3 Things to Know About How SEO is Changing

Search engine optimization – or, SEO – is changing dramatically and in a number of ways. Some are always asking if SEO is dead. Others have long said declaratively that indeed, SEO is dead.

SEO and the search results haystack.

Help readers find that needle in the search engine results haystack.

In reality, SEO does still exist as a way of making web sites accessible and more friendly to readers and search engines. There are certainly things you can do to help your idea or business be more visible via search engines. It just isn’t as expensive as it used to be.

And, that’s a good thing.

1. Search Engine Algorithms Are Smarter. Much Smarter.

In the past, SEO was about tricking search engines by including lots of keywords used in ways that were only search engine friendly and not reader friendly. That resulted in less than engaging content. But, people got found, and it worked for a time.

Now we know that Google’s search engine algorithms utilize artificial intelligence in ways that help search engine results closely mimic how a human brain would search and process the information. That means your content can again be geared toward the reader. As it should be. So, from now on, one of the best SEO practices you can use is to first determine what is important to your audience.

2. Multimedia and Images Are Increasingly Important.

Why? If for no other reason, they are more engaging. Some time ago, Facebook saw engagement increase by 65% once they made their Timeline feature more image-oriented. That’s a pretty telling phenomenon.

The results of more engaging content means more quality traffic and greater potential for sharing and links. And, that will help boost your search engine ranking.

But, the key to images being search engine friendly is to include alt texts – what does the image depict? How does it help tell your story? And, don’t forget those filenames. There are things you can do to help with file organization just as much as SEO.

3.  Fresh, Indexable Content.

In addition to the applicability of content to a specific topic, search engines are now looking for a broader scope of relevance – and content that is fresh is considered more relevant than older, stale content. So, keep those web sites and virtual tours up-to-date.

And, if that content is fresh, then you need to be letting search engines know that its been updated. Sitemaps are the key to seeing that content gets indexed and that search results keep up with your fresh content.

How All of This SEO Stuff Applies to Whitepoint Smart Tours

Because Whitepoint smart tours are available to include in web sites and specifically in WordPress sites, we’ve worked to make sure that Whitepoint helps make scape content search engine friendly.

For example, all scapes are indexable by search engines with a sitemap generated on our servers. By its very nature, Whitepoint helps content creators mix text with engaging, interactive images – while keeping it all up-to-date as easily as possible.

And, in the end, creating content that is engaging and delivers what your audience wants is the best SEO strategy.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Introducing Our Virtual Tour Partner Program

In retail, medical, real estate, and countless other industries, clients increasingly need the ability to share meaningful and compelling visual information – a smarter virtual tour of products or places.

Virtual Tour Meet Smart Tour

Virtual Tour Partner Program for Web Design Firms and Freelance Web Designers

Web design firms and freelancers who want to offer smarter virtual tours and a mobile app presence to clients should sign up for our Virtual Tour Partner Program.

Whitepoint offers its smarter virtual tour (or, smart tour) framework that enables delivery of that information via web sites, of course. But, one unique advantage with Whitepoint is the mobile app presence that clients get immediately  – content is updated in one place and simultaneously reflected across web site and mobile app.

Web designers and web design firms know their customers and the opportunities there are for providing more compelling information about places and products.

Hence, The Virtual Tour Partner Program

Whitepoint is now offering its Virtual Tour Partner Program to web designers – freelance or firm – providing an immediate new revenue opportunity.

Just for signing up, web designers and firms can get the Premium Package for the cost of our Pro Package – just $29.99 a month.

Almost half the cost.

And as if that’s not enough . . .

  • There is no limit to the number of packages you can buy and sell.
  • There are no restrictions on what you charge your customer or clients.
  • There is no limit to the potential related services you can offer in providing Whitepoint smart tours to your customers.
  • You’ll get priority support and attention from our team whenever necessary.

Find out more of the details and how to sign up at Whitepoint’s Partner Program page.

Potential Customers and Uses

We’ve found some of the greatest potential in real estate (especially luxury home virtual tour uses), medical offices, retail stores, museums, galleries, and cultural districts, for example.

But, as we’ve said earlier – designers, you know your customers best. And, we’re sure you’ll find new applications for the Whitepoint smart tour framework. We’re continually amazed by some of the ideas we see. In fact, we love sharing them here in our virtual tour technology blog.

Interested? Contact us.

Happy #whitepointing!

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How to Create a Virtual Tour With Whitepoint (Part 2)

In Part 1 of How to Create a Virtual Tour With Whitepoint, we covered some of the basic first steps in gathering content for a smarter virtual tour using Whitepoint. In this installment, we’ll walk through the steps in using the Authoring Panel and making your tour available on both desktops and mobile devices.

First, A Bit About Authoring Accounts

A museum, like the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco shown here, could be a scape, a scene, or a whitepoint when you create a virtual tour.

Think about it: A museum, like the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco shown here, could be a scape, a scene, or a whitepoint when you create a virtual tour.

Our Basic Authoring provides more than enough features to meet the needs of most looking to create a virtual tour.

We offer a variety of account options for additional features and capabilities if you find that you need them. Regardless, our Basic Authoring account is a great place to start for most.

Starting a Scape In the Authoring Panel

Remember the scapes, scenes, and whitepoints we discussed in Part 1 of this series? You’re going to want to have at least that scape image handy.

When you log in to the Authoring Panel, you have a number of places you can go. But, for our purposes here, we’re going straight to “Start a New Scape.”

Among the first questions, you’ll be asked if your scape is to be public (available to everyone) or private (available only with a password). Most are public.

You can always change “public” vs “private” later. And, later, you’ll see that no scape goes live until you say so anyway.

Previewing Your Smart Tour Content

One helpful trick is to set your scape to private until you’re ready for the public to view it. This is helpful if you’re building your scape over a longer period of time and want to do so in privacy while maintaining the ability to preview it during construction.

Uploading Your Image Content

Next, you are prompted to upload your scape image. Once you do that, you will be moving on to uploading scene images.

You will be asked if your scene is a new or existing one. Most scenes are new if you’re building a new scape. Later as you manage your smart tour content, you will see how this question helps you save time by incorporating content you’ve already created.

Once a scene image is updated, you will be prompted to plot a whitepoint on that scene image. Most scenes have whitepoints, so you simply click where you want to plot your whitepoint.

However, if your scene does not include a whitepoint, that is OK – just click “cancel” on the left hand side of the screen, and return to the main authoring screen.

You will see your new scape listed under the “Personal Scapes” or “Team Scapes” menu item.

Don’t Forget Your Texts

Key content opportunities exist under scapes, scenes, and whitepoints. These texts can be added / edited under the “Details” tabs of scapes, scenes, and whitepoints.

To access the details tab for scapes: Click “Edit Scape Details” in the scape’s main tile view.

To access the details tab for scenes: Click the pencil icon in the desired scene’s tile in the scape’s main tile view.

Descriptive content is key when you create a virtual tour.

All of the descriptive information that appears for whitepoints is handled via the “Details” tab for that whitepoint.

To access the details tab for whitepoints: First, click the “View Whitepoints” button in the desired scene’s tile.

You’ll see a menu of available whitepoints for that scene on the right of your screen.

Discovery and Going Live

The “Details” and “Visibility” tabs for scapes (just click “Edit Scape Details” in the scape’s main scene tile view) include all of the information you need to make your scape available to and discoverable by the public.

Under the menu item “Discovery” via the “Details” tab, you can add key search phrases as well as categorize your scape.

Availability / discoverability is key when you create a virtual tour.

The availability of your scape as well as public versus private access of your scape is handled via the scape’s “Visibility” tab. Your intentions for visibility are critical when you create a virtual tour.

Under the “Visibility” tab, you can change the status of your scape – available (active) or not available (inactive) – as well as manage public access of your scape.

There you go. That’s how you create a virtual tour with Whitepoint that’s smarter and able to be delivered via tablets, iPads, phones, and desktop.

But you might not want to stop there. Anything in a scape can be edited and updated at any time in the future. When you return to your scape, you’ll see the scenes displayed in their individual scene tiles in the main scape view. They can be re-ordered if necessary, and each can be edited or deleted by simply clicking the pencil or trash can icons respectively.

The key area you may find yourself revisiting most is the whitepoint dialog accessed by clicking “View Whitepoints” at the bottom of each scene’s tile. You’ll see a list of associated whitepoints appear on the right of the screen.

Do you still have questions about any of the above? Have you run into any problems? Let us know – we want to hear about your projects and help when you create a virtual tour. Comment below or reach out at our contact page.

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How to Create a Virtual Tour With Whitepoint (Part 1)

How to create a virtual tour - It begins with a good overview image.

How to Create a Virtual Tour With Whitepoint, Step 1: Have a good overview image to introduce your scape. You’ll probably want to plot each of the scenes on your scape.

On this blog, we tend get into the nuts and bolts of virtual tours, mobile-friendly tours, and related topics. It’s time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture: How to create a virtual tour with Whitepoint.

We’ll assume for the purposes of this blog article that you’ve already selected your subject for your virtual tour.

The first steps in how to create a virtual tour are actually about gathering the necessary content.

1. Have A Good Introductory Image

This can be an overview image – such as an aerial style map or even a graphic that you’ve created. About 900 (wide) x 500 (high) pixels is best.

2. Select Your Scene Images

Whitepoint breaks virtual touring down into scenes – so if your scape is a park for example,  a scene might be the visitor center or a dock at the lake. Again, about 900 x 500 pixels works best.

You’ll have multiple scene images depending on the size of your scape. Go ahead and consider the order in which you want those scenes to appear in your scape.

You’ll be able to plot where these scenes appear on your scape image (number one above) if they are shown there.

3. What About Greater Detail? Whitepoints.

Whitepoints are what enable you to provide greater detail about your scape. You can highlight these as they appear in each of the scene images. So, for our park example above, if the visitor center is a scene, perhaps restrooms, the water fountains, and a concession stand are whitepoints in that visitor center image.

Gather pictures for each of your whitepoints – about 500 x 500 pixels works well. And, be ready to share a couple of sentences to describe each of your whitepoints. You also have an opportunity to provide a related link.

You might want to put a rough outline together of the above and organize your content before logging in to the Whitepoint Authoring Panel.

In Part 2 of How to Create a Virtual Tour With Whitepoint . . .

With good content gathered, we’re well on our way in this first part of How to Create a Virtual Tour With Whitepoint. Next, in part two, we’ll run through the steps involved in logging in to the Authoring Panel and putting that content to good use.

Updated July 28, 2016.

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Right This Way: Managing Tour Content for the Mobile Web

Tour content management is part of a broader content management strategy for web designers and marketers. If you’re in charge of managing images and accompanying text for web or mobile tours of a museum, gallery, real estate, or other similar project, it probably makes up the bulk of your routine duties. It might also make up for the bulk of your headaches.

Why? There are a number of reasons, not least of which are image specifications, alt texts, and of course the constant creation of quality content.

In managing Whitepoint tour content ourselves and helping others build tours for the mobile web, we’ve developed some thoughts on best practices and tools that can help along the way.

Tour Content = Lots of Images

First off, tour content – and we mean good tour content – means lots of images.

And, not everyone is a graphic designer or photographer. Because of that, we’ve made some recommendations on free or low cost photo and graphics editing tools in a past blog post.

But, Tour Content Also Equals Relevant Images

More and more, with relevance and freshness of content being a key search engine optimization factor, tour content is logically affected as well. How fresh are your images? It isn’t just about having lots of images. It’s also about having relevant images.

Whitepoints on college campus tour content.

Tour content from this college campus tour shows whitepoints plotted on a beautiful spring landscape.

Maybe you manage an online tour of a college campus. Do prospective students want to see the winter landscape of your academic quad year-round? Try always updating with your most season appropriate image.

If you’re in real estate, providing an autumnal image of the property probably isn’t a good idea if the property is still on the market the following summer.

Tour Content Can Also Include Those Filenames Too

Adopting a method for image file naming is a great idea for two reasons. First, it makes photos easier to organize. Secondly, they become even more search engine friendly once posted.

So what’s a good way to do it? Some is personal preference, but try to stick with a method that will serve both organizational and SEO purposes. For a fictional university campus we’ll call UWP, let’s say you’ve got images for the student cafe, Briggs building, and tennis courts. Try this method:

Cafe-UWP-Campus-Tour.jpg

Briggs-Building-UWP-Campus-Tour.jpg

Tennis-UWP-Campus-Tour.jpg

Yes, the dashes between words make a difference for your SEO purposes.

If you go with the above method, just place them in a folder called “UWP Campus Tour” when you manage multiple projects. You may even use that same folder with dashes if you’re uploading the whole thing.

As far as the organization goes, you can thank us later.

And Of Course, Text Content Management

If you manage tour content of any kind, you probably find that you routinely use the same snippets of text over and over again. On Mac, one thing we’ve found that helps is a nifty little tool called Flycut. This tool helps you manage your clipboard, archiving a history that you can easily call from and drop.

For Windows, gHacks has interesting recommendations on a tool called Clipjump.

Don’t Forget Mobile

It should go without saying, but many traditional organizations still don’t understand the impact of mobile. Lots of industries have more mobile users than desktop users, and some vice versa. But, no industry is spared from the impact of mobile.

Whatever you do, make sure first of all that you’re able to keep your image file size down. It’s best if you can offer a mobile-friendly version of the tour. If so, this will impact your image file choices. You may even keep separate versions for both desktop and mobile.

Be sure to test your tour content on multiple mobile devices – iPhones, Android phones, tablets, iPads . . . on and on. Formatting for so many different devices is tricky and time consuming. Luckily, a tour content management framework like Whitepoint may have already done this for you. Images can be optimized automatically as well, with little or no perceived loss in image quality.

And, needless to say, if you are managing tour content, you can use every bit of help and every single time saver.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Avoiding Problems in Building Virtual Tours

Virtual tours have been around for years, but they still pose a lot of pitfalls for both web designers and users.

Coachella is a perfect opportunity for multiple virtual tours.

What does your audience expect? Music festivals like Coachella provide perfect opportunities for virtual tours. What tents are those? How much to ride the ferris wheel?

In truth, the concept of “virtual tours” is becoming outdated and redundant. Why? More and more, a tour delivered online is becoming the expected standard. People of course still travel with a real live tour guide in a tour group, but that is becoming rare. Visitors are more likely now to use a mobile device on site to guide their tour – be it in a museum or on a walking tour. And, people like the convenience of self-guided touring.

Then of course, there is still the paper map, but let’s not go there.

Audience Expectations

Regardless what you call it, potential customers and visitors have come to expect some sort of curated, image-based representation of the place or thing you’re talking about. Real estate agents were likely the first to realize that not having such a tool meant fewer buyers and listings. Businesses across other industries are quickly learning a similar lesson.

As always, ask yourself who your audience is and what content they’re looking for.

The Pitfalls of Virtual Tours

For our purposes in identifying pitfalls to avoid, we’ll refer here to the concept of curated, image-based walkthroughs as virtual tours.

Flash Plugin Required

Flash technology’s days are probably numbered, and they have been for a while. Virtual tours that rely on the user having a Flash plugin are problematic largely because you avoid the segment of users that for one reason or another don’t have the plugin. Estimates of those numbers are all over the map. Security issues with Flash further complicate plugin use and adoption.

And, the question that has been around since the beginning of Flash applies – what content do you do for those that don’t have the plugin?

Not Enough Useful Detail

Many virtual tours are glorified slideshows. There isn’t anything wrong with slideshows – they serve a purpose. But, as technology has evolved, the expectation of a tour is that it will provide richer content and detail about the subject matter. And, that’s different than a slideshow.

What are ways that detail about certain aspects of virtual tours can be shared with users beyond simple captions?

360 Tours Can Be Cool, But . . .

Ask yourself if the 360 tour is really desired by your user or if it is just something cool the boss wanted. A view of the Sistene Chapel in a 360 panorama is one thing. A 360 panorama of the real estate listing at 201 Main Street is another.

360 panoramas can cause big problems for users on mobile devices – processing, bandwidth, and delay. On large monitors, they can arguably cause dizziness and upset stomach. The question to ask is what does your audience really want? And, do you have to start with a 360 panoramic tour?

Virtual Tours and Mobile Device Compatibility

The importance of compatibility with mobile devices can not be overstated. As a recent article by Rebecca Borison in Mobile Marketer stated, mobile devices are replacing the PC in countries like the US.

Marketers, business owners, and museums that focus purely on desktop-based virtual tours are potentially making a huge mistake. It would likely be better for most to sacrifice some bells and whistles in virtual tours to maximize compatibility across mobile and desktop.

. . . And Of Course, Cost

Effective virtual tours don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, they don’t have to cost anything. Like the Whitepoint framework, free tools for different approaches to virtual tours exist.

It’s also important to realize that professional photographers and specialized hardware are not usually required. Remember: You’re going to want to keep your tour up-to-date with fresh content. Uploading a new photo or tweaking some text in-house will keep things fresh. Calling in – and paying for – an outside party to do so may not be in your budget.

Keep those virtual tours compelling and fresh.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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Photo Tours as Part of a Content Marketing Strategy (Part 1)

Content marketing is rapidly taking the place of traditional strategies for marketing and PR.

Frank Gehry's New York is not only a compelling sight, it makes for a compelling image.

Made you look. This photo of Frank Gehry’s New York is a compelling image. But, it was merely taken on a trip to New York with an old Canon digital camera.

And, content doesn’t just mean text.

Every blogger – including this one – would like to think that web audiences are hanging on every word. In reality, they’re paying less and less attention to the words.

Marketing now hinges on the content being generated – including images, videos, and microblogging.

Altogether, it becomes difficult to discern product marketing from content marketing.

Compelling Content Marketing

Read any of David Meerman Scott‘s books, and you’ll be reminded that images are just as, if not more, important than text. In fact, an article  – Photographs as Compelling Content Marketing – from a few years ago on his blog drives the point home well.

Content marketing is changing the rules of marketing and PR.

A real life David Meerman Scott book really sitting on this blogger’s desk. Photo taken with a smartphone.

Interestingly, since that blog article, the quality of the photos looks to matter less and less. Instagram and Pinterest  bathe the user in streams of pictures. Users scan them for stuff that they care about – not to check white balance.

Still, everyone wants their product or place to be presented in the best possible fashion, and it should be. It is important to remember though that users are increasingly suspicious of stock photography.

And, even contracted photography that looks a little too polished can yield the same user response.

“Authentic” Versus “Professional”

Where’s the happy medium? In content marketing, it’s probably best to consider how authentic the photo is rather than how professional.

Think about the way that you as a consumer discern between photos taken for an eBay listing, for example. Wouldn’t you rather see the item itself rather than an image taken from another web site? What about when you’re looking for a place to stay on vacation? Somehow, you will likely trust an image taken by a fellow traveler than one that has carefully caught birds flying over the resort’s beach and into the sunset.

That doesn’t mean an authentic photo has to look crappy. It just means that you should focus on authentic photos taken competently. You don’t have to hire an Ansel Adams clone.

What You Do With the Images

The image lists of old no longer do the trick. Way back in the day, if an image list included thumbnails, it was really considered cutting edge.

Surprisingly, many marketers and small business owners are today still taking a similar approach. But, with the rise of content marketing, this does not meet user expectations. In reality, you’ve now got seconds to capture that user’s attention. If that much. A list of links that might include a thumbnail just won’t cut it.

And, we’re already seeing that just having photos isn’t enough. They of course have to be relevant, but we’re seeing that users want to interact with them somehow. Think tagging. Photos, more and more, have to do something. And, they’re going to need to do that thing they do on a mobile device.

In Part 2 of “Photo Tours and Content Marketing,” we’ll look at how photo tours, online galleries, and slideshows can be more compelling as part of a content marketing effort.

Matthew White

Matthew White blogs on all things related to virtual tours, mobile touring, and tour apps as well as how they relate to web design, SEO, and content marketing. There is also of course helpful information on using Whitepoint - the framework for smarter virtual touring and mobile-friendly tours.

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