One Roof Energy – Solar Power Direct-to-Consumer

One Roof Energy, a residential solar power provider, has a simple yet comprehensive website. The site is relatively well-designed and makes use of some basic SEO concepts, including the following:

  • <title> tags include targeted keywords and phrases, and vary from page to page.
  • <meta name=description> tags also vary from page to page and include targeted keywords and phases.
  • Copy inside the body of pages also leverage keywords.

That being said, there is still room for improvement, including the following:

  • Additional utilization of internal linking. Right now, the navigation is limited to the primary nav bars and footers. Ideally there would be links inside the body copy as well.
  • Site map. Every site should have a site map, it’s really not that hard to put one together. Ideally, an xml site map is also created and submitted.

Beyond SEO, the site could use a refresher in direct marketing basics. Their ‘Contact Us’ form could be made crisper, and we recommend removing the promotion code, the how did you hear about us, along with the drop-down of buying a new home vs. roof. Those should be collected on a second page rather than at the point of registration. This should improve conversion.

The site is also lacking in interactive elements. There should be a way for potential customers to visualize the savings they will achieve after installation, rather than waiting for a response in email. In addition, this is a company that can truly leverage some social media elements.  Testimonials are not nearly as convincing when they are hard-coded html. Why not let consumers, especially existing customers, post comments on a fan page and make it interactive?

One Roof could even have a twitter feed for fan page update every week or month that has a running tally of energy savings, reduction in carbon footprints, etc. They could have this widget personalized for all their customers as well, to place on their own pages. This could enable some viral components as well.

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Book review: Smart Pricing by Jagmohan Raju and Z. John Zhang

Smart Pricing, by Jagmohan Raju and Z. John Zhang of the Wharton School, have written the most engaging business book I may have ever read. Through ten short chapters they weave together so many different pricing innovations it made me feel guilty about how little I have considered pricing strategy. As they say in their introduction, many of us treat price as a given rather than as an important tool in our marketing strategy. The majority of the examples are business-to-consumer, however some concepts may be relevant for the clean-technology/renewable sectors. The ‘Snob Premium’ is certainly a concept that can be applied, and a twist may be the ‘Green Premium’, in which consumers may prefer to pay more for the environmental benefits even if the benefits actually are less expensive. However, even if there is little that can be applied to your specific business, the innovations described will inspire almost anyone with strategic responsibilities. The writing is tight and so compelling, it is the first business book, since Good to Great, that I could not put down.

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Own Energy – Community Wind Development

OwnEnergy has a well-designed, well-written website (by my good friend Tess Forte); unfortunately the site does not leverage its potential given the firm’s business model of building ‘community’ wind farms.

If the underlying business model is the development and curating of community wind products logically they would utilize facebook, twitter, or some other Web 2.0 community platform to facilitate communicating and information sharing with the various communities and also use this to promote their projects.

A search for such projects revealed absolutely nothing. This represents a tremendous opportunity for the organization. Take for example their testimonials page. While the quotes from the various luminaries involved with their projects add a certain degree of credibility, an ideal platform would be a link an individual project detail page (or pages) to the testimonial. Following that, the various individuals involved could have links to their public profiles and from there we could learn more about the testimonials. We could see more how the community is involved with the project, especially if each project had a community organizer curating a page on facebook, or a shared blog, etc., about the project.

The weakest aspect of the site is this very component, Project Development. The pages and graphics appear as if they were simply pulled from a power point presentation. Again, this is an area where current technology is not being fully leveraged. For example, the steps in development could be an interactive chart tied to a map showing where the many projects OwnEnergy manages currently fall in the timeline.

Basic areas of improvement

  • Update the site more frequently. From what we have seen, the last press release and article were both dated March 2010. For a number of reasons, one of which is search engine optimization, greater effort should be made to update the site more frequently.
  • Better and more calls to action. The only area on the site where a reader can commence a dialogue is within the ‘Contact Us’ section. Ideally, there would be additional means of contact, as there are certain points, such as within the services section that means of access should be provided.

There were some basic questions that came to mind after reviewing the site. What is the goal of the site? Who are the target audiences? Frankly, after reviewing the site, in spite of being well-designed and well-written, it does not appear to be much more than a catalog with a very basic description of the company. Perhaps that was the only goal — simply to have a website describing at the most basic level what the company does and the services it provides. I would challenge management to think more deeply about their site, and their overall web strategy, if they have one. There is a tremendous amount of potential for a company such as this, and if it truly seeks a leadership position in this field, it should learn to leverage the (actually not-so-new) tools of the web.

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Sustainability at NYIT

Recently, I was asked by the Director of the sustainability program at NYIT to analyze their site from an SEO perspective. Belows follows a summary one-sheeter given to executive management.

Metric Score/Ranking Diagnosis
Page Rank 4 This is a relatively low score for an education institution. Steps should be taken to improve the results. The most important of which would be a link-building campaign, along with some basic improvements to the html mark-up.
Incoming Links 2 This is incredibly low and steps must be taken to improve. Only two known sites are linking to NYIT’s sustainability page, specifically thinkgreen2010.org and greencollar.org. Research should be undertaken to identify sites that should be linking to nyit.edu/green and have yet to do so. Here is one example: http://www.enviroeducation.com/. This would be in addition to submitting to important directories on Google, Yahoo and Bing of course.
Keyword Ranking Non-existent A search for ‘sustainability education’, ‘green education’,’education for sustainable development’ and ‘environmental technology education’ yielded results where NJIT was not in the top 30 of results. Less than 1% of all searchers look beyond the top 30 listings. It is interesting to note that the page being investigated does not even show up for a specific search such as ‘nyit green education’.
Source Code Poor None of the meta tage (<title>, keywords, and description) make use of what should be targeted terms. This is an easy step in SEO improvement. In addition, the site does not make us of ALT text in any of its images. Use of header tags (<h>) around targeted keywords would help organic results as well. On the positive side, the site is primarily text, which is still favored by search engines.
Analytics Non-existent? It does not appear as if any analytics have been installed on these pages. This would make it difficult, if not impossible, to discern traffic to the site and the most popular paths within it. Typically web analytics help the site management team choose additional keywords and design features to optimize page views and traffic to the site.
Keyword Density Low The most dense word on the page is ‘nyit’ followed by ‘energy’ and ‘green’. Sustainability is fifth. We recommend keyword density being one of the last things to focus on as it does not yield significant improvements in organic search results. However, there are very simply editorial elements needed to improve keyword density and after other recommendations are implemented, these should be followed as well.

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Solar City continued

Navigation

SolarCity utilizes a number of best practices with respect to navigation:

  1. Provides multiple entry points for various sections. It accomplishes that by incorporating horizontal navigation treatments without appearing too busy and through the use of drop-down menus.
  2. Upon clicking into a section the site then includes a secondary nav bar below the first facilitating navigation, and it also employs breadcrumbs below the secondary nav bar. Given the depth of content available, SolarCity was wise to use this device.

While SolarCity is a strong site, and the design team deserves kudos, there are some areas for improvement. Including:

  1. The left margin including news and photo gallery links inside various sections. This makes the site busier than necessary, and people who arrive at deeper pages, such as the Solar Lease section, will find them distracting rather than helpful. Other components, in particular the social media components (Share This Page, Join Our Community) are logical; however these things must be appropriate rather than seemingly random droppings of content.
  2. The margins and navigation items are large relative to the site. this limits the amount of contact that is available ‘above the fold’. Ideally SolarCity removes the left margin to provide more visibility to the primary content.

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SolarCity

SolarCity utilizes many best practice web optimization techniques, and may be the best-designed site we have reviewed thus far.

It clearly directs its audience, has visible and useful calls-to-action, and provides ample opportunities to increase engagement with its customers and potential customers. It accomplishes all of this while maintaining SEO best practices as well.

We will articulate all the things the site does well as a mold for other to follow and then point out the few areas for improvement (eg remove the large flash unit on the homepage).

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Review: Landing Page Optimization by Tim Ash

Going forward, every month we will review a book on either web strategy and optimization or the clean/renewable energy sector.

Landing Page Optimization, an aptly titled book by Tim Ash, is a strong mid-level resource for optimizing websites and performance. Tim, a popular speaker at many conferences, covers all of the basics to undertake a successful project for improving conversions on your website. The book is well-organized, and depending on your background you may opt to focus on certain areas.

The introductory section is very elementary, and most readers may choose to skim or even skip the material entirely; this is especially true of the first two chapters. Immediately thereafter, substantive information and tactics are provided. Very quickly it progresses to areas that are quite advanced, such as full factorial parametric testing. It is at this point that the book falls a little short, you get the feeling that the information is covered at a very surface level, and not necessarily explained in a usable manner. The major takeaway I had was that I need to find a few books on the mathematics of testing to review here.

The final section would be something a marketing manager or director would want to share with their executive sponsor, namely ‘Getting It Done’. Again, depending on your background you may prefer to skim this, however, this information  is probably more crucial to launching a successful optimization campaign than any of the mathematics.

I had a knowing smile with the caveat to ‘resist temptation to monitor the results frequently’. This is something anyone in the online marketing/optimization space must be very familiar and many of those themes are covered in the final chapter. An excellent summary of everything else in the book.

Overall, I would recommend this book for anyone undertaking major optimization campaigns, especially those working in a corporate setting. It will not necessarily provide you with many testing ideas, but it will help you structure your campaigns and acquire the necessary buy-in for a successful endeavor.

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