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Conversion Optimization Website Design

The Ultimate Website Conversion Guide to Increase Your Conversion Rate and Boost Your Revenue

One of the most effective ways to boost your business revenue is to optimize your website to maximize the conversion rate. A few changes to the words and layout could lead to a significant boost in the conversion rate.

So before you go off and spend a ton of money on ad campaigns, I suggest you to invest your time and resources to optimize your website so that it becomes a mean, money making machine. Website traffic by itself doesn’t mean much if the visitors are not taking the desired actions when they are on your website.

What is Website Conversion Optimization?

Website conversion rate optimization is about enhancing the design and optimizing the layout, copy, and the different elements on your website to successfully persuade your visitors to take the desired actions.

Conversion optimization is a complicated science, involving skills and knowledge in many disciplines including design, copy writing, analytics, neuroscience, behavioral economics, and psychology.

The good news is that you don’t need to get a PhD in any of the above mentioned subjects in order to improve your website conversion. Drawing upon my years of testing experience, I am going to provide you with a framework you can apply to dramatically increase your website conversion rate and boost your revenue.

Let’s get started!

1) Identify Your Ideal Customer & Understand as Much as Possible about Your Target Audience

To be able to sell to your target audience, you must first identify the type of customer that you can build a profitable and mutually beneficial relationship with.  Not everyone can be a good fit for your business. Either they may not get the desired values or that they may not be able to afford what you offer.  Thus, it’s more efficient and effective  for you to focus your resources on attracting the ideal customer.

Next, you must fully understand the pains, problems, frustrations, or desires of your target audience. Most people are either looking to get rid of a pain point (i.e. treat back pain, get rid of acne scars) or fulfilling a desire (i.e. improve business productivity, increase revenue, look younger, etc.).

The best way to know and understand your target audience is to survey existing customers and prospective customers. You can interview them, ask them to fill out a survey, or send them a link to fill out a survey on SurveyMonkey.com.

Pay attention to the exact words and language they use in describing their problems or desires. Besides the typical demographic related questions, these are the critical questions you should ask them:

  • For the non-customers, ask them to describe the problems they are facing with or the desires they are seeking to fulfill. If they are already using a competitor’s product or service, ask them what they like and don’t like about it. Next, ask them what are the benefits and improvements they seek in their search for the next product or service.
  • For existing customers, ask them what they like or don’t like about your product or service, how has your product or solution solved their problems or improved their lives, and why did they choose your product or service over other alternatives.
In addition to doing the survey, you should also talk to your sales and customer support teams. Since they interact with the customers often, they may have valuable information about the customers that could help you optimize your website.

2) Clearly and Concisely Describe What You Offer and for Whom

Within a few seconds, your visitors must know exactly what products or services you offer. In addition, your visitors should know whether your offering is right for them or not. Don’t use fluff or empty words such as “best in class”, “state of the art”, “innovative”. Be descriptive and use words that provide information that is meaningful and relevant to your target audience.

I have come across many websites in which I have no idea what the companies do or offer. Don’t make the same mistakes that they do. You may also want to experiment with using a short video (2 minutes or less) to explain how your product or service work. Video is great for engaging the audience and for explaining a complex product.

3) Convey Your Value Proposition Using Clear, Concise, and Benefit Laden Copy

Good copywriting can add a big boost to your conversion rate. The copy and message on your website need to clearly and concisely addresses how you solve your target audience’s pain points or how your product or service fulfill their desires. Keep in mind that people are not looking to buy a product or solution. They are looking for real results! The layout of your home page can follow the format below.

high converting home page

  • Be sure to incorporate the exact words and language commonly used and understood by your target audience gathered during the surveying exercise.
  • Use a strong headline and a few sentences to clearly convey the compelling values, benefits and results that your target audience will get if they buy your product or service. This is your value proposition and it’s the most important component of your copy. Your value proposition should make your offer highly desirable, credible, and distinguished from your competition. The more your visitors perceive your offer as having compelling values and benefits, the more likely they will take the desired actions on your website.
  • Use simple words and layman’s terms, simple sentence structures, and lots of bullet point statements. The bullet point statements make it easier for your website visitors to scan your site for key information.
  • Use lots of “You” words in your copy. The focus should be on your target audience, not on you. So talk about their problems or desires, what you can do for them, and how their lives will change with your help.
  • Break up your copy into several sections with descriptive subheadings. This allows for ease of scanning. Remember that people do not like to read on the web. So, make it easy for them to quickly scan your web page and quickly see the main components of your web page!

4) Convey Credibility and Trust

In general, people are wary of trying something new because of the fear of the unknowns and uncertainties.  This is especially true in high stakes B2B transactions. Most people would rather  stick with the status quo rather than risk trying a new vendor or supplier. To alleviate these fears, most people would follow along with what other people do, especially people that they know and trust. So, to help your prospects alleviate the fears of the unknowns and uncertainties, there are a few things you could do to increase your trust and credibility with them.

  • Show logos of customers that you have done business with, especially logos of recognizable clients (i.e. IBM, FedEx, Wells Fargo, Nike, etc).
  • Show testimonials of existing customers, especially testimonials that describe how they have benefited from your products or services. Testimonials are more powerful in videos or if accompanied with photos of the clients. If you have an e-commerce business, then include reviews for the products from customers.
  • Share case stories and describe how your solutions or products have helped your clients achieve the desired results or outcomes. Be sure to include quantifiable data if possible (i.e. helped client X increase sales by 50%).
  • Improve the look and feel of your site so that it looks attractive and professional (more on this in the section below). An ugly looking site can come across as spammy or not trustworthy.
  • Show off any press mentions your business received.
  • Include an iron clad no risk guarantee.
  • Show off any awards, certifications, and licenses your business have earned or acquired.
  • Include your company’s address and phone number in the footer and in the “contact us” page.
  • If you have an e-commerce business, you should display your site security certificates such as the ones from VeriSign and McAffee.

5) Enhance User Experience

Your website represents your brand and your image. As such, it is important that your website provide your visitors with a positive experience when they visit your website. You only have a few seconds to make a good impression. If your site design looks ugly or not user friendly, you will turn off your visitors and they will mostly likely hit the back button and start searching for a different site to visit. So, be willing to pay good money for a skilled designer because the investment is worth it!

Here are some tips to improve the user experience:

  • Don’t use too many colors. Use 2 main colors, a background color, and 1 accent color for call to action buttons or to highlight something important. The colors you pick should work well together. Check out colourlovers.com for color palettes and color ideas.
  • Use ample white spaces to separate each element (texts, image)  from each other so that your site doesn’t look cluttered and busy. What you should aim for is a “clean” design that visually guides the visitors to consume the content from top to bottom and left to right (F-shape).
  • Use professional looking graphics and images. Avoid using stock images as much as possible. Rather, use photos of actual people and actual products from your business.
  • The navigation should use words that are intuitive and should be in places that are common on most websites, which is usually on the top of the page and beneath the header or on the right side of the logo.
  • Avoid long sentences and long paragraphs of texts. Each section should have a subheading title and the paragraphs should be short. Use bullet points as much as possible. On the web, people scan rather than read.
  • Use a light color for the background color and a dark color for the texts. Dark gray texts on white background is quite common.
  • Bright colors should be used sparingly and should only be used to draw people’s attention to important elements on your site, such as the “Call to Action” button (i.e. “Add to Cart”, “Contact Us”, “Get Free Trial”, etc).
  • Do not present your visitors with too many choices or too many actions. Too many choices and options could paralyze theirs decision making process. As a result, they may end up not taking any actions at all. Each page should have a focused message and 1 primary call to action. You could have a secondary of alternative call to action, but it should be less subtle and should not compete with your primary call to action.
  • If you use a form to collect visitors’ information, don’t include more fields than necessary. The more work you ask your site visitors to do, the less likely they will follow through with the desired action.
  • Don’t make your visitors wait with a slow loading site. This means optimizing the image sizes as well as eliminating all the unnecessary Javascripts and codes that could slow down your site. Check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights, a nifty tool that analyzes the content of your web page, gives a speed score (100 is the max), then provides you with suggestions to make your web page load faster.

6) Tell your Visitors What They Need to Do and Why They Should Do it Today

When visitors visit your site, you just don’t want them to leave without taking any actions. You want them to click on the “buy” or “add to cart” buttons, sign up for a free consultation, fill out a short form to download a white paper, or sign up for a free webinar. Whatever action that you want them to take, make it very clear what they need to do and make it very easy for them to take that desired action!

  • Each web page should have only 1 primary call to action and everything on your web page should work together cohesively to persuade your visitors to take that primary action. You may include alternative actions (i.e. see tour of the product, download a free white paper, etc) that your visitors can take they are not yet ready to commit to your primary call to action.
  • Use a prominent color (orange, blue, red, green) that stands out from the color scheme on your website for your primary “call to action” button. For the alternative call to action, you may use a less prominent color for the button or just use a text link.
  • Instead of the useless”Submit” for your “Call to Action” button, use action words that convey what your visitors will get (i.e. “Add to Cart”, “Sign Up for Webinar”, “Get Free Consultation”, “Download White Paper”, etc).
  • Convey the importance of taking action today and what your visitors stand to lose if they don’t take action immediately.

7) Continuously Test and Optimize

While the above guidelines should provide you with a good starting point, the key to maximizing conversions is to continuously test and optimize. Certain things that work for other businesses may not work well for your business. The only way to know for sure is to test and let the data speaks for itself.

The 2 methods of testing commonly used for conversion optimization is A/B testing and multivariate testing. In A/B test, you are testing 2 different versions of a web page or landing page to see which version result in more clicks, more purchases, more signups, or more subscriptions. If you are using an A/B testing software, the software would automatically send half of the website traffic to a control page and the other half to a treatment page. Some of the popular testing applications you could use include Google Content Experiments, Optimizely, and Visual Website Optimizer.

In Multivariate testing, you can test different variations of the key elements on your website. Multivariate requires a lot of data points and testing duration could be very long before you could achieve statistical significance. In most cases, I recommend to go with an A/B testing plan.

A/B testing has become quite common in e-commerce as well as B2B businesses. Even President Obama’s campaign team has successfully employed A/B testing to turn site visitors into more subscribers. Some of the things they tested include the images on the splash page as well as the word choices (“Learn More”, “Join Us Now”, “Sign Up Now”) on the call to action buttons.

Follow these steps to set up your test experiments:

  1. Analyze the data from your web analytics program, user survey, usability testing, and heat map data to get insights into how visitors behave (check the bounce rate) on your web page and why are they not taking the desired actions.
  2. Form your hypothesis – After analyzing the data gathered from step 1, you should now be able to form a hypothesis on the possible reasons why your visitors are not taking the desired actions and what can be done to improve the conversion rate. It could be that the offer is not attractive enough or the benefits are not compelling enough, or that layout and copy do not do a good job of conveying the value proposition.
  3. Decide on what you want to test – If you initial conversion rate is very low, you could opt for a radical test plan in which you change multiple elements on a page. If you just want to fine tune and make incremental improvements, then you should change 1-2 elements at a time. Here are the elements and variables you could test:
    • The offer
    • The layout
    • The headline
    • The copy and messaging
    • The length of the copy (long copy vs. short copy)
    • The “Call to Action” button message
    • The image
    • Video vs. image
  4. Run your test until you achieve “statistical significance” – If you’re doing A/B testing, you’re testing the treatment against the control. Achieving statistical significance means that you have enough data to have a high level of confidence (usually 95%) that the difference between the control and treatment is not due to random chance. So, you would want to have enough data to feel confident that the samples are representative of the population of your target audience’s behaviors. You should also account for any environmental or market conditions that could favor one treatment over the other. Visual Website Optimizer has an A/B test duration calculator that may be useful for you.
  5. Analyze the data to get learning – After running the test, you should analyze the data to get insights on how your target audience respond to the different test elements and most importantly why they respond in such manners. The goal of testing is not always to get a gain. Even if your treatment performs poorly compared to the control, you could gain some valuable insights that help you to understand the behavior of your target audience better and how they respond to certain elements or features on a web page.

Tools to Help You Perform Testing and Conversion Optimization

Here are some tools that can greatly help you with testing and analyzing visitors’ behaviors on your site:

  • A/B Testing Tools – Google Content Experiments, Optimizely, and Visual Website Optimizer are among the popular tools for A/B testing.                 
  • Heat Map tools – Heat map tools such as CrazyEgg and Clicktale show you where visitors click on your web page. This data is useful for identifying areas on your webpage that receive the most attention.
  • Visitor Survey/Feedback tools – Visitors’ feedback can provide valuable insights to identify what your visitors are struggling with on your site and whether they are able to find what they are looking for. Some of the popular tools include Qualaroo, 4Q, and Kampyle.
  • Usability testing – Usability testing allows you to observe actual people using your site and determine if there are problems or obstacles that prevent users from getting the desired information and taking the desired actions. If you have the budget, you can hire people (5-7 is a good sample size) to do the test at your facility under your supervision. If you don’t have the budget, you can try usertesting.com. Their service allows you to hire people remotely to do the specified test and deliver to you a video recording of their observations and critiques as they go through the test. They will also provide a written summary to details the problems they encountered.

Recommended Books

If you are interested to hone your conversion optimization skill, I recommend the following books. Most of these books were written by marketing experts that I admire. I have learned a great deal from them and I know that you will too!

Got any good website conversion optimization tips to share?

If you have experience and successes with website optimization and have some good tips to share, please comment below.

 

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Blogging Business Strategy Content Marketing

How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy to Attract Leads and Boost Sales

Having a content marketing strategy is the most important part of doing marketing on the web. This is especially true in the B2B world where the sales cycle is long or if you’re selling services or high ticket items.

Having interesting content is what helps you start that initial relationship with your prospects and keeps them engaged. In most cases, prospects are not ready to do business with you upon their first visit to your site.

But if you have relevant and compelling content that teaches them something new, show them how to solve their pains or problems,  entertains them, intrigues them, or provokes them, then they would be more likely to consider you when they are ready to make their buying decisions.

So, to attract web visitors, create engagement and establish your authority, you must offer content that is educational, useful, relevant, and original. In other words, your content must be remarkable!

Examples of organizations that have done a great job of content marketing are Hubspot, Marketo, and Breakpoint Systems. Just visit the websites and blogs of these companies and pay attention to how they write their blog articles as well as how they create and give away useful and educational E-books. Every content they produce are packed with useful information!

The benefits of Creating Awesome Content

Creating awesome content benefits your business in so many ways. Here are a few:

  • Awesome content helps to establish yourself as the expert and authority in your field.
  • Awesome content is more likely to attract links and mentions from external websites and blogs. Why are links important? In SEO, links are significant ranking variable.
  • Awesome content gets shared in the social media universe, generating publicity and traffic for your site.
  • Awesome content engages your audience and builds trust, driving your visitors and prospects further down the conversion funnel.

Creating Awesome Content Requires a Great Deal of Efforts!

I’ve preached the merits of content marketing with every organizations that I have worked with and I’ve always run into a wall each time. Indeed, creating high quality and interesting content requires a great deal of time and efforts. Most organizations struggle with creating content because they just don’t put enough resources into this very important marketing initative!

In addition, the people who have the knowledge and the insights already have full time jobs to deal with. Furthermore, most of them are not good writers and trying to get them to write is like pulling teeth.

So with all of these challenges, how do you proceed? Read on to find out…

The Content Creation Process

So how do you go about coming up with content ideas and creating the content? Below, I outline the steps that you should follow to create awesome content.

1) Know Everything about your Target Audience

The first step you should take is to truly understand your target audience. Asides from gathering basic demographic information, you should also find out what keep them up at night, what are their pain points, what problems are they trying to solve, what are their aspirations, what do they want to learn, etc.

In addition, you should find out about their online behaviors. What keywords do they search on? Which blogs do they frequently visit? Which social networking sites (linkedin, facebook, twitter, Pinterest, etc) and forums are they most active on? Do they prefer video content or blog articles?

Keep in mind that in the B2B world, you should have different types of content for different people that are involved in the decision process (i.e an engineer cares more about unique features and tips, a purchasing manager cares more about cost and supply chain, and C-level exectives would care more about your company’s history, reputation, track record, etc).

The best ways to gain insights into your prospects and customers are to survey them, talk to folks in sales and customer service, and review your Google analytic data. In fact, by reviewing your Google analytic data, you could mine valuable data such as which keywords are bringing in the traffic, which pages have the most views, and what are they keywords people search for when they are on your site.

The above exercise is very important so you should spend the right amount of time to research your target audience and truly understands their needs, desires, problems, pains. Armed with these information and insights, you will be able to create content that really resonates with them.

2) Understand the Content Need for Each Stage of the Buying Cycle

How fast a prospect becomes a customers depends on the length of the buying cycle and how fast you can accelerate a prospect through the buying cycle. Having relevant content at each stage of the buying cycle would certainly help propel the prospects through the buying cycle.

A prospect that is still at the early stage of researching for a solution would need different information than a prospect that already has a short list of potential vendors and is evaluating the qualifications of each vendor.

At the early stages, prospects are more interested in educational and insightful information about industry trends, new developments, new approaches to solving the same problem, etc. Blog articles, videos, infographics are the best types of medium to deliver these types of content.

At the later stages, prospects want to compare features, benefits, lead time, pricing, quality, reliability, delivery, etc. At the later stages, content in the forms of case studies, comparison reports, webinars, and product demos help build your case  and move the prospects closer to doing business with you.

3) Perform keyword research

Perform keyword research using the free Google keyword tool or other tools (wordtracker, keyword discovery) to identify the topics and issues that are popular with your target audience. The keyword tools can give you valuable data such as the popularity of the topics (based on monthly number of searches). You should target the long tail keyword phrases (keywords with more than 3 words) since they are more targeted and have less competition.

4) Monitor social media, forum, and blog conversations

Forums and social networking sites such as linkedin, yahoo answers, quora, twitter, facebook, etc are places where people go to to ask questions and share thoughts and ideas. By monitoring these conversations, you can gain lots of insights into the topics or issues that your target audience cares about. You can also use social media monitoring tools like Social Mention, Technorati, TweetBeep, Topsy, Google Alerts, Twilert,  Trackur (paid), Radian6 (paid), Hootsuite, Argyle, Alterian, etc to track and monitor conversations around certain keywords that you want to monitor.

If your competitors already have active blogs and forums, you should go there and check them out to find out what types of topics are  currently hot.

In addition, you should subscribe to related blogs and industry news sites. By keeping up with the hot topics and trends related to your industry, you can find inspiration to write your own articles.

5) Create a Content Creation Plan & Calendar

Once you have completed steps 1-4, it’s now time to put together a content creation plan. Your plan should includes the topics for your content, who should be the writer and editor, the types of content (blog articles, solution guides, videos, webinars, etc) and when to publish the content (content calendar). Ideally, you should be cranking out content on a weekly basis.

For technical oriented types of content, you definitely want to enlist the help of subject matter experts. Subject matter experts possess specific knowledge and insights that are valuable to share with your target audience. Since most technical people are not really good writer themselves nor do they have the time to write, it’s best for you to interview them to get the information and then get a technical writer to compose a coherent and compelling article.

Keep in mind that you don’t necessary have to produce all the content in-house. You could always outsource some aspects of your content. For more general and industry trends types of content, you might want to outsource to free lance journalists (Check out contently.com and brafton.com!)

To help keep your content plan organized, you can use Google Calendar or an Excel spreadsheet.

What are the different Types of Content

Your content could be in many forms. Here are a few common forms of content on the web and their uses:

  • blog articles – blog articles are great for establishing thought leadership. Blog is usually used for sharing industry trends, announcing new product releases, discussing current issues in your industry and business, and discussing about issues that are relevant to your target audience’s concerns. Blog articles are ideal for generating awareness among prospects that are at the early stage of the buying cycle. Blog articles also help drive traffic to your site and help your overall SEO efforts.
  • White papers (PDF) – White papers are ideal for talking about a complicated idea and sharing tips. When a topic is too long to be a blog article, it’s best to create a white paper for it. White papers are great offers to give away to prospects in exchange for their contact information.
  • E-books – An E-book is a comprehensive write up on a particular topic. E-books are perhaps the best offer you can give to your prospects to entice them to give up their contact information.
  • Videos – Videos have the power to engage and captivate people’s attention. Your videos don’t need to be professional and expensive to produce either. The important thing is that the audio is good and that you have good content to share.
  • Infographics – Infographics are graphic representation of a topic. Recently, infographics are becoming very popular on the web as they are nice to look at and they do a better job of conveying an idea in a graphical format.
  • Podcasts – A podcast is a series of audio files that can be subscribed to and downloaded. You could host your podcast files on Apple’s Itune store for people to download.
  • Webinars – A webinar is basically an online seminar. It’s a very cost effective and interactive way of hosting an online event on a particular topic and allowing your audience to engage with you through online Q&A. Popular online webinar services include gotomeeting.com, webex.com, anymeeting.com.
  • Case Studies – Case Studies are a great way to establish social proof and to educate prospects how you help clients from different industry solve a particular problem or improve business efficiency using your products, services, or solutions.
  • Interviews – Interviewing experts and other authority figures in your industry is a great way to associate yourself with prominent figures which adds to your credibility.

Note that you could also take an existing piece of content and repurpose it. For example, a PDF white paper could be repurposed into multiple blog articles and a video could be converted into a podcast file. Repurposing makes a lot of sense!

6) Follow Good Copywriting, Design, & SEO Practices

Good copywriting and story telling and great designs are important to keep your audience engaged. Your content must not only be remarkable, but they must be easy to consume, interesting to follow, and beautifully presented also.

In addition, be sure to follow SEO best practices by doing keyword research and doing proper on-page optimization.  Do not try to stuff keywords at the expense of content quality. It’s important to keep SEO in mind, but your writing should also flow naturally.

7) Promote Your Content

Now that you have invested the time and efforts to create those awesome pieces of content, it’s time to let your target audience knows about it. Leverage your relationships with bloggers, media outlets, and key industry influencers to promote your content. You can also use social book marking (digg, stumbleupon, reddit, etc) and social media channels (twitter, facebook, google +, & linkedin) to share and promote your content.

Great content + SEO + social media promotions will bring massive web visits and boost your sales. If you continue to do these things well, you will see your sales shoot through the roof!

8) Monitor, Measure & Analyze

In order gauge the effectiveness of your content marketing and social media efforts, you need to monitor, measure, and analyze your results and performance.

Start with identifying your goals and metrics. What do you want to achieve? More traffic to your site? Get more links to your site? More engagement with your target audience? More leads/sales/revenue?

For measurement and analysis, analyze the data from your Analytics program (Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, Omniture, etc) and find out:

  • Which articles drive the most traffic
  • Which keywords are effective
  • Which social media channels drive the most engagement
  • Which topics resonate the most with your target audience

Just Do It!

As I stated above, embarking on a content marketing journey requires a strategy and commitment from almost everyone in the entire organization. Organizations must realize the importance of having a sound content marketing strategy and must invest in the necessary resources to create relevant and interesting content. The pay-offs will be huge if done well. But if your organization is slow to implement an effective content marketing strategy, then pretty soon your business might become irrelevant!

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Website Design

How to Design a High Impact Home Page that Gets More Leads and More Sales

The homepage is the most important page on your website. It also receives the most visits. Unfortunately, most businesses don’t put enough thoughts and efforts into designing and creating their homepages.

Here are the common mistakes I see on most homepages:

  • There are just too much stuffs thrown into the home page and it just ends up overwhelming the visitors.
  • The homepage doesn’t tell me what exactly the company do, which types of customers the business serves, and what pain points or problems the products or services solve.
  • No call to actions. The homepage doesn’t tell me what I should do next.
  • There are no trust and credibility elements.

Since the home page is the most important page, don’t leave the design of the home page up to the graphic or web designer. Designers are only interested in creating cool and flashy designs with little regards to meeting business objectives.

So if your designers insist on making the site look cool, unique, or flashy, you should hit your designer on the head with a hammer and remind your designer that the objective of your website is to generate sales or leads, not to win a design or art contest!

I strongly believe that the marketing person should be responsible for the look, feel, branding, and messaging of the home page. The marketing person should take the lead role and work with the designer, web developer, and copywriter to design and create a high impact home page.

Things to Think About before Creating a High Impact Home Page

Here are the things you should consider and think about before creating or recreating your home page:

  1. Find out as much as you can about your target audience. What are their demographics (age, sex, education, etc)? What are their pain points, problems, and desires? What do they like and what do they dislike?
  2. Determine your value proposition and unique selling proposition. Your value proposition and unique selling proposition should address the pain points, problems, and desires of your target audience and should clearly convey why they should choose you over the other alternatives.
  3. What are the goals and objectives of your home page? What actions do you want the visitors to take after spending some time on your home page?
  4. Collect testimonials from satisfied clients and endorsements from third parties. They are important for building your credibility.

After you have gone through the above important exercise, you are ready to start putting together your high impact home page.

Follow the steps below:

Do a wireframe of your design

 

home page wireframe

Wireframe of home page design

 

By doing a wireframe first, you have a blueprint of how the layout of your site should look like and where to position each feature and element. Your wireframe or mock up should include the following elements and features:

  • Logo and tagline – The logo and tagline should occupy the top-left position of your home page. A tagline is a short, catchy phrase that provides the visitors with further information on what exactly your business is about. It is positioned close to the logo, usually directly beneath the logo or on the right side.
  • Your value proposition and unique selling points as captured by your headline, subheadline, a short paragraph, and some bullets.
  • Credibility elements – Testimonials, press mentions, case studies
  • Trust elements – BBB seal, Industry association seal, Site security seal and certificate
  • Call to Actions

Now that you have your wire frame done, let’s put them together.

Use Design Best Practices to Create an Attractive and Professional Looking Site

The look and feel of your site must be attractive and professional looking. Visitors will make a split second judgment of your site and determine whether they should stick around or leave your site based on the look and feel of your homepage.

Follow these guidelines to create a professional and attractive looking design:

  • Make sure that the design of your logo is professional looking. The logo represents the brand and image of your business so you should hire a professional logo designer to design a logo that best represents your business. A good resource to use if you need a professional designer to design your logo at a reasonable cost is 99Designs.
  • Choose 2 colors to be the dominant colors for your design. Ideally, these 2 colors should be based on the colors of your logo and should appeal to target audience. Next, choose 2-3 additional colors for the background and call to action buttons. These colors should work well together to provide a pleasing experience. You can refer to colourlovers.com and colorschemedesigner.com to get ideas to select the appropriate color scheme for your homepage.
  • Use clean layout with adequate white spaces – A clean layout is elegant and pleasing to the eyes. A cluttered design can quickly give your visitors a big headache. So, use adequate white spaces and don’t try to cram everything into your home page. Only include the essential elements and features.
  • Avoid flash, distracting backgrounds, slide shows – These elements add little value and are distracting.
  • Use attractive typography – Typography can make a big difference on the design. Using appropriate and high quality fonts can instantly improve the attractiveness of your home page design. You can get high quality fonts from sites such as fontsquirrel.com and fonts.com

Convey Your Value Proposition using Compelling Headlines and Concise and Clear Messages

You only have a few seconds to let the visitors know that they are in the right place and that your site has something worth looking further. As such, your value proposition must be clear and compelling.

You can communicate your value proposition and unique selling points using a combination of the headline, the subheadline, a short paragraph, and a few bullet points. The headline and/or subheadline should contain the keywords related to your business and should convey a compelling value derived from the experience provided by your business.

In addition, you should have 1-2 paragraphs of texts and bullet points to answer questions like who your business serves, what problems do you solve, what makes you special or better than the competition, and what your target audience stand to lose by not using your products or services.

Your value proposition and USP should be at the forefront of your website and above the fold, where visitors are able to see it right away.

Establish Credibility And Trust

Since most of your visitors have never don’t business with you, they want to know if they can trust you or not. To convey trust and credibility you should include the following elements on your website:

  • Show logos of clients that you have worked with.
  • Show off any press mentions and awards that your business have garnered.
  • Include testimonials from some happy clients. Video testimonials add even more credibility. If you can’t get video testimonials, you should try to include photos of the clients that are giving the testimonials.
  • Include links to case studies. Case studies are recommended if you provide a product or service that is complicated and require heavy investment from your clients.
  • Display seals and certificates such as BBB (“Better Business Bureau”) and any other industry association seals.
  • If your site collects private information, you should display site security badges from Verisign, McAfee, or Trust-e.
  • Include your phone number on the right side of your header area.

Show Off Your Products with an Image or a Video

An image or a video on top of the fold is important to give the visitors a visual representation of your products. If you sell physical products, you should take professional photos of your products and show an image or two of the products. If you sell a SaaS product, you can show a screen shot image. If you have a very complicated product, you may want to use a video to provide a quick demo of how your product works. The length of the video should be 30 – 90 seconds.

Lead Your Visitors to the Next Steps with Appropriate “Call to Actions”

Alright, now that your visitors know what you do and why they should check you out, what do you want them to do next? You must provide them with clear “Call to Actions” to lead them to the next steps.

One thing you must avoid is having too many “Call to Actions” with equal weight.  If you give the visitors too many choices, it lead to a phenomenon known as “paradox of choice.” What this means is that when you give someone too many choices or options,  that usually leads to paralysis of the mind and results in no actions taken.

You can have one or two “Call to Actions”, but you must have only one primary “Call to Action.” You should use the most prominent colored button for your main CTA and a less prominent colored button for the secondary CTA. Your secondary CTA could also be just a text link.

Examples of “Call to Actions” include:

  • Sign up for free trial
  • Request free consultation
  • Learn more
  • Get a tour

Depending on your products and your audience, you must choose appropriate CTAs. Pushy CTAs such as “buy now” or “sign up now” usually are not as effective, because the visitors do not have enough information or data on your business to fall for such aggressive CTAs.

Other Features You May Want to Add

Depending on your business, you might want to add the following features:

  • List of upcoming events – If your company organizes or participates events that are useful to your customers and prospects, you might want to list these events on the homepage.
  • Free offers for your white papers, Ebooks, or Slides.

Leverage Analytic and User Testing Data to Continuously Improve Your Home Page

Your home page design should evolve and change over time as needed. Do user testing and leverage Google Analytics data to improve your home page. Look at the bounce rate data and find out what people click on and what people don’t click on.

If there are certain features or elements that never get clicked on, you might want to remove them.

Examples of Home Page Well Done

To give you some inspiration, here are examples of home pages incorporate the best practices as discussed above.

1. CampaignMonitor.com

Best home page design 1

2. RegOnline.com

best home page design

3. Textmagic.com

best home page design practices

4. Basecamp.com

great home page design

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Business Strategy

Implement these 5 Marketing Intiatives to Jumpstart Your Business in 2012

jumpstart your marketing2012 should be an exciting year for small businesses. With so many low cost and high impact online marketing methods available, you can dramatically boost your business performances if you apply the best practices of these modern marketing methods and strategies.

Just implement the following marketing initiatives and watch your business explode with profits!

(1) Give your website a needed refresh

I still see lots of small business websites with that ugly 90’s design, look and feel. It’s time for a refresh! Seriously! With so much competition, your site needs to look sexy, professional, and attractive to stand out from the crowd. Look, you only have a few seconds to make a strong impression and captivate your visitor’s attention. So make sure you hire a professional designer to design you a professional and attractive looking site. Also, you might want to hire a copy writer too to help you craft stronger marketing messages and more compelling value propositions.

Things you absolutely need on your website:

  • Make sure that you clearly convey exactly what your business do, who your target customers are, and your business’s value proposition on the top of the home page. Your ability to craft a compelling value proposition will be key to being able to persuade your visitors to stick around to learn more about your business.
  • Have 1 primary “Call to Action” and 1 or 2 secondary “Call to Actions.” You need to have “Call to Actions” to lead the visitors to the next steps. After they land on your site, what exactly do you want them to do? Do you want them to take a tour? Sign up for free trial? Make sure your primary “Call to Action” is prominently shown in a strategic location (somewhere on top of the fold). Use a bright colored  button (test orange, red, and green colors) for your primary CTA.

Things to avoid on your website:

  • Please refrain from using fancy flash or slideshow.  I see so many sites that feature a rotating slideshow with all these images that don’t provide any value or clarity on the value proposition. Instead, they’re just slowing down your site’s loading time and annoying your visitors.
  • Refrain from making outlandish claims that are not substantiated. Don’t say you have the best products or the fastest delivery. Use specific numbers and data to substantiate your claim.

Check out my post on “how to create a sticky website” to learn more…

(2) Share Your Knowledge and Expertise with your Audience by Creating Awesome Content

Having awesome content on your site benefits your business in so many ways. For one, great content attracts free targeted traffic to your site. Secondly, it helps you build trust and authority. Having great content also keeps your audience more engaged.

The material in your content should not be full of fluffs or promotional messages though. It should contain material that is well thought out, well researched, and has the power to educate, inspire, or provoke your audience.

Think about the questions, pain points, problems, and desires that your target audience has and then create the necessary content to address each of these points. Be sure to use a keyword research tool and optimize your content accordingly for your keyword phrase.

The content could be in the following formats: blog posts, videos, articles, slides, infographics, white papers, and e-books.

(3) Use Social Media to Build Your Connections and Expand Your Networks

Social media is not just a fad. It is a powerful tool you can use to build your networks and generate massive number of leads for your business. Although the web is populated with gazillions of social networking sites, you should focus your time and energy on these 3:

  • Facebook – Facebook is ideal for B2C, although I do see a few B2B success stories. Start by creating a fan page for your business. The key to being successful with facebook is to engage your fans by regularly sharing content, asking them questions, and running contests and promotions.
  • Twitter – Twitter can help you generate lots of targeted leads. The key is to follow people that fits your ideal customer profile . You should also follow influential people within your industry. You can use wefollow.com and twellow.com to find relevant people to follow. Once you find these people, you should start engaging with them and be able to drive them back to your website so they can learn more about your business. I recommend that you send them to a resource page where your visitors could sign up to download a free E-book or free report.
  • Linkedin – Linkedin is a great lead generation tool for B2B. Start by writing a complete profile. Make sure you include as much keywords that are related to your business as possible. Next, find relevant groups to join, especially groups that your target audience are most likely to spend time in. You can then answer questions posted by other members. You can also post questions or share your content. The idea is to engage with other members and be able to lead them back to your website where they can check out one of your blog posts or videos to learn more about your expertise. Again, don’t try to promote your products or services right away. Instead, promote your expertise and authority by sending them to a resource page or article.

(4) Automate Your Email and Marketing

You can dramatically increase your productivity and serve the customers better by automating your email and marketing. By using an autoresponder or a marketing automation solution, you could do things like automatically send follow-up messages to your prospects and automatically send an email blast to all your customers and more.

(5) Spend more time with your Customers!

Spending time with your customers and listening to your customers could help you uncover valuable business intelligence. First, you should ask for your customers’ feedback. Find out what they like about you, what they don’t like, how you can improve, etc. Pay attention to the exact words and phrases that they use.

Additionally, you should ask them where they spend their time and which websites/blogs they visit the most to get news and information on your industry.

After analyzing the data and information collected, you should be able to craft better copies for your ads and launch more profitable marketing campaigns.

Knowledge is Useless without Actions!

I’ve given you some high impact marketing nuggets that could provide your business with a big boost in 2012. But you need to take actions. Who knows, this might just be your year!

ips For Managing Negative Keywords In PPC Campaigns

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2012 is to do a better job of documenting our mature PPC campaigns, so that any new manager coming in can take advantage of everything we’ve already tested and learned from over the years, rather than repeating the same tests and/or mistakes we’ve already lived through.

The AdWords and AdCenter change history reports provide a great documentation trail, but they don’t tell the whole story. While they do summarize what’s been changed and when, they do not provide insight, or explain why any particular change was made. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve muttered “Why the heck did they do that?” or more often, “What in the world was I thinking when I made that change?”

Whenever I am asked to audit or manage an existing PPC account, one of the areas I often find lacking in sufficient context is the inventory of negative keywords and in this column, we’ll take a look at how negative keywords can grow out of control and a simple documentation framework for managing them more effectively.

Are Your Negative Keywords Out Of Control?

I am guessing that just about every PPC campaign manager is well aware of the importance of negative keywords and how they reduce unproductive ad impressions, clicks and cost. The topic is written about so frequently in the trade press, that finding and adding negative keywords seems to be everybody’s favorite ‘quick and dirty’ PPC optimization tactic.

Because it is so easy to find and add negative keywords, negative keyword lists tend to get bigger and bigger over time. On top of that, PPC managers often copy and paste negative keyword lists from one ad group or campaign to another and from one network to another, without much forethought, which increases the number of these large, bulky keyword lists you need to manage.

In audits I’ve conducted, I often see substantial numbers of negatives keywords in these lists that have nothing to do with the ad groups/ campaigns they are applied to!

One problem with this sort of sloppy management is that one misapplied negative keyword can instantly kill legitimate impression and click volume. But you are actually lucky if you have that problem because it is easy to detect and fix. A more insidious problem of poorly-managed negative keyword lists is a slow, death-by-degrees decline in performance that is much harder to spot.

The Challenge of Managing Large Inventories of Negative Keywords

One of the challenges with managing negative keywords is a negative keyword may apply solely to a single keyword in your account, it may apply to a group of keywords, or it may apply to all of your keywords. This means you need to deal with each potential negative keyword individually and make a decision which keyword or keywords it applies to and how to apply it inside to your account.

Options include:

  • applies exclusively to a single keyword
  • applies to a group of keywords
  • applies to all of your keywords

You not only have to make this decision for every negative keyword you want to add, but you have to keep track of your decision, so that you don’t find yourself re-examining your decision every time you add a new set of positive keywords.

As you can see, the more negative keyword you, add the more management overhead you have to deal with them.

A Framework For Documenting Negatives

One of the problems with managing negative keywords is that as soon as you add them to your account, you lose track of their association with the positive keywords or search queries they pertained to in the first place. Your positive keywords and your negative keyword lists live in different areas within your campaign structure and can’t be viewed at the same time.

To illustrate, lets take a look at how you find and select your negative keywords. The first step in that process is usually to run a search query and/or analytics report to identify the non-productive queries that you want to prevent, as shown below in an excel spreadsheet:

AdWords Search Query Data 

Finding New Negative Keywords

The purpose of this campaign is to attract people who need help with addiction and are looking for drug rehab facilities in Texas. The primary keyword in this ad group is broad-matched, rehab facility, and so you decide you want to prevent clicks when for some of these search terms (marked in red):

Selecting Negative Keywords from AdWords Report 

Selecting Negative Keywords from AdWords Report

Selecting out just the negative keywords, in this hypothetical case, you now some words that are completely unrelated to what you do, (nursing homes, full time work and hillsburg ave) which may be campaign level negatives and universally used to block and search queries that contain those words. The other queries that are not directly related to your offerings for this ad group, but they may be applicable for other ad groups.

The next step is to expand your list of possible negatives using synonyms and stemmed versions of your proposed negatives. Including the plural and singular versions is important, especially with AdWords, since negative broad match doesn’t expand its matching to stemmed versions.

This is your potential list of negative keywords to add into your account for this ad group:

Negative Keyword List Expanded 

Negative Keywords Lists Expanded with Synonyms and Stems

 

Now that we have a list of negatives  and a list of reasons we are interested in these keywords, we are ready to add them into the account.

Negative Keywords Final Selections 

Negative Keywords Final Selections

As shown below in the AdWords Editor interface, all you can see that once you load your negative keywords into your campaign, is your list of negative keywords. The context of why you selected them is lost unless you document it yourself either in a spreadsheet or using comments within AdWords Editor.

Negative Keyword List from AdWords Editor 

Negative Keywords Listed in AdWords Editor

So the next step in this process is to finish up the documentation of your in Excel or even within AdWords Editor. Using Excel is simple and you can additional columns and headers as you see fit.

Documenting your Negative Keywords 

Documenting your Negative Keywords

 

In this Excel worksheet version of this documentation, the primary goal is to create a simple context for the selection of the negative that maintains the association with the original type of query that let to the negative keyword.  We could also add match-type and other data as the need arises.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

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Business Strategy Lead Generation

Apply these B2B Lead Nurturing Tactics to Convert Skeptical Prospects into Convinced Customers

lead nurturing best practicesThe buying cycle in the B2B space can be complex and long. Depending on the industry and business, the buying cycle could be a few months to a year or more. Furthermore, there could be multiple parties involved in the buying decision.

As such, don’t expect visitors arriving on your website to be in the “buy ready” mode right away.

The importance of doing Lead Nurturing

Since you already know that B2B buyers’ buying cycles could be long and complex, it’s critical for you to design and implement a lead nurturing program. By having a well thought out and well executed lead nurturing program, you will have a much higher success of converting skeptical prospects into marketing qualified leads.

Once the leads have been qualified by you, you could pass them to your sales team to close the deal. It is a lot easier for Sales to close the deal after the prospects have been qualified through a lead nurturing program.

Understand the different stages of the buying cycle

A typical B2B buying cycle has the following stages:

  1. Prospects become aware of the current problems or pain points as they occur in the day to day operations.
  2. Prospects begin researching for possible solutions. They could begin their research process by using search engines such as Google or by visiting vertical directories or websites/blogs/social media sites dedicated to their industries. This process could take a long time as the prospects want to gather as much information as possible. During this time, they will also discuss internally among the different decision makers and influencers.
  3. Prospects gather a list of possible vendors to talk to.
  4. Prospects request for quotes and proposals.
  5. Negotiate
  6. Choose a vendor
  7. Implementation

Before putting your prospect through a lead nurturing campaign, it is important for you to find out at which stage in the buying cycle each of your prospect falls in.

If you can gather enough intelligence information to know which stage of the buying cycle each of your prospect is in, you can send them through an appropriate lead nurturing campaign.

It is essential that you take into consideration the marketing channel you use to establish that initial contact. Did you meet them at a tradeshow? Did they come to your website from the search engine, or banner ad, or from a social media networking site? Or did someone refer them to you? Which keywords did they use to find your website?

By doing a thorough analysis, you can have a better understanding of the intent, motivation, and purchasing timeline of each of your prospect.

Capturing Visitors’ Contact Information

The lead nurturing process can only begin once the visitors indicate some level of interest to engage with you and have given you their contact information. By giving you their contact info, they have given you permission to engage with them.

But in order for the visitors to give up their contact info, you must provide them with a compelling reason to do so. There must be an exchange of value. A great way to do this is to offer the visitors that come to your website a free report, free E-book, or free white paper.

Your free offers must provide high value content that is designed to educate and provide insights that help your prospects somehow. Don’t just give something that is full of fluffs. Your reputation and credibility is on the line. If you can impress your prospects by demonstrating your thought leadership and expertise, they will trust you more and will be more willing to engage with you.

Additionally, your content should be relevant to your prospect and should sync with the stage of the buying cycle the prospect is in. A prospect that is very early in the buying cycle definitely has a different content interest than a prospect that is further along in the buying cycle.

I want to reiterate the importance of being able to capture your prospects’ contact information. If you’re going to spend all these money on promotions, tradeshows, and advertising, you don’t want those investments to go to waste. So, make all the efforts necessary to capture their contact info!

Below are a few examples of good landing pages that contain the form to capture the visitors’ contact info.

Infusionsoft landing page

Infusionsoft landing page

Sugar CRM landing page

Sugar CRM landing page

Landing Pages Best Practices

To compel the visitors to fill out the contact form, your landing page should contain the following elements:

  • A clear and compelling headline.
  • Some bullet points that convey the benefits and value propositions.
  • A compelling offer (Free E-Book or Free Trial).
  • A contact form.
  • A prominent Call to Action Button (“Start Free Trial” or “Get Instant Download”).

Additionally, your layout should be clean and professional looking.

How to Nurture Your Prospects

The nurturing process can be short or long. Just keep in mind that different buyers have different requirements, different budget constraints, and different timelines to implement a new solution.

It’s important to respect your prospects timeline. Your job in lead nurturing is to maintain the dialogue and continue to establish your expertise and thought leadership until the prospects are ready to buy. And they will need to replace their existing solution at some point down the road. If you do a good job of engaging them and nurturing them along the way, they will more likely to consider your solution when they’re ready to buy.

Here are the different methods you can use to continue the dialogue and engage with your prospects:

  • Send them any content (blog articles, videos, white papers, reports) that you think could educate them, inform them, and help them become more knowledgeable.
  • Send them case studies that are relevant to their businesses and industries. Case studies help to establish trust and credibility.
  • Invite them to a webinar in which you can do a demo of your product or share best practices. In addition, you can host a Q&A to give them an opportunity to learn more about your products or services without any sales pressures.
  • Give them a call to ask them if they need any additional information to help them make a decision.

The above activities could get quite complicated and tedious if you were to use a manual method. Nowadays, there are lots of powerful marketing automation and CRM solutions available that could automate a lot of the activities mentioned above. Popular marketing automation solutions for small businesses include Pardot, Hubspot, and Marketo Sparks.

Track and Measure the Activities and Behaviors of the Prospects

In order to make your lead generation process as efficient as possible, you should definitely track and measure the activities and behaviors of the prospects. How they behave when they are on your website, which pages they visit,  and whether or not the click on certain links, attend certain webinars can give you a lot of clues on their level of interests and intent.

By implementing a lead scoring system based on demographics data and behaviors, you could qualify the leads appropriately and only send the high quality leads to Sales. I’m sure Sales would appreciate you a lot more!

Continuously Refine and Fine Tune Your lead Nurturing Process

Your first cycle of doing lead nurturing may not yield the results that you want. The important thing to remember is that lead nurturing takes time and necessary refinements and adjustments to make it effective and powerful.

Along the way, you should get inputs and feedback from sales as well as members of the technical team and executive team. It should be a companywide team efforts.

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Content Marketing

Discover the Website Copywriting Secrets of the Pros to Convert More Visitors into Customers

You could go broke spending tons of money on advertising if you can’t convert the visitors on your website into buying customers.

Great copywriting is the key to turning website visitors into leads or customers. If you are not a writer, then you should hire a professional copywriter to write copy for your web content. But a great copywriter can cost you an arm and a leg. In other words, they’re very expensive!

But if you have moderate writing skills and don’t mind writing, you can certainly produce compelling and persuasive copy. Just follow the proven copywriting tips and tricks of the professionals!

Below, I will share with you some good practices I have learned from various great copywriters.

1. Thoroughly understand and know everything about your target audience

To have success, your writing must resonate with your target audience and stirs their emotions. In order to do so, you must first do your research (surveys, emails, interviews, and feedback from sales) and find out as much information as possible about your target audience.

Here are some important information you would need to find out about your target audience:

  • Demographic information such as age, sex, income, educational level, company size, etc.
  • What are their pain points or problems?
  • What are their fears, concerns, and desires?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What’s their budget?
  • Where do they want to be?
  • How would you characterize their personalities?
  • What are their pet peeves?
  • And on…

With this information, you could build a persona. A persona is essentially a fictitious character that best represents your target audience. Sometimes, you might need to create 2 or 3 different personas if you have different segment of customers.

2. Craft a Compelling and Seductive Headline

The headline is the most important element in copywriting. A headline can make or break your copy.

With a compelling and seductive headline, you can instantly captivate the visitors’ attention and draw them further into your copy.

On the other hand, a bland and boring headline could just easily make the visitors hit the back button and instantly disappear from your website. As a result, no sales and no leads for your business.

Here are some tips to help you write great headlines:

  • Make a promise or convey a compelling benefit for the visitors. What’s in it for them?
  • Ask a question.
  • Make a bold declaration.
  • Start the headline with, “How to…”
  • Make a list, i.e. “10 novel methods to….”

I want to emphasize again the important of a strong headline. If you are stuck for ideas, you could always check out magazines such as Cosmopolitan to get some inspirations. As you know, Cosmopolitan magazine employs some of the finest copywriters to write for them.

3. Use Simple and Concrete Languages and Words

Please save the readers from any headaches by avoiding fancy jargons and complicated words and languages. In order to persuade the audience, they must clearly understand what you are selling and why they should buy from you.

As such, use simple words and languages that your target audience could understand without their head spinning. Also, it must be concrete. Replace qualitative qualifiers with quantitative qualifiers. Don’t say things like, “Our product saves you lots of time.” Instead say something like “Our products cut your wait time by 10 hours.”

4. Use words that stir the audience’s emotions

Try to use words that are vivid and can stir the audience’s emotions. As you know, people buy mostly on emotions. So use lots of strong action verbs and try to vividly paint a picture of how their lives will be transformed by using your products or  services.

5. Use lots of “You” in the copy

Face it. People don’t care about how great your company is or how great your products are. They care about themselves. They want to know what you can do for them.

By using lots of “you” in your copy, you make the audience feel more connected.

6. Ensure your writing is scannable and digestible

Reading on the web could be difficult for most people. As a matter of fact, most people don’t read on the web. Instead, they scan and skim, trying to quickly capture the main points.

As such, your writing should be easy for them to digest and scan through.

Follow these tips to give users a good experience of consuming your content:

  • Use short paragraphs. Each paragraph should be no longer than 5 sentences. It’s best to keep each paragraph 2-3 sentences.
  • Use lots of bullets. Bullets make it easy for people to scan and digest.
  • Use subheadings generously if your copy is long. Make sure the subheadings are bolded too. The presence of subheadings make it easy for people to quickly know the main point of each section.
  • Mix in a few images and photos to make your content more interesting. Long amount of texts can get boring. So, try to mix in a few images here and there. But make sure the images are relevant to the message. Don’t use cheesy looking stock images that have no relevancy.
  • Use font size of at least 14 pixel. I’ve seen so many web content with such tiny texts that it hurts my eyes to read them.
  • Limit the width of your content to 600 pixel or less.

7. Emphasize the benefits

Rather than expound on the features of your products, you should instead emphasize the benefits of your products or services. First, understand the pain points or problems that your target audience is dealing with.

Then address these pain points by clearly describing how your products or services solve their problems and what benefits they will gain if they use your products or services.

8. Follow SEO Best Practices

Writing for the web is more tricky in that you have to account for the search engines as well. By following on page SEO best practices, you can get your web pages ranked higher on the search engines so that more people could discover your content.

The most important aspect of on-page SEO is making sure you do your keyword research. Figure out what keyword phrase you want to optimize for each webpage. You could use the free Google keyword research tool to do your keyword research.

The keyword phrase should meet the following requirements:

  • High number of searches per month
  • Low level of competition
  • Relevant to your target audience and to your products and services

Once you have identified the keyword phrase you want to optimize your webpage for, be sure to place your keywords in appropriate places such as the headline, the beginning of your content and toward the end of your content.

Additionally, you should incorporate your targeted keywords in the “alt” tag for all the relevant images on your web page. By following best SEO practices, you give your web page a much better chance of attracting targeted visitors.

Some Great Copywriting Resources

I have provided you with some powerful copywriting tips above. Copywriting is definitely an important skill that can help you boost your website performance.

I highly recommend you to use the resources below (disclosure: they’re affliate links) to help you write powerful content for your website.

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Business Strategy

Double Your Business Efficiency with a Marketing Automation Solution

Save Time, Grow Fast, and Build Loyal Customers with a Marketing Automation Solution

Increase business productivity with marketing automationManaging a small business is tough. Business owners are inundated with tasks to do every day. With such a busy schedule, who has the time to do marketing and customer service?

You have 2 options.  You could either hire more people or use a marketing automation solution. Hiring more workers can get expensive, so let’s consider the marketing automation solution.

What Can a Market Automation Solution Do?

By using a marketing automation solution, small businesses can save lots of time by automating certain marketing and customer service tasks.  For example, you can automatically send follow-up messages to your prospects and automatically send personalized follow-up messages to customers after they have made a purchase.

Here is a summary of what a marketing automation solution can do for your business:

  • Lead Nurturing – Not all prospects who visit your website or meet you at a tradeshow for the first time are ready to do business with you.  They may be at the early stage of the buying cycle and are still in the process of doing their research. This is especially true if you sell an expensive or complicated product or service. A market automation solution helps you to nurture these leads through a series of drip emails. The email message may contain an offer to attend a webinar, see a demo, or download an educational content. By nurturing the relationship and keeping in touch with your prospects, your prospects would more likely to consider you at the moment they are ready to buy.
  • Qualify and Assign Leads – Most marketing automation software allows you to qualify leads based on their demographic info (size of company, revenue, etc) as well as behavioral activities (attend webinar, visit price page, etc). Leads that meet the “sales ready” criteria can be automatically forwarded to a sales associate. This allow your sales people to focus their valuable time on high quality leads.
  • Post Sales Customer Service – To impress your customers and earn their loyalty, you can set up a post-sale follow up series of messages. Your post follow up sales messages could start with a “thank you” message to thank them for their orders. Next, you could send additional follow up messages to promote other offers.

A marketing automation tool can be quite useful and has the potential to convert more leads into customers without costing you a lot of time.

What are the Marketing Automation options for Small Businesses?

Small businesses looking for a marketing automation solution has many choices, with different price points, features and functionalities. I will list them from basic to the more advanced solutions below:

1. Autoresponder and Email Marketing Solution

The most basic marketing automation solution such as Aweber and Vertical Response includes email signup forms & autoresponder services to help you build your email list and stay in touch with prospects. Here are the main features and benefits of using an email/autoresponder service such as  Aweber or Vertical Response:

  • Forms creation – Create professional looking forms to collect prospects’ contact info on your website or blog.
  • Autoresponder – Deliver a sequence of messages automatically to your prospects. With each message, you build trust and rapport by delivering useful information to your prospects. Once your prospects warm up to you, it becomes easier for you to sell to them. Additionally, with an autoresponder, you can blast out an email to your list of subscribers at any given time to share news, offer a special promotion, or just to stay in touch.
  • List segmentation – Managing and segmenting your subscribers is easy using Aweber.

In addition, Aweber also contains analytics that provide you useful data such as who opened your messages (and who didn’t) and who clicked certain links in your messages.

For most solo entrepreneurs and small businesses, an email marketing/autoresponder solution such as Aweber or Vertical Response works quite well. The price usually runs around $10-20/month. I am using Aweber and I am very happy with their service so far. Aweber makes is easy to create professional looking forms and set up your email automation.

–> Click Here To Sign Up Aweber 30 Days $1 Trial

2. Marketing Automation Solution for Small Businesses

For businesses with revenue in the $1-$5 million range, a popular marketing automation solution to consider is Infusionsoft. Infusionsoft is actually quite powerful. It combines email marketing, a CRM, and ecommerce into an integrated system.  With Infusionsoft, you can nurture leads, generate repeat sales, grow your business, while saving you lots of time.  Additionally, you can do advanced things like trigger an email campaign based on your customer’s actions such as completing a purchase checkout or clicking on a link in an email.

Infusionsoft’s price is around $300/month.

3. Advanced Marketing Automation Solution for Small Businesses

If you are looking for an advanced marketing solution, your options include Hubspot, Marketo Sparks, and Pardot. These solutions allow you to perform much more sophisticated marketing automation.

In addition to email marketing, they include advanced features such as analytics, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and event marketing. These advanced marketing automation solutions cost around $700-$1,000/month and are ideal for B2B businesses with revenue greater than $5 million/year.

Get Your Business Automated Now!

Whether you sell to consumers or to businesses, having a marketing automation solution can help you nurture prospects, build trust, and increase customer satisfaction while saving your lots of time. Check out any of the solutions above today!

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Lead Generation

10 Low Cost & Powerful Lead Generation Ideas to Flood Your Sales Funnel with High Quality Leads

Lead Generation ideasIf you have sales people working for you, it’s vital that you constantly feed them with high quality leads. With so many low cost and effective lead generation methods available, you shouldn’t have to ask your sales people to waste valuable time doing cold calling anymore. Their time is better spent on engaging with leads and closing sales!

So, here are some powerful and low cost lead generation ideas that are gonna rock your sales team’s world!

1. Get Targeted Leads with PPC Advertising

More and more people are relying on search engines like Google to search for solutions to their wants, needs, problems, or pains. When people perform a search on the search engine, they are actively looking for a solution or answer. As such the leads from the search engines such as Google are usually the most targeted and high quality.

So, it is vital to have a presence on the search engines. With PPC Advertising, you can have your ads shown to thousands of target audience within 30 minutes or however long it takes for you to setup your campaigns.

Here are some good practices to follow:

  • Bid on long tail keywords. Long tail keywords (keywords with 3 or more words) usually result in higher quality leads.
  • Start with exact match. Exact match ensure that your ads get shown for more relevant searches. Then cautiously experiment with phrase and broad matches to get more impressions. Be sure to use negative match to weed out irrelevant searches.
  • Write compelling ad copies. Use clear and concise words that convey the benefits of your products or services.
  • Don’t just send traffic to the home page. Instead, create a few landing pages and write compelling messages that are follow up on the messages mentioned on the ad copy.

2. Network on Twitter

twitter marketing for lead generationThere are all kinds of conversations and messages that are being broadcasted on the twitter sphere. Your potential customers could be tweeting about a particular problems they are having and they could be asking for guidances or recommendations.

Use the twitter advanced search feature to search for keywords (be sure to enclosed them in quotes) that are related to your products and services. Twitter will list all the twitter messages that contain that particular keyword. If you find someone that might be a potential customer, follow them, engage with them and try to help them out.

Be careful not to come out with a full blast promotion! Instead, try to engage, offer advices or insights, and build relationship. When the opportunity arises, you can send them to your website so that they can learn more about your business and services.

You can also use the services of Twellow.com and wefollow.com sites to find prospects or influencing figures in your industry to follow.

3. Linkedin for B2B

LinkedIn is a great social networking site to find B2B leads. Here are some ways to use Linkedin for lead generation.

  • Join groups that are related to your business and industry. Once you’re accepted to the group, it’s time for you to jump in and participate in the discussions. Once again, don’t begin selling and promoting right away! You should first listen to the conversations and contribute your ideas, thoughts, and insights. Establish your expertise and authority first then promote your business and services later.
  • If you want to target a certain company, leverage your networks and get them to refer you to your target prospect at that particular company.
  • Check out Linkedin Advertising – Linkedin has a pay per click advertising program that you can experiment with.
  • Create a page for your company on linked.com and share relevant news and articles that may benefit your target audience.

4. Write blog articles

Writing blog articles is one of the best ways to generate leads.You can use a keyword research tool and find “long tail” keywords that are related to your business. Keywords related to prospects’ problems or pain points are ideal. Be sure to follow SEO best practices to ensure you get good ranking on the search engines for your blog articles.

What can you blog about? Ideally, you would want to blog about topics that are relevant to your target audience.

  • Tips to solve your target audience’s pain points of problems.
  • Share industry news and updates
  • Book reviews
  • Interviews with thought leaders in your industry as well as partners and customers.
  • New products or services launch
  • Changes to your business or products/services

To make your blogging efforts more effective, you should encourage your readers to comments. Be sure to respond and engage with them promptly after they leave a comment. You should aim to add at least 1-2 fresh articles a week. If you don’t have the time, you can always hire free lancer writers to help out or you can also request guest bloggers to contribute.

Blogs are easy to setup and easy to maintain so there’s no excuse for not starting a blog!  WordPress is one of the most powerful and easy to use blog platform. You can use one of many free themes or you can purchase professional a wordpress theme from Wootheme or Studiopress for a low price.

5. Send Post Cards with a compelling offer

post card marketing for lead generation

Sending post cards to your prospects is an affordable and effective method of generating leads for your business. With an attractively designed postcard and a compelling offer, you can quickly generate awareness and interest among your prospects. Be sure to follow direct marketing best practices by creating an attractive design, strong benefits laden copywriting, and a compelling offer (free trials, new customer discounts, etc).

 

You can use the service of a post card marketing specialist such as Postcard Mania. Postcard Mania can help you design high impact post cards as well taking care of the full color printing and mailing of the post cards. You can use your own mailing list or get a targeted mailing list from them. They have mailing list for consumers as well as businesses in the categories and locations you want. Request for some FREE post card samples from Postcard Mania Now!.

6. Video Marketing is Hot

People love watching videos, especially if they offer entertaining or educational value. You should create some videos and upload them to Youtube. Again, try to come up with creative ideas that make your videos entertaining and educational and subtlely promote your business. Follow these video marketing tips below:

  • Keep your videos short (3-5 minutes).
  • Show your personality and be genuine. In other words, don’t be boring and rigid!
  • Teach, entertain, provoke.
  • Make sure you incorporate your main keywords in the title and description field after you upload your video on Youtube.

7. Get referrals from your clients, friends, and partners

Your current clients and partners could be valuable sources of leads for you. Be sure to ask them to introduce you to people they know who could be potential clients. Better yet, if your clients or partners regularly send out emails or newsletters to their subscribers, you could ask them to send out a short email to help introduce your business. You might want to offer them a meaningful gift for their efforts.

8. Join a local BNI Chapter

By joining a local BNI chapter, you and other business owners can help each other refer clients to each other. This has been a very cost effective lead generation strategy for many businesses. You’d have to attend meetings on a weekly basis. Each meeting usually has an agenda and also gives you the opportunity to educate and share with other members about your business. Check out the BNI website for more info.

9. Attend Networking events

There are professional networking events and conferences going on all the time. Look for events where there is a high chance of finding your target audience. Be sure to bring your business cards, dress to impress, and be actively talking and engaging with people.

10. Syndicate your content

Syndicating your content on free sites such as Scribd.com, Slideshare.net, Ssquidoo.com is a great way to get exposure for your business. You may also use paid content syndication services from sites such as netline.com, techtarget.com, and bitpipe.com. Make sure your content is high quality and provide educational value. A research report that is relevant and appealing to your target audience would be ideal.

Turn Your Website Into a Lead Generation Machine!

I’ve given you some powerful and proven lead generation tips that you could use to find hot leads for your sales team. After your prospects have heard about you, they will likely visit your website to learn more about you.

Now, it’s very critical that you have a professional looking website that is optimized for lead generation.

  • Make sure your website has a clean and professional look and feel and have important features that convey trust and credibility.
  • Make sure you have offers and call to actions sprinkled through your site. Call to Actions such as “Sign up for free Trial”, “Call Us Now for Free Consultation”, “Sign Up to Get Your Free Report”, “Fill out Contact Form to Get Quote” must be prominently placed on your webpages.

Got Any Other Lead Generation Ideas?

If you know of any other good lead generation ideas, please share below!

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branding Business Strategy

How to Build a Rock Solid Brand for Your Small Business and Turn Your Customers into Loyal Fans

building a brand for your small businessBuilding your brand is perhaps the most important aspect of marketing and growing your small business.

It’s proven time and time again that businesses who invest the resources to build their brands are able to build incredible customer loyalty and reap great rewards. Just look at the big brands such as Coca Cola, Nike, Disney, and Apple. These companies invest a big part of their marketing budget on building their brands and have incredible customer loyalty as a result.

Unfortunately, most small businesses ignore this important business strategy.

The Recipe for Building a Successful Brand

By taking the steps to build your brand, you leave no doubt on customers’ and prospects’ mind what your business and brand represent and the kind of experiences they will get when they do business with you.

Studies after studies have shown that customers make buying decisions based mostly on emotions. People like to do business with people whom they like and trust. If you can stir people’s emotions and delight them with great experiences, they will surely want to do business with you for a long time.

Furthermore, your loyal customers will also become your most passionate brand ambassadors. They will want to spread the good words about your business to all their friends and family members. “Words of mouth” marketing is the best form of marketing!

Are you ready to build a rock solid brand? Follow the steps below:

1. First, determine what is special about your business

What’s your value proposition? How do your products or services improve people’s life or make their life better? What promises does your brand make to your target market? What can you do that is better than the competitors? What do you want your customers to say about you?

Write down a short summary that covers all these points. Your goal is to come up with a brand message and promise that clearly conveys your value proposition and clearly distinguishes you from the competition.

Once your brand’s value proposition, position, and brand promise is clearly defined, make sure all your employees and staff are trained so that everything about your business aligns with your brand promise.

This is very important! In the end, you want your brand to stand apart from the competition and leave a strong impression on the customers as well as prospects when they do business with you.

2. Do you have a logo for your business?

No matter how small your business is, it is still necessary for you to have a professional looking logo that represents your business well. It’s worth it! Nowadays, you can find a great designer on Craigslist to design a great looking logo for you for less than $200.

Your logo could be a combination of a symbol or an image with text or it could be just text based. Be sure to keep the design of your logo simple, memorable, and meaningful. If you could, it is recommended to also have a short and punchy tagline that conveys a memorable message about your brand.

Lastly, use a maximum of 2 colors. Once you have a logo, you can use it for your website, business card, brochure, and other marketing collaterals.

3. Do every parts of your business operations support your value proposition?

Analyze all aspects of your business and ask yourself if every parts of your business support support your value proposition or not. Going one step further, what can you do at every aspect of your business operations to enhance the customer experiences?

This include the layout and decoration of your storefront, how your staff greet and treat your customers as well as visitors, your return policy, the quality of your products and services, etc. Even the little things you do can brighten a customer’s day and convert him/her into your loyal customer.

4. Maintain consistency in your image and the experiences that you provide to your customers

Establishing consistency is very important as it helps to etch into memory what your customers think of your brand.

5. Tell your brand story

People love a good story. As such, you should have a compelling story for your brand. How did you get started in your business? What made you to want to start your business in the first place. How do you plan to change people’s lives with your products or services? Have it ready and when the opportunity arises, you can tell a compelling brand story to your clients, prospects, or partners.

Stay Committed to Building Your Brand!

If you commit yourself to building a strong brand for your business and be consistent on delivering remarkable experiences, your customers will always think of you first everytime they have a need for your products or services. Isn’t that powerful? Remember that the promises you make for your brand should match the experiences that customers will have when they do business with you.

I hope the above tips will inspire you to take the necessary actions to build a strong brand for your business starting today. In future posts, I will guide you on to use free online promotional methods to build awareness for your brand. Stay tuned!

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Internet Marketing PPC

7 Powerful PPC Advertising Secrets to Maximize Your ROI for Your Small Businesses

ppc for small businessesPay Per Click (PPC) Advertising is the quickest method of driving targeted traffic to your website. PPC has been proven to be effective if you do it right. If not, you could end up wasting lots of money really fast.

If you are doing online marketing for your small business you should know that every single of your advertising dollar must produce results for you. That’s why it’s critical to setup and manage your PPC campaign correctly and strategically! Follow these tips to ensure you run a successful PPC campaign.

PPC Secret #1 – Create Dedicated Adgroup for Each Group of Related Keywords

Perhaps the biggest mistake that most beginning PPC advertisers make is grouping a bunch of unrelated keywords in the same adgroup with the same ad copy. Doing so will guarantee that you get very low response rates.

Instead, you should create as many ad groups as necessary for the different theme of keywords that you have.  You should not have more than 10 keywords in each adgroup. Next, write relevant ad copy that target those group of related keywords.

For example, if you are running ads for your dental business, you should create separate adgroup and separate ad copy for the keywords “dental cleaning in San Jose” and “cosmetic dentists in San Jose.”

By having dedicated adgroup and ad copy for each related group of  keywords, your ad will attract more targeted and relevant searchers. This results in a lower cost per click and better response rates for you in the long run.

PPC Secret #2 – Use Match Types & Negative keywords

Google PPC allows you to bid for 3 different match types for your keywords – broad, phrase and exact match. Exact match produces the most relevant traffic. Broad match, on the other hand,  usually results in your ads being shown for lots of  irrelevant searches. Exact match usually gives you the best chance for sales and conversions.

Therefore, you should use exact match for all your keywords. You may also add phrase match and broad match for the same keyword to get more ad impressions. But you should bid lower for phrase match and broad match. In other words, for the same keyword, phrase match should have lower bid than exact match and broad match should have lower bid than phrase match. For example, if the keyword is “brown shoes”, a possible bid scenario is as follow:

  • [brown shoes] – $2.00
  • “brown shoes” – $1.80
  • brown shoes – $1.50

In addition, to prevent your ads from being shown for irrelevant searches, you must add these keywords as a negative match. Negative match can be done at both the campaign level and the adgroup level.

PPC Secret #3 – Split Test Your Ads

For each ad group, you should write at least 2 competing ads and let them run at the same time. Be sure to enable the ad rotation feature so that each ad get shown an equal amount of time.

The idea is to test different ad copies and continously optimize the click through rates and/or the conversion rates. Once you get enough data (usually around 50-100 clicks), keep the winning ad and write a new ad to compete against the winning ad.

You may use the ad split tester tool at www.splittester.com to help you select the winning ad. This tool will tell you whether you have enough data point to get a statistically valid result.

Here are some tips to follow to write winning ads:

  • Use clear and concise words that match what the searchers are looking for.
  • Convey compelling benefits about your business or services.
  • Use words and languages that appeal to people’s emotions.
  • Include a strong call to action, i.e. “Get this Now!” or “Download Free Trial Now!”
  • Test with different punctuation marks such as “!” vs “?”.

PPC Secret #4 – Send Ad Traffic to Dedicated Landing Pages

Another big mistake that I see lots of people make is sending all the PPC traffic to a homepage instead of dedicated landing pages. The home page is intended for a wide audience and has all kind of messages on there. By using landing pages, you’re able to customize the messages to match the copies on your ads. As a result, you’ll get much better responses.

Additionally, by using landing pages, you can do A/B tests as well as multivariate tests to optimize the responses. When doing A/B tests or multivariate tests, you can test different variations of headlines, layouts, images and their different combinations in order to find a version that produces the highest response rate.

Here are some tips for creating landing pages that yield the high response rates:

  • Your headline should contain the keywords that the searchers are searching for. Your headline should also offer a compelling promise.
  • Use relevant images to enhance your message.
  • Your message must be clear, concise, and highlight the key benefits of your products or services.
  • Your layout should be clean and simple with enough white spaces to avoid clutter.
  • Use lots of bullet points to summarize the benefits and features of your products or services.
  • Establish trust and credibility by showing off customer testimonials, customers’ logos, awards, or press mentions.
  • Have a Call to Action. Tell the visitors what exactly you want them to do after reading through message. Common “Call to Actions” include “contact us”, “call us”, “add to cart”, or “sign up for free trial.”

PPC Secret #5 – Track Conversions

In order to maximize your ROI, you must track everything. Conversion tracking helps you to find out which campaigns, ad copies, keywords, etc give you the best sales, signups, or responses.

PPC Secret #6 – Pause or Get Rid of non performing keywords

You should continuously monitor your keywords performance in order to ensure you get the best return for your PPC investment.

If a keyword has a low conversion rate or high bounce rate, then it usally indicates that the particular keyword is attracting the wrong audience to your website. You should either get rid of the keyword or put it on pause. Now, if a keyword has a low ad click through rate, then you should check to see if the ad copy is relevant to they keyword or not.

For example, if your keyword is “cat food” and your ad copy says “dog food….”, then it’s likely that you’re not going to see a high ad click through rate for that keyword. Perhaps, you should put that keyword in a separate adgroup and write a dedicated ad for it.

Additionally, if a keyword has a low quality score, you should put it on pause immediately. When you have time later, you can go back and find out why it has a low quality score. It’s most likely related to a low click through rate and a landing page that has no relevance to the keyword.

PPC Secret #7 – Separate Search and Content

One of the common mistake I see beginning adword players make is to activate both the content and search network for the same campaign. This is a BIG no no.

The behavior of the search audience and the content network audience is very different. The search audience are a lot more motivated and perhaps further along the buy cycle. They have a need and are actively looking for a solution. Hence, they use the search engines to search for solutions to their needs or problems.

The audience on the content network, on the other hand,  are there to read an article or to browse around a certain webpage. If your ad is showing up in the content network, you’re basically interupting them and distracting them. If your ad does a good job of attracting their attention, they may be curious enough to click on your ad and check out what your site has to offer.

At any rate, it is best to separate the two and optimize them individually.

PPC can quickly help you promote your business to new customers, but it could be a big waste of money if not managed properly. If you follow the above 5 tips, you will increase your chance of success significantly. Now, go and start optimizing your ppc campaigns!

Share Your PPC Tips By Commenting Below

If you have good experience with PPC and want to share additional tips, please comment below. You may also ask me any questions related to PPC by commenting below.

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