The Problem with Content

On the Internet, content is king.  If you want to be ranked in the search engines, the best thing you can do is put original content on your website.

We often have existing or potential customers get very enthusiastic about generating content for their site as we extoll the virtues of doing so. And they often follow their content generation plan very religiously . . .  for at least a week or two. But then other bright shiny objects grab their attention and they wander away from their schedule. Sometimes they never return.

Everyone can write, right? Sure we aren’t all the best spellers or best grammaticians. But who knows your business better than you? So it can’t be that hard to write a few lines of content. Or maybe you love to write. You can easily fill page after page about what you do.

But is your content web-ready? Is it optimized for search? Have you considered the placement of key words and key word phrases? There are a myriad of web specific things to understand and implement into your web site content.

  • Is it in a web-friendly font?
  • Is it broken up into digestible chunks?
  • Do longer paragraphs have visual cues to help readers quickly grasp the main points?
  • Have you used headings?
  • Have you used subheadings?
  • What is the call to action in your text?
  • How much information is too much?
  • Will your content look good on mobile devices?
  • How much information should you include so search engines can properly index your page?
  • Are there any visuals you can use along with your text to illustrate key points?
  • Did you actually use any of your key words or keyword phrases?
  • Does your keyword phrase appear in the first paragraph of content?
  • And the list goes on . . .

And what happens if you don’t consider any of these questions?

Most likely your site will be lower in the search rankings than you would like. Most likely you will attract fewer visitors. Most likely the visitors that you do attract will not be as meaningfully engaged as you would like. Most likely your site won’t perform for you. It won’t help you grow and attract new business. It won’t help you engage existing customers. And then you’ll blame your web design team for building a poor site.

Don’t get in trouble with your content. Instead, turn to someone who gets content and understands how the web works. If you choose not to have us do it, choose someone who is well-qualified. If you do choose to work with us, contact us today to get started.

 

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Formed for Success

A pixel? A color? Or More?

For going too far we have the phrase “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.  In a similar vein, bridges often have a sign announcing their load limit which conjures up interesting mental images about what testing they performed to determine those limits.

But in a positive vein could it be that your web site is one pixel away from a break through? What if the color of your button was the barrier between you and a lot more customers? It sounds too easy to be real. But what if?

Look at these two forms:

First Name:

Email:

Garish Buttons Don't Help Conversions

First Name:

Email:

Button with Good Conversion Color

Which do you like better? Why?

Sometimes choosing the right color of button is the difference between no one ever signing up and getting lots of new subscribers. Users often report skipping over the bright red stuff as it simply is too bright or doesn’t fit with the color scheme. The important take away is that it should fit within your color scheme. A good example of this in action can be seen at www.gslcs.org where the Schedule your tour button clearly grabs your attention but the color fits within the scheme.

Now look at these two forms:

First Name:

Email:

Button with Good Conversion Color

First Name:

Email:

Button with Good Conversion Text

Which one do you like better? Why?

If you don’t think about it – and many folks don’t – submit either is very bland or some kind of kinky command, but neither really tells folks what is next. Sign up for Free on the other hand tells folks exactly what is going to happen if they click on the button. It is very important to help folks understand what happens when you click the button. One newsletter  provider users the same button “Proceed to Send” for the first two steps in preparing to send an email. The first time through this is a scary undertaking because the only way I can get to the next step is to click a button that suggests I’ll actually be sending the message instead of going to the next step. Then when I’m actually ready to send it, my choices are clear – Deliver Immediately or Schedule Delivery. If it were up to me, I would rename the first button “Choose Who to Send it To” and the second could be as simple as “Next” or “Proceed to Last Step” so I know I won’t be  actually sending the message yet.

And finally, look at these two forms:

First Name:

Email:

Button with Good Conversion Text

First Name:

Email:

Button Optimized for Conversion

Which of these are you most likely to fill out? Why?

Having a friendly button can make a big difference in whether folks will click the button so they can “click” with you. Using beveled edges and drop shadow, especially fitting it within the look of your web site, can make all the difference in the world.  If you’re experiencing problems getting folks to do what you want them to do on your site, give us a call (303 268-2245) to discuss it. You could be just a button away from success.

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Customer Service

How is your customer service? It is such an important part of every business and yet small businesses often fail to pay enough attention to it – curious since many of those same businesses will tell you that it is their customer service that sets them apart from their competitors.

We’ve had cause to look at our customer service a couple of times in the last month or so. As a part of our service, we provide email for folks. So when email doesn’t work, we get called. Interestingly enough, the problem is rarely with our service.

One customer emailed me because his largest customer suddenly quit accepting emails from him and also refused to deliver emails to him. From his perspective, it was our problem.

The first thing we did was check carefully through our systems and logs to see if there were any problems on our end that we could iron out for him. There weren’t.

We always take customer service seriously. So instead of telling him, as most email providers would, that the problem was not on our end, we reached out, through him, to his customer’s IT staff. Their first response was that they had no problem on their end.  But their second response – we are persistent – was that perhaps there might be an issue.

All told we spent over three hours helping our customer’s client resolve their email issue. That started because our customer turned to us for help. I’m not suggesting everyone turn to us for help. I am suggesting that we strengthened our client relationship by staying with the problem instead of pushing it off on someone else.

When we have experiences, good or bad, with customer service, we always hold them up as mirror to see how we compare.

Yes, we build great web sites. Yes we develop some of the most amazing things for our customers. But when we say our buzzwords are Partner, Engage, Convert, we take each one very seriously and that partnering means that we help you solve your problems.

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What Numbers are Important for your Website?

What numbers are important for you in your business? Are you even a numbers person? I used to not be a numbers person. I have two degrees in the humanities and I liked to live in the realm of ideas. But of course, ideas alone don’t make money.

So over the years I’ve become more and more of a numbers person. And it is exciting. That’s what surprised me. I love to brag about how we helped one client raise their online revenue more than 35% in one year. I love to brag about the client whose site we redesigned had a 900% increase in traffic from Google as a result of our work and training. I love to brag about the school that initially balked at our price tag until I pointed out that three new students would pay for the site in the first year and they’d have eight more years of those students. And none of that would have been possible if I hadn’t become more of a numbers person.

Just this morning I had a conversation with a potential customer about numbers. I asked “how will you know this is successful a year from now?” He started off with “I’ll measure the number of visitors . . .” but before he could go any further, I politely interrupted and explained that measuring isn’t a measure of success. As this is a brand new endeavor, we talked about setting a number – any reasonable number – as that will then inform many of the other decisions he makes about building and marketing his site. Once that number is established, whether it turns out to be way low, way high or spot on, it is something to work towards.

What numbers are you watching on your web site? Here are some things that might be useful:

  • Number of visitors
  • Number of new visitors
  • Most popular pages,
  • Bounce rate of individual pages
  • Number of sales
  • Average price of sales
  • Incoming key phrase searches
  • Onsite key phrase searches
  • Number of newsletter signups
  • Number of contact forms filled out
  • Time on site
  • Time on page

You can measure just about anything online. Pick carefully what you’re watching and then watch those numbers consistently. Stay alert for trends – annually, monthly, daily, hourly or even for trends regarding how frequently you email your list and the response rate on your site.

The key is to be (or become) a numbers person!

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Are You Throwing Money Away?

I often hear comments like “We tried Facebook and it didn’t work” or “I spent $4000 on Google AdWords and didn’t get anything”.  The first question I ask is “What were your goals?” and follow up with “How were you measuring results?” The answer, all too frequently, is a blank stare.

Throwing money at problems is a solution best reserved for government. Well, I’d prefer they not use it either but that is a different discussion. If you are planning to do any kind of online marketing you need to have a plan. Otherwise you can just drive down the highway, open your wallet, and throw the money out the window. You have just as good a chance of someone picking it up and tracking you down as you do getting any kind of results that will help you grow your business.

Here are the important elements to putting together an online marketing plan:

Understand Elements: What are the parts of your online marketing. Often the most important one is the one most overlooked – the website. Often the website is the centerpiece of the marketing because it is the piece you have the most control over. Other elements include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Paid Search (usually Google AdWords)
  • Paid Advertising (on other web sites)
  • Email campaign(s)
  • Foursquare
  • Landing Pages (usually a part of your website)

Understand Offline Elements:  Usually an effective Internet Marketing campaign is folded into a larger marketing campaign. This might include a direct mail campaign, distributing flyers, newspaper advertising, ads on bus benches, billboards, or a variety of other venues. The important part of bringing these together is understanding how they work. For example QR codes can be an effective way to move people from print to digital. It is also important to maintain consistency in brand and message across media.

Start with the End in Mind: You have to have a clue – that is, it helps to know where you want to go so that you can use your resources wisely. So determine what success will look like:

  1. Will it be an additional $x in revenue each month?
  2. Will it be x number of new customers?
  3. Will it be x number of new leads?
  4. Will it be x number of downloads of a video or file?
  5. Will it be x number of new appointments?

You can add to this list as needed. The important thing is that the end is geared toward helping you grow. Once you know where you are going, you can begin to plan how to get there.

Determine Parts to Include: Now you are ready to figure out what all needs to be included. If the goal is to generate leads for your business, you might determine that paid advertising or paid search aren’t the right venue. But running a contest of some kind on Facebook and Tweeting about it on Twitter might be just right. One of the strengths of Internet Marketing is that you can change your mind pretty quickly. If the paid search yields zero results, you aren’t stuck with it – you can stop within minutes. Or start it nearly as quick.

Determine Integration and Flow: It is still important to keep the big picture in mind. If you’re doing a print campaign as well and using a QR code to get people to your Facebook page, test the code with several different devices to make sure it works. Boy it gets embarrassing (and expensive) to direct people to the wrong (or a non-existent) page. Another thing to consider is steps in the process. While the ultimate goal may be getting them to fill out a form on your site, getting them to first “Like” you on Facebook makes it much easier for you to reach out to them in the future.

Determine Measurement Points: We strongly recommend the adage “What gets measured is what gets done” So determine what all you will measure. A good example of this can be seen in the travel industry.  While a very large percentage of folks research travel online, a much smaller percentage actually book online. So bookings would be one thing to measure but “intent to travel” is also something to try to measure. This can be measured by how many people actually viewed a deal on your web site or Facebook page. Or by how many people checked pricing. Or by how many people liked your page.

A key here is to have several measurement points. If you’re just looking at online bookings for example, you might consider the campaign a failure even though overall bookings are up – an indication that people are researching online and then calling. Without several measurement points, you might miss what is actually happening. Of course you can always build in better tracking by adding text like “mention deal 23 when calling” to your online ads.

Determine Evaluation: Once you’ve got the parts above figured out you can determine how you’ll evaluate success. The most obvious measure will be the one that impacts your bottom line. But you also want to be flexible and look at your results. If your goal was x number of downloads of that whitepaper you worked so hard and you fall short, you could say, “I give up” or you could look and see that you actually got more Facebook “likes” than you anticipated and that once you were liked, it was 25% more likely that someone would do business with you.

So the thrust of this part is to keep an open mind and look at all of your metrics to better understand what is working and what is not. For the parts that are working, see if you can tweak them to make them more effective. For those that aren’t working, determine whether tweaking or tossing is the best course of action. Then start your next campaign, incorporating everything you’ve learned from the one just completed.

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Financial Advice and Social Media

One of the services we offer is Social Media Marketing Consulting. We’ve been speaking with a variety of financial advisors and insurance brokers. Most of them want to utilize social media marketing but they can’t.

Like one (who probably has to remain anonymous or I’ll have to have a three paragraph disclaimer) told me just today, if a volcano erupted today, he could tweet about it next week (after two or three exchanges with compliance).

Just today the Financial Advisor Magazine web site had an article on how financial advisors are complying, or not, with regulations.  The story basically says they aren’t. And who can blame them? When web designers and CPA’s and restaurants and plumbers and just about everyone else can do it, why wouldn’t they be struggling to level the playing field?

How would you handle this? It is a sticky situation but closing your eyes and pretending social media doesn’t exist isn’t going to make it go away. 

Here are some solutions I can think of:

  1. Remove all restrictions and let advisors know their license is on the line – they get caught abusing the rules and they lose their license.
  2. Provide a strict set of guidelines that let’s advisors know what they can and cannot discuss, share, or tweet about.
  3. Create yet another government web site that lays out general guidelines, shares case studies of what is and isn’t appropriate and allow, perhaps via login, advisors to discuss or ask questions about what is OK and what isn’t.

Any of these three solutions would empower and enable financial advisors to engage in social media and provide guidelines about how to do so legally and ethically.

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Eliminate Orphans

Some of you will think this is some sort of Dickensian entreaty to eliminate “the surplus population”. But it isn’t.

I’m talking about orphaned web pages.  A web page gets orphaned in much the same way a human does. It’s parent dies or goes away.

Let me give an anecdote to explain both how it happens and why its bad. I recently met a very well known financial advisor in the Denver area. We arranged to meet at one of my favorite restaurants for some adult beverages.  I got the time wrong and showed up a half an hour early.

So I googled his name so I could give him a call. The first page that came up was from his web site. So, having a few minutes, I started clicking around and thought to myself “This guy needs our service – his web site is WAAAY out of date.”

Once he arrived, I showed him the page and he said “That’s from our old site.” When I clicked on the Home link I could see the new site but all of the old site was still out there and still active. All of these pages were orphaned. They weren’t really supposed to be there.

The obvious solution to this problem is to delete the pages. Right?

Ahh, you were paying attention, good for you. The number 1 Google Ranking for his name was the orphaned page. Delete that and you lose visibility.

There are two steps that should be taken to make sure you get rid of orphaned pages but don’t lose the Search Engine Optimization power that page or those pages have attained.

  1. Create a 301 redirect so that links to the old page will be forwarded to the new page or the appropriate replacement for the old page. There are different ways to implement a 301 redirect. The best way is to edit the .htaccess file but many web control panels will let you accomplish this through a control panel.
  2. Then it is safe to delete the old page.

In case it’s still not clear, let me give you one more example. We recently redesigned the West Chamber Serving Jefferson County web site. Before the redesign there was a Google link to the Youth Leadership Jefferson County that was http://www.westchamber.org/lead-yljc.asp. After the redesign, that page no longer exists but if you try to visit that page, you end up at http://www.westchamber.org/lead-yljc-asp/ which is the correct link.

I just discovered an orphan on our own web site today. That now has a proper 301 redirect so folks don’t get lost or confused. Need help with this? Give us a call at 303 268-2245.

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Should You Quit?

What do you need to quit?

Since I finished reading Seth Godin’s “The Dip” this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about quitting. No, I’m not quitting my business – I love what I do, but I am thinking about what tactics I’m using in business that aren’t working and determining how and what to quit.

Sounds easy right?

Think again.

It was easy for me to tell a customer not to spend time and money redesigning his site but instead to spend that same amount of time writing blogs for his site. He wants to increase visitors and getting good content out there via his blog is the best way.

But the hard part is determining what is working. I’m considering joining a new networking group. One person I spoke with said in nine years that he never got a customer from the group. But in this, his 10th year, he got two and for his line of business, that is an excellent ROI.

I’ve had a similar experience, participating for years in a group before my investment pays off. So how do you know what to quit and when? How do you know when to stay, to gut it out through the dip because the reward is so great?

Seriously. How do you know?

Share your thoughts.

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Evaluating your Social Media Campaign

Question 10 of 10 Essential Questions for Your Social Media Marketing Campaign is “How do I evaluate the results?”

If you planned properly this is an easy question. At the outset you should have set a measurable goal and set a time period. So now all you have to do is, when you hit the milestone set, look to see if you reached your goal.

In our first question we talked about setting goals and what those goals might look like. The funny thing about goals though is they often change. And that’s ok. The important thing is to continually set, measure and reset your goals.  If you had said you wanted to get 200 new subscribers to your newsletter over a two month period and you hit 250 after one month, it would be a good idea to evaluate after one month and change the goal to, for example, 700.

If you only had 20 new subscribers after a month but three of them converted to customers, you might reset the goal to 50 and add a new goal of converting 10 of them to customers. But if you haven’t set a goal, how do you know if you reached it or not?

Other things you can measure as a part of your evaluation of a social media campaign include:

  • Number of Facebook fans
  • Number of re-tweets onTwitter
  • Number of profile views on LinkedIn
  • Number of views on YouTube
  • Number of click throughs from any social site to your actual web site
  • Number of new newsletter subscribers
  • Number of new customers

Note that new customers is only one measurement. And it is probably not the most important at first. Of more importance is how you engage and interact with the “friends”, “followers”, “connections” or other social media friends in order to build your network over the long term.

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Tools to Improve Your Social Media Marketing

Question 7 from 10 Essential Questions for your Social Media Marketing Campaign: ” What tools are available to make my time in SMM more efficient?” can be answered in different ways.

There are tools and then there are tools. Every day there are thousands (yes thousands) of blog entries and tweets about all the wonderful tools available to help you leverage your Social Media Marketing time to maximum advantage.

This isn’t another one of those messages. Instead, let me tell you about two that I use and point you in the direction of finding others.

The tool that I use to tie things together is Friendfeed. Friendfeed lets you tie your various social media accounts together in such a way that you can post once to one account and the post will automatically be updated across all your accounts.  What does “all your accounts” mean? Friendfeed can talk to your blog, to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube to name a few. If you use pictures, it can talk to Flickr and to Picasa. If you are into bookmarking and news, it will talk to delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg and Google Reader. In fact, there are currently 58 different sites that can be tied together through Friendfeed.

That sounds a bit overwhelming.  It doesn’t need to though. You can start with just a couple and still save time by using Friendfeed. Then when you’re ready to add, you can do so and tie them into Friendfeed as you add them to your repertoire.

The second tool I use and like is TweetDeck. While it sounds like it is just a Twitter application, it actually ties into Facebook and MySpace as well, allowing you to post once but push it to all those accounts. I only use it with Twitter but even then it helps. I have a personal account twitter.com/edubrian and a corporate account twitter.com/educyber and I can post to either or both at the same time through TweetDeck.

The power of TweetDeck comes from being able to create groups. I follow more than 1400 people but it works its power even if you follow a handful. For example, you can create a group called “My Industry” and add the people from your industry into that group. You can create a group called “Customers” and add your customers to that group. And so on. The simplicity of that makes life easier and will likely encourage you to follow more people because the flow of Tweets becomes more manageable.

What else is there?

Here are just a few links I found:

42+ Social Media Marketing Tools

4 tools for easier social media management

35+ Social Media Tools That Make Life Easier

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