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Best Practices

Integrating Google Forms into your website

If you’ve ever tried to create your own web forms for data collection, you know that it can sometimes be a little arduous. Not only do you need to create the form, but you’ll also need an SMTP email server to relay the information from your site to your inbox. And once you’ve gotten the data, you need some way to transfer it to a database to make good use! That can be a tall order for a web newbie!

That’s where Google Forms can be a great solution to do the heavy lifting for you. Google Forms are easy to build, easy to edit, easy to integrate, and easy to collect and review data.

  • To start, just head to https://docs.google.com/forms/ and log in using the account that will own the form.
  • You can choose from some pre-built templates or start from scratch to build your own.
  • Use the artists palette icon at the top to set some theme items – a logo of your organization at the top and your branded colors hex codes for the background and colors.
  • Populate your questions. Be conscious of the fact that every piece of data you request is adding a little bit of friction to the users completing the form. Be thorough but not exhausting. If you’ve asked for data of birth, for example, there’s no need to ask for age also. Consider whether the questions should be multiple choice or multi-select and always consider adding an “Other” option.
  • Preview and test the form yourself a few times to be sure the sequence and wording of the questions makes sense.
  • Click the “Send” button at the top and choose the Embed option. Copy and paste the iframe code into your website’s HTML code.
Google Forms embed code
  • Lastly, head to the “Responses” tab, click the three dots in the upper right and click on “Get email notifications for new responses” to be notified any time someone fills out your form.

By letting Google Forms do all the work, you can focus on using the data instead of spending too much time figuring out how to collect it.

Analytics

URL Shorteners and a free alternative

URL shorteners like Bitly are useful for a couple of reasons. The first is the most obvious. You can take a very long URL, and replace it with a much shorter one. You might need to do this in order to fit better into something like a tweet.

Another good thing about shortened URLs is that you can embed your tracking in a “wrapped” URL that might otherwise look ugly, but is hidden within the shortened URL right along with the destination URL. This can help you track which of your links or social networks are driving the most traffic to your site, and ultimately the most conversions to see which tactics are working the best.

If you swing for a custom URL shortener, then you don’t sacrifice being able to brand your shortened URLS. The downside is that those cost money. If you don’t have a branded shortener, you could also create your own shorter URLs using 301 redirects on your side. This allows you to have attractive, easy-to-remember URLs that are good for print ads or posters for people to remember later. Think something like

dijonmarketing.com/urls

that redirects the user to

https://www.dijonmarketing.com/blog/url-shorteners-and-a-free-alternative/?utm_source=dijon-marketing&utm_medium=website&utm_campaign=url-shortener-blog&utm_id=url-shortners
Flip the Brain Client Profile

Flip the Brain

I normally limit my clients to registered 501(c)(3) nonprofits. When Flip the Brain approached me to help them with SEO on their site, I had to make a small exception. This business is for profit, but they design their products to help educators, therapists, and the medical community understand brain function. They in turn can use this product to explain things better to their patients.

So what is “Flip the Brain?”

Flip the Brain produces actual 3D, tactile models of the human brain. They are all stitched into felted “pages” that are labeled and show different physical or functional sections of the brain. In addition, they have bolt-on extras that you can affix to the base brain for specific issues or topics. Things like overcoming trauma, grounding through the senses, and self regulation.

Flip the Brain Left Brain
Flip the Brain – Left Brain modeled

In addition to the felted 3D brain models, they also have educational materials and host conferences. At these conferences you can meet with other professionals and share knowledge around brain function and therapeutic best practices. If you are in the field, or could use an educational brain model, check them out today: FlipTheBrain.com

Best Practices

SEO trend in 2022

Happy New Year! And welcome to the year 2022! As usual, a new year brings up question – what’s the latest trend in SEO this year? And as with most years, I balk at the use of the word “trend” as SEO isn’t trendy. It’s the long game. A set of tried and true principles that while they do change, should be more building upon the knowledge of the past, not swinging between the latest hip recommendation.

Google has a great way of summing up their foundational approach to search rankings: EAT. EAT is an acronym that stands for:

  • Expertise – Write about what you know. Be the expert such that people would likely want to hear what you have to say on your chose topic.
  • Authority – This is the traditional off-page SEO practice of building up your website reputation in the way of backlinks from other reputable sites related to your target keywords.
  • Trustworthiness – Any accolades you’ve received from third party organizations help with trustworthiness, although just being transparent with who the author is and what credentials they have can be a great starting point.

Looking at these three pillars of ranking credentials you can see how they needn’t change from year to year based on the latest technology or evolving ranking patterns. They remain true from year to year and any minor nuanced change to your technical implementation of your site is really aside from trying to make sure you tick these three boxes.

Sorry to disappoint, but my top SEO trend for 2022 is the same as every year prior – there are no trends. Keep creating great content people want to read and the rest are just details!

Best Practices

When to use a QR code

QR codes (or quick response codes) are similar to bar codes, but arranged in a square pattern. They are faster for readers to process and can hold much more information in a much smaller footprint. While they’re not new, they have ebbed and flowed in terms of popularity throughout the years. There is temptation sometimes to slap a QR code on everything, but when is it really best to employ a QR code?

To encode LOTS of data

QR Code

My biggest aversion to QR codes is that humans can’t read them. And while most of us carry around a smartphone that doubles as a QR code scanner, not everybody does. If I purchased a billboard advertisement for Dijon Marketing, I would just put “dijonmarketing.com” at the bottom. That way everyone could read it, remember it, and Google it. I always argue against QR codes for encoding simple, short, memorable data.

If, however, I wanted to send you directly to a targeted advertising landing page, that might have a very long and confusing address. Or if I’m really doing things right, I have probably wrapped that complex URL with even more complex tracking codes. And maybe I then used a URL shortener in addition, making it even less human-friendly. In that case, I might employ a QR code that users could scan, but still put my domain along the bottom for those that don’t want to.

To link to a static location

I would also caution against creating QR codes that link directly to a very specific location. Think about the life of a QR code on a sticker somewhere. It may long outlast our current URL structure. If things change, it’s best to have your QR codes all pointing to easy to maintain addresses. You could employ 301 redirects to jump users from a generic QR landing page directly to the long/complex address you want them to find. If you plan to have lots of different QR codes then having an organizational structure around their destinations will make your life much easier in a few years when you need to make major changes to either your website or your messaging.

To be a little playful

One of the great things about QR codes is that aside from a few key requirements, they can be largely customized. Colors can be adjusted. Logos can be embedded. And if you don’t mind alienating a small subset of people who aren’t carrying a phone, it can be enticing to want to scan the code to see what lies behind. Maybe it’s a menu, maybe it’s a 50% off coupon. Maybe it’s on the side of a building 20 blocks away but I can still scan it with my phone. In that case they are a cool, techy marketing tool to drive a little bit of interest with the little bit of inherent mystery that comes with them.

Now that you’ve got some boundaries about when to use a QR code, try some of these free online generators:

Search Engines

Optimizing for Voice Search

The rise of omnipresent mobile phone digital assistants, home hubs, and car infotainment with voice commands can be an opportunity for you, the digital marketer. Considering voice search in your optimization efforts is one way that you can leap frog your competition for certain keywords and concepts.

Typical SEO optimization would focus on a keyword (or key phrase) and make sure to use that keyword multiple times in key areas – titles, headers, image alt text, body copy, etc. When you are optimizing instead for voice search, the game changes a little bit.

Think about things you would typically use voice search for:

  • Where is the closest pizza restaurant that’s open now?
  • How tall is Mount Everest?
  • What year was President Biden born?

Each of these has two things in common. First, they all use natural language to present the question. Instead of a list of keywords and facts, they use full English sentences that the context must be derived from. Second, they all have a definite answer. Rarely if ever would you use voice search for more esoteric search queries. “Hey Google, explain the theory of relativity.” (I don’t think so.)

Knowing these two aspects of a good voice query will help you optimize your content to take advantage. You want to be first on Google, but you would also like to be presented as a knowledge tile. Those are more likely to be read out loud as the response to a voice query. So follow the two characteristics of a good voice query:

  1. Instead of peppering your content with a target keyword, instead use full length natural language questions as titles and headers.
  2. Give a definitive answer boldly within the text – probably as a numbered list or otherwise offset.
  3. Monitor your search performance in Google Search Console to see if you are being presented as a knowledge tile. This lends itself to a good chance you are the voice search response.
Analytics

Acronym Check! Helpful Marketing terms and descriptions

In digital marketing, as with any industry, a certain jargon gets entrenched in every day conversations. You may find yourself nodding along wishing there was a dictionary you could reference not only to know what the many, many acronyms stand for – but what they mean. Well look no further!

  • AWQL – Adwords Query Language – Within Google Ads (previously Adwords) there is a proprietary set of function calls riding on top of traditional SQL (Structured Query Language) that allows you to perform some pretty cool and powerful reporting actions.
  • CPC – Cost Per Click – this describes the amount of money you pay each time your advertisement is clicked on a search engine results page.
  • CSS – Cascading Style Sheet – this is a file format for setting styles on a website. Everything from the page layout to the font, sizes, and colors, can be controlled centrally from the CSS file. Different styles can “cascade” down to members and children of different classes or identifiers.
  • CTA – Call To Action – once someone arrives on your site either from an organic listing or a paid ad, there’s usually something you want them to do. Either purchase an item, make a donation, download a whitepaper. A call to action is typically a big, bold, brightly colored button with command language directing your visitor to perform the desired action.
  • CTR – Click Through Ratio – for search marketing ads, there are a lot of different metrics to consider, but how often that ad generates a click through to your website is one of the main ones to monitor. This ratio is typically reporting on clicks divided by impressions (or how many times your ad was seen).
  • DNS – Domain Name System – when you typed dijonmarketing.com into your websites address bar, it was a DNS server that returned the actual IP address of my website’s server. DNS translates human-friendly names into computer-friendly addresses. DNS can also host text records for things like verifying Google Search Console or Facebook page ownership.
  • PPC – Pay Per Click – This describes one specific advertising payment format, though sometimes industry professionals will refer to the entire practice of search engine paid advertising as PPC ads. Strictly speaking, this is only applicable if you pay per click and not per impression, for example.
  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization – this refers specifically to the best practices employed by website owners and marketers to indirectly influence your sites rank on search engines like Google or Bing. Ranking higher on the search results page means lots more clicks which can lead to more sales or conversions.
  • SERP – Search Engine Results Page – after you’ve entered your search query on Google or Bing, the list of top results is sometimes referred to as a SERP. The SERP can also contain ads, local results, images, videos, etc. Owning more of the SERP helps you get more eyeballs onto your site.
  • TLD – Top Level Domain – some discussion of domains and URL structure will refer to the Top Level Domain. Examples are .com, .org, .net. There are also country code TLDs called ccTLD like .fr (France), .co.uk (United Kingdom).
  • UI/UX – User Interface/User Experience – these are often used together but can also stand alone as separate practices. The User Interface typically describes how your website looks. The User Experience is how a visitor interacts. Creating an attractive and frictionless experience will greatly increase your conversion rates.
Client Profile

Presenting Elevate North Texas

Elevate North Texas Youth Shelter is a new nonprofit servicing the whole North Texas area. They are focused on eliminating homelessness in the youth population through three programs:

  • Host Homes: Volunteers open their homes for short-term hosting to help at-risk youth get back on their feet.
  • Hotel Vouchers: Emergency shelter can be provided via hotel vouchers to get youth off of the street for a time while other options are explored.
  • Reunification & Diversion: It’s not always an option, but when it is, intervention with family can eliminate the situation leading to homelessness.
Elevate North Texas

Around 2 million youth run away and experience homelessness each year. And with only 4,117 beds available nationwide for youth, the need is great. But Elevate North Texas is aiming to put a dent in those numbers in their community and could use your help!

Of course you can donate or volunteer, but they’ve also put together a list of great ways you can get involved virtually.

Best Practices

What is a WordPress Child Theme?

There is typically only so far you can go with the adjustable attributes of an existing WordPress theme. Eventually, almost all developers find themselves needing at least small tweaks to what was provided. While WordPress is open source and any theme you’ve downloaded is perfectly open to be edited, doing so is not a best practice. Instead, a child theme is the preferred way to adjust a theme.

The advantage of a child theme is that it lives separate from the source files of the parent theme. That means when a new update gets pushed out all of your edits won’t disappear. That could be a very bad thing to have your customizations overwritten every time the theme is updated.

A child theme could be 100% exactly the same as the parent (though, then you wouldn’t need the child). It can have minor adjustments from the parent. Or it could be wildly different just using the parent as a framework. Regardless of how different it is, preserving even small changes will keep you from wasted time.

Basically any file that exists in the child theme will overwrite what is in the parent. That means you may have just one file in your child theme and WordPress will know you want to use all of the other files directly from the parent. The exception is functions.php, which will run in conjunction with the parent, not instead. So if you needed to add just one function that is an easy way to do it.

There is a specific syntax required for the child style.css file. This is what links the child to the parent. You can see more about exactly what that file must contain in the WordPress Developer Help Files.

The next time you find a theme that does ALMOST everything you want if only it had one minor change, you will know to ask around to find someone who can help you develop a child theme for the most robust and technically preferable way to get exactly what you need.

Best Practices

Continuing education with Udemy

One of the best things we can do for ourselves, our careers, and our hobbies, is to be continuously learning. And one of the best places to do this is at Udemy.com.

Udemy logo

I will start by saying that this is not a sponsored blog post. I’m not affiliated or compensated by Udemy in any way. I’ve just found their platform to be filled with fantastic eLearning content. And trust me, I am extremely critical when it comes to bad content being mislabeled as “eLearning” when it is, in fact, recorded webinars.

I have taken two courses so far with prices ranging from $12-$19, they certainly don’t break the bank. They are split into manageable chapters so I can keep track of my progress while spending an hour here, 30 minutes there. They come with instructor led videos, downloadable assets, and self-paced content.

One thing I am especially guilty of is learning something, and then mentally checking it off. Javascript, CSS, web design, WordPress – check, check check. While all around me things are changing, new features are added, new best practices are shared. And if I stay stagnant, stubbornly doing things “the old way” the only one who suffers is me. So I’ve pledged to spend this year taking courses over topics I feel like I already know well. Honing my skills or finding new shortcuts to success is my goal. But as soon as I run out of courses in that effort, I’ll start picking new ones to learn.

With over 155,000 courses to choose from, there is definitely something for everybody. Check it out today!