Pinterest and Instagram for Business – the less obvious social media channels?

In the next of our social media marketing guides we provide an introduction to using the photo-sharing sites Pinterest and Instagram for business.  Whilst these are at the forefront of a new wave of social networks showcasing images uploaded by brands, artists and the general public they are often forgotten about when it comes to marketing smaller businesses in favour of the larger more obvious social platforms.

So Why Pinterest?

Pinterest has over 53 million monthly unique users around the world with circa 2.6m of them in the UK (October 2013), of which two thirds are female.  This largely female user base means that fashion and shopping brands in particular, are utilizing the channel as a way to market to their target audience.

Fashion chain Topshop for example collaborated with Pinterest in November to encourage shoppers to “pin” their favourite products from its website to their own Pinterest pages.  This enabled shoppers to create their own personal Pinterest Christmas gift lists.

The retailer then featured the most pinned products on its own website and offered prizes for shoppers who entered their Christmas themed Pinterest Boards into a competition.  They also used giant touch screens in flagship stores in London to promote the most popular products and followed it through with tags on the actual products in the stores.

It can also work for smaller businesses too, particularly those operating in a very visual market such as photographers, artists and designers.  A “verified account” will enable it to link from the Pinterest account to their website as well as add a “Pin It” social sharing button.

There are also a range of “rich” pins which contain additional information that can be used such as the new place pins which include a map, address and phone number or the article pins which include headline, author and story description so that users can find and save content.

And Instagram?

Instagram, owned by Facebook, reportedly has 160 million monthly active users globally who upload 65 million and like a billion photos daily. They also state that users spend three times as long on Instagram as they do on Pinterest and twice as long as Twitter.

There are a number of UK brands using Instagram including Burberry, which used the channel to post live pictures of its fashion shows (including London Fashion Week) and in doing so has grown its Instagram following organically to over one million.

Additionally, Red Bull documented a cliff-diving competition in Wales via Instagram and Jaguar has used the channel to publish a series of short films to promote the launch of the F-Type Coupe.

To find out more about these two social networks or how they could be used to help promote your business download our Free Guide to Pinterest and Instagram or contact the team on 01793 766040.

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How to use Twitter to get Free Press Coverage!

I’ve known Rin Hamburgh for a while now and have always been impressed by her enthusiasm for helping people learn to how to get free coverage from journalists and the wider press – so much so I thought I’d interview her on our blog.

We all know that Twitter is a fantastic tool for building relationships and driving traffic to your website, but as well as the networking and SEO benefits, it can also be a fantastic PR tool. We talked to Rin Hamburgh, experienced journalist and director of training company Inside Scoop, about how you can use Twitter to befriend journalists and get more press coverage for your business.

So Rin, as a small business, what are the benefits of doing your own PR? Can’t you just pay someone to do all that for you?

You can, and there are ways in which a PR company can be helpful – at a price. If you need to watch your budget, or you simply want greater control over what goes out, there’s no reason why you can’t take control of your PR yourself. After all, you know your business better than anyone else. But PR isn’t just a case of writing the odd press release – it’s a wider strategy, and social media should play a part in that.

OK, so I have a Twitter account – where do I find the journalists?

A simple search on Twitter itself should help you find those who are using the word ‘journalist’ in their bio, or you can look for specific individuals you want to make contact with. Try searching for a publication you’re interested in getting featured in, then see who they follow – most will follow their own writers and some even create public lists that you can subscribe to, making the whole process so much easier.

 What do I say? Should I just start sending them press releases and images?

The best way to think of Twitter is as an online networking event. You wouldn’t just run up to a stranger at your local business breakfast meeting and start plugging your latest product, so why would you do that on Twitter? Engage your target in a conversation first – reply to a tweet, comment on a story, anything that starts a conversation as naturally as possible.

Once I’ve found some key contacts, what’s the best way to keep track of them?

Lists, lists, lists!

If you’re following lots of people – which you should be, if you’re interested in growing your own following and engaging in conversation – it will soon get difficult to separate out the journalists from the rest of the group. Put them altogether in a list and it’s much easier to focus on what they’re saying. You could even have multiple lists for news / features, newspapers / magazines etc, or different subject areas.

Cool, sounds simple! Any other top tips?

The best time to pitch a journalist is when they’re actively looking for stories, case studies or expert comments – many will use the hashtag #journorequest to shout out about their specific request, so that’s definitely one worth keeping an eye on.

If you’d like to learn more about using Twitter to turn journalists into your BFFs then sign up for Rin’s half-day workshop on using Twitter to increase your press coverage on the 8th April for just £65 + VAT – for more information click below:

http://inside-scoop.co.uk/use-twitter-to-increase-your-press-coverage/

 

 

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UX/SEO Interview with Alison Boyle of LA Marketing

Combining UX and SEO - Feature Interview with Alison Boyle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every now and again we meet some fellow web design and marketing folk who really impress us – one such firm of marketing and web designers is LA Marketing, based just over the border in rural Dorset.

We’ve worked together on a few sideline projects and loved their understanding of the good, the bad and the ugly of SEO and their knowledge of UX – so much so we were thrilled when Alison Boyle, Co-Director agreed to be featured in our latest SEO interview!

Alison, I know you and the team over L A Marketing are really passionate about balancing UX (User Experience) against SEO needs for your client websites. Can you tell us what you think the fundamental principles are for giving your online content any chance of ranking well in search?

Yes certainly, first Q&R (Quality and Relevance) used to be measured in Google-terms by the presence of focused keywords and the authority derived from on and off page link building.

Whilst the (non-abuse) of these activities still count towards better rankings, there are new areas of focus that provide Google with a fuller ‘impression’ of a site’s Quality and Relevance.

Not only that but Google has been busy shifting the focus of how it measures ‘quality’ on the web by engineering its structure and algorithms to optimise results based on organic human activity and consumption – instead of feeding the faddy diets of crawlers and bots.

Now search engines have two primary goals for serving good organic results:

• Better understand searcher intent
• Better understand if a page serves that intent

Google are arguably deploying these strategies in an effort to make the web a better place for its users (instead of its residents). So if your website is not providing a good experience for users then it is not serving the searcher’s intentions well and your site will be downgraded as a result.

That could be as simple as having an over-cluttered website where it’s not obvious where a visitor can extract the answer to the question they posed in search, quickly enough.

But actually there are a host of factors, beyond optimised page content, to consider here;
Google is getting better at identifying “bad websites” through technical setup (see the Webmaster Guidelines here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en )for a full outline of what metrics they use) and also through user metrics.

So Google is increasingly focusing even more on ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’?

Absolutely, their algorithms have become more sophisticated and with Hummingbird will increasingly do so. It has become important to concentrate on the quality of the following aspects of your website:

• Relevant content
• Page speed
• Ease of navigation
• Non spammy, naturalised internal link structure
• No duplicate content
• Page layout

Taking the time to improve these factors will in our opinion seriously help with overall SEO efforts.

How can the average website owner measure the effectiveness of UX in their SEO?

Examples of relevant UX performance stats for website owners or managers to keep an eye on would be:

• Unique visitors
• Social actions
• Number of pages visited
• Average time on page
• Bounce rates
• Exit rates
• Top content
• Top landing pages

All of the above provide strong clues to how you can best optimise your content to meet the needs and behaviours of your visitors, not your SEO or visiting bots.

Are there any other methodologies that should be employed to boost your online presence and do well in search marketing?

Yes, we firmly believe that usability and clarity of thought, ease of use, conversion optimisation and ranking well should all work well together, let me explain further:

Usability

Employ a clean and clear design, with little interference in terms of excess imagery, erroneous functionality, or content placed just to fill white space – that has no true relevance.

Ease of use

Carefully place action items and creat eroutes to key points that make sense and have low involvement. The user needs to understand how to reach their goals when visiting a site and they need to understand it quickly. When you build a site around information, action items, and user paths, you build a site that is designed for the benefit of the user.

Conversion oriented

Using calls to action are a clear way to tell your users what you’d like them to do. Don’t be afraid to tell the user to buy, download, or sign up for something. On the internet, we all respond to calls-to-action much more readily than in our day to day lives.

Ranking well

There’s no point in having a great site that can’t be found. Content & keyword research will always be the cornerstone of your website’s online presence and links are still important as well. Work to find quality links and relevant optimised content and your site will rank well.

Generating conversions

Be sure your site is capitalising on all the work you’ve put into it. That means focusing on conversion optimisation through the partnership of SEO and UX.

Alison thanks for agreeing to our UX/SEO interview and for your candid insights, they’ve certainly proved useful for our readers.

So in signing off we’d like to iterate that following these guidelines will be a major first step in the process of developing your site or redesigning a site that needs to focus more on user experience. You’d be surprised what a difference this activity can have on your website traffic and lead generation too!

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Google hits another Big Guest Blog Post Network

Back in January of this year, Matt Cutts stated in his blog:

“…if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice…”

Yesterday it seems Google took a swipe at another large guest blog post network, especially where it perceives blog posts are created purely for links to help increase rankings for those sites making use of this SEO “strategy”.

Is this something we’ve employed here at All Things Web for us or our clients?

Thankfully no (let’s polish our halo there for just a minute) as we’ve always believed that good content should be placed directly on your own site or blog to then work at ranking off the back of strong on page relevancy and naturalised SEO (i.e. it is not overdone). Links certainly help but so in our opinion does good UX and on page content. Continue reading

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The Ten Most Viewed Matt Cutts SEO Videos on YouTube

Matt Cutts in his YouTube SEO Videos

We’ve collated our favourite (and generally most popular) YouTube SEO Videos featuring Google’s Head of Spam Team, Matt Cutts – from Google’s very own Webmaster channel.

Continue reading

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Website Content Ideas – 10 Easy, Fast Ways to Generate Content for your Website

Ink well and quill pen on old script writing paperIt goes without saying that quality content on a website is the most important thing to get right. From a user perspective – to capture and keep your audience, and from a web marketing point of view.

I want to look at the different types of content that can be generated on a website to help you plan your content, think outside the box and get your creative juices flowing:

Factual Content

This is obvious – you need to have the bare facts about your product or service. What you offer must be clearly defined so that there is no doubt to the visitor that they are in the right place. Here are my top tips:

  • Keep it clear and simple – you can go into more detail later.
  • Product spec – must be written uniquely, don’t use manufacturer descriptions as these will have been used many times across the web.

Informational Content – (resources)

This would include any further information relating to your products or services. These can be downloadable or static ‘helpful’ content such as:

  • Instruction manuals – ‘how to put the wardrobe together’.
  • How to… – Any helpful guides on how to do something.
  • Detailed lists of ingredients and their sources.
  • FAQs – can save you a lot of phone calls if you get these right.
  • Directions to get to the shop or office.
  • Case studies to show a service process or problem solved for a customer.
  • Calculators
  • Product reviews
  • Checklists
  • Templates

Actionable content

This would include content where the visitor is required to interact or do something as part of a process. These would include:

  • Online form filling
  • Dynamic Online quotes (insurance)
  • Downloadable forms

User Generated Content

Provide as many opportunities for your audience to engage with your site. Get people involved – this can snowball into a lot of great content that you don’t even have to write. Just seed it right and take a bit of time to moderate where necessary. These include:

  • Writing product reviews on your products
  • Commenting on your blog
  • Online polls
  • Forums
  • Get people involved – ask them for their expert opinion

Topical Content

This requires a bit more thought and some research but if you have your finger on the pulse of your industry you will know what the hot topics are and how to write about them for your audience. This sort of content is usually created as blog content. If it is written cleverly it can out live the short life span of a news story – also known as ‘evergreen’ content. You could:

  • Discuss the latest industry news to help your audience to apply it to their business
  • Write an opinion about some specific industry news that related directly to your sector
  • Use a current industry survey to discuss current climate or predict the future of an aspect of your industry
  • Write a monthly round up of the industry news to show how connected you are with your sector

NewsJacking Content

This is a little different to the topical content which is safely confined within your known territory. Newsjacking is highjacking a trending news story and using it for your own marketing (or content) needs. Major news events like natural disasters, birth of a royal baby or international sporting events can be harnessed to create content, putting your company at the front of the pack, when the story is just breaking. Sharing the content via social media with the use of hashtags will aid its viral journey.

There is an interview with the writer of ‘Newsjacking’ on the Tips and Cautionary Tales for Real Time Newsjacking here: http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-pros-podcast/tips-and-cautionary-tales-for-realtime-newsjacking/.

Caution is advised though, as it can go wrong! 

Comparative content

Helping the visitor to really understand the product or service choices so that they can make the right purchasing decision. These can be detailed as follows:

Seasonal Content

If there is content you can create around seasonal dates, this is a fantastic way to draw in traffic. It might be that you:

  • Own a restaurant and you want to promote Mother’s day.
  • Sell gifts that are good stocking fillers for Christmas time.
  • Provide weekend getaways for couples to celebrate valentines.

Don’t just knock out an article promoting what you provide, this won’t have the right effect. Writing around these subjects in an interesting way or from a different perspective will keep you ahead of the crowd.

Competitor content

I am not suggesting for one minute that you copy what your competitors are doing. But, take some time to look at what other content is around in your sector. It will give you ideas for new angles, topics and blog posts. Can you do what they have done better? Can you be the first to do something new?

Content Planning

So, how do you put together a plan to make all these ideas happen?

If you are the sole producer of content for your website, you will need to prioritise the areas of your site or the services or products that are the most important for your business. Work through them, setting aside the time each week to get more done.

If you are lucky enough to have a team of writers ;) – You can build a content strategy and plan that will be much more quickly implemented.

 

Share your thoughts and experiences! What other sorts of content do you use for your website?

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Helping Innovative Franchisors with Great SEO and Web Marketing

HR DeptThe HR Dept is a franchised outsourced professional HR services provider, and has been a client of All Things Web for the past eight years.  The company’s investment in its online presence over such an extended period has really paid off (it charts at number one in organic search and web searches deliver 20 – 30 new business leads per month), but it wanted to maintain control of its own website and domain name, despite its franchisor status, through the adoption of a centrally controlled approach to SEO.

It’s franchisees, or licensees, were being bombarded with cut price offers from rival SEO firms, and were confused as to the quality and integrity of these “experts”.  Engagement of any one by a licensee could have compromised the organic search status of the company as a whole.

The HR Dept approached All Things Web and asked the team to develop an offer which could be tailored to its licensees, and would enhance their searchability without compromising the central integrity of the SEO and web marketing work being conducted for the principal website.

All Thing Web’s small business entry level offer was ideal for The HR Dept’s licensees.

The offer allows licensees to understand what they should be considering and prioritising when optimising their web presence.  It consists of:

  • a monthly hour of phone or email support and advice
  • a monthly ranking report showing the business’ position in the search rankings using five keywords and tracking against a major competitor
  • a monthly analytics summary tracking the business’ performance against its goals
  • a monthly newsletter containing tips and expert advice
  • free guides on subjects including how to use social media for your business
  • access to a trusted and pre qualified supplier network able to give advice on complementary aspects of marketing including web design, photography and PR
  • and a discount on additional services from All Thing Web

The HR Dept has communicated the new package to licensees through email alerts, an article in the company’s internal newsletter, and during visits and business development updates, and so far, the response has been positive.

“Being able to offer our licensees a pre-qualified, tailored and appropriately scaled offer makes them less vulnerable to the charlatans in this particular sector of the marketplace.  More importantly, it allows us as the franchisor to preserve the integrity of our online presence and approach to SEO, while giving our licensees the freedom to make an additional investment in their business’s lead generation,” says The HR Dept’s General Manager, Tom Doherty.

“We expect a good take up of the package among our forward thinking licensees, and we’re confident that their investment will pay off in the same way that ours has.”

Further information

For more information about the HR Services provided by the HR Dept visit their website

To find out how All Things Web® could help to grow your Franchise and help support your individual franchisees build their local businesses online contact us on 01793 766040.

 

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To Blog……. or not to Blog……… that is the question for many businesses

When we raise the subject of blogging for business with many business owners we typically get the responses below:

  • Everyone says I should, but does it really make a difference?
  • I don’t know what to write about, I don’t have anything interesting to say
  • I can’t see the point, who is going to see it?

In this post we look in more detail at the issues raised in these 3 responses and aim to provide some useful information, pointers and tips for businesses to help them create content through a blog or news section as part of a content marketing strategy.

So why should a business blog?

The following are just a few of the benefits a business will get by starting to create and distribute content via a blog:

  • Credibility – one of the main benefits to any business of regularly adding quality content to their website through a blog is that of trust.  Educating and informing your audience demonstrates your specific industry knowledge and expertise and helps them to have confidence in you and your brand.
  • Visibility and Traffic – adding fresh, relevant and resourceful content to a website sends out the right signals to Google resulting in a better online presence.  Blogging can also directly bring traffic to a website if posts are optimized and well written.   Blogging is a key component of SEO and content marketing strategies because it works if executed well.
  • Engagement – creating interesting and informative blog content and then reaching out through channels such as email marketing and social media helps a business build an audience of brand advocates who will engage with and promote the business to their own network.

What can a business blog about?

For many businesses this is the hardest part of the entire blogging process, particularly if they operate in a more traditional market or sell a fairly unexciting product.

One of the ways to help solve this problem is to invest time and effort at the start in planning and researching potential topics.  The creation of even a basic content calendar for a few months ahead can prevent a last minute panic on what to write about.

Here are just a few ideas of possible content for your blog:

Topical or Industry pieces – sign up to industry newsletters and read trade magazines etc to see what news stories are hitting the press in your particular industry.

It’s important to remember however, that these should really only be used for inspiration, if you want to be seen as a thought leader in your industry you need to put your own spin or twist on the subject.  How many times have you seen the same news story repeated across multiple websites because someone has told them they need to add fresh content?

Case Studies – a detailed case study is a great way to add credibility to your business, particularly when a testimonial is included as part of the piece.  What’s more you can promote your clients’ business at the same time, meaning they are more likely to share it across their network as well.

Team Member Profiles – one of the great things about blogs are that they allow you adopt a more informal and friendly style than the rest of your website.  They are therefore a great way to put a more human side to the business and team member profiles are a nice way to do this.

Customer Questions – if you want customers both existing and potential to read and engage with your content, why not ask them what they want to read about?  Providing answers to common questions asked by your customers or providing guides and helpful tips are not only more likely to be shared by them but can also address potential questions that visitors to your website might have during their buying cycle.

Images – remember blog posts don’t have to all be written.  Images and photos can tell a great story and when included within a post generally improve engagement (particularly if they include an element of humour).  Remember to ensure you have correct license in place for using other peoples images within a post and that the quality is sufficiently good.

Don’t forget….. educate and inform……. don’t sell

Good blog posts aren’t sales pitches.  If you want your audience to take the time to read your content and more importantly share it with their network there has to be something in it for them, whether its informative, funny or quirky what they don’t want is to be sold to.

How can a business make sure people see their blog content?

It is true that once written a blog post isn’t going to give a business any great benefit if it sits unread and unloved on their website.  It needs to be promoted and the following are a few pointers on how to ensure each post receives the maximum visibility.

Make it visible on your website – too often a blog is hidden away as part of the navigation of the website.  Ensure relevant posts are highlighted across the site to tie in with and support the page content and aid conversion.  Promote latest posts on the home page and have a clear link to the blog itself across the site.  Add social share buttons to each post to aid content sharing when visitors do reach the blog itself.

Promote each post via your own Social Media channels – whichever social media channels you use as a business make sure you promote every blog through them.  On Facebook post across both personal and business pages and via advertising, on Twitter send it out more than once with different titles, on LinkedIn promote via Company Pages, Groups as well as individual profiles.

Optimise the post for relevant keywords – well optimised content and meta data will help your post get visibility within the organic search results.  Claim authorship of content via G+ to help with this.

Leverage existing contacts – include a link to your latest post within your existing touch points with your contacts such as email footers, regular newsletters etc.  Ask existing contacts to help promote and share your content across their network in return for a similar favour for their own posts.

Blogger Outreach or Syndication across other sites – quality is very much the key to whether this is possible along with having the necessary contacts but when completed it enables your content to be seen beyond your own network and that of your existing contacts.  Its most likely to be an option when working with a content marketing company.

A few final tips on how to make sure your business blogging is successful

Authenticity – make sure the content and style reflects your business.  Whilst not everyone is skilled at writing, successful blog posts capture the enthusiasm and expertise that the business has.  A vanilla post won’t help your audience buy into you and your brand.

Consistency – if you want to create a following for your content you need to be consistent.  Too often businesses set unrealistic goals on how many times they will post and then quickly run out of steam.  Start slowly and ensure you keep it going – quality and consistency win over volume every time.

Patience  – it takes time to build a following.  Its also quite likely that you won’t get any direct feedback in terms of comments on your posts at the start or even ever.  That doesn’t however mean that your audience isn’t engaging.  Too many businesses don’t see instant results and give up, it can only be once you’ve stopped that you get to find out just how well it was being received.

Further information

For more information about how to get started with blogging for your business, download our free Guide: An Introduction to Blogging or contact the team at All Things Web® who will be happy to help.

 

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15 Things you Should Know About YouTube!

As All Things Web begins to optimise more and more YouTube channels and videos for our clients we thought it would be fun to list 15 interesting facts about the internet phenomenon that is YouTube. Next time you’re at a dinner party and want to look a 100% uber-geek then feel free to quote from our facts mentioned below!

    • Youtube was founded by 3 ex-Paypal employees (Steve Chen,  Jawed Karim and Chad Hurley) and the website went live in November 2005. By July 2006, whilst in “beta mode”, the site generated over 100 Million Video views per day and – on average – 65,000 new videos were uploaded. Not bad for a beta website!
    • Me at the Zoo was the first YouTube video uploaded to the site in April 2005, it currently has 13,674,906 views, 83,193 comments and 124,609 thumbs up. The video which only runs for 19 seconds features YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim visiting San Diego Zoo.

      • After its owner, Google, YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet – it generates a far greater amount of traffic than Bing, Yahoo and Ask combined)
      • Tony Blair became the first political leader in the world to establish his own YouTube channel, he currently has *only* 732 subscribers on his “The Office of Tony Blair” channel  whilst in comparison Barack Obama has over 546,000 YouTube subscribers!

      • Whilst at PayPal Chad Hurley was responsible for designing the original Paypal logo!
      • In 2008 on April Fool’s Day Youtube redirected every video to Rick Astley’s “Never Going to Give you up” – thereby joining the world in the process of Rickrolling!

      • Khan Academy by choosing to host all 4015 videos it has created on YouTube has become one of the platform’s biggest publishers, with over 300 million total views and its mission? To provide a free, world class education to anyone anywhere.

      • Currently YouTube is blocked by China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Tajikstan, Sudan, Syria and the USA’s Department of Defence – source here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_of_YouTube
      • The most viewed user-generated YouTube video is “Charlie Bit My Finger” which was uploaded on the 22 May 2007. It has over 666 million views, 252,000 subscribers, almost 600,000 comments and nearly 1.2 million thumbs up!
      • The most viewed video, at this time, on Youtube is the PSY Gangnam Style Music Video with – wait for it! – 1,915,019,041 views (that’s almost 2 billion views!!!) and over 8 million likes. Phenomenal figures.
      • Google bought YouTube way back in 2006 for $1.65 billion (in stock) just 18 months after being set up – certainly makes you wonder how much YouTube would sell for now.
      • In April 2006 Sequoia Capital provided YouTube with $8 million in additional funding.
      • In 2010 Hurley stepped down from his position of CEO at YouTube to focus on other projects
      • Over 4 billion hours of video (over 450,000 years’ worth) are consumed over on YouTube every SINGLE month.
      • Its estimated that during 2007 YouTube used as much bandwidth as the entire Internet did during 2000, that’s an impressive statistic.

 

 

Finally this video with 25 million likes gave us one of the biggest  jump-out-of-your-seat frights on YouTube ever!
Take a (brave) look here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRV4d9LCawU

Enjoy!  :D

Our next post will feature details on how to do Search Engine Video Optimisation for YouTube so stay tuned!

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Usability and Conversions – How much do people LOVE your website?

heart shaped at symbol red

 

Well, as its Valentine’s Day, I thought I should write something about lurve. How much do your customers LOVE your website? Maybe a little, maybe a lot – do you really know? Internet interaction can be short and sweet leading to a long and loyal relationship. Alternatively it can be a frustrating unfulfilling experience where customer and website part company sharpish!

 

 

Too close?

One of the problems I have seen time and time again is business owners being so close to what they do and so familiar with their own website – they completely miss how their customers and potential customers may view or experience the site. How many MDs actually complete the checkout process on their own website for example? Below I have highlighted a few things to think about in terms of customer experience:

Set the mood – with the right language

Is your content pitched correctly to the audience you want to appeal to? Are you using language they understand and will engage with? Here are my top tips:

  • Don’t confuse your audience with jargon or industry terminology that only you will understand as an expert in your field.
  • Do some research on your target audience and what the layman will understand and respond to.
  • Write a few different elevator pitches with different tones and then ask your peers, friends, family and social media network for feedback. This can be very useful as often writing for your own business can be hard.

Send out the right messages

This relates to not only the content on your website but the interaction between you and your customer. So think about these questions:

  • Is the messaging right on your website?
  • Do you have a clear objective of what you want your visitor to do? And do you guide them to it?
  • How do you deal with customer complaints?
  • Do you check up on how your customer feels about their latest experience or purchase?
  • Do you make them feel valued and heard?
  • Do you listen?

Having made these points – don’t go too far the other way and stalk your customers with relentless emails and calls – scaring them into restraining orders or relocation. Nothing is a bigger turn off than desperate and constant communication (also known as spam!)

Keep the passion alive

I have experienced good and bad with this – some companies’ value long standing clients or customers and are sure to make them feel loved with discounts or some other benefit.

Others sadly, are so busy chasing new exciting flirtations that they leave their loyal brand followers adrift. Remember it is easier to convert from an existing relationship than it is to convince a new one.

Usability – how smooth are you?

What does usability mean? Is it functionality? Well yes but it’s also to do with layout, art direction, intuitive navigation, buttons and baskets being where you would expect them to be.

One of the best ways to see how customers use your site is to get some usability testing done. Watch them navigate your site:

  • How long does it take them to find what they want?
  • Are they getting enough information and guidance to make a decision?

 Conversion – Do you score?

There are so many factors involved in conversion rates and these can be influences outside of your control like: day of the week, weather, season or if the doorbell just rang and distracted the user.

But, you can control is what is on your site: For example:

  • Colour can play a major role in conversions – a green checkout button at the bottom right of a product will be seen more easily than a grey one.
  • Bulleted and detailed product spec
  • Excellent product imagery
  • Reviews
  • Quick and flawless checkout process

Which brings me on to:

A Loveless checkout

Let me give you an example: I recently went onto a website – a market leader in unusual gifts. I wanted to send a gift to a friend. Now this website (no names mentioned of course!) had great navigation, it was easy to find what I wanted and I added it to the basket no problems – but then at checkout process it all went to pieces. Despite the fact that thousands of people use this site to order gifts:

  1. There was no option to request the invoice would not be included in the parcel (who wants the gift recipient to see how much you spent on them?)
  2. There was no option to put a name on the delivery address – so it would go to my friends address but with my name on it!!!
  3. The images of the gift wrap options were so small – I couldn’t see what I would be getting!

So I ended up having to ring them to change the details and confirm the invoice wouldn’t be in the parcel. It was only that I trusted the brand enough to complete the checkout.

NB: to their credit they have responded to my comments and are talking to their design team.

How many potentials do you lose at the checkout?

These are stats that can easily be checked through analytics. If there is a mass fall out from a certain page you will know where to start looking for the problem. Ask your customer service team what are the main issues that customers call about.

It can be anything from:

  • Badly positioned or labelled  buttons for the next step
  • Ambiguous text causing confusion
  • Lack of detail – no shipping costs perhaps
  • Voucher code box – people leave the page to go looking for a code.
  • Slow loading
  • Not enough payment options
  • Not enough shipping options
  • Too many steps in the process with unnecessary mandatory fields

The example I gave was for an ecommerce site, but brochure and service based sites need to think along the same lines; Are you:

  • funnelling your visitors to a conversion page with a clear call to action
  • Giving quality information and advice
  • Explaining process of your service

 Conclusion – Is it LOVE or just a Flight of Fancy?

Consider the points raised in this blog and look at your website through fresh eyes. What improvements can you make to increase your customer engagement and conversion rate?

Please share your best and worst website experiences with us – we would love to hear your stories!

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