't out of the question.

A first down, on the other hand, would enable the Steelers to safely kneel down on the ball, and the Jets would be powerless to stop the clock. A first down meant the game would be over, but it was unlikely that the Steelers could get a first down by running the ball, since the Jets were stacking up to stop the run. An incomplete pass would stop the clock. For all intents and purposes, it would have been a free time out for the Jets. 

The Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was not having a picture-perfect game, having barely completed half of his passes on the evening. It was no sure thing that he'd complete a pass or have the presence of mind to take a sack instead of making a risky throw against a very good defense. 

But when it came time to decide what to do at that critical moment, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn't hesitate. He did not vacillate. "Call your game, BA," he said to his offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, who called a pass play that, in conjunction with some improvisation by the offense on the field, picked up a first down that sealed the game for the Steelers.

Had the pass been intercepted, or left enough time on the clock for the Jets to run down the field and score, Steelers fans around the world may still be calling for the head of Tomlin. Had the Steelers run the ball, punted and left the game to the defense, no matter what the outcome was, sports pundits would openly wonder if Tomlin lacked the guts to risk losing in order to put the game away.

Now, we have a tendency to measure success based on outcomes, and as such, it's easy to look at that game in hindsight, knowing full well the Steelers are going to their 3rd Super Bowl in 6 years and say that it was a smart move. Gutsy, even. But there's something the certainty of hindsight that makes us forget the loneliness of leadership.

Having observed Tomlin in action, I feel like I know enough to say that, had they let that 24-point lead they once had slip away to defeat, he would have simply said, "That was my decision. If you want to blame someone, blame me. I don't apologize for it. I'd do it again in the same situation." And he'd have plenty of evidence from his team's capabilities to supply such confidence, regardless of the outcome. But evidence doesn't necessarily stop the critics. That's what makes them critics.

A fond farewell

I bring this up today because I've recently decided to say goodbye to my friends and colleagues at Click Here and The Richards Group, with whom I've been fortunate to work with for nearly 7 years, to offer my user experience (UX) skills to the bright folks at Slingshot.

Though sad to leave the place I've spent so many days and nights and leave the good friends and good people who've toiled with me in rain, sleet, snow and sunshine at Click Here, I'm very excited about the opportunity that lies before me -- an opportunity to go for the win, not just for myself, but for my family, my new employer, their clients and their customers related to the projects I'll be working on with my new friends and colleagues at Slingshot.

How do you save the world? One project at a time.

In a recent conversation with a friend and project manager, Joe Wilson (this one, not that one) I expressed my philosophy on business and user experience that frames everything I do, and why I care and take my job very seriously.

In short, I enjoy helping good people and good businesses succeed for the right reasons, for their wealth brings higher employment and individual prosperity, and with that, a better opportunity to not only reduce poverty, but also help those who need assistance, voluntarily. 

"You're trying to save the world," Joe exclaimed.

"Yeah," I told him, "I am," without really reflecting on just how silly it sounded.

Because for man, this is impossible. I know this. Only God has that kind of power. However, that knowledge does not aleive us of our responsibility to our part. To make strides to his purpose, sometimes you need to pass when conventional wisdom says you should run. You have to take risks. You have to play to win, even if it means stepping away from the environment to which you've been accustomed to venture out onto a new playing field and a new strategy that you hadn't originally envisioned.

For one reason or another, that time has come for me.

I extend sincerest best wishes to the entire Click Here organization and everyone I've been blessed to work with over the last 7 years. I cannot express enough gratitude for what you all mean to me.

But I also look forward to the future with great hope and anticipation. Fasten your safety belts, folks. No matter what happens, we're in for a fun ride. - Cam Beck

 

December 03, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there are stupid questions. Embrace them.

"Be sure you're right, then go ahead." - Davy Crocket

Unless you're some sort of hermit, you've probably been involved in a conversation that started something like this:

You: "I have a stupid question."

Someone else: "There's no such thing as a stupid question."

Usually, when I hear this, I recommend withholding judgment on that conclusion until the person I'm asking has listened to my question. Because the truth of the matter is, there are stupid questions. We've all had them, but at the risk of appearing stupid, many of us are afraid to ask them.

There are two categories of stupid questions:

  1. Those which reveal an ignorance about information we should already have, and
  2. Those which reveal an inability to put together basic facts that lead to what should be an obvious conclusion.

In the first case, an answer will provide common ground for the participants in the conversation that deepens the bond between them. In the second case, an answer will improve our ability to think well and better participate in the conversation.

The corallary to that is that if we fail to ask, we just increase the likelihood that we won't get an answer to that question. That is more stupid than not asking it, for we will go on in our ignorance out of fear that we may appear ignorant.

Which is a bigger threat to our freedom, safety and prosperity? Appearing ignorant or being ignorant? If you chose the latter, go to the head of the class.

But the fear -- rooted in pride -- of looking like a fool is pernicious. How do you get over it to ask questions to which you need to know the answer to?

  1. Admit that we don't know everything. Give yourself permission to ask questions, even if you realize the people around you may already know the answer (some of them may not, and they may just want someone else to ask the question).
  2. Understand that we can't know everything. Don't feel bad about asking. We're not and will never be omniscient.
  3. Foster a healthy curiosity of the world around us. Get excited about asking stupid questions! Contrary to the maxim, ignorance is not bliss. The world is a crazy place that will smack you over the head if you maintain, actively or accidentally, that you need not learn how people, business, politics or economics work.
  4. Listen. As the saying goes, we have two ears and one mouth, which you suggests you should listen twice as much as you talk.
  5. Love our neighbors. First, asking questions that gives you context to whatever conversation you're having allows you to be full participants in that conversation, which leads to common understanding, which leads to kinship and compassion. Second, have a heart to share the answers you have. Without judgment and with gentleness and respect, encourage others to ask their stupid questions and leap for joy that they're not afraid to ask you.

Marketing, like every other profession, is about solving problems. Consistently solving them well requires having a firm basis in truth, which requires getting answers that will shed light on the root causes of the problem and an ability to put together all the facts to come to a reasonable conclusion.

If you don't know something -- anything -- don't be afraid to ask. I guarantee that the person you're asking knows what it's like to be ignorant of something. As long as you're showing healthy curiosity and initiative to get answers, he should be happy to answer your question. If not, well, that reveals something to you, too. - Cam Beck

August 05, 2010

It's Alive!

In my latest article for Insights from the Click Here Blog, I was happy to reference one of my favorite movies from childhood, Young Frankenstein, starring one of my favorite actors, former Marine Gene Hackman. As a little afternoon diversion, here is his scene from the movie.


When you get a chance, stop by to learn the 3 ways to make your undead website sing and dance. - Cam Beck

June 07, 2010

The Value of Meaning

Baseball

You can get a brand new baseball, good for throwing, catching, and hitting, officially endorsed by Major League Baseball, on Amazon.

As of this moment, they sell for $17.75

Babe Ruth hit the first ever home run in an All-Star game. We still know where that ball is. Due to its age, it's probably less suitable for throwing, catching, and hitting, and Major League Baseball would never use it again in a game.

According the Forbes Magazine, this ball is worth $805,000.

Through a physical inspection, the new ball is far superior to the older ball. Yet the older ball is worth more because it has meaning to the people who care about baseball's history.

It is more than information; it is both a story unto itself and a small part of the story of one of the games greatest legends. 

Meaning is not limited to collectibles. Marketing is replete with examples, but so are user interfaces. In both cases, failing to make meaning with intent can result in a failure for the project. In the first case, you're ignored, which is bad enough considering the costs of some of these efforts. In the second, you can be ignored ... OR you can annoy your target audience by failing to give a clear path that leads to the completion of the user's intent. 

Likewise, brands have value commensurate with the meaning people give it. The channels you use to connect with your audiences can be stories to themselves as well as be part of the overall story of the brand.

Whatever limitations keep you from doing what you really want to do, never take the responsibility lightly. - Cam Beck

For further reading on this topic, check out Making Meaning and Personality Not Included.

April 20, 2010

Wanted Immediately: Experience Planner or Information Architect

Click Here Logo Click Here is seeking a talented, well-rounded information architect or experience planner to join our team. Candidates should be adept at interpreting and honing user and business requirements, understanding diverse audience motivations and translating them into compelling user experiences through logical navigation and classification schemes including site taxonomy, page schematics and interactive prototypes.

Requirements

  • 2-4 years of dedicated experience in information architecture
  • Experience conducting usability testing and interviews
  • Experience collaborating and building consensus with other information architects, brand managers, project managers, art directors, programmers and clients
  • Attention to detail
  • Excellent writing and presentation skills
  • Ability to work independently, prioritize and solve problems proactively
  • Experience with developing information architecture solutions in Visio, Axure, Xmind or similar programs

Additional Preferred Skills

  • Experience conducting various usability testing and interview methods

 Job Description Details

  • Design the information architecture for client projects
  • Conduct user research efforts, including interviews, card-sorting exercises and usability testing
  • Assist in business intelligence research by performing detailed competitive landscape analyses
  • Create documentation for internal and external presentation, including personas, use cases and scenarios, conceptual diagrams, site maps, interaction flows, storyboards, wire frames, content audits and detailed functional specifications
  • Perform expert heuristic evaluations of existing sites and creative work in progress
  • Communicate documentation, research and interaction design best practices to visual designers, technical developers, project managers and clients

Employment Inquiries

Qualified applicants should submit résumé and portfolio of detailed site maps, wire frames and/or interactive prototypes, interaction flows, navigation systems, usability test plans and reports, competitive analyses and/or writing samples.

Send me an email if you're interested.

December 30, 2009

Giving Credit Where It's Due

Hiveawards_logo


I like to give credit where it’s due.

Unfortunately, in my industry, the people who put in the most hours, who have to drink the most coffee, and who get hosed most often due to last-minute hiccups, discoveries or scope changes are the ones who have some of the most thankless jobs.

That’s why I fell in love with the idea of the Hive Awards, which recognize those whose contributions often go unnoticed or unappreciated.

After all, when was the last time you’ve been to a website and thought to yourself, “Boy! I’m so glad that I can view this website in Explorer 6, Safari, AND Firefox,” or “Wow, the CMS on this site must have been a real beast!”

You probably haven’t.

If Everything is Right, We Don’t Notice

In our jobs we may have developed the discipline to look for ancillary details, but in practice as consumers, we just don’t function that way. When it comes to all of that, except for those who have a vested interest in and a responsibility for producing websites that actually satisfies the wants and needs of people and organizations, as consumers we are all hopeless egoists.

When using the Internet, at any given point in time, the most important needs are our own. It doesn’t make a bit of difference to us if a website looks right in Opera – unless we prefer to use Opera as our Internet browser. Then it only matters if it doesn’t work right.

In fact, we typically only take notice when something doesn’t work. We don’t marvel when we can use something the way we want to use it.

When we buy a recommended book on Amazon, we’re conditioned to fly right through the process (and maybe add an impromptu gift wrap along the way), we have no idea the number of hours that were spent checking and fixing that process so that it’s so easy you barely notice that you’ve just forked over $20.

And that’s a real shame, because the lack of gratuitous animation, epic photography or “pizzazz” notwithstanding, Amazon.com is a real work of art. For Amazon’s most frequent customers, it isn’t just a utility, it’s an extension of themselves; it’s just what they do to get what they want.

Award Shows Treasure Pizzazz

Its “design” may not win any awards that account folks and art directors covet, but its design does generate more online revenue than any other retailer in the world. Sadly, an industry accustomed to rewarding the “creative” disciplines (art directors, writers) has been slow to recognize the contributions of those in less glamorous professions – which include some of the most creative people I’ve met – people who aren’t generally acclaimed as such.

Working at an interactive agency with deep roots in traditional advertising, every day I walk by all the awards we’ve won for creativity. The awards are good for what they are, and they typically bring esteem to (most of) the right people. But they are woefully inadequate for giving due recognition for the creativity of those perceived as having “technical” or “production” job titles.

And as the award shows tried to catch up with the burgeoning interactive discipline within their ranks, they tended to favor “clever” or “popular” over “effective.”

Enter the Hive Awards

Profile Along came the Hive Awards, the brainchild of Alan Wolk, which gave companies a chance to recognize the very real and significant contributions, be they creative or otherwise, of people the advertising world typically recognizes as “bit players” in the quest for a “big idea.”

The truth of the matter is that not every big idea makes a big splash. But it’s hard to compete in traditional award shows with those sites that do make a big splash.

The Hive Awards have multiple categories across multiple industries – so that, in their words, “a truly innovative b-to-b insurance site is not directly competing with mtv.com.”

So if you haven’t entered yet, please think about how you can recognize those who continually and quietly save your company’s bacon with the help of countless hours into the morning and gallons of coffee.

Tomorrow (December 31) is the last day to qualify for an early-entry discount, but even if you miss that deadline, it’s still worth it, if you have created a truly remarkable product that would otherwise go unnoticed. Enter now.

November 19, 2009

The Value of Y-O-U

Value_based_fees Recently I read Value-Based Fees: How to Charge and Get What You're Worth by Alan Weiss. I've coveted this book since I wrote Innovation by the Hour last year. After I worked through my rather large (and growing) stack of reading material, I finally was able to get my hands (and eyes) on it, and I am glad I did! (Thanks to Lisa for the recommendation).

Many, if not most, people in service industries bill for time and material. This is problematic in industries whose output includes ideas, for who is to say when (or on whose dime) ideas were generated? Who owns the idea formed in an employee's head if it never sees the light of day?

Weiss argues that the problem is far more pernicious. Many of the headaches involved in consultancy or agency relationships stem from a systemic flaw in their billing methods. Weiss says it plainly: It's "simply crazy" for consultants to base fees on time and materials. When you sell value and do your job correctly, you maximize your margin while ensuring the client feels like they got a bargain.

That is the definition of a "good deal."

The book is well-written, memorable, and at times shockingly honest. Weiss says he's glad his accountant hasn't read his books, because he'd pay a lot more if he had to pay for value, not for time and materials.

He also practices what he preaches. The Kindle version of the book, which obviously does not require printing or distribution fees, is still $32, which is much more than typical new releases sell for on the Kindle, and not much less than the printed version, brand new. This is because Weiss is selling an idea and techniques to implement it, not paper and ink.

That idea in the book is worth the same regardless of the method in which it's distributed. And if you're currently billing by time and material, at $32 or $100, it really is a bargain.

The Supply and Demand of You
Weiss claims that "There is no law of supply of demand in the consulting profession." What he's referring to is that the fees you charge should have nothing to do with your supply of hours in a day, week, month or year.

However, as Weiss himself iterates elsewhere, there is only one person in the universe who is the product of your education, skills and experience. The supply of you is exactly one.

The question, then, is what is the demand for that product? It depends on what value you mutually establish.

  • What are the client's business objectives?
  • How will success be measured?
  • What results can you deliver against these objectives and metrics?

You, as a product, may be of significant value to a client, regardless of how much time you need to spend on a project, as long as you are willing to believe in your value enough to make yourself accountable to actual, measurable results. Do the work necessary to educate the client and establish agreement on what your goals are.

Then you can both come away confident that you've been successful at meeting those goals. The client will feel like they got a bargain, and you will come away knowing you've been adequately compensated for your expertise.

Pick up the book today. You'll be glad you did. - Cam Beck

October 20, 2009

Beware of Zombies

Facing a deadline for my contribution to the Click Here blog, I finally settled down on a subject. However, it was a bit different from the one I previously said I'd write about. John Keehler asked to see it before I posted it, so I took the opportunity to tell him that I had changed subjects, but -- not to worry -- he'd love it.

"Is it about zombies," he asked.

And I thought about it.

No, it really wasn't, but it with a tweak here and an insertion there -- it very well could be. Or at least I could use them as an analogy to make the point.

Home pages have historically been a hotbed of contentious debate.  Because of this, they are what Steve Krug called “The First Casualty of War.”

Why are they so controversial?

Because everyone wants a piece of the action. Because organizations typically work in silos, different departments feel slighted if their discipline isn’t “adequately” represented on the home page. One would think by all the name-calling and weepy eyes that the home page is kind of a big deal.

And they’re right. The home page is – kind of – a big deal. But not for the reasons people tend to get worked up about. After all, typically, only 40% of traffic to a website comes through the home page.

But as a consequence of their inability to set boundaries and priorities, they compromise the very purpose of the page. Every piece of real estate is up for grabs. The result of all the haggling may actually, as Krug suggests, kill the home page. But unlike a typical dead thing, it doesn’t go away. Like a zombie, it is reanimated into an unrecognizable abomination of its formal self.

Read the rest of Your Home Page is a Zombie at the Click Here blog. - Cam Beck