Sunday, December 2, 2012

Online Persuasion and Personalisation

I was just watching this interesting video about online persuasion:


Many things that are described in the video will react in a "yes of course, that's logical" response of many people.
But it can be very interesting to look more at behavior and online marketing and to develop for a plan based at the six weapons of influence from Cialdini. If you are active in more countries or especially more continents, there will also be cultural differences to keep in mind. I wrote about cultural differences in social media earlier.

So how can these weapons of influence from Cialdini be used online?

Weapon of influence Short explanation Use at internet
Scarcity Make products or services scarce Easy
Reciprocity People tend to return a favor when a favor is given to them. Medium-Difficult
Commitment and Consistency f people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self image. Difficult
Social Proof People do what other people do Medium-Difficult
Authority People will tend to obey authority figures Medium-Difficult
Liking People are easily persuaded by other people that they like Easy

Weapon of influence: likability
  • Scarcity is an easy one and already used by many e-commerce sites, especially in travel. It is relatively easy to use. Just add a label to a product page, telling that there are only a few products left. Or a label to say: we already sold 10.000 pieces. Going fast. Act now! And you can even make this label interactive. Also closed user group sites, such as zalando lounge use this principle.
Weapon of influence: scarcity. Think of your local car salesmen, but then online! Special Price, only for you. Act now!

  • Reciprocity. For reciprocity you already have to do a little more online and also doing this, you probably need some more organizational resources. It means by giving something for free, people want to return a favor to you. Many websites use this method, for example by offering free e-books or whitepapers. I think you have to go beyond that now. To many websites already use this. Only offering an e-book is not enough anymore. People often use their second or third e-mail adress, so there is no commitment. I think for e-commerce websites more of: adding an extra product in the parcel. Shipping the product, but then when it is delivered, let people discover you sent it for free (like zappo's does), offer a perfect service, let people think you really did your best to help them. Make the experience good! If they cannot figure out how the digital camera works, sent a personalised video with instructions for example. 
  • Commitment and Consistency. This is a difficult one online. Many people refer to airlines, who apparently use price increases, the more people are going to look at a certain flight. People already committed to this flight, so after three times watching, probably they pay the higher price. Not only these techniques will be forbidden (in Europe), but it is also difficult to implement. Examples are also to subscribe people to a programme, that then increases prices. But I am thinking more of a different commitment. - sign up maybe only for a dollar, and you get special discounts or advantages. I recently learned that if you ask 1 dollar or 50 dollar, it does not matter for the user behavior. Only by increasing the price you limit your target audience. Also a community, can help increasing the commitment. If your prospects or customers are active at a community they are committed to the brand. Make them feel home, help them and you get committed customers.
  • Social Proof. People do what they see other people do. In e-commerce, you can think of various variants. Medium to difficult implementation, because often you need to change your back office or adapt your CRM system for this. So build a social sign on, and people can see which of their friends also bought with you and also what they bought. But you can also combine this with a community. If a certain person has communicated with another person at your community, you can use this data: your community friend x has bought A! See the product he bought!
  • Authority. People will tend to obey authority figures. e.g. this is our top searched product this week. This product is recommended by our product manager. Or use famous people to recommend your products. But in my opinion, authority can also be a community where customers help each other and the company responds as well. It will increase the company's authority. Authority can also be earned by as a company being active at the reviews at your e-commerce website. 57% of consumers say they will buy faster, when a company responds at reviews itself (Cone 2012)
  • Liking. People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Immediately you think of the "like button" with this weapon, which of course is also true. But this can be much more in my opinion. You can also like a seller, for good service, or if you chat or cam with a sales person in the online world, you can also like him or her because you see the seller face to face. After a sale, be nice and sent out an e-mail from the customer service agent to see you care. "Thank you for ordering, did the product arrive in good order" . That is also liking. Relatively easy to do, not many departments are involved and the like button is implemented easily at almost every website. I think storytelling in content is also something that can influence the "likabililty" of a brand. Don't just spread loose communication messages, like today an offer, tomorrow a promotion, the day after that a whitepaper. Try also to bring in a story, make it this way, that people return for the story. Good content can also increase the like factor.
This is all very interesting and you now want to make a plan, to test all of this. But you will then test a big group. All of your visitors and buyers are included in the test. And in general you see what works and what not.
The next step, will be personalization. Because you might be influencable for social proof, I might be influencable by commitment and consistency.
If you know at person level who is influencable by which weapon, you can optimize your e-commerce site per person!
If you have in your CRM that a person is influencable by scarcity, because you discovered this by a web test and suddenly he contacts the contact centre by phone, you notice in your CRM that this person is influencable by scarcity and you can use this information to sell products via another channel as well.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Email marketing: how not to do it (1)

I can't believe there are still big (jetstar pacific) companies who do email marketing in this way:

Sending important e-mails with lot's of people in the CC (not professional, spam sensitive) and then also to ask a reply to all (many people do not even know this function).

This is so 1999, make a professional landingpage and make sure you have a good workflow to answer questions instead of asking a reply to all.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Event summary: CRM in one day

This week, I visited the event "CRM in 1 Day" in the Netherlands. If you want to excel with your online or multichannel shop, a good CRM strategy is a critical factor.
A lot of things were obvious, but I will share some insights and my opinion below.

The presentation of the keynote speaker is available at slideshare.

Social CRM: where's the money? from Clo Willaerts

The keynote speaker referred to a TED talk  from Pattie Maes. It's from a few years ago. When I watched the video, I already noticed that it is only a small step before parts of the examples given become reality.
Offline and online integrate. When buying a book in a bookstore, see the reviews at your phone immediately.
Project and share information everywhere.
Albert-Heijn supermarkets in Holland now started a test, with scanning and paying products with your cellphone. Next step is of course to add marketing, reviews and personal advice. Just like in the TED talk.

It is important to have a good CRM strategy. Don't just start building a CRM and think about a strategy afterwards. CRM is NOT anymore just a tool that you implement to register your orders we are way beyond that time now.

Always start with a vision and mission in a CRM plan

It all starts with a customer vision and mission and a customer strategy.

Often companies still think that acquiring customers is the most important. But don't forget that it is way cheaper to keep customers then to acquire them. CRM, social CRM, customer touchpoints they are all very important to keep customers. The whole day, various examples of customer touchpoints, customer journey's  were discussed. Make a map of all your customer touchpoints, and change them with your new vision. If there are to much, shortlist them and start with the most important ones.

In a research presented during the day, more then 66% of the customers will switch from company when the customer service they experience is not satisfying. Note that this is about your CURRENT customers. Not about acquiring new ones.

Friday, September 14, 2012

E-commerce - email communication after purchases

I have collected a few recent examples from online communication after some online purchases.
Examples are mostly in Dutch. But I will explain the pro's and con's in English.

Still I think (and I wrote about it here as well) that companies can improve their (online) communication so much more. Good communication and service goes beyond a "we recommend you" e-mail.
Think about all customer touchpoints, about your vision and mission and create contact moments that in the end will give you a positive ROI and customer experience that will be shared online massively.

Especially (But not limited to) the travel industry can start much more effective campaigns by better segmentation and not placing every cross and upsell possibility in these one or two confirmation mails.
Be there with the right content at the right time. Not everybody will book a hotel right away if they purchased a flight ticket for 5 months away!
Value for the customer, value from the customer. Make sure you sent relevant and/or entertaining emails and you can earn money with it. If you are an airline, sent a few e-mails about the latest news at the destination (especially in vibrant areas), nice events, tourist info etc. If you sell dog food, you can also sent communication about dog tips, dog courses etc.


If you place an order where you choose to pay after receiving the goods (we still do not have an alipay in Holland where money is being hold in escrow untill the goods arrived in good order), bol.com try's to pursuade you doing a prepayment before the order reaches you. I think in this way they try to convince people who do not use or trust online payment methods to try it anyway. A suggestion would be to give a small discount then as well if the online payment method is used.
The button at the right is the IDEAL online payment method.

Bol.com from post to prepayment


I ordered something at Zalando as well. During the registration process (I did not completed the order yet), I read a message of a 5 euro discount when subscribing to the newsletter. So, I subscribed to their newsletter. This pursuaded me to place the order actually.

  • Pursuasion to place the order by giving a discount at the first order
  • This email will have a very high open ratio!
  • E-mail arrived in spam folder in my gmail

Zalando welcome e-mail and registration newsletter confirmation

Friday, August 3, 2012

A short summary of digital marketing news

Some (international) internet and e-commerce news from the past week, including some reports and a social media monitoring checklist.

Tripadvisor and Belgium hotels

Belgium hotel owners hate customers

The Belgium hotel federation wants to limit tripadvisor reviews. This is the other way around. Partly there is something to say about their criticism. But why don't they see the chances and opportunities the reviews can bring them? Be creative. Make sure your guests write at Tripadvisor, sent out after stay email marketing communication to remind all the guests to leave reviews, print out the reviews and put them in a guestbook at the lobby. People who are satisfied will react and negative reviews will be less in this case. But above all, make your guests feel comfortable and happy.


IBM has an interesting webinar (recorded) about the changing consumer behavior. It is in English (landing page in Dutch)

Social media monitoring checklist

I created a social media monitoring tool requirements checklist. It is not a complete list for every company or brand, but it might be useful for some people. You can find it here.

You can only use the maximum power with these social monitoring tools when you can integrate it with your CRM, so you can identify (social) influencers, brand ambassadors and get the most out of your customer centric strategy. By the way The difference between influencers and brand ambassadors are explained in this infographic. Integrated social media monitoring tools will be one of the key instruments of marketers and customer service employees/management for now and the near future.


Facebook is testing a feature for targeting page posts. At Facebook it is all about the engagement factor. How to interact with your audience. You have to keep interacting. With this option, you will be able to communicate more specific with your fans, and therefore also the engagement factor can increase. If you are communicating more relevant the engagement will be higher. But the downside is, that you need even more unique content. More work for the social media content managers.

I have added a few new digital marketing infographics to my pinterest board. Infographics about responsive webdesign, twitter intensity per city (and it turns out that Jakarta and Tokyo are the city's with the most active twitter activity). The speed of social media and much more.


And if you feel bored during the weekend. Experian has released (a while ago) a 154 pages digital marketing trends and benchmark report. A real nice and extensive report. Read about the "customer obsession". Many marketers and companies, still find it very difficult to understand that through the use of social media and internet, listening to customers and adapting your company's strategy because of this, is something that really should be in the centre of the marketing and organisation strategy. Most people complain at twitter (or other social media sites) to have companies learn from their mistake. Making a mistake is not a problem, it is how you deal with it. A recent study from Yougov, confirms this.
Make sure you make your CRM social!

Unfortunately I could not find the report, but the Japanese (and now international) e-commerce giant Rakuten, released a report about national shopping habits. Very interesting to see the differences in shopping behavior between countries. E-commerce facts describes a few differences in this article. In the US , the Uk and Germany, the monday shopping peak is still there, while the french peak at wednessday.

Burson-Marsteller Acia Pacific often has nice reports and studys. Recently they published their annual social media checkup 2012. One of the trends they spotted is that video content is on the rise, and it rises fast. It surprises me that it took so long, but video and interactive video is really exploding at the moment. Also a trend Burson-Marsteller reports is that companies are adapting new social media platforms faster then before. Google plus pages for business, for example is expanding rapidly. Companies are getting used to social media in general and are adapting their organisations towards working with social media. The system stays the same, the platforms may differ. With this view it is easy to test or adapt new platforms. Be aware that you might need specific content for specific platforms.
By adapting fast to new social platforms you can get a competitor advantage.

At the end of the presentation regional insights are given about global social media usage.

Burson-Marstellers report at slideshare:

Burson-Marsteller Global Social Media Check-Up 2012 from Burson-Marsteller

Connected vending machines

Meanwhile in Japan, you can even earn loyalty points with vending machines. And as the author of the article describes, expect to get loyalty points at parking meters as well :)
That would be fun.Upsell at parking metres: If you pay an extra euro, you can stay 40 minutes longer and receive 250 parking meter loyalty points. Share this at facebook :)

Deeper integration social in search engines

Microsoft expanded the integration of facebook in Bing. If you ask a question in Bing, you get the possibility to ask the same question to friends who are most likely to help you also with this question.
Very interesting and further integration of social in SEO will def. change the SEO strategy's around the world. Interesting to watch how google will react, with Google Plus that still has a far lower user and usage percentage then facebook has.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My collection of digital marketing infographics

The last few weeks, I started to collect interesting infographics and images about (international) digital marketing. My collection starts getting into shape. I am planning to make a few infographics myself also the next few weeks. My Pinterest board now has infographics about:

Traditional Marketing vs New Marketing. An infographic about the change from push to earned marketing. Of course this is changing the landscape at this moment, but in some cases traditional marketing remains valuable.

Facebook's Timeline tutorial. An infographic with some advice about how to setup your new facebook page for organisations. 

A social media triage This one can be very helpful if you try to setup a plan for your company about how to respond at social media. Every case is unique, so also needs to be treated this way. But this infographic gives some guidelines for the people that deal with the comments posted at social media in the first line. 

Sometimes explaining is so easy with an infographic. If you need to explain how affiliate marketing works, just show this infographic

If you need to know a little more about how people around the world spend their time online this infographic gives some highlights.

We all agree that customer service is important, it always was, but since the customer is getting into control and the customer's voice can make or break companies very easily nowadays, it is always good to remind yourself about keeping your customers happy.

Much more images and infographics about digital marketing at my pinterest online marketing pinboard. I will ad more the next few weeks and try to make a few myself as well. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Differences in international webdesign and usability

International Website Design is more then just translating. (but if you translate do it correct otherwise you keep on closing a shower door)
I am wondering about international usability and design, so I decided to do some research.Differences in design and usability in various countries can make or break a site.

Of course people are the same world over and the main usability guidelines remain the same. However there are country specific things to take into account that can make your site work better in specific countries. With the emerging markets rapidly growing and the global aspects of internet, it is critical to understand the differences of your international customers.

In a few European website projects, the biggest problems in the fields of usability and design were the following points.
  • Character problems in on site search engine and the connected emails used for email marketing. Special characters necessary for some languages gave problems in displaying.
  • Display of local currency's. Local currency's were changed at most places, but the system did not change the local currency's at some far ends of the webshop.
  • Confirmation pages and VAT differences.
  • Length of text fields (some words are just much longer in other languages, so make buttons and text fields scalable).
  • Differences in countries in shopping cart process (for example delivery points or SMS services that are not yet common in all countries).
  • Payment methods and configurations.
  • Legal differences between countries can have impact at the usability. It might be necessary in to change your product detail page for your webshop because of legal aspects. But there are more differences that have an impact at the usability.
  • Differences in product details (your product information system) for example voltage differences between countries. Powerplugs are different in the UK then the rest of Europe.
  • Speed. Make sure (and this is especially the case with global websites) your site speed is fast in every country you target for.
So keep these things in mind when setting up an international website. Also read this article, I wrote earlier, about Geert Hofstede's 5 dimensions model to better understand your international audience.

Local websites or one central website?

If you are active international at the web, you often have to make a choice between a central website, that is copied to local versions (often only translated) or a local website. Many company's choose a central website, to be able to have the most control and stability. But often this is not the most effective way in terms of the goals you want to reach with this website.
I think a mixed form is the best and is also possible. A hybrid model with the advantages from a central website (stability, control) and the flexibility from local websites (design, seo, landingpages etc).
It is very important to think about this when you write the requirements for your new international website.

Don't forget, local sites give more trust. In fragmented Europe this is very important, but even in English speaking Australia, users prefer local sites to foreign sites.
Research showed for example that Australians, when scanning SERP listings, prefer URL's with the .au suffix. Logical of course, but these are things to remind yourself when participating in an international internet project.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

International Digital Marketing Information April 2012

I am reading some international digital marketing information this saturday afternoon and I summarize some interesting links below.

Europe is still busy thinking about the new European Cookie law. A law that will have a big impact at the online industry this and next year. A big test case will be the United Kingdom, where the law will get into force at the 26th of may. Other countries will follow later.

A lot of things are still very unclear and most likely we will see a big increase of the use of pop up screens or lightboxes asking for certain cookies consent. Mr Dave Evans from the ICO gave a little more explanation and the good news is, that if you use first party analytic cookies you might be left alone, if you inform your users well.

Europe is still not a single e-commerce market, so differences between countries are common. A new e-commerce lobby group called "ecommerce-europe" has started and one of their goals is to optimize Europe's e-commerce. I hope they work better then their website looks. There is no single e-commerce market yet, so Germany has it's own laws an regulations. The parliament there has passed regulation that can have an impact at German webshops and those targeted at Germany. In short certain information is mandatory to provide and the button that saves (and pays) the order must be clearly named and in a good readable font. That's a risk if your website is not mobile friendly for example.
If your button does not fit the requirements as described in the regulation the customer might not have to pay! More information here. (link in German).

If you do online business in Ukraine, be aware, they can close your startup company easily.

A nice international digital marketing newspost is from the London Mayor elections. All 3 candidates opened a Sina Weibo account. See my article about Sina Weibo for more explanation about Weibo and Sina Weibo.

Italian's like to play games. Games and gambling make sure Italy's online industry is still growing. It is good for Italy that they have found a way to get e-commerce growth by the use of games, since they don't expand internationally.

Italians like games. Gambling and gaming makes their online industry growing.

Email marketing AirAsia

A few days ago, I received an email from AirAsia. I like AirAsia, and I hope to fly with them soon again.
But the email I received, is in my opinion difficult to understand for the subscribers.

Apparently they changed their "sender e-mail address" and they try to improve their sender reputation and to prevent getting in their subscribers "spam folders".

In this case, the e-mail is not clear and could be improved in my opinion.

  • Why should a general subscriber of their email marketing programme care about AirAsia changing their sender e-mail address?  I think the most people that receive this e-mail do not understand a thing about email deliverability. 
  • An e-mail " sender address"  is something else then changing the "e-mail address"  as it suggests.
  • Why didn't they provide a link to a landingpage where they explain how to add this address to the "safe sender's list" for the most popular e-mail clients? This can even be done localised if they target across the globe. Most people don't understand how e-mail works.
  • There is no other incentive given. I am not motivated in the email or landingpage to add them to my safe list. I cannot update my profile for example to give my preferred airports and to receive customised offers. This would be a big motivation for me to add them to the safe list. I sure do not want to miss personalised offers!

But it is always nice to receive an e-mail from Air Asia..:) Good to see the brand again. And that's also where email marketing can be used for. Brand awareness.

The email I received from AirAsia

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The world's best airports : how do they perform online?

The worlds best airports in 2011 are (according to this website) the ones described below. I decided to take the first 3 and Schiphol, this saturdaymorning, to do a short quick review. I took Schiphol because I am Dutch and I visit the airport a lot. That's the only reason. I think they can improve also a lot in their online and multichannel communication.

Airports are nice, they are always busy, you can do a lot in multi channel communication to optimize the user experience and a lot is written about airports at the web.
So by listening to the visitors of your airport you can optimize your services and give the best possible airport experience to the visitors. Unfortunately not all of the best airports in the world have a good digital communications strategy.

This is the list of world's best airports in 2011:

1) Hong Kong International Airport
2) Singapore Changi Airport
3) Incheon International Airport
4) Munich Airport
5) Beijing Capital International Airport
6) Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Let's see how some of them perform online.

Friday, April 13, 2012

6 reports about global digital marketing

6 Reports about global digital marketing.

Sometimes reports can come in handy. Especially for market research or writing an online strategy. I summarized a few interesting reports about international digital marketing. Most of the reports described can be downloaded free of charge. If not an extensive summary can be downloaded.

1. Nielsen: Global Trust in Advertising.

This report writes about all forms of digital advertising and the trust people give to these forms of advertising.
Differences between continents are described. We read that in the middle east and Africa, people trust mobile text ads, much more then the global average. Maybe this is because mobile internet penetration is higher in these regions due to in some cases absense of fixed landlines.
As I described earlier, especially the Chinese are very fond of user recommendations and especially from people they know. Also online video advertisements are more trustworthy for the Asia Pacific region then the global average.

Trust in different forms of digital advertising Asia vs Global average

2. McKinsey: The Net's sweeping impact on growth, jobs and prosperity.

This study is all about the impact the internet can have at countries.The reports starts with some nice quotes as: small and medium businesses heavily using web technologies grow and export twice as much as others. Or 10 % increase in productivity for small and medium businesses from internet usage.
It also describes the differences between countries. For example South Korea is rapidly accelerating its influence at the internet economy. Their influence rate is growing faster then big neighbor Japan.
Russia, Brasil and Italy have a big potential to grow. They are still at early stages of the internet supply. chain. The report describes how to build strong internet ecosystems and gives directions at how find ways to optimize the participation of countries in the global internet ecosystem. At average at this moment with a 3.4 percent to GDP, Internet is weighing more then agriculture, energy and other industries. The impact of internet at the GDP will only grow, but it is important to educate, encourage usage, getting the right infrastructure, providing human capital etc.

Contribution of internet to GDP

3. Burson Marsteller: The Global Social Media Check-up

The report starts by telling what is already known by everybody who is busy with online marketing and especially social marketing. They tell that only by engaging with others an organization can remain master of its own reputation.Burson Marsteller explored the use of social media among 100 global companies and explored the use of social media among them.
Nice again to read about the differences between continents. Asian companies have more active blogs then the US and Europe. Logical, since blogging is still big in Asia. Asian companies are much less active at Twitter. The report also takes into account the big local players like Mixi in Japan. But still it says there is no real activity to stakeholders via this channel. It concludes that Asian companies currently prefer to be more comfortable to communicate via blogs.
Many companies also make choices at what platforms they are active. 79% of the researched companies use at least one social platform. But only 20% use all four platforms to engage with stakeholders.
The report zooms in at different countries, like Brazil and Japan. Japanese organisations mainly use social media for their international audiences. In Japan itself websites are still prefered. I wonder how they make their online strategy in this case, if at the head office, they don't really are into social media. I think the importance is that a head office also understands the impact of social media at the organisation.
Anyway, the report can be downloaded here. (after leaving an e-mail adress)

4. Swiss post: Distance selling in the Nordic Countries

As we all know, the Nordic countries have more or less the highest penetration of internet usage in the world, also they are among the countries with the highest incomes, and the distances are large. There is an enormous online shopping potential. But Scandinavian online shoppers, are not so fond of shopping with foreign companies. What kind of strategy is needed to make a succes of your online activities in Scandinavia. 
The Swiss post did some investigations. How often do people buy from neighboring countries, what did they buy then? And most important what are the reasons not to buy.
It is important to focus at products that are not (widely) available in these countries, they have to be cheaper priced and the shipping costs may not be so high. A challenge in these countries, I can tell you. I think besides the main reasons mentioned, of course an excellent shipping service (including delivering to droppoints and notify messages), good local knowledge of the language (not just do it in English or only in Swedish) will also help. Of course, like everywhere, but even more in the Nordic's an efficient and
good customer service is very important.
The report can be downloaded here.

5. Datainsight: Russia: Russian e-commerce market

Russia's ecommerce sector is among the most rapidly growing in the world. They expect that in 2012 the volume of internet sales in Russia will grow with more then 45 percent. Russia's biggest problem is still logistics. Russia's infrastructure is still lacking behind. 
Now only the two metropolitan areas of Moscow and St Petersburg contribute the most to the online sales. 
But there are so many chances. In the countryside a lot of products are impossible to buy and if it is available it is much more expensive then in Moscow. Big chances for online shopping. 

If focusing at Russia, datainsights report from last year, gives some directions. The report shows figures of popular branches and also branches that are (still) very small. Big chances! Russians like to buy electronics and tickets online. Buying food online is not popular. But many other countries are also struggling with this problem.

6. Asia Digital Marketing Associaton

The ADMA releases every year it's asia digital marketing yearbook via this URL. (found this mirror as well) A short version can be downloaded for free. The extensive version needs to be paid. 
A very well written document with all kind of statistics related to online advertising per country in Asia Pacific. It describes statistics about what users buy online, which social networks they use, a lot of demographics, statistics and e-commerce facts. Such a report should be made for every continent.
It really helps writing strategy's and making choices. The document has sections per country. From Hong Kong digital's information to Vietnam's online usage. A must download.

Screenshot from the ADMA's digital marketing yearbook

Monday, April 2, 2012

Basic steps for a SEO quickscan

SEO quickscan
The following steps are just some basic guidelines for a SEO  quick scan. But following these steps will give you a basic status of your sites SEO performance.

When analyzing search results, always make sure you are logged out of your Google account and your cookies history is clean.

Always remember: Google indexes pages and not websites. Your internal link structure is very important as well as each page and the backlinks to pages.

Technical SEO

  • First of all start with installing the SEOMOZ toolbar for FireFox or Chrome. It has lot's of SEO tools integrated.
  • Check how many pages are indexed in Google. Can roughly be checked by using the command "site" in the major search engines. E.g. site:www.yoursite.com . Try it with and without www. Right under the search bar you will see the indexed pages from this domain. Also in the SEOMOZ toolbar is a possibility to check the indexed pages.
  • Is the website using frames? The usage of frames is not adviced.
  • Is the website using flash? Search engines still have difficulties indexing flash content. Also apple devices don't display flash content. Better to find an alternative solution, if you use flash.
  • Check the 404 error page. Make sure it works and is setup correctly. Here's some advice
  • Make proper use of redirects. If pages are removed, temporarily or permanently, make sure the redirect of the page is correct. More information about redirects can be found here.
  • Make sure that URL's with the www and the same URL without the "www" typed in, show the same page.
  • Make sure there is no content hidden, by the use of javascript. If you use the SEOMOZ toolbar in FireFox or chrome, you can easily disable javascript and see how the site looks. Make sure the navigation dropdowns are working.
  • Check if the website is compliant to the W3C guidelines. This can be done here. Try to avoid error messages and warnings.
  • Make sure you have "readable" URL's. So not an URL like www.yoursite.com/39493/bin/content/55.html but www.yoursite.com/category/productname.html


  • Does your site has duplicate content elswhere on the web? Duplicate content is not appreciated by search engines. This tool, called http://www.copyscape.com/ can check if content from your site is available elsewhere at the web. If you're content is the original one, there is nothing to be afraid of.
  • Internal duplicate content can be checked with the help of Google Webmaster Tools. For more information about duplicate content, check this article.
  • Does every page has a unique title? If not make sure that every page has a unique title and include also relevant keywords in the title. If you have a large site, you can try to automate this process, by for example the use of text from your product information system.
  • Make use of relevant keywords in the URL's
  • Try to use unique meta descriptions, like Matt Cutts from Google explains here.
  • If you have a webshop where you sell products, make sure your category pages and product pages have enough text. At every page you can think of some text, to tell what is happening at this page. This is very important for search engines. Make sure your products or services do not have the same description from the supplier, that is used everywhere with your competitors as well. Make the text unique.
  • Create a correct template with the use of the heading tags, like H1, H2, H3 and H4.


  • Make sure you use "breadcrumps" at your site. Good for your visitors and search engines.
  • Make sure there is a XML sitemap at for example www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml
  • Be careful when linking to external websites, you might leak pagerank from your website to others.
  • A good internal link structure is very important, also at your homepage. More about the internal link structure can be found here.
  • Backlinks (link to your pages) are very important. Every SEO quickscan should have a backlink check. If you do not have sufficient links to your pages, a high ranking is virtually impossible. You can use backlinkchecktools all over the internet, but seomoz is one of the best.
  • Check your pagerank! If you want to learn more about what pagerank is, watch this video:

Often you have to make sure you get links to certain pages of your website, that might be deeper at your site, to let them rank higher at certain keywords. Don't only focus at your homepage.

  • Take a few keywords, that you think are important, or that you have found in Google traffic estimator and that you want to rank high at. Find the URL's of your competitor's and make a short matrix with at least the following information:
    • URL competitor
      • Indexed pages
      • Backlinks to these site
      • Position of sites at certain keywords
      • Check product rankings against competitor's
Social Integration

Google nowadays integrates social data in their search results. If you are an early adopter in your branch, you can take advantage of this. But in the long term it get's increasingly important to have fans at Google+ and other social media and to gain so called "+1's", fan's etc. Google's competition with facebook will only increase the speed of these changes.
Use at least a +1 checker to check your's and your competitor's.
Social is going to have a real big influence at search engine marketing in the short term. Keep an eye at that. It is not only about followers, but it goes beyond that. 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cookie Law (e-privacy directive) : examples, tools and scripts

A collection of links with information about the new cookie law, that is in force in the UK at the 26th of may, and other countries in the EU will follow shortly after that. I still hope, that at least, permission is not necessary for analytics cookies.

Plugins / Checkers

Plugins for browsers to see what cookies there are currently used at your website.

  • A Google Chrome plugin that gives you feedback about the usage of cookies at your site:

  • Another plugin for Google Chrome that gives a detailed report about the cookies your websites uses:


A few photoshopped possibilities can be found here.
Some live examples that I found so far:
  • The site below is using a nice mechanism. People are asked for consent, by a bar at top of the screen. But also a banner is shown at the site, telling the user it's status: Cookie status "opted-out". I think a creative and good example to remember people each time about their cookie status and hoping they change from opt-out, to opt-in. Especially when people have opt-ed in for cookies, I suggest not to show the banner. If people click at the banner or the bar above, a popup comes up with a clear explanation about the sites cookie policy. Interesting also that you can opt-in for multiple sites using the same plugin.
  • This site simply shows a bar on top of the screen:

  • This is a combination of a demo site and a script to make it work. It is from wolf software and a complete package.

There are 8 possible demo's giving you inspiration on how to ask permission. 
- A bar at top and when clicked a drop down with settings expands
- A small box that pop's up and when clicked a drop down with settings expands
- An "on click" change of the settings
- An overlay popup
- etc.
Interesting. many possibilities.

BT already is clearly giving the user control about cookies, by giving control via a link at the footer and is asking (although at the moment only shortly), via a nicely designed overlay permission for the use of cookies.

They also offer a real nice slider, to give control, with clear explanation and easy usage:

Tools/ Scripts that can be used for asking permission
  • The portent script (link below), shows an easy dialog box asking for permission. This script checks if a user is from the EU. Good not to bother users outside the EU with this stupid law.
  • As described above, wolf software has a nice package of scripts to give the user cookie control.
I tried to get cookie control working, but I did not succeed.
  • Cookieq, has a nice example that automatically translates the permission text if you are accessing from outside the UK. Good to remember for international sites.

I will ad more links to the list, when I find them. The best solution, in my opinion is a combination from all of these tools and examples. Be clear to the user about the cookies, not only in text, but also in video for example. If you have multiple sites, try to get permissions for all of the sites at once. If you have an international website, make choices for visitors outside the EU and make sure you have your opt-in text ready in multiple languages. 
Make a campaign plan for asking permission. E-mail marketing and social media could be well used for this.

Cultural differences in international social media

Cultural differences in international social media
Cultural differences in social media
Cultural differences in international social media: Mixi (JP) - Facebook (US)

I like to research and experience cultural differences in digital marketing in general. This time let's take a closer look at cultural differences in social media. There are not only linguistic differences, otherwise you could simply translate everything, but there are also differences in behavior.

So if you are a global player and you have a brand communication manual or a social guide, be aware there might be local differences necessary. Especially in social media, where there is direct contact with fans, customers and their friends, it is so important to communicate the right thing and to understand your audience so you can take the right conclusions.

differences in behavior in social media around the world
Global social media behavior
A while ago, I saw a presentation by Fons Trompenaars and in his presentation he described some real nice cases of different reactions in the world at the same dilemmas.

Trompenaars used the dilemma of a car crash which is entirely your fault, but witnessed by your friend. How will you expect your friend to describe the event to the police? In many cultures they would expect the friend to tell a huge lie to protect your driving license. But in other countries this is out of the question. (Switzerland for example). Same problem. Different reactions. It is the same in social media. You have to understand these fundamental differences. 

It seems interesting to see if social media makes these differences smaller in the long term future.
Different reactions at the same dilemma 

Setting up a global cultural intranet

A company who has setup a global cross cultural intranet, highlighted a few areas with interesting differences in usage from the intranet between countries.
I summarize these differences below with a few of my own additions from my personal experience.
  • Design
    • Just compare some designs from popular social platforms in the world. You will see major differences. People are used to these major social platforms. If you just copy your local design this might not work. In Asia they are used to "icons" and images, like mixi uses in Japan. In the west we are much more text oriented for example. Twitter (and Google) have a minimalist look. The Chinese twitter has the opposite, a very busy look.
Twitter layout versus Sina Weibo Layout
Twitter layout vs Sina Weibo layout

  • Language
    • It's obvious that everything has to be translated. But be aware for language subtleties. Google Translate is not always right. Be careful to use google translate and if you use an automated tool, make sure corrections can be made easily and also by users themselves.
  • Language subtleties
    • As I experienced myself as well, language has to be seen in a context. It is not enough to simply  sent over a word file and let this to be translated by a translation agency. The people who translating a file related to digital marketing, need to have a context. And especially in social media, they also need to have affinity with social media. Otherwise you get wrong translations and as a result user frustrations.
  • Internet performance
    • Google already taught us that websites have to respond fast. If they don't respond fast you can forget about a high ranking. Google does this for the user experience. People do not want to use slow websites. Don't forget if you go abroad that in some parts of the world, the internet connection speed can be much faster. Korea has the fastest internet connections. Your website has to load quickly. If you have servers in the USA, only a few milliseconds delay might give frustration to the user in Korea.
  • Faces and avatars
    • In the west, we like to use a picture of ourselves as a profile picture. In Japan and Korea they discovered that people prefered to upload an avatar.

Examples of differences in behavior and usage of social media around the world.

To get a few idea's of understanding the difficulties for developing a global social media strategy, I wrote down a few examples.

Jack Yan described that there is a gap between Americans and New Zealanders on Twitter usage. NZ people engage more and require less automated tweets. While American's just want a lot of content and don't bother about automated tweets. It's content after all. [difference in behavior]
  • In Europe there are also a lot of differences. French people have a bigger hesitation and observation before they enter in new (social) media. This always takes more time if you compare it to the north of Europe. [difference in usage]
  • In the south of Europe there are big groups of young people who are not active at the web. The north of Europe has a very high penetration of young people online. When people are new online they will of course show a different behavior then people who grew up in a digital environment.  [difference in usage and difference in behavior]
  • Chinese people are very open for people in their social circle but more closed for people outside their circle. This is different than in some European countries or the USA where people are much more open in general at social networks. [difference in usage and difference in behavior]
  • Saudi women tend to connect online at midnight to overcome restrictions. So if you are targeting women in this area, you have to do your postings at night. [difference in usage]
  • In large parts of Asia, people use much more their mobile phone to access the internet. Make sure you have an optimal experience at cell phones when targeting Southeast Asia. [difference in usage]
  • In France blogging is still very popular, while in Germany the amount of blogs are declining. [difference in behavior]
  • In Japan you have to focus at "interest" to reach people, while in the USA the "identity" is central. [difference in usage]
  • In Japan many people use fake names and avatars, while in China you have to use your real name (or be linked to it). This will no doubt result in different behavior at the network. [difference in behavior]
  • Why did Facebook became big in Taiwan? Only because Taiwanese people were able to play FarmVille. So social games seem to be very popular in Taiwan. [difference in usage]
  • In Europe you can ask for a retweet directly (at least in most countries). In Asian countries it is best to ask it in a non direct way. Another example of not copy-ing your retweet action without any adjustments to other continents. [difference in behavior]
Geert Hofstede's 5 Dimensions Model.

When you want the best result in your international online campaigns, it is always good to understand at least the basics from Geert Hofstede's 5 D Model.

In short, Geert Hofstedes model is about individualism and collectivism: what is more important, the group or the individual.

At the internet there are countless articles about mr Hofstede's model and explanation. But his own website has an easy pull down menu, so you can check the values for the 5 dimensions for almost every country.

I describe the 5 dimensions and the (possible) relation with social media.

1. Power distance: This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal – it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us.

Translated to social media, especially in B2B could be that the approach in countries with a high score at this factor needs to be very direct. Authority is very important. So if a CEO is active at the company's social media platform, this might be very powerful. While in countries with a low score at this dimension, it might work the opposite when a CEO is actively posting at the companies social media blog. People will start thinking "hasn't he something better to do"? 

2. Individualism: In Individualist  society's  people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only. In Collectivist society's people belong to ‘in groups’ that take care of them in exchange for loyalty.

Individualist cultures, are usually very direct in communication. Collectivist cultures, like Japan are not. A big difference in communicating and getting things done at social media. A simple example. I was once walking with a Japanese person in Amsterdam. It was not warm, but also not cold. We were sightseeing. She said "I am cold". I said "well, it is not so cold, just a 15 minute's walk and then we are at the Heineken Experience". What I did not understand was that she wanted to go inside at the next pub or restaurant. She didn't care about the 15 minute walk. She wanted to drink something, go to the toilet etc. In the Dutch culture you say this directly. The Japanese culture is very different. By not understanding these small things you can have big discussions later :). So learn to read between these lines when you are analyzing your campaigns in countries with a low score at the individualism dimension.
Social media might also change the score of countries at these dimensions. China scores about 20 at the IDV index. So pretty low. Meaning it is a collective society. But as soon as you see the Sina Weibo  page (Chinese Twitter) you will see profile updates all over the place. Also when you have not logged in. Meaning people from a group, you turn into an individual at this homepage, seen by everybody. I know Sina Weibo is partly so big because of the "group" facilities. But it is interesting to follow.

3. Masculinity / Femininity: A high score (masculine) on this dimension indicates that the society will be driven by competition, achievement and success.
What is important in life? Being happy or always to compete and to have success? Is the man equal to the woman or not? Important to keep in mind, when creating campaigns. Is it the man who decides the purchase or the woman? In what aspect is the woman influencing the man and how can she do so by using social media?

4. Uncertainty avoidance: The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways.
A translation to social media, might be that countries who score high at the uncertainty avoidance, have a fear for privacy issues in the online world and they want to keep control of their data online. For example in Germany this is the case. Germany is really struggling with privacy control and is for example constantly arguing with Google about this issue. I can also imagine that in countries with a high score at this dimension you have to be very clear when you are building mobile apps or apps for facebook about what data you use and why you use it. Otherwise a lot of people might not use your app or only grant you permission to a small part of their data. 

5. Long term orientation: Focuses on the degree the society embraces, or does not embrace, long-term devotion to traditional, forward thinking values. High Long-Term Orientation ranking indicates the country prescribes to the values of long-term commitments and respect for tradition. This is thought to support a strong work ethic where long-term rewards are expected as a result of today's hard work. However, business may take longer to develop in this society, particularly for an "outsider". A Low Long-Term Orientation ranking indicates the country does not reinforce the concept of long-term, traditional orientation. In this culture, change can occur more rapidly as long-term traditions and commitments do not become impediments to change.

Characteristics of the opposite sides of this dimension are:

Long term orientation
-ordering relationships by status and observing this order
-having a sense of shame

Short term orientation
-personal steadiness and stability
-protecting your ‘face’
-respect or tradition
-reciprocation of greetings, favors, and gifts

In social media this could mean that in long term orientation it is even more important who tells the message. People with a higher status are maybe even more of influence then in countries with a short term orientation. This can be a very powerful tool to use in these countries.

But there might also be a difficulty. In the social web, there is often referred to "become a fan". In fact many online campaigns (especially in the west) aim for getting as much fans as possible in a short period of time. But this is in this model a long term orientation. So getting fans in countries that score high at this dimension, might be much more difficult then getting a fan in country's with a short term orientation. Where people click easily at "I like this".


When going international with social media, of course, like always with social media, you have to listen to your users, but listening and analyzing is not enough, you have to understand the differences and read between the lines. Do a proper desk and field research. Use Geert Hofstedes 5 dimensions to understand the basic values of a country.
  • You can't push everything from a central point of view. You can't push everything from a decentral point of view as well. You have to find a hybrid model.
  • For your international social strategy, make sure you hire people who have strong cross cultural skills. It has to be someone who enjoys looking for differences in cultures and knows how to translate your brand or communication into local situations.
  • It is enevitable to hire local professionals as well, especially the social media content managers. International social media is constantly changing and new networks appear and old ones disapear. Small things that might not seem important if you do not know the culture can break your campaign. Destroying a brand is easy; (Re) building a brand is extremely difficult.
  • Like  Fons Trompenaars  said, people all over the world, react differently at the same dilemmas or questions. Always remember that.
  • Create local content. Don't just copy paste. The strength of social media is in unique attracting content and engagement. So create local content, react at local news messages, share local stories etc.
  • The major differences are in these areas:
  1. Visual
  2. Language
  3. Usage
  4. Interpretation (how people deal with communication, questions or dilemma's)

Thanks for reading and greetings,

Alex Baar

Monday, March 12, 2012

EU cookie law: how to visually deal with it

The EU "cookie directive" is forcing European website to ask users for consent for most (marketing) cookies. (cookies which are not part of a service (cookies which are necessary for the service or for the performance of a contract) do not need consent.

Many webshops and websites are struggling on how to ask users their approval for using certain cookies. I photoshopped some idea's and found some example websites with idea's how to deal with the new law in a visual way. Just for my better understanding on what we can do to comply to the law in it's current form I summarized some idea's in this article.
They are just idea's, since I could not find any commercial websites that are already complied to this directive.

There are still discussions and different interpretations between countries. Let's hope the commission revises this e-privacy directive.

But with the information available now,as from the 26th of may this cookie law is enforced in the UK, so it is important to start thinking and developing soon. This 2 minutes video shows what it is all about:


6 ways of dealing with the EU cookie directive are described below.

Possibility 1: (photoshopped) a window that hovers over the website and you have to actively approve or disapprove the use of cookies before you can continue to browse.

EU cookie law: example asking consent cookies
A floating window asking for cookie consent

Possibility 2: This is as it is currently used at ico.gov.uk. A banner at the top of the page that remains there as long as you do not accept the cookie policy. If you do not accept it, certain cookies are not used.

Some kind of banner asking for cookie consent

Possibility 3: (photoshopped) a big banner at the bottom of the screen that is visible at all pages, untill the use of cookies is approved. If not approved, certain cookies will not be stored and there will be a different experience for the user.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Social Media in China: what is Sina Weibo

What is Sina Weibo? Is it the twitter of china?

Weibo, many people in western Europe or the USA, don't know what Weibo is, but in China, Sina Weibo is really big. Sina Weibo receives 1 in every 100 visits in China! If I say: "weibo is a Twitter +", probably you will get an idea.

I started to do some desk research to learn about Weibo. Interesting for myself, to learn about what Weibo is, why Weibo got so big and what can be learned from the services and features they offer and of course it is always interesting to look at cultural differences in (online) marketing.

This article is based on desk research and I will add many links in the article.

Sina.com is an online media company in China. Sina owns Weibo. Weibo is often described as a hybrid form between twitter and facebook. Details about Sina can be found at Wikipedia.

Why did Sina Weibo became so big?

Sam Flemming and Eugene Chew explain why Sina became so big in this interesting video.

An important reason is that they are very good at marketing. In 2005/2006 Sina was very big in blogs. Especially because they made celebrities blogging in China. Some people say Sina has good contacts with the government. In any way, the service they provide is really interesting and in present time at Sina Weibo celebrities still play an important role in their services.

The Chinese internet has always been social. But the Chinese web never went viral.
Weibo made things go viral.You have many ways to share your content. And Weibo has a lot more features then it's western counterpart Twitter has:
  • weibo has comments
  • weibo has rich media
  • you can have a private weibo group (so not the whole world can see your posts)
  • you an have an enterprise page
  • Sina Weibo has functions of many social platforms and that makes it extra attractive.
Sina Weibo is really innovative and many things are customized for the Chinese people.

Chinese people are very generous and open to everybody in their social circle, but for strangers they can be unsympathetic. Weibo is like a big private karaoke room. Important for Chinese because they can express themselves in their own circle.

Sina Weibo looks like this:


The biggest competitor of Sina Weibo, is Tencent Weibo

Comparisment between Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo

Sina Weibo attracts more adults, celebrities and has more active users
Tencent Weibo attracts more students and has younger adience

Why weibo works better than twitter in China is explained in this video:

A short summary of the video interview:

  • Chinese phrases and sentences are much shorter then in the west. Chinese can say in 2 characters what we need 30 words for. So Weibo is much more focused at content. 
  • Weibo is more technologically sophisticated then Twitter.
  • Twitter is very geekie, with the "@" sign and the hashtags (#), shortlinks etc...weibo is much more easy to use.
A powerful feature from weibo is micro topics. Weibo takes any tweet that is related to a certain topic and creates a unique page with that so users can view and discuss.

Juanmarketing explains more differences between Weibo and Twitter in his article.

Sina Weibo has a higher penetration in China than twitter, in the many countries where twitter is available

How to promote your brand at Weibo?

Here is a nice written article about how to promote a brand at Weibo. What we learn from this article is that you really have to think about engagement and virality. The example "Vancl" that is mentioned in the article is really interesting. I do not see a visual example, but I can imagine that if you let your followers make their own advertisement of your products, this causes a hughe virality. Content is important, but virality is as well. 

It seems like that Chinese celebrities are just as important as celebrities in the UK for example. So think about using celebrities for branding purposes. Weibo is the social tool that has the largest base of active celebrities.

Marc Violo created a nice graphic about features that can be used at Sina Weibo to promote a brand.

  • The purple lines are content drivers.
  • The red lines are interactive applications.
  • The graphic and visual stimuli are the blue lines.
  • The engagement enhancers are the orange lines.
  • and the green ones the data and tracking systems.
As I understood, but do not see in this graphic, Sina has a huge "portal" as well. That probably can also be used as a traffic driver.
Also I have read about new features from Sina Weibo, such as Weibo interview, Weibo live blogging and more. But I have not been able to find examples yet. They are welcome, I am very interested.

Burson Marsteller has published a Weibo Guidebook at slideshare:
A farmer in China got rid of his 700 tons potatoes within 24 hours by using Weibo.
North Korea is appearantly active at weibo as well.
A bike get's stolen, but also found again due to the impact of Weibo.
People use fake "Iphone signatures" at weibo?
Recently Sina Weibo started a charity platform, make it easy for people to follow charity and to donate to charity.

At Sina weibo it was possible to have an anonymous account. But as from the16th of march this will change, due to a legal change in China. This will have some effect at the usage of Sina weibo.


We all know the Chinese social web is evolving and changing fast.This makes it very interesting to follow.
So I think another strong aspect of Sina Weibo is it's current integration with other digital marketing channels. Twitter for example still has no integration with Google.
The Chinese "google" the big search engine in China, Baidu, has now integrated Sina Weibo's real time search results and Tudou, the Chinese Youtube is doing the same. These are important steps to lead to a mature digital web in China. In my opinion very interesting, since the west is going to run behind if you look at these initiatives that are now made in China.


Especially in certain parts of the world, small things and adjustments can become very important to make a success from online services. Weibo is very big and I think they will move to the west as well in the future. Curious how this will work, since also Weibo then has to make some changes in functionality to make it a success in the western world.
As we already think that Facebook is powerful to promote a brand, weibo and Chinese portals are  important to make a successful brand promotion in China and to make your brand go viral.
Human's are social, so it is important to integrate that in the online service. Weibo has threaded comments (unlike twitter) and other features that make this service more user friendly then it's western counterparts.
Make your online service as intuitive as possible!

Anyway at least I have my Sina Weibo account. Feel free to add me!

My Sina Weibo Account
And I must say, although, I cannot read Chinese, it works pretty intuitive! I can imagine already that this can be very much fun to use. I have to learn Chinese though...

Thanks for reading and greetings,

Alex Baar

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