Increasingly Affino training involves conversations on how to get started with SEO, here’s the Quick Start guide on SEO with Affino. SEO is one of the three key ways to promote your site.
This is Not an in-depth guide on how to use each of the Affino elements or on specific SEO strategies, rather it is to help you get started with the basics, i.e. a ’What to do’ rather than a ’How to’. Some of which happens in Affino, and some of which happens externally.
Before You Start
Refresh your Brand Profile
The first thing you need to do is to create your brand profile, or update it to include the essentials outlined by Stefan in his great ’Creating the Perfect Brand Profile’ article.
Based on your Brand Strategy identify the initial keywords you want to promote. These are based around your products, services and more importantly on what you would search for to find your products and services. Essentially these are your target customers’ interests.
Build up a hierarchy of keywords (Topics) in a simple indented list, just starting off in a Word document, e.g.
You’ll use this to help identify the key word and terms you’ll be promoting your site on.
Cover the Essentials
The Essentials are: Personality, Unique Content and Currentsy, see my post here. If you don’t get these right, forget about any of what I’ve outlined below. You’ll just be wasting your time and money.
If you have them covered, and are committed to them, then they will be the cornerstone of a great site.
The Essential Affino SEO Elements
Update your Zone so you have the right site information and SEO settings. You can always change these, but get the basics set up straight away. Make certain your site Keywords are in place.
Turn on logging so that you have the essential data available to you in your Affino Analysis Centre. This will allow you to evaluate your future campaigns.
Update the Zone (your site information) to be as relevant as possible. Make sure you’re using the best domain as your Zone Domain and
The Analysis Centre in Affino has undergone a continuous evolution since we originally launched the very first version. Every single Analysis screen has seen two or more updates over the past year, some have seen dozens.
Recently we’ve accelerated the evolution considerably as technologies firm up and we’re able to roll out much smarter, more immediate analytics interfaces.
Previously a great deal of our focus was on the Dashboards, we found that in practice very few users ended up configuring these, instead preferring to use more basic tools which needed less effort.
It means that we’re now focusing more on ready-made stats interfaces which are optimised right from the outset to give you the best views of immediate activities whilst also giving you insight into long-term trends.
The one exception is the Customer Ladder in which all the metrics are customised by you, far beyond what was possible with the Dashboard.
Besides the death of Flash, and the impact that had on most dynamic online analysis tools, we found that Affino collected too much data, too easily. On the surface it’s great to capture and retain every data point, but very quickly this incidental data starts to weigh down on performance and drive up costs.
We believe we now have the mix just about right by extending the data series to two years, and we’ll scale up from here. We have done this by doing a great deal of data crunching.
Aggregating data continuously to provide daily, weekly and monthly overviews essential for long term trends, cleaning up the millions of un-used underlying data points.
At the same time we’re also providing better insight into Now and the most recent trends.
Updated Analysis Centre
When you go to the Analysis Centre there is now an instant overview of the activity on your site, with live updates of how many members, guests and bots are on-site along with the latest activity. There’s also handy snapshots of the overall level of user engagement for the day and recent past.
The Analysis Centre itself is now organised into categories so that for example all the Promotional analysis tools are grouped. When you
We’ve already blogged on how Affino will be moving to Apache and Apache Tomcat for Affino 7. We’re going to be making one more further big move and Affino 7 will also run on Linux.
It’s been nearly 10 years since Affino last ran on Linux, and at the time there was simply no demand for it, surprising as that might seem. There was also still a fair amount of confusion in the market over proprietary software such as Affino running on Open Source platforms.
Everything has changed in the interim, and as Affino is now primarily a SaaS platform, the equation has flipped on its head. Since the vast majority of Affino sites run off the Amazon Web Services cloud, including all the Comrz run ones, the OS question has evolved more towards auto-scaling, rapid deployment, performance and cost.
Windows is effectively nowhere when it comes to serious automation and auto-scaling. Azure is the way Microsoft has chosen to go, and the alternative is to embrace Linux, Scalr and the OSS ecosystem.
We still love Microsoft and Windows and it will remain core to our Data platform moving ahead, but we see Linux playing a much greater part in the future for Affino application servers.
Affino 7 is already running well on Apache, and Tomcat and these are our Web and Java service technologies of choice moving ahead. They make it very easy for us to embrace Linux, and today is a red letter day as Affino is running on Linux again for the first time in the 21st century.
It’s early days yet, it will probably take a week to iron out the remaining issues, but the time is right for us to embrace Linux and the incredible automation it offers. It will allow us to realise a lot of the goals we have with Affino 7 in a much faster timeframe than we had anticipated.
Also, Affino on Linux is Fast.
Update - All Live Now
It took at bit longer in the end to make the full transition to Linux, we had to overcome dozens of bugs spread across most of the underlying platforms to do so. Fortunately the platform updates have been frequent, and during the interim all the platforms we’re using have improved a great deal to the extent that there are no longer any issues.
We’ve also had to deal with long running tasks, i.e. what happens if a task is longer than the life expectancy of a
The new Messaging 2 suite in Affino is not simply an incremental update, it is a complete re-imagining of how messaging should work for businesses online.
It has meant a fundamental re-think of how bulk and targeted messages work, and breakthrough improvements for notifications and auto-responders.
Sales and Marketing Automation
Messaging is at the heart of sales and marketing automation. Typically though it is necessary to integrate with many different systems to achieve even the basics of an effective messaging campaign.
Although Affino’s Messaging doesn’t do everything that tools such as Mail Chimp, Mandrill, Hub Spot, Eloqua, KISSmetrics and Scout do, it does a big part of it, and a whole load more.
It also does it at no additional cost, with easy-to-use tools, and with no code integration required.
Message Campaigns vs Mailing Lists
The first big change with Affino’s new messaging comes with the splitting off of the mailing list from the messages being sent. Affino now has Mailing Lists and Message Campaigns in place of Newsletters. Mailing Lists manage the actual subscribers, whilst Messages are sent out based on your Message Campaigns.
This means you can target your mailing lists in much more creative ways by running multiple messaging campaigns against individual mailing lists.
It also means you can do much more to target your subscribers effectively, whilst maintaining a unified unsubscribe and bounced subscriber list across multiple campaigns.
Premium, Personal and SMS Message Campaigns
You can now run three distinct types of messaging campaigns. Premium messages act the same as the previous Newsletter messages. These are tailored messages which can have high design values and where the message content can be highly targeted, automated and personalised.
It is now also possible to send out bulk SMS messaged and Personal messages. Personal messages are instant messages which appear to be sent individually, but are in fact sent in bulk.
We have also made it much easier to send out individual messages and to test / preview those messages. You can now simply enter in the message content, and Title where they are being sent by email. You can then preview them, send test messages or simply dispatch your message
The biggest evolution for Affino with 7.1 is it’s ability to run on a super-scaling cloud architecture. Affino instances can now be created and dropped on-the-fly with minimal disruption to users and admins. It means we will be moving all Affino SaaS sites to the new infrastructure over the coming days as they’re updated to the latest release. For load-balanced clients we’ll be moving to auto-scaling so that busy sites ramp up to more servers during peak demand and back down again when demand eases up.
The net result of all the work we’ve done is that Affino sites will scale much further, be more responsive and incur less down-time.
Analysis and Insight
When you go into Analysis you’ll see an immediate change with live active users, usage charts, re-organised menu, and if you’ve set up your Customer Ladder you’ll see the level of engagement. We’ve added two key new tools for tracking your messaging: Message Campaign Analysis and Mailing List Analysis, and have updated Message Analysis. These collectively add up to a new level of insight into your bulk messaging.
What’s not so obvious is that we’ve completely re-worked all the analytics behind the scenes to be far more scalable. This has allowed us to extend the previous 3 month analysis timeframe up to two years. We’ve also updated a number of the analysis interfaces to make them more useful and productive.
The third big Scaling related improvement is the new Search engine. Affino’s previous search struggled when it got to millions of content and media items. The new search is far more scalable. It is also far more capable in that you can do logic searches, range searches and much more.
The single biggest project for this release has been the new Messaging platform. The new platform separates out Mailing Lists and Message Campaigns, and allows you for the first time to run SMS and personal messaging campaigns as well as premium email messages. There are also far more ways you can now trigger auto-responses, and demographically filter your target lists and it’s far easier to message than ever before.
Sales and Marketing Automation through the Customer Ladder
Affino 7.1 is now out, and it’s a major release in every way. Whilst there are many aspects to this Affino release, the two key threads are improved scaling and greater engagement. Affino 7.1 has been significantly re-architected to scale with new search and analytics engines. With the release of Affino 7.1 we will also be migrating sites to our new super-scaling cloud.
We’ve rolled out big updates to many core Affino services including Messaging, Search, Analysis, Customer Ladder and Relationships. We’ve also introduced great features such as Store Credits for incentivising customers, and Design Panels for creating great popups.
The combined improvements in the Customer Ladder (engagement), Messaging and Analysis add up to a breakthrough for sales and marketing automation. The new Messaging Campaigns for bulk premium, personal and SMS messages, come with advanced targeting, filtering and triggering options and great analytics.
Site Search has been completely re-engineered around Solr which gives Affino greatly improved performance on searches, and allows for much smarter searching. Core management elements such as relating content have also seen big updates focused on making editorial teams much more productive.
Altogether there are nearly 400 great new updates in this release, many of which will be transformative when fully rolled out on existing Affino sites.
We have also fixed most of the identified low-level issues which arose from the Affino 7 launch, and which are inevitable with the introduction of such a significant new platform.
The Affino 7.1 release is a signifiant update, and unlike most Affino releases, this one takes some time to run as we’re completely restructuring all the analytics data and refreshing the search indices. Given how intense this update is on the infrastructure, and that your site will be moved to the new hosting cloud, it is essential that you co-ordinate your update with your account manager.
Also in this release is a significant change to how most images are presented as you can now set the margins around the main images using Design Styles / CSS. It is essential to review your pages to ensure that the images are presented as expected, and note that you can now optimise the layout.
There’s a lot of buzz going around on the Interest Graph. The Wikipedia definition is:
"The Interest Graph refers to the specific and varied interests that form one’s personal identity, and the attempt to connect people based on those interests."
For us at Comrz, the Interest Graph is not just about the people connections (although that is important). It’s also about presenting users with the most relevant white papers, networking and purchasing opportunities. It’s about showing them the best videos and and the most relevant ads.
It’s also about making sure that people only get the messages they will actually be interested in, and that the content of the messages is focused and relevant.
The Unified User Account
The single most important factor in building up an accurate interest graph on your users is for them to have a unified user account. It means that all the interests are collated against a single user profile which is then used throughout your engagement with your customers.
The second most important element is to use the profile data you have to provide the highest level of personalisation throughout all your customer interactions. That engagement can be online, via messages, or even direct via telesales.
If you have a traditional online setup you will be running multiple different touch point solutions with your customers, everything from your CMS / Blog solution, networking / community solution, through to your ecommerce / shopping cart, campaign service, analytics services, forum software, survey software and much more. It’s essential that you integrate these all with your centralised user accounts. It is also just as important that you integrate back into the respective solutions so that you can act on these interests.
Affino does all of this with just a bit of setup.
Overt and Covert Profiling
Everyone has some interests, some more than others, but for most companies and websites only a subset is going to be relevant. It’s essential to identify these and shape your proposition and community around them. It’s also important to look at what other interests your community brings with them.
Affino’s Interest profiling starts with topics and keywords, user profiles, and conversion events. Topics
The upcoming Affino 7.1 release is another significant step forward for Affino. It will see completely new search and messaging engines, greatly improves sales and marketing automation, much more usable relationship management, much improved stats and reporting, refined mobile experience, and smaller pages.
All of these key improvements aren’t simply incremental, they are dramatically better.
New Site Search Engine
Site Searches will be much faster and much more capable. You’ll be able to use conditional OR and NOT searches, check for word proximity, similar searches, fuzzy searches, range searches and phrase searches. Even better, almost everything will be indexed in near-real-time.
We’re reworking the entire messaging system, so it will be much more capable, run powerful message campaigns, act as auto-responder, with multiple message type options including SMS. We’re also further introducing a completely new level of message campaign analysis.
Sales and Marketing Automation
Affino 7.1 has greatly improved sales and marketing automation, with a much improved customer ladder, reports and charts. This is a big deal for online sales, e.g. messaging a sales person when a shopping basket fails, or if a person has filled out a form and watched a demo video.
We’ve reworked the way we log / crunch all Affino’s stats to restore Affino’s ability to track things up to the last two years. This means significant improvements to most of the analysis screens. Not only that, but the Dashboards will be useful again.
Related Items have been massively upgraded, all ajax driven for instant selections with the ability sort relationships plus create two way relationships instantly.
We’re crunching down the pages, removing a lot of the tables, shifting more to CSS, and building compression directly into Affino. This means even faster pages and the ability for your sites to serve more pages within each hosting band.
Improved mobile Control Centre, and significantly improved mobile interfaces on the live sites.
Improved SEO Management
We’ll be introducing some new SEO power tools for SEO pros to make
The above screen capture tells you everything you need to know about why it’s no longer enough to be in the top 10 on Google, as the world goes mobile. You now get 10 times as many referrals by being No.1 than you do by being number 2, and that ratio gets bigger by each position down the ranking.
66% of Search Screen is Paid-for
It also highlights the immense power that Google now has with search placements, when two out of the three top search results above the fold on mobile are now paid-for. There’s no way that Google can justify taking up so much of the screen space on mobile with paid for listings, and it goes a long way towards devaluing the SEO efforts that millions of companies are investing in.
What’s interesting is that if you use Google’s own search app on the iPhone you typically only get one ad shown, and you get a completely different set of results than if you use the main iPhone Web search. What is noticeable that Google sites, such as YouTube videos rank much higher on the Google app search results than they do in the general web search results. It means that in the app 80% of the initial screen is either paid for, or a Google property.
Winner Takes All
The world of search engine optimisation has entered an era where the winner takes all, where being the top ranked entry now can cost a factor more than it did previously, and where different entry points to the Google search engine give different results. It also means that increasingly the way to get the top rankings is to engage fully with all of Googles initiatives, whatever the cost.
It also means that many companies will get a higher rate of return when investing in social engagement, more direct online sales and smart affiliations.
Google has to be very careful with how it evolves the paid-for search marketing over the next couple of years, or it could see a big dip in its earnings as companies no longer try to compete in the winner takes all gamble that is Google Search.
Affino is named after affinity, and it’s ability to bring together content, products, people, media, events and communications. These are the core elements essential to any online business. We have many great elements in Affino for showcasing and recommending relevant related items, and are now making it much easier to make those connections.
Even though it is possible to make all the relationships work, it has definitely not been as productive as it could be. That all changes in the next release.
Related Items is getting a big update in Affino 7.1. There are three key elements to the update, the first being the relating screens (see above), the second is smarter deleting and sorting of the related items, the the third is the ability to change the order in which related elements are displayed, e.g. have related Members above related Articles.
If you look at the screen above you’ll see five key improvements which add up to a lot of saved time for editors who spend much of their day publishing new content and pulling in the best matching content.
Smarter Search - Related Items now have the new search bar, with the most requested filtering options.
Smarter Sort - default the items are always listed reverse chronologically and you can click the column headers to change the sorting as required
Two-way Relationships - it is now possible to related both ways, instantly, simply by clicking on the relevant linking options. No need to track down the other item and link back separately
Pop-up Lookup - you can view any item you wish to confirm prior to relating, it will simply open up in a new tab
No More Paging - you no longer lose sight of the items you’ve related, simply click the more link to display further options
Relating content and people can be a tricky process, especially where seniority is involved. Relating products and accessories, when done right, can have a significant impact on conversion rates (i.e. having the latest or most popular product highlighted first). Relating Events in the correct sequence is key to continued engagement. Relating programmes and other media in order make all the difference.
So in Affino 7.1 you will be able to select the order within each category, e.g. products, articles, media, and be able to select the