RepEquity® Blog: Digital Brand Management Distilled

Accessibility: Are You Excluding Potential Customers?

REQ Blog | Website Accessibility

When developing a website or online campaign, one often-overlooked consideration is accessibility. In broad terms, accessibility means making the information and services on a website available to individuals with physical and/or mental disabilities.

A Brief Background

Just as businesses with physical locations are encouraged (and in many cases required) to make their facilities accessible through amenities such as wheelchair ramps, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act outlines standards for the accessibility of digital information. Some of the more common concerns for web accessibility include making sure that a website is navigable by individuals with impaired vision, hearing, reading speed or comprehension, or who cannot operate a mouse or keyboard.

As a law, Section 508 only applies to government agencies, but an ever-increasing number of private organizations are choosing to follow the guidelines set forth therein. Several large corporations, including Target and Netflix, have even been successfully sued for having websites that were inaccessible to those with disabilities.

Accessibility in Practice

Making a website accessible isn’t as daunting as it might initially seem. When creating an accessible website, designers should keep in mind font size and color contrast, and developers should use correct markup to ensure that any information that is conveyed through visual cues such as color or layout is also discernable in another way (for instance, by using proper <h> tags for headings and alternative text for images). Another critical feature of any accessible website is consistent navigation and the ability to skip past said navigation using only a keyboard.

Accessibility also affects content. The U.S. government aims to keep all written content at or below an eighth-grade reading level to ensure its comprehensibility to the broadest audience. Also, any content with an automated time limit (such as a rotating carousel or a form that times out after a certain amount of time) may be inaccessible to individuals with mental impairments. Finally, video or audio media on an accessible site should be accompanied by captions in a standard format.

Parting Thoughts

In the digital age, the inability to use websites can make even a seemingly minor disability that much more crippling. As such, more and more business owners are interpreting it as their civil obligation to accommodate such disabilities wherever possible. As famed usability expert Don Norman said, “When we design something that can be used by those with disabilities, we often make it better for everyone.”

Anti-Social: 5 Reasons NOT to Conduct a Social Media Campaign

From search engine results pages (SERPs) to Twitter hashtags in commercials, it’s hard to escape the social space. However, simply because social media has a high volume of users, doesn’t mean that your users want to interact with your brand in this medium. How do you know when you should not take a brand or company into the social space? Here are a few guidelines.

  1. It’s harmful. Without something valuable to offer, social media could harm your brand. If creating a social media campaign will hurt, rather than grow or even help your brand or product DO NOT do it. Consider this; would you create a Twitter account to only talk about your competition? Probably not.
  2. Lack of resources. Everyone thinks their brand or product needs to be in the social space because that’s where the buyers are. Even if that is the case, does your team have the resources to effectively conduct a social media campaign? Resources go beyond dollars and cents. Are your staff members trained in using social media tools to monitor conversations?
    When determining if you have the resources to support a social media account, remember to consider costs outside of the social media page itself. For example, even though Google+ is free to set up, do you have the funds to update all of your marketing pieces to reflect your new Google+ account? If the answer to any of these questions is no, resist the urge to hit the “Create an Account” button.
  3. Unfocused goals. Think of social media as a way to grow awareness about your product or brand. If your goals are focused on direct response rather than awareness, your social media ROI is going to be disappointing. Ensure your business objectives are in line with your social media goals before beginning any social media campaign.
  4. You don’t have a plan. So, you want to start a social media campaign to do what, exactly? Engage with your public? Grow your brand? While these are amicable goals, identify key performance indicators (KPIs) before you begin any social media campaign to see the effectiveness of the campaign down the road.
  5. Brand FOMO (fear of missing out). The FOMO factor convinces many brands to engage in social media, even when they don’t have the resources to support social campaigns. Don’t necessarily be persuaded by the engaging, highly-Liked social media campaigns of your competitors. It takes months, even years, to grow any social media account from a handful of followers to hundreds of thousands of followers.

Have additional reasons not to engage in a social media campaign? Share them with me on Twitter @karatoon.

 

A Search Strategy for Google’s ‘Not Provided’

Last month’s news that Google is moving toward 100% ‘not provided’ search data had some claiming that SEO as we know it is dead. Not so fast.

The change signals the end of organic search traffic data previously available through Google Analytics. In simpler terms, webmasters will no longer be able to see which Google search queries are sending traffic to their websites.

Some critics say that by withholding more organic search data over the past two years, Google has  pushed marketers toward its paid search platform, AdWords. It makes sense: Advertisers will always have access to information that reveals how their campaigns perform because without it, advertising spends could not be justified. But Google’s explanation for the change has more to do with protecting user privacy, claiming that expanding encrypted search will offer additional protection, whether users are signed in or not.

So what does this mean for marketers and web publishers?

We need to stay one step ahead of the game. In search marketing, long-term success is not just about developing and implementing a winning strategy, but also a willingness to revise this process over and over as needed. Until someone bests Google (we won’t hold our breath), we have to find ways to operate within the rules – even as the rules continue to change.

As keyword data becomes fully unavailable through Google Analytics, we can still find ways to make educated assumptions about traffic sources and keyword optimization. Here are three tips:

1. Webmaster Tools. The first step is to install Google Webmaster Tools (WMT) on your website. WMT provides 90 days of historical data about your site – not as much information as was available through Google Analytics, but a reasonable alternative. Google plans to extend the 90 days to one year, but has not said when this will happen.

2. Paid search data. If you run paid search through Google AdWords, the data and reporting can also aid your SEO efforts. You can view data for impressions, clicks and conversion to help determine which keywords to target organically.

3. Tap your SEO know-how. Ultimately, when you optimize a page for a particular keyword and see your site ranking for that keyword, you can assume this is a source of traffic. Is some of this traffic likely a result of branded searches? Absolutely. But when could you ever assume 100% accuracy from Google’s provided data?

As the search landscape continues to shift, so too does search strategy. Stay flexible, take advantage of tools and focus on creating high-quality content, and SEO will remain integral to your marketing initiatives.

Unauthorized Use of Trademarks in Google AdWords

Many organizations have discovered the unauthorized use of their trademarks in paid search advertisements. Google AdWords is at the center of discussion for many trademark owners. The AdWords platform allows advertisers to place text ads above and alongside natural search results when a user’s query matches their campaign keywords. On occasion, advertisers will use trademarked terms in ad copy even if they are not the trademark owner. This has become a concern, as it can cause confusion in the marketplace, negatively impact business and dilute brand strength for trademark owners.

Google’s current policy stipulates that advertisers are allowed to bid on any keyword, regardless of its trademark status. However, Google reserves the right to enforce restrictions on the use of a trademark term in ads. In these murky waters, what is a trademark owner to do if misuse occurs? Here are a few options:

  1. Reach out directly to offending advertisers and establish agreements not to advertise on each other’s marks or use each other’s marks in ad copy.
  2. File an official complaint with Google regarding the use of your marks in other advertisers’ ads.
  3. Send cease and desist letters from your legal team to the offending advertisers.

Of these options, we find that the first can be the most powerful. Even if a complaint is filed with Google, they may not investigate or place restrictions around the term’s use in ad copy.

How has Google’s trademark policy affected you? How have you dealt with trademark misuse? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

7 Things I Learned at SMX East 2013

Last week I attended my first search conference, SMX East, in New York City. The conference is composed of diverse sessions covering the latest search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and social media marketing tactics. Not only was it great to hear from some of the top players in the search industry, but it was also an opportunity to network and share tips with search marketers from across the country and around the world. Here are my top seven takeaways from the conference.

Acquiring natural links and staying penguin proof

In my first session, industry experts talked about leveraging niche audiences for natural links by becoming part of their tribe. If we take the time to understand our audience, we can evoke their interest through the creation of tailored content. By becoming part of their community and providing them with useful content, we can obtain natural links for free.

Diversify your digital marketing

Content can be used in many ways.  For example, a whitepaper can also be used to create podcasts, presentations, press releases, webinars, blog posts, email newsletters, interviews, weekly roundups and more.

Infographics are a great source for gaining social signals, traffic and links from other blogs. To leverage another social platform, take Infographics and slice them up for SlideShare using either the same content repurposed or slightly altered companion content. SlideShare allows for direct connection to Twitter on every slide, enabling users to tweet content from the slide straight to their followers without ever leaving your content.

The most important search ranking factors

Mathew Peters from MOZ shared a study that polled SEO’s about what they thought would become the most important search ranking factors. According to the poll, SEO’s believe several non-traditional search elements will heavily influence SEO rankings including quality, authorship, structured data and social signals.

“Twitter is the second screen to TV”

Richard Alfonsi, Vice President of Online Sales at Twitter, opened Day 2 at SMX East with a keynote conversation. Today, 95% of public conversations about television are happening on Twitter. Twitter as a second screen to TV viewers allows for a shared experience; it makes watching TV richer and energizes people. Twitter has seen that conversation around TV shows can impact and drive viewership, ultimately increasing rankings.

Semantic Data & Semantic SEO

Semantic SEO provides open, structured data to increase search visibility by connecting users with information they search for. This enables search engines to more effectively organize the web. Beyond just keywords, unique identifiers help search engines determine the meaning behind a particular query, and rank for more relevant information and more qualified traffic.

Using authorship in SEO can prevent spam, highlight quality authors and help rank quality content. It is speculated that higher visibility using the authorship tag will lead to a higher click through rate. But, it is not enough to just claim authorship; we need to be active on Google+, spend time building circles, generate more engagement and notifying fans on other social networks.

Some panelists cautioned conference-goers that by using semantic SEO you are providing information for Google and Bing to use in the knowledge graph and snap shot, potentially preventing traffic to your site. Currently, there is no real way to measure how to link clicks back to enhanced search results.

Content: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Not sure what to write about? Consider doing competitor research. By checking out what type of content is on your competitor’s top pages that have inbound links, search marketers can gain valuable information on what kind of content a particular audience is looking for. Also, look at what is trending on social media platforms like Reddit. Google News can also be a good source to find out what is hot right now.

Hummingbird

It wasn’t until Day 3 during a session on the future of SEO that a panel including Danny Sullivan, Brian White (Google) and Duane Forrester (Bing) that the mysterious Hummingbird algorithm was discussed. So far we know that Hummingbird is a full rewrite of the Google search algorithm, the first time Google has done so in years. White explained that there is a stronger focus on keywords having meaning behind them and these meanings connect with each other. Through a greater balance of signals, Hummingbird will allow Google to better understand what users want from their queries. White left a lot of questions unanswered. We will have to keep an eye out on the impact of Hummingbird!

Did you attend SMX East? I would love to hear your main takeaways! Comment below and follow me on Twitter @RachelRacoosin.

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