Linking Web Design to Audience Development
Beyond Just Websites
ARTFULLY ‘E’ MONDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2004
DRIVING WEB TRAFFIC: BUILDING AUDIENCES USING EMAIL, SEARCH ENGINES, AND LINKS TUESDAY, JULY 26, 2005
Vicki Allpress, Marketing Manager of The NBR New Zealand Opera, joined members of the Philadelphia music community to conduct a seminar on her specialty: internet marketing. The seminar, named Artfully ‘E’ after the term she coined during her work streamlining online arts marketing strategies, drew about thirty representatives of music organizations from the Philadelphia area. Her presentation began with an explanation of what it means to be “Artfully ‘E’.” According to Allpress, a successful internet marketing strategy must achieve a wide array of goals: integrating a website with print materials and organizational identity, ensuring that the right people—current and potential audiences—can ﬁnd the site, actively driving new audiences to the site, allowing for two-way communication between site visitors and the website’s owner, and, ﬁnally, being both respectful and pro-active in engaging visitors. To achieve each of these ends simultaneously, Allpress suggested, is an art. Allpress outlined what she calls a “Website Effectiveness Matrix,” a set of four categories with which an organization can interrogate its website’s success: purpose, content and design, usability, and optimization. The ﬁrst task, Allpress noted, is determining the primary purpose of one’s website. Since arts organizations’ websites might engage in a range of purposes, including selling tickets, providing a calendar of upcoming events, or offering details on the history and activities of an organization, the structure of a website can and should reﬂect the speciﬁc needs of the organization. The second category of Allpress’ matrix, content and design, includes everything that “populates” the website, and, to keep visitors coming back, it must be current, relevant, accurate, and easy to scan. “People must believe that your website is alive and kicking,” she explained, “They must believe that someone is behind it.” The more dynamic one’s website is—the more frequently its content is updated and the more friendly its use—the more likely visitors are to come to your site, to stick around, and become actual audience members. As for usability, Allpress deﬁned a usable website as one in which “visitors are able to undertake the task they expect to achieve on the site and leave satisﬁed that their needs have been met.” Usability is so important, she said, that visitors will leave websites and never come back if the site is particularly
The illustrious Vicki Allpress returned to Philadelphia for her second seminar on internet marketing, this time looking beyond website design to driving web trafﬁc using email marketing, search engines, and links. Back at Settlement Music School, she offered a blow-by-blow PowerPoint presentation for approximately forty representatives of music organizations in the Greater Philadelphia region. Her presentation began with an analysis of online customers: how they tend to browse and likely points of contact between them and a speciﬁc music organization. Allpress mentioned sites related to music publications, tourism, festivals, museums, theaters and concert listings, among others. Regarding driving web trafﬁc of potential customers, Allpress suggested using email strategically, sharing links with a number of other related sites, ranking highly in search engine results and having a quality website that will merit repeat visits. The beneﬁts of email, she explained, are that it’s “inexpensive, fast, targeted, ﬂexible, scalable, two-way communication, loyalty-building, and measurable.” Also, if used effectively, an email program can be a valuable tool for acquiring and tracking data regarding audiences. Allpress went into detail regarding the building and maintenance of email lists, particularly regarding the increasingly sensitive issue of privacy and permission-based communication. In order to get and keep subscribers, she noted, it’s important to provide reassurance to customers and not ask for too much information. For storing and managing the information that is provided by customers, Allpress strongly recommended an Email Management System or some other kind of database that can be easily kept current and integrated with other databases an organization might maintain. Within email marketing programs, Allpress pointed out decisions that must be made regarding whom to target, how the content will be generated for such communication, and how the organization’s website must be kept abreast of the e-news. She spoke about the challenge of getting people to open and read an email, quoting Loren McDonald in Email Labs: “The From line is what recipients use to determine whether to delete an email. The Subject line is what motivates people to actually open the email.” Subject lines, she argued, are best kept short, intriguing, and reassuring. Allpress also emphasized the use of hyperlinks within an email marketing program to bring customers directly to a site. She discussed HTML versus text-formats, developing a consistent and appropriate look and tone for email programs, and giving customers the opportunity to unsubscribe or change their address. In addition, Allpress explained how taking care of an email list and its members is necessary to avoid being treated as spam: showing respect for privacy, never sharing email addresses, quickly removing unsubscribers or responding to any messages that are sent to you, and ensuring that your email is relevant useful to list members are all ways to build trust and loyalty with your customers. Moving on to search engines, Allpress explained that Google, Yahoo,
unsatisfactory. Studies have found that web users enjoy sites that are continually updated, easy to navigate, in-depth on its subject, and load quickly on their computers. The ﬁnal category in the Website Effectiveness Matrix, optimization, refers to bringing as many visitors to a site as possible. Optimization is mainly achieved by getting your website noticed by major search engines, particularly Google, through featured keywords in the supporting HTML code. In addition to streamlining website design, Allpress encouraged music organizations to trade links with other sites in order to bring in additional internet trafﬁc. Increasing link popularity will also raise your site’s status on search engines. She also addressed strategies for e-mail marketing, including sending messages on appropriate days. For instance, Allpress mentioned that her company sent out an electronic newsletter every Wednesday, when professionals were neither too busy nor too tired to read a message. E-mail, she emphasized, is a cheap and efﬁcient way to gather information about audiences and to initiate various kinds of feedback. Allpress concluded with further tips to keep visitors coming back to a site: in addition to fresh and current information, she listed regular competitions and surveys, any kind of interactivity, assuming a distinct voice or personality in the text of a site, a good resource links page, as well as others. She outlined ways to record online trafﬁc such as tracking links and feedback forms, and she clariﬁed terms of usage measurement. One of the most misused terms, she pointed out, is a “hit.” Rather than referring to a visitor to the site, a hit is an “action” on the site, like the automatic download of an image. In other words, any time one person arrives at a website, there might be more than a dozen hits. Allpress offered an online bibliography of helpful texts, including her own recently-published A Practical Guide to Developing and Managing Websites. The publication is available free for download at www.artscouncil.org.uk.
and MSN are the most popular engines, with Google receiving nearly half of all search engine trafﬁc. Search engines, she said, rank sites according to relevance, which corresponds to the frequency and location of keywords on the page and to link popularity, as well as more generalization optimization of the website, such as having quality content and good usability. In working with keywords, she encouraged organizations to, “Think from the customer’s point of view—what are they searching on? What question are you the answer to?” Keywords function best, she added, as two to three word phrases that speak as speciﬁcally as possible to the nature of the organization. These keywords should be placed in the title tags and meta tags of the supporting HTML code and not in graphical text, which cannot be read by search engine crawlers. Allpress concluded with an overview of link popularity, including how to request an exchange of links with a relevant organization. She presented some ways to monitor the success of linkages, and offered several online and print resources on the web trafﬁc topic, including Successful Email Marketing by Debbie Mayo-Smith, Email Marketing by Jim Sterne and Anthony Priore, Permission Marketing by Seth Gordon, and Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.