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    Avis Blog: We try Harder - Blog ReviewI mentioned Avis’ new blog in the News items recently and so I was particularly interested to see that e-Consultancy have published an interview today with Xavier Vallee who is Avis’ UK Head of Marketing and presumably the person responsible for the Avis blog.

    I was glad to read that Avis has been adopting the methodology I recommend in the Green Cross Code of Blogging. They have taken the time to examine and listen to the conversations which have been taking place about Avis around the internet / blogosphere before starting their own blog and have clearly thought through their own goals for creating a blog.

    Equally, judging from the interview, Avis have defined what they want to achieve from the blog and presumably the criteria which they intend to use. The aims are quite wide covering “branding, PR, customer service and product development” so keeping track of responses will be important though they appear to be working with Market Sentinel here which is good.

    Critically, they also seem to be doing the right things internally. The queries are streamed to relevant departments to be answered properly and presumably this is then followed up offline where appropriate, as well as on the blog itself. The blog also seems to have the backing at board level which will no doubt help those running it to maintain its impetus and development.

    Avis Blog Review

    The Avis blog has a very clean look, lots of white space (in a good way) and is in line with Avis’ corporate branding from what I can see. The “We Try Harder” domain name and imagery comes from corporate Avis, though it is more apparent on the global site rather than the UK one. It is running on WordPress which gives it excellent functionality and future proofing.

    The “We Try Harder” name is good though the .com version, although owned by Avis, is used for different corporate purposes – it may be appropriate to make sure that there is a link through to the blog area on that page in case of people typing the name directly into their browser and getting the .com rather than the .co.uk

    Writing – the content seems to have consistency and yet is varied enough to hold interest. It does reflect the multiple aims of the blog, covering corporate fundraising activities together with advice and tips when hiring a car as well as comments on motoring in general. I think that, in particular, the posts looking at overseas destinations has the making of a good mini series.

    Navigation and Linking – the main navigation is a little confusing with some links going back to the main site and others linking to static pages on the blog itself. While it might be work in progress, it’s a little disappointing to see the blog homepage and “go to avis.co.uk” links below the main navigation rather than built into it or placed in the sidebar. This may be in the process of being changed though as there is currently duplication of some of the links and one is pointing to the wrong page.

    The sidebar has a relatively standard set-up and could be used more effectively, perhaps by using the prime “real estate” to highlight particular points of interest either within the blog or in terms of what Avis is doing in general. Showing different elements in the sidebar on the single post pages might be positive as well, though they should retain the “Topics” (ie. categories) for the sake of consistency.

    Conversely, is there a link to it from the main Avis UK site? I couldn’t find one. If there isn’t, then that’s a big opportunity missed from a basic marketing perspective.

    Permalinks – currently the permalinks use the default format which is a real pity (though simple to change) – therefore the page and post IDs are currently being used rather than using a customised and “friendly” permalink which would display, for example, the post names. Friendly URLs will be better both for readers and Search Engines alike.

    RSS subscriptionRSS is getting much better known but still a bit of a mystery to many, so therefore with such a prominent placement of the RSS logo and subscription link, I would have included a link to some sort of explanation as to what RSS can offer to encourage users to subscribe. Since the RSS feed is through Feedburner, I would have also incorporated an option to sign up via email using one of the services that Feedburner integrates with. That way, all bases are covered and you are giving your readers the choice.

    Title Tags and Meta Tags – while it may not be seeking out Search Engine rankings as a primary goal, there would be no harm in changing the Title Tags’ format and wording in particular to make them more useful and relevant. I think that I would also include the word “Avis” at the end to help the individual posts.

    Summary – overall, a positive feel to the blog which I have no doubt will develop over time. The branding is consistent without being in your face and the writing so far has variety without veering towards selling which is the portent of doom for any blog. The writers seem to work well together and the writing styles don’t obviously clash.

    I would certainly look at working at the blog based marketing activities which could help enhance the visitor rates and also use the sidebar areas to better effect. However, these will come with time and in the meantime the challenge will remain keeping the posts consistent and interesting.

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    I was recently reading a post by Chris Lake over at e-Consultancy discussing the relative merits of Witty vs Descriptive Headlines for your blog posts.

    Interesting stuff and some nice examples but not quite the whole story.

    Firstly though, why are they important? They are important because they act just like a newspaper headline – they attract the readers’ attention and encourage them to read the full article. With the huge amount of information that we have nowadays it is vitally important that we attract people’s attention in the short space of time that we are given to achieve this and generally we only have the post title at our disposal to achieve this.

    However, we need to remember that we are in fact trying to attract the attention of two groups: readers (or should I clarify by saying ‘human readers’) and Search Engines. Unfortunately, they don’t react in the same way and they aren’t attracted by the same things. While human readers are attracted by humour, nuance, plays on words as well as information, Search Engines are attracted purely by the words which we provide.

    But there’s more!! More? Yes, there’s more! Because we are working on-line, we have to remember what people actually see in different situations and places – bear with me here, it’s important!

    In RSS Feeds, the title of your post appears, as it does in the main Blog Search Engines such as Technorati or Google Blog Search. As people browse here, then the title is critical because it is the only real element that you can use to attract their attention as they skim through the articles on offer.

    However, in the main Search Engine Results pages (such as Google and Yahoo) what you see is not the title of your post but the “Title Tag”. This is distinct from your post title and something which you can control separately. The Title Tag is doubly important because it is a key element that the main Search Engines look at when ranking pages – they do take note of the title of your post, but they take much more interest in the “Title Tag”.

    So which way to go? My own preference is to keep the title interesting without making it too cryptic, and I always try to include the main keyword for the article. I then make sure that I modify the Title Tag to ensure that that is keyword rich – if you want more details then you ‘ll find more information in my SEO series.

    So, try to appeal to both audiences. You are best placed to know what will appeal to your readers and you can guess that, for Search Engines, the principal keyword phrases for the post are going to be key. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to combine both as well as you can.

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