Are You Ready: Google Changes it’s Algorithm to Better Serve Mobile Ready Sites. Is your Site Mobile Ready?"> Are You Ready: Google Changes it’s Algorithm to Better Serve Mobile Ready Sites. Is your Site Mobile Ready?

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Google is about to change the way its influential search engine recommends websites on smartphones in a shift that’s expected to sway where millions of people shop, eat and find information.

The revised formula, scheduled to be released Tuesday, will favor websites that Google defines as “mobile-friendly.” Websites that don’t fit the description will be demoted in Google’s search results on smartphones while those meeting the criteria will be more likely to appear at the top of the rankings — a prized position that can translate into more visitors and money.

Although Google’s new formula won’t affect searches on desktop and laptop computers, it will have a huge influence on how and where people spend their money, given that more people are relying on their smartphones to compare products in stores and look for restaurants. That’s why Google’s new rating system is being billed by some search experts as “Mobile-geddon.”

“Some sites are going to be in for a big surprise when they find a drastic change in the amount of people visiting them from mobile devices,” said Itai Sadan, CEO of website-building service Duda.

It’s probably the most significant change that Google Inc. has ever made to its mobile search rankings, according to Matt McGee, editor-in-chief for Search Engine Land, a trade publication that follows every tweak that the company makes to its closely guarded algorithms.

Here are a few things to know about what’s happening and why Google is doing it.

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MAKING MOBILE FRIENDS

To stay in Google’s good graces, websites must be designed so they load quickly on mobile devices. Content must also be easily accessible by scrolling up and down — without having to also swipe to the left or right. It also helps if all buttons for making purchases or taking other actions on the website can be easily seen and touched on smaller screens.

If a website has been designed only with PC users in mind, the graphics take longer to load on smartphones and the columns of text don’t all fit on the smaller screens, to the aggravation of someone trying to read it.

Google has been urging websites to cater to mobile device for years, mainly because that is where people are increasingly searching for information.

The number of mobile searches in the U.S. is rising by about 5 percent while inquiries on PCs are dipping slightly, according to research firm comScore Inc. In the final three months of last year, 29 percent of all U.S. search requests — about 18.5 billion — were made on mobile devices, comScore estimated. Google processes the bulk of searches — two-thirds in the U.S. and even more in many other countries.

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BRACING FOR CHANGE

To minimize complaints, the company disclosed its plans nearly two months ago. It also created a step-by-step guide (http://bit.ly/1GyC0Id) and a tool to test compliance with the new standards (http://bit.ly/1EVi9R3).

Google has faced uproar over past changes to its search formula. Two of the bigger revisions, done in 2011 and 2012, focused on an attempt to weed out misleading websites and other digital rubbish. Although that goal sounds reasonable, many websites still complained that Google’s changes unfairly demoted them in the rankings, making their content more difficult to find.

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STILL CAUGHT OFF GUARD

While most major merchants and big companies already have websites likely to meet Google’s mobile standard, the new formula threatens to hurt millions of small businesses that haven’t had the money or incentive to adapt their sites for smartphones.

“A lot of small sites haven’t really had a reason to be mobile friendly until now, and it’s not going to be easy for them to make the changes,” McGee said.

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BURYING HELPFUL CONTENT

Google’s search formula weighs a variety of factors to determine the rankings of its results. One of the most important considerations has always been whether a site contains the most pertinent information sought by a search request.

But new pecking order in Google’s mobile search may relegate some sites to the back pages of the search results, even if their content is more relevant to a search request than other sites that happen to be easier to access on smartphones.

That will be an unfortunate consequence, but also justifiable because a person might not even bother to look at sites that take a long time to open or difficult to read on mobile devices, Gartner analyst Whit Andrews said.

“Availability is part of relevancy,” Andrews said. “A lot of people aren’t going to think something is relevant if they can’t get it to appear on their iPhone.”

5 Reasons You Must Optimize Your Website for Mobile

5 Reasons You Must Optimize Your Website for Mobile

The fact is if you aren’t optimized for mobile you’re ultimately losing sales. Research shows that 57 percent of mobile users will abandon your website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load and 30 percent will abandon a purchase transaction if the shopping cart isn’t optimized for mobile devices.

Considering how important a website can be for any small business it seems only natural to take the extra care to ensure the website is mobile friendly. It’s amazing to me how so many websites are still not optimized for a mobile experience.

Here are five reasons small businesses must have a mobile optimized website:

1. Mobile Users are Different

Mobile users have different objectives than desktop users and typically this means they want information in quick, easily digestible bites. Customers report that their mobile purchases are often impulse buys and some statistics show that mobile users spend more money per purchase than customers do on desktop websites.

This underscores the importance of optimizing your mobile experience to match a visitor’s needs and behaviors in the context of how they will most likely be browsing your website. By making the path to purchase or enquiry simple and intuitive you’ll align more precisely with mobile users who need information rapidly to make decisions on the fly.

2. Mobile Gets Traffic

With one-quarter of global web searches conducted on a mobile device by over a billion users worldwide, mobile websites are just as important, if not more so, than desktop versions. Multiple sources report that smartphone users are engaging with mobile websites and apps while watching TV, commuting to work, and simultaneously while using a computer.

As Google made clear with last year’s Hummingbird update the future of search is mobile and websites that aren’t usable on handheld devices will see their search rank suffer for it.

3. Better Brand Engagement

People like your brand more when you offer a satisfying mobile experience and they’re more likely to return to your website later on a desktop. 90 percent of people report moving between devices, or “multi-screening”, to accomplish a task. When your mobile experience is optimized for functionality and consistency it fosters trust and affinity with users.

On the other hand if your mobile website is difficult to navigate customers are more likely to go to the competition than to visit you on a desktop computer. If you can’t provide what they need when they need it you will have lost the opportunity for the sale and risk losing a customer permanently to a competitor.

4. Increased Conversions

Desktop websites in mobile browsers are ineffective at converting visitors into buyers. Calls to action (CTAs) are often obscured, links are difficult to click and contact pages are buried in awkward menus. Mobile shoppers have little patience for an unwieldy website and one-third of them will leave a transaction if the site isn’t optimized for mobile.

To make the most of mobile, CTAs should be clear and easy to click and contact information should be one of the first things visitors see. 80 percent of shoppers admit that mobile purchases are impulse-driven and that they’re more likely to purchase from and interact with a brand that offers an engaging mobile experience.

5. Reduce Your Bounce Rate

Content that looks great on a desktop might be unreadable on a mobile device. Visitors won’t stay on your site if they have to pinch and zoom or squint at illegible type, or worse yet if it runs flash or anything that requires add-ons to display in a browser. If your website isn’t optimized professionally for mobile your bounce rate on mobile devices is going to be extremely high. By providing mobile visitors with an appropriate and intuitive user experience you will obviously engage visitors longer and drive more of them to purchase or enquire.

Mobile Health Check: Pick up your smartphone and go to your website. Ask yourself these questions:

• Does it load in less than three seconds?
• Does it draw your eye to your key selling points or message?
• Is the content easy to read?
• Is it easy to navigate?
• Is it easy to recognize and activate the call to action?
• Does it provide a good user experience?
• Is it a website you would spend time if it was not your own?

If you mostly answered “no”, then it’s time to optimize your mobile site and capture the traffic and sales you’ve been missing out on.

Reasons To Hire A Freelance Web Designer

7 reasons why it’s better to hire a freelance web developer or specialist over a large company.

 

1. Low Overheads

The main reason, perhaps, is because they are cheaper. When there is wages, superannuation, insurance, maternity leave and rent, you have to keep the coal fires burning. And that means taking on every job that comes in. These days many freelance web designers work from home. They have tiny overheads and if they are doing okay, will only take on jobs that they like and can manage. Companies take all work – sometimes just to keep afloat. Low overheads not only half the price of your website but they double the availability any web designer has to work on smaller jobs.

2. No Queues

Big clients bring in big money for web companies and smaller clients have to wait in line. Big jobs can go on for months, sometimes years. It’s no problem to drop a $6K website when you have million dollar contracts. Why would a big company care about your little website? Freelancers don’t have big clients because it would mean hogging up all their time. A good Freelancer’s aim is to make a really great website – one worthy of showcasing on a portfolio page. Because their advertising budget is low, they need to do a good job. Word of mouth travels fast. So in general, you’ll find they respond to queries quicker. In the scheme of things, you’re quite important. You’ll probably get a direct line, rather than having to wait in a queue or play he-said she-said games with the receptionist and project manager. Because a freelance web designer’s budget is minimal, our work and our testimonials is the best ad for our services. And because the left hand and right hand belong to the same person, we’re often much more efficient than a sales or servicing department.

3. New Technology

Large companies are weighed down by process. If you read any management book at all, you’ll discover that process is part of the intellectual property (IP) a proprietor sells when he/she finally lets go of a business. The aim of identifying, measuring, categorising and then training a work methodology takes a long time to establish. In an industry where the technology changes almost monthly, adjusting to change and effectively communicating those changes to staff can take some time. But the web waits for no-one. A freelancer can change as soon as new technology (such as responsive web design) hits the ‘net. There’s no complex chain of management for seeking approval. Often freelancers freelance because they don’t like playing Chinese Whispers and dislike office politics (and dreaded work parties). A freelancer just wants to do a great job and proudly sit you on a podium in their showroom.

4. Skills & Qualifications

Is the person building your website fully qualified? Are they aware of industry best practices and coding standards? Or is there poorly paid twenty-something sitting in a back room, drinking coke while using Dreamweaver to build your site – without any real knowledge about the underlying code? If you go with a large company, your designer will probably be a cheap graduate because that’s where the money is. It’s likely that he or she will also be 100% responsible for the build of your site – responsible to the company bottom line – not to you and your web site. His boss knows very little about web design. More likely, he will be reading about how to maximise profit, how to expand, or how to franchise the company. If he can pay a web designer $25/hr and out-charge to you at $200/hr, then he’ll be okay. None of this is remotely related to your website. A skilled Freelance web developer will be able to build your entire website using Microsoft Notepad. Unlike the company boss, he is probably in love with coding and designing and that’s what your website is. It’s quite a different volition.

5. Communication

You’re with a web firm and they’ve tasked a great project and marketing manager. They seem to listen well – identifying your needs and suggesting solutions. He or she is probably attractive. It’s customary to send an attractive (often opposite sex young person) out to meet clients. All goes well. Problems start when the person who probably has a marketing background communicates your web site dream to designers and then programmers and project or line managers. Communication becomes a game of Chinese Whispers. YOU are several degrees of separation away from the people who are actually building your site. And in many cases, coders are outside of the country. The company boss doesn’t want you to meet that person because he might tell you how much he’s getting paid. How often have you heard, “I forwarded that info to our Content Manager on Tuesday. Oh. She didn’t get back to you? Hang on … Ah, yes it looks like she’s away on maternity leave. Is there anything I can help you with?” The point I’m trying to make is that nobody is really listening to you. I know this because I’ve been that guy not listening on behalf of a company. The guy not revealing just how little time the thing you want will take. The real cost. When your web guy is working for the man, he’s answerable to his bottom line – not yours. Freelancers are answerable to clients and the work they do. Good freelancers listen. Not all do, of course, but if you find one that does – latch on.

6. Volition / Raison d’etre / The point of it all

Freelance web developers are in the business because they want to build really smart websites that work for people – sites that bring in new sales and business opportunities. Freelancers love what they do. Their intent is yours : they want to build the best website possible – not pay 12% Superannuation for 5 employees. Freelancers also tend to shy away from doing jobs they aren’t interested in. Few build sites for money. It’s why they are freelancers. They want to code, not run a business. Like me, most don’t see a need to expand. They are happy to either design or code (or do both) up websites. They have NO overheads and fewer financial responsibilities. If they are doing well, there’s NO reason to say yes to a job. Company bosses are staring at payroll, super, time-in-lieu, maternity and sick leave paperwork while trying to work out how to turn a profit over those expenses.

7. Care

This is the big one. Freelancers actually care about what they do. I’m not being twee here. A freelance web designer’s career depend on how much they care. The website they build for you will be their own. If I were you I’d want that to be the case. It is definitely NOT the case with a web design company. That site is solely yours. Check out any website made by a company. Any website at all. It’s not uncommon for companies to charge between $4k – $10K for a basic website. $1K will get you a cracking good freelancer-built website. Often the job and resulting website functionality is exactly the same, but for a third the cost.

In Conclusion

The upshot of it all this is that freelancers can’t charge an arm and a leg to build a basic website. If they are just getting their act together, then you might even get a crazy deal (think under $1,000). Most Freelancers rarely build websites for more than about $3K because that job will takes them away from less intense and more interesting pursuits. They aren’t in it for the money. I can promise you that. Otherwise, they’d start a company – and then franchise it. Web company bosses probably originally went into web design because they loved the code and the creative way that you can express intention with a website. Sadly, being a boss no longer allows them to experiment and play with code and images. The bottom line is simple :

With a company you might be lucky to get what you paid for.

With a freelancer you’ll get much more for half the price. At least! 😉

7 Ways That Social Media Impacts SEO

written by Angie Pascale

 

 

To understand what is popular, relevant, and credible, the search engines are turning to social media. And so too must brands.

If you ask 10 different people in the digital marketing industry whether social media impacts SEO, you’ll get 10 different answers. Some state a resounding “YES,” and cite SearchMetric’s 2013 SEO Ranking Factors report, where seven of the top 10 ranking factors were shown to be social signals. Others claim that the data in that particular report only showed correlation, and not causation, and that social has no direct effect on organic rank. These folks cite Moz’s 2013 Search Engine Ranking Factors report in addition to different statements by Matt Cutts on this subject. Still others will vehemently claim that SEO is impacted by social signals, but not in direct and obvious ways. This middle ground is more likely the true situation at this point. It’s unclear what the engines will do in the future, but Matt Cutts says that Google will never factor in direct social actions (i.e., Facebook Likes, retweets, and even +1s). He stated that Google has made attempts to incorporate this information into the algorithm, but it became too difficult to organize and quantify, and therefore, Google does not and will not include it. However, social media and SEO do overlap, and social can contribute to the overall organic success of websites in several ways. Let’s take a look at seven specific examples.

1. Link Potential

Social media activity can help to increase awareness of a brand or website content. This increased familiarity can lead to links. Let’s say a brand posts a video of a new product feature. That video gets shared 20 times on Twitter. One of those tweets is seen by a Twitter user that runs a blog (or better yet, a reporter for a major publication). The blogger or reporter decides to write about the new feature and links back to the brand’s website and video in the article. That link would not have occurred if the writer had not seen a tweet about the video. So, while the links in those 20 tweets did not contribute directly to the overall link profile of the website, they did lead to links being placed on a site via the article. These links do contribute to the overall link profile, thus contributing to SEO impact.

2. Personalization

Google uses Google+ activity and reviews to personalize search results when the user is signed in. If you are connected to an individual via Google+ and that individual has reviewed a business, +1ed a page, or posted on Google+ about the topic you are searching for, that result is likely to rank higher for you because of the connection.

Take the example below, I searched for “craft beer bars in Denver” and the fourth result is from a person in my Google+ circles. When I toggle from personalized search, this result is not showing.

personalized-google-search

Not all searchers are signed in all the time, of course, and not all searches occur on Google. But Bing is doing the same with friends’ Facebook activity. While difficult to quantify or even view yourself, this personalization of search results does impact ranking. 3. Search Query Volume Social media can help you get your name out to a wider audience. When that happens, you increase the overall awareness of your brand, which can lead to more people searching for your brand as a result. When Google sees that more people are searching for a brand, they view that brand as more popular and well known, and thus award it higher ranking. This is dependent on the query being searched for, naturally, and often is more of a branded search opportunity by nature.

4. Brand Signals

Some think that simply getting mentioned on a blog or site, without a hyperlink, can also contribute to ranking factors. Google calls this co-citation and considers it a brand signal. Social media’s ability to increase awareness of a brand and spur conversation can result in these co-citation mentions.

5. Traffic Volume and Site Engagement

Social media can increase the volume of traffic visiting your website, which is a key factor in search engine ranking. Oftentimes, the items being shared on social media that drive the most traffic are blog posts, videos, event listings, or other interesting content (as opposed to links to your homepage or main category pages). If that content is interesting enough to get users to stick around for a while, reading the entire page or watching a full video before visiting other pages, rather than bouncing right away, you may be rewarded in the organic results. The search engines can measure these metrics – bounce rate, pages per visit, and time on site – and may use it to inform search results and ranking.

6. Authorship

Google has indicated that they intend to incorporate identities into search ranking in the future, and are currently working hard to figure out just how they will do it. This means that certain people – based on their authority, relevancy to the topic, and likely audience size – will receive higher ranking for certain queries.

While Cutts states that Google is working on it, Eric Schmidt said last year that it’s already happening to some extent for verified profiles:

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results.”

7. Profile Ranking

A brand’s social media profiles rank high for brand terms, oftentimes on the first page and sometimes above the fold for brand queries. Take a look at the results for “Frontier Airlines” below. The fourth and fifth organic results are for two of Frontier’s social media profiles, and their Google+ page shows up in the knowledge graph box in the upper right corner of the page. This does not directly send traffic to their website, but it does allow them to better control the SERP real estate and ensure they have full branded coverage.

frontier-airlines-google

Knowing that Google has numerous ranking features now, it’s not just about those 10 blue links on the first page. For example, the Knowledge Graph Box, news articles, answer box, in-depth articles, videos, and photo carousel are all features that allow for organic search placement. SEO strategies must consider these other aspects as much as possible, and social channels are one of those considerations.

SEO Isn’t Just Google

SEO and Google have been synonymous – while most SEO tactics and approaches are search engine agnostic, they often get tied to Google ranking. It’s fairly obvious why this is the case – Google is the most popular search engine with 67.3 percent of market share according to comScore. Google also addresses (and condemns) SEO efforts more frequently than other engines. But SEO isn’t just for Google, and really isn’t just for search engines, either. Every social media network has some type of search functionality. As social media usage has risen, so has the volume of searches on these networks (YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google and Twitter receives 2.1 billion queries per day).

Consider how SEO principles can be used to impact ranking directly on the various social media channels. They may not be as clear and researched as Google ranking factors, and may not be as easy to impact (Facebook has stated that their News Feed has 100,000 ranking factors. That makes Google SEO a piece of cake by comparison!), but there are still plenty of opportunities for increasing visibility of your brand and content within the social media channels themselves. As the search engines become more sophisticated at interpreting search intent, delivering relevant results, and fighting organic spam, the SEO tactics of yesterday no longer cut it. To understand what is popular, relevant, and credible, the search engines are turning to social media. And so too must brands. These seven approaches are just a small glimpse into what the future holds for the integration of social media and SEO.

Real Estate Marketing Using Twitter

How often do you use Twitter? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Never? Twitter has more than 500 million registered users who share an average of 58 million tweets per day. There are many active real estate agents on Twitter, promoting their own content, interacting with clients and learning from their peers.

Even though it may seem overwhelming at first, you can join in the fun and start reaping the benefits of this social platform in almost no time at all. Twitter is simple to use and easy to do right. You just talk to others and share your thoughts in blurbs of 140 characters or less.

Whether you’re just getting started or already have a Twitter account that may be lying dormant, these twitter tips for real estate agents will help you jump start your engagement today:

Remember your audience.

You are most likely interacting with a variety of buyers, sellers and peers. These people don’t just want to see new listings; they want to learn a little about you and your expertise. Share staging tips, negotiating advice and interesting tidbits about your neighborhood, too.

Don’t limit yourself to text.

You can share video and photographs in your tweets. Mix in a virtual tour, photo of a listing dressed up for a holiday or even picture of your puppy. Followers like to see the things that show a little bit of your personality. No need to be a boring real estate robot.

Use a scheduler to stay consistent.

Although it may seem like some of the most successful Twitter users are on Twitter around the clock, for a busy real estate agent it simply isn’t feasible. Avoid giving Twitter the accidental silence treatment by using a free scheduling tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to plan ahead. Schedule a few tweets to post automatically throughout the week, then check in periodically whenever you can.

Use and make use of  #hashtags.

One of the biggest advantages of Twitter is the inclusion of #hashtags to parse and sort content. You can use them in order to make your own tweets visible to folks looking for a particular subject or search them yourself to find content you are interested in.

Start local and then expand.

Just like in real life, you have a greater chance of getting a new lead in your immediate selling area than on the other side of the world. Actively seek out local twitter users to follow and interact with in order to bolster your local exposure.

Listen, respond, retweet.

Don’t just talk. Twitter is about having conversations, not giving lectures. If you support, share and promote others, they will be more likely to do the same for you.

Investing In Email Newsletters Can Still Grow Your Business

Investing In Email Newsletters Can Still Grow Your Business

 

Though the form may seem antiquated in today’s high-tech world, newsletter marketing is still a very effective method for informing both current and prospective customers about what they can expect from your company. With this in mind, it makes sense to invest in online newsletter management, specifically, to help grow your business.

It is perhaps best to think of a newsletter mailing service as an extension of your advertising efforts, as the majority of web marketing companies do. After all, 78% of those who sign up for digital newsletters do so with their personal email addresses. This makes it easier for you to contact would-be clients or customers directly. And because 60.8% of all online marketing is utilized as a way to increase mobile web and internet sales, you will want to use these newsletters to highlight upcoming sales and go into detail about the quality of the products you offer.

Unfortunately, the appeal of digital direct mail newsletters is still somewhat tentative. Though 42% of customers read the newsletters sent to them via email, 48% find reading them to be a boring task with little greater meaning. The key is to bridge the gap and create newsletter content that is relevant, informative, and engaging. One way to do this is to create newsletter titles that are concise and stick in the readers’ minds. This approach yields a greater click-through rate than newsletters that have lengthy titles. It may require some work to develop a distinctive style of writing for your company, but once you do, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a newsletter pro.

If you have any questions, or maybe you’d like to have me create you a newsletter marketing plan, let me know I’d be more than happy to help.

10 useful tips to promote your business on Facebook

10 useful tips to promote your business on Facebook

 

Use of Facebook for Business provides some useful advice about not only using Facebook in the corporate world but also smart use of social networking in general. Facebook helps you getting more traffic to your website and to attract more customers towards your business.

In this post, I’ve described 10 useful techniques that will help you promoting your business online on Facebook.

1. Build a Facebook Page for your business, organization or a particular website you run. Use an eye-catching, appropriate and recognizable image of your company / product.

2. Before choosing any profile picture, make sure that you have clear goals in mind, along with benchmarks for measuring success.

3. Write a short bio with proper description that clearly describes what does your business do. You must ensure that your Facebook page should work like a well-planned magazine, including targeted and exclusive content.

4. Use apps like RSS Graffiti and NetworkedBlogs which keeps your audience updated with the latest piece of information coming from your website.

5. Post contents related to your business. You can even make use of Facebook Ads to have more and more people engaged with your business.

6. Post more and more engaging content on your Facebook Page. Have some active interaction with your audience. Make ’em believe that you are serious enough to respond to their queries. Don’t ignore or disappoint your audience.

7. If you don’t have enough time to interact with your audience, make sure you do it at least twice or thrice a week. It’s known to be a good practice which lets you maintaining a reputation of your business. So don’t miss your chance!

8. Add “Like” button to your website and online newsletters. Encourage people via “Find us on Facebook” on physical newsletters as well as your online workspace.

9. As you build your social networking presence, it’s important to use analytics to assess the performance of your Facebook Page. Have you heard of Facebook Page Insights? It’s Facebook’s built-in analytics which keeps you updated with things like how many likes your page has received in particular period of time, or how often people comment on your posts, or which particular days of the week are more active than others. Facebook does fantastic job of keeping admins updated with the analytics report of their page weekly on emails.

10. Many third-party data analysis tools and web analytics platforms are available out there which helps you tracking a performance wise records of your business online.

7 Tips Will Supercharge Your Social Media Marketing

7 TIPS WILL SUPERCHARGE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING


written by Larry Kim
 
For several years running, the majority of the population have chosen to spend more time in social media than anywhere else on the Web. Marketers recognize the opportunity; 86% indicate that social media is important for their business. Yet 88% still want to know more about the most effective social tactics and how to engage their social audience.
 
In fact, only 37% of marketers think their Facebook marketing efforts are effective and almost nine in ten marketers still believe the top benefit of social media marketing is exposure.
 
Social media marketing done right reaches far beyond broadcasting messages about your brand and getting exposure. Use these tips to expand your social presence and realize the potential for direct sales, converting prospects, driving relevant traffic to your website and nurturing client relationships.
 

Supercharge Your Social Media Strategies

 

Plan to Succeed

 
Of course you don’t want to fail. But you will if you don’t have a solid social media marketing plan in place.
 
Gather competitive and market information to determine your audience’s interests and which platforms will be most effective for reaching them. Social media content creation must be informed and thoughtful. Craft content and compile it in an editorial calendar. Google Docs Spreadsheets are a good starter tool for this.
 
Get your company social policies down and determine the roles each member of your team will play. Establish the workflow and approval process for posting new content and monitoring interactions. Empower your social team members to respond and engage your social followers.
 

Tie Social Efforts to Real Business Outcomes

 
Benchmarking and goal setting are critical to your social success. What do you want to accomplish with your social efforts and how will you know if you’re reaching your goals?
 
Many social marketers are tracking activity, but few are managing to tie the gathered insights back to real business outcomes.
 

 
Recent research from Altimeter shows that 53% of companies have formulated metrics that show the positive outcomes of social activity on marketing optimization. Less than half have achieved this in measuring the effects on brand health and customer experience and just 24% are effectively demonstrating the effect of social activity on revenue.
 
Big brands now have social media staff across an average of 13 departments, yet only 52% of companies say their executives are aligned with their social strategy. Benchmarking, goal setting, accurate measurement and a more holistic, cross-enterprise approach to social are all necessary for taking your social strategy to the next level.
 

Understand Your Cross-Channel Audiences and Tailor Content Accordingly

 
People typically aren’t looking for the same volume, format or tone in content on Twitter as they are on LinkedIn. You can make certain assumptions like this when you’re just getting started, then use your social analytics data to fine tune your content strategy.
 
Cater to the visual nature of Instagram and Pinterest with high quality graphics and photos. Use Twitter to participate in relevant conversations and broadcast short and sweet messages or links to longer form content. LinkedIn and Facebook can be great for sharing in-depth or multimedia content and starting conversations.
 
Increasingly, social networks offer ways to target various segments of your audience by geography or other parameters, so take advantage of this when you can. You might have some overlap across channels, with customers and prospects choosing to follow your company on more than one platform.
 
Broadcasting the same information across channels simply doesn’t deliver the unique experience they’re looking for on each network.
 

Get Comfortable with Social Customer Service

 

 
It doesn’t matter whether you intended for your social channels to be used for customer service or not. Social audiences now expect it. In fact, 42% of customers with a complaint voiced via social media expect a response in 60 minutes or less.
 
Companies face a number of obstacles and challenges in social media customer service, not the least of which are that you may be dealing with potentially sensitive information or confusing customers with a mix of marketing and customer service messages. Corey Eridon shares some great insight at HubSpot on combating these problematic situations and more through good planning, solid policy and setting realistic expectations.
 
Positive and negative mentions alike deserve a prompt response. If you plan on having a serious social presence, assign a first responder to monitor each channel and give them access to a troubleshooting library that addresses common questions and issues. Establish a brand voice and ensure proper training so your messaging is creative, but consistent across all channels and team members.
 
Finally, never, ever ignore a comment posted to your social channels. Each one is an opportunity to resolve a problem, showcase your customer service skills, build brand advocates and more.
 

Own Your Mistakes

 
Everyone goofs on occasion, even the biggest brands. While an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, all is not lost if an employee goes rogue or your social automation software posts a scheduled tweet at an inopportune time.
 
Take a page from Pamela Vaughan’s book. HubSpot’s lead blog strategist accidentally posted a picture of her baby bump meant for her personal Twitter account to the company account back in December. We’ve seen this happen before with varying levels of impropriety, such as an errant Red Cross tweet about drinking alcohol (getting slizzered, to be exact).
 

 
Pamela, like the Red Cross before her, responded with humor and grace that would be hard for a Twitter follower not to forgive. She deleted the tweet after checking to make sure there were no replies to it (in which case she would have responded). She then wrote this apologetic blog post explaining how the mishap happened and what measures were in place to prevent a repeat.

Everyone was able to have a laugh and move on. This is how you want to handle a social goof.
 

Listen Up!

 
Social listening is a science. The greater your audience and the volume of conversation around the brand, the more difficult it can be to find the nuggets of insight in the noise.
 
Listening at any level of scale requires social monitoring software. Ideally, your social listening will integrate seamlessly with your customer database, allowing you to reap the most personalized and valuable insights from online interactions.
 
Setting up alerts on specific keywords brings peace of mind, allowing you to respond to select issues immediately. Listening also points to opportunities for your company to insert itself in relevant conversations, engaging influencers and establishing thought leadership.
 
The data gathered by your social listening software also informs your social media marketing strategy going forward. If you haven’t found the right social listening software, get on it. This is a must-have for companies serious about social.
 

Get Up to Speed in Search & Google Authorship

 
Recent Google changes mean companies need to understand how team members, brand advocates and influencers all creating and amplifying content can impact search visibility.
 
Even if you’ve been less than impressed with the size of your potential audience on Google+, it’s worth incorporating into your social strategy. Not only has it become increasingly important for local marketers, each profile on Google’s social network acts as a publisher’s identity when Google is ranking content in search.
 

 
Google Authorship helps Google understand who is behind a piece of content and what influence they have in their industry or topic area. Connecting your blog and other content to your Google+ profile allows Google Search to consider your entire body of content, the popularity and authority of the site it’s published on, social relationships and more.
 
This is a fantastic opportunity for marketers investing in authority building and social media to positively influence the search visibility of branded content.
 

Supercharge!

 
The last few years have been a whirlwind of new social tools, features and the explosion of niche networks like Snapchat and Pinterest. At first, it was about reaching out to our target market, getting in front of an audience and trying to decipher some type of business intelligence from those interactions.
 
Understanding that data is becoming simpler, thanks to evolving social analytics tools. Acting on it is becoming less cumbersome, with cross-enterprise strategies and a trend towards social as an integrated part of the overall marketing strategy.
 
Social media marketing is growing up and marketers are growing with it. As social continues to mature, we find ourselves ever more able to tie real business outcomes to a single tweet, or Facebook conversation.
 
If you’re not quite there yet, don’t delay – your competitors are implementing some of these tips already. As it becomes more reliable and measurable, social is sure to become more competitive, as well.

Signs that your website may need a redesign

Signs that your website may need a redesign

This seems to be the year of the website redesign. So many companies and startups are relaunching brand new websites, and with good reason. Technology is changing, design trends are coming and going, how sites are used is changing, even things such as social media and community interaction are changing and shaping how websites should look and function.

Redesigning websites today isn’t just about changing the look and feel. With technology changing and different problems needing to be solved, redesigning and overhauling websites goes much deeper than just the way they look. The functionality, presentation, how they load, and how well they can be updated are all things that are prompting website redesigns on the daily basis.

Feel like you could be getting left in the dust with everyone around you launching new websites? Below are several questions to ask yourself when it comes to your own website to see if it is time to join everyone else in the year of the website redesign.

Is your website responsive?

There has been a very big push in the last couple of years to make websites more device friendly. With a multitude of various devices able to access the Web now, the web design community has made it clear that it is time to rethink the way we design websites. It is no longer good enough to design a website for a desktop or laptop computer, especially with millions of people accessing the Web on their smartphones, tablets, TVs, gaming, and music devices. This really became apparent thanks to Ethan Marcotte who in May 2010 published an article entitled “Responsive Web Design” which has now become the foundation of the growing need to make sites work on all devices without hindering user experience. (If you have no idea what I am talking about, then that article will help clear things up for you.)

Does your current website follow the principles of responsive web design? Can it be easily viewed on all devices, from large desktops to smartphones, without hindering the experience? If you cannot confidently say “yes,” then it may be time to review how your website is working and considering at least changing your current website to be responsive. Hiring a good web designer and/or developer, or brushing up on the ideas and principles of responsive web design may be needed to help bring your website up to par with the multitude of devices available.

Is it hard to keep updated?

When was the last time you updated your site? Why? If the answer is because it is hard to update, then determine why this is. Is it because you just don’t have time or you don’t have the knowledge? If you just don’t have the time then you should look to find time to help keep your site updated (because an updated site keeps visitors coming back). If you find that you just don’t know how, then this could be a sign that your site needs a revamp.

It could be as simple as hiring a web developer to install a content management system (CMS) so that you can update the site yourself, or as large as needing to completely start from scratch and create a new website that will allow for easy updating. A CMS is often the default reaction for new websites being developed today as it does allow for easy updating and it also has other benefits as well. You will want to keep your site updated and fresh and if that is difficult to do now, then take some time to evaluate why.

Are there functions and features that are no longer used?

As websites mature and grow, it often becomes apparent that certain parts just aren’t working well anymore and are becoming outdated. One that I can think of is the Facebook Fan boxes that show who of your friends like a particular site. Do you have something similar on your site that isn’t working anymore for your site’s purpose?

Social media share buttons have been getting a lot of slack recently for becoming exactly that. Some web designers argue that they are not as effective as they once were and are swearing to remove them from their sites. Is there something similar on your site that isn’t working? If so then it may be time to either remove it, or if it is a major part of your site, restructure or redesign your site so that the underperforming feature is long gone.

Does your website take a long time to load?

Closely related to responsive web design above, the trend now is to make sites load faster and not download so much information. This is because there are Internet providers and smartphone carriers who are limiting the amount of data we are allowed. With these limits being placed on our usage, we would be doing a disservice to our visitors if we make them download tons and tons of information, imagery, and scripts just to view our site while costing them precious data.

Most web developers agree that if your site takes longer than five seconds to load, then you should look into optimizing your site. After about five seconds on slower bandwidths, people become disinterested and will leave your site. If your site is taking longer than five seconds to load, I first recommend hiring a web designer or developer to look into why your site is taking so long to load or consider a redesign that will allow for less loading of certain elements (like background images, textures, custom fonts, etc.).

Are visitors navigating past your home page?

This may be hard for you to gauge unless you have special analytics software running on your site that lets you see what visitors are doing. Google Analytics is excellent in this case and is free to sign up and put on your site. If you have Google Analytics or another service, look through your stats to see if people are navigating deeper into your site. Often, there are metrics and things already calculated for you to tell you this, but if not then take a look at the last couple of weeks worth of visitors.

If you are starting to lose visitors, then you should either take a look at your home page to see if you can make it more enticing, or consider a complete redesign of your site to make visitors want to navigate further into your site and read what you have to say.

If you don’t have such a service running on your site, then sign up for Google Analytics or StatCounter and bookmark this article and revisit in a month. After then, follow the tips above to determine if it is time to redesign your site or not.

Is your site slowly losing visitors over time?

Very closely related to finding out if visitors are navigating past your home page is to see if there is a slowing trend in visitors coming to your site at all. Are you finding that visitors are not coming as often as they had before? If so you may want to consider revamping either the content on your site or your entire site to entice more visitors to come and visit.

While having a slowing trend in visitors may not mean a complete redesign is necessary, it is often a good indicator that either your SEO is not working for you or your site is becoming stale. I will take a gamble and say it is more than likely the latter of the two. When your site starts looking like it hasn’t been updated in a while, visitors will be turned off and will go elsewhere for their needs. Search engines will also not rank you favorably in this case either, as they like sites that are constantly being updated with new content.

When was the last time you completely overhauled your site?

It seems like such an obvious question, so why don’t I have this at the top of this list? Mainly because this is not a very strong indicator of needing a new website. My general rule of thumb is you should completely revamp at least the look of your site every three years, and possibly the functionality every five years. Those years don’t sync up together when you put it on a calendar because even though technology is changing really fast, it isn’t changing as fast as design trends on the Web. For instance, we have had smartphones for at least six years but we are just now starting to look at website design as responsive to the device we are using. However, the “Web 2.0″ look has come and gone in a matter of about four years (roughly 2006-2010).

If you can’t remember when the last time you completely revamped your website was, then that is a good indication that it may be time for a redo, simply because technology and design trends have probably changed significantly since then (i.e. post-Web 2.0, responsive web design, HTML5/CSS3, social media integration, minimalist designs, etc). However, like I said it isn’t a strong indicator mainly because different sites have different purposes, and may not need to be overhauled as often or may need to be overhauled more often than others.

Are parts of your site not functioning properly?

Does your site have things that are broken or constantly giving you errors like the dreaded “404 not found” message? While it is often a simple fix to correct these broken elements, it could indicate a bigger problem: your site is disorganized or is being mishandled. This is often solved and prevented by using a content management system that can manage your content so that you are not losing pictures or broken links to improper or accidental management of your site.

If you have tons of broken links, error messages, and missing images, then you should consider a complete website redesign that will include the installation and use of a content management system. If you only have one or two broken links here or there, then take some time to fix those as soon as you can.

Do search engines even know you exist?

Much can be said about good SEO in terms of getting your site on search engines, but it actually doesn’t require a lot of work for you to make certain things happen that are favorable for SEO. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo like sites that have content that is constantly changing, coded properly, and isn’t heavily based on images. While you can often help by keeping your site updated yourself, things like making sure the site is coded properly may need to be investigated by a web developer with SEO experience who can look to see if there are any coding elements that could be causing problems for you where it comes to search engine optimization.

If you are virtually nowhere on search engines, then it may be time for a new website to help boost your SEO and search engine visits. Since most people will find you through a Google search than directly typing in your URL (for most websites), playing nice with search engines so that they will find you and put you in their results will go a long way with getting visitors to come to your site. It is up to you to make your visitors stay, however, through fresh content and a nice looking site.

Is the copyright year in your footer any other year than 2012?

If the copyright statement in your footer has a year that is anything other than the year 2012, chances are you haven’t updated your site for at least 10 months. Your site is pretty stale at that point. If it says 2011 or earlier, then you are signaling to your clients that you haven’t updated the site, and they will leave. This is a good signal of needing a website redesign, especially if that year is 2007 or earlier.

Ultimately, you have to make the decision on a redesign

Just because your website meets some of the points discussed above doesn’t necessarily indicate that your website needs an overhaul. For instance, just because your site takes a long time to load doesn’t mean that it is time to start from scratch and create a new one. This could easily be solved by having a web designer or developer take a look at your site to see what is slowing it down, and working with them to resolve that. Also, if your site is losing visitors, it may not be because of the site design, but rather the content on the site. A revamp in content only could help improve this without completely gutting what you already have.

My best bet is that if several of the situations above are happening to you, then it is time to either hire a good web designer or take on your website redesign yourself (if you are a designer or developer) and revamp your site so you aren’t left in the dust.

In the end, you have to make the decision on whether your website needs a redesign or not. If you are starting to get the feeling that maybe it is time to redesign your site, then contact a web designer and chat with them about why you feel your site needs an update. They can often help you determine if your site just needs some tweaks or if it is truly time for a brand spanking new website.

What is Responsive Design?

What is Responsive Design?

 

In a nut shell it’s one single website that is able to detect the size of the screen being used and “respond” by switching the framework of the webpage to fit the device (desktop, tablet, mobile phone etc.). Before responsive web design was introduced, people would have multiple websites developed for each device and their screen size. This wouldn’t work so well due to the sheer number of various devices, as well as the clunky coding techniques involved back then.

When your website isn’t optimized for the many different mobile devices that consumers are using today, then you’re likely missing out on a significant amount of sales. In fact, mobile sales grew 63% compared to Black Friday in 2013. While providing consumers with more avenues to make purchases is a boon for retailers, it does present some drawbacks. If your website isn’t easy to use or fast-loading on a variety of devices, and doesn’t immediately present the information your customers are looking for, they are likely to give up and shop elsewhere. Instead of creating a separate website for mobile devices, a better solution is to use responsive design principles.

Responsive design is an approach aimed at crafting websites to provide the optimal viewing experience – no matter what device it’s viewed on. When viewed on mobile devices, websites that are not responsive often require scrolling, resizing and zooming. None of this makes the shopping experience easier for the consumer.

This approach adapts the site layout to fit the viewing environment, whether it be a desktop, a tablet or a smartphone. The layout is designed to accommodate different screen sizes through the use of media queries, fluid grids, and flexible images.

Do This Simple Test Now:

You can test out what Responsive Design does right now (assuming you’re on a desktop or laptop). Just take your pointer to the bottom right corner of the screen and click and drag to resize this screen (browser window). You will notice how my site “responds” and switches accordingly to the size differences.

Main Components of Responsive Design

  • Fluid, proportion-based grids use relative units, like percentages, (rather than absolute units) to size page elements.

  • >Flexible images are also sized in relative units, to prevent them from displaying outside of their containing element when that element is resized.

  • CSS3 media queries use the characteristics of the viewing device, such as screen widths, to determine which set of style rules is applied.

  • Server-side components, such as feature detection and device detection, work with client-side methods to decrease the site’s load time even more.

Consumers expect a lot of conveniences when it comes to online shopping and ease of use on their tablets or smartphones is one of them. With an increasing amount of advertising noise in today’s market it’s quite a feat to capture the consumers’ attention, which is almost always limited. When a website is slow or the consumer can’t easily find what they need, they leave. The transition to responsive design compels you to streamline your content to optimize the customer experience and, in the end, converts more of your visitors to sales.

Jamie Middleton