Link Baiting with Tools

I was fortunate enough to be a guest for the first time on The Alternative hosted by Jim Hedger and Dave Davies and we explored the who, what, why, where and when of building tools and the purposes of link bait. We also let the cat out of the bag about a few tools we’ll be releasing shortly. Feel free to check it out and enjoy. Also in on the session was Jeff Quipp from Search Engine People who’s also running a very exciting contest (with a $1,000 prize) that I’m encourage everyone to participate in!

Google Analytics Steps Up

While the free tools that Google provides are seen as questionable at best in the “don’t be evil” debate (about Google’s ultimate intentions and uses for the data). One thing is definitely clear, webmasters appreciate the added insight into the goings on of their site, enjoy the interface provided into their data and ultimately, Google’s tools and their integration of them (namely Google Analytics and Google AdWords) is definitely *convenient*. Some oldies some newies, but all relevant; Google Analytics steps up with:

  • Easy Implementation
  • Keyword and Campaign Comparison
  • Create Custom Dashboards
  • AdWords Integration
  • Trend and Date Slider
  • E-commerce Tracking / Funnel Visualization
  • Email reports
  • Improved Site Overlay / Heat Mapping
  • Improved Traffic Segmentation e.g. GeoTargeting

All of these are extremely handy especially when you have the ability to track the results on your own to make sure everything is kept honest. I’m looking forward to a hands-on test drive. Check out the tour now.

5 Principles to Maximize Conversion Rate & Usability

Dan Thies over at SEO Research Labs has pointed out a remarkable video by Andy Edmonds. He and his team have used statistical analysis to study how the eye and brain process information while interacting with web sites!

First a definition:
“Foveal View” — The area of visible space where the user is best able to focus with maximum detail. The point here is that outside of the focal area the eye (and therefore the mind) is not perceiving color nor as much detail. Understanding this concept cascades into the takeaways that follow.

Now some highlights from Andy’s portion of the video + my two cents:

  1. The traditional marriage to 800×600 optimized design is really on it’s way out (as many people have noticed looking at their site statistics). Instead wider screen layouts not only bring more content above the fold, reducing the amount of scrolling required to use a page, but they also compliment a user’s natural behavioral desires while using a site,
  2. Page elements should be organized in such a way that relevant blocks of information are near each other so that the brain can make logical associations and accurately assess relevance while scanning a page,
  3. “Information Blocks” should be wider than tall for easiest consumption — again this is in step with the wider layout point above,
  4. Typography & whitespace use (contrast) are also as important as ever; when properly used they create a guide to lead the eye through blocks of content in the body of a page or in navigational areas.
  5. Group navigation items to contain 7 +/- 2 options per group. This avoids forcing the user to stop and process the information. In other words, use this principle to create at-a-glance usability in your navigation, which is vital to conversion.

Heat mapping sites like the following are useful in understanding the result of the eye/brain interaction. Use the insight above to review your design and your heat map results to identify problem areas in your user interface design. Here are some popular tools:

Let’s not forget Google Analytics (Urchin) is useful when using the "Site Overlay" view in also seeing which anchors are most clicked in your site.

However, what we’ve long called “EBO” or Eyeball Optimization is explained masterfully by Andy — Well done!

Since I’m not sure how long that video will be in place so here’s the “permalink.”

Keys to Consistent CSS

Eric Meyer has done it again (yes I’m a cult follower). It was awesome to sit through the live walk through of most of the principles that Eric presented in his final version.

What Eric has decided to do with the support of many interested participants is create a baseline for many of the HTML elements that behave inconsistently from browser to browser. The result being a fantastic snippet of code that removes the subtleties that often cause anomalies in the render of pages in Internet Explorer 6/7 (and in other browsers too).

For those that just want to see the code:

You can see that nearly every element is considered above and is “reset” to values to provide sure bedrock for styling a document.

I suppose I should go to mention another great tip from Eric, while on the topic of consistency and this one points to to consistency between the CSS “functionality” of internet explorer 6 and internet explorer 7. Dean Edwards put together great javascript code which enables coders to focus on CSS production for IE 7 and not have to worry support for behavior that doesn’t exist in IE 6 — definitely worth a look.