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Matt

November 14th, 2014.

10 Great Social Media Tools For Marketing Managers You Should Know About

As more and more companies become aware of the importance of social media and the impact a well-run social media marketing campaign can have on their business, the need for clear, effective and efficient analysis of performance, reach, and the wealth of data available is ever greater.

Social media allows businesses to interact with their customers and create interest and excitement around their products and services, build their brand and ultimately generate revenue.

Knowing your audience, understanding how they behave and finding out what works and what doesn’t is key to helping develop a successful social media marketing strategy.

Below are 10 great social media tools for marketing managers to help you gain greater insights into your audience and manage your social media campaigns more effectively.

1. Google Analytics

GAProbably the most well-known analytical tool, Google Analytics has a whole host of features including social reporting which allows you to measure how visitors use your site, where they came from and how you can keep them coming back.  Social reports help you measure the impact social media has on your business goals and conversions showing you conversion rates and the monetary value of those conversions that occurred due to referrals from each social network.

The Social Plug-in report shows which articles on your site are shared and through which social media channels (Facebook like, Twitter Tweet, etc.) while tools such as Multi-Channel Funnels and Attribution show how all your campaign elements work together so you can concentrate on those that work best .

While there is a free plan, the Premium service is designed for larger organisations and the more detailed insights they require.

 

2. Hootsuite

HootsuiteHootsuite is a Social Media Management Tool which allows you to manage multiple social streams like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and many more in one place.  It enables you to monitor and track what is being said about your brand or product and help you to respond instantly.

This is a useful tool if you have a team rather than one person managing social media as it allows you to delegate responses to different team members ensuring that no fans or followers are overlooked.

Although there is a free plan for personal use, the Pro versions costs £9.99 per month for up to 9 team members, 100 social profiles and unlimited RSS while there is also an Enterprise package for larger corporations (demo available).

 

3. Socialbakers Analytics Pro

Socialbakers Analytics Pro allows you to analyse the performance of your competitors on social media in order to gain a better understanding of their social business strategy across media such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, etc..

Learning from their successes and failures helps you to create more effective social media campaigns for your brand.  Features include competitive analysis, visual reporting and Fan and Follower Insights as well as Mobile App Support.

There are various pricing plans starting from $120 per month.

 

4. Crowdbooster

crowdboosterCrowdbooster is a tool which helps you achieve an effective presence on Twitter and Facebook.

With Crowdbooster you can track the growth of your audience, know who your most interactive and enthusiastic fans are, and schedule posts for both Twitter and Facebook.  Crowdbooster also highlights the key information you should pay attention to, such as new and influential followers, so that you can engage with them.   You can also manage multiple accounts and share access with colleagues and clients.

There are a variety of pricing plans starting from $9 a month with a free 30-day trial.

 

5. Postling

postlingPosting describes itself as “your all-in-one inbox for all social activity about your business”.    From one social inbox, you can monitor what’s being said about your business on the web and respond to messages from your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.  You can also be alerted whenever a word or phrase you are tracking is published on Twitter, Facebook, Google News and WordPress.

Another feature is that using Postling you can publish to a variety of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Facebook Photos, and YouTube.

Pricing starts at $1 for the first 30 days and $10 a month thereafter.

 

6.  SocialBro

socialbroSocialBro is a tool specific to Twitter which helps you better target and engage with your audience while also providing analytical insights.  It informs you when’s best to tweet, how to indentify your influencers and discover new users, and analyse your Twitter competitors.  SocialBro works alongside Twitter scheduling tools such as Hootsuite and has a complete suite of tools designed to meet the needs of all types of user from individuals and small businesses to large enterprises.  Pricing plans range from free to paid to tailored.

 

7. ArgyleSocial

argyleArgyle Social is a B2B Social Marketing platform which ensures your efforts add value to your marketing through monitoring prospects, aiding engagement and tracking conversions.  Segmented campaigns, multi-network reporting and integration with sales platforms such as Marketo and SalesForce help prove the true value of social interactions.

Argyle Social helps you to qualify and quantify better leads, and build and maintain stronger relationships with your audience.

There are three monthly pricing plans with different features ranging from $200 for small marketing organisations to $600 for professional marketers to $1100 for large marketing teams.

 

8. Spredfast

spreadfastSpredfast is an enterprise social media management system that allows an organization to manage, monitor, and measure its performance across multiple social media channels.

It enables companies to , increase audience engagement through integrated campaigns and discover relevant topics from the moment they start to trend facilitating the creation of inspiring authentic content.

Spredfast’s listening and analytics solutions provide end-to-end visibility into the social data that helps companies understand their audience and make better business decisions.  It can be Integrated with your existing digital analytics applications like Omniture, Google Analytics, Brandwatch, Crimson Hexagon, and more.

Request a demo to see what it can do for your business.

 

9. Shoutlet

shoutletShoutlet is an Enterprise Social Relationship Platform which enables companies to understand their market, reach and engage target customers, grow their social database and plan and execute social content.  The ability to link different platforms together means site management efficiency and enables companies to see what products are popular with their customers.

It’s designed for social media marketing professionals who need a streamlined solution to creating social media content and managing interactions.  A demo can be requested.

 

10. Wildfire

wildfireFor enterprises and agencies, the Wildfire Social Marketing Suite enables you to turn separate social media tactics into effective strategic campaigns.  Features include Social ads which helps you reach the right audience across a variety of networks, the creation of interactive landing pages and promotions using pre-built templates or your own custom design and the management of conversations with your audience across social networks from a single dashboard.  Integrations between Wildfire, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager provide the insights to measure social ROI.

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Matt

November 7th, 2014.

40 Ways to Increase Your e-Commerce Conversion Rates

You have built a website and sell product from it. You have entered the wonderful world of e-commerce. The question is, how well is your site performing? How are your e-commerce conversion rates?

There are a number of relatively straightforward ways to improve the conversion rates of your e-Commerce site. Here are forty ideas that you can use to ensure that potential customers find visiting your site a pleasant experience; a place where they find it worth their while spending their hard-earned money.

1.      Define your engagement strategy

It is vitally important that you determine exactly how you intend to engage with your potential customers. You want to ensure that these customers perceive that you are giving them value

2.      Use social media as a sales channel

There is a considerable amount of marketing done using social media – Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest etc. Firms use these channels because they work

3.      Have a clear, navigable product page

Make it as easy as possible for people to find their way around your site and make a purchase. People are not going to be bothered if it is hard to work their way around your site

4.      Make product features prominent

Customers really want to know about your product. Therefore product features should have the highest prominence on your page.

5.      Don’t forget about mobile

In mid-2014 mobile internet usage exceeded computer internet usage. It is absolutely vital that your web presence is usable by people on mobile sites. It is a very good idea that your site is fully responsive, and (unless you have a separate mobile-specific site) your site scales down appropriately for mobile usage

m-commerce

6.      Think carefully about your online copy – use key words and SEO

Always write with SEO (search engine optimisation) in mind, to ensure that the potential customers have a good chance of finding you in a Google or Bing search.

7.      Make certain that your content is original

Your products may be the same as those on many other websites, but you need to ensure that your product descriptions are not a direct copy of those elsewhere. You need to reword each description to ensure that it is different to your competitors’ descriptions. The search engines look for, and penalise duplicate content.

8.      Use photos

The internet is a visual medium. Web surfers spend much of their time looking at pictures and graphics. Potential customers want to know what a product looks like, showing the product in use if relevant.

9.      Use lots of variety in your product photos

As customers cannot physically feel your product, they expect to be able to have a good view of it. This depends to some extent on your product, but in many cases potential clients are far more likely to buy your product if there are photos of it from different angles, giving an all-round view. A number of the better sites even have 360 degree viewers.

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10. Provide tools to zoom in on your product photos

Another way to utilise photos of your products is to give potential customers the ability to zoom in and look at the fine details of your product.

11. Use videos if relevant

Many people browsing your site will be converted when they see a video of your product in action, particularly if it makes it clear that your product is useful and easy to operate.

12. Use a well-designed drop-down menu

If you have well-designed drop-down menus as navigation on your site it makes it easy for potential customers to find their way around your site. Avoid having these menus go more than 2 levels, though, because it can get confusing after that, and you lose the responsiveness for mobile browsers

13. Have a good site search function on your website

Site search makes it easier for customers to find what they want. Surveys show that up to 30% of people visiting a site use the site search function.

14. Offer complementary products on your product pages

Customers thinking of buying a particular product may choose to buy these complementary products, e.g. batteries beside electrical products, or on book sites show other books written by a particular author.

15. Make certain that you appear trustworthy.

There are too many fly-by-night firms on the internet. Customers want some evidence why they should trust you. Include a genuine telephone number. Include genuine reviews. Offer guarantees. If you use a certification brand, like McAfee Secured, make sure their logo is displayed in a prominent position.

16. Display a free phone number

Customers expect to be able to talk to you. Reputable firms use free phone numbers, so it is essential to your firm’s reputation that you do too.

17. Make chat available as a means of communication

It is all very well to offer a Freephone number and a Help or FAQ section on your site, but the easiest way to get interaction with a potential customer (well a reasonably computer-literate one at least), is to have a chat facility. It’s as close as you can get to there being a salesman in person to answer the customer’s questions

18. Consider offering video-chat on your site

This is even better than normal chat – your customer can see and interact with a real person, who could even demonstrate some features of the product

19. Make certain that your prices are clear and obvious

You don’t want disgruntled customers leaving, either because they can’t find the prices amongst all the guff on your page, or because they get to check-out only to find hidden costs added on. Prices need to be totally clear to your customers at a glance

20. Price competitively to your opposition

On-line customers have far more ability to do price comparison than brick and mortar customers. They can, and will, do price comparisons. You do need to be price competitive.

21. Look at offering Price Match

Being prepared to match your competitors’ prices will build up trust in you by potential customers. You may not earn as much from a particular sale, but hopefully you will make up for it with future sales. This is probably one to test over a period of time, because it will not be suitable for everyone.

22. Give limited time discounts

A classic marketing trick. Make your customers think they have to rush their decision and make a choice now, before they lose a discount.

Fila Promo Banner 3.2.12

23. Make payment easy for customers

The more payment options you have available the more potential customers will shop at your site.

24. Make a point out of offering free shipping

This is, of course, only viable if your margins can cover the free shipping. If so, then it will often be the deciding factor when a potential customer is trying to decide between you and a competitor –albeit the customer is still paying in a more indirect way

25. Offer quick delivery times

Customers like speedy delivery of products ASAP, and will often be willing to pay a premium for urgent delivery.

26. Show your daily cut-off delivery time on your site

Indeed it is very useful if you show a timer, indicating how long your customers have left to be able to get goods dispatched for delivery today. This probably depends on where you sell stock to – if most of your sales are overseas, it probably makes little difference whether the stock is dispatched today or tomorrow

27. Show your returns policy

It removes potential customers’ doubts if they can clearly see the ease with which they can return goods. If you offer Free Exchange, or a Money Back Guarantee, display it prominently.

28. Have low stock indicators on your site

It helps your customers if they know whether you have a particular stock item on hand (and if you don’t, how long will it take you to get replacement stock?

29. Use product reviews by customers

Customers like to see how others have found using the products they are considering buying. Include product reviews to assist potential buyers.

funny-amazon-reviews-three-wolf-moon-shirt

30. Show your seller ratings if you are operating in a community marketplace

If you are just one seller amongst many, for example a store in the Amazon Marketplace, displaying your seller rating (and other information about yourself) will build up trust.

31. Have clear Call to Action buttons

Make certain your call to action buttons are clear and obvious. Make certain that you test these out before they go live.

32. Use coloured buttons to direct customers through your check-out process

If you want to direct potential customers to take a certain path, highlight the button you want them to push a clear and obvious colour.  Conversely, make any buttons that reverse you back through the check-out process, grey.

33. Make certain there are no programming errors visible to your customers

Nothing looks more amateurish to website browsers that when an error message comes up when they try and order from your site. Only the most determined will continue forwards – anyone else will leave your site almost instantly.

34. Use test shoppers before your shop goes live.

You do not want real customers to find flaws in your system. It is far better if you hire a few people to act as test shoppers first, and take good notice of any flaws they find navigating and using your website.

35. Use relevant tools to optimise your site

There are some tools specifically aimed at optimizing your conversions, e.g. Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, Qualaroo, The Cart Closer etc. Try them out and keep using the ones that suit you best

36. Ensure your check-out fits on a single page

Multi-page check-outs send potential customers away, and a number pull out of the transaction part-way through the process. Make certain that the plugin or whatever checkout method you are using enables the check-out process to occur on a single page

UniqloSinglePageCheckoutScreenShot

37. Avoid compulsory registration at the checkout

Customers are often turned away because of the rigmarole of going through a compulsory registration process. It is far better to have an optional registration process once the order is processed

38. Only ask for essential information from customers

Potential customers get put off by having to fill in too much information. The simple rule is that if an item of information is not absolutely necessary, do not ask for it. Have a clean, stream-lined check-out page

39. Use automatic address recognition at your check-out

There are various apps / plug-ins that simplify the process for a customer entering their address. A customer is more likely to go through the purchase process if they do not have to make too much effort to get through the check-out

40. Use one-click process to speed up the check-out

Add an Amazon or PayPal button to your checkout to speed up processing of orders for your customers.

I suggest that you take a close look at your website and see how it rates in relation to these guidelines. If need be, make some changes. They will almost certainly be worth your while and the outcome should be increased sales.

link-bait

Matt

November 5th, 2014.

Great Examples of Linkbait used on eCommerce Sites

Content is an important part of any eCommerce site’s marketing strategy. Driving traffic to your website, generating links, increasing your websites search engine rankings and branding and PR are important factors for eCommerce sites. Linkbait is a very useful method for influencing all of these factors. Whether it’s a quirky video or a humorous infographic, linkbait can be very useful.

What is Linkbait?

link_baitingLinkbait refers to content, like a blog post or a video, which is designed to get people to link to (or share) that content. Search engines, like Google and Bing, take into account incoming links, and the quality of those links, when ranking a website. Organic, unpaid, won on merit links to a website are highly valued, so using linkbait is a very effective way for a site to increase its search engine rankings.

There are many different types of linkbait, but the most popular, and arguably most effective are:

  • Humour: Humour-based linkbait is very effective. People like things that make them smile or laugh, so funny content, whether it’s a video or a fake product page for an outrageous product will likely be shared with others.
  • News: If you provide updates on breaking news, or offer a news feed, or the latest news on one industry, this is called news linkbait. Using news stories is an effective method for getting more traffic, and repeat visits to your site.
  • Contrary: Content that is controversial or offers a viewpoint on a subject that is contrary to popular opinion is an effective type of linkbait. While a little risker, controversial content can draw in high numbers of traffic and it can generate a buzz about your website.
  • Resource: A long article, blog post, guide or eBook can act as an informational resource for visitors. Resource linkbait is one of the most successful forms of linkbait, because visitors are very likely to share it with others, and return to the resource themselves frequently. For example, a blog selling bridal veils may offer a guide to choosing a wedding venue.

How can eCommerce Sites Implement a Linkbait Campaign?

 Free Guides

Posting an extensive guide, walkthrough, or how-to, on your site is a fantastic way to drive traffic to your website. A perfect example of using a free guide as linkbait is, Moz.com. Moz.com offers a “Beginners Guide to SEO”, which has proven incredibly popular. People have shared this guide with others, and have revisited it many times themselves too. It’s a good example of resource link bait. Think about what information would be truly useful, relevant and valuable to your customers. For example, if you sell supplements, fitness and nutrition based guides would be ideal. Don’t be scared of giving away too much here. The better and more extensive your resource, then the more successful it will be. Branding yourself as an expert or authority on a topic will pay dividends in the long-run.

Use a Constant Promotional Page

Create a page that has a static URL, and keyword optimise it. Then, place your offers and deals on that page. This is your incentive linkbait page. On this page, also highlight give-aways or contests. Keep this page for each and every deal, giveaway or promotion that your site hosts. Eventually, with each deal, you will get more and more links to that page, and therefore increase your website’s rankings.

Video content

Video content is a highly effective form of linkbait. Statistics show that after watching a video, website visitors are 64% more likely to make a purchase, and that if a webpage includes a video, it is fifty times more likely to rank in the first page of the search engine results. Video links can also generate a great deal of traffic on social media sites.

Infographics

As infographics combine images and information, they are becoming an increasingly popular form of content for websites. Infographics are very diverse in that while they deliver statistics, facts and information, they are also aesthetically pleasing, making them ideal for sharing on image based sites like Pinterest and also being referenced and republished in blog posts.

Blog Posts

From controversial opinion based posts to top ten style posts, done well blog posts are a very effective form of linkbait. When creating blog posts, think about what your target audience wants. What content would they find useful, and interesting enough to share? If you sell hiking equipment, you could write a post on the top ten hiking spots in the UK. Make it extensive, make it evergreen, focus again on being a resource, keep it updated and it will attract links over time.

Examples of Effective Linkbait Strategies

13 Essential Tools for Surviving a Zombie Outbreak

REI sells hiking and camping equipment. Its 13 Essential Tools for Surviving a Zombie Outbreak infographic, is the perfect example of linkbait. Combining the elements of humour and resource linkbait, this guide garnered REI a great deal of attention. It also leverages the popularity of zombie shows and movies, like the Waking Dead, to create a piece of content that is truly share-worthy.

ZombiePan

Tactical Duty Kilt from 5.11

5.11 Tactical is an eCommerce store that sells a wide range of clothing items, accessories and equipment for law enforcement, tactical operators, first responders and recreational enthusiasts. As an April Fool’s joke, the company announced its “Tactical Duty Kilt”. This joke product garnered the company a great deal of attention, so much so that 5.11 Tactical actually decided to really make the Tactical Duty Kilt. It’s the perfect example of how humorous linkbait, and fake product pages can really help an eCommerce website.

Blendtec Will It Blend? – iPad Video

Blendtec is a company that sells blenders. It has managed to not only increase traffic to its site through linkbait, but also differentiate itself from other similar companies on the Internet. The company has done this through its Will it Blend video campaign.

These videos show the founder of the company, Tom Dickson, blending odd items, from credit cards to mobile phones, in order to demonstrate how powerful the company’s blenders are. These videos have proved incredibly popular, but the Blentec Will it Blend iPad video is one of the most viewed.

Volkswagon Fast Lane – The Slide Video

Volkswagon had the ingenious idea to put a slide on the stairs of the Alexanderplatz subway station in Berlin. The company named the slide the Fast Lane. The subsequent video showing the slide in use asks the question, “Are you Ready for the Fast Lane?” Fun and thought-provoking, this video is the perfect example of how, when done well, video content can be an ideal form of linkbait.

 

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Matt

October 31st, 2014.

Google, Penguins, and Unintended Consequences

Changes to the status quo will often have unexpected and far-reaching results; so said Robert K Merton in his Law of Unintended Consequences back in 1936.2_142

Changes that are made by governing bodies and organisers to complex structures are almost unavoidably likely to have an impact on uninvolved bystanders; such is the nature of any system.

Modern economists make frequent use of the law to explain how decisions at a governmental level have significant unintended consequences further down the food chain.

Examples of the law in practice include wind farms that actually harm the environment by killing birds. Laws used to promote green vehicles which with the help of an enterprising salesman resulted in free golf carts for businessmen, and the Australian law making cycle helmets mandatory that actually resulted in an increase in the risk of death and serious injury to cyclists.

So what does all of this have to do with Google?

In the search engine world, there’s little doubt about who makes the rules; and with its recent Penguin update, Google has left some innocent websites suffering in its campaign for good SEO practices.

Some Early Examples

Now of course there is some history here. There are many early examples of unintended consequences that have arisen from decisions and courses of action that Google have taken,

  • Using Pagerank to dictate that links had value resulted in the link economy, blog networks, comment and forum spam and a proliferation of low quality web directorie
  • Google AdSense for publishers led to an explosion in content scraping, copyright theft and MFA (Made For Adsense) sites.
  • The introduction of rel=nofollow led to Pagerank sculpting and siloing.

So Where Does The Penguin Update Fit In?

The Google Penguin update was introduced in April 2012 as a means of identifying and demoting websites that had previously benefitted from aggressive SEO techniques.

According to Matt Cutts (Head of Google’s WebSpam team), the update targeted ‘all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, “over optimization” or “overly” doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site.’

To put it bluntly, it was designed to demote websites that appeared to be benefitting from undeserved backlinks.

The principles behind Penguin meant that it was welcomed by most web users. It would ensure that websites that engaged in link-spamming and other underhanded black-hat techniques would drop down the rankings. Google speculated that the first update would only have an impact on 3.1% of English search queries and 3% on searches made in the German, Chinese, and Arabic languages.

The Reality?

The Penguin Update was largely successful, resulting in the demotion of a hundreds of thousands of websites that had been ranking unfairly. Unfortunately it also affected some sites that hadn’t knowingly engaged in shady link-building practices.

For example, the specialist WordPress site WPMU.org was crushed by the update, dropping from 8,580 daily visits to a paltry 1,527 after it was introduced.

Despite the site’s owner, John Farmer claiming that there had been no keyword stuffing, link schemes or had any problems regarding quality. Matt Cutts came forward with the claim that the site had been penalised due to a few bad links pointing to it.

Largely it was felt that due to the nature of the site (a WordPress resource); there were bound to be links to the site indicating authorship and design of blogs often of a lower quality – links that were keyword heavy and in footers, blogrolls and often sitewide.

Even so, the damage had been done and it was left for WPMU to rebuild their rankings.

One major unintended consequence of the Google Panda Update was the ‘bad-by-association’ approach to some sites. If one site was penalised, sites associated with that site were shown to be affected negatively. In an online discussion Michael Martinez of SEO Theory said, ‘what they are seeing is a Cascade Effect where the websites that link to them suddenly lose value. So the real problem lies 1 or 2 tiers back. These are not false positives, although they are collateral damage.’ However we define this problem, it is clear that some websites have experienced a drop in traffic and money-earning potential through no fault of their own.

The Target Changes…

Some leading SEO experts have revealed that some more aggressive (and less-ethical) SEOs have posed as their rivals and petitioned sites with fake requests for the removal of perfectly good links. Such tactics have been adopted as a means of reducing competitor’s website rankings. Thankfully as yet this problem doesn’t seem to be widespread.

When fake emails aren’t enough, there have also been some reports of unscrupulous webmasters building spammy links to rival websites hoping to see them penalised as a result.

Even examples of blackmail threats made to websites with the threat of black-hat SEO and possible penalties.

Members of the specialist SEO Forum Traffic Planet revealed how devastating this tactic could be by test-targeting two websites with ScrapeBox blasts. This involved the creation of thousands of anchor-text based backlinks and resulted in a substantial ranking drop for the sites targeted.

The Traffic Planet case study was just one way of outlining the effects of a wide reaching problem. Danny Sullivan, the Editor in Chief of Search Engine Land pointed out that, ‘As for not accepting there’s no negative SEO, I’ve repeatedly said that it is possible … perhaps it [is] more viable now because it’s cheaper now. That’s exactly the opposite or refusing to accept that links could be cheaply and trivially pointed at any site. What remains unclear is how serious a threat it is to the vast majority of sites out there.’

The cautionary message here appears to be: as much as Google’s addressing of black-hat SEO may make for a quality content-driven user-experience, it’s by no means flawless. When in doubt, leave it out and play it safe.

dominos-pizza-sitelinks-1

Matt

October 24th, 2014.

All You Need to Know About Google Sitelinks and Mini Sitelinks

For some time Google has shown a number of sitelinks under some of its search results. In 2009 they expanded on this system and introduced mini sitelinks, also known as one line sitelinks.

So what are sitelinks? And what is the difference between normal sitelinks and mini sitelinks?

Sitelinks

The older form of sitelink appears to be relatively rare nowadays – they have tended to be superseded by their little brother. The traditional sitelinks appear under a few search terms, mainly well-known brands, and they show additional links within that particular domain. They will only appear on the top ranking result in a search, will show up to eight specific links on a site, and will appear in two columns (and therefore up to four rows).

sitelinksAn example of a traditional sitelink occurs if you search for “BP” in Google.com. The top ranking result for that search is, not surprisingly, BP Global, at www.bp.com . At the bottom of this search result are four sitelinks (they are in the two-column style, so are clearly traditional sitelinks, not mini sitelinks) which are Careers / BP United Kingdom / BP Australia / BP America. These are clearly delineated sections of the BP website, and different people are likely to want to go to the different links.

Another example of a search term with traditional sitelinks is “BBC”.  The first result belongs to the homepage of the BBC itself – www.bbc.co.uk. At the bottom of this result there are six sitelinks: BBC News / BBC iPlayer / Sport / Football / Weather / Radio. These, presumably, are six of the most frequently visited sections of the BBC site, and it is probable that people visiting the site only choose the one area that they are really looking for.

As can be seen from the examples I have chosen these traditional sitelinks generally only appear to show when you search for particular brands. Sitelinks only tend to be triggered when there is one specific authorititive site that is relevant for a query – in the vast majority of cases this is a brand result for a brand query. A search for “BP Oil” does not bring up traditional sitelinks, nor does “BBC Television”. Indeed a search for some very well-known brands does not bring up a result with traditional sitelinks at all.

Although Google has kept its criteria for deciding on when to display sitelinks secret, it appears that it will only show traditional sitelinks when there is a clear and obvious first result in a search, and where there are sufficient different sections of a site that people would want to see, that match what people are likely to be searching for.

Mini Sitelinks

Mini sitelinks have now become much more common than the traditional variety. As their alternative name (one-line sitelinks) suggests these are all displayed on one line, and there are usually four of them. There can even be more than one set of them for a particular search term. Quite a number of search results that do not make it to number one in the search list still qualify to have a row of mini sitelinks placed on them.

The key differences between the two types of sitelinks are:

  • Sitelinks seem to be (generally) limited to branded searches, although the mini sitelinks are not
  • Sitelinks only appear beside the number one result in a search, but mini sitelinks can appear beside lower ranked results
  • Mini sitelinks can appear beside multiple search results for a term
  • It is even possible for a particular domain to appear more than once in a search of a specified term, and there can actually be different mini sitelinks on the different appearances of that site in the results. A particular domain can even show with traditional sitelinks at the top of a search, but with mini sitelinks further down the results.

The specific search term used is very important. A particular domain may appear in the results with traditional sitelinks, mini sitelinks or no sitelinks depending on what search term has been used. In particular there will be no sitelinks when rarely used search terms are used. If you search for “Starbucks” you will receive results with the Starbucks website in the number one position, showing traditional sitelinks. A search for “Starbucks brewed coffee” will still bring up the Starbucks website as the number one result, but is will show mini sitelinks. A search for “brewed coffee” will bring up the Starbucks site as the number two result, but neither it, nor any of the sites listed, have any sitelinks.

Google keeps its sitelinks’ algorithm very much under wraps. However, there do seem to be a few common features of sites that have triggered mini sitelinks. If you aim to get these links on your own site, you might want to consider the following:

  • Is your actual site content relevant to your overall site theme? Google rewards consistency and clarity
  • Does your site have credible content that is clearly unique? Google loves quality content on a site.
  • Can Google clearly understand your site’s structure? Again, the clearer it is, the better it is for Google
  • If you did have sitelinks, is it likely that your users would click on the links?
  • Do inner/hub/category pages on your site attract links?

Of course, much of this is basic SEO. So clearly a site needs more than just good SEO. It needs to also have good traffic, and that traffic needs to be going to clearly delineated sections of your site. There may well be an unidentified threshold traffic figure that Google uses in their decision making.

cocacolaApart from ensuring that you are big enough to attract a high front page ranking for well-targeted high-traffic keywords, there are a few other techniques which appear to help sites attract Google’s attention for their mini sitelinks. You need to have a very clear navigational path through your site. This needs to tie in with a simple site structure that matches clear HTML and XML sitemaps.

Some sites, however, attract sitelinks when they do not want them. Even some of the big sites have somewhat bizarre sitelinks attached to them. If you search for Coca Cola, the first thing you notice is that despite being a big brand there are no traditional sitelinks. The mini sitelinks that appear beneath the first result (for www.coca-cola.com) are Coca-Cola / Nigeria / Angola / Djibouti … a somewhat odd choice unless you were living in Africa.

This instance supports the view that navigation is an important factor in triggering sitelinks and which sitelinks are chosen.

If you feel your sitelinks are inappropriate, or would prefer not to have them at all, you can block them using your Google Webmaster Tools. There is a chance that, assuming you already meet the criteria to have sitelinks, you might be able to suggest to Google more appropriate links (again in your Google Webmaster Tools). However, ultimately it is up to Google to decide who will receive the links and what these will be.

twitter-645x250

Matt

October 22nd, 2014.

How should your company use Twitter?

Twitter can seem like an alien world to people who have never used it; 140 characters of plain text per tweet, so how can you get anything out of it that’s actually useful?

Well of course, it’s more than just plain text, with hashtags, hyperlinks, and an increasing choice of multimedia formats.

Embedded images were among the first supported media types, Twitter’s own Vine application adds the possibility of videos (albeit only six seconds long) and Audio Cards extend the media types to include streaming audio.

So how can you capitalise on the wealth of possibilities put forward by the microblogging platform?

Outreach

Outreach is one of the key uses for Twitter, with a fundamentally public audience – more than on any other social network, it’s possible to reach Twitter users who do not actually follow you yet.

The benefit of this is simple: it maximises your potential audience and allows you to build your customer base by reaching people who might otherwise have never heard of your brand.

A potential downside is that you will need to invest quite a lot of time and energy into tweeting if your profile is going to look active and approachable to people who are unfamiliar with your company, but it should be worth it for the final payoff.

Focus your efforts by joining in with an active hashtag in your industry area, or your geographical area: good examples of both include #journorequest for PR and journalism professionals, and #NorthWestHour for firms based in the region.

Focus on developing a list of bloggers and journalists in your industry and monitor their requests and interact with them.

Customer Service

One of the best uses for Twitter is customer service – the ability to quickly respond to queries, and to acknowledge comments that wouldn’t ordinarily warrant a full reply.

It’s a platform on which people often ask the little things that can keep them interested in your brand, but which they would be unlikely to go to the trouble of contacting a Tech Support email address for.

Good examples of this include telecoms firms such as Virgin Media, whose account is almost solely used for customer support.

And within their recent tweets, a particularly fine example of how Twitter can allow you to tweak your tone of voice is a thread from a customer who opened his enquiry with: “What’s occurin’ gorgeous?”

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Virgin Media’s response blamed his issue on their web page being “a little bit of a diva”, a great example of replying to the customer in their own terms, and of how the social aspects of Twitter can keep things light, even when people are experiencing problems.

Just be careful if you are taking this approach – some people will feel you are not taking them seriously enough, so be certain that you only adopt a light-hearted tone of voice to those customers who used one in their own enquiry.

PR

Perhaps the best example of using Twitter for positive PR occurred on the day when Google unwittingly started displaying a parody of the bakery chain Greggs’ logo in search results.

The logo appeared in Google’s summary box of facts about Greggs on related search pages, and said the bakers had been “providing s**t to scum for over 70 years”.

Greggs responded in good humour, tweeting a photograph of their donuts to Google and adding: “Fix it and they’re yours!

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Soon after, another photograph followed, this time of the Google logo spelled out in sausage rolls, and a suggestion that Google might use it as their Doodle for the following day.

OK, so that may have been a rather audacious suggestion – but Greggs got near-universal positive feedback on the stunt, with Twitter user Claire Dauria calling it “the best pastry-based social media bants ever“.

The best example of a Twitter PR campaign that backfired is probably MasterCard’s #PricelessSurprises hashtag.

As a campaign itself – giving people the surprise of a lifetime – it was not badly conceived, but MasterCard famously tried to force journalists at the Brit Awards 2014 to use the hashtag, whether they wanted to or not.

The response was outrage from the journos and from Twitter users in general, and while the campaign definitely got the company’s brand name in the headlines, it was for the wrong reasons.

Be careful when using Twitter – or any social network – for PR, and remember that a little self-deprecation goes a long way online, whereas trying to force your brand on to people will always be met with hostility in return.

Branding

Building a brand on any platform can be a challenge, but on Twitter the expectations are a little different, and small businesses in particular can often gain a substantial following by allowing their personality to shine through – perhaps because they tend to be a little more modest than the big brands, and don’t make the same mistakes.

A good example of this is Alyssa Smith, an award-winning jeweller who has picked up several celebrity customers and is a regular tweeter.

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With an approved charity range of Formula 1 jewellery and appearances in print and on Channel 4 News – not to mention gracing the back end of a bus as a poster girl for her university – Alyssa is a shining example of how Twitter can help transform an individual or small firm into a fully fledged brand.

She is friendly and approachable, replies regularly to all of her customers and brand advocates, and strikes just the right balance with tweets about new product launches and special offers.

Again, it’s not always easy to do this, so don’t assume that it is, but the massive public audience and easy access to celebrities and media outlets makes Twitter a great tool for the job.

Mobile-Payments

Matt

October 17th, 2014.

The Growth of Mobile eCommerce Payments

From cash to credit cards, the way consumers pay for their purchases has significantly evolved over the past few decades. Now, however, the evolution of payment methods is accelerating, thanks mostly to the prevalence of technology in society.

According to statistics, there are currently six billion mobile phones in use throughout the world, and 88% of Europeans own one. Many consumers now browse eCommerce websites from their phones.

Research-gives-insight-in-the-mobile-payment-user-base-and-penetration-worldwideIn 2012 alone, people spent $25 billion on purchases that they made from their mobile phones. Now, 32% of all purchases online are made from mobile phones. As a result of the growth of mobile platforms, by 2018, according to Goldman Sachs, international e-Commerce will see a growth of $638 billion. By 2020, it is estimated that the majority of people will make purchases using their mobile phone.

The popularity of mobile phones is changing the way consumers shop. Often, people don’t feel that using their credit card or debit card to pay for purchases is safe or secure. The need for a more convenient and secure way to pay for purchases has led to an increase in mobile payment systems.

What is a Mobile Payment System?

Mobile payments require a mobile payment processing platform.  Many companies, from PayPal to Amazon now offer such options to their customers. There are four types of mobile payments:

  • Contactless Near Field Communication
  • Premium SMS Based Transactional Payments
  • WAP Billing/Mobile Web Payments
  • Direct Mobile Billing

Popular Mobile Payment Systems

All of these mobile payment platforms vary in the models they use. However, they all eliminate the need for registration details, passwords and credit cards or debit cards.

Zong

Zong is a mobile payment organisation, which allows its customers to make payments online, via their mobile phones. The company, which was acquired by eBay in 2011, operates in forty countries, including the UK. Zong now has 60 million users in the UK. Customers in the UK can use Zong if they are on the Vodaphone, Orange, O2, T-Mobile, 3 or the Virgin network.

To use Zong, you simply click on the red Zong symbol, and a box will appear. You need to enter your mobile phone number into this box. Then, you will be sent a secure pin code, which you will enter online to make your purchase. With Zong, a consumer’s purchase is charged through their mobile phone bill, by their mobile network.

PayPal Mobile Payments

PayPal is a well-known digital wallet and online payment system, which has been making it easier for consumers to shop online. Now, the company is offering a mobile payments system, called PayPal Mobile Payments. The company first tried the NFC payments model, but found it too complex and limiting. The system now is very simple.

First, you have to activate your mobile phone number and pin number. These will be your mobile login details. Then, either online, or through apps, you can shop using this payment system. You simply select PayPal as your payment option, and then enter your mobile number and pin number to make your purchase. This payment system is compatible with iOS and Android apps, and it allows you to pay via phone, tablet, and many other mobile devices.

Amazon Payments/Amazon Mobile Payments Service

Through the Amazon Payments system, consumers can make purchases online, in a way that is more secure and more convenient. Through the Amazon Payments system, Amazon is offering the Amazon Mobile Payment Service (MPS). With this system, customers can make purchases with their mobile phones.

To make a purchase using the Amazon Mobile Payment Service, first click on the “Pay with Amazon” button. You will then be taken to page hosted by Amazon Payments, where you will use your Amazon login details to sign in. From there, you can select a payment method that you already have on file with Amazon. Once you’ve selected a payment option, you’ll return to the merchant’s site, where you can make your purchase. You can use the Amazon Mobile Payment Service to make purchase from any mobile device.

Netsize

Netsize is a payment platform, which allows its users to make purchases from their phones and other mobile devices. The company works with over 160 mobile networks in more than 50 countries. Netsize offers many mobile payment models, including WAP billing, in-app billing, and operator billing.

Text2Pay

Text2Pay is a mobile payment system, which makes purchasing products online, much easier. The payment system operates in over fifty countries. To make a purchase on Text2Pay, you need to click on the “Pay by Fone” button. Then you will need to enter your mobile phone number. You will then be asked to enter your post code, so that Text2Pay can verify that it matches the details for your mobile phone number. After this, you will be sent a pin number, which you will need to enter to complete the transaction.

Boku

One of the largest mobile payment programs, Boku operates in 66 countries, and is partnered with over two hundred mobile phone networks. Boku is a very safe, and convenient mobile payment system, and it offers excellent customer services.

To use Boku to make a purchase, you need to select the “Pay by Mobile” option. You will need to enter your mobile phone number. Then, you need to click “Yes” to confirm your purchase. Purchases that you make using Boku will be charged directly to your mobile phone bill. This means that you don’t need to use credit cards, debit cards or bank accounts to make your purchase.

With the rise in smartphones, apps and tablets, mobile payment systems are becoming an integral part of eCommerce. As the amount of purchases made from mobile devices continues to grow, more and more eCommerce sites are sure to begin offering mobile payments.

A view of Facebook's logo May 10, 2012 i

Matt

October 10th, 2014.

How to Target Your Competitors Facebook Fans

You’ve heard that having a Facebook page is all the rage for business nowadays. You think that you should be part of the Facebook trend. You possibly use Facebook personally and see that it could help you gain new customers and communicate with existing ones. You even wonder whether you can use it to promote yourself to some of your competitors’ fans. So what should you do?

Setting up Your Own Page

Obviously before you can even think about using it to attract customers, new or those of your competitors, you need to build up a professional, attractive Facebook page yourself.

It is a relatively easy job to set up a Facebook business page, but there are a few clear steps that you need to follow.

Begin by clicking on the downwards facing triangle towards the right of the blue bar across the top of any Facebook screen. A list of options comes up; choose “Create Page”. Select the most appropriate of the following options:

  • Local business or place
  • Artist, band or public figure
  • Company, organisation or institution
  • Entertainment
  • Brand or product
  • Cause or community

facebook-cover-photo-dimensionsFill in any relevant information you are asked for. Note that it is not possible to change your category without having to create a completely new page, so think carefully before you choose it. If there is any doubt at all, this might be a good time to look at your competitors’ pages. How have they classified their pages?

Fill in all the basic information and upload your main profile image (sized 180 x 180). As this is the image that appears beside all of your posts it should ideally be your logo. Also, think carefully about how you describe yourself in the About Me field. This is what will appear on the front page, and is what any casual visitor will see about you. Make it count. Again, look at your main competitor’s description, and try and produce something better than what they have written.

The next section looks at your Admin Panel, which will be an area you will work from regularly. One job to do here is to write an expanded About Me section for the fan who is interested enough to click on the shortened version on your front page.

It is time to check your opposition again. Generally, what is the first thing you will notice when you go to their site?  It will probably be the cover photo that they drape across the upper section of their front page. You need to ensure that yours is equally as striking, or preferably more so. Remember that the measurement is 815 x 315 – get this right, otherwise you will be disappointed by the results.

Content

The absolute key to your business Facebook page is to have regular engaging content. You need to ensure that somebody is given the task of regularly updating the page, and keeping conversations going. You can easily set up rights for different staff members in the Administration Pane.

You can create tabs with content. Again check how your opposition use their tabs. You want your visitors to have a good user experience, so it is often best to restrict yourself to the four tabs that remain visible without scrolling. If you were a British firm in the fast food industry, you might notice that the McDonald’s U.K. site uses far more than the four basic tabs, and have them listed in a somewhat eclectic order. The four main tabs, in order, are Timeline / About / Photos / Students. These are followed by More, which if you click on brings up McDonald’s Breakfast / House Rules / Likes / Locations / Videos / Search Jobs / Visit Us / McNuggets Saucy Challenge.  Burger King, on the other hand, chooses to only have three items under their More tab, obviously relying on their customers navigating to the more visible tabs.

Make certain that you post regularly. Analyse what your readers seem to like and engage with. Do they like images? Do they like statistics? Do they click on particular types of links? You can find this information out by clicking on “View Insights” in your Admin Panel. From there you can monitor reach, engagement etc., and determine what works and what does not.

If you have any particularly important posts, maybe they are about a particular promotion or some key item of news about your business, you can make these posts stand out by clicking on the star at the top right of any post. This highlights the post horizontally across the entire page.

Targeting Your Competitors

So specifically, what can we do to target our competitors? There are a number of strategies, although many of these have had to change quite recently as facebook-business-newFacebook has altered its terms and conditions, limiting the activities that it considers acceptable within its rules. They have cracked down hard on tracking add-ons recently, and it is now quite difficult to get detailed information about pages that are not your own.

Firstly you should analyse your competitor’s internet strengths and weaknesses. You can get basic statistics about a domain’s popularity on Facebook by entering the following url in your browser:

http://api.facebook.com/restserver.php?method=links.getStats&urls=http://www.insertwebsiteaddresshere.com/.

e.g. if you want to know statistics relating to McDonalds, you could enter:

http://api.facebook.com/restserver.php?method=links.getStats&urls=http://www.mcdonalds.com/

This will bring up an XML file that will include the number of Facebook likes, shares and comments, relating to the particular domain. So, in the McDonalds.com example there are currently 2913 likes, 6800 shares and 4448 comments, but their McDonalds.co.uk site has only 17 likes, 102 shares and 2 comments.

You can find some more information by using http://graph.facebook.com/facebookname,

e.g. for McDonalds:

http://graph.facebook.com/mcdonalds

Some useful information you can learn here is their site ID number (which can be substituted for their name in the address bar), the category they have chosen for their website (have you chosen the same category?), their Facebook likes (a huge 32153757 in the case of mcdonalds.com), their username and a number of other statistics.

You can find some interesting information by going to https://www.facebook.com/competitorsname/likes, e.g. https://www.facebook.com/McDonaldsUK/likes tells you the number of likes on a day-by-day basis. It also tells you that McDonalds UK’s most engaged fans are Londoners aged from 18-24.

The next area to look at is what your competitors’ fans are writing on their Facebook wall. Go to their Timeline page, and scroll down the left sidebar until you come to the Posts to Page section. Click on that. You will now have a page of the most recent posts made by the visitors to their site.

Read these comments. What do their fans like about them? What can you do to emulate the things that they are doing successfully?

Just as importantly, what are these people complaining about? On the day I looked at the McDonalds UK page, there were fans complaining that most of the vouchers they were given were years out of date. Immediately you know of something to watch out for yourself. There were also many other complaints about poor service and even dishonesty by a particular branch. While there is obviously not any proven veracity as to the truth of some of the complaints, it is still a good guide as to public feelings about your competitor’s performance.

You can learn a lot from how your competitors respond to the complaints, either from the good techniques they use or the bad ones. Notably, the McDonalds technique was to not respond at all.

You can learn more information about your competitors’ Facebook pages (as well as interesting and useful statistics about your own page) by subscribing to Fanpage Karma. There is a 14 day free subscription option if you only want to use it once to get basic information. It can tell you what kind of posts attract fans and encourage engagement, e.g. do the fans react best to pictures, links, videos or offers etc. In the case of McDonalds you discover that they only post pictures. Fanpage Karma also shows you statistics about what days result in the best interactions. Clearly the most successful McDonalds posts are made on Fridays. This does suggest that if McDonalds was your competitor, you should be making Friday posts.

You can use the History and Benchmarking tab within Facebook Karma to see what kinds of posts have done well for your competitor. Maybe you could benefit from producing more posts like those with high engagement. While you are on that page you can see who the top influencers are, and you can look to see why they have been successful. At the time of writing the most successful food and beverages page is actually the Starbucks one. Make certain to record these successful competitors’ ID numbers, which you can use when targeting your Facebook advertising.

Targeting Your Facebook Advertising

One way that you can really target your competitors is by targeting your advertising towards the people who like your competitors’ pages. You can even design ads that focus on the problems that you have seen mentioned on your competitors’ pages. For example, a UK fast food restaurant, could make a point of advertising how they do not hand out dated vouchers.

Facebook_News_Feed_adWhen you set up your Facebook ad it is recommended that you use the Power Editor option. This gives you a number of choices to help you specifically target your ads. If you click on Ads, then Audience and scroll down you will find a section on Demographics. Within that you will find a section on Internet Behaviours and Categories. To target your competitors’ pages, search for them by name in the Interests section. So, for example our fast food restaurant would target their ads at people who list McDonalds as their interest. While you are at it, you may find that it might be a good idea to choose to target a Lookalike Audience for your existing fan base in the Audiences section.

If your competitor is too small to appear in the Interests field, you can at least target the same demographic. As McDonalds UK targets 18-24 year-old Londoners our fast food restaurant could also target the same group.

It is no longer easy to get specific lists of your competitors’ supporters. Facebook have made it clear that you breach their conditions if you try. There used to be quite a few applications that would strip out for you the I.D. codes of the people visiting your competitor’s Facebook pages. There is no longer an easy way to do this. However if you do your homework and follow the techniques I have outlined you should be able to focus on your competitors’ fans with your targeted advertising dollars and promotion, combined of course with high quality appropriate content on your own page.

sofa

Matt

October 8th, 2014.

Great Content Used on eCommerce Product Pages

Creating a high quality product page requires a combination of many different elements. From the content to the layout, a good product page must combine functionality, optimisation and high quality copy.

Presenting your product pages in a way that is useful for both search engines and customers is incredibly important. Many different elements are involved in creating a website that prompts customer action and increases conversion rates.

Cross-Selling

newlookCross selling is a technique that involves suggesting or recommending products that are similar to the one that the customer is already viewing. For example, when a customer on a furniture website is looking at a sofa, the website may recommend an ottoman, by placing a link to that product somewhere on the same page.

Statistics show that cross-selling increases conversion rates by 3%. It also improves the overall ease-of-use of your site, increases the average value of each order, and provides more visibility to your website’s overall range of products.

Example: New Look

Click on any product on fashion retailer New Look’s website and you’ll not only be presented with great high quality imagery for that product, but also other complimentary items. New Look gets cross-selling right in their “You May Like” sidebar. The complimentary products are prominent, but small enough for the main product to still be the primary focus.

Effective Copy

Effective content is, arguably, one of the most important aspects of creating a high quality eCommerce site. In fact, 60% of consumers buy a product after they’ve read content about it.

panGood copy cannot only increase your conversion rate, but it can also help your site’s search engine ranking. If you want to increase conversion rates, you must have an engaging product description written for every product on your site.

It should not only include the dimensions and specifications of a product, but it should also tell the reader why they should make a purchase. It should let them know what makes this product unique.

Example: William Sonoma Steel Grill Fry Pan

When it comes to product descriptions, William Sonoma gets it right. The product description for their Steel Grill Fry Pan combines all the elements of a good product description. It uses adjectives carefully, and cleverly, and provides the reader with information about the product in an interesting and engaging way.

Subtle Use of Keywords

Search engine optimisation is as important as ever for online businesses. B2B statistics show that SEO leads have a close rate of 14.6%, while traditional leads, such as print advertising, only have a close rate of 1.7%

johnlewisImplementing effective SEO on-page elements can drive traffic to your website, and place it at the top of the search engine results. Search engine rankings are important for your site. According to statistics, 75% of consumers never scroll past the first page of search engine results. If you can get your site higher up in the search engine results, using SEO, it can have a massive effect on your conversion rates.

Example: John Lewis

Using both generic and brand phrases such as Adidas and football trainers, as well as longer tail descriptive keywords like black, white and mens in a way that reads naturally, and actually adds value to the copy and covers longer tail search phrases, John Lewis is a prime example of how SEO can be used effectively. There is also a good amount of descriptive text on the product page that will help the product rank for a wider range of long-tail phrases.

Customer Reviews

bootsProduct copy is one of the most important aspects of a good eCommerce website, but potential customers often want the opinions of “real” people. Allowing customers to leave reviews on your site can increase your conversion rate. Statistics show that 70% of consumers check with reviews before making a purchase.

Example: Boots

Pharmacy, and cosmetic company, Boots allow their customers to leave reviews on products. You can even sort products by customer rating, using the “Top Rated” search criteria.

High Quality Imagery

sofaPhotographs are a huge selling point for eCommerce sites. High quality imagery makes the shopping experience for your customers better overall. It gives the customer more information about the product, which words simply can’t convey.

To increase your conversion rate, offer controllable 360 degree views, photos with products on their own and in use, close-ups and views from multiple angles and perspectives. It’s also ideal to use images that are on the larger scale, rather than small images, as these can increase conversion rates by 9%, according to statistics.

Example: Sofa.com

Sofa.com is a fantastic example of how high quality imagery can be used to enhance customer experience. Large, high quality photos, and 360 degree product views, make the viewing experience a delight for the consumer.

Utilise Extras Like Video

Video offers a number of benefits. It increases overall user experience, and provides a fresh insight into the product. Most, importantly, however, videos can increase your conversion rate. Statistics show that consumers that watch a video about a product are 64% more likely to make a purchase.

Clear CTA

While cross-selling, email capture forms, copy, high quality imagery, and videos are all important for increasing your conversion rates, you don’t want to overcrowd your product pages. You want the focus of each page to be on the product, and on purchasing the said product. So make sure that you have a clear call to action on your site.

Responsive Optimized Web Design

Nowadays, consumers not only shop for goods on a PC, but they also use laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Providing your consumers with a high quality experience on your sites, across multiple devices can improve conversion rates and ROI.

A consumer shopping from their phone doesn’t want to have to scroll across the page. A responsive web design makes a website viewable from multiple devices, without the consumer having to resize the page or scroll across.

Example: Cotswold Outdoor

Whether you are shopping from your laptop, or your phone, the Cotswold Outdoor looks great. A fantastic example of a responsive optimized site, you can view this website on any device, without having to scroll, scale or zoom.

speed

Matt

October 3rd, 2014.

A Guide To Improving Your Page Load Speeds

Many businesses may think that page load speeds are not very important, and why would they? Most of us these days have super fast conversion-rate-page-load-timebroadband Internet, fibre optic is being rolled out and 4G provides users with speedy mobile Internet. So what does it matter if a webpage takes 0.5 milliseconds longer to load than others? Well for one, Google takes into consideration page loads speeds, and will rank websites with faster load speeds higher in their search rankings. Major ecommerce giant Amazon, reported in 2006 that for each 100 milliseconds they speeded up their page load speeds, directly correlated in a 1% increase in overall sales. Interested now? We thought so, here are 11 ways to improve your websites page load speeds.

1. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A CDN (such as Cloudflare) works by placing your files across several different servers around the world. For example, when you get a visitor from Brazil, they will download your website files from a sever that’s closest to them. Using a CDN can reduce as much as 60% bandwidth and greatly minimises the number of requests visitors make to your site. Using a CDN also helps your website become less susceptible to DDoS attacks, as files are distributed over several locations

2. Compress your images

Images are a major factor when it comes to page load speeds. There are several ways to compress images without comprising quality, for WordPress users we suggest downloading the Smush.it plugin. This will automatically reduce the size of every image on your site without distorting the visual appearance. Also, before uploading images to your server ensure that they are compressed as much as possible using a free programme like Irfanview

3. Spring clean your database

A problem with website platforms such as WordPress, is the size of your database can become very big in a small amount of time. Once you start making post revisions, adding plugins and extra widgets, your database can become a big drain on your server resources. Depending on the platform you use, there’s several ways to reduce the size of your database, from manually deleting files you don’t need, to downloading plugins that do all the hard work for you.

4. Compress your website

We mentioned the benefits of compressing images, but all your other files eat bandwidth too. Using server compression applications such as Gzip, will speed up page loads speeds by compressing all your website files into smaller compressed files. Hor hosting company should be able to install this very easily.

5. Don’t let others hotlink your images

‘Hot linking’ an image is when another website uses your image on their website, that’s sourced back to your website database. This results in bandwidth being taken for free by other websites for your images. There’s certain plugins you can use to stop this in WordPress, or by adding code to stops others from hot linking your pictures.

6. Sort out your broken links

Going through your website and fixing all 404 errors and broken links not only helps your site save bandwidth, but improves your Google performance and improves your visitor experience. If you site has many broken links, users are much more likely to leave your site, check your Google Webmaster Tools to see if you have any broken links or errors  and fix them. Alternatively, download the Broken Link Checker plugin on WordPress. Fix your links and watch not only your bounce rate fall, but your site speed up.

7. Is your code best practice?

If you hired a coder to create your website, did they use the best coding practices? It’s quite possible to have two identical websites that both look and respond the same, while being created from two different blocks of code. Using as little coding as possible is a sure fire way to improve page load speeds and reduce overall file sizes. If you’re not a coding expert, and chances are you’re not, ask someone who is to quickly look over your code and ask them what they think.

8. Ask Google

Google offers many amazing free tools you can use for your website, one of them being PageSpeed Insights. Simply enter the URL of your website and hit analyse. Once complete, Google will give you feedback on how your website loads up on desktop and mobile devices, and what further action you can take to help speed up your site.

9. Enable browser caching

Browser caching is an awesome tool all website owners should use, it work by allowing your previous visitors to save your sites commonly usee files on their local machine. So the next time they visit your site, they can access the files directly from their computer without having to make another HTTP request to your sever. Perfect!

10. Reduce your plugins

Less is more when it comes to installing plugins on your site. The more you have the slower your site becomes, and the more problems and security threats you open yourself up for. Any plugin you don’t require or no longer use, delete them. If you have a feeling a particular plugin is reducing the page load speed of your website, deactivate it and run a speed test to see whether it was slowing down your site. You might be surprised to see how much damage one small plugin can do to the page load speed of websites.

11. Use a faster web host

Not all web hosting companies provide the same quality service, depending on who you use, makes a tremendous impact on your website speed and performance. Popular budget host providers are names to avoid if your website drums up a lot of daily traffic.

Page-Load07Further Tools to check your website performance

Along with using Google PageSpeeds, there are several other free tools to check your website performance, they include:

Pingdom – is a great free tool that allows you to test the speed of your website, and monitor how quickly users can download files from your site.

Which Loads Fastercompares two sites against each other to see which one loads faster. It’s best used to compare your site with your competitors to see where you are falling behind.

WebPageTestallows you to check the speed of your site from several locations around the world. Users can create simple tests from testing page load speeds to video capture and visual comparisons.

Web Page Analyser – works very much like PageSpeed Insights in that it measures the speed of your website and gives you advice and tips on how to improve performance and efficiency.   As it stands today, around 48% of all Internet users come from mobile and tablet devices. The need to reduce file sizes and increase page load speeds is increasingly important. if your site takes too long to load, users will click back and head on over to your competitors.

Follow our 11 tips today and watch your page load speeds become faster than ever before.

Use the free tools listed in this article to test the speed and performance of your website. After making the 11 changes, run the tools again and let us know how your website got on in the comments below.

GoogleTrusted-img

Matt

October 1st, 2014.

Google Trusted Stores Now Open In The UK

In 2012, Google launched its Trusted Stores program in the USA. Now, the search engine has opened the program to UK retailers, aimed at creating a better shopping experience for both consumers and eCommerce websites.

What is Google Trusted Stores?

Google Trusted Stores is a program that is beneficial to both consumers and eCommerce sites. With the Google Trusted Stores program, retailers that meet certain criteria get a Trusted Stores badge, which displays on their site, and on paid search engine results. This badge allows stores to show they offer fantastic customer service and consistent, on-time deliveries.

gts

 

Benefits to Consumers

The Trusted Stores Program benefits consumers in a number of ways. As online stores have to meet strict criteria to join the program, consumers are able to shop with more confidence. Online, there are thousands of stores for consumers to choose from, and often, consumers don’t know which ones are going to provide them with the best shopping experience.

When a consumer sees the trusted stores symbol on a store, it differentiates that site from others. It allows shoppers to more easily identify stores that offer a high quality shopping experience. Merchants with the badge will also offer free purchase protection from Google.

Benefits to Businesses

For retailers, the program can be highly beneficial. It provides merchants with the chance to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The Trusted Stores badge immediately makes a store stand out.

For example, a person searching for a floor lamp on Google will see an abundance of stores. However, if they see one store is displaying a badge, they are most likely to visit that particular store.  This increased level of visibility will attract more customers, and therefore, increase sales and conversion rates.

Most importantly, however, the objective data offered to consumers through the program can drastically increase a store’s customer base. When a consumer places an order with a site, they want to know that it offers a good shopping experience. The Trusted Stores Badge provides consumers with more objective information on a store’s quality level.

When a consumer hovers their mouse over the badge, they will see a report card. This card offers information on a store’s customer services and shipping reliability. Also, it will display overall data on the store, such as returns, delivery times, email response times and the overall shopping experience. This data is collected through an independent shopping evaluation company called StellaService. With this symbol, the consumer is given an objective review of the site, and will be more likely to purchase with that store.

Applying: Who should Apply and How to Apply

Stores can apply to the Google Trusted Stores program, only if they meet certain eligibility criteria.

  • Process a Certain Number of Orders: Your site must consistently process at least two- hundred orders, over twenty-eight days to be eligible.
  • Use Shipping Tracking Numbers: On the majority of the orders your site ships, you must use shipment tracking numbers. This is so Google is able to see how quickly your shipments were delivered, and how many were delivered.
  • Cannot Sell Restricted Items: If your website sells any restricted items, such as tobacco, weapons, and certain pharmaceuticals, it won’t be eligible for the Google Trusted Stores Program
  • Must Offer Reasons for CancellationsIf your site becomes part of the Trusted Stores program, it must provide reasons for cancellations. When an order status changes to cancelled, you will be taken to a pop-up screen. On this screen, you will have to state the reason for the cancellation. In order to keep your Google cancellation feed up to date, you have to enter this data.
  • Deal with Customer Escalations Promptly: If a customer is not happy with one of your employees, and wants to talk to someone in a higher position, this issue must be resolved within one working day.
  • Use a Custom Domain and Have an SSL Certificate: Your website must have its own custom domain, and have an SSL certificate to participate in the Google Trusted Stores program.

Launching in the UK, the Google Trusted Stores program is sure to have a big impact on eCommerce and paid search, and  may helpincrease conversion rates for many stores.

Google-Local

Matt

March 25th, 2014.

A Beginners Guide to Google Local Listings – How to Get Listed and Ranked

For many small business owners, online marketing is a vital component of the marketing mix, and thankfully in my experience; this is something that most small business owners will know very well. And while there are a lot of ways to get noticed on the internet, the best way to get online attention has always been Google. Because of Google’s ever-reaching virtual arm, a business owner would be advised take advantage of the local-business focused Google Places.

Google Places is a great tool for any locally focused business, and it’s also free and easy to set up. This post is going to show you exactly how to get your business listed on Google Places and it’s going to take you through the all-important task of getting ranked.

Setting Up Your Account and Getting Listed

Before we get to optimisation, I’m going to take you step by step through getting your business actually listed on Google Places. This process is fairly straightforward and the initial setup should take no more than an hour.

Step 1 – Create a Google Account for Your Business

To start with the very basics, you are going to need a google account for your business. You probably already have a personal google account, but it is advisable to make one specifically for your business. The reason for this is that there is a chance that an employee will manage your listing at some point, and you probably won’t want them on your personal account. This is also convenient if your business does ever switch hands in the future. It’s best to keep your business account easy to remember, and most people will simply put their business name @gmail.com.

Step 2 – Claim Your Business as Yours

google_placesIf your business Gmail account is good to go then you can now claim your business and get it listed. Now you’ll need to go to the Google Places homepage and click Get Started. Click “Get your business found on Google” and now you’re off to the races. Since this is your first time listing a business under your business account you will have to search for the business by your country and phone number. It is important that you use the businesses landline for this search or google won’t recognise the business (this is because of the integration with google maps).

When you search for your business Google will either find your business and show you basic information (usually pulled from directory sources such as Yell) or it will take you to the next step that we’ll cover. If it does have you listed already then still don’t worry because you will be able to edit and add more information about your business. At this point your business is being claimed as yours and you will now move on to the biggest part of this guide.

Step 3 – Edit Your Listing

Now you are in control of your listing and you can get started on entering all of the details of your business. Google will want you to be very specific and you should prepare yourself because there is quite a lot of information to be entered now. We’re going to touch on each area now and give you a good idea of how to efficiently do each section.

Basic Information

google-local-10-packBasic Information is where you’ll input all of the, you guessed it, basics of your business. This section is fairly easy to understand, but it is also very important for your listing. These are the categories that your listing must have, straight from Google:

  • Country
  • Company Name
  • Address
  • City, County, Postcode
  • Main Phone Number

While the fields are pretty self-explanatory it is important to note that consistency is key here. Google wants to trust your business and it wants to make things simple for the consumer, so it is very important that you enter everything here consistently with how you’ve used it in the past. Look at other websites that your business is on, such as FreeIndex or Qype, and make sure that every detail is identical. It really helps to nitpick here because even minute things like using St. instead of Street can make a difference to Google.

The business description in Basic Information is also a very important part of your listing. This is your time to shine and make your business look good (all in 200 characters or less), so you should think of it as something that you would feature on your own business website. Use keywords here and make sure to target the description to your ideal consumers.

Service Areas and Location Settings Areas

In this area you will be asked if your business is in one location or if it is in multiple locations. If your business doesn’t do deliveries or outside business of any kind then select that option and you’re done. If your business does operate in multiple locations then you will have to determine an area of service. For this option you can either provide a distance from your location or list the cities/areas that you want to be listed in. Both options have their advantages and it will really depend on your type of business.

Hours of Operation and Payment Options

This section is again pretty straightforward. Google will pull the information from your company website if you don’t enter it, but it is best to be in control of the information and avoid any errors. Completely filling everything out will also help to build on your reputation with Google and make you look more trustworthy.

Images/Photos

Photos are a very important part of your listing and they should definitely be included. Pictures will make your business look more attractive to potential customers and it will also make you look more professional and trustworthy to Google. There is a limit of 10 pictures so be sure to use the best pictures possible with you limited slots. It’s also a very good idea to use your most important pictures first, so that customers see the good ones even if they don’t look through all of them. The pictures that you should use include:

  • Company logo
  • Images of your employees at your business
  • Pictures of your products
  • Pictures of the business itself

Videos

Videos aren’t exactly necessary in your listing, but they definitely won’t hurt. Every little thing still builds credibility and makes you look more trustworthy.

Additional Details

It might be tempting to put keywords and extra marketing in this section, but that would be a very bad idea. The best use of this area is to put additional details only, things similar to the examples that Google offers (brands carried, parking). You can use your keywords in the other sections, but reserve this area only for important details that didn’t fit in the other areas.

Step 4 – Verify Your Google Places Listing

You are almost done now, but you still to verify with google that you do actually own your business before you can take full control of your listing. There are two options for verifying your listing, and these options are phone verification and mail verification. Mail verification can take 2-3 weeks so as long as the option is available to you (which it will be in 99% of cases), you’ll want to use the phone option. Immediately after you choose the phone option your business line will receive an automated call from Google which will give you the 5 digit verification pin. Enter the pin and you will finally be ready to go on your listing.

Optimising Your Google Places Listing

Now you and your business are all set up and verified on Google Places, but there are still some things that you can do to get the highest ranking possible on your listing. Being listed is all well and good, but this isn’t the same thing as being found.
A lot of the little tricks have been mentioned above, but I’m going to go through a few more good practices that will help to get your rankings up.

Maintain Your Google Places Listing

This might seem a bit obvious, but you will definitely want to keep up with your page and change any details if anything in your business changes. It’s also a good idea to check the analytics on your website and play with your listing until you get the optimum traffic from it.

Market Your Google Places Listing

It might seem redundant to market a marketing tool, but giving your listing some love really will make a big difference in the long run. To ensure that your Google Places listing gets the most attention possible you might want to consider these steps:

  • Encourage your customers to review your listing – use transactional emails and mailing lists for this.
  • Post updates on your Google Places page with things like coupons and discounts
  • Build up business reviews on other reviews services
  • Optimise your business website for Google

Utilise Citations to Improve Your Google Ranking

Citation-Image-1-LogosThe last thing that we’re going to touch on which will really help your ranking is the all important tool of citations. Google loves to see you being mentioned on other websites, and having a good list of third party citations is one of the best things that you can do to improve your local ranking. There are countless services that list local businesses, and getting yours on just a few of these (but especially the right ones) will endlessly help you in your pursuit of getting noticed by customers. LocalVisibilitySystem is a great starting point to see the types of websites that you should be getting your business listed on.

I have also put-together a useful list of the top local citation sources that are used by Google.

The Excel Spreadsheet can be downloaded from here

UKLocalCitations

The above tips will all help your business not only get listed on Google Places, but will also help you actually be seen. If you follow these steps and always keep your Google listing in mind then you will start to find that it is an excellent source of well-targeted local customers.

LASTLY – you can of course ask your SEO agency to do ensure you have your Local SEO done right.  Please see how Datadial can help you by clicking here.

 

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