Internet Marketing for Publications: Reviewing PerfectWeddingGuide.com

Internet Marketing

Ian Lurie Jan 31 2008

The latest victim in my site review series is PerfectWeddingGuide.com.
I’ve turned this review into a quick primer on internet marketing strategies for publications. Rex’s site is a perfect case study insofar as he’s in a very competitive space, and lives (I assume) on visitors and pageviews. More visitors and pageviews mean more advertising, and more money.

1. Remember Your Audience

First rule of internet marketing: Know who you’re talking to. This site caters to folks who are planning weddings. From long experience, we know certain common characteristics define someone who’s planning a wedding:

  1. They’re frazzled.
  2. They’re in a hurry.
  3. They’re mostly women.
  4. They don’t want to see an image of an absurdly thin, relaxed looking bride.
  5. They’re in a hurry.
  6. They’re frazzled.

If you want folks to stay on the site and really use it (which means more pageviews) you’ll need to:

  1. Make your pages load a lot faster with better code. On my household wireless connection, which is fast, your site took about 15 seconds to load. The slow load time is actually a slow rendering time: You need to recode your site using XHTML 1.1 and CSS 2. That will remove a lot of inline code, speed loading and rendering times, make your site more search friendly, and make geeks like me tingle with pleasure.
  2. Make navigation easier. Use a larger typeface, and increase line spacing. I say this all the time. But it’s far easier to navigate and read. Your home page is very difficult for a nearly-40-year-old like me.
  3. Break up the navigation. Your top bar navigation gets lost. Break it up! Make the ‘Free Copy’ a big, fat call to action instead of a nearly-invisible link. Provide more space above and below the nav bar.
  4. More empty space! There’s nothing wrong with using a little empty space to break up a page.
  5. Remember the ‘F’ shape. Folks browse sites in an F shape: Across the top, across the top 1/3, and then down the left. Put the most important stuff between the tines of the F.

2. Dress Appropriately

You wear a tuxedo to a wedding and a bathing suit to a beach. Right now, your site’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt with mustard stains on it.
I mean this in the nicest way – seriously. Your site’s design would work if you were selling something else. But your audience wants fun, or gloss, or both.
I know you hate to hear this, but you need to create a new look, following the guidelines above. Think simplicity.

3. Get the Search Engines On Your Side

Right now, your site isn’t particularly well-optimized for what I assume is your target phrase: “Wedding Planning”.
Every title tag on the site should have some permutation on that phrase, if it’s at all relevant to the page.
In the footer, have a link to the home page of the entire site with ‘Wedding Planning’ in the text.
Search engines are structured thinkers – keep that in mind and build accordingly.

4. Sound (look) Smart: Dump, or Speed Up, the Animation

You have an animated bit at the top of most regional wedding pages. It’s cute, but so slow that I’ve moved on to the next page – or site – by the time it’s loaded.
I’d either dump it, or consider a faster, lighter script.

5. Make a Connection: Sell Registration

Tell me why I should register before I click on the ‘register’ link. Do I get something cool? More information? Access to cool tools?
Registered users are your e-mail list, your selling floor and your most loyal audience. Get more of them!

6. Sound Smart, 2: Write More Content

Bottom line, you’re a publication. You need to produce more content, likely dealing with each region. I’d suggest something like putting together ‘packages’ of different wedding service providers so that brides-to-be can grab a quick list.

Good Site, Now Get Out There!

You have a great directory. That’s the least fun part: Getting all those vendors.
Now, you need to get – and keep – more visitors. That’s the fun part!
Note: You might also want to look at my article on SEO tips for newspapers and publications. Some of it’s applicable to your site.

tags : conversation marketing

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9 Comments

  1. Ian,
    Great review… thanks! You definitely hit upon a laundry list of things I’d like to change. I’m of the mind to hit the things you mentioned since that is what Google (and our brides) already sees. However, it seems that the plan is to forge ahead with a new content portal, leaving the existing site the way it is for now (due to limited staff and time resources.)
    It’s a challenge, to say the least.

  2. Ian

    Glad you liked it!
    A caution on a new site: It may seem like a way to get ahead, but it takes a lot longer for a new site to get ranked than it does for an existing, trusted site to move up…

  3. Rex

    The plan is to create a subdomain for the content. I believe this is better than creating a brand new domain, but not as good as the content living on the root of the domain. Yes? No?

  4. Ian

    I say go for a subfolder, actually. Then any link juice you collect on the new site could potentially be handed off to the current site, because it’s all under the same TLD.

  5. Rex

    Ian,
    Not trying to freeload on a heaping helping of free advice, but I do have one other question. Rather than moving content to a subdomain, the idea is to place all new content on the www. site and then move all of our regional sites (currently located in directories like /Atlanta, /Orlando, etc.) to subdomains.
    I’ve read varying opinions on the value of subdomains vs. subdirectories, but at the end of the day, that’s all it seems to be – varying opinions. Rand at SEOmoz seems to prefer subdirectories while Danny Sullivan seems to be okay with subdomains (although that was from a post from 2004.)
    I’d prefer to keep everything as subdirectories – it’s just a “gut” thing. Thoughts?

  6. Ian

    I’d really recommend subdirectories. In 2004 subdomains would’ve made sense, but the rules have definitely changed. I can’t put my finger on the post right now, but His Eminence, Matt Cutts, commented on this very issue and explained that Google is now valuing subdomains the same as subdirectories.
    Given that, I’d go with directories because they’re more flexible, and folks will expect them. From a usability standpoint they make more sense. Plus it’s easier to set up and modify them as SEO conditions dictate.

  7. Rex

    Thanks as always, Ian.

  8. Rusty

    Good tips. Thanks for the review and suggestions. I think we’re all on the same page. Let me explain some background very quickly.
    Our vendor directory is market-centric and very segmented in that way. If you are looking for a cake baker for your Orlando wedding, you really don’t care to see any cake vendors in Montana, right. Hence, the first thing one must do is pick their area.
    However, most brides want some advice first. They want to learn about wedding trends and explore possibilities. Content is king, even in web 2.0.
    Building content in a site that starts with market is hard. How do you create a good categorical structure around a site organized in a different way? How do you optimize for two different perspectives?
    Our markets are actually independent businesses operated by owners who live in that area. So they really are websites attached to different businesses who are local. There is no real cross over once you are in a market other than generic, vanilla editorial (which we have nearly none).
    So by giving the market owners a site that is their very own, a sub-domain, we can build wedding-centric content from the root out and link to the markets when that is appropriate. Now our content can have durable, meaningful urls and our markets can have the same. We can also develop using an efficient CMS tools that allow non-technical contributors to publish content. Ever tried to install a dynamic CMS on top of a dynamic website? Kapow! Not easy.
    Ian said: His Eminence, Matt Cutts, commented on this very issue and explained that Google is now valuing subdomains the same as subdirectories.
    That’s exactly what led us from sub directories to sub-domains. We LOVE that! We don’t want a new site, we want an information architecture that supports two distinct models in peace and harmony AND makes sense to brides. http://atlanta.perfectweddingguide.com makes sense.
    Once again, I appreciate your time and contribution and we’ll definitely consider all your recommended. Thanks for letting us know that the page is slow. We’ll get the optimized.
    peas!

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