Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Web Secret #64: You Should Read My Blog HERE

I spend a fair amount of time doing web site critiques and writing website content.

In doing this, the most common mistakes I see are right on the home page:
1. It takes longer than four seconds for the man from Mars to understand what the website is about.
2. The man from Mars cannot quickly find the focal point of the home page.
(Thank you "Does Your Web Site Suck? Checklist 1")

This is because most people make the text on their home pages too long and too vague.

Since most of the websites I get involved with belong to service providers (like psychotherapists and health care providers) and associations - I also frequently see another common mistake - the lack of a call to action.

If you are a divorce mediation expert who commonly provides a free consultation, why not say so on your home page? (Eg "Click here to sign up for a free consultation") After all, isn't that the whole point of having a website in the first place - to get more clients?

Now, thanks to a brilliant new blog post by Dustin Curtis, I can prove to you that a carefully worded call to action is one of the most constructive steps you can take to improve your response AKA clickthrough rate.

In his post "You should follow me on Twitter", Dustin describes a quick study he performed exploring the power language has on clickthrough rates. At the bottom of most of his posts, he added a phrase with a link to his Twitter account. He started to wonder if he could increase the clickthrough rate by altering the way it was worded.

He speculated about the impact of using commands instead of statements on response rates, so he decided to test forceful phrasing. Each of the permutations he chose was randomly selected so that it was seen by 5,000 unique visitors to various articles on dustincurtis.com over the period of a couple hours in the afternoon.

Ultimately, this is a summary of what he discovered:

First, he started with a statement: "I'm on Twitter." and it led to a 4.70% clickthrough rate.

Then he switched to a command: "Follow me on Twitter." The result of switching to a command was pretty remarkable; the clickthrough rate jumped by 55% to 7.31%!

Then he tried a stronger personal command: "You should follow me on Twitter." Making the phrase more direct and personal by adding the words “you should” increased the clickthrough rate by 38% to 10.09%.

In the final phase of the experiment, he added the literal callout “here”, as in: "You should follow me on Twitter here." Simply adding “here” as the link at the end of the phrase increased the clickthrough rate by 27% to 12.81%!

His explanation for the results:
"You" identifies the reader directly, "should" implies an obligation, and "follow me on twitter" is a direct command. Moving the link to a literal callout "here" provides a clear location for clicking. He tried other permutations that dulled the command, used the word "please" in place of "should" and made the whole sentence a link. None of them performed as well as the final sentence.

Conclusion: You have a huge opportunity to use powerful language and nudge your website or blog users to clickthrough!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Web Secret #63: Avatar Therapy

Avatar Therapy is the concept behind delivering therapy via an avatar in an online virtual world like Second Life

Definitions please:
An avatar is commonly a two dimensional representation of a person. It usually looks like a cartoon representation of what the person looks like in real life.

Second Life is a free virtual world that launched in 2003 and is accessible via the Internet. In Second Life, users, called Residents, interact with each other through avatars. Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another, or travel throughout the world, which residents refer to as the grid.

Second Life, now hosts private practitioners and mental health agencies offering psycho-education, consumer information and psychotherapy. Proponents of avatar therapy at the Online Therapy Institute believe that
"the virtual world setting offers another level of sensory experience that could enhance the therapeutic process. People can create an avatar that is a literal or metaphorical representation of self...With advances in technology and artificial intelligence, the ability to simulate various scenarios with therapy clients is not far off. Artificial intelligent avatars can be used in the therapeutic process to help a client heal from trauma, create a new ending to a dilemma, or work out unfinished business with a deceased loved one. These are but a few examples of how avatar therapy...can benefit people".
I can think of other benefits to avatar psychotherapy:
  • A safe place to obtain treatment during a pandemic
  • A convenient method of obtaining therapy for the home bound or those living in locations where quality services are not available
  • To save energy and reduce our carbon footprint by eliminating the need to travel to obtain therapy
  • A lowered entry barrier to therapy for those reluctant to get help.
The experts at the Online Therapy Institute Blog caution that in the ideal world:
  • Properly trained avatar therapists would have a clear understanding of more traditional approaches to therapy online and understand the ethical issues related to online therapy and the delivery of mental health services through technological means.

  • Avatar therapists would have adequate knowledge of the online disinhibition effect as well as trauma related theories so that clients could be adequately prepared for avatar work.

  • Avatar therapists would need to understand the importance of titrating emotions and properly grounding the client using containment techniques. Keeping the client emotionally safe would be paramount in a virtual environment because issues that would typically surface over several months or years could potentially surface much quicker in virtual world setting.
I am both fascinated and slightly frightened by the potential of avatar therapy. I firmly believe that avatar therapy is here to stay, and that in the very near future it will become an increasingly "real" and compelling means of service delivery. But much like everything happening on the Internet, Avatar Therapy practice will grow much faster than our ability to craft and mandate ethical considerations, protocols for use, as well as educational and licensing requirements.

What do YOU think?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Web Secret #62: Find Yourself

Recently I happened upon an interesting blogpost 25 Free People Search Engines to Find Anyone in the World. I am not really interested in finding anyone at the present time but I was neverthelss intrigued.


Because I think it is critically important for all of us to have a handle on our online persona. And aside from mastering privacy settings and being smart about what we write, we all need to be on top of what we posted in the past on Facebook (oops!) and the like, and what was written about us that we may not even know about.

So I put all 25 search engines to the test and found these five to be particularly useful (and FREE):

123 People
123People searches through many social networks (like Facebook, Hi5, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster) forums, Wikipedia and other communities to see if the person you’re looking for is a registered member there.

I expected to find my profile on LinkedIn and an article that I published a few weeks ago on the need for a corporate social media policy. But I also found:
  1. that I am still listed as a certified Sexual Harassment Prevention Trainer in the state of Connecticut. (Haven't provided this training in 4 years - delete!!!!)
  2. a MySpace profile that I don't even remember creating (delete!!!)
  3. and who knew that my Wall Street Journal interview about the impact of the US economic downturn was translated into Spanish and Japanese? (Worth tweeting about?)
Tweepz searches for people on Twitter by name, profession, religious background and many other criteria. Here I want to make sure that my Twitter profile shows up. I type in "iWebU", and BAM! I come up! (Excellent)

I have a soft place in my heart for a search engine named after my favorite Star Trek character... Spock's primary purpose is people search. But it is especially excellent if you’re searching by profession. I typed in my name, followed by my clinical credentials and discovered a stirring endorsement of the Web Whisperers' Tech Boot Camp I attended a few years ago. I didn't know my enthusiastic review was online. That's cool. (But if it wasn't cool, I now know about it and can FIX IT!)

Sorry Spock, Yasni is amazing. Not only does it turn up amazing info, but the info is organized by tabs, eg personal, business, news, other web sites. So under business, I find out that one of my articles is on sale on Amazon.com (who knew? shouldn't I be getting a percentage of the gross?)and under other web business I find that I am listed on the board of directors of a not for profit (correct!)

Criminal Searches
This is a free criminal records engine. You can search for a person and see if he/she has a criminal record. I don't have one (reassuring) but like the fact that I can screen potential employees and my daughter's boyfriend.

Best of the best? Yasni hands down. That said, each of these engines revealed different info, so if you want to be comprehensive, explore them all.