Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Want to Improve Search Engine Visibility? 15 Tips

If you use your website to get noticed--whether on a business-related or personal level--then chances are you're looking to increase your search engine visibility. I came across an article today in my Google Reader that outlines 15 solid tips for doing just that.

Written by social media marketer Mike Fruchter, this article is immensely helpful in outlining some key methods to getting search engines to "like" your site. And if you like what you read, I highly recommend following Mike's blog (or perhaps Louis Gray's, where the article was written) for more tips on social media marketing, or tech stuff in general.

So, without further ado:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Who are you, Customers?? We want to know!

So I'm hoping that a few of you have had an opportunity to try out our QuickStart Wizard, which we launched a couple weeks ago. If not, I encourage you to log into your control panel and try it out. We want all the feedback we can get because it's important to us that we construct tools in a way that enables you to get your account set up easily.

As a starting point, last week we actually brought a few customers into our offices to record and test the usability of both the QuickStart Wizard and our registration process. We used Webex to record their entire experience--yes, we analyzed every mouse click--and stumbled upon some interesting findings. I won't get into specifics for these tools at this point, since it's too early to definitively say what's working and what's not, but I think it's fair to say that we can't always predict what our customers will do and think ...

Because we're not mind-readers, but we want to know what you're thinking, I'm happy to announce that, at the directive of our new Director of Customer Experience (yay!), we've started a few rounds of customer focus groups, aimed to help us dissect the diverse brains of our subjects--ahem--customers. The goal of these sessions is to figure out a few different things:
  • who our customers are
  • why our customers choose us
  • what our customers want
  • what our customers aren't getting from us that we can improve/provide to them
So far, I think we've validated our suspicion that the type of customer we attract runs the gamut--anywhere from those who are completely new to web hosting and are trying to get their business online for the first time, to people who have been doing this since 1998 and have about 15 accounts with us. In addition, we learned that many of our customers choose us based upon the price/quality balance, which we see as a pretty nice compliment. When it comes to what customers want, as you might have guessed, these answers vary based upon experience level. As many of our preliminary findings have shown, we need to dig into these responses a bit more to determine who, exactly, our different user personas are, and what we can do to help satisfy each type of need.

One overarching theme we've found so far is that we provide a lot of services our customers don't know about. For instance, if you're worried about knowing when your site and/or email might be experiencing a service interruption (yes, I am admitting that they *do* happen from time to time ...), did you know that you can get updates sent to your email account on file via our CAML? (Pronounced "Camel," CAML is our "Customer Alert Mailing List.") This email notification basically lets you know that we've posted an Important System Alert in our Support Center, and that your site and/or email may be affected. We update these alerts as changes occur to keep you informed about the state of your account. To sign up to receive CAMLs, visit our Support Center and click the link below our Important System Notices that says, "Receive System Alerts via e-mail."

Another request we got was for more simplicity in our control panel. (Of course, that was said on the heels of one customer, who was more familiar with our services, indicating that he found our control panel to be very easy to navigate.) I'm not advocating that our control panel is the simplest tool to use (in fact, we're currently devising a strategy to improve the functionality/simplicity of the layout--so stay tuned), but did you know that we offer different control panel interfaces? We have four different control panel "skins," which you can customize to a certain degree. Just click on the "Preferences" link at the top of the control panel, and you'll see that you have four different layout options from which to choose: icon, icon plus, text, and text plus. We've even created an animated tutorial to guide you through your options for layout and customization.

Which brings me to my final point for the evening. We have lots of tutorials. And lots of help information in our Knowledgebase. I'm not saying we'll have everything you need in there to assist you with your account, but I just wanted to call out the fact that we do have online resources to help, and they're probably worth at least a look-see.

The bottom line here is that we want you to "help us help you." We realize we need to do a better job communicating some of the resources we have to offer, but it's also important that customers fill out our surveys to let us know what is, and what isn't, working. We cherish your feedback--both the good and the bad. So please keep it coming.