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Getting your business on the internet

Getting your business on the internet

For most small businesses, the process of getting your business on the internet can be a minefield.

 

You want to do it for the best price while still getting the look and feel that say’s to the world you are a reputable business who knows what they are talking about. It is your window for the world to peer in and say do I want to buy from them?

 

What do you need to get a website on the internet:

  1. Web hosting account. This is where your website lives on the internet
  2. URL. This is your address on the internet pointing to your website. For example www.yoursite.com
  3. Your website code. This is your web page, where the code tells the browser what to present to the person viewing your website. Normally created using a web design language or website builder application.

 

You will eventually work this out but first, you need to get past all the other search results first. Or should I say the minefield.

 

So off we go and we are encouraged because your search on the internet for a business website tells you can do it. It’s search engine friendly, connects to social media and a small monthly fee. You click on the site and they give you a “Sign Up Now” button. If you are like me this sends up some alarm bells. What exactly am I signing up for? Will it deliver me what I want? They say it is easy, just choose a template and you are done.  They have testimonials from people who have done it. But where are the details about what features are included and more importantly what feature you have to pay extra for. Is it that easy and cheap?

 

So I continue to search and get past these kinds of sites and find search results for cheap websites. You click on these to have a look at these deals. I found a lot that promises cheap sites in the search results, but suddenly the price went up when you went to their page. A lot provided a cheap price, but with limited features, no hosting, no URL, no support and more. They made it sound good but were basically providing you with a template and charging you a premium for it.

 

So I continue down the search result and keep getting lots of business offering website hosting with website builders included in the hosting fee and your own URL. So I investigate further because it has the three things I need. But the focus is on the hosting and not the website builder. Suddenly there is a whole lot of features listed in the hosting package and if I buy a more expensive package I get more features. What web hosting features are important to have a good website. The website builder is a single line on the features list. Cheaper hosting options only allow me to have one URL, do I need more? More investigation required.

 

Eventually, I decided to do some searches specifically about the website builder offering. What I find is that in most cases they have limited the capability of the website builder, where I need to pay more for more pages or features. They start mentioning premium plugins and themes, which translates to “if you want more feature and capabilities you need the premium edition which you will pay for”.

 

I can keep going but don’t want to turn this post into a book.  You start running into terms such as best web design practices and  Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), responsive design, website marketing and more. You need to research the best hosting package. the best web design application.  If you continue your search journey you will find out that there is more to this website setup than we first thought.

What I am trying to say is to be careful as you could end up paying a lot more for what you want.

What they are not telling you is that a lot of these offerings have significant limitations that are not obvious when you first get started, so make sure you check the pricing and features first. In most cases, you will have to search for this information as they do not make it obvious where to find it on their site.

Some of the limitations we have seen include:

  • Advertising on your web page from the provider
  • Not enough pages
  • Your web address is not how you want it to be
  • No shop capability
  • Storage limits
  • Bandwidth limits
  • No search option
  • No support for video
  • No secure areas for customers
  • High transaction rates on purchase
  • Only one site
  • Limited plugins (for additional features)
  • Limited templates
  • and much more.

 

They do offer you a solution which is purchasing one of the more expensive options to get what you want. Or buying a premium theme or plug-in.

 

Just be aware that regardless of what solution you chose you will need to learn the website editor. It can be a big learning curb to configure elements on your website so that they work the way you want them to. Some things you may need to consider before embarking on creating your own site include the need to create your own content, deciding on the structure of your site, having images and graphics available and more.

 

Two of the more important elements that are often not covered effectively by these offerings are the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Social Media. To have customers visiting your site you need to be found by the search engines or have an effective social media presence driving traffic to your site. Just having a template that is SEO friendly is often not enough to appear on the first page of the search engine results.

 

If you do a search on SOE and Social Media marketing you will find there are many elements that will allow your site to be found more effectively, too many to cover in this article. SOE and Social Media have taken over from the traditional marketing as a way to attract new customers. Done correctly Social Media also offers you the chance to stay in front of customers and actively promote your business to them.

 

If all of this sounds too daunting your alternative is to get a professional web design company like Atria to build you a website with all of the features you want. Configuring all of the elements, making sure your SOE parameters are set up correctly and connecting your Social Media and getting the design you need without the huge learning curb.

 

Having a good looking website is important, but the advice on achieving a web presence that drives the new customer to your business is far more important.

 

With a design company your upfront cost may be higher, but done correctly your ongoing cost will be significantly less and your chance of being found will be much higher.

 

We have only just touched on some of the elements that you need to consider. So regardless of which journey you decide to take, do some more research or talk to a professional.

 

 

5 Ways You Should Be Using Social Media as Your Top PR Platform

5 Ways You Should Be Using Social Media as Your Top PR Platform

Social media helps PR fulfill a more nuanced role by helping with relationship management, identifying brand threats, and engaging influencers.

Back in the day, public relations professionals would give a statement on air, release it in print, or publish it online. Social media has disrupted the field, making public relations a faster-paced and more delicate matter.

We need only look to our Commander in Chief to know that a social platform like Twitter can now serve as the primary channel for a business, brand or celebrity to release official information about itself. The lesson here is clear. Businesses that fail to use social media to manage their reputations may not only lose reach in the digital world, but may not even be noticed amid all the noise. For PR purposes, few modern mediums pack the same punch as social media. Here’s how professionals are now using social platforms as their primary option for managing information about a client or company.

The Evolution of Public Relations

Before digitalization, public relations professionals primarily engaged with the public after a major change. They announced new offerings, minimized reputation damage, and reacted to industry changes as the face of the organization. With the blossoming of social media, that’s evolved. Now many public relations professionals play a much more nuanced role. They may proactively engage in reputation management activities, counsel leadership, and identify potential problems in a business’s relationship with the public.

Social media eliminates the walls between members of the public and a brand, shortens the time a company has to react to relevant stories, and blurs the line between marketing and public relations. Often, public relations’ and marketing professionals’ roles overlap on social media.

Crafting and maintaining a positive public appearance requires a balance of engaging content and a careful awareness and reaction to public opinions. For brand reasoning, explanations, and crisis response, modern public relations professionals may look to social media as the first line of defense in an increasingly connected world.

How Public Relations Professionals Use Social Media

Social media can help public relations professionals meet their goals or it can hinder the reputation management process, depending on the situation. Some of the most common ways public relations teams use social media include:

  1. To find influencers – Influencers give brands a voice they could never use on their own. Social media influencers have massive digital followings that brands can tap into to promote offerings and protect reputations. When public relations professionals create relationships between brands and influencers, they’re really adding another line of both promotion and defense the brand can use to its advantage.
  2. To identify brand threats – Social listening gives professionals the power to understand the public’s opinion before it turns into a trending topic. They can proactively find and address online threats and possibly prevent a major brand reputation crisis. To think like a public relations expert, consider using one of the dozens of social listening tools out there to understand what social media users really think.
  3. To influence journalist’s stories – The public can actually see PR professionals on social media when they address a crisis, but many work behind the scenes to shape a brand’s image. When a trending topic arises, journalists often put their ear to social media to see what people are saying. Public relations professionals will often join that online discussion in order to influence journalists to present a certain angle. PR pros may not always end up seeing the published story they’d like, but they can still use social media as a tool to keep their angle in the public eye.
  4. To swiftly react to negative press – Social media is one of the first places people look for a brand’s reaction to a negative claim. Public relations professionals may use a company account to craft and publish an immediate response and to direct the public to another medium for more information. Social media gives public relations professionals immediate access to a large, attentive audience.
  5. To make announcements – Word travels fast on Twitter, so public relations professionals often use the platform to announce awards, product launches, and company updates. With captivating short snippets and links, professionals can reach a much wider audience via social media than traditional forums.

Social media is a natural fit for public relations and one of many tools businesses can use to protect and promote their reputations. When public relations and marketing teams combine their efforts on social media, brands often enjoy immediate positive results.

Think Like a Public Relations Professional on Social Media

Regardless of professional public relations support, all businesses can use their social media accounts to help manage public opinion. Don’t wait for others to create stories about your brand. Create interest with some public relations influencing tactics. Create flattering and engaging stories about your brand, react to other large stories, and react publicly to negative comments. Think like a public relations expert and create content like a marketer on social media to boost your reputation and earn new followers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

Source: 5 Ways You Should Be Using Social Media as Your Top PR Platform | Inc.com

7 Rules Of Great Type Design (That Any Creative Can Use)

7 Rules Of Great Type Design (That Any Creative Can Use)

House Industries–a Delaware-based design firm and type foundry–might not be a household name, but you’ve definitely seen its work. It designed the New Yorker’s layouts and typeface, the font used in Shake Shack’s branding, and Jimmy Kimmel Live’s logo, among others.

House Industries: The Process Is the Inspiration [Image: courtesy Watson-Guptill/Penguin Random House LLC]

Andy Cruz and Rich Roat cofounded the studio in 1993, and have made a name for themselves in designing groovy fonts that nod to midcentury culture, including families inspired by Charles and Ray EamesAlexander GirardRichard NeutraGoogie architecture, and hot-rods. How do they do it? There’s no hard-and-fast formula and no rigid playbook, but they do have a process-driven approach that’s guided by a handful of loose rules.It wasn’t until Cruz, Roat, and Ken Barber sat down to compile House Industries: The Process Is the Inspiration (Watson-Guptill, 2017)–a monograph detailing their design philosophy through case studies from their 24-year career–that patterns began to emerge in their work.

“Going through the process of decoding, and playing the record backwards so to speak, revealed what were were doing,” Cruz tells Co.Design. We spoke to him to learn more about how House Industries creates its fonts.

[Photo: © Carlos Alejandro/Courtesy of House Industries]

1. MINE YOUR PERSONAL HISTORY

In the book, Cruz writes that House Industries “built on the selfish notion of incorporating personal interests into our work.” One of the most influential hobbies to House’s aesthetic is hot-rodding. Cruz’s dad restored Corvettes and brought him along to car shows, teaching him the science behind engines and explaining both the art involved in designing the body.

“The garage taught me the value of customizing a mass-produced machine and transforming it into a personalized work of art,” Cruz writes. “House built a company on hot-rodding the alphabet, whether it was related to lowbrow car culture or highbrow modernism. The approach was the same; it was just the medium that was different.” House’s earliest work leaned heavily on automotive references, like its Rat Fink Fonts inspired by model car kits.

The personal histories of every designer at House seeps into the studio’s work. Its Flyer fonts, for example, were inspired by Jeremy Dean, the first full-time designer Cruz and Roat hired. His history as a paste-up artist–someone who manually cuts and pastes type into layouts–informed the “anti-design” aesthetic of the font family, which looks like lettering you’d see on punk posters.

2. MAKE WHAT YOU’D WANT TO USE YOURSELF

When House designs a typeface, it’s often because it’s looking for something that doesn’t already exist. “They start off as selfish endeavors,” Cruz says.

In the process of compiling the book, Cruz realized that many of the fonts House designed reflected how he was decorating his home at the time–some of the same things that caught his eye in his daily life were seeping into his work. This eventually led him to collaborations with the Eames Foundation, the Girard Foundation, and estate of Richard Neutra; and fonts that riff on the style of tiki bars (Cruz collects tiki mugs).

“I try to approach [design] history from a fan’s perspective. If we are fortunate enough to collaborate with one of our heroes, I want to be reverent and do our best to share what got us excited about their work.”

Meanwhile, what cars are to Cruz, bicycles are to Roat. This led to the Velo collection of bikes–with a frame by Waterford Precision Cycles, decals designed by House, and custom parts and accessories from Cinelli, Tanner Goods, Brooks, and Specialties TA.

[Photo: © Carlos Alejandro/Courtesy of House Industries]

3. USE THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE JOB

Cruz came to graphic design through illustration, and because of that the studio often leans on analog techniques like painting and ink drawing to arrive at their digital fonts.

“Money can buy fancy tools and special effects, but some of our most valuable tricks and techniques were born from a lack of it,” the studio writes in the book.

Its Studio Lettering collection, drawn by Ken Barber, for example, nods to pre-digital design.

“If you want a form or stroke to capture the feeling of drawing or painting by hand, it’s best to do that with an analog tool, then translate it to the digital world,” Cruz says. “I feel that’s one thing that humans seem to have a soft spot for—they might not be able to articulate it but can sense those considerations that add a little warmth or soul to a project.”

4. THINK HARD ABOUT CONTEXT

“Letter forms can trigger memories, experiences, and emotions. As manipulative as it sounds, depending on the image, [typography] can be used as a tool to provoke those sorts of feelings from a reader,” Cruz says.

House’s design work leans toward the evocative side, but that’s because they know where and when to deploy exuberance and restraint. When Cruz took a call from Jimmy Kimmel to design his logo, he learned that Kimmel studied graphic design before going into television. That fact helped them develop a more adventurous aesthetic. For the New Yorker, they took a more subtle and buttoned-up tack.

“There has to be a sense of, that’s cool, but is it right for this project?” Cruz says. “When does your personal taste outweigh or take a backseat to that thing we consider function? You’ve got to know the right time and place.”

[Photo: © Carlos Alejandro/Courtesy of House Industries]

5. DECLARE INDEPENDENCE

Cruz and Roat met while they were both working at design firms in Wilmington, Delaware, but they decided that they could produce more creative work if they were their own bosses.

“We definitely knew we could make a living [in the corporate design world], but it didn’t take very long to realize that it wasn’t for us,” Cruz says. “You can only do so many corporate design gigs when you’re young and idealistic. As the magic faded, we started seeing opportunities that didn’t have so many rules or focus groups. There was a much bigger design world out there we could play in.”

6. THINK BIGGER

Fonts are the bread and butter of House, but the studio also designs three-dimensional objects and products including toyshouse numbers, jerseys, and textiles. It’s also in talks with a developer to work on a project at the architectural scale.

“Anyone who knows us might usually come in through our font door, but they soon find out that our design ADD doesn’t restrict us from doing ceramics, bicycles, an interior, or even a satellite,” Cruz says.

Now their interests are in getting more people interested in the hands-on processes behind graphic design through educational programs.

“You can sit and talk about your work and logos, but it’s nowhere near as cool as seeing a 6-year-old or 66-year-old take our workshop and use their hands to letter their name or pull a squeegee and make their own serigraph,” Cruz says.

[Photo: © Satoshi Asakawa/Courtesy of Hermès Japon]

7. STAY FOREVER YOUNG

Part of what keeps House dynamic is that it approaches design with the same level of interest as someone who’s just discovered the field–but with the added wisdom and experience of decades in the business.

“Honestly, I’m still doing the same stuff I was doing when I was 16, and I think that’s what’s kept it interesting,” Cruz says. “We tried not to lose sight of the things that got us into design—whether that’s illustration, or type, or packaging. It’s all those little details that I dug that made me want to take a commercial art class in high school then continue learning through my interests, whether that was trying to make my car go faster or figuring out how to exploit the power of a printing press. We’re still doing a variation of all of those exercises. The more I can stay in touch with my childhood, the happier I am.”

Source: 7 Rules Of Great Type Design (That Any Creative Can Use)

5 Tips on Creating a Killer Facebook Ad Campaign

5 Tips on Creating a Killer Facebook Ad Campaign

 

While just about every social-networking platform now has its own fully integrated advertising system, Facebook still reigns supreme in terms of features, insights and audience. As a business, that means Facebook is the ideal place to start. But unfortunately, just because Facebook is a great platform for advertising doesn’t mean all brands use it effectively. Many end up wasting money and throwing resources down the drain, because they have no strategy or don’t understand how to use it. Hopefully that’s not you. All it takes to succeed is a little knowledge of how Facebook advertising works and what some of the best practices are.

Here are my five tips for creating a killer Facebook ad campaign:

1. Mine audience insights.

Facebook’s Audience Insights is one of the best tools you have at your disposal. It essentially allows you to learn about specific audiences before risking your budget or targeting them. It works by mining available Facebook data and showing you exactly who your target market is, based on people who already like your page.

Instead of taking a shot in the dark, you now know exactly which users are likely to follow through with your ad’s call-to-action. It saves a lot of time and money, allowing you to focus on the quality of the ad and avoid wasting time on targeting.

2. Create unique ad sets for each audience.

One of the neatest features of Facebook’s advertising platform is that you can create separate ad sets for unique audiences. In other words, you can create two different ads and deliver them to two completely unique audiences. Or you can create the same exact ad and send it to two different audiences. Ultimately, the result is better targeting.

For example, let’s say you’re a retailer that sells kitchen supplies. Maybe you have a really awesome new stainless steel mixing bowl that you’re trying to market to two different groups. Instead of delivering the same ad to everyone, you can create two unique ads and deliver them to two distinct target markets. The first ad could be targeted towards professional chefs, whereas the second one may be focused on stay-at-home moms who like quality chef-grade kitchen supplies. The two ads will be completely different, despite the fact that the same item is being pushed.

3. Accompany ads with landing pages.

Very rarely should you connect an ad to your website or product page without first pushing visitors through a landing page. Landing pages allow you to maximize your Facebook advertising efforts by educating users before asking them to buy.

Landing pages make sense because Facebook advertising isn’t cheap. You’re going to spend money on your clicks and you want each one to count. Simply sending them to a basic website or product page without any clear direction of what they need to do is a waste of money.

4. Use striking imagery

You’ll hear people teach entire courses on how to write Facebook ad copy, but for some reason, the same amount of attention isn’t given to the images used in these ads. This is unfortunate, since visual content is far more influential than textual content.

“You don’t have to use a shot of your business, product or service,” says Nicolas Gremion of Free-eBooks.net. “Rather use a (relevant if possible) image that will catch people’s eyes and have them read your ad.” Facebook tells you that you can’t use images that contain more than 20 percent words, so it’s clear that images are designed to grab attention, not display a message. Take advantage of this valuable real estate within your ad.

5. Establish a bid strategy and budget

Finally, it’s critically important that you set a bid strategy and budget. Otherwise you’ll end up spending way more than you intended. Thankfully, Facebook makes this easy by allowing you to use what’s known as Optimized CPM.

With this tool, you’re essentially giving Facebook the permission to bid for ad space based on the constraints and goals you provide. This generally allows you to maximize your budget and avoid overspending. Until you get an idea of how much ad space costs and how to allocate your budget, it’s best to let Facebook take care of this aspect of your campaign.

Putting it all together

Creating a killer Facebook ad campaign is all about understanding the platform and utilizing the features you have at your disposal. While you certainly need to think about the ad itself, you have to start with the platform you’re using. Once you determine who you’re targeting and how much you’re willing to spend, you can then focus on the finer details.

Using these five tips, you should be able to get started and experience some initial success. As always, remember that Facebook is constantly changing its advertising platform, so stay on top of any new developments and apply them accordingly.

Source: Create a killer Facebook campaign

4 Ways Small Businesses Can Master Marketing

4 Ways Small Businesses Can Master Marketing

One of the first hurdles a small business owner faces is getting the word out about her new business. Or, if the business is established, growing the business and attracting new customers. At the heart of driving sales is marketing. For business owners without marketing experience, this can seem overwhelming. The good news is there is a lot a small business owner can do to market a business easily and efficiently.

1. Define your unique value proposition (UVP).

The first step in marketing a business effectively is understanding your capabilities and the white space your business is filling in your industry.

Inevitably, you will face competition, so take the time to outline what sets you apart from your competitors. Become as informed as possible on your industry. Sign up for industry newsletters; read relevant trade publications; and consider participating in industry events. This will allow you to identify trends, and stay up-to-date with important news. It will also help you identify your competitors. Take a close look at what they are doing and how they present themselves to potential customers.

Then determine who your target customers are and what they want. This is important – one of the biggest small business marketing pitfalls is to assume you know your customer without doing research.

Clearly identify the service you are providing and the problem you are solving for your target customers. This will help you define your UVP – the unique benefit you are providing for your customers.

You’re not trying to sell to everyone, which is a good thing. Your goal is to clearly define who you are targeting, why they want your product and how best to reach them. Once you know that, your job is to consistently execute your marketing plan.

2. Maximize your online presence.

Armed with a clear understanding of your business and its industry, it’s time to market it to potential customers.

While there are many marketing channels to consider, typically the most efficient and cost-effective are online.

Take time to audit your online presence. An easy place to start is your website. Make sure the website design is consistent with your brand and that the site is easy for customers to navigate, and find the information they’re looking for.

If it’s appropriate for your business, make it easy for customers to sign up for a mailing list. This will enable you to build a database of customers, who give you permission to reach out to them regularly with product updates, interesting news or coupons.

In addition to listing your products or services, consider adding a blog to your website to provide tips and product or service updates to customers.

Beyond your own website, be sure to build your presence on and spend time managing review sites, like Yelp and Angie’s List. These help validate your business and can boost sales. You can even share good customer reviews on your website.

Whether you’re communicating via your website, a blog, an email, a third party review site or social media, be sure to keep a consistent voice. Every customer touchpoint is an opportunity to build your brand.

3. Start a conversation.

Social media channels are a low-cost way to get the word out about your business and build relationships with your target audience.

Choose a channel, which your customers are already on. Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn serve very different purposes, so be smart in your choices, and think about the kind of content you like to post. Using platforms specific to your business makes it easy for customers to find and interact with your business online.

When it comes to posting on social media, consistency is key.

Create a schedule to ensure you are posting regularly so your audience knows to expect content. For example, plan for three posts a week, which you can draft in advance.

In order to keep content dynamic, take a three-prong approach:

  1. Talk about yourself and your business,
  2. Talk about your customers,
  3. And talk about your industry.

Share updates about what’s happening at your business, such as a new shipment you’ve received or a peek behind the scenes. Be sure to thank your customers, and engage them through questions.

Finally, share interesting news articles, and invite your social media followers to share their thoughts. In all social media posts, make sure you’re authentic and realistic so your audience can connect with you.

4. Consider paid content.

The paid aspects of social media can also be a great way to boost your business’ profile, and get in front of new customers.

For instance, you can target the exact type of customer you are looking to attract with advertising through Facebook and LinkedIn campaigns, based on the information individuals have shared on their profiles.

If you have the ability to incorporate this tailored approach into your budget and cash flow, it is an option worth exploring to supplement your free social media efforts. Sometimes a small campaign can make a big difference.

Regardless of size, every business owner can use the tools available to market their business successfully. Small business owners can be their own CMO, even without a marketing background, by developing a keen awareness of their industry landscape, building out their social media presence and developing their brand identity.

Source: entrepreneur.com

website don’t for wordpress

website don’t for wordpress

Avoid issues with WordPress websites

Consumers typically have their own experiences when it comes to web hosting and their own opinions. If you search Google for reviews for any web hosting provider you’ll find dozens of results. Usually, there are a lot more negative reviews than there are positive ones. I thought I would flip that around and share some WordPress hosting challenges from the perspective of the WordPress host and how I frequently solve them.

I have compiled a list of bad web practices and recommendations on what not to do on your site, based on thousands of hours of customer interactions, support tickets, and troubleshooting I experience on a daily basis. Some of these range from beginner mistakes to more complex issues. A lot of these can be the difference between having a successful WordPress site and a failure. Picking the right web host is very important. But your decision also goes hand-in-hand with educating yourself on how to best optimize your WordPress site.

I often observe that even seasoned developers focus on what they are good at, which is building solutions and sometimes neglect or don’t have time to learn the latest optimization practices. Whether you are a WordPress user just getting started or an experienced developer, the following tips will help you create better, faster and more optimized WordPress sites.

1. Switching Hosts Isn’t Always a Quick Fix

One of the most important things people need to realize is that switching hosts doesn’t automatically fix certain problems. If your WordPress site is having code issues or compatibility problems with specific plugins, this is still going to occur no matter where you host your site.

Coding issues aren’t magically fixed. 

A managed host will provide as much assistance as they can, but won’t debug an issue with a bad plugin or code for you. It is not the WordPress host’s responsibility to write PHP code, create or edit custom functions for plugins or themes, integrate or fix external services or performing website content updates. This is where you would need the assistance of a seasoned WordPress developer to dig into it and make a determination as to what the issue is. There are many places to find WordPress specific developers, such as Codeable or toptal.

Many hosts also have third-party agency partners and developers they can refer you to for solving these problems. If there is an issue with a specific plugin, you should also reach out to the developer yourself.

2. Live Sites are Not For Development Work

I could say this a thousand times. Never use production (live) sites for development work! Nearly all of the major managed WordPress hosts now have staging/development environments and this is certainly for good reason. It prevents critical downtime caused by users breaking things while testing on their live site. This is typically the scenario that causes what some call the white screen of death.

If you don’t want to use a staging environment you can always test and develop locally using what some call a LAMP or LEMP stack. These stand for Linux, Apache/Nginx (sounds like Engine-X), MySQL, and PHP. Tools like WAMP and MAMP all make configurations for local development quite easy.

These tools have all improved and evolved over time, but there are also other challenges and problems that arise with local development, such as the environment not exactly mimicking your live site. First of all, you have to figure out how to push your changes from local back to production without overwriting existing data or breaking your site. Depending on your setup this process might even add another layer of complexity. Other complications could also include having to mess with conflicting ports or errors from a different version of MySQL are all things that could pop up.

To avoid some of these complications, I recommend using tools like DesktopServer and Local, which are both built solely for the purpose of speeding up your workflow when working locally with WordPress. These include streamlined ways to push things back to production and even have additional tools and features such as WP-CLI and multisite support built right in. Having multisite support alone can be priceless as working with large local installations can sometimes be downright tricky.

3. Not A Developer? Don’t Edit Your Code

People that are either unfamiliar with WordPress or don’t know the basics of how code works should not be editing files. One of the most common reasons that WordPress sites go down (or see that “white screen of death”) is someone editing a PHP file directly from the appearance editor in the dashboard. Also, you shouldn’t be editing your live site to begin with as we mentioned earlier.

Editing code in the WordPress Appearance editor.

A good administrative recommendation is to place the following code in your wp-config.php file, removing the edit_themesedit_plugins, and edit_filescapabilities for all users. This can help prevent users from breaking the site by hacking away at the code.

define('DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT', true);

Taking this process one step further, remove the functionality for clients to update themes or install plugins. Place the following code in your wp-config.php file to restrict these capabilities.

define('DISALLOW_FILE_MODS', true);

NoteThe above code will also disable the plugin and theme file editor, so you don’t need both if you want to disable everything mentioned above. See WordPress Codex for more information.

4. Don’t Cut Corners on Your Themes and Plugins

It’s understandable that you are trying to save a few bucks or cut corners, but don’t do it with your themes and plugins. WordPress might be the foundation of your site, but the themes and plugins are the glue that holds it all together. Try to stick with reputable developers when choosing plugins and look through the ratings and reviews beforehand. Look for a history of the developer providing good product support. With over 50,000 plugins in the repository, this can sometimes be an overwhelming task, so do your research beforehand.

Finding a plugin in the WordPress repository. 

It is very common for outdated and bad themes/plugins to more easily get infected with malware, inject bad links on your site, pharma, etc. According to recently published research by WP Loop, nearly 50% of the plugins in the repository haven’t been updated in over 2 years. That is both shocking and frightening!

Statistics on plugins that haven’t been updated. 

Another thing to be on the lookout for is a third-party source that is bundling up premium plugins into one low bundled price. If you purchase these, first off, you aren’t supporting the developer, so shame on you. Second, you are relying on the 3rd party to grab the latest updates for you which is not good.

Relying on updates for a bundled plugin is actually a huge problem for WordPress users who purchase things via online marketplaces such as ThemeForest. Many theme developers bundle additional plugins like Revolution Slider or Visual Composer. The problem is that when vulnerabilities are discovered, the consumer is left waiting for an update from the theme developer, even though the plugin might have been patched the next day. This leaves a lot of sites wide open for hackers and site owners extremely vulnerable.

5. Watch Your Admin AJAX Calls

Watch out for multiple Admin AJAX calls from your WordPress site and plugins that may utilize AJAX. For example, the WordPress Heartbeat API uses /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php to run AJAX calls from the web-browser. A lot of times these are un-cachable requests. High usage of this file sometimes occurs during traffic spikes, CPU load, and can bring your site to a crawl. It is almost like you are launching a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against yourself!

High admin-ajax.php usage. 

If there are 3rd party plugins that utilize admin-ajax.php, make certain they are doing it in the correct way. You can usually look at the HTTP POST request action and quickly determine, based on the name, what plugin might be causing it. For example, one I have seen is, get_shares_count. Which turned out to be a popular social media sharing plugin which was hammering admin-ajax.php. These simply multiply on high-traffic sites.

However, AJAX does load after the page loads. So just because you see this in a speed test, doesn’t necessarily always mean it is a bad thing. It is also an interesting comparison to note the performance differences between admin-ajax.php and the WordPress REST API.

6. Be Smart With Ad Networks and Limit External Services

Most high-traffic websites rely on advertising for their income. Removing 3rd party advertisements altogether is not an option. However, it is important to keep the number of 3rd party networks to a minimum and realize just how much load some of these tack onto your website.

Here’s a quick comparison of how ad networks can affect your WordPress site.

Test Parameters: I added three 300×250 Google Adsense ads on a development/staging site running the default twenty sixteen theme and tested the speed before and after.

BEFORE ADSENSE

  • First view: 1.372s load time
  • Repeat view: 1.013s load time

Here is the content breakdown by connections:

Content breakdown before running Google AdSense. 

AFTER ADSENSE

  • First view: 4.103s load time
  • Repeat view: 3.712s load time

Here is the content breakdown by connections:

Content breakdown after adding Google AdSense. 

By simply adding 3 Google AdSense ads, 6 additional connections were instantly added. The WordPress site with ads is 2.7x slower than the one without. This is mainly due to extra DNS lookup times and much heavier use of JavaScript on the page. This gives you a small picture of what can happen when large-scale sites simply embeds 10 ads on a single page. No matter how fast your WordPress host is, it won’t fix delays from 3rd party ad network connections.

Here is another example below taken from New Relic monitoring on a site with a massive amount of HTTP requests to external ad networks, causing a heavy load on the WordPress site.

Heavy load due to advertising network. 

There were so many requests that the app server failed to load at all. The site was simply unavailable trying to load all the external requests.

Web transactions time on app server.

Another good example of this is with Huffington Post’s website. If you run a speed test on their website you will see massive amounts of HTTP requests to ad networks. This graph shows what I saw in a quick test. (speed test). They had a load time of over 13 seconds!

  • First view: 15.908s load time / Total HTTP requests: 221
  • Repeat view: 13.957s load time / Total HTTP requests: 66

However, simply removing advertisements might not be a realistic solution. Many sites rely on them for their income and livelihood. In this case, it’s important to dive deeper into your scripts and ensure they are loading in the most optimal way. You can use async or defer on your scripts to help prevent them from interrupting the rendering of your page loads. When it comes to performance there is always a balancing act of perceived performance vs. that of actual performance.

ASYNC JAVASCRIPT EXAMPLE:

src="example.js" async

DEFER JAVASCRIPT EXAMPLE:

src="example.js" defer

Patrick Sexton also has another popular method for deferring JavaScript. WordPress version 4.1 and higher has a filter in which you can more easily add async and defer attributes to your scripts.

As a general rule, if you are relying on external services you will also want to cache the responses. Why? Because issues like the white screen of death can occur if you don’t. Every external service you add to your WordPress site should be from a trusted and reliable source. After all, if they go down, it is then affecting your entire site or business operations. If you use vanity URLs generated from your WordPress site and use them in social networks, those will cease to function as well.

7. Over Optimizing Can Hurt Your Performance

There are thousands of articles around the web that give “tips” on how to speed up and optimize your WordPress site. But an even worse scenario is when users over optimize their websites. Yes, this happens a lot more frequently than you might think. It is common for WordPress site owners to think that by adding more of something it will double their speed.

Below I’ve listed a few problem scenarios that I see on a regular basis:

TRYING TO CACHE THE CACHE

Unlike typical VPS or standalone servers, a lot of managed WordPress host providers have their own caching, which is done at a server-level (like Redis or Memcache). Most providers do not allow caching plugins because this can cause all types of issues, most commonly 502 gateway errors. Trying to “cache the cache” as I call it is never a good idea.

Bad optimizations which makes things worse. 

Plugins like WP Rocket and Cache Enabler are great, but they are designed for servers which need additional assistance speeding up your site. Read more about object caching, which is a popular form of server-level caching used by many today.

ADDING 2 CDNS = IS 2X THE SPEED, RIGHT?

Content Delivery Networks (CDN) have been shown to greatly decrease load times and latency when serving up content across different geographical regions, but only when setup correctly. One of the most popular providers is Cloudflare. Cloudflare is technically a fully proxy service and is slightly different than a normal CDN provider as you are pointing your entire DNS over to them, not just your assets.

Typically I see users add CloudFlare, and then they go add KeyCDN or MaxCDN along with it. This is usually because they read blog posts from someone recommending that they should go install this new service right away, and they simply go do it. They don’t think about their existing setup. While this combination can work in certain scenarios, typically this ends up in a giant mess. In most cases it is better to either use CloudFlare or use a 3rd party CDN provider, each of which have their own advantages and disadvantages.

MORE SEO PLUGINS DOESN’T MEAN YOU WILL DOMINATE SERPS

You want to dominate search engine ranking positions (SERPs) right? Well, adding 3 SEO plugins won’t help you accomplish that goal. In fact, there are a lot of compatibility issues that popup when trying to run All In One SEO, Yoast, and other SEO plugins together. Such as outputting duplicate meta tags. Adding more plugins doesn’t mean it will improve your current SEO situation.

8. Common Performance Issues are Easy to Diagnose

Even if you aren’t an advanced WordPress expert, common performance issues are fairly easy to diagnose. I recommend using WebPageTest for seasoned WordPress users as it supports the latest protocols such as HTTP/2. However, for those that aren’t as webperf savvy, then Pingdom does a good job. A simple waterfall analysis can tell you quite a bit, such as learning if you have unnecessary redirects, missing files, too many DNS lookups or if a certain script or 3rd party ad network is bogging your site down.

Take a quick glance at the performance insights and response codes and you can see where to start addressing these performance issues on your WordPress site.

Pingdom performance insights. 

9. Modifying WordPress Core is Bad

Plain and simple, modifying WordPress core files to make some of your code work is simply a bad idea, especially on a live production site. Doing this can open up your WordPress site to security vulnerabilities. Unless you have an active update procedure in place (which many don’t) you will lose your modifications with each new version of WordPress that is released. Instead, you should take advantage of WordPress tools and features such as well-developed 3rd party plugins, child themes, custom post types and hooks.

10. Ensure PHP 7/HHVM Compatibility Before Jumping on Board

PHP 7 and HHVM have been shown to be incredibly fast when it comes to boosting WordPress performance. And of course it’s always satisfying to be using the latest and greatest, but first you need to make sure your site is compatible before simply hopping on the bandwagon. For example, If you are upgrading from PHP 5.6 to 7, you should test all functionalities of your WordPress site in a staging environment or locally to ensure there aren’t any compatibility issues. One out of date plugin you rely on that doesn’t work with PHP 7 could mean that you should wait before moving.

11. Large Sites Should Optimize Their Database

One of the easiest ways for a large WordPress site to slow down is when the database hasn’t been optimized. Simple tasks like cleaning up old WordPress revisions or cleaning up unused tables, can help prevent some of this slowdown. However, I’ve found that a lot of older sites are still using the MyISAM storage engine in their database. Recently InnoDB has shown to perform better and be more reliable. A big reason is to use InnoDB over MyISAM is the lack of table locking. This allows your queries to process faster.

Database performance. 

You can convert your tables with just a few simple steps. Ensure you are running MySQL 5.6.4 or higher and that you always take a backup as a precautionary measure before making changes to your database. This example is using the wp_comments table. Simply run the ALTER command to convert it to InnoDB storage engine.

ALTER TABLE wp_comments ENGINE=InnoDB;

If you are running on a newer version of phpMyAdmin you can also click on a table, click into the “Operations” tab and change the storage engine manually.

Changing from MyISAM to InnoDB. 

Another easy optimization technique is to disable or modify the number of revisions you keep in your database. You can add the following to your wp-config.php to disable them completely.

define('WP_POST_REVISIONS', false );

Or simply modify the number of revisions that are kept per post/page:

define('WP_POST_REVISIONS', 3);

I’ve seen many sites with over 200 revisions per post, which adds up very fast across large sites. Unless your host has an internal optimization in place, the default in WordPress is to store unlimited revisions. This is why it’s so important to check and verify the settings with your own eyes.

If your current site has a lot of revisions already, you can run the following query in phpMyAdmin to clean them up:

DELETE FROM wp_posts WHERE post_type = "revision";

If you aren’t comfortable running a query, use plugins such as WP-Optimize to help you cleanup the revisions.

12. Do You Really Need a Multipurpose Theme?

There is a huge problem I see within the WordPress community. People go out and buy a multipurpose theme and then only utilize 1% of the theme’s features or none at all. Many see fancy sliders and attractive portfolio pages on the demos that entices them to make the purchase. But in reality, these might be things they never actually use. They could have purchased a more minimal theme and saved a ton of time on digging through confusing options and their site would be a lot faster from the onset. Many of these additional features add load time.

I’m not saying all multipurpose themes are bad, in fact with a lot of customization they can sometimes run fast. Here is an example of an Avada theme that clocks in under 700ms. (speed test)

Optimized multipurpose WordPress theme. 

However, that requires a lot of knowledge and time to optimize the existing theme. For basic WordPress users, if they aren’t utilizing a lot of features a more minimal theme is the way to go. Don’t let all the shiny bells and whistles fool you. In most scenarios, fancy sliders and visual editors just slow your site down.

13. Error Log Is Your Friend

If you know your way around your WordPress files and the wp-config.php file, then the error log is your friend. By checking it on a regular basis you can save yourself a lot of headaches and probably learn a thing too. Not many users even bother checking this before reaching out to their host for help. With a few simple tweaks in your wp-config.php file you can enable logging, which by default is saved to /wp-content/debug.log.

Error log is your friend. 

ENABLE LOGGING

define( 'WP_DEBUG_LOG', true );

OUTPUT LOGGING ON PAGE

define( 'WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY', true );

 

14. Google is Here for a Reason

You would think this is common sense by now, but Google is here for a reason folks. Don’t be afraid to Google your answer. The internet is full of solutions and tips. Within a few minutes of searching you can easily solve a majority of your issues. Typically questions like “how to change your GoDaddy DNS” or “how to use SFTP” are things that can be easily found on Google.

There are great resources available online such as http://wordpress.stackexchange.com/ and the WordPress Codex. Not to mention the hundreds of blogs with tutorials on just about any WordPress scenario that exists.

But not all of this is squarely on the shoulders of the user either. A responsible WordPress host should have an in-depth knowledge base with a good UI. Not only to cut down on their own support tickets but to help the user as well.

15. 123456 Is No Longer Acceptable

SpashData compiles a list of the most widely used leaked passwords (over 2 million) every year. Not surprisingly, in 2015 the most popular password still being used was “123456 (the same as 2014).” This can be very frustrating for web hosting providers, as the bad practice of using easy to guess passwords puts the client’s WordPress site in a state of “always one step away from being hacked.” While storing passwords locally in a tool like KeePass is probably one of the safest routes, encouraging users to use services like LastPass or Passpack will at least help harden their passwords, even if they are stored in the cloud. A hashed and secured password in the cloud is always much more secure than using “123456.”

16. Scripts Don’t Always Need to Load Sitewide

Unfortunately, unlike a static website which you have more control over, when it comes to WordPress many are at the mercy of the plugin and theme developers. Let’s be honest, not all developers care about performance. There are a lot of plugins that simply load their scripts on all pages even though it might only be used on one. If you multiply this by 35+ plugins you can end up with a lot of unnecessary bloat that slows down your site.

One example of this can be seen with the popular Contact Form 7 WordPress plugin. As shown below, it is loading it’s CSS file on the homepage of our dev site, as well as it’s JavaScript file. Even though I’m not utilizing any contact form.

Script loading sitewide. 

There are a few easy ways to get around this. The first is to utilize a function which was introduced in WordPress 3.1 called wp_dequeue_script(). This allows you to remove an enqueued script from your site. Here is an example of how to utilize the function with Contact Form 7. The Contact Form 7 developer also has some documentation on how to load the JavaScript and CSS only when necessary.

Another easy way to prevent certain scripts from loading on specific pages and posts is to utilize a WordPress plugin like Gonzalez or Plugin Organizer. Here is an example below on our dev site with the Gonzalez plugin. There are easy one-click options to disable the Contact Form 7 CSS and JavaScript files sitewide, per page/post, or only enable in a specific place. Generally, only loading Contact Form 7 on your “Contact Us” page would be the best for performance.

Disable scripts per page. 

There is a reason why WordPress is used by over 28% of all websites on the internet. And that is because it’s a very robust, easy to use and feature rich content management system (CMS). Everyone from stay at home bloggers to fortune 500 companies rely on it every day. Just like with most platforms, if it isn’t properly used or optimized it can turn into a big headache very quickly.

By correcting some of the common issues and mistakes I’ve seen from WordPress users above you can ensure happier visitors, better conversion rates, lower bounce rate and even improved search engine rankings. It is important for the WordPress community as a whole to help educate each other on better performance and development practices as the web continues to evolve.

Source: Smashing Magazine

7 Ways to Increase Sales with Marketing Automation

7 Ways to Increase Sales with Marketing Automation

7 Ways to Increase Sales with Marketing Automation

you know the basics of marketing automation: it streamlines, automates, and monitors routine marketing tasks. But a good marketing automation platform is about more than making life easier for the marketing team—it should also help you close more deals.

So, how can you tap into different aspects of marketing automation to increase sales? Check out these seven tips:

1. Pass Over Sales-Ready Leads Using Lead Scoring

Tired of hearing sales complain about marketing’s unqualified leads? Determining when a prospect is sales-ready can be difficult, but a robust marketing automation platform scores leads behind the scenes.

Lead scoring is an automated strategy that adds or subtracts points from each lead based on actions taken or not taken. It can also be used to track demographic data to provide a higher score to a lead that fits your ideal buyer persona. When a lead reaches a threshold that you set, it is deemed “sales-ready” and is passed onto the sales team.

Here is an example of some lead scoring you can implement, based on behaviors:

Lead Scoring Example

Lead scoring helps ensure that your sales team doesn’t waste time on unqualified leads. It can also shorten overall sales cycles.

2. Personalize Your Website

By the time a lead hits your website, they’ve already gained an impression of your company. A personalized website will increase your conversion rate and make a better impression. The lead and customer data (who they are, where they work, online behavior, etc.) can be used to personalize landing pages and other web content seen by each lead. Even anonymous web visitors’ experiences can be personalized.

Identify Web Visitors with Web Personalization

For example, if you are an online retailer, and a visitor who has been shopping for winter coats finds your website, a web page for winter coats would be presented first. Personalized web content helps build a better, more personal, relationship with leads and ensures that their experience with your company is the best it can be–and therefore increases in sales.

3. Provide Your Sales Team with the Info They Need to Follow Up

To make sure your sales-ready leads are being followed up on with the right message by sales–it’s important to provide sales with the information they need to have the best conversation. By tracking the interactions leads have with your company and providing that information to sales in an easy spot, such as their CRM system, sales will be able to have a personalized and effective conversation with each sales-ready lead.

Here is an example of a dashboard that can help prepare your sales team. It’s called Interesting Moments, and it’s a part of the Marketo Sales Insight application in Salesforce.

Marketo Interesting Moments

4. Keep the Conversation Going Using Triggered Emails

When a lead interacts with your company, it’s important to stay top of mind by keeping the conversation going. Triggered emails get sent automatically based on a lead’s actions. They help turn more leads into real customers without wasting your sales team’s time. For example, if a potential customer views a pricing page, an email designed for interested customers can be sent.

Triggered emails have been shown to perform three times better than other types of emails (even batch emails).

5. Segment Your Lead Nurturing

In an ideal world, all marketing leads would be sales-ready. But in reality, most leads are not ready and need some nurturing before they can be passed to sales.

By implementing segmented lead nurturing, you can provide specific content to each lead to push them to become sales-ready–when they are ready. Segmented lead nurturing can be done by industry, role, or company size.

6. Track Your Leads on Every Channel

Your prospects are on every channel—whether it’s browsing on social, searching the web, heading to events and more. It’s important to track each interaction your prospect has with your company–no matter what channel. This will help guide your message to a prospect, based on what types of content your audience is interacting with. This will help increase sales because relevant content is the number one way to keep a prospect engaging with your company.

Use tools native to your engagement platform like predictive content, web personalization, digital ads and triggered emails to help you engage your leads with a timely, relevant and personal message, while also capturing data about their engagement (or lack of engagement) with your message or content.

7. Track Your Results and ROI

Doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results isn’t going to cut it in today’s digital world! Marketers need to be tracking the ROI of every program they run to see if there are tangible results. An ideal ROI is 5x–meaning you are generating 5 times the amount of pipeline or revenue compared to what you paid to run this program.

By tracking this type of data, you’ll know which programs yield the best results for revenue – and keep running those programs and cancel the ones that are not performing.

An engagement platform with marketing automation doesn’t just offer benefits for the marketing team—it can help sales win more deals, more often and more efficiently.

Source: Lizzy Funk

7 Simple High-ROI SEO Tactics for 2017

7 Simple High-ROI SEO Tactics for 2017

SEO is changing so often that it can be hard to decide what you should be focusing on. So let’s go over 9 simple SEO tactics for 2017 that will skyrocket your web traffic.

1) Cross-Link to Your Own Pages

If you go to QuickSprout, or NeilPatel, you’ll notice that Neil links to other blog posts in the sidebar.

QuickSprout Guides

If you link to your most popular pages using keywords that you want to get ranked for, like “online marketing” or “digital marketing,” you start climbing the rankings. It sometimes takes six months to a year, but you rank really well.

On Google, Neil ranks number one and two (Quick Sprout and Neil Patel) for “online marketing.” Just think about how competitive that keyword is. And you know how many links he has been manually building to those guides? Zero. All he’s doing is making sure that he links to those pages on every single one of his blog posts.

2) Featured Snippets

You’ll notice that when you Google something now, there’s a box that pops up with a quick answer. This is called a featured snippet, and it shows up now before the first search result. We’re still not entirely sure how to rank into the featured snippet, but a lot of research has gone into this.

Google featured snippet

Moz did a really good post on this called Ranking #0. Basically, you want to make sure you’re using your H1 header tags properly, followed by a short snippet that describes what you’re writing about. For example, let’s say your H1 header title is What is Digital Marketing? Right after, you should explain what digital marketing is in a snippet.

If you do that, Google (which is getting a lot better at machine learning) will detect that your page has a great definition for this common keyword question phrase, and will start linking to you in the featured snippet for that keyword phrase.

Moz tested this with one of their own pages on domain authority. They were #1 in SERPs, but another agency took the #0 featured snippet spot from them. So Moz rewrote their H1 header and snippet for that page, and suddenly they were ranking for the snippet, too. They took away that spot from their competitor agency.

If you already have the #1 spot, ranking for the featured snippet may not seem like a big deal, but the data shows otherwise:

Ranking #0 in the SERPs can increase your click-through rates anywhere from 33-100%.CLICK TO TWEET

3) Optimize Title Tags

Let’s hypothetically say that you have the number one spot, and you worked hard for it by creating excellent content. Now let’s say a competitor creates a new page and starts ranking at #2, but their content isn’t as good. If everyone starts skipping the #1 result (your page) and they start clicking on the #2 result, what does this tell Google?

If you find this happening to you, then you need to optimize your title tags. Everyone looks at title tags, but most of the time they’re only thinking about keywords. Sure, you should research your keywords, but if your title tag isn’t appealing and people don’t want to click on it, you aren’t going to rank well.

But if you’re getting more clicks than everyone else around you in rankings, Google will keep moving you up—until someone else outperforms you with their click-through rate because they have a better title tag.

How do you make your title tag really appealing? By thinking like a human. Ask yourself, “What would someone want to read and click on?” For example, when I search the keyword “SEO,” one of the most popular sites that comes up is Search Engine Land.

It’s not because they have the most links, it’s because their title tag is so simple: “What Is SEO?” It gets more clicks than something like “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO” or “The Advanced Guide to SEO” or “SEO Made Simple.” People love Googling for “what is…” and that works especially well with complex terms. So a beautiful title tag that entices clicks can skyrocket your rankings.

4) Page Scrape

Another excellent SEO tactic you can use, that kind of piggybacks on click-through rates, is second order page scraping. Go into Google Search Console and look for the keywords you’re ranking for. Let’s say you’re ranking on page two of SERPs, for example, and you’re on the cusp of getting to page one. You’re aiming for that top 5 ranking so you can have a higher click-through rate and drive more traffic.

In order to do that, go to Google Search Console and make a spreadsheet with rankings where you’re ranked in positions #10-20. With that, you have that list and you can start using Neil’s tactics for building links and cross linking. And as I’ve said before, you should always work on improving your titles. Write better meta descriptions, too. See if you can drive click-through rates higher as well.

One of my friends who’s been working with enterprise SEO says that Google likes to audition you. The idea is that, if you’re getting higher click-through rates while you’re going through the “audition,” you’re going to be able to get onto page one. I can’t say conclusively that I have a lot of data around it, but I’ve tested it myself and I think it is worth testing.

5) Write Epic Content (2,000+ Words)

If you check out the Single Grain blog, you’ll notice that I have a lot of blog posts that are very long—2,000 words or more, even 4,000-6,000 words long. Why? Because the more keywords you have on a page, the more long-tail terms you’ll rank for. You don’t need to shove in keywords or rank for anything specific—this is just a common sense equation:

More words in your blog post = more things Google can end up ranking you for.CLICK TO TWEET

SerpIQ did a study on this showing that webpages that rank in the top 10 results have at least 2,000 words. So if you can write detailed, lengthier content, you’re much more likely to get more search traffic. You don’t want to just shove in words purely for fluff so you can meet the minimum two thousand word count, though—you want to take the time to write really good, thorough content that gives people value.

6) Transcribe Videos

If you’re producing more and more videos, make sure you’re transcribing them. Rev is pretty cheap and very reliable; it’s just $1 per minute. Why do you want to transcribe your videos? Because search engines can’t crawl videos yet—but they can crawl text. Transcribing your videos will go a long way towards helping you rank higher.

Transcribe your videos

It should also be pointed out that transcribing these videos helps boost SEO, but turning them into edited blog posts is even better. Perhaps it goes without saying, but Google will crawl and rank a properly formatted, readable blog post that you’re promoting on social more than just a video with an unedited transcript.

7) Optimize Images

And finally, another tactic that I love leveraging is optimizing images. Google can’t crawl videos, but it can crawl images to an extent. Remember—Google has a tab just for images. If you’re in the consumer-based, B2C world, using alt tags or long description tags and actually naming your image files (not image01.jpg) will greatly increase the chance that your images show up higher in results.

Google’s even integrating images within text-based search these days. So, if you can optimize your image file names and use proper alt tags plus proper keywords for the page on your website where the image appears, you’ll start ranking really well, and you’ll be getting tons and tons of visitors.

Naming is not the only way to optimize images.

The reality is, file size matters more than you think. Files consume lot of space in your web directory.

The file size correlates to a bunch of factors. The first being the file format or extension. The most common image file extensions are JPEG, PNG, BMP, and TIFF and the list goes on. These file formats vary either by picture quality or size. Higher resolution means larger files. Lower resolution means smaller files. If you decide to trade image quality for file size, you might be losing to other sites because their site loads faster with smaller size images.

Let’s talk a bit about the tools that will help you optimize images without compromising quality.

Kraken.io is one tool that’ll help you achieve image optimization. Remember your ultimate goal here is to load your site faster.

By this, you can hit two birds with one stone. Your user is happy, and Google is happy. So they’ll rank you higher. Yes, one of 200 matrices of Google is the longer it takes your site to load, the lower your ranking.

Using this, you can hit two birds with one stone. Your user is happy and Google is happy to rank you higher.

8) Performance Test

Now that you have taken all measures to optimize your images, you still need to test your website for other anomalies.

Testing isn’t just loading the website on your work/home laptop from hi-speed internet. Not all users have access to hi-speed internet with iPhone 7 plus or a Surface Pro.

As a matter of fact, the latest statistics show that 60% of search comes from mobile devices. So your user may be viewing the website from a cheap android phone connected to 3G/2G network.

Google calculates your site speed based on load time of all users put together. Remember… it’s all about delivering exceptional user experience. And that’s what Google ranks you on. Work with your developers on testing your website exhaustively on multiple desktop, mobile, tablets. Automated load testing is the key to achieve this. It’s easier if you have developer who has experience with automated tools like Browserstack or Selenium.

Browserstack:

Browserstack is an automated testing company. They provide a pretty easy and free tool called Screenshots that allows you to test a URL in more than 1000 browsers (old and new versions together) including Safari, Chrome, IE, Edge, Firefox and more.

Here is a quick test in 3 browsers on three different operative systems:

Note: Free plan is limited to 100 screenshots.

Don’t sweat if you don’t know which browser versions, operating systems, or devices to test. Next, I have two more web development tools that tell you the good and bad aspects of the websites.

Don’t be intimidated by the term ‘web development’. All you have to do is enter a url to run a test against a website. Let me show you a sample of the results from Yslow and PageSpeed Insights:

YSlow:

From the screenshot above, you’ll find the general metrics that YSlow grades you on. When it comes to fixing all the lower graded metrics, this tool gives an easy to understand solution without any technical jargon that a non-technical person should be able to fix.

PageSpeed Insights:

This tool was developed by Google that gives you a score based on performance on mobile and desktop devices.

Enter the URL and click “Analyze”:

Here is a screenshot of mobile and desktop results:

The list under ‘Possible Optimizations’ is you should be concerned about. Each item is followed by a ‘Show how to fix’ link, which is pretty convenient.

It should be pretty obvious that YSlow looks more user friendly for a non-technical person. Their grading system makes it easy to interpret the results than PageSpeed. PageSpeed gives two separate scores for mobile and desktop devices.

The links to how to fix all the bad stuff are very helpful to raise the score of your website.

9) Think Mobile First

As mentioned earlier, this is the age of mobile first.

60% of the search is performed from a mobile device. You want to cater to this user group. Mobile first doesn’t mean you need a native mobile app. You can design a single website to target both mobile and desktop users simultaneously. Such a website design is called Responsive design.

Responsive design isn’t as taxing as it sounds. All you need is to select the right mobile template and the right framework. If you have a very old website which doesn’t conform to the principles of responsive design, you’ll be better off building a website from scratch than redoing the whole website.

You can find tons of responsive design templates here.

You may not realize this but millennials, being mostly mobile users, are gradually drifting to voice search from text search.

Voice search is more conversational, you need content that answers all what, why, when and where questions.  This can be done by adding FAQs page to your site or writing posts that answer these questions.

Another way to achieve the same, is with longer tail keywords. Answer these questions specifically and use respective keywords that aim to answer a user’s specific question.

Source: Single Grain

Social media strategies to find more customers

Social media strategies to find more customers

Social media strategies to find more customers

Does the idea of “social selling” make you break into a cold sweat? Or, do you simply avoid it?

Many sellers are nervous about using social media tools to fill their pipelines. They worry about being inappropriate or that the tools are too “fluffy” and won’t get them to a deal quickly enough.

And they’re not wrong! If you use social media tools badly, the results are terrible! But, that’s true about any sales method, right?

The fact is, small and medium-size businesses that beef up their sales strategies with social tools are far more likely to hit their numbers. So, it may be time to learn a little more.

In a recent Microsoft Office Small Business Academy webcast, three business experts shared social selling strategies you can start using today to beef up your sales pipeline. (Click here to watch the replay.)

Below are three points that jumped out at me.

Microsoft-SMB experts.jpg

1. Be consistent and curious 

Even 15 minutes a day improves your ability to connect with your ideal customers. The key is consistency. Make a checklist of what you’ll do each day on your favorite social platform. Don’t just wander into the site; go with a clear idea of what you’re looking for, do your work, then get out.

A simple way to start? Use the tools for research.

I often go to LinkedIn to learn more about my top prospects. How do they define their job responsibilities? What’s important to them? Where did they work previously? Do we have any mutual connections or interests? What groups do they belong to? What are they reading?

It’s like being invited to my prospect’s office where I can see the certificates on the wall and leaf through the magazines on their desk. I look for insights that help me connect in new ways.

2. Beat the big companies to the punch

If you’re with a smaller company, social media tools allow you to be agile. Many giant companies have strict guidelines about using social media sites, some even block employees from accessing them.

Use the tools to start conversations about mutual interests or to explore new concepts in your industry. Soon, you will be catching the eye of your ideal new customers while the big guys are still trying to get their message approved by three teams of lawyers!

3. Watch for trigger events

It doesn’t take long to start finding triggers that your ideal customers are ready to buy. Perhaps you’ll see that someone has switched jobs. Whenever there’s a new decision maker at the helm, the grip of the status quo is automatically loosened and change is likely. It may be a great time to approach them with a new idea.

Maybe your ideal prospect belongs to a group where they are asking questions or even complaining about something you know how to fix! The tools allow you to “read their mind” and get their attention. My son is a master of this. He belongs to a very targeted group of pilots. Whenever questions are raised about insurance, he offers valuable advice, but never a pitch. Invariably, other group members will jump in and say, “If you need insurance, Ryan is the best.”

Social selling is a long game.

It is all about building rapport, trust, and connecting in meaningful ways. Used well these tools help you get noticed by your prospects, find the right people to sell to, detect triggers that your customer is ready to buy, and even build trusting relationships that bring you new streams of revenue.

Source: Jill Konrath

Digital Disruption has changed sales

Digital Disruption has changed sales

Digital disruption has forever changed the sales and marketing landscape. Instead of waiting to be told about a company’s products and services, buyers are turning to social media to research vendors and make buying decisions.

In this new environment, it’s more crucial than ever for sales and marketing to align and create a united social media strategy to reach prospective customers. Organizations that have embraced social selling are able to influence buyers throughout their buying journey, provide them more value and ultimately drive sales success.

As much of the B2B buying process continues to move online, social networks have become fundamental to the success of sales organizations. In fact, sales professionals who use social selling help best-in-class companies achieve a 16 percent gain in year-over-year revenue. Today’s top salespeople are using social media to increase their revenue potential, exceed quota, prospect more efficiently, and consistently create a more robust pipeline.

How to write good content that people will read.

How to write good content that people will read.

Writing good content for your website and Blog has a lot to do with understanding your customer or audience.

If you have ever been through a good strategic planning or sales excellence exercise you will have looked at your value proposition, which should give you what you need to make it easy to write an article that relates well to your customers.

As you will see in this article the first step is to state your value proposition, followed by the feature then the benefits.

If you were looking at your value proposition in a business planning or sales excellence exercise you may have also looked at your channels to market, types of customer relationships and customer segmentation. Your value proposition message may change based on these additional elements. For example, the customer segmentation may have different age groups as segments and as a result, you will have a differrent language of value propositions.

It’s not necessarily about writing well.

It’s about writing persuasively.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a world-class wordsmith or a literary genius.

If you can’t effectively move readers through the proper sequence of steps and ultimately convince them to buy, your conversions are going to suffer.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the world’s greatest writer.

You probably won’t see me publishing a novel anytime soon.

But I’d like to think I’m good at copywriting, which, in its simplest form, is “the act of writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing.”

In this post, I’d like to provide you with a straightforward formula you can use to become a highly persuasive copywriter with the end goal of maximizing conversions.

I’ll explain both the basic structure and the specific techniques you need to use to become more persuasive.

Start with a killer value proposition

Research from Nielsen Norman Group found that you have a very small amount of time to grab a visitor’s attention before they leave your page.

In fact, you usually have a max of 20 seconds.

Your first order of business is to make it abundantly clear what your value proposition is.

Now, there are several ways to go about this, but I believe in keeping things simple.

Getting too complex tends to dilute the message and confuse prospects.

What I’ve found to be most effective is keeping my value proposition short, sweet, and clear.

Like this:

I think the Moz homepage does a really good job at this as well:

Don’t make them guess what you’re offering.

Let them know in a split second what you are offering with your crystal clear value proposition.

To accomplish this, try to condense the essence of your product down to just a few words.

Swiftly move to the benefits

“What’s in it for me?”

That’s what most visitors are thinking after hearing your value proposition.

But here’s the thing.

Most people have a tendency to emphasize features over benefits.

But it should be the other way around.

Just look at this Venn diagram from ABC Copywriting:

Notice that benefits are valued over features.

Of course, you need to explain how your product works. But you can elaborate on that later.

What you want to do first is explain how the product fulfills a need or desire.

In other words, explain how your customers’ lives will be better after they buy your product.

Here’s a great example from Moz:

See how prospects instantly understand the benefits of using Moz?

It will save them time and make things more efficient.

They also don’t have to worry about deciphering complex data because Moz takes care of this for them.

When it comes to describing benefits, there are three main types to cover:

  • Tangible
  • Intangible
  • Commercial

This illustration from ABC Copywriting explains these various types of benefits in more detail.

As they point out, “Benefits need not be unique, but they must be compelling.”

Keep this in mind when deciding on an angle.

I personally find that it’s best to highlight the benefits before getting down to the nuts and bolts of the features.

That way prospects should be more receptive and willing to wade through the details.

But if you go the other way around and cover the features before the benefits, you’re probably going to lose a sizable portion of your leads.

Just sayin’.

Now explain the features

“What’s in the box?”

That’s what Brad Pitt’s character David Mills wanted to know in the closing scene of the movie Seven.

While the contents of the box were quite grisly (his wife’s severed head), this question demonstrates the importance of promptly telling your leads what they’ll get by making a purchase.

In other words, let them know what’s in the box.

They already know what you’re offering and what the benefits are.

Now it’s time to succinctly break down the features of your product.

Again, I feel like Moz pulls this off flawlessly, so I’ll use this as an example:

I prefer breaking features down into bullet points or concise little sections like Moz does.

“Digestibility” is huge, and you want to present your product’s features in an easy-to-absorb, intuitive way.

You also want to touch on specifics to distinguish your product from competitors and to add a sense of value.

by NEIL PATEL on MAY 31, 2017

How to create loyal customers with good content. 

8 characteristics of content that develop trust

Effective marketing strategies can be delivered in many ways, but they have certain aims in common, such as increasing website traffic. Still, the difference between getting visitors to your site and building a loyal following is huge. In order to grow your audience and nurture long-lasting relationships, you need more than a constant flow of enticed prospects. You need a brand that people trust.How do you build trust? A 2012 study called “The Trust Factor” has some interesting answers to offer. According to participants, a trustworthy brand is the one that uses its content to deliver accurate, helpful and relevant information without trying to shamelessly self-promote and sell.Here’s are 8 characteristics of content that develop trust.

1. Content that develops trust: is written for enthusiasts by enthusiasts

Perhaps you’re a seasoned content writer, but think of yourself as a niche blogger instead of an expert. Even though a slight change of attitude can make you influential, creating with passion rather than pomposity has its own benefits too.

People consume content in different ways and for many reasons – while some read to pass time, others do it to find a solution to a problem. Then again, there are those who devour their daily portions in the hope of getting inspired.

These are the enthusiasts who want nothing but an opportunity to learn more and get excited. In simpler terms, they need content that’s been written by like-minded people that are just as fervent about the subject at hand as they are. Though welcome, expertise is not of crucial importance here.

A 2010 study found that the most-emailed New York Times articles were the ones that tugged at the reader’s heart strings and inspired positive feelings. Being written for enthusiasts by enthusiasts, they compelled readers to spread the message further and stand behind it.

This tactic can nurture brand ambassadors. This type of content is great for generating social proof and building trust in the most organic way possible.

2. Content that develops trust: shows a deep level of understanding and experience

Solution-seekers are a different audience. While researching their problem, they pay close attention to what they read and trust nothing but content written with experience and expertise.

Expert content has to be insightful and useful. It requires a deep understanding of the topic and provides resolutions written by authorities in the industry. Such high-quality content comes from both first-hand experience and comprehensive research, thereby enveloping a wide range of proven suggestions, tips and solutions that readers can trust and apply.

To develop trust, your words should exude enthusiasm and expertise at the same time. It may seem hard to reconcile these discursive differences, but consider this: when written in simple, conversational language, expert content can be both informational and exciting.

3. Content that develops trust: provides plenty of quality references to back up its main point

While link building has an irreplaceable spot in content marketing, the potential of source linking is mostly unleveraged. Data-driven content can establish you as an expert, but these articles need to be backed up by the data’s original context.

The line between creation and curation is a thin one. If crossed, it can diminish the credibility of your entire brand, but if maintained with source links and quality references, it actually builds it.

4. Content that develops trust: avoids marketing clichés and offers a dose of honesty

In the digital publishing age, there are plenty of content creators to compete with. If you don’t have anything original to show, you won’t be able to stand out from the crowd. But, if you develop a whole marketing strategy around transparency, the competitive edge is yours.

Take an example from Everlane. This online clothing and accessories retailer built its story around its tagline – Radical Transparency. By offering complete disclosure of sourcing (manufacturing process, factories and, most importantly, labour), their approach attracts socially conscious fans. With transparency about pricing (manufacturing costs for each product together with the company’s profit), however, Everlane proves that its objective is not to take advantage of its customers, thus instantly earning their trust.

5. Content that develops trust: is straightforward, succinct and to-the-point

Everlane’s take on transparency is brilliant, but you don’t have to build your entire philosophy around it. Honesty is an effective way of attracting customers. Even if you don’t make it your Unique Selling Point (USP), staying honest with your followers will stand you in good stead.

It comes down to professionalism and respectability. Both are established through content that says what it means and means what it says. However complex your topic is, avoid vague language; be succinct and stay to-the-point.

6. Content that develops trust: doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence

Quality suffers from quantity, and that’s content marketing’s biggest trap. Those who fall into it are mostly overwhelmed by the workflow, which is something we can all relate to.

If content is your brand’s main building block, then “don’t insult the reader’s intelligence” is your number one rule. Your audience expects quality, it rarely forgives inconsistency and it’s up to you to respect that. Whatever it is you’re writing about, it needs to be highly relevant.

7. Content that develops trust: is consistent and uses a unique recognisable style

Finding your own, unique voice is one of the biggest aspects of building a brand. Your message can exude luxury or promise adventure – regardless of what kind of experience you choose to provide, it still needs to be recognisable and consistent.

These requirements are the two sides of the coin: the one that attracts and the one that converts. More importantly, they both speak on behalf of your prowess, creativity and dedication. Content that’s easily recognisable is the one that’s original and inventive, while consistency showcases your passion and professionalism.

8. Content that develops trust: is relatable and uses a more personal tone

The last characteristic of content that develops trust serves as a comedy relief for both you and your readers. It’s what allows you to break the character as an expert and reveal yourself as a human. This “relatability” strategy is often used in social media campaigns, but can be effective in content marketing too.

While trying to write about complicated things in plain words and short sentences, if the topic allows, a bit of humour can make your content interesting and help readers relate. Humour triggers emotions and reminds your audience that their content provider is a person, just like them.

The same goes for first-person writing and using a direct tone. It’s much easier to trust advice when somebody gives it from personal experience, isn’t it? Whenever you can, back up your points with your own real-life examples. Address your audience as if you were talking to them face-to-face, and they’ll find you friendly and affable. Brands are built to appeal to real people, so don’t try to stand higher than them.

The importance of brand trust can’t be overstressed. If you choose to build it with content, than make sure it conveys your passion and expertise in an honest, succinct, unique and relatable way.

Source: https://gathercontent.com/blog/8-characteristics-content-develops-trust

Words you use on your website are important

Words you use on your website are important

Don’t overlook the words in your digital overhaul.

A website migration or refresh is a great opportunity to practise some digital feng shui – to rethink your goals, refocus your user journeys, archive all the content you don’t need any more, and ensure your content is aligned with your up-to-date proposition.

But done well, a migration is an opportunity to refresh and review not just the structure and design and look-and-feel of your digital presence – but the words too. What’s the point of spending all that time and effort and resource on a shiny new UX, a super-smart, contemporary new look and a cutting-edge CMS, only to pour back in all the tired words from your old site? And yet this happens, of course, and depressingly often.

So to make sure your website refresh is also a copy refresh, here are three key questions to have front of mind as you craft new content for your shiny new site:

1: Do I know what I’m doing?

Sounds flippant, but it’s really not. A good piece of web content packs a very clear sense of purpose and focus from the word go.

So for any piece of content you’re thinking of writing, you need to be able to answer those basic existential questions: Who is this content for? What do they need from this page? What do we want them to think or do after reading this page? How does this page support our business goals? And how will we know if this page is a success?

Poor planning usually begets confusing copy. If you’re struggling to come up with crisp, clear answers to any of these questions, maybe a rethink is in order before you begin.

2: Am I making life as easy as possible for my users?

Your customers are your business. Digitally speaking, your users are why you exist. And when it comes to copy, effortlessness is the cornerstone of a positive user experience.

With web content, the perception of ease is a powerful nudge to engagement and conversion. When a user looks at a new page, they carry out a very, very quick mental calculation: Is the probable effort being asked of me as a reader here likely to be worth the rewards of consuming this content, in terms of information or entertainment?

So ask yourself: Have I structured the content so that users get an instant sense of what it’s about? Are messages layered in order of user priority? Is the signposting intuitive?? Are there multiple entry points? Does the copy pass the reader’s ‘So what?’ test? Does it focus on benefits, not features? Are the words and syntax used simple to process?

3: Is the language fresh?

So the page is well-planned. You know who it’s for and what it’s about. It’s scannable and intuitive to look at, and the language is plain. So why is it still such a dull read?

Perhaps because the copy falls back on clichés and legacy language, the sort of words and phrases marketing writers often turn to because they feel safe and familiar. You know: ‘tailored to your specific requirements’, ‘today’s fast-moving world’, ‘we’ve got Christmas all wrapped up’, ‘something for everyone’, ‘solutions provider’, ‘state-of- the-art’, and all the rest.

The problem here is that the reader is so used to seeing such phrases that they cease to have any impact or even meaning.

So ask yourself: Am I showing rather than telling? Am I talking about what we do in fresh, interesting and specific ways? Am I thinking hard about why anyone will care about these words? Am I writing stuff that is interchangeable with what you could find on loads of other sites in our space? Have I injected any tone or personality?

10 Design Principles to Enhance Your Social Media Posts

10 Design Principles to Enhance Your Social Media Posts

 10 Design Principles to Enhance Your Social Media Posts

This article was contributed by Anna Guerrero.

It’s no secret that visual content dominates on social media. Visuals help express ideas quickly — which is a refreshing contrast to the clutter of written content we absorb online every day.

But when you’re competing against virtually thousands of other brands — how you can compete?

That answer is with good design. If the purpose of social media is to leverage your fans towards your business, then good design can help get you there quicker.

Let’s take a look at 10 principles you should follow to create beautiful and effective social media posts.

  1. Use your brand colors consistently

Colors are a powerful tool for social media because they offer a way to convey mood and meaning without words. When choosing the right color for your brand, consider:

  • Is my brand masculine or feminine?
  • What kind or feelings are associated with my brand?
  • How do I want my customers/audience to feel?

The psychology of color and branding is a dedicated art, so ensure you choose brand colors that speak towards your personality and focus. Once you’ve created your brand color palette, which should consist of two to four colors, apply your colors consistently within your designs.

Your color palette applies to the colors you use in your social media graphics, as well as the imagery you choose.

Benefit Cosmetics does a great job of appealing as a “feminine”brand through its consistent use of pink. In this example, it has used pink for the background color of a quote graphic, as well as on the backdrop of an image shot for its Facebook page.

  1. Choose fonts that reflect your identity

Fonts bring your design’s message life. The fonts you choose should embody the personality and character of your brand, as demonstrated in these examples from Dove cosmetics

Notice how Dove use a cursive font on its Facebook page, which creates a feminine feeling to the graphic. This is a nice choice to advertise their range of women’s beauty products. Compare this to shaver brand Gillette. In this example it uses a bold and regular uppercase sans serif font to create a simple and strong look.

Social media images are a great opportunity to branch out from your usual set of brand fonts. For example, a cursive or uppercase font wouldn’t be the best fit for longer sections of text on a webpage. Social media design is your chance to get creative with your font collection. Whatever fonts you choose, make sure you apply them consistently.

  1. Choose background images with clear copy space

Copy space refers to empty areas in images. Placing your text in areas with clear copy space will improve the legibility of your design, and help you get your message across.

Duolingo use copy space effectively on its Facebook page by placing text in areas which can be easily read.

If you need to create more copy space within an image, enlarge and crop it. This will give your text more room to breathe.

  1. Use consistent layouts

You can create a series of posts using consistent layouts. These are a great way to engage your fans, as they look familiar every time your post them on your social media pages.

Make sure the layouts are designed with a common theme in mind. Nutella has demonstrated this approach on its Facebook page, creating a series of graphics with suggestions about how to eat nutella. This is a clever, not to mention time effective, way to create unique visual content that builds your brand image and boosts user engagement.

  1. Present data visually with infographics

Infographics are a powerful tool for brands to use on social media. Did you know that publishers who use infographics grow in traffic 12 percent more than those who don’t?

Infographics are made up of text, icons and images, and can be a great tool for charity organisations or educators who want to get facts about their work across.

Fairtrade uses infographics regularly on its social media platforms to present powerful data about its charity work. This example, taken from its Twitter page, uses red, yellow and orange to break up the statistics on the graphic. Notice how several icons, including the coffee beans, trophy, and shovels have also been used to present the facts visually.

  1. Place your logo consistently

Try and keep the positioning and size of your logo consistent for the majority of your graphics. If you need to change it to suit a particular kind of design, make sure it is either centre, right, or left aligned intentionally.

Your logo should never overpower your design, but it’s also important that it isn’t too small. Determine a minimum size for your logo and add the requirement to your visual style guide.

See how Oreo has places its logo consistently across this series of Valentine’s Day graphics taken from its Facebook page. As an extra tip, never place your logo flush with the edge of your design. Instead, leave some padding (extra space)) around it, to make it look more intentional.

  1. Use filters that enhance your brand identity

Whether you’re posting images via social media or using them as backgrounds in your designs, applying a filter can help give them a unique look and feel. Some filters will brighten your images, while other will bring out certain colors, so it’s important to have a clear idea about how your want your images to look. Remember filters are optional, so only use them if you feel like they add value to your post.

Lifestyle magazine Kinfolk uses an iconic photo filter for all of the images across its social media platforms to give them a clean and crisp aesthetic.

Notice how Kinfolk’s photo filters complement its ‘less is more’ or minimalist approach, making it an effective way to brand its images.

  1. Create visual posts around hashtag campaigns

Hashtag campaigns can be used to market your brand, or particular campaigns. They encourage fans to join the social media conversation by posting their own images or status updates with a corresponding hashtag.

Check out this Twitter graphic created for Lululemon Athletica’s latest hashtag campaign #givepresence. Including the hashtag in the post makes the graphic more sharable, and encourages more fans to engage with the campaign.

9.Optimize your image posts for different social media platforms

Maintaining your social media presence will have you posting on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google, which all have different preferred image dimensions.

Covering all bases on social media can be time consuming — the easiest way to optimise your graphics efficiently is to create templates for post types that you create regularly. For example, you could try these ideas:

  • A weekly quote post
  • An industry tip
  • A cover image for a company blog
  1. Prioritise Images over text

People respond well to images on social media because they’re easier to digest than text updates. Take advantage of your visual elements and only use text when necessary.

Using icons is a creative way to minimize your text in your graphics. See how in this example an icon had been used to replace the word “fly”. This adds visual interest to the graphic and makes for an original social media post.

In fact, if your images are strong enough,  you might not even need any text or graphic overlays. Nutella also does this well — proving that a few words and a strong image is all it takes to engage their fans.

Over to you

Creating visual graphics for social media is an dedicated discipline, so it’s important to be conscious of design principles to achieve the best results.

4 Major SEO Shifts You Need To Know About

4 Major SEO Shifts You Need To Know About

Websites and SEO go hand in hand.

You will rarely find a successful website that doesn’t rely on search engine traffic. Which is why it is important that you are aware of the ever evolving Google Search algorithms and accommodate those changes in your SEO strategy.So it is pretty clear that you can’t setup SOE once and forget about it, with algorithms changing. I am sure you haven’t been living under a rock all these years and do know some of the basics of SEO like using the right keywords, creating in-depth content, and getting backlinks from high authority blogs.It is the more recent SEO developments that many aren’t aware of (they are slightly technical as well, but don’t worry I’m here to simplify this for you. Below are 4 relatively recent developments in the SEO world that you need to incorporate in your strategy.

1. Google’s Mobile-First Index Means You Can No Longer Ignore Mobile Users

You already know that Google takes mobile users very seriously. Google’s Mobilegeddon update in 2015, which made mobile friendliness a core part of the search engine’s ranking algorithm, sent shockwaves through the SEO world.

And while it did not immediately cause the drastic changes everyone was fearing, it was a clear sign that Google was going mobile pretty soon. According to Duda, responsive and mobile friendly websites saw an immediate 11% traffic uplift as a result of Mobilegeddon.

Source: Impact of Mobilegeddon

Last November, however, something huge happened, very quietly. For the first time ever in the history of the internet, the number of online users from mobile devices (51.3%) exceeded desktop and laptop users (48.7%).

The gap is pretty narrow right now, but it is only going to grow from here, and so is Google’s focus on mobile users.

Google announced its mobile-first index towards the end of 2016. This essentially means that Google will now primarily look at websites from a mobile user’s point of view. Unresponsive blogs and websites will be demoted in search results.

In short, mobile friendliness is not just an option anymore, it is a necessity, and you should be prepared for it.

Here are a couple ways to do it.

  • Adaptive Over Responsive Design

Responsive websites adjust dimensions according to the visitor’s device, while the content remains the same. If your blog is using responsive design, you are in Google’s good books as far as mobile friendliness is concerned.

However, since responsive design serves the same content to both mobile and desktop users, you won’t be able to customize your content according to specific devices. For example, you might want to show a certain opt-in box or a header image on your blog to your desktop users only.

This is where adaptive design comes in. Adaptive websites not only adjust design dimensions but also serve different versions of your content based on the visitor’s device.

WooCommerce, one of the leading eCommerce platforms, uses adaptive design in most of its new store themes and is a good example of a leading company using this design variation the right way.

Using adaptive design helps you provide a more personalized user experience which leads to higher user engagement and lower bounce rates, all leading to a more stable SEO profile.

  • Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a recent initiative by Google similar to Facebook’s Instant Articles. It is about creating pages, stripped off additional graphics and plugins, that load instantly. AMP enabled websites and blogs get preference in mobile search results and are clearly marked with the AMP tag.

The jury is still out on the SEO pros and cons of using AMP, but it is certainly the path Google wants webmasters to follow.

2. Having a Secure HTTPs Site is No Longer Just an Option

How would you feel if Google attached a “not secure” label with your sites URL? Something like this…

Not pretty, I know. Unfortunately, this is already happening to all non-HTTPS websites and blogs. As of January 2017, any page on your website that is non-HTTPS and has a password form or credit card field will be labeled as “Not secure” in the address bar by Google Chrome.

And this is just the first step. Here is what Google’s official blog says about their future plans:

“In following releases, we will continue to extend HTTP warnings, for example, by labeling HTTP pages as “not secure” in Incognito mode, where users may have higher expectations of privacy. Eventually, we plan to label all HTTP pages as non-secure, and change the HTTP security indicator to the red triangle that we use for broken HTTPS.”

In simple words, if you want to avoid potential future penalties and demotions in search results, install an SSL Certificate and move your site from HTTP to HTTPs.

3. Keyword Research Has Evolved Thanks to Google’s RankBrain

Over the years, Google has become much smarter at understanding the searcher’s intent. It can no longer be fooled by stuffing a piece of content with a particular keyword. In fact, thanks to the advanced Google algorithms, you might even rank for keywords that you have not used in your content at all.

The reason for this change is Google’s AI based ranking algorithm RankBrain which ranks content based on the searcher’s intent. In the post RankBrain world, keyword research is about finding and using a closely related group of keywords in your content, instead of using just one target keyword.

In Google’s language it’s called Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI keywords. When a piece of content has LSI keywords in addition to the main target keyword, its gives Google a better understanding of the overall context.

For example, the following can be LSI keywords for an article about basketball:

⦁Michael Jordan
⦁NBA finals
⦁Basketball drills
⦁Basketball
⦁How to improve your basketball shot

The easiest way to find LSI keywords is by looking at the related searches for any search term at the bottom of the search page. For example, here are the related searches for the term “freelance blogging”

 

The evolution of keyword research is great news for quality conscious websites. It means you no longer need to compromise on the quality of your content and stuff keywords to get higher search rankings.

You can focus on creating your best content and use natural variations of your target keyword wherever you see fit.

4. An Engaged Email List Can Boost Your Sites Search Ranking

If you have a list of engaged and loyal email subscribers, you can continue driving free traffic to your site even if a search engine(s) completely wipes you off the face of the internet. The dramatic analogy aside, email marketing needs to be a key component of your site’s content promotion strategy.

According to GetResponse there are 3x more email users than Facebook and Twitter combined, and nearly 90 billion emails sent every day.

Source: Email Marketing Stats

Tapping into this massive user base and getting them on your list will not only help you beef up your subscriber base but also impact your site’s search ranking. Not sure how? Let me explain.

One of Google’s core objectives is to provide the most valuable and relevant search results to its users. Content engagement, time on site, and social signals are 3 important factors Google uses to determine the relevancy and the quality of a search result.

If readers spend more time on a particular page and share it frequently on social networks, Google considers it as a strong quality signal. Your email list can have an impact on each one of these factors. An email subscriber who has willingly joined your list and eagerly waits for your emails is much more likely to spend more time reading your blog content and share it on social media.

It is, therefore, no surprise that some of the top sites on the web spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on email marketing to engage and grow their subscriber base.

Wrapping Up

You need to have a basic understanding of SEO and how it impacts your sites’ audience. Thankfully, SEO is becoming more and more quality oriented. If you’re genuinely helping readers with your content and provide a seamless user experience to your site visitors, you don’t need to use dubious grey-hat or black-hat techniques to rank higher in search results.

How seriously do you take SEO? Do you think these tips will help you reach a wider audience?
I’d love to hear your comments.

How to measure brand awareness on Social Media

How to measure brand awareness on Social Media

World population: 7.5 billion

 

Number of people using social media platforms: 2.5 billion (expected figures for 2017 from Statista)

With one-third of the world’s population using social media platforms and consumers religiously following their favourite brands on social media (see the chart below), it is no surprise that companies are also logged in to social media. Recent research suggests 91% of retail brands use two or more social media channels (Yesmail). And this is true for brands across industries.

Source: GlobalWebIndex

However, using social media platforms brings about familiar questions for companies – How do you measure performance? Are my social media pages good enough? – Companies can answer these by comparing their social media performance against their competitors based on key areas such as effort, audience and channels.

While it may be easy for companies to compare their channel presence against competitors, they should understand that popularity, and thus returns from channels, can be very volatile. Therefore, it is imperative that companies ensure they are keeping up to date with the latest trends in social media.

How can you realise their social media potential

Consider each social media page(s) and platform, identify key measurement metrics and then juxtapose them with the same metrics from your competitors. Firstly, compare the performance on one platform, but then also at an overall level. Give each brand a score for each of the below performance indicators. At the end, the scores are combined to generate a final score for each brand’s social media performance.

  • Channel strategy: presence

Channel strategy does not mean, the more the merrier, rather, it is all about finding the right fit. It is very important that each social media profile aligns with the business’s goals and objectives. While Facebook drives more referrals to external content, Twitter users engage 24% longer with long-form content and 14% longer with short-form content. (Pew)

  • Pro-activeness: effort

This is where we quantify and analyse their content strategy. This includes the frequency of posts, time taken to reply, content types and variation, campaigns, sweepstakes, page features etc. 72% of people who complain to a brand via Twitter expect a response within an hour (Lithium). The study also revealed that when brands provide customers with timely response, 34% are likely to buy more from that company and 38% are more receptive to their advertisement. Below is an example of what this analysis could look like.

  • Page performance: awareness 

Awareness can be measured by looking at the overall impression, total reach generated by each platform and follower growth. Again each platform is given a score like below.

  • Audience engagement

Total user engagement in each platform can also be measured by analysing likes, comments, shares etc at post level.

  • Earned media mentions

It is also possible to measure how much a company gets featured in users social media content (those conversations that are happening above and beyond a company’s owned social properties). You can measure what share of the conversation they have and what sentiment customers have towards their brand. 96% of the people that discuss brands online do not follow those brands’ owned profiles. (Brandwatch)

  • Customer loyalty: brand affinity

What is the level of affinity towards the brand showcased by users? Further users intention to purchase or recommend is also measured.

Benefits

Conducting a social media performance audit & analysis helps marketers evaluate their company’s social media presence, and also helps them identify what content development and design work is required. The results can also help them create a prioritised action plan, develop a marketing strategy and understand what their competitors are doing.