Here’s the scenario: you spend months writing content for a new product or service launch; you develop display, PPC, and Facebook ads; you get your supervisor’s approval and legal sign-off; and are finally ready to launch all the great content and paid media driving to the content.
Are you truly ready to launch everything? Has everything been QA’d? Are you sure? Even if you have proofread all your copy, tested all your click-thru links, and ensured everything looks okay. It’s important to sit back and determine “if it makes sense.”
For example, you may have heard of the QR code that was launched on a billboard in a subway where there is no mobile service. The billboard may have been reviewed and proofed for spelling errors, but did anyone sit back and do a “reality check” to ensure that it “made sense” before going live with a billboard that has a call to action that isn’t conducive to the placement of the actual ad?
When it is time to QA you website, paid media, or any of your interactive marketing efforts here are 5 easy to overlook yet incredibly important things you won’t want to forget:
1. If you are launching a new webpage/site, have you verified your meta description tag? I don’t think I need to go into the importance of the description tag when it comes to what is displayed for your company on the Google organic search results page (or any other search engine). But it has importance beyond just the search results page. Here’s a real example that happened just the other day.
I posted a link to Facebook for an event. The default copy and image under the link were “sniffed” out or auto populated from the landing page my link led to. Please note these can often be manually changed. But I noticed something odd about the copy. It was referencing an event from 3 years ago vs. the landing page which referenced the current event taking place in just a few days. So instead of just changing the copy, I went to the landing page to try to ascertain the issue. The copy looked correct on the page, so my next step was to view the page source code. That was when I noticed the problem in the meta description tag.
My assumption is that the landing/event registration page had been reused year over year from event to event. However, even though the content on the page had been updated, no one had taken the time to review the html code and update the meta description tag to reflect the current event and year. This is something that is very easy to miss and just as easy to fix. Plus this could have more far-reaching effects than just the content associated with a link on Facebook. Inaccurate copy on your page can lead to a lower “quality site” per Google and this can materially affect your organic ranking. See The Softer Side of Panda for more information about how Google determines if your website is a “quality site.”
2. Test, test, test your links…in emails, on your websites, and in all your click-thru links in all your paid media. I can’t stress this enough…having a great ad is useless if the link to your landing page is not correct. This is analogous to having an infomercial on TV and displaying an 800 number that “someone” forgot to activate. Or sending out a direct mail piece with the call to action being an 800 number only to find out the phone number isn’t correct. A great ad (in any medium) is just a picture if the call to action leads to a dead end.
Here’s another real example from a few weeks ago. I was doing some research online and came across a banner ad that I found interesting enough to click on. Yes, people still click on those if the targeting is accurate and the message is relevant. However by clicking-thru, I was led to a “webpage is not available” error message.
Even if the link was checked before the ad went live, it is still possible that due to manual intervention the link was entered into Adwords incorrectly (for example). It’s a best practice to recheck your links after the ad goes live. It is a relatively easy update to fix a click-thru link error, and it’s better to catch it right after the ad goes live (at the latest) vs. wasting your marketing budget on clicks that don’t lead to your landing page effectively and causes a poor user experience
3. The jury is out regarding the importance of multi-part mime emails (i.e., sending out a text and html version of an email and letting the email client determine which one to display). However, many email service providers (ESPs) take care of this automatically. But not all. This is important to at least understand (and potentially test) when trying to provide the best experience possible to someone receiving an email from your company. The reason this is deemed important is that some people may change their email client’s settings to only accept text based emails. Plus (more so in the past) some email applications or devices did not “accept” html based email. When multi-part email functionality is available , ESPs essentially “sniff” out an email client’s capabilities and an individual’s settings to determine which version of your email should be delivered. But you need two versions for this to work effectively. Just be thankful it’s only two versions. Back in the “old days”, AOL used to have its own “light” version that wasn’t the same as html or as text. So you needed to create 3 versions of every email. This is incredibly easy to overlook. In fact, for ESPs that automatically create a text version of your email, it’s important to review it to ensure your html version was accurately converted to text. Is it still necessary to create a text based version of your email? Is the time it takes to create the email “worth it”? This answer is probably dependent on your target audience and may be worth testing. If no one opens a text email, it may not be worth the time it takes to develop it.
4. Do the images on your website have intuitive, meaningful names or are the files something like 123456.jpg? Do the images have alt tags? This is very behind the scenes and therefore extremely easy to overlook when QA’ing a website. Plus this doesn’t affect the way a website looks or even the speed in which the page loads. But the file name does materially affect the SEO of your website. Image file names that are intuitive and meaningful to your target will be indexed and searchable within Google. These indexed images can appear on the search results page towards the top of the page therefore giving you more real estate on the results page and more opportunities for someone to click-thru to your website.
Image alt tags currently don’t affect SEO, but they are important from a user experience standpoint. Those tags are displayed when someone has images turned off on their browser. As a result, you want the alt tags to be descriptive of the image, so the person knows what he/she is missing. Plus if someone is visually impaired, that person may have a device that reads the content of the page including the alt tags. This means the tag should be relevant and descriptive, not just loaded with keywords.
5. The final example goes back to the QR code situation mentioned earlier. It’s crucial to always sit back and do a “gut” or reality check. Does it make sense to launch a QR code on a billboard underground where there is no reception? Does it make sense to add music in the background of your website that automatically plays when someone accesses your website? Does that lead to a good user experience? Does it make sense to add pop-ups to your website to try to “encourage” visitors to take a certain path on your website? Or are pop-ups too intrusive and ultimately lead to a poor user experience? Does adding flash to your website result in a positive user experience? Is it even viewable on all device types? Mobile, for example. The answers may depend on your target audience, but it’s important to consider the relevancy and user experience before launching anything. And if need be and you are able, test before a full scale launch. But regardless, pay close attention to your data on the back-end as it will probably help inform the need for future updates.