Sunday, February 27, 2011

2-Minute Warning

Tick, Tick, Tick... Like it or not, the clock is running that is rapidly turning the Internet into a content-rich environment that will be dominated by players who are savvy enough to realize that text-only is the surest way to lose your online audience. The bad news is that those site’s that continue to resist the trend toward audio and video inclusion are going to find browsers and buyers going elsewhere. The good news is that it still isn’t too late for you to get with the YouTube crowd before the clock runs out. In fact, with a little bit of practice, you may soon find out that vlogging and podcasting could well be the best thing that ever happened to your company.

The first thing you have to understand before you rush out to buy a webcam is that bad video is worst than no video at all. What works on paper can be as boring as watching paint dry. That doesn’t mean it takes Steven Spielberg to turn out video that works. With a little practice, almost anyone can create corporate videos that are the best sales tools a business could have. What follows is what you need to know in order to create and deliver a marketing message by telling a business story with style so that an audience will remember the message and act upon it. Best of all, we can even show you how to do this on a shoestring budget.

Online it’s all about production, not airtime The first thing you have to understand is that Web video is completely separate from the world of broadcast television, where the cost of airtime is at a premium and show formats are 30 to 120 minutes in length. “A typical 30-minute block of television airtime includes 22 minutes of programming with 6 minutes of national advertising and 2 minutes of local (although some half-hour blocks may have as much as 12 minutes of advertisements)."

We've all had to gnash our teeth while sitting through the now all-too-familiar 3-minute commercial break, wondering if we are even going to be able to keep the dramatic train of thought sustained long enough for the programming to resume. Fortunately, the world of web video doesn’t work that way. Not only aren’t their any commercial breaks during a typical web broadcast, the length of an average YouTube clip is anywhere from two to five minutes. With that kind of format, there isn’t time for a commercial.

That said, an argument could be made for discipline when creating a Web-based video presentation. The way to format an effective video is to do it in the most efficient and memorable manner possible. No-Frills Filmmaking at its Best is about telling your story, whether it's a fifteen-second elevator pitch or a five-minute infomercial. If you don't tell a story you aren't communicating your message effectively. Because the Web doesn't require you to purchase airtime, your video presentation once uploaded, is available 24/7 for all to see, anytime, as often as they want.

Since you have so much freedom of expression when it comes to online video, what you need to ask yourself, is, “What is the best way to make my point?” If you follow the standard television format and drone on for half-an-hour all you are going to accomplish is boring your viewers to tears? The standard format for successful Web video is to hit the viewer right between the eyes and deliver the message in an unforgettable way.

Just as with most things in life, discipline is very important when it comes to video production. Particularly when it comes to video shorts, the producer needs to stay focused. Lose this focus and you won’t just lose the viewer, you could very well lose track of your shooting budget as well. Time is money on the set. Unlike producing a show for broadcast tv, when it comes to web-based video you have the freedom to fudge the timing to meet your needs. On the Web, there is no sense in cutting a presentation because it runs fifteen seconds too long, or adding superfluous material because it runs fifteen seconds short. That said, it is a good idea to start with a structure that allows you to build a presentation that works; a presentation that has a beginning, middle, and end; a presentation that tells a story viewers will sit through and pay attention to.

What we have devised is a 3-act format for web video.  If you accept the premise that Web videos are all about telling your story, then perhaps the best solution is to take the standard, three act, one hundred and twenty minute movie, and scale it down to a three act, one hundred and twenty second video short.  The first thing you will learn about video is that for every hour you put into preproduction, you wil save two in post. What this means in a nutshell, is that you want to have the production well laid out before you roll tape. What this means is that you will need to either write a script, or at the very least lay out a storyboard that will give your production some structure. Either way, the nuts and bolts of laying out your narrative are the same, as follows.

THE SCRIPT - Act One: The Setup Your first act is the setup:(1) A proper setup needs to introduce your hero (every story, even commercials, need a hero);(2) It must contain an Inciting Incident that triggers action on the part of the hero, and;(3) It must also create an object of desire and define the nature of success. By incorporating these elements in your first act, you attract viewer interest, hold viewer attention, create viewer expectation, and provide vicarious, virtual-viewer participation through the actions of the surrogate hero.

Act Two: The Conflict Act two is about establishing conflict and building tension by creating an obstacle that provides the motivational impetus to act to resolve the problem.

Act Three: The Payoff While Act three provides the resolution, the audience is satisfied with the knowledge gained and they are left to wonder where they will see the hero next.

Postproduction: Once you get the tape back to postproduction, you should first lay out the rough. This means that you will lay out all the action first. Don't worry about narration, music or titling, as these will all be added later. Use transitions with discretion. Too many can give your video an Amateur Hour look. Once you are happy with the flow onscreen, then you can work toward the final cut by adding narration, then titling and at long last music. Once you are happy with your video short, make sure you don't lose all your work should the hard drive crash by making a backup copy by burning a dvd.

Post-Postproduction: The best part about web video is that you distribute them free of charge on any number of video hosting sites that have sprung up like weeds since Google acquired YouTube. In upcoming posts, I’ll tell you how to use these sites as an alternative search engine to provide not only content for your company website, but also added traffic as well. Just keep in mind that if you are looking to add effective web video to your repertoire before the clock runs out, but you're not sure about how to go about telling your story, then the 120 Second, 3 Act Web-Video Short is a good place to start.

Video Samples:

If you want to get into the game before the 2-Minute Warning runs out, give the video marketing professionals a call at 904-234-6007. 

The 6 Deadly Web Design Sins

While it's true that "nobody's perfect," I think this credo is especially telling for small business websites. No web site it seems is absolutely perfect. Even the best of the best often have room for improvement! But there are some basic website mistakes that many small companies make that wind up hurting business instead of helping it. Do any of these 6 deadly web design sins show up on your web site?

#1: Not enough content. All too often, small businesses do not include enough information to pique the viewer's attention. Worst still, all too many sites leave their homepage static for months or even years on end. This is hardly the kind of thing that is going to encourage repeat viewership. Especially today, with the advent of blogs, podcasts and streaming video, there's no excuse for static homepage content. Today's web visitors are looking for something more, and lots of good quality content is a great way to deliver value to your visitors and build credibility for your business.

#2: The wrong content It seems odd after more than a decade of nearly exponential developments in online interactivity that some businesses still make the mistake of employing "Intro Pages" that do absolutely nothing but lay there. Unfortunately, these dinosaurs are still around. To understand why these relics can only hurt viewer satisfaction, think of how you as a television viewer hate to sit through commercial breaks at the beginning of a favorite show. That's what web surfers feel about "Intro Pages." They are just as likely to click over to another site then click through to your actual homepage. If you are still employing these dinosaurs, relegate them to the boneyard before your online business winds up extinct.

#3: All Flash = No Dazzle! Sad to say, there are still some small businesses out there that rely on Flash for their website's architecture. Sites built exclusively with Flash pages cannot easily be read by the search engines, and web visitors typically hate using them as well, since they are slow to load. Due to their graphical nature, these pages exclude such things as Meta Tags and text that are vital to search engine rankings. Sure, they look cool, but that doesn't mean that your viewers agree, particularly if they have to wait 30 seconds or so for the page to load. If you must use Flash components, stick to using them as banners and headers. This way you can combine cause with effect, which is surely the best of both worlds.

#4: Not being search engine friendly Another deadly sin involves your site's relationship, or lack thereof, with the major search engines. I'm not advocating creating content exclusively for the sake of website positioning. On the other hand, I'm also not saying that you should concentrate exclusively on website content to the detriment of optimization. After all, what good will it do for you to have the sexiest site on the Internet if nobody ever sees it? Speaking of search engines, what happens if a search engine spider visits your site, but can't read your web pages? Nothing happens, and that's a problem. If a search engine spider cannot read your web pages, it just moves on to the next site, and your information is completely ignored. Your web site must be search engine friendly in order to be included in the search engine databases.

#5: Not monitoring your website's statistics Even if your web site is well designed and search engine friendly, if you aren't monitoring site performance on a page by page basis, how will you know if content and content changes are affecting viewer satisfaction? Monitoring your web site means that you can react to and take appropriate steps to make sure your site is doing its best to motivate your viewers, deliver your message and produce the kind of tangible results that keeps the cash register jingling.

#6: Lacking a tangible offer It is hard enough to get anyone to click over to your site. When they get there, you had better have a darn good reason for them to leave their calling card in the form of a registration before clicking out. To encourage registration, you must offer some intangible that is of value to the prospect. This is most usually in the form of information, dispensed in one of three ways: Free E-Book (ie written), Free Audio (ie podcast) or Free Video. The lure of a free offer must be prominently displayed, not buried below the fold. It must convey urgency. And it must be readily and instantly accessible. Most usually, you can create one of these beauties by coupling a flash or gif animated banner ad with a cgi form.

For instance, one of our clients, a credit repair bureau, had us create a short video for use as a registration vehicle. The message was, "Interested in a Crash Course in Credit Repair? Click here for your Free Video." We coupled this with a form that not only asked for the registrant's name, email address, snail mail address and phone number, but it also asked them several questions about their credit worthiness. This kind of content-rich information is then used as a lead list, as well as loaded into the client's email server for later updates and offers.

By avoiding these six deadly web design sins, you can turn your website from a static presence into an effective and affordable lead generation system that will help you generate new customers, promote customer loyalty, increase your firm's geographic presence and make more sales.

For more information on how to turn your computer into a lead generating, email dispensing, newsletter publishing, cash register ringing machine, call Acess JAX at (904) 234-6007.  (FYI: Call us today for a no-cost, no-obligation web presence audit that will detail how your website stacks up versus the compettion.)  

How To Use Video SEO To Jump To The Top Of Google

Video is clearly the future of the Internet. There is more time spent watching videos online than anyone could have anticipated just a few short years ago. This dramatic shift of focus is growing more and more as the seconds tick by. Let's look at some staggering facts here, and compare them to just 2 years ago so you can see the dramatic growth!

ComScore, Inc., a company that measures the digital world, reported that in the month of December 2008, there were 14.3 Billion Videos viewed by Americans - that's in a single month!
The same company reports that for the month of November of 2009 it had jumped to 31 Billion videos viewed. Check out some other amazing facts gleaned from this report:
  • 8.5% of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video. 84.8% in 2009.
  • The average online video viewer watched more than 5 hours of video (in one month!). 12.2 hrs. per viewer in 2009!
  • 98.9 million viewers watched 5.9 Billion videos on YouTube (that's 59.2 videos per viewer in one month!) 128.1 million viewers watched more than 12 billion videos on (94.3 videos per viewer).
  • The duration of the average online video was 3.2 minutes, by Nov. 2009 the avg. video length had grown to 4 min.
Video SEO Defined - Improve Your Online Marketing
What's even more amazing is the fact that videos combined with SEO technology can not only provide a showcase for your products and services, but it can also be used to generate page 1 placement on Google. 
While most industries are not yet utilizing the power of web-based videos to motivate and drive traffic to their web presence, some are catching on and dominating their market. You too can use the power of search engine optimized videos to enhance your online marketing efforts.

Video SEO involves the Science and Art of causing a video to have a high search engine ranking on the Internet. Along with this high search engine ranking is the implied direction of web traffic from the video to the video owner's web presence. The combination of these elements will greatly improve your online marketing effectiveness.

Video SEO Services work much like traditional SEO Services. If a website is properly optimized for the search engines then the results of Video SEO can be much more profound. When you properly optimize your videos, the search engines should reward you not only with a listing for your video but can also show a Video Thumbnail!

Research has shown that when people are given a page full of text and a picture shows up on that same page that they will click on the listing with the picture more often than the ones with just text.
Part of the Video SEO services I perform for clients is the publishing of theirr video all over the Internet. Proper optimization of the  video will help it rank well on the various search engines.

For example, I had a commercial realtor come to me who wanted to showcase a multi-family condo development on a global basis.  Instead of using pay-per-cliek or traditional SEO, I suggested that we shoot a couple of videos and use video SEO techniques to accomplish Google penetration.  Within thirty days, we had secured page 1 under the term "Fractred Condos."  As a result of this campaign the client achieved more than 1,000 views of his videos and sold the complex.

If your business is looking for cutting edge "Next Wave" technology that can give you an advantage over the competition, viral video marketing is one of the online technologies you need to try.

If you are serious about dominating your area of the Internet, give the Video SEO experts a call at 904-234-6007. We'll show you how affordable online video can be and how effective it can be to generating leads and sales.

How Many Websites Should Your Business Have?

"How many websites should my company have?" 

This is a question that often arises in discussions with clients.  Now you're probably asking yourself, "Why would any company need more than one website?”   If your business is a large corporation, it is fairly obvious that you need a separate site for each brand you offer, and a separate site for corporate background material and perhaps investor relations.

 But what if you're a small or medium-sized company with a limited number of products or services? Then the question becomes, do your products relate to one another?  Is your audience for each product or service the same? And what about totally different audiences for the same product? There are also special circumstances like new product launches, time sensitive marketing campaigns, and limited availability offers? Mini Campaign Websites and Alternative Marketing Websites are an effective method of enhancing your marketing efforts and targeting optional audiences you wouldn't have otherwise reached using your traditional sales marketing approach. (Not to mention that these mini-sites can be valuable assets for SEO.)  

Reasons To Use Campaign Websites:

 1. Focus Your Presentation to eliminate distraction and non-relevant clutter.

 It is human nature to want to get your money's worth, but when it comes to website marketing this can be counter-productive. Wanting to cram everything you provide into one website. Forcing visitors to sift through  reams of material only creates frustration and irritation, and with a click of a mouse they're off to the next competitor listed on their favorite search engine before they even get to your relevant information.   
A campaign or brand specific website allows you to get right to the point. Greet your target audience with a signature video web-host supported by appropriate images and text.  If a lot of text material is required, then have it turned it into an audio presentation so the material is made more accessible, understandable, and easy to absorb. 

 A focused brand or campaign site shortens the sales cycle by making what you provide clear and distinct; it provides visitors with the sense that you are both competent and innovative in what you do and how you do it.

 2. Use Alternative Tactics: experiment with non traditional campaigns. 

 Most companies follow a consistent sales approach that they have found successful.  This is both a good thing and a bad thing: following a plan that has worked in the past aimed at your traditional customer base makes sense, except that it also limits you in reaching new audiences for your products and services.
 There may be markets for what you provide that you haven't ever thought of, or that you are afraid to approach because they conflict with your current methods, promotions, or initiatives. 

Why give up on these potential customers when you can create an audience specific Web-presentation on a separate campaign website aimed specifically at that market. With a series of highly targeted websites you speak to the needs of specific audiences and at the same time insulate your regular clients from the alternative approaches.

In a highly competitive marketplace, your competition will be looking for every opportunity to take advantage of markets you ignore. Don't let them. You can get to them first and establish your company as the niche leader. All it takes is a little imagination, effort, and a budget to implement. This way you can have your cake and eat it too.

While there are many other reasons to employ multiple websites to promote your business, the most important is that if you want to dominate your little corner of the Internet, when it comes to creating a sense of urgency and  impact don’t cut corners by trying to make your main site the be-all and do-all to getting the word out about your business online. 

Want to find out how your website stacks up against the competition?  Call Access-Jax at 904-234-6007 for a no-cost, no obligation website analysis.