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You may have heard rumblings before now, or excited, anticipatory mentions of Acquia Engage 2016, but I’m super excited to officially introduce you to this year’s event, and invite you to join us in November for what promises to be the best Engage ever.
Now in it’s third year, Engage 2016 will bring more of what you’ve come to expect in the past two years — outstanding speakers, engaging sessions, a product roadmap, ample networking opportunities — but we’ll also be introducing two new talk tracks that we think you’ll love. Those include:Tech Talk
This practitioner-focused track that really speaks to those of us that are knee-deep in the Drupal world on a daily basis, whether as content maintainers, Drupalists, IT professionals, marketers, or other related roles that interact with the platform.Steal This Idea
Always wants to know how some of the world’s best brands strategize, troubleshoot, build, deploy, and optimize their digital experiences and customer journeys? We’re putting some of our best customers on stage, and giving them a chance to tell their stories of digital experience mastery.
Last year’s event received some great press, but Michelle Rayburn of iLab summed it up pretty perfectly:
Acquia Engage 2015 was a true treat to be a part of – the execution was phenomenal and I soaked up so much information about what goes into creating an evolving, personalized, digital experience in our digitally-driven world… At the aptly named conference, Engage, the Acquia team brought the way the company transforms the digital-world to life – their talented people engaged in quality in-person human experiences all the way through the 3 day conference. For a greenhorn to tech conferences and Drupal, I was blown away by how welcome I felt, how captivated I was by the individuals I chatted with, and the overall experience delivered throughout the conference.
In coming months, we’ll introduce you to this year’s speakers, share some more insights into the three talk tracks, and tell you more about what you can expect from the three-day conference. In the meantime, feel free to pop on over to the Engage website, familiarize yourself with this year’s offerings, and take a peek at the recap from last year to remember the magic, or acquaint yourself for the first time.
This year’s event will take place at the Park Plaza Hotel in downtown Boston, November 1-3. Ready to take the plunge? Register today!
We can’t wait to see you there!
Yesterday the City of Boston launched its new website, Boston.gov, on Drupal. Not only is Boston a city well-known around the world, it has also become my home over the past 9 years. That makes it extra exciting to see the city of Boston use Drupal.
As a company headquartered in Boston, I'm also extremely proud to have Acquia involved with Boston.gov. The site is hosted on Acquia Cloud, and Acquia led a lot of the architecture, development and coordination. I remember pitching the project in the basement of Boston's City Hall, so seeing the site launched less than a year later is quite exciting.
The project was a big undertaking as the old website was 10 years old and running on Tridion. The city's digital team, Acquia, IDEO, Genuine Interactive, and others all worked together to reimagine how a government can serve its citizens better digitally. It was an ambitious project as the whole website was redesigned from scratch in 11 months; from creating a new identity, to interviewing citizens, to building, testing and launching the new site.
Along the way, the project relied heavily on feedback from a wide variety of residents. The openness and transparency of the whole process was refreshing. Even today, the city made its roadmap public at http://roadmap.boston.gov and is actively encouraging citizens to submit suggestions. This open process is one of the many reasons why I think Drupal is such a good fit for Boston.gov.
More than 20,000 web pages and one million words were rewritten in a more human tone to make the site easier to understand and navigate. For example, rather than organize information primarily by department (as is often the case with government websites), the new site is designed around how residents think about an issue, such as moving, starting a business or owning a car. Content is authored, maintained, and updated by more than 20 content authors across 120 city departments and initiatives.
The new Boston.gov is absolutely beautiful, welcoming and usable. And, like any great technology endeavor, it will never stop improving. The City of Boston has only just begun its journey with Boston.gov - I’m excited see how it grows and evolves in the years to come. Go Boston!Last night there was a launch party to celebrate the launch of Boston.gov. It was an honor to give some remarks about this project alongside Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (pictured above), as well as Lauren Lockwood (Chief Digital Officer of the City of Boston) and Jascha Franklin-Hodge (Chief Information Officer of the City of Boston).
How should digital marketers approach the creation and management of an international portfolio of digital assets and campaigns? It’s a question that we’re increasingly asked here at Acquia. I have previously written about this from a multi-deployment standpoint, but I thought it would be interesting to ask Ian Truscott, Channel Director at MRM Meteorite, for some advice as to how digital agencies and their clients can ensure consistent brand control and visibility in a global environment.
Ian sees the focus as two-fold:
- To make the process of customer engagement as efficient as possible, ensuring the re-use of digital assets, consistency of engagement and brand across multiple geographies, markets and stakeholders.
- Allow for local nuances, so that on-the-ground marketers can engage with their familiar audiences in the best way they can.
So, what steps should brands take to establish consistency of international campaigns and customer experiences? Ian recommends that they look at the following areas:
Like any digital project, it’s important to understand the appetite for change from within the business. MRM Meteorite follows a model that assesses the maturity of the organisation, its current capabilities and then assesses what it possible.
Ian believes that organisations and their brands should focus on their ability to innovate, ensuring that they have the capacity to undertake the change needed at that time. Not everything needs to be changed overnight.
Businesses need to look at the story they want to tell in the different markets. This needs to be consistent at a brand level, but relevant to each region. Part of this means understanding which brand pillars everyone needs to leverage to be on message and which parts of the story can be flexed for local applicability. Achieving this requires buy-in from across the organisation.
Metrics and Breaking Down Barriers
Metrics plays a very important part in global measurement and securing stakeholder engagement. Is each market focused on tracking the right metrics? Each marketer might be measuring traffic, when in fact deeper metrics, such as engagement, may be more valuable. It could be that one digital asset doesn’t attract huge amounts of traffic, but delivers essential content to a small but valuable set of customers. Do your metrics allow for this? Setting, agreeing and calculating the right metrics across global digital campaigns helps brands to gather better insight into their customers and the experiences that resonate best in each market.
Ian also urges companies to integrate all stakeholders’ objectives into the measurement. Understanding these can be difficult, particularly as many departments can be isolated within a business, but common measurement can help to break these barriers down. Stakeholder engagement depends on tracking the success of a campaign against overall business objectives and the marketing strategy. If senior stakeholders are feeding into these objectives and helping to set metrics, then silos are allowed because measurement is aligned.
Ian believes that the platform, the people and the processes are the components that make or break global campaigns. There needs to be a certain maturity in the business to leverage a multi-site platform – it’s the people and processes that determine this maturity. A multi-site platform needs to be able to create digital assets to respond to immediate needs, and enable shared content across social, mobile, web and apps across multiple locations. The technology provides a framework that empowers local marketers, yet provides assurance in brand consistency and integrity.
Here at Acquia, we like to think that we take the extra time to truly understand how agencies and their clients work, or want to work in the future, so that we can keep developing better technologies that drive exceptional digital journeys. Working closely with partners, such as MRM Meteorite, helps us to do just that.
Our partners and customers are using Acquia’s platforms and services to rapidly launch new brand experiences, but with no duplication of effort or cost. This is the holy grail in digital marketing.
Everyday I see the impact ad blockers have on our business, because they are blocking more than just ads. Ad blockers are one of the most downloaded browser utilities and smartphone applications, and the source of great debate among privacy advocates, publishers, and consumers.
For a site builder or manager like myself, the more important and less-talked about issue of ad blockers is they can block non-advertising related content. The fact this is even happening might go unnoticed, which could be why it isn’t talked about very much. While doing my research for this post, all I could find were discussions about the financial impact of ad blocking, how it kills the publisher's’ revenue models. While I can understand both sides of the arguments for and against blockers, and appreciate the business of buying and selling ad space, in my mind advertising is a fact of life and is going to happen… we either ignore it or let it catch our attention and click. Paid ads aren’t always bad content or malware as some articles pushed. My personal stance on ad blockers is that I don’t like them, and that’s because they continue to break my websites and block non-ad content.
Here are three examples of how different ad blockers have broken my website this year:
- Social share icons: I got a report a few weeks ago that our social share icons that once use to be at the top of all blog content had gone missing. Which was weird because I still saw them, so I wasn’t able to reproduce the error to help aid our development team. It took us a few hours to discover it was a new ad blocker which was blocking our social share icons. Now this user knew the site and knew something was missing, but if this was a first-time visitor to the site they wouldn’t have noticed anything was missing. We would have continued to miss out on a potential social share because the ad blockers were stifling the functionality. I did some research into reporting these types of issues to the blocker developers, but all they suggest is that you ask visitors to adjust their filters.
- Missing forms: We use a marketing automation platform and embed its forms on our website. Some ad blockers block those forms! I received a message from someone asking how they could download one of our eBooks. I pointed them to the page and they sent back a screenshot with no form. Where did it go? It turned out it was the mobile ad blocking service they had installed on their phone (mobile users conscious of conserving their data plans are turning to ad blockers to reduce the size of the websites they visit). When the person viewed the page on a desktop browser the form was there. They were using http://crystalapp.co/ and once they turned it off the form came back.
- Misleading users: we had a public issue where a user was upset with us for always pushing sales at them. They were trying to sign-up for a webinar but only saw “talk to sales” at the bottom of the page. We have a talk-to-sales call to action (CTA) in our footer but that was it, so we weren’t exactly sure what they were complaining about, because any users should be able to sign up for a webinar without talking to sales. Alas, ad blockers had turned off the form for this user so all they saw was our footer and thought we were forcing them through sales. This was a terrible user experience for them and very upsetting for us at well.
What’s the solution? What can we do about it? Unfortunately not much.
This is a challenge to the performance of our site and one that hurts my team's productivity because we investigate these issues when they are reported. If it turns out to be an ad blocker to blame then we waste time and money to solve nothing we can control. My dream would be that ad blocking services develop better ways to report these types of issues and instead of directing the user to adjust filters, actually make your tool smarter and stop blocking non-ad content.
There are a few things you can do to help prevent blocking. First: make sure you don’t name anything with “ad” or “advertisement” that isn’t an ad. Ad blockers will grab and hide anything with those names attached to them. There is a possibility of detecting ad blockers and displaying a message asking visitors to place your site on a whitelist or disable their blocker for the duration of their session on your site but this is a bit of effort and you still won’t catch them all. Ultimately this is a topic we’ll continually need to stay on top of.
At Acquia, our partners are an incredible part of our success. In this series, we’ll be profiling some of our premier partners, showcasing who they are and what they do, in their own words.
We spoke with Alick Mighall, Managing Director at miggle. “As a small-ish specialist development agency, my role encompasses product, project and account management, HR, finance, business development and sales. I don’t do any development myself, but I like being able to support my team of devs to do their job well”.miggle Quick Facts:
- Founded in 2007
- Location: Brighton and Hove, England
- Number of Employees: 10
- Top Clients: NBC Universal, Air New Zealand and Travel Nation
Alick explains: “Travel is the main sector, but really the unifying factor is Drupal, and for now, that’s centred around build and support.. We do a lot of work with Solr, using to it to help create and manage rich content experiences.”What project / work are you most proud of?
“We’re probably most proud of the work we’ve done for Travel Nation, as it’s the most extensive, longest term Drupal project we’ve worked on - and the client team there are great. They really get it. We’ve been working with them on it for 3 years now.”What technology and environments do you support?
“In terms of platforms / content management systems, we support Drupal 7 and 8. We also support a variety of marketing tools. Most clients that come to us have already hedged their bets with a CRM etc., so our job becomes one of working out how we best integrate with those choices.”What areas are you looking to expand or invest in in the future?
“We have been looking at Internet of Things (IoT) and spending some R&D time there. Watch this space! Over time I’d like to look at becoming more of a full service agency, possibly with a narrower sector strategy.”What role do customers ask you to play in technology strategy or selection?
“Customers usually are looking for two things from us: more control over their content, often in an environment where they are dealing with limited editorial resources and improved information architecture (IA) in the front end. In terms of applicable technology, we look at whether we can paint the right picture with Drupal delivering on those objectives.”What tech trends are you most excited about?
“I’m most excited about IoT and how it will combine with Drupal 8 and progressive decoupling.”What is most important to you / what do you value most as an agency?
“It’s important to me that miggle works for my team. If my team is happy, then client happiness takes care of itself.”How would you describe the culture at your agency? What are the people like?
“I’ve been fortunate to always have a talented, loyal team; very few egos coupled with a real desire to learn and share knowledge. I’d say the culture is one of getting along, but getting on with it and then enjoying the rest of what life has to offer.”What’s one random fact about your agency?
We’ve hired, at complete random, lots of musicians over the years, but other than Guitar Hero have never put that to use or applied it to client work. For a while we had enough bass players to have performed an epic rendition of ‘Big Bottoms’ by Spinal Tap - but we never took the opportunity…”What’s your least favorite buzzword?
“‘Reaching out’ I’d reach out to someone if they were drowning or vice versa. Other than that you can just thank me for getting in touch. Right now I hate ‘Brexit’ too because of what I think it will mean to my kids future.”Why partner with Acquia?
“We partner with Acquia because I want my developers to be developers not ‘have a go hero’ system admins. Now we’re with Acquia we have less nasty surprises around infrastructure. We’re in touch with some very nice people there too.”What else would you like the community and prospects to know?
“We’d like people to know that you should just look us up and see how we can help. Having been in digital for over 20 years I know I have a great team here. I want to supplement that with more talented people and do exciting work with customers who are as passionate about online as we are.”
Marketers use social media very differently than developers do. Marketers use social channels from Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn to promote and engage and build awareness. Developers? Well while , social media is just as important if not more so to developers, it’s not all memes and rants; but a practical and strong source of information.
I spoke to with Kris Vanderwater, Technical Consultant at Acquia and Tim Plunkett, Senior Engineer also at Acquia about how developers use social media, why it’s important to them and how marketers in developer relations can best use social media to interact with developers in the right way.Q: In your own words, explain why social media is important to developers.
Tim: In an open source community, social media is extremely important. Information is spread rapidly, and you become aware of interesting or important things very quickly. When new to a community, interacting with other devs on social media is a great way to break into the group, and feel welcomed. It's also helpful to maintain personal connections, especially across timezones!Q: In addition to collaboration, is social media a place where developers can promote their own work?
Kris: Developers operate on a network of trust. Building tools others will like and use can be futile if you have no way to get adoption. Social media fills the gap for developers providing free tools in the same way it might a traditional marketing institution with regard to their products except, as much as a developer is giving away something cool, they're also asking for help building it. Most developers personal projects can't scale beyond nights and weekends, so finding other interested parties capable of contributing is huge.Q: What do you think about “thought leadership” for developers and promoting it through social media?
Kris: Developers find “thought leadership” on social media all the time, but make no mistake; developer thought leadership is not the same as marketing thought leadership.
What thought leadership means to developers is talking about the right way to do things, when to do things in particular ways, and what the new emerging standards are shaping up to be and whether that's good or bad. If someone truly is established they might have significant docs and/or blogs on the topics of best practices, when to use X over Y, recognizing design patterns, etc. This site is a good example: http://blog.ircmaxell.com/. It’s totally normal for me to find this sort of stuff in my twitter feed on a daily basis. Usually something like ‘here’s a great breakdown on why [some standard] is going the right direction and why we should all care’ with an attached url.Q: What social media sites do you use?
Kris: “Twitter is where things of note actually happen and devs have big conversations in 140 chars one message at a time. It’s not odd to follow a 20-30 comment long exchange.
Don't waste a dev's time’ is basically the litmus test for everything. If you're doing something (anything) that's wasteful time wise, odds are, you'll draw ire. Don't market directly to devs if there's not something to actually play with.
Tim: “One major rule I have with Twitter is to never ask favors or demand someone's time via social media. Discussing something you found worthwhile is fine, but if you have any expectation of another person, keep that to the appropriate sphere (issue queue, IRC, etc). Twitter is very personal to some people, and being hounded to look at a bug or other issue can feel invasive.”Q: What should marketers absolutely avoid when it comes to interacting with developers on social media? What’s the best way to participate in social media discussions with developers?
Tim: I recommend not just jumping into a conversation, even if you see an opening. As a brand or product, you shouldn't reach out directly to devs just because they mentioned something relating to your product. It can feel very Orwellian. Known and trusted evangelists should fill the role, leaning on the personal connections they have with the developer community.
Kris: Don’t waste a developer’s time. There are devs who won't even watch videos of things because they can speed read their way through the content faster and get back to what they need to do. So that's the principle against which everything else basically has to be valued. As a marketer, if you're asking for a developer's time, then you need to give them something of value in return.Final thoughts:
So to summarize for those of you playing along at home, if you want to connect with developers on social media, you better have something worthwhile to share. If you’re looking for insight (like I was with this post) have your questions ready. Better, yet, leverage internal community members and evangelists if you can so that they can either connect you with the right people or serve as an ambassador for you. And above all else, be respectful.
Mobile traffic is crucial to any digital strategy. SimilarWeb's State of Mobile Web US 2015 report states that 56% of all traffic to websites is mobile traffic. At Acquia, we saw our own mobile traffic grow by 17% from 2014 to 2015. But things really got interesting in the past twelve months. The first half of this year saw our mobile traffic expand by 50% alone. So yes, we really care about the mobile experience on our site. Where do you start to make sure you put your best mobile foot forward?
When I think “Mobile Optimization” I think two things: search engine optimization (SEO) for mobile and delivering a web layout optimized for mobile browsers. When optimizing for Google search, Google cares about both of these items. Let’s start by focusing on mobile SEO.
The first thing you need to do is make sure your overall site is optimized for SEO. This gives you a strong base to start from. If you aren’t sure your site is generally well optimized, then read my previous blog about SEO Optimization.
Mobile users are typically on the go and want info quickly on sometimes iffy connections. Page speed is very important for mobile, so you’ll want to see if you can minimize your code, and go on a “page weight diet.” This will force you to rely on redirects less and use caching services such as CloudFlare or other CDNs as much as possible.
Optimize page titles and meta descriptions
You have less space to play with on mobile, so being concise is important to utilize the limited screen space you have. This will help in search engine results pages (SERP) and ultimately aid users in getting to your site.
With limited space overall, having structured data and rich snippets available on your site will add value to SERPs.
Don’t use Flash
I haven’t seen Adobe Flash used in a while, but mobile browsers can’t support these effects, so use HTML5 instead if you need the kind of effects that Flash offers.
Don’t use pop-ups
Pop-ups may seem like a great idea, but they cause lots of problems on mobile. I’ve seen scenarios where I’ve scrolled to the bottom of a page, clicked on something and then the screen turns grey but I see nothing new. Where is the pop up? Or the dreaded, “I-can’t-close-the-pop-up” syndrome. Don’t force users to leave your site. Bad pop-ups will drive them away forever.
Responsive design is a method for building pages so your site will re-format on the fly and expand and contract as needed on different mobile devices. This means a user can grab the bottom left corner of a site on desktop and as they make the browser window smaller the elements on the page will restructure and move to optimize and align to fit the new browser size. I like this method best because you don’t have to maintain a separate mobile-friendly website (who has time for that?!) and you ensure you are showing the same information to all your audiences. There is nothing worse than telling a friend to go check something specific out on a certain website, only for them to load the site in mobile and it isn’t there.
Mobile-Friendly design is when your site will adjusts to ensure a user can easily navigate and read your site from their mobile device. Techniques such as making the menu larger so the user can easily click on links with their finger are mobile-friendly elements. This also adjusts the layout for ease of reading and scrolling.
(image referenced from https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/)
On Acquia.com we took “mobile optimization” one step further. When we first re-launched our homepage, we made all new images/icons full width for mobile. This made our homepage extremely long, and while scrolling is more acceptable on mobile it still wasn’t a good use of our space. So we took another look at our mobile experience and were able to utilize the mobile space much better, here are a few images of what we did:
Mobile is continuing to grow and isn’t something we can ignore. So let’s embrace it!
Editor’s note: This week’s developer relations post focuses on the history of developer relations via Acquia’s own VP of Corporate Communications (and living, breathing Wikipedia), David Churbuck.
My first encounter with Silicon Valley happened in the mid-1980s as a very green reporter for PC Week. I was sent west from Boston on a tour of the Valley’s top local area networking companies to get a crash course in LAN architectures. A lot of the companies I visited are long gone -- Corvus, 3Com, Novell, Ungermann-Bass -- but by the mid-point of the tour I had learned one very important lesson: Marketers absolutely suck as sources, but engineers tell it like it is.
At one company in Santa Clara I was met in the lobby by the head of marketing (I don’t think the CMO title was invented until the 90s) He personified Warren Zevon’s description of the Werewolf of London; his hair was perfect. He sat me down in a conference room, turned on an overhead projector, and started taking me through a series of IBMers called “foils”, which were basically analog Powerpoint slides. I was getting hit with the “corporate overview.” I left confused, awash in cliches, and none of it actually made it into a PC Week story. It wasn’t until I found an actual engineer -- Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet -- did I finally understand how a “bus” topology worked on a network versus a “ring” or a “star.”
If I could find a person patient enough to explain token ring architectures or the Ethernet bus topology in terms I could understand (thank you Bob Metcalfe) then I could probably find the right words to communicate that to the readers of PC Week and later Forbes.Huffman Codes and Obfustication
Sometime around 1991, I was asked by an editor to write a story about some codes that TV Guide added to its television show listings for a technology called Gemstar. The codes were simple strings of digits of varying lengths. Surely there is some logic to those codes, the editor mused. “Go figure them out.” I called Gemstar and they told me that was a highly proprietary code and there was no way they would comment or help me figure them out. So I picked up the phone and called Professor Ronald Rivest at MIT. This is one of the preeminent cryptographers in the world, one of the inventors of the RSA algorithm. I asked him to open the Boston Globe and turn to the TV listings. “See those codes? What do they mean?”
I heard him scrounge around for that day’s paper and he came back on the line. “Oh, those are Huffman Codes. Call David Huffman, he’ll explain.”
And Huffman did explain the codes to me clearly, succinctly, and in words even I -- a liberal arts major -- would understand and be able to put into words the mythical reader of Forbes (a single reader the editor, Jim Michaels, referred to as “Fred the Dentist”) could in turn understand. Huffman was gracious and helped me through the editing and fact checking process, insuring my translation of his explanation of Huffman coding with its trees and branches would make sense to any layman. From that point forward, I skipped talking to marketers except to schedule time with the engineers in their companies.
Now I’m a marketer. Worse yet, a “content marketer.” Marketers dissemble. Marketers prevaricate. They can’t resist the urge to take perfectly clear, concise terms (like “lie” or “fib” or “BS”) and imbue them with some creative magic or obfustication. Why settle on a simple four-letter word when there are so many more florid, aspirational ones to choose from?
The importance of the developer’s critical ear in communicating the impact and value of a technology can’t underestimated. The influence of the technologist in contemporary organizations and corporations is rising as demand for very specialized computer science and engineering talent gets more and more acute.The Era of the New Kingmakers
Steve O’Grady is a great analyst and observer of technology, especially open source projects, developer tools, and the emerging art of developer relations. His book, published by O’Reilly in 2014 -- The New Kingmakers -- is one of the most important pieces on the changing nature of technology marketing since Geoffrey Moore wrote Crossing the Chasm. If you’re selling technology then your future depends on understanding the essential truth:
I met O’Grady at during my time at Lenovo in 2006 when his firm, Redmonk, contacted Lenovo’s CMO Deepak Advani to talk about the potential of a Thinkpad configured for developers.In other words, a Thinkpad that didn’t come with a Windows license. PC makers like Dell, HP and Lenovo never dared poke Microsoft’s taboo against shipping “bare metal” PCs without a Windows license attached. Developers -- especially those in the open source community -- railed against paying that “Microsoft tax” when they were only going to wipe the OS and install their favorite flavor of Linux in its place. Their patron saint, Richard Stallman at the Free Software Foundation, was putting pressure on Lenovo to open up the documentation and source code of the Thinkpad’s BIOS.
So O’Grady and his partner James Governor came to Lenovo with a fascinating insight: Go to Google. Set the option to display the maximum number of results, and search on “ThinkPad.” So we did that, ran the search, printed out the results and after taping the pages together into a long snake, I started to categorize the results into a few broad buckets with different colored highlighters. Green for press mentions and reviews. Red for business results and our own content. Yellow for technical stuff like documentation, support, and specs.
The net result was a whole lot of yellow. Of the top 250 results, the vast majority were very technical in nature and further digging yielded an interesting discovery. Unbeknownst to the Thinkpad team, open source developers, in the interest of efficiency, had by default settled on a single Thinkpad -- one of the T-series -- as the base laptop for their development so they wouldn’t have to write hundreds of drivers for different vendors’ machines. Stallman was banging on the doors asking for technical specs for that machine’s BIOS -- and having spent a very entertaining evening with Richard when I was a reporter at Forbes -- I started corresponding with him. Asking the engineers at Lenovo to give Stallman what he wanted didn’t go over very well. So the free software movement eventually open sourced its own BIOS: Libreboot.Out of the Shadows
Developers don’t mess around with platitudes and promises. They want the specs and they want the source code. They want to pry open the lid and look inside to see what is going on. You can hit them with your brand’s “power positions” and “mission statements.” Sure, you can be a inbound marketer and give the world some “lovable marketing content” while you blog about “Ten Reasons Why Miley Cyrus Would Love Funnel Flipping Marketing” but the most technical people at those “target accounts” that your marketing department are trying to influence and cajole with retargeting, lead gen, display ads and paid search aren’t paying attention to that crap. They look at Powerpoint the way a Cub Scout regards poison ivy; don’t touch it and avoid it entirely if possible. They want to download, install, and run your stuff for a while and when they are good and ready they want to ask some very specific questions from the engineers who built it.
The past ten decades has seen an inversion in the power and influence of technologists in the selection, purchase and deployment of technology. The “shadow IT” of the 2000s was well described by Tim O’Reilly as developers sneaking personal laptops into the office so they could have access to the tools and communications denied them by their corporate IT overlords. The procurement of technology -- up until 2010 or so -- was a mating ritual between sales teams and buyers that took place on golf courses and in steakhouses. Then came open source and developers could download software on their own. Everything changed.
As companies make crucial decisions about the technologies in their “stack”; they turn to the most technical people in the organization for their blessing. Open source models and the principles of agile development, continuous integration and cloud-based architectures have turned old approaches to tech marketing on their head, and the result is the influence and power of the developer is multiplying. Resistance is futile.
At some point in a B2B company’s digital marketing strategy, they will need to consider a Marketing Automation Platform, of which there are several top players — such as Marketo, Oracle Eloqua, Pardot, Act-On, and Hubspot — While I’m sure that there are many more available options (I found this great vendor comparison tool with some nice comparison guides), in this post I’m going to talk about the integration here at Acquia between Drupal and Marketo that we’ve developed over the last four years.
Setting up the connection
Connecting Drupal to Marketo is as simple as following these steps:
- Add the Marketo MA module to your website.
- Enable the module, and activate Marketo using your account ID key.
- Add a form to your website and data will start passing from your website into Marketo
This process allows you to add forms to your website that seamlessly collect and pass tracking data through to Marketo. The Marketo MA module itself allows for lots of additional things to be able to happen, such as:
- API integration
- Webform integration
- Rules integration
- Lead capture during user create
- Drush support
Creating your custom implementation
If you only need a few forms on your website, the basic setup is probably all you’ll need. We use a lot of different forms on our website and with a need for granular reporting, we’ve taken the basic setup to the next level. We have many ebooks, whitepapers, and webinars that get added to our website on a weekly basis, and we want individual reporting on each one. Because of this, it isn't manageable or scalable to create a new form in Marketo for every item. If we needed to make a substantial change to our form, I would have to make that change to over 100 Marketo forms — that’s a good way to introduce potential errors, and is a huge waste of time for my team!
Instead, we created a folder for master forms, where we built one form for each type of asset that we publish. This leaves us with about five main forms across our website. Then we created fields on our pages that pass data into hidden fields on those forms, so that we can get the required precision from our form reporting. For example:
This is what renders on the page for the visitor:
Because of our customization, if there is a need to adjust our forms in the future, I only have five main forms I need to edit. This also gives more power to our content team and edit teams that they can create a page with a form capture without needing to go into Marketo.
REST API Integration
We have a few places across our web properties where we have to use the API integration instead of using a Marketo embedded form (for example, when we need to create a user account at the same time as we pass the lead into Marketo). In these cases, we use the API connection to pass data directly into Marketo with all of the same hidden fields data that we track on all forms, so that we get the same level of granular data. This works really well for us, but we only do this on a small number of forms.
Six of one, half-dozen of another
This is basically how we’re doing it at Acquia, but it doesn’t begin to cover the many different ways that are possible. There are many other ways to integrate your marketing automation stack and CMS with Marketo, but we’re happy with how we’re are doing it here and we’ve found it to be very successful. As proof, we won a Marketo Revvie award in 2014 for “Most Dramatic Business Impact.”
After you get your marketing automation platform up and running, read my blog on best practices for a demand gen focused website.
As a marketer looking to improve developer relations, it’s not enough to merely create content for developers. If you really want to understand what matters to developers, to actually get on their level, you need to get involved.
When it comes to building a relationship with developers and contributors affiliated with an open source project such as PHP, Linux, Apache, or Drupal: community participation and collaboration are important. The more that is shared and contributed, the better those projects, modules, themes, and documentation become. Drupal, for example, is the largest, most active open source community out there and has a reputation for being one of the most friendly, open, welcoming, and positive development communities.
It might seem daunting to break into a passionate community of developers, particularly if you’ve never written a single line of code. But there are ways for non-technical marketers who are truly interested in developer relations to become an active, contributing part of any community.Learn the Basics
If you’re concerned about being completely out of your element, learn the basics. While this might be a little more difficult for proprietary solutions, there are many online learning tools for open source solutions. YouTube is an excellent resource for learning the basics of web development.
If you’re interested in Drupal, subscription services like Drupalize.me or BuildAModule can help get you up to speed. Or just download Drupal and play around with it. Drupal 8 was designed for site builders, not just developers. It was built so that even if you don’t code at all, if you have enough basic technical knowledge, you can still install modules in the user interface. This was a fundamental design decision in Drupal; developers have put many, many hours into a system that non-developers can use and thus, making the code accessible to people who aren’t necessarily coders.Get Involved with Events
There’s no shortage of developer events to attend, especially in the open source community. Go to one! At any of them, there are always a number of sessions about topics other than web development or engineering; design, product management, community, and data architecture, just to name a few. You don’t have to go to the hardcore coding sessions sessions. This is also an opportunity to meet other community members who aren’t coders.
Just because you don’t code doesn’t mean you can’t help out. Events provide an opportunity to apply your own expertise. Every event needs a team of organizers to make it happen and if you’re in marketing, chances are you’ve had some experience with events. Beyond the organization aspect, there is a need for creative as well; designers and copywriters are needed for signage, collateral, etc. And volunteers are always needed to keep everything running smoothly.Spend Time with People “Where I start with all of this is my fundamental interest; the intersection of humans and technology, the place where we cross over. I find a lot of value in knowing how you discovered something, what problem you were solving, what inspired you to create a solution, to modify it or to use it. What is your experience with this thing? The best explanations end up being connected with an actual story. It’s a very human thing. Stories are what tie us together.”
- Jeffrey “jam” McGuire, Evangelist, Developer Relations at Acquia
The best way to connect with people is by actually spending time talking to them. Within the development community, there are many opportunities for this, from structured monthly local meetups to drinks after work with internal developers.
Don’t be intimidated; maybe you only understand some of the things being discussed but the point is, you will learn something. Make connections and ask questions. Most people will be happy to help you learn if you’re asking in a respectful way.
Being involved with developer relations is an active pursuit. You can’t do it just from behind your computer screen. Get out there, talk to people, and ask questions. Try things out for yourself. It’s the only way to really do it right. Just go do it.
(Yes, I intend on taking my own advice on this).
Do you manage a B2B website like I do? Is the primary goal of your website to generate leads? If your answer is yes to both of those questions then this blog is for you. Generating demand on your website is about creating enough interest in your products or services so visitors will reach out to you for more information. The user fills out a form to give you a lead that your sales team will follow up on. There is a fine balancing act to maintain between generating leads and focusing on the quality of the lead which I will discuss as well.
I’ve been managing B2B websites for over eight years now. Here are some of the key things that I’ve found work well on my sites to drive sales-qualified leads.
Persistent header CTA (Call to action)
The one part of your website that sticks with your user everywhere they go is the site header. The header is a very important component of nearly every page — it carries the top level navigational links with the places where you want your user to go within your website. You can use the header as a demand generation tool by having your most important CTA that is applicable to all users also be available in this section. Right now on acquia.com we are using “Live Demo,” and this button uses our bright primary color to grab visitors’ attention and imply importance. Whatever piece of content is most helpful to get your prospects to evaluate your product, that should be the basis of your CTA. It could be a demo, free trial, phone number or other piece of content that is appropriate for your business. Don’t miss out on the great space available on your site.
CTAs within your menu
If you are using a mega menu style (where the menu is wider and has more space than just one drop down list) you also have room to promote a relevant CTA there. I emphasise relevant because you shouldn’t just pack your menu or your site with links to assets if they don’t make sense. This will often just lower your conversion rates instead of increasing them. The goal is to place the right CTA within the right menu section, or don’t use it at all.
On acquia.com we use this CTA space in our about menu drop down section to feature a new job listing, or under our products menu to highlight our free trial. We don’t just promote random assets in these places, we want them to aid in the user's journey. I’d recommend you test these out for yourself because what works for our company might not work for yours.
Great and thoughtful UX (user experience)
The key to increasing conversions on your website is making sure your content flows the way the user expects it to. Don’t start your product pages pushing a demo when the user doesn’t know what the product does yet. Make sure you’ve provided the proper context before pushing a form. I’m sure your goal is to drive leads, but you really only want quality leads (actual information vs mickey mouse that you can pass over to sales), so think about where the user is in their journey to purchase your product and present content that matches that. We tag our content by stage in the customer journey — education, solution, vendor selection — so we can target relevant content at groups of users based on their stage (education, solution, vendor selection) and present different assets at different stages of their journey. This allows us to show more of our content to our users and it is more relevant to the user at the time. It should also result in an increase in your clicks and conversions.
Optimize your conversion landing pages
One best practice on your conversion landing pages is to remove all other possible actions besides filling out the form (such as header menu and footer) to make sure they don’t get distracted. I am of mixed opinions on this because I have seen it work, but I feel forcing users onto a landing page with no navigation while naturally navigating your main website is a bad user experience (UX). I believe this mentality belongs on paid search landing pages. If this page is on your main website which is found via organic search I think it should be in the context of your website head/footer to give consistent UX. This is also a cue to you as the site manager if your users aren’t converting and clicking other places. This might indicate that they didn’t land there at the right time for them, and you should review your UX or content again. This is also a great place to do some A/B testing around headlines, copy, submit button text, and length of your from. Continually optimize your pages to ensure the best conversions.
Personalization is the next level of a good user experience. You want to show relevant and like content to your users based on how they are using and navigating your website. Build extensive profiles of your users and use that data to present the right assets at the right time. There are lots of ways to tackle this, I recommend starting small and working your way up, starting with the largest pool of content. Learn more about kickstarting your personalization plan.
Track and Optimize
Now that you have the outline, you need to ensure you’re tracking your data and continually reviewing it to improve upon or adjust content and your site experience as needed. I recommend tracking on a weekly and monthly basis, which you can adjust as needed. You don’t want to set it and forget it to find out later your adjustment didn’t work as expected. Learn more about the best marketing metrics to track, and how often.
Not every solution works the same for each business. I recommend a crawl, walk, run mentality when making these types of changes and adjustments to your website. If you change too much all at once you won’t be able to pinpoint what specific change improved or hurt your conversions. Your website is a huge asset to your business, so be mindful and intentional when making these changes. Identifying the need is the right start, and then you can take baby steps from there.
What feelings does the name Drupal evoke? Perceptions vary from person to person; where one may describe it in positive terms as "powerful" and "flexible", another may describe it negatively as "complex". People describe Drupal differently not only as a result of their professional backgrounds, but also based on what they've heard and learned.
If you ask different people what Drupal is for, you'll get many different answers. This isn't a surprise because over the years, the answers to this fundamental question have evolved. Drupal started as a tool for hobbyists building community websites, but over time it has evolved to support large and sophisticated use cases.Perception is everything
Perception is everything; it sets expectations and guides actions and inactions. We need to better communicate Drupal's identity, demonstrate its true value, and manage its perceptions and misconceptions. Words do lead to actions. Spending the time to capture what Drupal is for could energize and empower people to make better decisions when adopting, building and marketing Drupal.
Truth be told, I've been reluctant to define what Drupal is for, as it requires making trade-offs. I have feared that we would make the wrong choice or limit our growth. Over the years, it has become clear that not defining what Drupal is used for leaves more people confused even within our own community.
For example, because Drupal evolved from a simple tool for hobbyists to a more powerful digital experience platform, many people believe that Drupal is now "for the enterprise". While I agree that Drupal is a great fit for the enterprise, I personally never loved that categorization. It's not just large organizations that use Drupal. Individuals, small startups, universities, museums and non-profits can be equally ambitious in what they'd like to accomplish and Drupal can be an incredibly solution for them.Defining what Drupal is for
Rather than using "for the enterprise", I thought "for ambitious digital experiences" was a good phrase to describe what people can build using Drupal. I say "digital experiences" because I don't want to confine this definition to traditional browser-based websites. As I've stated in my Drupalcon New Orleans keynote, Drupal is used to power mobile applications, digital kiosks, conversational user experiences, and more. Today I really wanted to focus on the word "ambitious".
"Ambitious" is a good word because it aligns with the flexibility, scalability, speed and creative freedom that Drupal provides. Drupal projects may be ambitious because of the sheer scale (e.g. The Weather Channel), their security requirements (e.g. The White House), the number of sites (e.g. Johnson & Johnson manages thousands of Drupal sites), or specialized requirements of the project (e.g. the New York MTA powering digital kiosks with Drupal). Organizations are turning to Drupal because it gives them greater flexibility, better usability, deeper integrations, and faster innovation. Not all Drupal projects need these features on day one -- or needs to know about them -- but it is good to have them in case you need them later on.
"Ambitious" also aligns with our community's culture. Our industry is in constant change (responsive design, web services, social media, IoT), and we never look away. Drupal 8 was a very ambitious release; a reboot that took one-third of Drupal's lifespan to complete, but maneuvered Drupal to the right place for the future that is now coming. I have always believed that the Drupal community is ambitious, and believe that attitude remains strong in our community.
Last but not least, our adopters are also ambitious. They are using Drupal to transform their organizations digitally, leaving established business models and old business processes in the dust.
I like the position that Drupal is ambitious. Stating that Drupal is for ambitious digital experiences however is only a start. It only gives a taste of Drupal's objectives, scope, target audience and advantages. I think we'd benefit from being much more clear. I'm curious to know how you feel about the term "for ambitious digital experiences" versus "for the enterprise" versus not specifying anything. Let me know in the comments so we can figure out how to collectively change the perception of Drupal.
PS: I'm borrowing the term "ambitious" from the Ember.js community. They use the term in their tagline and slogan on their main page.
According to data from a recent PWC report, 83% of business leaders surveyed in a 2016 Global FinTech Survey believe they are at risk of losing business to stand-alone FinTech companies -- Wealthfront, Betterment, Robinhood, etc. -- and wealth management services are specifically seen to be one of the sectors most vulnerable to disruption.
Incumbents such as Commonwealth Financial Network (CFN) are making bold moves to demonstrate their value to existing and future clients. CFN is partnering with the CI&T digital technology agency and using Acquia Cloud Site Factory and Drupal to keep pace with the new waves of emerging digital opportunity.
As the largest privately held independent broker/dealer and registered investment advisor in the US, CFN supports more than 1,650 independent financial advisors nationwide. CFN’s goal is to provide over 750 mobile-friendly Drupal websites on the Acquia Platform which are the primary marketing and communication channel for their affiliated advisors. These sites are the gateway for resources, support and financial tools and therefore need to provide the most useable and efficient way possible for clients to consume this information.
With a 50% improvement in the time it takes to deploy a new advisor website and better search engine optimization, CFN maintains full visibility and governance over those hundreds of websites while still allowing the individual advisors to personalize the experience and content in a way that’s unique to their business and services. Maintaining consistency of the master brand and creating new sites quickly as a new financial advisor is onboarded are also paramount to CFN
From speed of deployment to keeping control of the brand while giving a high degree of flexibility to the advisors, perhaps the biggest advantage that CFN gains is agility. They’re able to quickly create new sites and use advanced automation to easily deploy and maintain them. They're also able to extend the codebase to meet their advanced requirements with the option to integrate with new technologies over time.
To learn more, I encourage you to check out the case study.
Drupal 8 continues to gain momentum; in fact, Drupal 8.1 is already available! More and more modules continue to be migrated over from Drupal 7 and we’ve been chronicling them — along with other Drupal 8 news — on the Acquia Developer Center blog. Let’s take a look at Responsive and off-canvas menu, Display Suite, and Media Entity.Responsive and off-canvas menu
Maintainers: Tancredi D’Onofrio, aka tanc on Drupal.org, is Senior Developer and Technical Lead at the UK-based Agile Collective Ltd. co-operative company, which specializes in Drupal and open source solutions for clients in the public sector, charities, and social enterprises.What Does Responsive and off-canvas menu Do?
On mobile devices, the module provides an off-canvas menu triggered by swipe gestures or a ‘burger’ icon; on desktop-width displays, it provides a horizontal menu with drop-downs. Tancredi explains how this enhances Drupal 8: “Out-of-the-box, D8 provides a method of rendering your chosen menu in a block. It’s up to you and your theme to make it function, respond and look how you want. This module also provides a block to render your menu in but only down to a specified breakpoint. Below that breakpoint, this module renders your menu as an off-canvas slide-out panel that is activated by a triggering ‘burger’ icon.”Why Does It Matter?
This module gives site builders a fairly simple solution to the mobile menu problem while not dictating or limiting too much how you have to present your desktop-sized menu. Given that it is quick and easy to implement — and it looks pretty good — it should reduce the cost of producing a custom mobile menu. Simply install the module and configure its settings. The only caveat here, according to Tancredi, is that, “The module requires a small amount of CSS theming knowledge. In particular, the horizontal menu will need colors applied to it to fit the site theme."
One nice “bonus” feature is that on a site with multiple menus, the mobile menu can be comprised of multiple Drupal menus combined together. So if you have a ‘main menu’ and a ‘utility menu’ at desktop size, these two menus are then merged to be displayed in a single off-canvas mobile menu.
Maintainers: Kristof De Jaeger and Bram Goffings (swentel and aspilicious on Drupal.org). Bram actually got his start in Drupal working as an intern under Kristof on Display Suite. Nowadays, Bram is the technical lead at Belgian agency Nascom and Kristof is a Drupal core developer and co-owner of a small digital agency in Belgium called eps & kaas.What Does Display Suite Do?
Display Suite (“DS”) gives you the power to control how your site content is displayed using a drag and drop admin interface — without any of the coding or deep Drupal-technical knowledge of theme template files you’d need otherwise. With Display Suite, you don’t need to ask your developer colleague, Drupal service provider, or geek friend for help arranging your nodes, views, teaser lists, search results, comments, user data, etc. You can just get on with arranging how your content is displayed.
Kristof explains that "DS simply works out-of-the-box (as soon as you have entities on your site), “It allows you to swap out layouts for every entity and for every view mode available on your site using the Field UI.” Even better, “It also allows you to access and rearrange display fields in the Field UI that are otherwise (without Display Suite) unavailable to you.”Why Does it Matter?
“One of the reasons I wrote Display Suite all those years ago was to give power to front-end people so they could easily configure entities and view modes. They can do all this without me or other developers having to create template files for them because they didn't know all the internals of render arrays, or nodes.” Here we get a clue about his deeper motivation, “So in some ways, it relieves the burden a bit for developers to focus on what they love more, and front-end developers don't have to bother developers.”
This happy arrangement has led to DS’s popularity: Drupal.org reports back almost 160,000 installations. And there are almost certainly more in the wild, given that not every site reports back its module usage.
Maintainer: Janez Urevc, aka slashrsm, who comes from the tiny and beautiful European country of Slovenia. He was one of the initial founders and leads of the Drupal 8 media initiative. At Zürich-based MD Systems — themselves heavy contributors to Drupal 8 — Janez is a senior engineer and team lead.What Does Media Entity Do?
Media Entity — installed on roughly 1500 websites as of mid-2016 — is new to Drupal 8. It provides a storage component for media, “a very lean and lightweight entity,” according to Janez, which can reference any media resources. Media Entity creates a relationship between a Drupal installation and a given media resource, for example local files, YouTube videos, Tweets, Instagram photos, and so on.
Thanks to its pluggable architecture, it also handles business logic related to specific media resources. Janez explains, “We are currently able to automatically provide default thumbnails and deliver remote metadata about media resources, as well as easily mapping remote metadata to Drupal fields. We will be adding more logic like that in the future.”
As of the writing of this post, there are plugin modules supporting the following media types:
Media Entity gives developers a set of standard code-tools to deal with with media. By developing media-type plugins, they can interact with their media resources and provide additional business logic for them. By exclusively using standard Drupal tools and APIs (Fields, Entities, Views, etc.), you can make your media-related code play nice with others. It lets you integrate with and benefit from other Drupal 8 systems and modules.
This module helps site owners in at least two ways. Important information — metadata — about individual media items that used to be hard to obtain can now be easily made part of rich media libraries. It also allows them to use whatever standard tools they are already familiar with to manipulate their media, making integration with other systems and other parts of their websites much easier.
I sent an internal note to all of Acquia's 700+ employees today and decided to cross-post it to my blog because it contains a valuable lesson for any startup. One of my personal challenges — both as an Open Source evangelist/leader and entrepreneur — has been to learn to be comfortable with not being understood. Lots of people didn't believe in Open Source in Drupal's early days (and some still don't). Many people didn't believe Acquia could succeed (and some still don't). Something is radically different in software today, and the world is finally understanding and validating that some big shifts are happening. In many cases, an idea takes years to gain general acceptance. Such is the story of Drupal and Acquia. Along the way it can be difficult to deal with the naysayers and rejections. If you ever have an idea that is not understood, I want you to think of my story.
This week, Acquia got a nice mention on Techcrunch in an article written by Jake Flomenberg, a partner at Accel Partners. For those of you who don't know Accel Partners, they are one of the most prominent venture capital investors and were early investors in companies like Facebook, Dropbox, Slack, Etsy, Atlassian, Lynda.com, Kayak and more.
The article, called "The next wave in software is open adoption software", talks about how the enterprise IT stack is being redrawn atop powerful Open Source projects like MongoDB, Hadoop, Drupal and more. Included in the article is a graph that shows Acquia's place in the latest wave of change to transform the technology landscape, a place showing our opportunity is bigger than anything before as the software industry migrated from mainframes to client-server, then SaaS/PaaS and now - to what Flomenberg dubs, the age of Open Adoption Software.
It's a great article, but it isn't new to any of us per se – we have been promoting this vision since our start nine years ago and we have seen over and over again how Open Source is becoming the dominant model for how enterprises build and deliver IT. We have also shown that we are building a successful technology company using Open Source.
Why then do I feel compelled to share this article, you ask? The article marks a small but important milestone for Acquia.
We started Acquia to build a new kind of company with a new kind of business model, a new innovation model, all optimized for a new world. A world where businesses are moving most applications into the cloud, where a lot of software is becoming Open Source, where IT infrastructure is becoming a metered utility, and where data-driven services make or break business results.
We've been steadily executing on this vision; it is why we invest in Open Source (e.g. Drupal), cloud infrastructure (e.g. Acquia Cloud and Site Factory), and data-centric business tools (e.g. Acquia Lift).
In my 15+ years as an Open Source evangelist, I've argued with thousands of people who didn't believe in Open Source. In my 8+ years as an entrepreneur, I've talked to thousands of business people and dozens of investors who didn't understand or believe in Acquia's vision. Throughout the years, Tom and I have presented Acquia's vision to many investors – some have bought in and some, like Accel, have not (for various reasons). I see more and more major corporations and venture capital firms coming around to Open Source business models every day. This trend is promising for new Open Source companies; I'm proud that Acquia has been a part of clearing their path to being understood.
When former skeptics become believers, you know you are finally being understood. The Techcrunch article is a small but important milestone because it signifies that Acquia is finally starting to be understood more widely. As flattering as the Techcrunch article is, true validation doesn't come in the form of an article written by a prominent venture capitalist; it comes day-in and day-out by our continued focus and passion to grow Drupal and Acquia bit by bit, one successful customer at a time.
Building a new kind of company like we are doing with Acquia is the harder, less-traveled path, but we always believed it would be the best path for our customers, our communities, and ultimately, our world. Success starts with building a great team that not only understands what we do, but truly believes in what we do and remains undeterred in its execution. Together, we can build this new kind of company.
Founder and Project Lead, Drupal
Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Acquia
Having a content management system (CMS) in place for my website means that I don't have to worry about maintaining my content right?
Not exactly... and when you get down to it, content maintenance is something that you need to actively plan for.
The CMS that you have in place is just a tool that allows you to input, create, format, and collaborate on content, and then delivers that to your website’s visitors with varying degrees of targeting and personalization. If Content Management is about developing and delivering content, then Content Maintenance begs the question: who manages and maintains your content? How often do you refresh existing content? When do you know it is time to remove content from your website? When you do remove content, do you delete it or archive it?
These are all questions I’ve been asking myself lately.
More content is good. Right? Well, maybe… you want to make sure you’re writing and building content that adds value for your user and is accurate and helpful. I think we’ve all been there — spending a month working on a new landing page or a few months on a new website, launching it, and then sitting back and relaxing. But what will it look like in six months? Websites can quickly turn into the digital equivalent of an episode of Hoarders — and for some organizations, failure to weed their content libraries can cause reputational risk and confusion. An online news site will usually hold onto all of their articles and other media — newspapers find a lot of value offering access, sometimes paid, to their “morgues.”
For many organizations, the failure to clean their content house can cause huge problems. Discontinued products that appear to still be in stock, expired promotions and landing sites that are forgotten and left to rot, comment threads on community sites that are left unmoderated... failure to be mindful about content will leave a bad impression about your brand. Dumping scads of content into your site can confuse customers who may be new to your site and looking for some guidance as to what they should read “first” — this leads to the eternal “less-is-more” versus “more-is-more” debate.
I’m not here to tell you that I manage content on my websites well — I don’t! I’m here to tell you that I’m thinking about it these days, and you should too. This is the process I am going through right now:
- Audit the content
To begin the process and ensure you’re starting with a clean house, do a content audit to determine what you have on your website. Create a spreadsheet that maps all the types of content that you currently have. When was the last time a discrete piece of content was updated? Does it get any traffic? This will give you a quick list of assets to purge from your website. Tip: make sure to redirect those URLs to more relevant content, this is very important for search engines to drop old links and index new ones. If your CMS filters content by type (such as content type ie. blog, webinar, video), I recommend going through each item; if not, I recommend starting with your main navigation and then going through all pages linked off of it. Using a web analytics tool is also a helpful way to audit your content.
- Think about a plan, and create a process
The document that you created during your audit can be used to understand what you have in place, what assets are performing, and which are old and in need of updating or retirement. After collecting a comprehensive view of your library of assets you need to set a process to review which ones are valuable, which are candidates for updating, and which need to be retired. This will entail notifying content “owners” and communicating your needs for either approval to archive or a request for the content author/sponsor to deliver an update to the original asset.
- Update Frequency
Are there specific types of content that need to be updated more often that are time sensitive? Are there sections of content that are dated and therefore never need to be updated such as press releases? Part of this plan is creating a content edit/review calendar to communicate when content should next be reviewed, and by whom.
On Acquia.com, we try to update our product pages quarterly — this is because product information is very important to our users and the success of our business, and product information is often evolving. However, our customer case studies don’t need to be updated on a regular basis because the stories contained in them never change. Instead, case studies are reviewed less frequently for relevance and impact. Different content classes will have different timeframes and actions.
- Decide who will manage updates
The answer to the question of “who?” depends greatly on how your organization is set up. Some organizations might have a dedicated team who manages all of their content including web, some will assign it out to sub groups within their department and manage it that way. There are many ways to do this, but making sure someone is responsible is key. You need to know that your content is being reviewed and maintained.
- Communicate transparently
Use the CMS to allow communication between your content creators, reviewers, and editors. If you determine that you want to revisit a page based on a certain frequency, create a date field to contain the next review date, and then use Views to bring up this month’s list of content reviews.
Know that you need to retire a content item on a particular date? That’s just another date field, and another view. Finally, if you have the ability to use revisions for content nodes, use them and be descriptive when commenting on them, as they’ll help you keep track of changes that happen over time.
Why does this all matter?
Being mindful about your website’s content ensures your users will have a great experience and find the content they need to help make their decision or satisfy their needs— I have yet to meet a website visitor who likes to view stale or outdated content.
Keeping content updated will also make the search engines love your site, as search engines like Google can detect when content is refreshed and it helps add value to your relevance and page rank. Read my post on SEO optimization to learn more.
Frequently updating your website will ensure that your internal teams will keep using your website and sharing it with others — if anyone internally loses value and trust in your content, it will all be downhill from there and you’ll be dealing with the perpetual grumbling: “Our website sucks.”
The cleaner your content is, the easier it will be to maintain long term. Do yourself a favor and maintain it so you don’t have to spend months cleaning it up when the content board of health declares your site uninhabitable.
As the counterpart to sales, marketing is fast-paced and cutthroat. It’s not enough to hit your numbers; marketers want to “crush” them. Marketers, by nature, are often aggressive, fond of hyperbole and hype, and can come off as overly-ambitious; all of which usually works when selling Ginsu Knives and Sham-Wows, but can backfire when it comes to “developer marketing.”
Developers — and that includes the ones inside a tech company who create the products and services you are tasked with promoting — have just as much disregard for the hype machine that is marketing as the big audience of external developers you’re trying to reach and influence. Your own experts are just as skeptical of clickbait headlines, listicle blog posts, deceptive subject lines in spam, ad-tech, tracking cookies, and “white papers” that have way too many adjectives and superlatives -- so rely on their reaction and opinions as a proxy for the developers you’re trying to reach.
Marketers are never going to think like developers and vice versa, but there are some steps a smart developer relations person can take to have better collaboration on content while respecting the valuable time and concerns of their most technical subject matter experts.Be Humble
Even though you may be an expert digital marketer with years of experience in lead generation, managing successful campaigns, and creating engaging content, accept the truth that this is not your world. When it comes to topics, ask your own developers, builders, and engineers: “What is bugging you lately? What do you want to talk about?” It’s always easier for someone to contribute to something they actually care about.
Approach each piece from the standpoint of “I’m here to learn.” If you don’t understand something, ask questions. Repeat the answer back to make sure you’ve understood. Developers are some of the smartest people you’ll meet so take this opportunity to really learn something from them.Value Their Time
As busy as you might be, developers are probably busier. Just look at the Drupal community and the contributors who are prepping for the next Drupal 8 release, migrating modules from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8, fixing issues to move towards the next milestone, creating new modules, etc. Developers in the midst of a sprint have very little time for content creation.
Make it as easy as you can for them. Email them questions to fill out. Or if you decide to meet in person to work on a piece, record the meeting and have it transcribed. Create a draft from the Q&A or the transcription for them to edit; it’s much easier than confronting them with a blank page. Draft something for them to review -- don’t ask them to simply create. You want to make the process as collaborative as possible.Build Trust
Building trust is arguably one of the hardest things to do in pretty much any aspect of life. But it’s super important to build trust from the start when working with developers. How? Don’t edit their work (with the exception of basic spelling and/or grammar) without informing them. Throw your best practices for SEO out the window. The last thing a developer wants to see is a published piece they have invested their time in which has been significantly changed by an eager search marketer determined to use the content to improve rankings on a search engine results page. Deliver drafts when you say you will and stick to deadlines and editorial processes.Become an Evangelist
Giving the developer community props is always appreciated. Don’t just look for content that benefits your agenda, but rather content that showcases the work your company’s developers do, as well as the work being done with your technology by customers, partners, and even contributors working for competitors. Write bios for them that highlight their contributions. Share their content even if you didn’t work on it with them yourself. Celebrate their achievements by sharing them.
When Drupal 8 was released, we decided that in addition to the usual “Drupal 8 is here!” type of blog posts, we looked at who had the highest number of contribs to Drupal 8 and profiled them on the Acquia Developer Center. It wasn’t just to promote the release of D8 but to showcase the people who made D8 happen; the people who poured their time and energy into its release, even those who didn’t work for Acquia.
The Module of the Week program is another example. This was a way to not only showcase Acquia developers and engineers working on the Drupal 8 module migration, but other members of the Drupal community as well. Developers work hard and appreciate when that work is recognized.
In order to be successful at developer marketing, you pretty much need to go against what you’ve learned to be a successful marketer. Put your ego aside. A personal tip? Find common ground with your interests outside of work. That helps build the relationship, leading to better collaboration down the road. But above all, be open, curious, and patient. It will go a long way.
Any other tips? Leave them in the comments.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential part of any digital strategy, so I decided to ask an expert — Keith Vera from DeltaV Digital — some direct questions that may help you with your own SEO plans and strategy.
Kate: Hi Keith. Tell us who you are please.
Keith: I have been in the digital marketing space for over twelve years. I’m based in the Washington, DC area, and have spent most of those years working for, and with, smaller digital agencies. I’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to work with some of the best digital talents and partners across the country, and have been able to work with some fascinating clients during that time. What I enjoy most of all about working in a small agency is the great relationships and connections I have made. When you work with the best people and clients who all share a true partner mindset, you are able to accomplish truly amazing things.
Kate: What company do you work for and what exactly do you do?
Keith: I am a cofounder and partner at DeltaV Digital, a full-service digital marketing agency focused on digital research, strategy, and execution. Day-to-day I help lead digital strategy teams that are orchestrating multi-channel integrated digital marketing programs, including SEO, SEM, social advertising, digital display, and website design and development. Some of our more intense and interesting projects involve enterprise website and content migrations to help insure SEO viability while mitigating brand loss across the major search engines.
Kate: What did you do prior to cofounding DeltaV Digital?
Keith: In 2006, I was the first member of another DC-based digital marketing startup, EyeTraffic Media. In 2011, EyeTraffic, was acquired by Penton Media, where I served as VP of Digital Marketing for the external agency arm of Penton Marketing Services.
Kate: Alright Keith let’s get into the direct questions and our topic at hand and start with the obvious. What is SEO?
Keith: SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is an online marketing methodology to increasing your website rankings on search engine results pages (SERPS) across major search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. SEO is an extremely important digital marketing channel, as clicks to your website properties from organic listings are “free,” and traffic from organic search clicks is generally highly-relevant to your product or service offerings. SEO is about catering to both your audience through things like website content quality, clarity, and organization, as well as the search engine algorithms and overall user experience through strong website architecture and performance.
Kate: Do the old school things such as meta keywords and meta descriptions still matter?
Keith: Absolutely. Although meta descriptions and keywords do not affect search engine rankings, they can be used by the engines as indicators to understand what a specific website page is about. Your page meta information is also where marketing overlaps with SEO efforts. Your page title and meta descriptions are what the engines use to create your organic listing and links displayed on SERPs. You should think of these areas as your marketing opportunity, where you can influence users to click on your organic listing instead of your competitors’ listing. A better written, and more relevant page title and meta description will help garner a better click-through-rate (CTR) which is yet another factor in engine ranking algorithms. Additionally, meta descriptions and keywords usually have an impact on internal search tools such as the Google Search Appliance or Elastic Search, so well-tagged pages could impact your internal search results and experience substantially.
Keith: Yes, there are certainly still black, white, and gray-hat types of SEO strategies to try and get strong rankings across Google and the other engines. Over the last couple of years, the engines have made substantial strides to clean-up SERPs from non-relevant results from their indexes, and overall they’ve done a great job. There have been some companies that have been hurt pretty substantially by these updates, but in most of those instances there were some of those “areas of gray” in their SEO execution (either known or unknown) that caused the penalization. People are always looking for new ways to manipulate search engines, and the engines continue to get smarter about understanding and mitigating these tactics. The best solution is start with SEO best practices and work to build on them across your content strategy, looking to provide true value to your audience and, of course, follow developer guidelines for your site.
Kate: What is more important, on-the-page tagging or back-end site building adjustments?
Keith: I would say that depends on the site and the content strategy. For large publications or content-heavy sites with new consistent and relevant content, the back-end architecture of the site is going to make far more of a difference to SEO rankings and success than looking at hyper-specific page tagging. With the proper site structure in place, the content by itself will likely deliver some good SEO success. With that said, page tagging is a part of site taxonomy, an important site architecture SEO component. Strong page tagging and addressing other on-page SEO elements will impact pages getting indexed and SERP rankings, help CTR on rankings you have already achieved, and your internal search functionality.
Kate: Is link building still important?
Keith: Link building is still important, but the type of links you should be looking to build and how those programs work has evolved substantially over time. The easiest thing to focus on when looking to generate inbound links is creating and promoting high-quality content. Visitors sharing your content with their digital ecosystem give strong ranking indicators to Google that your content is relevant and valuable to those audiences, and that is exactly what Google is striving to do, index and rank the most relevant, timely, and valuable content for its users.
Kate: When should a company hire an agency vs. doing SEO themselves?
Keith: This is a great question and one that a lot of companies struggle with. The first thing to think about is that while SEO is free traffic, it certainly isn’t free to execute on. Regardless of whether you have an in-house operation or an agency partner, great SEO requires marketing resources, content resources, and development resources among other things. Both ways require a commitment to the channel in ways that I think are not always considered or understood.
The value of having in-house SEO employees is that they are (hopefully) dedicated to SEO execution 100% of the time. If you are hiring for SEO you should look for someone with a strong background in web development and SEO, as well as marketing. Individuals with those diverse skillsets are difficult, but not impossible, to find. One of the main issues that I’ve seen with an in-house strategy is that typically there is only a single person charged with SEO execution, and they end up wearing many hats other than SEO, making it extremely difficult to find sustained success.
The benefit of hiring an agency is that you are able to get a team dedicated to your SEO success that should have all of the skills (development/marketing/SEO) necessary to put you on the path to success. Of course, these teams do have other clients, but I would argue that is actually a substantial benefit. Multiple clients are helping to subsidize the cost of having a team of experts and access to pricey enterprise-level SEO and development tools that companies with in-house SEO execution would otherwise have to buy themselves.
Kate: How do you measure SEO success?
Keith: We measure SEO success a number of ways, and to some degree SEO can be held accountable to the same standards as other digital marketing channels. The first, and probably most obvious, is indexing and ranking success for targeted website pages or the most important keywords. The number one goal of SEO is to get pages indexed and achieve rankings on search terms. A byproduct of those rankings is traffic and actual ROI that comes from users visiting your website through that channel (leads and sales) which we measure as well. We also measure success on a development level, looking at positive changes in things like web site errors, site speed, 400 errors, broken links, and redirect errors, all of which cause a poor user experience and will negatively impact your SEO
Kate: What blogs do you read on SEO?
Keith: Some of my favorite SEO resources are Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, and Moz. Google also has a lot of great blogs and resources that anyone in the industry should be looking at. Finally, there are some other strong platform blogs out there like HubSpot, Kissmetrics, and SEMRush.
Kate: Anything you would like to share that I didn't ask?
Keith: I would just share a couple of the biggest trends that we are seeing and things to concentrate on for the future of SEO. The first is that Google’s latest algorithm changes place more of an importance on mobile-friendly websites and environments, and having (or not having) a mobile-friendly website will have an ever-greater impact on ranking performance. The second is the local side of SEO, which requires a different type of SEO strategy as local search results are relevant to a user’s location. With the increase in smartphone usage, there has been a substantial increase in searches that have local intent, and having a strong local presence can not only increase your visibility, but help insulate you from future algorithm changes that focus on strong local SEO.
Thanks to Keith for speaking with me and answering lots of great questions specific to SEO!I hope these questions are helpful to your digital strategy, I know they are helpful to mine. Please feel free to add any additional questions in the comments.
In my latest SXSW talk, I showed a graphic of each of the major technology giants to demonstrate how much of our user data each company owned.
I said they won't stop until they know everything about us. Microsoft just bought LinkedIn, so here is what happened:
By acquiring the world's largest professional social network, Microsoft gets immediate access to data from more than 433 million LinkedIn members. Microsoft fills out the "social graph" and "interests" circles. There is speculation over what Microsoft will do with LinkedIn over time, but here is what I think is most likely:
- With LinkedIn, Microsoft could build out its Microsoft Dynamics CRM business to reinvent the sales and marketing process, helping the company compete more directly with SalesForce.
- LinkedIn could allow Microsoft to implement a "Log in with LinkedIn" system similar to Facebook Connect. Microsoft could turn LinkedIn profiles into a cross-platform business identity to better compete with Google and Facebook.
- LinkedIn could allow Microsoft to build out Cortana, a workplace-tailored digital assistant. One scenario Microsoft referenced was walking into a meeting and getting a snapshot of each attendee based on his or her LinkedIn profile. This capability will allow Microsoft to better compete against virtual assistants like Google Now, Apple Siri and Amazon Echo.
- LinkedIn could be integrated in applications like Outlook, Skype, Office, and even Windows itself. Buying LinkedIn helps Microsoft limit how Facebook and Google are starting to get into business applications.
In the past I wrote that data, not software, is eating the world. The real value in technology comes less and less from software and more and more from data. As most businesses are moving applications into the cloud, a lot of software is becoming free, IT infrastructure is becoming a metered utility, and data is what is really makes or breaks business results. Here is one excerpt from my post: "As value shifts from software to the ability to leverage data, companies will have to rethink their businesses. In the next decade, data-driven, personalized experiences will continue to accelerate, and development efforts will shift towards using contextual data.". This statement is certainly true in Microsoft / LinkedIn's case.
If this deal shows us anything, it's about the value of user data. Microsoft paid more than $60 per registered LinkedIn user. The $26.2 billion price tag values LinkedIn at about 91 times earnings, and about 7 percent of Microsoft's market cap. This is a very bold acquisition. You could argue that this is too hefty a price tag for LinkedIn, but this deal is symbolic of Microsoft rethinking its business strategy to be more data and context-centric. Microsoft sees that the future for them is about data and I don't disagree with that. While I believe acquiring LinkedIn is a right strategic move for Microsoft, I'm torn over whether or not Microsoft overpaid for LinkedIn. Maybe we'll look back on this acquisition five years from now and find that it wasn't so crazy, after all.
“Developers as a group have proven immune to the majority of traditional software-marketing approaches. Marketing to developers requires a very different approach, and in many cases marketing as it has traditionally been known is simply impossible.” - Stephen O’Grady, The New Kingmakers
As a content marketer, a key part of my job is understanding the various audiences that come to Acquia with different informational needs. The challenge is more than how to write for them, but understanding their interests. What tone do they prefer? Would they rather read a 500-word blog post or a 20-page technical whitepaper? One area I’ve seen fellow marketers struggle with (and one I’ve only just started to learn about since the beginning of the year) is writing for the developer audience. Over the next few weeks I’d like to share some lessons I’ve learned first-hand as well as reading how it’s done by the experts.
The conflict begins with the concept of “developer marketing” versus “developer relations.” It’s a clash of cultures coming from two totally different schools of thought on what content should be.
In the eyes of a typical tech marketer, content exists to generate leads, attract traffic through search, build brand awareness, and ultimately help drive revenue. Yet those pipeline and lead-generating tactics used to meet those goals simply does not work on developers. They want facts and how to’s, not theory or hyperbole. They want to hear the perspective of their peers, not “thought leadership” about the “rise of innovation networks” or “Seven Tricks for Writing Emails That Will Get Opened.” They see through the hype, and they don’t take the bait. They don’t want to be spammed by emails and hate gated content, but like email newsletter digests with relevant developer news, and will sign up for a webinar that promises to teach them some new technical technique. If you want to create content that developers care about, you need to abandon your bag of marketing tricks entirely and think like a developer.
The only way to write content for developers is to work with developers on that content. If you’re working on a piece about a Drupal module, reach out to the maintainer. Talk to the community of contributors, gain real insight from people who are using the module or have contributed to it.
This is how I got my start a few months ago. When Acquia announced its Drupal 8 Module Acceleration Program (MAP), I began contributing to the Drupal 8 Module of the Week blog series that was launched in conjunction on the Acquia Developer Center. Having only used Drupal in a content author capacity, the only way to tackle this project was to work directly with the maintainers. My fellow content team colleagues and I put together a list of interview questions and created a template that could be used over and over. To date, the Module of the Week series has been considered a success; not just because it provides information on modules that were migrated to Drupal 8 but because it also highlighted the work and success of the maintainers.
If you have multiple people creating developer-centric content, the key is consistency. Work with developers to create guidelines around tone that ensure you’re writing for them in the way they want. Ask them what topics they are interested and ask them what they’re sick of. Be open to feedback and constructive criticism and make sure to circle back with questions or changes. Finally, always fact check drafts with a developer, especially when “translating” a very technical concept for a less technical, non-developer audience.Be a Human Being, Not a Hype Machine
Nearly every developer and engineer I spoke to while researching this series was sick of the “marketing hype machine.” They don’t want to read posts chock full of buzzwords and adjectives. They can’t stand hyperbole; for everyone’s sake, just skip phrases like "This is the best" or "This incredible blah…”. They don’t want to read, they want to try. Developers want to try things on their own first and when they have a question, they want an answer.
Be specific and informative and get to the point quickly. If you’re highlighting a product for example, explain what it does in specific terms, providing the technical details and specifications. Talk about its benefits — and weaknesses — in a frank way that lets developers know how it works and more importantly, how it will make their lives easier.
If you’re going to hype anything, promote the developer you’re working with on the content. Highlight their contributions and commits, acknowledge them and the work they’ve done.How To vs. Theory
Developers want to know how to do things, not just read about things. Theory and “thought leadership” (or as I like to call it, an informed opinion piece) doesn’t resonate.
To remedy this at Acquia, we worked with our former head of engineering to create a style guide for the developer audience, or as he put it, how to “not set off a developer's BS detector.” This has been heavily vetted internally by our own engineering department and serves as our go-to whenever we’re approaching new developer content. It includes tone guidelines, key messages, links to best practices for documentation, and other companies who do it well. Here’s an excerpt:
Key Messages To Reinforce
- More: How does this benefit developers? How does this make developers more powerful? How does this allow developers to get more done with less?
- Fast: How does this get it done faster? How does this help to meet the needs of the business quicker?
- Relevant: How is this a current / relevant skill that models trends in web development? Tell interesting stories to back this up.
- Focus: How does this help developers think less about stuff that is noise and allow them to focus on building sites?
- Relax, we got you covered: Acquia is doing hard work (ops, QA, building new tools, qualifying new stacks, etc) so you can just focus on what you need to do to build reliable and awesome sites.
- Solid: This isn't a hack, this will scale, this is something they can count on.
- Defensible: Here’s an opinionated position that can be proved to be better
- Building on the shoulders of giants: Build on the open source ethos and how as a community we can accomplish anything
- Plays nice with others: This thing fits into your workflow and here’s how.
But what do you do if you have to cater to both developer and marketing audiences? Content for one can easily alienate the other. This was a struggle we faced with the acquia.com blog. Our developer content was performing well but we were also trying to build a marketing audience. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, we decided to give developers their own space and the Acquia Developer Center born. All developer- focused blog content from acquia.com was moved there and this is where all new developer content is posted. Segmenting your audience between two websites is always a risk but in this case, it’s paid off; we’ve seen a 15% increase in unique visitors (acquia.com and dev.acquia.com combined) in it’s first year.Write it Verbatim
If you’re not a highly technical person, if you’ve never written a line of code in your entire life, you can still write content for developers. The best way to do this is to use their words verbatim. Do a Q&A session and use that as your content. After completing a draft, share it with the person you worked with to ensure it’s accurate. This is super important.
Above all else, do not change their words to make it sound better or for optimization purposes. Trust me, just don’t.
Stay tuned for more including best practices for working with developers on content, how to build relationships in the developer community and more.
Anything I missed? Add it in the comments.