Questions to Ask When Managing Your Company’s Online Reputation

Have you Googled your company lately? If not, you probably should. What people are saying online about your brand — the good, the bad and the oftentimes inaccurate — makes all the difference when it comes to winning or losing customers, says Michael Fertik, founder and chief executive of Redwood City, Calif.-based online reputation managementagency Reputation.com and co-author of Wild West 2.0: How to Protect and Restore Your Reputation on the Untamed Social Frontier(AMACOM, 2010).

If you’re not vigilantly monitoring and constantly improving your company’s online reputation, you could be sending potential customers to competitors who are. You can’t control what others say about your brand online, but you can manage how your business generally comes across on the internet with a few helpful tools, tips and tricks.

Here are 10 vital questions to ask when managing your company’s online reputation:

1. How can I find out what people are saying about my brand online?
Start by simply searching for your company’s name — and the names of your products and services — on Google, Yahoo and Bing, and see what types of information come up. Search using the exact title of your business, along with common misspellings of it. You’ll also want to run an image search using your company’s name.

In an ideal world, your business’s actual website, hopefully along with some favorable, accurate news and reviews, should dominate the majority of the first page of search engine results, says Michael Zammuto, president of Brand.com, a Philadelphia-based online reputation management firm.

2. Can I be notified when my company is mentioned online?
Thankfully, yes. All you have to do is create a Google Alert. They are free, real-time email alerts that are automatically sent to your email address when mentions about your company occur online. You can easily set up multiple keyword-based alerts to notify you when relevant new web content is published about your products, services and events and those of your competitors.

3. How does my company’s online reputation stack up to my competitors’?
Fertik says it’s just as crucial to monitor your competitors’ online reputations as it is to stay on top of your own.

“Pay close attention to what people say your competitors are doing right that you might not be doing right,” he says, “and what they are doing wrong that you are doing right.” The idea is to use what you learn about your competitors online to fill any service gaps and gain a competitive edge.

4. Does my company website represent my business in the best possible way?
Your company’s own website is your first line of defense when it comes to your online reputation, Zammuto says. Does it contain compelling brand messaging that clearly demonstrates what your company services or sells?

More importantly, does your company’s website URL directly mirror your actual business name (www.companyname.com)? If not, Zammuto says you should immediately acquire an exact match domain name, if possible, so consumers can easily, quickly find you online.

5. How can I monitor what people are saying about my business via social media?
If you have your own company Facebook page or Twitter account, log into each platform daily to track customer questions and comments and respond to them individually in a timely manner, Zammuto advises.

There are several fee-based social media management tools that you can use if you don’t have the time to monitor and respond to individual social comments and interactions about your brand. These include Salesforce.com’s Radian6, Vocus’s Buying Signals and HootSuite.

All three let you track and reply to social mentions based on specific keywords from a single dashboard. HootSuite offers a 30-day free trial, with paid plans starting at $8.99 per month. Vocus and Radian6 share their fees via prearranged sales calls.

6. Should I really care what people say about my company on review sites?
“Word-of-review is now more powerful than word-of-mouth,” Fertik says, so it’s critical to analyze and understand what people are saying about your company on review sites that are relevant to your specific line of business.

For example, if you own a hotel, you’ll want to search for reviews and ratings of your establishment on sites like TripAdvisor and Hotels.com. If people are complaining on these types of sites about the cleanliness of your rooms, view it as an opportunity to swiftly respond with appropriate, corrective action and to update your brand’s own website messaging to reflect your improved housekeeping standards, suggests Fertik.

7. What types of positive web content can I create to offset negative content?
Zammuto suggests that you create several different unique types of web content that highlight your products and services, including a company blog and a YouTube channel, for starters.

Building up interesting and relevant web content about your company can increase the likelihood of favorable links appearing on the first page of Google search results. The basic concept, Zammuto says, is to produce enough positive search results to minimize any negative ones beleaguering your brand. Suppress the bad, pump up the good.

8. Should I be concerned about my personal online reputation, too?
Yes, especially if you are the product itself, says Fertik. For example, if you are a doctor or an attorney, you’ll want to be sure that when people search for your name online they encounter web content about you that is nothing less than favorable. This includes comments, images and videos that you post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and on your personal blog. Your personal online persona and image should be “consistent with your profession enough to boost consumer confidence,” Fertik says.

9. Should I respond to negative reviews?
Both Fertik and Zammuto advise that you don’t waste time responding to excessively negative or attacking comments on review sites like Yelp.

“The more you engage negative comments on Yelp, the more you’re basically encouraging Google to drive traffic to those types of controversial interactions,” Zammuto says.

10. What are some reliable online reputation management tools?
For business owners on a shoestring budget, there are a handful of free, but basic tools to choose from. Addict-o-matic is one such free tool that delivers the latest online mentions about any topic or name you look up, including mentions on WordPress blogs, YouTube videos, Flickr images, Ask.com news and more.

Organizations such as Brand.com, Reputation.com, Integrity Defendersand RemoveYourName offer paid services for businesses that can help you clean up your online presence. Among other services, they request that negative online commentary and information about your company be removed and assist you in developing positive content to take the place of unbecoming content.

Integrity Defenders offers business packages that start at $1,289 to clear unwanted information from the first page of search results for a single search phrase. The company’s advanced business package costs $2,149 and extends the service from the first page to the second page of search results, also for one search phrase. Reputation.com’s widely used Reputation Defender product ranges between approximately $3,000 and $15,000, depending on how customized the services are, to keep tabs on your online reputation and to get rid of negative remarks they dig up.

7 Key Design Tips for High-Converting Landing Pages

Landing pages are a fundamental — and undeniable — part of a sucessful inbound marketing strategy. They are the hub of your lead generation efforts, and that’s why every campaign you run and offer you create should be tied to a custom landing page — as opposed to an ambigious homepage where visitors have to guess what to do next. But while having more landing pages can have a huge impact on lead generation, the other takeaway here is that your landing pages also need to look good to perform well.

Well, we want to make that a little bit easier on you, since we know how challenging great design can be — particularly if you’re not a designer, per say. So to help you build good looking and high-converting landing pages, we wanted to share some design-related best practices.

How to Design a Landing Page That Converts

Designing_a_Landing_Page_That_Converts_-_HubSpot_Infographic

7 Design Best Practices for High-Converting Landing Pages

1) Get to the point.

We all know people have short attention spans — so why aren’t we considering that in landing page creation? Online audiences tend to avoid reading through an entire page of information. They will, however, “forage” for information by visually scanning the screen until they find what they’re looking for. So when designing your landing pages, get straight to the point. People came to the page for a reason, so make sure you address that reason clearly and succinctly by highlighting the value of what you’re offering and how it addresses their needs, interests, or problems. Use clear headers and sub-headers, use easy-to-scan bullet points to explain what they’ll get from the offer, emphasize key points using bold text or italics, and keep things as brief as possible.

2) Use contrasting colors.

Keep in mind that you always want your main call-to-action (CTA) to really POP off your landing page. So when you’re encouraging visitors to fill out a form and click on that ‘submit’ button, make sure it’s easy for visitors to see where they should complete that action. That’s why using complementary and contrasting colors is a great way to call a visitor’s attention to exactly where you want it.

For example, let’s look at one of the following landing page example. While the entire page employs blue and white hues, the form submission button itself is a bright shade of pink. This allows the button to pop off the page and easily grab the reader’s attention.

landing-page-templates-colors

3) Stamp on a logo.

Keep your brand top of mind when they’re downloading your content and offers by making sure the viewer knows exactly where they are. All your landing pages should have your logo placed strategically on the page. While you don’t need to make it the focal point of the page, it’s important that it’s apparent enough that people will recognize the landing page as being a publication of your business. This is particularly critical for visitors who come to your landing pages from external non-branded sources, like social media and search. Once you’ve decided on placement for your logo, maintain that position on all your landing pages to maintain consistency. Talk about low-hanging inbound marketing fruit!

4) Avoid visual clutter.

While displaying extravagant visuals on your landing pages may sound like a fabulous idea, A/B tests at HubSpot have repeatedly shown that including too many over-the-top images doesn’t actually help conversion. In fact, oftentimes it distracts the reader from the main point of the landing page, creation more friction on the landing page instead of supporting conversion. And while graphics are certainly attractive, they can also increase the load time of your website. In fact, according to the Aberdeen Group, a one-second delay in page-load time results in 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and a 7% loss in conversions. Yikes! Keep things simple, and make sure the images you use on your landing pages support — not distract — the pathway to conversion.

5) Never underestimate formatting.

Formatting is probably the easiest design best practice to follow when crafting good-looking landing pages. It’s also one that can go a really long way with little effort. Clearly laying out your headlines, images, copy, form, etc. can help you highlight the value of your offer and tee up conversion by creating a visual-friendly user experience that guides visitors to complete the conversion.

Let’s look at another example. This template uses a clear headline, sub-header, and then a call-out box to include more detailed copy. Despite the potentially long copy (one formatting solution would be to convert that into shorter bullet points), the landing page is easily digestible due to its aesthetic formatting.

landing-page-templates-formatting

6) Add social proof.

Similar to adding case studies or recommendations, try adding some social proof to your landing pages. This adds third-party credibility to your content and offers and can help boost conversions. Do you have any case studies or testimonials you can pull quotes from? Furthermore, try searching through social networks like Twitter, Facebook — or another social platform of your choice! Consider embedding tweets from users who have downloaded your content and said nice things about it, or asking if you can quote someone who left a nice message on your Facebook page. Do you have data about how many people have already downloaded this specific offer that you can highlight on the landing page (e.g. “2K people have already downloaded this ebook!”)? That’s social proof, too!

7) Be consistent.

Here’s a bonus tip for you! Remember that MarketingSherpa study we referenced earlier? Well, when analyzing which elements of a landing page has the greatest impact on overall website performance, page layout came out on top. This is likely because page elements that alter the layout of a page can make it harder for visitors to navigate the pages on your website.

While it’s important to continuously A/B test elements of your landing page for maximum results, be sure you’re not radically altering your landing page layout every time. A sense of consistency can help the end user know how to navigate your pages over time, eliminating the friction caused by having to get the lay of the land each time, and resulting in drop-offs in conversion rates.

How A/B Split Testing Works

What’s the best day to send your email marketing campaign? Weekdays? Weekends? What time? Early morning, or late afternoon? What kind of subject line works best? Something with a hard sell? Or something more subtle and informative? Will people open your email if you include “FREE” in the subject line?

The only way to know for sure is to experiment with your campaigns. The most common way to experiment is to run an A/B split test.

A/B Split Testing

You can use MailChimp’s email optimizer to run A/B tests on subject lines, from names and send dates and send times.

A/B Split Test Ideas

Here are some quick ideas for A/B testing experiments that you can run on your email campaigns with MailChimp:

  • What day of the week gets you better open rates?
  • What time of day works best for your promotional (e-coupons, special sales, “act now!” etc) campaigns?
  • What day/time works best for your informative “newsletter” campaigns?
  • What subject line style works best? Hard sell? Soft sell?
  • Should your subject line always include your company name? Or should it be a long, descriptive subject line detailing what’s inside the message?
  • Is it better to use your company’s name in the “From” line, or a human’s name?
  • Does time of day affect overall click rate?

Running A/B split tests on your email marketing campaigns used to be pretty complicated. You had to setup “random slice” segments, create two campaigns, check stats, then send a final campaign. Most people barely have enough time to send one campaign, let alone two additional tests. Well, we just made A/B testing your email campaigns easy and automatic.

A/B Testing With MailChimp’s Email Optimizer

With our patent-pending MailChimp Email Optimizer, you simply select the type of test you want to run, and the size of your sample groups. We take care of the rest, automatically.

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing is a simple way to test changes to your page against the current design and determine which ones produce positive results. It is a method to validate that any new design or change to an element on your webpage is improving your conversion rate before you make that change to your site code.
Testing takes the guesswork out of website optimization and enables data-backed decisions that shift business conversations from “we think” to “we know.” By measuring the impact that changes have on your metrics such as sign-ups, downloads, purchases, or whatever else your goals may be, you can ensure that every change produces positive results. Quantitative data speaks for itself. You and your coworkers may have hunches about how site visitors will respond to certain design elements; A/B testing allows you to show visitors two versions of the same page and let them determine the winner. Constantly testing and optimizing your page can increase revenue, donations, leads, registrations, downloads, and user generated content, while providing teams with valuable insight about their visitors.
Here’s how it works:
How it works
An A/B test involves testing two versions of a web page — an A version (the control) and a B version (the variation) — with live traffic and measuring the effect each version has on your conversion rate. Start an A/B test by identifying a goal for your company then determine which pages on your site contribute to the successful completion of that goal.
Imagine a company, Acme Widgets, that operates a web store selling widgets. The company’s ultimate goal is to sell more widgets and increase their yearly revenue, thus the checkout funnel is the first place Acme’s head of marketing will focus the optimization efforts.
The “buy” button on each product page is the first element visitors interact with at the start of the checkout process. The team hypothesizes that making the button more prominent on the page would lead to more clicks and therefore more purchases. Using Optimizely, the team simply makes the button red in variation 1 and leaves the button grey in the original. They quickly set up an AB test using an AB testing tool that pits the two variations against each other.

With Optimizely

As the test runs, all visitors to the Acme Widgets site are bucketed into a variation. They are equally divided between the red button page and the original page. Optimizely measures the number of visitors who saw each version of the button and then clicked it. It also measures the number of visitors who completed the purchase funnel and landed on the “Thank You” confirmation page.
Once enough visitors have run through the test and Optimizely indicates that the results are statistically significant, the Acme team ends the test and is able to declare a winner. The results show that 4.5% of visitors clicked on the red buy button and 1% clicked on the original version. The red “Buy” button led to a significant uplift in conversion rate, so Acme then redesigns their product pages accordingly. In subsequent A/B tests, Acme will apply the insight that red buttons convert better on their site than grey buttons.
What assumptions are you making about your site right now? Load your site into the Optimizely editor, click “Test it Out” and see how simple it is to set up an AB test or multivariate test with Optimizely. Your improved site is the only outcome.

20 Advertising Networks To Monetize Your Mobile App

Mobile advertising is such a nightmare these years, with terribly low revenue and click-through rates crippling both commercial companies and indie developers.

However, more and more remarkable advertising networks are rising, offering a great variety of monetization models to help developers maximize the revenue of their mobile apps, and yet most of us only know about AdMob.

mobile app monetizing platform

But you deserve a better advertising network, and that is the purpose we have here: to feature 20 advertising networks with standard and creative app-vertising models, flexible monetization features and detailed analytics to pump up your revenue strategically.

To make it easier, we provided a comparison list for you to check out the features of each network in a glance. But first, let’s take a look at what each network has in store for you.

Our Favorite Picks

AdMob

Being the child of the behemoth Google, AdMob should be the first advertising network for app developers to consider for monetization. What makes it a worthy platform here is probably not its brand, but its integration system a.k.a SDK (Software Development Kit) that helps you connect across famous platforms such as iOS, Android and the rising Windows Phone.

admob

Given the strong coding nature of Google, the SDK allows you to choose from a wide range of ad formats for both mobile devices and tablets, including standard banner ads, interstitial (full screen) ads, interactive ads and exclusive custom search ads. Integration is far less painful with AdMob, as the documentation is clean and complete with recommendations for best practices.

However, tons of personal reports indicate that the eCPM or revenue on the AdMob is very low, and as usual, support is hard to reach. Apparently best integration does not mean maximum revenue, so you might want to try your luck with other reliable networks with dynamic monetization models such as CPI (Click Per Install).

Millennial Media

As the first mobile advertising network that furthered itself to an Initial Public Offering (IPO), Millennial Media clearly knows how to do business, and offers lots of grand deals for developers ranging from top mobile gaming companies to indie teams.

The intelligence gathered from its many research probably makes Millennial Media a full-fledged self-service platform which not only offers publishing features, but advertising features that you could utilize to promote your apps.

millennial media

You can create a client campaign that lets advertisers compete for your inventory within the respective categories – date range, targeting, pacing and pricing – and all transactions are reported inside its systematic dashboard. Millennial Media is also the loyal supporter of Ad Network Mediation that grants you the ability to display advertisement from other advertising networks, such as AdMob.

You can even allocate traffic across the networks by percentage, location, and ad revenue based on eCPM. The House Ads also helps you to cross-promote your lines of apps inside your own application. That said, it’s clear enough that Millennial Media is simply the best combination of advertisement and monetization for your app.

Adfonic

Adfonic cares not only about integration, it cares for the performance of your advertisement, with the promise of 95% average fill rates on both iOS and Android, and even up to 10x higher eCPMs with rich media advertisement. To achieve this, they are working directly with international agencies and brands such as Samsung, ESPN, BBS and Amazon Kindle to display their giant campaigns in your mobile app.

adfonic

Adfonic also supports AdMob mediation to ensure your fill rate is exploding, and your maximum revenue is guaranteed. Built with the mind of supporting giant advertisers and publishers, Adfonic offers Ad Serving API that lets you customize the type of ads you request and specific ways they will be returned, for example XML, JSON, URL encoded or raw HTML.

You can even manage multiple accounts through a single platform, and access all publishers’ data through real-time reporting API and analytics dashboard. Though the flexibility is great, it could translate into lots of technical difficulties and confusion that may lead to possible revenue loss. Sometimes, less is more. Implement only what is necessary.

Chartboost

Standard mobile advertising networks are good, but when it comes to displaying ads on your game titles, they become hugely irrelevant due to the fact that the standard networks are targeting mass audiences with great variety of interests.

Chartboost is the solution for game developers, as it’s a platform that’s dedicated to advertise gaming ads, with up-to-par integration and analytics technology.

chartboost

Chartboost offers lots of creative solutions that are bent on heavy promotion and they are all done in a professional sense. They also optimize your eCPM while advertisers increase their bids to pump out the revenue number you will really like to see. You only need 5 lines of codes to make Chartboost start working for you.

The ads are mostly about downloading another new game, so it meets the interest of the audiences who are already playing games, and always seeking for the next fun factor.

Tapjoy

In-App Purchasing has been a hot debate topic lately, with most mobile gamers arguing that they don’t want to pay repeatedly just to complete a game. But how about doing something to earn the in-game coins, such as downloading another free game?

That’s what Tapjoy is doing: offering the gamers the chance to earn virtual currency by performing real-world action. The model is called incentivized download.

tapjoy

You give gamers the incentive (usually in virtual currency) to choose or download apps. In place, they can reap virtual rewards and premium content on 20,000+ games supported by Tapjoy in 1 billion network devices. Over 77 million monthly active users are on Tapjoy, so common issues like fill rate does not exist here.

What is an issue is that Apple is certainly not happy with the model, since the network has raised massive concerns about the gaming of the App store’s download chart. Apple has been banning this practice for all iOS apps, but Tapjoy gets around the rules by re-launching the system as a web application, which Apple cannot rule over.

If Apple hates it, you know that this is really an effective, even a bit dirty way to monetize and promote your game.

More

Aditic

Aditic has a strong background in mobile advertising and marketing probably thanks to its parent company, Sofialys. The team has been working for over 6 years to develop idiot-proof platforms for mobile developers. As a result, the Aditic system supports iOS, Android, Blackberry, Samsung Bada and even Java with a nice range of ad formats including interstitial ads.

aditic

Admoda

Admoda is a mobile advertising network that’s paying CPC, CPM and Flat Rates to its publisher, and they are promising you unbeaten fill rates and eCPMs in the industry. The integration is straightforward, but don’t fear even if you are new to the system, as their support system is filled by non-robots (aka humans) dedicated to solving your issues efficiently.

admoda

Flurry

Thrive in the new app economy, as Flurry wants to help you generate more advertising revenue with its largest app data set on consumer usage in the world, collected from more than 700 million mobile smartphones and tablets! From this point you can observe that Flurry is really confident about the power of its analytics, as proven through its detailed analytics promotion page.

flurry

HUNT

Hunt your revenue with 2 billion mobile users in HUNT Mobile Ads network, and it also equips you with standard hunter kits ranging from SDK to reporting tools, and reporting API to make sure you track down or catch the best ads for your mobile app or website.

HUNT

InMobi

inMobi originates from India, but this does not stop them from trying to conquer the international mobile advertising market. The stat proves their capabilities too, as they have so far reached 93.4 billion impressions in 165 countries with 578 million consumers, making it a considerable choice for any developer that desires successful monetization.

inmobi

Jumptap

From the time you start sending the app requests from your app, the targeted Mobile advertising leader, Jumptap begins its operation to optimize your app’s performance and ensure your revenue could reach its possible maximum. It has also partnered with other data providers including datalogix to guarantee the best uses of your inventory.

jumptap

Kiip

Kiip operates a business model similar to what we called “incentivisation”, but calls it “rewarding”. The difference is that, instead of doing chores for virtual rewards you may not like, you can actually redeem real products, such as carbonated drinks and snacks!

Besides, the company is doing great in integrating this fresh idea with its sleek API and SDK, just as professional as other advertising platforms!

kiip

Madvertise

Established in 2008, Madvertise specializes mobile advertisement in Europe, especially German-speaking countries with technically unique services for both advertisers and publishers, such as Real-Time Bidding and rich media ad formats. Oh, and don’t be afraid of its premium web design yet, since it features open source SDK for simple integration.

madvertise

MobFox

Farewell to $0.01 CPCs. Over 10,000 publishers have been utilizing the MobFox advertising marketplace to help them earn up to 300% more revenue from their mobile apps.

On top of that, you achieve full control over the ads shown in your mobile, and with the eCPM control feature you are able to set minimum CPC/CPM floor limits at the price you desired.

mobfox

MobPartner

As a Return Of Investment (ROI) driven company, MobPartner makes sure that you get the best revenue for your time spent on this mobile affiliate network.

The SDK helps you to display banner and text link from its CPA campaign, and you can also go for the advertiser route with CPI campaign, if you’re looking for some breakthrough in your download traffic!

mobpartner

MoPub

What’s truly strong about MoPub is its advertisement format that could be summarized in one word: rich. Static images, HTML5 Ads, Banner, Landing Ads, Expand Ads, Interstitial Ads, Video and ORMMArich Media ads are always available for you to play creatively with your advertisement.

It’s not just about ad format, MoPub wants to drive more revenue, therefore they debuted MoPub Marketplace that allows bidders to quote prices for your ad impressions the moment they’re available, and take advantage of data to optimize their bids in real time. This results in precise ad targeting that drives even better revenue for both parties.

mopub

Mojiva

Mojiva prides itself with its technology that crawls though the publisher mobile apps and catches relevant keywords using intelligent algorithms, then indexes them to empower the contextual mobile advertising system that eventually leads to the most important result: more earnings to you.

Be sure to register a website for your app though, since they do not accept free email accounts, such as Gmail.

mojiva

PlayHaven

Aligned with the terms flexibility, information and control, PlayHaven really lives up to what it offers. Not only can you monetize your app with control over the placement and frequency, you could also cross-promote other games and even request valuable user information to re-engage players outside your game.

playhaven

RevMob

RevMob is a rising Cost-Per-Install (CPI) network that offers the highest eCPM for game publishers. They offer various kinds of apps, and the technical integration is so easy that you just need to put 2 lines of code inside your app to earn your first pile of income from them.

The network also straightened up your integration mess by introducing SDK that supports game engine, including Unity and Corona.

revmob

Smaato

Versatile platform support is enough to describe the dedication of Smaato. iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry, Samsung Bada, Symbian, you name it, they got you supported. Their love for support has even expanded to their ad format that truly helps you to achieve virtually any type, and any behavior of advertisement you want.

smaato

 

Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing: Understanding the Differences

If you run a business, then you know how important marketing is in spreading the word about your company’s products and services. If you don’t market your company, then you won’t get any customers. This means that your company’s success relies heavily on your marketing campaign. While traditionally, the use of outbound marketing was the most common strategy, this has quickly changed in the last few years. These days, many companies have turned towards inbound marketing strategies for their marketing tactics. If you are unsure of what the differences are between outbound vs inbound marketing, read on. Understanding the pros and cons of both will allow you to create a better marketing strategy to fit the needs of your company.

Outbound Marketing
Outbound marketing is a strategy in which a business advertises its products and services by presenting information to consumers even if they are not looking for those products or services. Because of this, outbound marketing has been commonly referred to as “interruptive marketing”. Companies do this via the use of television, print ads, direct mailers, radio and more. This is how traditional advertising worked, but unfortunately, such methods are not only interruptive and poorly timed, they can be quite expensive. If you are a small business owner, then you could be paying an arm and a leg for one of these forms of advertising without any promise of success. However, larger companies that can afford such marketing will benefit, as this strategy can help to bring awareness about one’s product and services to a national audience.

Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing is a more affordable marketing strategy, which is a reason why so many small business owners make use of it. The idea of inbound marketing is that you target a core audience by providing useful and quality content to entice them into finding out more about your products or services. So, in essence, you give them something in order to get them to come to you.

This is an effective strategy for a number of reasons. First of all, you’ll be targeting consumers who are actually looking for products and services that you provide, instead of trying to advertise to every consumer out there, no matter what their needs are. There are several ways to conduct a successful inbound marketing strategy, all of which require an online presence.

  • Creating Content – Using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you can post helpful articles and videos that are related to your products or services. This content should not be advertising your company, but instead it should be providing useful content to consumers. Create original content using SEO (search engine optimization) and post it to your social network pages. Not only are you enticing consumers to stick with you, you are giving them the chance to share your content, which will eventually lead back to your webpage.
  • Offering Incentives – Give followers incentives for following you, such as by providing free eBooks or special deals on your products or services. One strategy is to create a landing page that you link to using your social network pages. On this landing page, you can offer consumers free goods or content in exchange for signing up to your newsletter.
  • Communication – Unlike outbound marketing, inbound marketing allows you to have direct communication with the consumer. Using your social media presence, you can ask your followers for their input regarding your products and services. This shows them that you care for your customers, and gives you the chance to improve your business.

Deciding between outbound vs inbound marketing will depend a lot on the resources of your company. All companies, no matter how big or small, should use inbound marketing techniques. However, companies with larger resources shouldn’t ignore the benefits of reaching a wider audience using outbound marketing. If you still need some advice on what the best tactics are for your company, give us a call! We’d love to help you with your options. For further information, be sure to check out our previous post that included our inbound marketing infographic.

Facebook App Center Guidelines Explained

With all the talk of the Facebook IPO, people might be forgetting the company’s other huge announcement – the App Center. It has a good chance of changing how people find and interact with Web and mobile apps. Developers can start submitting app pages, but Facebook has some suggestions to make app pages really shine on the App Center.

One of the features of the App Center that should be clarified is the page on Facebook does not have the app hosted on it. If it’s a mobile app, it has a link to the Web page that the app is hosted on. One of the requirements is that the Web page can’t feature the single sign-on button on it. If the user goes to your site through Facebook, they should already be logged in via Facebook as soon as they hit your site. The company suggests that you use the JavaScript SDK and the FB.getLoginStatus call on the landing pages.

It should come as standard, but developers should review their app settings. The settings are going to determine the look and layout of the app page so be sure to double check this information. Facebook uses the example of creating an iOS app that is featured on the App Center. Since it’s only available via iOS, the only link should be to iTunes through your App Store ID.

Just like on iTunes and Google Play, your page should only feature high-quality images. Nobody wants to see low resolution images of your app as it reflects poorly on your as a developer. The other guidelines include images not being allowed to have buttons, excessive text, URLs, promotions, etc and screenshots should be of the actual experience. It’s really easy to spot a doctored screenshot and if you don’t have faith in your app’s aesthetics, why should the user?

Taking another cue from the other app stores, Facebook App Center does not allow keyword loading in the names. They use the example of an app called, “Billiards.” You can’t list the name as “Billiards – Pool” because it’s not only sounds bad, but it also is an obvious attempt to get more results out of search.

As far as App descriptions go, the usual rules like proper grammar and spelling apply. There is also another rule against the use of superflous symbols and unnecessary exclamation. So don’t go saying that your app is “the number one in the universe!!@~” or whatever it is you kids do these days to set yourself apart.

Thankfully, all of this can be done over the course of a few days or in multiple sessions. You can save the work that you’ve done on the app detail page for another time. You can also preview how the app will look on the Web or on mobile to make sure that it looks great on both platforms. Don’t forget to submit the app page for review when you’re done though or else you’ll just forget about it.

In a later update, Facebook will be letting developers know how they’re going to implement localization and translation of app pages. Does this mean that Facebook will be debuting some kind of translation software or will they be using their relationship with Microsoft to offer the Bing Translator to users?

Developers have until tomorrow, May 18, to submit their apps for prioritized consideration. You can still submit apps after this date, but doing so by tomorrow should get your app into the launch window of the App Center. Hit up the app detail page and start creating

How to Turn Visitors into Customers

People are impatient. If they don’t quickly find what they’re looking for, they’ll leave your website.

Successful businesses understand this. They respond by doing everything in their power to

  • capture people’s attention
  • lead them down the simplest path possible
  • guide them each step of the way
  • answer all their concerns and questions

And they keep doing those things until visitors become customers.

This is an art form that has been around for thousands of years, and it continues to work on ecommerce websites today. To convert website visitors into website customers, you need an action plan designed around the impatient customer.

Impatient customers appreciate two fundamental principles:

  1. A logical solution that makes sense
  2. A direction to follow

In other words, guide your website visitors to a product that enhances their life, and you will be rewarded with more customers.

Let’s see how this works in a brick-and-mortar store

bicycle shop

Let’s say you and your 6-year-old son visit a bicycle shop looking for a new bike for him.

Upon entering the store, you see many racks filled with bicycles. Your first impulse is to look for some sort of order, how the racks are organized so you can quickly find what you’re looking for.

You notice that all the adult bikes are in one section, grouped by the types of riders. There are groups for mountain bikes, racing bikes and touring bikes. You look at the children’s bikes and see girls’ bikes and boys’ bikes.

Having spotted your target area, you walk over to the boys’ bikes, but you’re not sure which bike would be the best for your son.

Suddenly, a store clerk approaches and asks if you need assistance. You ask him a number of questions, which are quickly answered. The clerk then interviews your son to determine the style of bike he prefers and recommends a bike.

After you agree to buy the bike, the clerk adjusts the seat and handlebars to fit your son’s frame, and then you’re on your way to the cash register.

Just before you reach the register, however, you stop at the bike accessories area, which is located conveniently near the register, and add a light, a horn and some additional reflectors to your shopping cart.

What just happened?

The bicycle shop knew how to arrange their products so they could be easily located, they provided assistance exactly when it was needed, and they upsold you on various accessories.

In other words, by grouping their products in a logical way and making it easy for you to navigate to the areas you needed, they converted you from visitor to customer.

Successful ecommerce websites do exactly the same thing, but in a virtual sense. The key is logic and direction. Let’s talk about how you can implement these same concepts on your website.

Logic

The impatient visitor demands simplicity.

Consider that there are countless different websites, each with its own way of doing things. Yet because each website conforms to simple rules of logic, the visitor will have no problem quickly finding her way around.

For example, an online bicycle store will look entirely different than an online skin lotion store, but if both are organized in a way that makes sense, the visitor will have no problem quickly finding products on either site.

When creating a website that makes logical sense to the impatient visitor, consider the following guidelines:

Group Your Products

Are all your products grouped in a way that makes sense? Understand how visitors form groups in their minds. For example, a candle shop may create different groups for scented candles, decorative candles and birthday cake candles, because this makes most sense to customers.

Action – Create a logical tree of all product groups. (Hang on to it. You’ll need that tree later in this article when creating your website navigation.)

Tip – Analyze your visitors’ shopping carts to gain further understanding of how they group products. Amazon does an excellent job of this with their “Frequently Bought Together” suggestions.

After a purchase, for examples, they additional suggestions based on the buyer’s purchase and browsing history.

Additional Suggestions

Upsell and Cross-Sell

Many visitors approach your site because they’re looking for a solution to a problem. It’s likely they do not know the exact solution, and they may not even know their exact budget.

This provides you a good opportunity to solve their problem in a way that not only increases their satisfaction but also optimizes your revenue.

Your goal is to make sure they get the complete solution to their problem, not just a partial solution.

Dan Kennedy does a good job of this. Once an order is complete, the confirmation page includes a second, related offer. Like this:

Upsell and Cross-Sell

Upsells are related offers that add value to the original purchase.

Here’s another example: A hungry customer goes to McDonalds because he wants a solution to hunger.

Maybe he’s thinking about a simple hamburger and a root beer. But when he gets into the restaurant, he sees a delicious picture of a Big Mac, so he gets upsold to a bigger sandwich. When he places his order, the kid behind the counter suggests purchasing an order of french fries. The customer agrees to the cross-sell, and a purchase is made.

An upsell is a selling technique that attempts to get the customer to upgrade their existing purchase.

cross-sell is a selling technique that attempts to get the customer to purchase a complimentary product in addition to the original product.

You goal is to do one or both. Think creatively about your product line. Do you have products that could be grouped together—one offered as an upsell after the other is purchased?

Action – Make a list of your major products and their potential upgrades. Also, for each product, look for opportunities to completely satisfy the customers’ problem. For example, suggest an extra rechargeable battery with digital camera purchases.

Tip – Not every product has an upgrade, but you probably have other opportunities to create quantity upgrades. A 3-for-2 pricing structure, for instance.

Analyze Items Above the Fold

Pages that feature multiple products should show at least one of the products above the fold. Impatient visitors may not know to scroll down the page and, not seeing what they need immediately, may leave.

This can happen quite easily, even with tech-savvy visitors. Though they know they can scroll, if they’re too busy, they may not make the time.

Be aware, as you design your pages, a users’ screen resolution can affect how much of the page shows above the fold.

According to W3Schools, as of January 2014, approximately 15% of desktop screens show a resolution of 1280×800 or below. This yields a maximum of 800 pixels on the vertical axis. If your product web pages take up 75% of that available vertical space, you’re looking at a page fold that’s just 600 pixels into the page.

How much space does that leave for at least one product above the fold?

A lot depends on the configuration of the browser (tool ribbons and menus) as well as the logo and header on your website. Precious little remains, so your customers could easily lose sight of items unless he knows to scroll down.

Analyze Items Above the Fold

Action – Analyze your major product pages in light of a page fold that’s just 600 pixels down from the top of the browser. Does a product picture and description appear above this line?

Tip – Reduce the size of your company logo and header on pages that list products.

Busy Busy!

Impatient visitors have impatient eyes, and impatient eyes get lost if the page is too busy.

It’s tempting to cram as much information into your web pages as possible, but be careful to not overwhelm your visitors with messaging. Often, they just want a simple solution to their problem.

There’s an old sales lesson that goes something like this: If someone comes to your hardware store looking for a hammer, put a hammer in his hand, take his money and send him on his way. If you try to sell him on the benefits of the hammer and what a great deal he is getting, he may change his mind.

In other words, once a visitor has expressed interest in a specific product, the deal is yours to lose.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t try to upsell and cross-sell your customers, because you should. Just make sure that your attempts to increase revenue don’t trip him as he tries to make his way to the cash register.

Here’s a great example of what NOT to do:

Busy Busy

An ecommerce site that is too busy for impatient eyes!

Assuming you were interested in purchasing an Exuviance product, you have to figure out that the list of products is below the fold, which isn’t immediately obvious.

In the meantime, you’re bombarded by messages, many of which practically beg you to click elsewhere, including:

  • 25% off on orders over $60 (mentioned 5 times)
  • Free shipping on orders over $49 (mentioned 2 times)
  • “Valentine’s deals” button
  • “Something new that just arrived” button
  • “Special offer while supplies last” button
  • “Top 10 Shopper’s Choice” button

Don’t distract your customer with competing messages, especially on a product page. You’re more likely to lose the sale than increase it.

Action – Use Google Analytics (or similar) to see how often visitors land on a product page but don’t actually put the product in their cart. Visitors may be getting distracted at this critical stage of conversion.

Tip – Ensure every page has a shopping cart button that allows customers to complete the sale as soon as they’re ready. Don’t get in their way!

Help

Provide help to your visitors if they appear to be stuck. Visitors who stay on the same page for a time might be searching for an answer.

Consider incorporating a live chat or similar service on your site to help visitors get un-stuck. It can be unobtrusive in the bottom corner of your Web page:

live chat

Then when clicked, it opens to provide a dialog box.

offline message

Action – Track the top exit pages using Google Analytics (or similar). Visitors that exit your site from a product page may not have found the information they were looking for.

Target these pages when incorporating a live chat service and see if some strategic intervention from a proactive chat agent helps convert these visitors into customers.

Tip – Take advantage of free trials that many live chat services provide for a limited time.

Direction

While people spend countless hours working on puzzles and playing strategy games, they have no patience with websites that demand that much effort. Visitors want to be led through an ecommerce site in much the same way that they work their way through a brick-and-mortar store.

Take a moment and think about your most recent trip to the grocery store. You arrive with a list in-hand, and you walk through the aisles picking up items on the list.

The aisles are clearly marked according to groups of items within. There’s the bakery aisle, for example, where you find bread, bagels and croissants. The pasta aisle contains spaghetti, macaroni and all other forms of Italian noodles.

You get the picture. The products are grouped in a way that allows you to quickly navigate through the store and select the items you want.

When charting a direction for your website visitors, you need to provide this same level of direction. Consider the following:

Heat Map

The upper left corner of your website is known as the “Golden Triangle.” This is where most visitors initially set their attention. Visitors expect to see the most relevant information here.

Place your website navigation in this area.

Heat Map

Typical heat map, showing the most active areas in red. Notice the triangular shape of the most active areas, creating the “Golden Triangle.”

Action – Use a service like Crazy Egg to generate a heat map based on visitor mouse movements and clicks on your site. This can give you insight into where they might be getting lost.

Tip – The location of the golden triangle will be in the upper right side of the browser window for RTL (Right-to-Left) languages.

Navigation

Visitors with a clear idea of the product they’re looking for should be able to navigate your site, clicking on a maximum of three navigational buttons before arriving at a page featuring the product they seek.

Furthermore, each page should provide some indication of the navigational structure above it.

Breadcrumbs are typically used for this purpose—they leave a backwards trail all the way back to the home page and gives a “You Are Here” sense of location, just like a directory sign in a large shopping mall.

But logically organized, intuitive navigation can also do the trick.

Navigation

Action – Earlier in this article you were asked to create a logical tree of all your product groups. Take a look at the tree and ensure that visitors can get to any page without taking more than three steps. Use the tree to create the navigation structure.

Tip – Nested dropdown menus are losing popularity, probably because it’s difficult to use them on a mobile device.

Solution Pages

Visitors may not be able to verbalize what they’re looking for. They may instead look for pages that focus on solutions rather than products.

Though this mostly applies to B2B businesses, B2C websites can make use of solution pages as well.

For example, Lowes features a section on their main menu entitled “Ideas & How-Tos” that are split into two main groups: “Home Areas” and “Activity Types.”

These are wonderful pages to read when you’re just looking for ideas. Eventually you’ll focus on a product, but you need to understand the solution first.

Solution Page

You can quickly navigate to the solution pages on the Lowes website and get great ideas, all of which use products from Lowes

Action – Do some self-analysis on your business. Why do visitors come to your site? What types of problems are they facing? Then look for solutions among all your products.

Though this may sound trite and obvious, it’s sad that many websites don’t do this. They focus instead on their products.

Of course, a lot depends on the product. If you’re selling tires, for example, visitors are already very familiar with the solution to their problem. But if you’re selling lawn-care products, you might consider the types of lawn-care problems your visitors are experiencing before leading them to your products.

Tip – Use customer feedback forms to get insight into their problems and subsequent solutions.

Summary

If your website structure makes sense and your visitors have a clear path to the items they seek, you can experience a high conversion rate. But if it’s confusing or makes people think too hard, you’re leaving money on the table.

As you saw in this article, a logical, easy-to-navigate website is critical to conversion. In the next article in this series, we will focus on the user interface. We’ll study how color, flow and website behavior can also affect visitor behavior.

In the meantime, what solutions have you found for providing logic and direction on your website?

The Year Ahead: 5 Social Media Trends Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

The social media landscape is evolving rapidly, and therefore, your social media marketing strategy cannot remain static. Instead, it’s important to reevaluate business goals, social media campaigns, platform results and revise your strategy at least once a year — if not quarterly.

Being aware of trends in the social sphere can help you design better strategies, apply the most effective tactics and choose where to invest your staff as well as financial resources. Here are the top five social media trends every entrepreneur needs to think about for 2014 and beyond:

1. Diversify. You’ve probably seen headlines about Facebook’s algorithm changes. If you currently operate a brand or business page, one study found that only six percent of followers currently see your posts. Experts suggest that that number will continue to plummet, eventually reaching one percent.

This bid by Facebook is aimed at increasing advertising dollars. But it highlights a potential weakness in many business’ social strategies: overdependence on any single platform puts you at the mercy of that platform’s whims. Whether it crashes or simply changes its rules, too much is at stake.

2. Google+ is for real. If there’s one social network businesses should pay specific attention to, it’s Google+, which is already playing a more important role in Google’s organic ranking algorithm. I expect this trend will continue.

To the surprise of many across the SEO industry, Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed in a recent video that Facebook and Twitter have no impact on SEO rankings as a result of crawling and accessibility issues. So it stands to reason that if Google wants to use social signals for organic search rankings, it could easily mine Google+ data, where its crawler access is unhindered.

Google+ is also the best way to get access to Google Authorship, which will play a huge role in SEO by the end of the year. Google Authorship helps the search engine identify your content, attribute it to the correct author and build a portfolio for each author that may include what many are calling “Author Rank” — algorithmic scoring based on author expertise and publishing history.

In most cases, an image of the author appears next to their content in search results, which also increases visibility and click-through rates.

3. Integration of social media, SEO, and content creation. The online marketing industry is moving away from the idea that social media, SEO and content marketing happen in isolation. Social media marketing decisively impacts how content is seen and shared.

Content creation and marketing have direct implications for your SEO performance — especially in light of Google’s latest algorithm updates. It’s important that you think of the three pillars of online marketing — SEO, content and social media — as a system that works synergistically to increase visibility, build your brand and ultimately garner customers and sales.

4. Visual content will win. An estimated 63 percent of social media comprises imagery. As such, visual platforms are playing an increasing role in social media for businesses. One study found that 29 percent of Pinterest users bought an item after posting or re-pinning it on the network.

Video content is also hotter than ever, with the addition of networks like Vine and Instagramfeaturing microvideos. Infographics are another effective promotion tool for businesses with both a bounty of data and absorbing stories to tell.

Not every platform will be right, but spending the time to find the visual angle to your business’ story and experimenting with different content formats can help revitalize your social media marketing strategy.

5. Social media as a brand builder. Social media channels should be managed according to a brand-oriented approach. Building your brand on any platform impacts your SEO and improves sales over the long term.

Are the visuals of your social media accounts consistent with the rest of your visual branding? Is your account name or any other copy branded? Are you regularly filtering your status updates to ensure they’re on-message and consistent with the overall brand that you’re building? Focusing on building your brand through your social interactions should be a key focus this year.

If evolutions in social media have taught us anything so far this year, it’s that entrepreneurs with flexible and engaged approaches will have the highest ROI. Take the time to understand general trends and focus on core goals, but also take action to experiment with specific tactics that will grow and change as your business evolves.

Social Media for Small Businesses: 6 Effective Strategies

Many small business owners I encounter are either too busy for social media, or they don’t truly understand Facebook, Foursquare, or Twitter. So they choose to delegate these tools to interns or specialists. This may not always be in the best interest of the company.

I’m not a social media expert. Far from it. I haven’t ousted any mayors yet, and probably won’t anytime soon. But I am a small business owner and entrepreneur who truly embraces the unique opportunity that social media offers. Nothing else gives me such a direct way to “talk” with my clients and community on a daily basis. And people are what brought me into business in the first place.

Over the past few years, I’ve made it a point to explore and understand the social web around me. And while I’ll be the first to admit there’s a lot left to learn, here are a few key lessons I’ve discovered so far.

1. Your Customer Knows Best

Social media has little to do with you; it’s all about your audience, customers, or whomever you’re trying to reach. Marketing 101 says to think like your customer thinks. And the same holds true in social media. In my particular business, my clients aren’t necessarily flocking to Foursquare or augmented reality, but they are using LinkedIn and some other niche sites (in addition to Twitter and Facebook).

Not sure where your customers are on the social web? Just ask. Early on, I found myself asking clients if they were using any social networks. Most of the time, this simple question led to an interesting conversation and great insight on how I could take part and provide value. You don’t always have to be the expert — you can let your customers show you their way.

2. Social Media Isn’t Necessarily Free

Social media is attractive to small businesses because of its perceived price. You can set up a new blog, fan page, video site, and Twitter account without paying a dime. There’s no expensive software, or costly media buys. However, even though there’s a low price tag to enter the game, social media is far from free. It requires time, energy, and effort. It’s a never-ending commitment to create interesting content, listen to conversations, and respond.

Instead of rushing to join any and every social media community out there, I prefer the slow and steady approach. Pick one or two communities that are important in your market. Determine your key goals and define who will be responsible for keeping activity going day in and day out. And just remember that your time is valuable. This new marketing is far from free.

3. Don’t Measure Success by Follower Counts

Starbucks has more than 1.3 million followers on Twitter. You probably don’t, and that’s OK. As a small business, you shouldn’t get caught up in the numbers game or try to keep up with the big brands. Growing your community is important, but you should be focused on who’s engaging with you and at what levels. I know it’s tempting to pay a service to deliver thousands of followers literally overnight. However, in the long run it’s more important to have a devoted, enthusiastic community. Be patient. It’s organic growth that matters. Things don’t (and won’t) happen overnight.

4. Social Media Doesn’t Equal Self-Promotion

I’ll be honest; my first experiment in social media wasn’t too successful. I spent all my time posting and tweeting about my company, our news, and services. And the process became incredibly frustrating since I saw little results for my efforts. It wasn’t until I began working with some very smart people that I realized two things:

  • I needed to show the person behind the company, and
  • I needed to focus on my customers, and not my company.

I began searching across the web for people looking for help and began offering advice and information. That was my “ah-ha” moment, and when social media began clicking for me.

5. Learn From the Experts

There are some great companies and brands doing great things with social media, so there’s no reason for you to reinvent the wheel. Put on your consumer hat for awhile and take note of the various social media campaigns, or just general interactions, that appeal to you. I got in the habit of bookmarking and noting particular blog posts or company responses on Facebook.

But, we can’t just be copycats. Beyond any ethical considerations, there’s an effectiveness issue. Just because something worked for one company doesn’t mean it’s going to work for your community. You’ve got to learn from the work of others, while tailoring their experiences to your own particular needs, goals, and customers.

6. Get Help Without Relinquishing Your Identity

As a business owner, I know you simply can’t take care of everything. And you simply can’t be an expert in everything. You hire employees to specialize in or take care of certain areas of your business, and you contract outside help (a.k.a. outsource) other jobs as well. There’s tremendous value in hiring a social media consultant or agency to help you. You shouldn’t, however, hand over the reins entirely.

In my particular line of business, I like to be in control of establishing the relationship with my community and creating my networks. I’ve also decided I want to play a large role in defining the message and content for all our communications, as well as engage with every tweet and blog comment directly.

Small business owners will be well-served by working closely alongside their social media expert to learn about the various social platforms, communities, and protocol. By spending just a little bit of time each day with your agency manager or consultant, you can learn how to use the platforms and interact with communities. As a result, you’ll become more comfortable and proficient using these tools yourself. At the end of the day, it will result in more authentic interactions. More than anything, the key is to get in there and try. You have to start somewhere.

(http://mashable.com/2011/04/14/small-business-social-media-tips/)