The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Flash Tutorial, How to Track Flash in Google Analytics Using the Google Analytics for Adobe Flash Component (GAforFlash) Part 2 of 2


Flash Tutorial for Using the GAforFlash Component (AS3)In part 1 of this series I introduced the concept of tracking flash applications, why flash has been hard to track for many marketers, and I introduced the Google Analytics for Adobe Flash Component. To quickly review, the GA for flash component enables you to easily make calls directly from your ActionScript code in order to track pageviews, events, conversions, etc. in flash. It’s an important step for understanding how your flash elements contribute to the success of your website, and not just because you think it’s a killer flash app. ;-) In part 2 of my series, I will walk you through how to actually set up flash tracking using the gaforflash component (step by step in the flash authoring environment.) By the end of this tutorial, you should have a solid understanding of using the flash component and making calls to Google Analytics from within your ActionScript code. I will reference the flash movie that I created during my own testing and show the resulting Google Analytics reporting to tie it all together. So without further ado, let’s start coding. :)

Quick Disclaimer, Code Ahead:
As I mentioned in my first post, if you have some knowledge of developing flash movies and writing ActionScript code, then you should be able to follow along. If you aren’t familiar with developing in flash, grab your flash developer and possibly your web analyst and set up a working lunch. By the end of the tutorial, I’m confident you will see the power of using this technique to track your flash elements.

Visit the Google Code Project and Download the Components
First, visit the Google Code Project for Google Analytics for Flash (gaforflash). http://code.google.com/p/gaforflash/ Click the downloads tab at the top of the page and download the zipfile listed. The current version as of this blog post was v1.0.1. Once you download the zipfile, unzip the contents to a directory on your hard drive. Open the readme textfile and follow the instructions for copying the components to the proper directory in your Adobe flash folder. This will differ depending on if you are running a pc or a mac and you will be creating a new folder within the components directory where you will copy the files (the instructions tell you to create a Google folder and drop the components there). Once you copy the components into the new directory, then go ahead and launch flash. Again, make sure you follow the readme before launching flash.

The Google Code Project for GaforFlash:
The Google Code Project for GAforFlash

Determine What You Are going To Track:
To me, this is the most important step (and I bet the web analysts reading this post agree!) Mapping out what you want to track is essential to having clean reporting and a structured hierarchy. You can really have some messy reporting without working through this step… We’ll keep this example very simple to keep the amount of coding down, so here’s the scenario.

You will be adding a new flash element to a category page on your website and want to track how visitors engage the flash movie and how that flash element contributes to the success of the website. In our sample flash movie, there will be a start button, which launches the rest of the flash movie. The start button is there for a reason and you’ll learn why in a second. Once someone clicks the start button, they will be presented with two product thumbnails. The goal of our sample flash movie is to get visitors to learn more about each product and then click an email button at the bottom of the flash movie to get in touch with sales. Again, this is completely made up and simple, but we need to map this out in order to know what to track. Also, we'll track when users hover over each thumbnail and then when they click each one to reveal more information. In addition, they obviously want to track the email link at the bottom of the flash movie, since clicking the button will be a conversion in GA.

To summarize the key pageviews, events and conversions we will track:
1. A start button will trigger a pageview so you know how many people engaged the flash movie. This is so you know that the flash movie was triggered (and not just sitting on the page).
2. The two product thumbnails will trigger events when someone hovers over the thumbnail and when someone clicks them.
3. The email link at the bottom of the flash movie will trigger a pageview for when someone clicks the button. That pageview will also trigger a conversion.
4. Note: you will need to set up a conversion goal in Google Analytics for the email pageview that we trigger when visitors click the email button. This is easy to do and then will start showing up within your Goals tab in GA. You can read more about tracking goals in the GA help center. http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55515

Open Up Flash and Create the Necessary Assets
In order to work though this tutorial, you will need to create some simple flash assets (buttons). Don’t worry about how they look. The core point of this tutorial is that you learn how to use the flash component to make calls to Google Analytics and not to win design awards. ;) You will need to create a start button, a product thumbnail button, and an email button (which can be simply text if you want). Once you have quickly created each button, proceed with the rest of the tutorial.

Import the Tracking Libraries
First, make sure your current flash movie is targeting ActionScript 3. Open up the publish settings dialog box (control shift F12), click the flash tab, and use the dropdown to select an ActionScript version to target. Choose ActionScript 3. Next, you need to drag an instance of the AnalyticsLibrary Component to the stage in order to import the code libraries. Create a new layer in flash and open the components panel (control F7). You should see a category named Google (which you created earlier in this tutorial). If you don’t see the Google category, then go back to the beginning of this tutorial and follow the directions again in the readme text file that was part of the download. Click the plus sign (+) next to Google and drag the AnalyticsLibrary component to the stage. Don’t worry where you place it on the stage. It should now be present in your project library (you should also see it listed in your library. Click Control L to see your project library.) Keep in mind I’m referring to your project library, which holds all of the assets you create in your flash movie (buttons, movie clips, images, components, etc.) I’m not referring to code libraries, which we will discuss shortly.

Finding the AnalyticsLibrary Component in Flash:
Drag the AnalyticsLibrary component to the stage.

Next, create an Actions layer and select frame 1 of the timeline in that layer. Click F9 to open the Actions window (which is where you write ActionScript code). Since we are using the Analytics Library Component to make calls directly from our ActionScript 3 code, you will need to import the libraries that you will use to instantiate a tracking object and make calls to Google Analytics. If you don’t import the libraries, you will not be able to make calls to GA.

Here is what you should add to frame 1 of the actions layer:
import com.google.analytics.AnalyticsTracker;
import com.google.analytics.GATracker;
var tracker:AnalyticsTracker = new GATracker( this, "UA-111-222", "AS3", true );

A Quick Explanation of the Code:
Note, you would obviously want to add your own GA account number so the data is sent to the correct profile. i.e. Don’t keep 111-222 as the web property ID. The first two lines import the necessary code libraries and the third line of code initializes the tracking object. Keep “this” as the first parameter, which references the current display object. Enter your own GA account number for the second parameter, you can keep AS3 as the third parameter for this tutorial, and keep “true” as the fourth parameter. That sets the debug mode. When true, you will see a trace of all tracking events occurring. When false, this will not be visible. Also, you can read the gaforflash documentation to learn more about each parameter.

Making Calls From ActionScript to GA:
Now, if you create a start button that visitors have to click in order to see anything in your flash movie, then we can logically target that click as a pageview. Then we can view in GA how many people started the flash movie. That would answer one of the first questions from your CMO, right? :) So create a new layer in your flash movie called Start Button and add your button to frame 1 of this layer. To stop the flash movie from playing before someone clicks the start button, simply add a stop action on frame 5 in your Actions layer. Create new keyframe on frame 5 and enter this.stop(); as the code. Again, the intent of this tutorial is not to teach you how to use flash, but I’ll add some tips as we move along. Select the start button on the stage by clicking it once and give it an instance name of start_btn in the properties panel. You can click Control F3 to bring up the properties panel if it’s not on screen. We need to give the button an instance name in order to target it in ActionScript. If you don’t give it an instance name, your code will not work.

Creating an Instance Name in the Properties Panel:
Give your button in flash an instance name.

Now go back to frame 1 of your actions layer and open the actions window again (click F9). Below the code we first added (importing the libraries and initializing a tracking object), add the following lines of code. I will explain them in a second… You can give yourself some space by clicking enter a few times. Your code does not need to be lumped together!

//functionality for start button
start_btn.addEventListener( MouseEvent.CLICK, startExample );

function startExample( event:Event):void {
//we know that the user engaged the flash movie (they clicked start)
tracker.trackPageview("/GAFlash/Start");
play();
}

The Code Explained:
The first line is a comment, which is good programming practice. You can simply describe the code that follows. This will not be visible to anyone but you as a programmer. The second line is an event handler for the start button. It targets the instance name start_btn, which we set up earlier. This is why we needed to create an instance name. Now our code will look for a mouse event (CLICK) for the start button and then trigger the function called startExample, which I will cover in a second. Event handlers enable you to react to events in your flash movies. They are critical to creating advanced functionality in your flash applications.

The function startExample() will be called when someone clicks the start button. This function uses our tracker object to trigger the trackPageview method and then plays the main timeline in your flash movie, using the play(); action. Remember, we want the visitor to see the rest of our flash movie after clicking the start button. The trackPageview method tells Google Analytics to track a specific pageview when something happens. The page will show up in GA reporting as /GAFlash/Start in your content tab, as if someone actually visited a page on the website. Pretty cool, right? So, you’ll be able to go into GA and click the content tab and see how many times this “page” was triggered. Nice. That wasn’t so bad, was it? That was all done in less than 15 lines of code.

Tracking the Product Thumbnails:
You will use the same methodology for tracking the two product thumbnails in your flash movie. Remember, we want to know when someone clicks each thumbnail, but we’ll be adding one more event…when someone hovers over the thumbnails. You might find that people were interested enough to hover over a product, but not trigger it. If you see enough of this behavior, you might want to dig deeper to find out what’s causing it. That’s just a simple example and you should work with your web analyst to determine what to track for your specific website and flash content.

A Screenshot of the 2 Product Thumbnails for this Example:
Adding the product thumbnails in flash.

We used the trackPageview method for the start button, but we will use trackEvent for the thumbnails. Examples of events might be clicking a button, hovering over that button, visiting a specific area of a flash movie, etc. GA now provides an Event Tracking tab within your Content tab. Within the Event Tracking tab, you can view categories of events, the specific actions users took, the labels associated with those events, trending, etc. So, we’ll track two events with each product thumbnail in our flash movie. I will only cover the first thumbnail here and you can copy this process to apply event tracking to the second thumbnail.

After someone clicks the start button, you used the play(); action to play the main timeline. At frame 20 on your main timeline, create a new stop action in your actions layer. Add a new keyframe at frame 20 and open the Actions windows. Enter this.stop(); as the code. Then create a new layer for your product thumbnails and add the buttons that you created earlier in this tutorial. Note, for this example, add them to frame 1 so your code can target the button instances. You can place them off the stage (off-screen) in frame 1 so they aren't visible and then move them on-stage later in the flash movie when visitors need to see them. If they aren't on the stage in frame 1, the event handlers you create targeting these buttons won't work. Give each instance on the stage a unique instance name, like product1_btn and product2_btn. You do this by selecting each button and then entering an instance name in the properties panel. Again, we need to give them instance names in order to target them in our ActionScript code. Once you do this, go back to frame 1 of your Actions layer, click F9 to open the Actions window again and add the following code:

//functionality for product btn 1
product1_btn.addEventListener( MouseEvent.CLICK, clickProduct1 );
product1_btn.addEventListener( MouseEvent.MOUSE_OVER, hoverProduct1 );

function hoverProduct1( event:Event):void {
tracker.trackEvent("Products", "HoverProduct1");
}

function clickProduct1( event:Event):void {
tracker.trackEvent("Products", "ClickProduct1");
gotoAndStop("product1");
}

So we have two event handlers for the product1_btn. The first event handler will handle the CLICK mouse event and the second will handle the MOUSE_OVER mouse event. MOUSE_OVER is when someone hovers over the button (as you probably guessed). Checking the clickProduct1 function, you see that we are using trackEvent to send an event tracking call to Google Analytics. The two parameters are Category and Action respectively. I lumped both product buttons under the same category called “Products” and then gave specific events to each click and hover (HoverProduct1 and ClickProduct1). You will be able to drill into event categories in your GA reporting and then see specific actions, along with trending.

Important: When you set up the code for the second product button, make sure your event handlers target product2_btn versus product1_btn and that you trigger specific functions, such as clickProduct2 and hoverProduct2 versus clickProduct1 and hoverProduct1. You definitely don’t want to call the wrong functions, as this will ultimately skew your reporting or throw errors in your flash movie. i.e. Someone might click the profile 2 button, but you triggered the profile 1 tracking.

The Email Link, Our Conversion in Flash
Last, but not least, we want to track when people click the email button. We have decided that clicking this button will be a conversion for our flash movie. Create a new layer in your flash movie and add your email button to frame 1 of this layer. Select the email button on the stage by clicking it and give it an instance name of emailMe_btn. Then go back to frame 1 of your Actions layer and open the actions window (hit F9). Below the code we added earlier, add the following lines of code:

//functionality for email button, this is also our conversion
emailMe_btn.addEventListener( MouseEvent.CLICK, onButtonClick );
function onButtonClick ( event:Event ):void
{
tracker.trackPageview("/GAFlash/EmailMe");
}

OK, so when visitors click the email button, we will trigger the trackPageview method to track that click as a pageview in Google Analytics. The page will show up as /GAFlash/EmailMe in your Content tab. In addition, since this is a conversion, you can set up a conversion goal in Google Analytics targeting that page. Then conversions will show up in your Goals tab within Google Analytics. Now you can tell your CMO how many visitors are converting within your flash movie. That’s not as generic as “Sorry, we don’t know”, right? ;-)

Quickly Test and Track Your Flash Movie
In the first piece of code we added in this tutorial, we included this line:
var tracker:AnalyticsTracker = new GATracker( this, "UA-111-222", "AS3", true );

As mentioned earlier, the “true” parameter tells flash whether you want to run debug mode. If you set this to true, then you can see a trace of your calls to Google Analytics. I recommend turning this on during your testing and then when you are ready to go live, you can turn if off by setting the parameter to “false”. Go ahead and test your movie and click the start button. You should see a message when the call is made to GA, and if it was successful. Then as you interact with your product thumbnails, you will also see the calls being made. Last, as you click the email button, you should also see the call being made. If all looks good, then you can add your published flash movie to an html page and then upload the files to your website. Remember to set debug to false as mentioned earlier or else everyone viewing with your flash movie will see the trace of your calls. Then click away and thoroughly test out your flash movie, try different browsers, platforms, etc. Make sure you trigger each of the elements enough and wait for GA to show you the results in your reporting.

Enabling Debug Mode to View a Trace of Your Calls:
Visual debugging with the gaforflash component

My Working Example of Using GAforFlash
I uploaded my example of using the Google Analytics for Adobe Flash Component in case you wanted to see how it looked and worked. I know it's hard sometimes to follow along without seeing the final product.

Checking Your Google Analytics Reporting
I’m going to show you what the reporting looked like for my own example. The first thing I did was click the Content Tab in Google Analytics and then Event Tracking within that tab. I immediately could see the total number of events that took place, visits with an event, etc. {See screenshots below.} Clicking the Categories tab displayed the event categories we set up earlier, such as Products (Note, I used UserProfiles in my example versus Products so that's what you will see in the screenshots below). This category includes the actions of hovering and clicking the product thumbnails. This is why mapping out what you want to track is important. You want a clear hierarchy in your reporting. Drilling into each category, I could see the actions that took place like HoverProfile1, ClickProfile2, etc. Note, I used the word "profile" in my testing versus products. If you click the Actions tab (below categories), you will see all of your actions listed, regardless of category. We didn’t add the optional parameter for Labels so you won’t see anything there (in case you were wondering).

The Event Tracking Overview Report in Google Analytics:
Viewing the event categories in Google Analytics

The Events Category Page in Google Analytics:
Viewing the event categories in Google Analytics

The Event Actions Report in Google Analytics:
Viewing the event categories in Google Analytics

Pageviews and Conversions
Remember we wanted to know how many people started our flash movie (after clicking the start button)? Well if you go into the Content Tab and check top content, you will see the /GAFlash/Start page listed. The number of pageviews shows how many times visitors started the flash movie. In addition, you can view /GAFlash/EmailMe, which shows the number of times the email button was clicked. And since we set this up as a conversion, you can click the Goals tab and see your TrackFlash conversion listed. Drilling into that conversion goal will also reveal conversion rate. And since it’s a conversion goal, you can see conversion by traffic source, campaign, keyword, etc. That’s the benefit of setting up conversion goals… So, you might find that organic search traffic converted 10x as much as paid search, or that visitors arriving via your email marketing didn’t even trigger your flash movie, so on and so forth.

Viewing Flash Pageviews in the Top Content Report in Google Analytics:
Tracking flash pageviews in Google Analytics

Viewing a Flash Conversion in Google Analytics:
Tracking flash pageviews in Google Analytics
Summary
OK, we've definitely covered a lot in Part 2. Either your head is reeling or you're excited to use the gaforflash component in your own projects (or both!) Take your time and test our different scenarios. Work with your flash development team and your web analysts to map out how to best track your flash apps. You never know, it very well could lead to more flash application work… like if you told your CMO that 25% of the people interacting with your flash movie converted! :) Imagine if you could glean insights from your flash content versus it just being slick and pretty. And I’ll take data over pretty any day of the week. ;-)

GG

Read Part 1 of this Series on Tracking Flash in Google Analytics

Labels: , , ,

How To Track Flash In Google Analytics (GA) Using The Google Analytics For Adobe Flash Component (GAforFlash), Part 1 of 2


Tracking Flash in Google Analytics Using the GAforFlash ComponentI wanted to start this post with some quick points about flash:
* flash content can be extremely engaging.
* flash apps are a great way to create something viral.
* flash is currently used extensively on the web for everything from video to games to product demos.
* Creative Directors love flash.
* Brand Managers also love flash.
* But unfortunately, flash has been hard and confusing to track...

I apologize if you were feeling pretty good about flash until the last bullet! ;-) That is the reality, though.

Why Has Flash Been Confusing And Hard To Track?
Let’s take a quick look at why flash tracking has been an issue. First and most basic, there are many people that don’t know you can even track flash applications. That’s a tough obstacle to overcome, right? Second, the Analytics team is sometimes not involved during the planning of flash-based projects or campaigns. I’m sure some web analysts reading this post probably believe that’s an understatement! Third, you need to coordinate mechanisms for tracking flash with both flash developers and analysts. Fourth, there has been confusion about how to actually track flash even if you already have your flash developers and analysts in the same room. Last (at least for this initial list), some people will focus on the end result (conversions only) and not track the specific elements on the website that lead to the conversion. i.e. As long as people buy something or sign up, I don’t care what they do on the site. As you can probably guess, I’m not a big fan of the latter… I think the more information you can gather about how visitors interact with your website, the more you can optimize the website to increase conversion (whatever conversion is for your specific business).

Yes, You Can Track Flash
I’m here to tell you that you can track flash and you can see how visitors are interacting with your flash applications. The approach I am going to show you is a more elegant method for tracking flash than what's been used in the past. My hope is that this two part series can save you from a potentially embarrassing moment. You know, when your CMO asks how the 6 month flash development project that cost $75K, that looks incredible, is highly engaging, and wins awards is contributing to the success of the website. Unfortunately, many people run for the hills at that moment, or act like they didn’t hear the question (Chevy Chase-style). I’d hate for you to say, “We’re not actually sure Mr. CMO…” ,and I’d rather hear you say, “Absolutely, here’s detailed reporting of how visitors are engaging our flash content, as well as the tangible effects on conversion.” Yes, I want you to be the flash analytics rock star. :)

Introduction to the Google Analytics for Adobe Flash Component (GAforFlash)
The GA for flash tracking component enables you to track specific events and functionality in your flash movies and seamlessly communicate with Google Analytics for tracking. It gracefully handles any DOM issues that could cause problems in other types of flash tracking using GA. It’s an open source initiative between Google and Adobe Systems and you can find more information on the Google Code Project website. http://code.google.com/p/gaforflash/

OK, But What Is It Exactly?
There are two components you can use in flash that enable you to track events, pageviews, conversions, etc. One is a simple flash component that you can customize in the component inspector in flash and the other component involves importing the tracking libraries into your project and then making calls to GA from within your ActionScript code (AS3). I’m going to cover the second approach, since it gives you the most flexibility. And don’t get scared with the way it was explained above. It’s actually straight forward if you are comfortable working in flash.

A Quick Tip For The Code-Averse:
I’m going to walk you through my example step by step in Part 2 of my series on tracking flash in google analytics. If you have worked in flash and written some ActionScript code, I’m confident you will be able to follow along. If not, grab your flash developer and your web analyst and then schedule a working lunch. You can all walk through my example together as a team. After going through my second post, I have a feeling you will collectively brainstorm several ways to use the GA for flash component to track your flash elements, websites, and applications.

So Are You Excited To Start?
Good, then you’re ready to read my second post, which covers how to track flash in Google Analytics using the GA for flash Tracking Component.

GG

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, October 09, 2008

6 Questions You Should Ask During a Website Redesign That Can Save Your Search Engine Rankings


Questions to ask during your next website redesign or update.If you are currently involved in or are planning a website redesign, then I’m sure the title of my post caught your attention. I’m not one to strike fear into people about SEO, but in my experience, website redesigns (or even website updates) have a knack for hurting Natural Search rankings. It actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it. During website redesigns, many companies try to make noticeable and impactful changes. You might add more interactivity and rich media, you might use the latest coding techniques to enhance the user experience, you might remove older webpages that you don’t believe need to be on the site anymore, you might change your URL structure, so on and so forth. But, and this a significant but, if you don’t look at your redesign through the lens of SEO, then you have a distinct possibility of hurting your search rankings. Actually, you can crush your rankings if you aren’t careful.

So, I decided to write this post to help you stand out as the person that saves the day. The person that flies in with SEO on your chest, swoops down and identifies SEO issues with your redesign and then corrects a potential disaster in the making.
--BTW, these are actual SEO scenarios I have come across. Also, there are many more issues that can pop up, but I decided to focus on these 6 for the post. And don’t laugh when you read each item, this might be happening as part of your next redesign. :-)

Without further ado, here are 6 questions you can ask during your website redesign that can save your search engine rankings:

1. Are we using Flash in the right ways and only when we need its unique power?
If you know me at all, then you know I’m a big advocate of Flash (having developed with it for over 10 years). But, replacing HTML content with full Flash pages or a significant amount of Flash can really cause problems SEO-wise. Run a cache command on a full flash webpage and you’ll see the problem quickly. That is unless you want to rank for “big blank white space”! ;-) If you do add more flash content to your site, then definitely utilize SWFObject 2.0 to provide search engine friendly alternative HTML content. I’ve written an in depth post about how to use SWFObject 2.0 here. And for those of you that are saying, “We’ll be ok since the engines are now crawling flash...”, please read my other post about Google crawling flash. There are several variables that can impact how Google and Yahoo crawl your swfs (the two engines working with Adobe now). My tests and recommendations were backed up this week at SMX during the Flash and SEO session with Adobe, Google, Yahoo, and Live Search. What’s my rule of thumb with Flash? Use it where you need the unique power of Flash. Do not, I repeat, do not use Flash for your entire site or for entire pages of content. Use it for webpage elements only.

2. Did we analyze the Search Equity of webpages marked for removal?
If you will be removing content from your site, make sure you determine the Search Equity of your pages. Your current rankings are heavily based on the quality and relevance of your inbound links. You’ve worked hard to build those links, so why would you throw them away?? This happens all too often when you don’t take into account which pages are important from a Natural Search standpoint.

Campaign landing pages are a great example of this. Let’s say you launch a new product and use a wide range of marketing channels to promote the new product and landing page. When the campaign ends, you decide the page isn’t needed anymore, so you just delete it. But hold on… if you had taken a look at the Search Equity of the page, you would have realized it built more than 5000 links for you, mostly from industry-relevant blogs and websites! It earned a Pagerank 5 and you just threw away all of those links by deleting the page! I hate when I see this happen. Do your homework before deleting pages.

So what should you do? You should either keep the page as-is or 301 redirect the page to a corresponding page on your site. That might be the product category page or a similar product page. 301 redirects are the proper way to pass link power from one URL to another. It’s a permanent redirect and tells the engines that Page A has moved permanently to a new location (Page B). Tip: Do not use 302 redirects when you remove a page. 302's are temporary redirects and are not search engine friendly. I can write an entire post about redirects, but just remember that 301’s are good and 302’s are bad.

3. Are we changing our URL structure during the redesign? If we are, did we make sure the engines know where the old pages will reside on the new website?
Similar to the bullet above, be careful if you decide to change your URL structure. If you change a URL from abcd.asp to efgh.asp, the engines will look at the page as NEW, even though the same content has been around for a long time (and has built up links and search power). Basically, the new page won’t automatically inherit the search power of the original page. Now imagine the impact if you change thousands of URL’s, tens of thousands of URL’s or even more?

For example, let’s say you decide to include target keywords in your URL’s, such as a product name and category. The old URL’s that have built up a nice amount of Search Equity will all be changed to your new taxonomy during the redesign. That’s great, but again, all of that search power will unfortunately be lost unless you tell the engines where the new URL’s are. Based on what I mentioned above, you can probably guess that it’s Mr. 301 redirect to the rescue again. You can redirect your old URL’s to your new ones and safely pass their link power. I’ve seen this overlooked plenty of times, and again, the results can be devastating.

4. Are we using Vanity URL’s or custom domains for our campaign microsites?
Note, this doesn't fall under something that will crush your current rankings, but it sure can impact how your site builds more power based on your hard work.

Let's say you have a new marketing campaign going live soon and someone on your team wants to register a bunch of new domain names for the microsite. You know, something like www.TheBestDarnBagelOnThePlanet.com or something catchy like that… Here’s the problem. It will be a brand new domain that needs to build its own search power versus inheriting the trust from your core domain, which is why I’m a bigger fan of using subdirectories, such as yourdomain.com/campaigntitle. Then your campaign will leverage your trusted domain, rank faster, and help build links for your trusted domain. It’s a win-win.

5. Are we replacing keyword-rich text content with images or Flash in order to achieve an aesthetic advantage? AKA, we want things to look pretty…
Your design team went nuts with the redesign, the new site looks incredible, and it uses all sorts of images and flash content in place of text content. You know, because the standard browser fonts aren’t sexy enough. I get that, I really do... but the SEO impact can be serious. For example, taking keyword rich text content on each page and throwing it into images to get a desired look. Taking your text navigation and placing it in Flash or in images. Again, this happens all too often. Text links are still the best way to get the bots to all of your content. And, using descriptive anchor text, you can tell the engines what they will find at the other end of the link. For example, using a text link with the anchor text Adidas Running Sneakers is much more powerful than using an image that holds the text Adidas Running Sneakers. Even if you use alt text with that image, it’s a much better idea to use descriptive text links. And, if you use Flash, then you’ll run into even more problems, which is why you should use SWFObject to provide an HTML version of your navigation. And for those of you who are saying, “I’ll just provide an xml sitemap to the engines and I’ll be fine”, keep in mind that the optimal way to get the engines to your pages is via a traditional crawl (as noted by a Google engineer at SMX this week). :) XML Sitemaps are a great supplement and help with more than just content discovery, but they don’t replace text links and navigation as the best way to get the bots to your website pages.

6. Did we do such as a good job at coding that we essentially removed key pages from our website? i.e. Where one page now handles the equivalent of 10 pages. The URL doesn’t change, but the content does big time!
Your developers did a great job of streamlining your code. They did such as good job, that 10 pages of content can now be handled dynamically by just one page. That one page posts back to itself and dynamically provides the content of 10 pages from your old site. Code-wise this might be outstanding, SEO-wise, it’s a nightmare. Beyond removing 10 pages from your site that might have built up Search Equity, you cannot optimize a page for each of the 10 items that will be presented on the fly. You are going to have a heck of a time getting those products to rank if they cannot be crawled! In addition, you cannot optimize the typical HTML elements like you normally would. For example, the title tag, h1, h2, body copy, inline links, etc. since the information will be loaded dynamically. Coming from a development background, I totally understand why you would want to code this way. However, from an SEO-standpoint, it can cause all sorts of issues. I would make sure you can present each of the 10 pieces of content in an optimized webpage with a distinct URL. You can still use code to streamline the process and delivery, but try not to handle everything at one URL.

A quick example would be a category page that dynamically presents each product within that category. This might happen when you click each product image (and this all happens at at one URL). The engines would only see one URL and crawl the initial content. Not good.

So there you have it, 6 ways you can save the day during your next website redesign or website update. Keep in mind that you will probably have a challenging time when you first introduce these questions. There will be pushback and requests to back up your recommendations. But once you do, and everyone involved starts to understand SEO best practices, the problems I mentioned will be less likely to occur. If they are less likely to occur, then you have a better chance of keeping your organic search power. If you keep your organic search power then you can keep driving natural search traffic to your site. If you keep driving natural search traffic to your site, then you can reap the benefits of that traffic, which can be increased exposure, customers, and revenue.

So don't be afraid to speak up!

GG

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Google Indexes Flash Content (SWF), Some Initial Questions, Concerns, and Findings


Google Indexing Flash Content (SWF)On June 30th, Google announced that it was working with Adobe in order to index flash content and thousands of flash developers around the globe rejoiced! Having developed countless flash applications, I fully know the impact of making sure flash content is crawlable for SEO. Until now, many developers were faced with a big question from marketers (and that question typically came at the end of the project), “How do I make sure our flash content can be indexed by Google?” This was never a comfortable situation for flash developers… Needless to say, the news that Google will index flash content is a big step forward for content providers, marketers, and for the engines. That said, I did have some serious questions and concerns after I heard the news. I understand flash development extremely well and I’m neck deep in SEO, so it was natural for me to start thinking about this from both perspectives.

Over the past few days, I’ve been testing several flash movies and applications across my sites to see how Google has indexed them. Below, I have listed some concerns and questions, based on my experience with flash, SEO, and my research and testing over the past few days. Keep in mind, this is by no means final…I plan to write more about how the search engines index flash content over the next few months. I know this is a dynamic area for search engine optimization.

Questions, Concerns, and Findings About Google Indexing Flash Content:

1. Indexing the Core SWF File (the parent swf)
Based on what Google explained in their communication, it will index the core swf file on the page, but not associate dynamically loaded files (other swfs, xml, etc.) with the original flash file. Now, there are many reasons to load content dynamically and most professional flash developers are using these techniques to keep their content fresh and to maintain a small file size. In addition, Google said that it won’t index FLV files (which are typically loaded on demand into a parent swf), because they don’t contain any text content.

My concern is that best practices may not be used so marketers can get all of their text content into one swf. In addition, loading xml data to keep your content up to date (such as pulling the latest product information from a database) won’t be associated with the parent swf (from an SEO standpoint). So, if developers start to add more and more content into the parent SWF file, then file size can become a real issue. I know bandwidth isn’t as big of a problem as in the past, but the proper way to code multi-section flash applications is to load additional SWF files into the parent SWF. So, get ready for more, “Loading Site” animations. :) I can only hope that Google and the other engines decide to associate externally loaded content with the parent SWF file.

2. Black Hat SEO’s Must Be Chomping at the Bit!
OK, this one hit me right away and concerns me greatly. As a flash developer, you typically display text content on the fly, based on how the user is interacting with your flash movie. For example, you might have movieclips in Flash that only display when someone triggers that feature in your application (i.e. to view the latest products you have). These movieclips aren’t visible until needed. I think you can see where I am going with this… In my tests, Google indexed all of the text content in the parent SWF, including text in movieclips that may never be triggered.

Now, the fact that Google indexed all of the text content is great for white hat SEO’s, but could be extremely dangerous in the hands of a black hat SEO. I fear that some may include dozens of movieclips stuffed with keywords in order to get those terms indexed by Google. In flash, you can basically add code to any object at your disposal. So how will Google decipher what’s real text content versus text content that’s there to game their algorithm? In HTML, you pretty much know if something is hidden. In flash, how do you know if something is really hidden? For example, let’s say you had a product image and some text show up when someone rolled over a small button in the corner of the screen. Let’s say 2% of users realize it’s a button and trigger it. Is that wrong? Is that against the rules? Take that example to the nth degree and you can see why I’m concerned. I’m eager to see how Google combats black hat tactics now that flash is being indexed. And more importantly, will you (as a white hat SEO) become collateral damage if they tweak the algorithm to handle this??

3. Obfuscation and SWFEncrypt
Many flash developers use tools like SWFEncrypt to obfuscate their code. I know, horrible word, right? Try saying that 5 times really fast. :) Obfuscation encrypts your code so other programmers can’t steal it. It bumps up your file size somewhat, but helps you protect what you’ve spent hours writing! My initial concern was that if Google decompiles your flash movies to find text content, what will it do with the your obfuscated code? But I’ll stop there, as Google explained that it won’t be decompiling flash movies. I was happy to hear this… So, programmers of the world, keep obfuscating! ;-)

4. Flash Publishing, Choose your method wisely…
There are several ways to output your flash movie (SWF) in your HTML code. In a nutshell, you can use standard object and embed tags, you can use JavaScript to write out your flash movie, or you can use SWFObject to elegantly provide flash content while providing alternative HTML content. SWFObject has a few different versions that you can use, and one relies on JavaScript and the other is a standards-compliant version that doesn’t rely on JavaScript. So, how will all of these publishing methods impact your flash indexation? I definitely recommend testing each of these methods out on your own sites to gauge their effectiveness. However, Google has already said that it won’t execute some types of JavaScript. So, as you can guess, using JavaScript to publish your flash content probably isn’t the best way to go at this stage. :) That would include SWFObject 1.0 and 1.5 (for now). Google said that it is working on an update for SWFObject, but does that include 1.0 and 1.5? That said, SWFObject 2.0 using static publishing (standards-compliant) doesn’t rely on JavaScript and I’ve noticed some strong results indexation-wise.

This is such a fluid situation, that you should test out your own flash content on your own sites to see how they get indexed. In addition, keep up to date on the latest changes Google is making regarding indexing flash content. My guess is that the changes will be relatively frequent as Google learns more.

My Flash SEO Advice
So there you have it, 4 concerns and observations that I’ve had since the news hit that Google will be indexing flash content. I have listed some quick advice below:

* Don’t assume Google will automatically index all of your flash content. That would be a big mistake, as there are numerous factors involved with how you code and publish your flash movies.
* Don’t run and create an all-flash site! Please don’t do this for numerous reasons… ;-)
* Test your flash content on several sites that you control, using various publishing methods. This is the best way to gauge how your flash content is being indexed.
* Keep up to speed on how Google changes its algorithm with regard to flash content. The techniques that you use today may need to be tweaked tomorrow. That’s the just the nature of SEO.

Quick Summary
As I wrap up this post, I wanted to reemphasize that this is a big step forward for Google and the other engines, Adobe, and countless content producers across the world. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time and I’m excited to track the progress of flash indexation. If you have discovered any interesting results, please feel free to include them here as a comment. I know I’ll be writing new posts about this topic as time goes on, based on my own testing. Now off to code and test some more flash movies! :)

GG

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Using SWFObject 2.0 to Embed Flash While Providing SEO Friendly Alternative Content


Providing Alt Content for Flash Using SWFObject 2.0
Or is it friendly? More on that later... While mapping out and building your website content, chances are you have come across a situation where you really want to utilize flash versus html content (for some functionality). Although flash can provide an extraordinary level of interactivity, the problem (SEO-wise), is that flash content cannot be indexed by the search engines (at least for now). So, you might find yourself wanting to use flash for a given task, but you might also be struggling with the lack of search engine friendly content. I have been developing with flash for over 10 years and I also work extensively on Natural Search projects, so believe me, I feel your pain. :-) I wanted to write this post to introduce and explain SWFObject 2.0, the latest and greatest version of the popular flash replacement library.

A Quick SWFObject Disclaimer:
Unfortunately, I (or anyone else for that matter) cannot tell you that using SWFObject is entirely search engine safe. In a perfect world, providing an accurate, alternative html version of your flash content is extremely beneficial. I’m sure that Google and the other engines would have no problem with developers using it that way. But…and it’s an important but, there will always be those who exploit something like SWFObject for cloaking.

Let’s define cloaking: Providing one version of your content to the search engines while providing a different version of content to visitors. i.e. Altered content meant to trick the search engines.

You can easily see why this could be problematic for the search engines… There has been much debate about whether SWFObject is search engine safe or not, and I cannot give you the answer. That said, I think if you utilize SWFObject to provide alternative content that directly reflects your flash content, then you should be fine. I will show you how to do this later in the post.

SWFObject 2.0 Versus SWFObject 1.5
So what’s the difference between SWFObject 2.0 and SWFObject 1.5? Well, 2.0 is the latest version of the package (thank you Captain Obvious), which enables you to provide alt html content for your flash content using standards compliant markup. Version 2.0 will replace 1.5 and other forms of flash replacement like the flash player detection kit and UFO. That said, SWFObject 1.5 is still a great solution and you may choose to keep using 1.5 until you feel comfortable using 2.0. However, you will probably want to use version 2.0 based the benefits of the new process. :)

Static Versus Dynamic Publishing
There are 2 ways to use SWFObject 2.0, providing alt content using standards compliant markup (called static publishing) and inserting alt content using unobtrusive JavaScript (called dynamic publishing). Using dynamic publishing with SWFObject 2.0 is very similar to using SWFObject 1.5, where using static publishing is the new process. In this post, I will cover the standards compliant way (static) to use SWFObject 2.0 to embed flash content in your webpage. Let’s get started.

Download SWFObject 2.0
First, visit the Google Code Project for SWFObject 2.0 and download the zipfile containing the files you need. (FYI, you should download swfobject_2_0_rc2.zip). You can also download the official documentation and always have it handy. Extract the files to your hard drive and then copy the contents to your working directory. That way, you always have the original as a backup….good lesson from my programming days. :) View the screenshot below to see which files and folders your swobject2 directory should contain.

Folder Contents for SWFObject 2.0

SWFObject and Static Publishing
Let’s implement the standards compliant version of the package to replace your flash content with alternative html content. The alt content should directly reflect the content contained in your flash movie.

1. In your swfobject2 directory, open the index.htm file, which uses the static version of swfobject 2.0. Use this file as the template for your own implementation.
2. Look at the source code to follow along. In the head of the document, you will notice the following line of code:

Adding the SWFObject JavaScript Library to Your HTML Document

3. This line of code adds the SWFObject JavaScript library in your document. Including this code is a necessary component for the package to work properly.
4. Next, let’s hop down to the html portion of the document. Note, I have changed the code below to reflect my own flash movie and alt content. You can still easily follow along, though:

Click the image below to view a larger version:
The Nested Object Tags When Using the SWFObject Static Method

5. The code above includes a series of nested object tags, which enables the SWFObject package to provide cross-browser support. When adding your own content, you will need to replace a few items:

a. Replace “swfobject2-exampleb.swf” with the name of your actual flash movie. Note, the swfobject download includes a file named “test.swf”, so if you want to run the page using that flash movie, you should be good to go.

b. Change the width and height to match your actual flash movie’s width and height. My flash movie is 400x300.

6. About half way down the page, you will find a div tag for your alternate content. This is where you will provide alternate html content that directly reflects your flash movie's content. Feel free to use any html tags here to provide your alternative content. As you can see in the image below, I described my flash movie content in HTML.

Click the image below to view a larger version:
Providing Alternative HTML Content for Your Flash Movie

7. Let’s move back to the head of your html document for a second. You will need to register your flash movie with the swfobject library. Note, my page uses "exampleID" for the outer object tag id. You can use whatever you like or just keep the current id. You will see the following lines of code:

Register Your Flash Movie with SWFObject

8. The three parameters contain:

a.The id of the outermost object tag (myID). Note, you can change the id of the outermost object tag, but it must match what you enter in the JavaScript code when you register your flash movie. So, if you entered “flashID” instead, then you would need to enter “flashID” when you register your flash movie in the code above. Again, I used "exampleID".

b. The version of the flash plugin you are targeting (9.0.0), and

c. The name of the express install flash movie (if you wish to use one). Note, express install will display a standard dialog box that will enable your visitors without the required plugin version to download the flash plugin. I have noticed some buggy behavior with the express install functionality, so I just provide my own link to the flash plugin. Therefore, I enter false as the third parameter.

SWFObject 2.0 Code Generator
That’s all you need to do in order to use the standards compliant version of SWFObject 2.0. I know that opening the hood and working with code directly can be tough for non-programmers, so the creators of SWFObject have been nice enough to create a code generator for you. I didn’t want to mention it until after you went through the code so you can get a good feel for how this works. :-) I know…tough love! You can download the generator from the Google Code Project. The generator presents a form where you can enter the necessary information about your projects and then it generates the right code for you. I actually find it easier to drill into the code, but that’s what I’m used to!

A Working Example
Here is a simple example of using the standards compliant version of SWFObject 2.0. After viewing the flash content, you can click View, and then Source in your browser to see the alt content in the html. I also uploaded a webpage where I am forcing the browser to show you the alt content. This is what visitors would see if they didn't have the required version of the flash plugin. In addition, the static version of SWFObject 2.0 doesn’t rely on JavaScript to provide your flash content, so your visitors will see your flash content even if they have JavaScript turned off. A nice benefit. When you look at the source code, you can see an additional parameter I added for turning off the standard right click menu. You need to add this in two locations (both object tags) as you’ll see in the code. You can use a number of flash parameters and the SWFObject 2.0 documentation lists them for you. i.e. menu, loop, quality, wmode, etc.

Adding parameters within your object tags.

Click to Activate this Control
I know…Ugh. I won’t go into how or why Internet Explorer 6+ users must click to activate a flash movie, but it’s extremely annoying (especially for flash developers that work hard on creating killer flash movies!) Unfortunately, the standards compliant version of SWFObject 2.0 doesn’t alleviate this problem, where the dynamic versions of both SWFObject 2.0 and 1.5 alleviate the problem! Go figure. If you are looking to get rid of the dreaded “click to activate” message, then use the dynamic version of SWFObject 2.0 or 1.5 (not covered in this post). I may detail using the dynamic version of SWFObject in future posts, but this post is already getting too long! ;-)

Summary
OK, that was a lot to cover, but now you have a way to provide alternative html content for your killer flash content…and the search engines can index the alt content to boot! Again, nobody can guarantee that this is 100% search engine safe…thanks to some bad people who exploit this functionality. That said, if your alt content directly reflects your flash content, you should be ok. Used properly, this enhances the accessibility and usability of your site and will enable your killer content to be found by the search engines.

Just don’t go nuts when providing your alt content… :)

GG

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

WebmarkTrium™ Hits Market - Smart-Pill That Enhances Web Marketing Knowledge




WebmarkTrium™
Natural Web Marketing Enhancer

The easiest way to enhance your web marketing knowledge!

Need an edge at work? Want to become a web marketing guru fast? Easily digestible WebmarkTrium™ pills make it a reality!




Instantly increase your knowledge of:

* Search Engine Optimization
* Paid Search
* Social Media
* Word of Mouth Marketing
* Buzz Marketing
* Conversion
* Web Analytics
* Flash and Rich Media
* and dozens of other web technologies!

Please view important safety information before taking WebmarkTrium™.

4 out of 5 doctors agree that taking WebmarkTrium™ along with hiring a highly skilled web marketing consultant can lead to increased profits, likelihood of promotion, increased athleticism, and a longer, happier life.


WebmarkTrium™ is 100% Lactose-Free
and is the First Organic Web Marketing Enhancer
WebmarkTrium™ is Manufactured Without the Use of Animal Testing

-----------------------------------

Important Safety Information:

1. The most common side effects of WebmarkTrium™ are bloating, wheezing, cramping, and dry mouth. Less commonly occurring reactions include blurred vision, double vision, and severe headache.

2. WebmarkTrium™ may lead to excessive use of banner advertising, including animations that take over a visitor’s entire screen. Please see weatherchannel.com for examples.

3. Some patients saw decreased search engine rankings, increased search engine penalties, and even search engine banishment in severe cases. Please see Google's Webmaster Guidelines for more information.

4. In some instances, patients experienced hot flashes, profuse sweating, and severe chest pain, especially when taken in conjunction with decreased organic search rankings (Please reference item #3 above).

5. Some delusional behavior may occur, such as believing that Social Media alone will make or break your business. If this occurs, drink 8 tall glasses of water, throw out WebmarkTrium™, and read professional web marketing blogs until symptoms subside. Then reference this primer on SMO for more information.

6. If WebmarkTrium™ is taken on an empty stomach, it may cause excessive frequency of email blasts with poorly crafted subject lines, lack of text content, and ridiculously bad offers. In some cases, abysmal Open, Click Through, and Conversion rates were seen in patients who refuse to scrub their lists.

7. In aggressive marketers, WebmarkTrium™ has been known to cause hostile and frequent spamming of social media sites, which may cause retaliation in the form of attacks on the patient’s website. WebmarkTrium™ is not responsible for server downtime, negative blog posts, or threats from social media users (especially digg users).

8. WebmarkTrium™ may cause extreme nervousness and jitters, especially when accompanied by executive team meetings where patients are required to explain web marketing results. We recommend breathing into a paper bag, drinking exorbitant amounts of green tea, and doing yoga prior to the meeting. If all else fails, try telling jokes in order to deflect any severe criticism and/or termination.

9. Patients may experience feelings of desperation, which may lead to skewed web analytics reporting, especially when reports are generated after failed email campaigns. (Please reference item #6 above.)

10. WebmarkTrium™ has been known to cause duplicate content issues, temporary redirects, extreme use of session variables, and cloaking, especially when taken while implementing website redesigns.

11. Your doctor may choose to start you on lower doses of WebmarkTrium™ if there is a history of unethical use of Word of Mouth Marketing, including paying others to buzz about your products, not revealing the relationship, or in severe cases, faking your own identity and blogging about your own products in a hope that it will drive sales. WebmarkTrium™ may enhance the feeling to conduct unethical WOM.

12. May lead to decreased quality scores, low ROI, and increased click fraud in patients that began the use of WebmarkTrium™ prior to understanding how paid search actually works.

13. Taking WebmarkTrium™ while visiting YouTube may result in the launch of dreadful web video campaigns, shot by a “buddy you know”, with no script, bad actors, horrible lighting, bad audio, shaky footage, and the use of copyrighted music. In some cases, lawsuits follow quickly and aggressively.

14. WebmarkTrium™ may cause some patients to hire agencies based solely on name versus skill-set and actual results.

15. The combination of caffeine and WebmarkTrium™ may cause sleeplessness and fatigue, primarily after launching poorly crafted web marketing campaigns. This was followed by excessive nail biting, fainting, and bouts of nausea.

16. WebmarkTrium™ may also lead to a strong denial that a patient’s products and pricing are actually competitive when all information collected by analysts point to a bad business model and a sinking business.

17. If a patient is new to web marketing and doesn’t understand blogging, WebmarkTrium™ may lead to anonymous blog posts, the faking of identity (infiltration), blog spamming, and other naughty things people shouldn’t do.

18. In “flavor of the month” patients, WebmarkTrium™ may lead to allocation of budget and resources to web video campaign of dancing dog with product dangling from collar. We are not responsible for web video campaigns that tank, injury to animals as the result of WebmarkTrium™, or for customer backlash. Patients are on their own if this occurs…

19. In clinical studies, no difference was seen in patients taking WebmarkTrium™ versus placebo.

20. We cannot guarantee that WebmarkTrium™ will actually increase your web marketing knowledge.

21. OK, don’t use WebmarkTrium™.


I'm Glenn Gabe and I approved this message.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Flash Video Marketing - Review the Super Bowl Commercials on AOL Sports


Flash Video Marketing and Reviewing the Best Super Bowl Commercials
The Ingredients:
2 parts Flash Video Marketing
1 part Visitor Participation
1 part Viral Marketing
1 part User Generated Content -- for the user generated ads...
--We recommend adding one of the Most Watched Super Bowls Ever

Recipe Yields:
A brilliant web marketing idea that I'm about to explain...

Everyone loves the super bowl commercials, but I'm not going to review them here. Don't get me wrong, I love them too, but I'm actually going to review a mechanism for reviewing the super bowl commercials online... What does that actually mean? Read on.

AOL Sports - A Flash Video Environment for Watching the Super Bowl Ads:
As I signed into IM on Monday morning, I was hit with an advertisement that I just couldn't resist. "Which ads were the best? Tell us at AOL.com!" OK, so I clicked through and visited one of the best uses of flash video that I have seen recently. AOL Sports provides a flash-based environment for reviewing all of the super bowl ads, broken down by quarter. Then, you can post your comments by ad, and vote for your favorites. In addition, they provide an easy mechanism for using IM or email to send a link to your friends and family.

So, AOL Sports combined:
* Flash Video - one of the hottest ways to tap into the viral nature of the web and to provide entertaining content so visitors stay longer
* Visitor Participation - enabling visitors to comment and vote on their favorite super bowl commercials
* Viral Marketing - enabling visitors to easily pass the link around via IM or email
* Interactive Environment - AOL made the site easy to use so you don't need to be a web geek to figure out how to watch, vote, and comment!

And of course, AOL promoted their other features and segments, such as fantasy baseball, fantasy racing, and their AOL sports website and brand.

And my favorite ad?
There were several I liked, such as the Bud Light Face Slap, the Sierra Mist Combover, and the Fedex Moon Office, but I must admit that the user generated commercial for Doritos simply titled The Crash was my favorite.

A few reasons why:
* It was user generated --take that, big time creative directors! :-0
* I remembered it after the super bowl was over and it left a positive memory in my mind.
* I remembered the brand, which many super bowl commercials don't achieve...
* Did I mention it was user generated?? Good job Dale from NC!

GG

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

YouTube and Video Marketing - Glenn Gabe On Making An Impact The Web 2.0 Way




As many of you know, I heavily focus on Rich Media Marketing, especially the use of video marketing to support online campaigns. I'm also confident that most of you have heard of Youtube! :-) I'm in the middle of a large Buzz Marketing campaign right now and as part of our marketing efforts, we uploaded a video trailer of the campaign to the major web 2.0 sites for user-generated video. I thought I would write a post about it to share some of my findings.

YouTube (and web 2.0 sites like it) are powerful mechanisms for viral marketing. That said, you still need eyeballs viewing your video clip and it's getting harder to accomplish as more people are adding content! I'm sure everyone has experienced someone forwarding a YouTube video via email, or watched a YouTube video in a blog. My guess is that the video was ridiculously funny or disturbing...you know something that grabs your attention. That leads to the question, "Can YouTube (or sites like it) really help promote your marketing campaign? Will people watch it, like it, and pass it on?"

I refer to YouTube frequently in this post, but there are several user-generated sites for video like DailyMotion, Google Video, Yahoo Video, etc. My question obviously applies to these other sites as well.

Let's get back on track...We launched a Buzz Campaign last week that uses my video marketing platform (Heighten) as the platform for the campaign. Visitors can watch video-based clues over a certain time period to try and win a prize worth $4000. As part of the campaign, I edited a video trailer that was uploaded to the top web 2.0 video sites. Also, we provided a way to download the trailer from the campaign website.

So, what are the results? Which site or mechanism works best?

Here is a quick rundown:

YouTube - 28% of the views
Our Downloadable Trailer (on the Campaign Website) - 27%
Daily Motion - 26% of the views
Google Video - 13% of the views
Yahoo Video - 5% of the views

So it seems that YouTube is the winner (at least for our campaign) and that providing a downloadable video trailer on our campaign website was a smart move. The hope of course, is that the people that downloaded the trailer passed it around via email (we kept the file-size down to under 4MB). And of course we want the web 2.0 sites to fuel some viral marketing with the ease of their forwarding process or the ability to post the video elsewhere via copy and paste.

It should be interesting to see the final numbers for our online marketing efforts when the campaign is done. What I can tell you is that our online marketing mix is resulting in a high level of website activity... For example, yesterday's activity just doubled our best day of the campaign...

GG

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Monday, August 14, 2006

Too Slick for Search?



First, a disclaimer: I am a huge advocate of using Rich Media to sell products and services, I love developing flash-based, interactive solutions for my clients, and I have even developed my own Rich Media products, heck, I'm Mr. Rich Media! That said, I have spent an enormous amount of time over the past two years working on search marketing initiatives (in conjunction with my Rich Media solutions). I know the power of Rich Media Marketing, but I also know the power of Search Engine Optimization. Now that I've got that off my chest, let's move on to my post!

When you need to build an interactive and engaging environment on the web, there is nothing better than flash. I started using flash 9 years ago, when it was a fledgling vector button program for Director, so I've had the ability to watch flash grow, and grow, and grow into the Object Oriented environment it is now... The problem with flash is that it cannot be indexed by the search engines. Go ahead and run a cache command in Google on a full flash site, and then click "click here for cached text only", and you will probably see a blank screen. Needless to say, this isn't good if you want people to find you via search. So, what can you do if there is definitely a need for using flash, but you also want the site to rank in the search engines? The answer lies in creating a hybrid site that uses flash elements, but within an html structure.

Here's an example...One of my clients absolutely needed a slick, eye-grabbing site that promoted their consumer goods product. The site needed to be engaging, but it also needed the ability to educate visitors and provide value added content that would help them understand the core benefits of the product. This was a perfect situation for developing a hybrid website. The core site is an html layout, that provides areas for html text. There is also a text navigation (which provides links to each webpage on the site using descriptive text.) The focus area of each section was developed in flash and provides highly interactive ways to get at more information. For example, you can roll over the product images to trigger a description, testimonials, and research from the industry. Forward to a friend was also built into each section. So, I used flash and html where both would be most powerful. The end-result is a highly engaging hybrid site that also ranks well in the search engines.

I'm all for creating ultra-creative solutions that engage your visitors, but you better believe that I want those same visitors to be able to find you on Google... In my experience, creating a hybrid website using both Flash and html works extremely well.

So, if you want to use Flash, but still rank in the engines, keep these pointers in mind:

* Don't develop full flash sites (without areas for html) If you need the power of flash, create a hybrid site so you can still add html content
* Don't use a flash navigation...always use a text navigation and use descriptive text
* And definitely do not develop a flash site that mimics an html site...then you are completely losing out on the benefits of both methods...

My final words...go ahead and craft highly engaging flash environments, but make sure you leave ample space for html text. Your clients will appreciate it, especially when they get thousands of incremental visitors each month from Google!

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How RICH is Rich Media?


{This is the first post in a series of posts that I will be writing on Rich Media and its impact on conversion, sales, and revenue. Check back each week for another post!}


For those of you new to my blog, I have been developing Rich Media-based solutions for 11 years ...starting when CD-Roms were a hotter topic than anything Internet-based! Yes, I feel old even though I'm only 34! When presenting my work to potential clients, I always get the reaction, "Wow, your solutions look robust, but how are they affecting conversion, sales, and revenue??" Great question and one I thought I would begin to address in this post.

Let's take a step back for a second, I developed Heighten Marketing Technology™ in 2003, a video-based e-Marketing platform that enables you to provide flash video solutions that incorporate real-time reporting, connection detection, and forward to a friend functionality. Heighten is a great solution that has been used extensively by my clients for selling their products and services online. Why do I bring this up? Well, Heighten has given me incredible data when it comes to Rich Media and its impact on performance.

In the industry, everyone is finally on board with using web video...it took a few years, but we finally have critical mass. With all of the web video you see online, how much of it is actually helping companies earn money??

So, does Rich Media actually help increase conversion, sales, and revenue? I believe the answer lies in the application of Rich Media... For example, showcasing a product using short video segments based on each feature is much different than providing a service demo using narration, which is also different than marketing a high priced item in an online auction using streaming video. You need Rich Media Brainpower that understands the business at hand, understands the power and limitations of each technology, and bases your core marketing strategy on real experience. How many of us have seen (or tried to see) a video-based website that wouldn't load, or only loaded 20 seconds of a clip only to gasp for breath?? Which brings me to my first formula and it's a doozy:

# of visitors who cannot view your website * average sale price = $0.

Pretty simple, huh? Now go tell your CEO that this is what happened when you hired a few college grads to develop your latest campaign! ;-) The Rich Media answer lies in how you apply it in your online marketing campaigns. Each solution is different... each business is different... and you need to build strategies that are flexible, use the power of Rich Media correctly, and that always tie back to the end goal...conversion, sales, and revenue!

Next week I will delve deeper into this subject so please check back. Now go and visit youtube.com to watch an eight year old spilling spaghetti on his kid sister's head! :-)

Labels: , ,