Tasha Harrison

Online Marketing Consultant

Images are key to the design and usability of our websites, but without an alt tag they are invisible to search engines and people using screen readers. An alt tag is a bit of HTML which describes what the image is, so that if the image doesn’t appear it appears as text.

How does the alt tag fit into the HTML?

 

<img src=”http://dressitalian.com/sites/default/files/styles/recipe-page/public/recipe-images/Pasta%20with%20roasted%20peppers%20and%20Red%20Pepper%20%26%20Walnut%20pesto.jpg” alt=”pasta with roasted peppers & pesto” width=”459″ height=”577″ >

 

The first part shows the location of the image, ‘src=’, and the alt tag is preceeded by ‘alt=’. The final two ‘width’ and ‘height’ are examples of styling within the HTML.

 

How does this work with the overall page optimisation?

Although the alt tag should describe what the image is, it can be useful to tie it into the subject of the entire page. For example, the image above comes from the following page. We can see from the page’s title/h1 tag is the same as the alt tag which is also the same as the subject of the image:

 

Alt Tag Example

 

This means that the search engines know exactly what the page is about. It will also help the image to appear in image searches.

Another important point to note is that it is a requirement in the UK to include alt tags to meet the minimum accessibility requirements. This is so that people using screen readers will still be able to view the content.

 

2011 saw one of the most important changes in the way Google ranks websites. Google’s Panda Update was designed to increase the quality of search results and start to punish ‘link-farms’ (sites with hundreds of links which are designed for purely SEO purposes). This basically means that Google stopped putting so much emphasis on the quality of links and put more emphasis on the quality of the website as a whole. The idea is to stop people from simply creating hundreds of meaningless links and reward sites with great content which is worth linking to.

The two most important criteria for judging the quality of your site are:

  1. The quality of your website – how often content is changed and updated, loading speed, repeated pages.
  2. Social bookmarking – ie how many people have linked to and shared link to your website on social media sites.

 

Of course this is a great victory for blogs and news sites, since they have constantly updating content which lends itself naturally to being successful on social media. However, it does make it increasingly difficult for ecommerce sites and smaller businesses who maybe don’t have the time to create new and exciting content all of the time.

Sadly, there is no easy way around this. Gone are the days when an SEO person would simply spend time building links through directories and meaningless article sites. Now SEO needs to be fully integrated into your overall marketing strategy.

Top Tips for SEO in 2012

  1. Ensure your website is properly optimised for search engines from the start
    A good website designer should structure your site properly – it is much more difficult to go in after your website is built to make the necessary structural changes.
  2. Create a section of the site which you update on a regular basis
    This could be a latest news section or a blog, but this is becoming increasingly important. A regularly updated blog will give you a huge advantage over your competitors and enable your site to rank for a greater number of search terms.
  3. Create a Facebook Fanpage and get a Twitter account
    These two social networks are still extremely important in terms of sharing your content and making connections with people. The success of these should not just be measured in terms of sales, but in terms of how many links and connections you have. Remember that links from social media will help your ranking on Google.
  4. Use your offline marketing channels to drive traffic to your social media as well as your website
    Gathering as many fans and followers online is the same principle as building a list of email addresses. It enables you to communicate with your customers and potential customers, reminding them you are there for when they are ready to buy.

 

Facebook is now arguably the second most powerful company online after Google. To all intents and purposes, they own the information on all of their users. However, this is not a reason to avoid the social network. Lack of privacy is a part of modern day life, particularly if you use almost any online service.

So here is my simple guide for how to make Facebook safer. (The issues are based on the questions I get asked the most.)

The Issues

1. People will see all the negative or embarrassing photos of you

This is easily avoided. The privacy settings for users can be set extremely high, so that no one can tag you in a photograph without your permission and you can even limit the people who see your photos. It is generally a good idea to have your privacy settings high anyway.

In order to do this visit: https://www.facebook.com/settings/?tab=privacy

2. People will be able to find out everything about you

You only need to put on Facebook the information you are willing to share. There is no obligation to put anything you don’t feel comfortable with on your profile. Personally, I don’t have any relationship information, only where I live, work, went to school and university.

3. Children are vulnerable to bullying

This is a difficult one, because there have been some serious cases of bullying amongst school children. These aren’t due to Facebook though, the social network is merely the vessel. These dangers aren’t new since Facebook started, it’s just that now a certain amount of communication takes place online. In fairness to Facebook they are very aware of these problems and work with charities and the police to prevent future issues.

You can take steps to avoid this by ensuring that your child’s privacy settings are very high. You can also report and block users.

Here are a couple of useful guides:
Watch Your Words: Steps to Prevent Cyber Bullying
Best Ways to Avoid Cyber Bullying

If you have any other issues that you would like me to cover please just ask and don’t be afraid of Facebook. There is more to gain from being a part of the community than being outside it.

qrcode

A QR code is a barcode that you scan with your phone and takes you to a website or specific landing page. It is essentially a link but in barcode form.

The main advertising purpose of a QR code is move your customers online via offline advertising.  It also enables you to share different and more varied content than you could on a printed or outdoor advert.

At the moment, companies are literally putting QR codes on everything. The problem, though, is that few people know what a QR code is. There are also very few examples of them being used effectively, which is probably some of the reason their uptake has been slow by consumers.

This is a great shame, since the QR code is a fantastic idea if used creatively or effectively it can enable brands to engage with consumers.

Placement

I have been busily tracking QR codes across London trying to find an effective use of one. Very quickly I realised that placement is a huge barrier for people. When standing on a tube, for example, people look at you very strangely as you reach upwards (I’m quite short!) to scan the code on the ads above people’s heads. The other key problem with the tube is that there isn’t any signal, so you’re trying to send people online when they can’t access the internet.

Moving transport, like buses and taxis, are completely useless for obvious reasons. Shop windows are incredibly difficult as well, especially when you’re just walking past, head down. You don’t necessarily notice it.

Bus stops are quite an easy and effective placement. While waiting for a bus many people will generally play with their phones, reading the news or checking social media.

With an average journey of 12 minutes, the inside of taxis on the tip up seats give the passenger plenty of time to scan and read.

Magazine and newspaper adverts and advertorials are amongst the most effective placements, when you have the most time with the reader to explain the reasons for them to scan the code and how to scan it.

Content

The main barrier to people scanning QR codes is that often the content isn’t worth it. Many QR codes simply take the user straight to their website. In terms of marketing this is unimaginative and doesn’t give the user any reason to read further or interact with the brand. Although you may have got the offline user online, a huge opportunity is being missed.

Here are some ideas and uses that begin to make the most of QR codes:

Twitter and Facebook pages
In the window of a shop near Sloane square they simply linked to their social media. I can see some technical and practical problems here – many people use applications to read Twitter and Facebook, which means that they probably won’t be logged in when the link opens on their browser. But, at least the content is useful and gives the user a reason to scan.

On Bikes and in Shops
@CarltonReid has written a blog post about this which is well worth the read:
http://www.bikebiz.com/index.php/news/read/glyph-hanger-should-the-bike-industry-put-so-much-faith-in-qr-codes/012096

In a Restaurant
On a recent business trip to Canary Wharf, we visited the Parlour. On each table was a QR code with a link to the specials list. This means that the specials can be updated everyday or weekly without having to print new copies – all they have to do is update the landing page. The Parlour website even has instructions: http://www.theparlourbar.co.uk/qr-code-how-to.php

To a Mobile Phone App
This one was on a tube advert, but, nevertheless, if I was really interested in the app I’d still have the address saved in my phone. The app was Kabbee and the advert had links to both iPhone and Android market places. It is a price comparison site for minicabs, so while you’re sitting miserable on the tube or dreading the bus at the other end of a long journey, you can be tempted by this clever app.

To QR or Not?

There are many more applications of QR codes and I will continue to document them. We’re also about to launch a campaign that we hope will be a fantastic use of QR codes.

My conclusions so far are that most people are using the codes badly and so it is difficult to judge their effectiveness. My feeling is that QR codes will be replaced by other technology soon, but the cost effective nature of the codes and their simplicity mean that their time is not over yet.

The most important aspect of using QR codes effectively is to remember to give the user a reason to scan the code, whether it’s a link to unique content such as video or a competition, there must be a use.

A couple of weeks ago Google launched their new social network, Google Plus. Despite users only being able to join by invitation from other users, the number of people on it quickly grew to 10 million.

What is Google Plus?

Google Plus works in much the same way as Facebook at first glance. You have a news stream with the latest updates from the people you follow or are friends with. It look’s a lot simpler in fact and the layout is clearer. You follow people by putting them into circles which means you can organise people into groups. This enables you to send an update to a limited number of people by only sending it to a particular circle.

You also don’t need to necessarily be friends with someone to follow them, meaning that it is a lot more like Twitter in many ways. One of the joys of Twitter can be just to watch people and follow people who share and find fantastic information.

Is it going to be better than Facebook?

There are many ways that Google Plus is better than Facebook. The circles feature means that you no longer have to fear saying inappropriate things with work colleagues or family members. It makes it easier to mix your work life with your private life. This means that it reflects how your actual groups of friends and acquaintances work, rather than treating all as equal as Facebook does.

The only thing that will trip up Google Plus is if people don’t take to it. Although the number of users is growing quickly, it will interesting to see whether the majority of people make the move. At the moment most users are still using Facebook and Twitter, mainly because their friends and followers are established there.

I can’t see Google Plus being a success unless it replaces either Twitter or Facebook – personally I’d like it to replace Facebook.

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