Have you ever wondered how to get your website to come up in search results? Of course you have. Every small business wants to be found online, but it isn’t always an easy task.
Website traffic doesn’t follow the Field of Dreams mantra, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ You can create a killer website, but if you aren’t using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, your online bleachers will remain empty.
What’s SEO? It’s a way to improve your website’s visibility, so it appears in search results. By making specific changes to your website you can organically increase traffic and please the Google Gods so your site is listed when people use certain keywords.
To help boost your rankings without calling in a webmaster, here are six free SEO tools for the time-strapped business owner:
Google Trends is a go-to keyword tool. You can see how search queries change over time when people search for your keyword and compare different words or phrases to see which is best.
Let’s say you run a hardware store and you want to ramp up sales of shovels this winter. When people search for a shovel online, do they search for winter shovel or snow shovel? Compare the two using Google Trends. Here’s what you’ll see:
According to the chart, people search for snow shovel more frequently than winter shovel. The chart also shows you when people search for the term. In this case, it’s no surprise that the winter months are when this term is most popular.
You can also take a look at a regional breakdown that shows you where the search terms are most popular.
With this knowledge, you can use the phrase ‘show shovel’ on your website and blog posts to increase traffic.
This tool shows you how a search engine sees your site. It strips your site down to a base level, without any fancy fonts, headers or images, and displays relevant SEO information. By looking at your site this way, you can see what needs improvement.
All you have to do is enter your URL into the site, no additional downloads necessary.
What SEO problems does your website face? Aren’t sure? Turn to Screaming Frog. This free tool crawls your site looking for SEO roadblocks and provides a report of problem areas.
The tool looks for broken links, missing metadata, oversized files and pictures, duplicate pages and internal links, just to name a few. Think of it as an SEO audit. You can use the results to improve your site and SEO.
How fast does your website load? Do you have a page or two on your site that takes too long to come up? Sluggish page speed can hinder SEO. Site speed does play a role in search engine rankings, so you’ll want to double check the speed of your site with GTmetrix.
Just enter your URL into the site and you’ll get a page speed score and a list of ways to improve it. For example, it might suggest resizing images to improve load times.
5. Rank Checker
Where does your website land in search engine results? Find out with Rank Checker. This tool will show you where your site shows up and give you tips to improve it.
You can install a button on your toolbar so you have easy access to this information whenever you’d like. It will take time to move your site up the ranks, but with this tool you can keep an eye on where you stand.
How does your site look on a smartphone? Search engines give preferential treatment to websites that look great on all devices.
To make sure your website looks sharp on every device, use a responsive website design. This design adapts to every device, so you don’t need to create multiple sites.
Not sure if you have a responsive design? Put your website into the Responsive Design Checker to find out. If you don’t have a responsive design, consider updating your site or getting help from designers at Deluxe.
Want to learn more about search engine optimization? Check out this video that focuses on SEO Tips for 2015.
© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.
The post 6 Free SEO Tools to Boost Your Search Engine Rankings appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.
Finding time to maintain your social media presence can be difficult, but expanding it? That seems even harder.
Not to worry. With a little help, you can build your social media presence while juggling other responsibilities. We’ve compiled a list of five things you can do whenever you have an extra five minutes that can help you build a social following.
1) Comment on one LinkedIn group post
LinkedIn groups are a great way to connect with other professionals in your field, or in fields related to yours. Whether you want to stay on top of current trends in your niche, network with businesses who might want to buy your products and services or establish yourself as an expert in your field, groups can help.
Posting on groups can drive traffic to your profile and website. Posts you make to a group will also show up on your profile’s feed. Commenting has the same benefits.
If you have a bit of extra time once a week, browse through your group feed and find a post you can give a thoughtful, interesting response to and post it. Otherwise, if you have an article or blog post that others in a group might benefit from, post that.
If you haven’t joined any groups yet, take the time to join a couple of groups related to your business or desired customer base.
2) Reach out to three people on Twitter
Seventy-four percent of Twitter users follow small businesses to get product updates. Plus, the stats also show that people who follow brands on Twitter are 47 percent more likely to visit their website, and they’re 72 percent more likely to buy from brands they follow. In other words, Twitter can be an extraordinary marketing tool if you engage with people.
While you should maintain steady engagement with current followers, reaching out to new people is vital. Five minutes is a good amount of time to connect with people who might be interested in what you’re selling.
You could do this in a number of ways.
Check out our article “Building Twitter Engagement is as Easy as 1-2-3.”
3) Check out the current trending topics on Pinterest Analytics
Creating genuinely interesting posts about topics people are talking about is a great way to expand your social media presence. Using trending topics increases the likelihood that your post will be found by people who don’t yet follow you.
Pins related to trending topics see an average 94 percent increase in click-through. That’s right, by creating a pin relating to a trending topic, you can almost double the amount of people who visit your website from it.
Take five minutes to visit Pinterest Analytics to check out trending topics, brainstorm a few ways to connect those topics back to your brand and pin the result.
You could, of course, do this on any social network.
4) Take a picture (or three)
Pictures aren’t only viable on networks like Pinterest and Instagram. They’re increasingly important on Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn. Using your own photos is cheaper and more personal than buying stock photos, and with smartphones and apps, it’s less expensive and easier than ever.
Instead of taking a picture every time you want to post to social media, consider streamlining the process by creating a library of images to use socially. Anytime you have an extra five minutes, snap a few business-related pictures to add to the library. You can even put them through a filtering program like Inkscape or Gimp to make them more visually stunning.
Of course, if you have a time-sensitive image that you’d like to post right away, go for it.
For some image ideas, check out our post, “12 Images you Should Share on Social Media.”
5) Follow one of your industry’s top influencers
On any social network, following top influencers can help you grow your own following, while staying up-to-date with important trends. You can reply to them, share their posts and eventually they’ll share your posts too.
Take five minutes to use a tool like Topsy to find top influencers in your industry, or check out some possible influencers on LinkedIn. Follow these people and engage with them while posting high-quality content of your own.
Do something social whenever you have five minutes to spare and you may just be surprised at how fast your following grows.
Get more tips and how-tos delivered to your inbox every Monday by signing up for the VR Buzz newsletter.
Sarah Tanksalvala is a freelance business, technology and lifestyle writer based in Evergreen, Colorado.
© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.
The post Got 5 Minutes? Expand Your Social Media Presence With These Quick Tips appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.
Use email metrics as a great diagnostic tool. These metrics provide a ‘look under the hood,’ so to speak. Just like a car, if something isn’t running right, you fix it. If you see a metric that’s off, or not where you want it to be, it’s time to break out the toolbox and make some repairs.
To help you reach your goals, we’ve created a list of eight ways you can improve your email metrics.
Improve your open rates
1. Write a must-open subject line.
Your subject line should tell the recipient what the email is about in a clear and concise way. Your subject line should average around 50 characters or less, and use urgent language that convinces a recipient to open the email right away. Words like “today,” “one day only” and “act now” are great examples.
2. Make sure the ‘From label’ is legit
If you send emails that are from CrazyCowboy@yahoo.com, they won’t get opened. Your emails should be from your business and contain the company name in the address. If a recipient sees an odd name in the ‘from label,’ they’ll likely ignore it.
Improve your click-through rates
3. Watch your layout
Email design is important. If your text and pictures are scattered all over the place, recipients will likely close the email. For help, turn to our guide that covers the dos and don’ts of email design.
4. Keep the message short
Quickly explain the purpose of the email. No one wants to read paragraph after paragraph of information. Your recipients don’t want long emails; so don’t waste your time creating a novel.
5. Create a call to action button
Try creating a call to action button in your email rather than a hyperlink. A button stands out and clearly shows the reader what the purpose of the email is. Use this button builder from VerticalResponse to create a button for your next email.
Improve your conversions
6. Make the checkout process seamless
If customers click on an emailed link to make a purchase, you’re halfway there. If a customer doesn’t follow through with the sale, your checkout process could be to blame.
How long does it take to check out? Is it easy to navigate? Customers want a fast process. If you want to improve your checkout process without bringing a website developer on board, try Shopify. This DIY tool will help you set up an e-commerce site that customers will love. (Plus, when a customer checks out through Shopify, his or her email address is automatically added to your contact list in VerticalResponse.)
7. Improve your forms
If your call to action is based on getting new leads, or having customers sign up for a service or consultation, make sure the process to sign up is simple. Long forms and tedious websites are deal breakers. Try Lander - it’s a tool that creates lead-generating pages that are hassle-free for the customer.
Improve metric management
8. Use a tool to centralize data
Tired of tracking email, social and sales metrics in a dozen different platforms? Turn to Dasheroo. With this tool, you can see all of your metrics in one dashboard. It works with VerticalResponse, social sites and many sales tracking apps. Best of all, it’s free. Check out this video that explains how Dasheroo works.
Metrics are the key to optimizing your email marketing. Remember to make changes slowly so you know which change contributed to your success.
© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.
As with any marketing effort, it’s important to have goals. Email marketing is no different.
The big question is, how do you know what goal is realistic? Setting a goal for an 80 percent open rate sounds great in theory, but when you learn the average open rates hover around 25 percent, you quickly realize that you’ve set the bar too high.
To help you strive for obtainable and realistic goals, we’ve created this list of email benchmarks that you can refer to. We’ll also highlight the most important metrics and explain the factors that contribute to it.
Email marketing campaign benchmarks
Average open rate: 20-30%
Open rates vary and depend on several variables, including your industry and subject lines. Pharmaceutical businesses, for example, typically see open rates of about 25 percent. Similarly, emails focused in the area of Publishing usually hover around 21 percent.
To see where your industry lands, check out this breakdown of open rates produced by Epsilon.
Subject lines play a big role in open rates too. If you aren’t writing short, attention-grabbing subject lines, your open rates will dwindle. Check out 6 Tips for Creating Compelling Subject Lines.
Average click-through rate: 2-6%
Every email you send should have a call-to-action (CTA). Whether you want customers to make a purchase or register for an upcoming event, if the call to action is clicked on, it’s tabulated in your click-through rate. Now this doesn’t mean the recipient took any specific action, it simply just measures the number of people that clicked on the call to action.
Click-through rates also vary by industry. You can refer to this chart from Epsilon to see a specific click-through rate for your business.
This is an important metric. If you have average or above-average click-through rates, that means you’re sending relevant messages that drive recipients to click on your links.
If your click-throughs are low, you should try sending a different kind of email to see if you can increase interest amongst your list. Take a look at ‘9 Emails that Every Business Should Send’ for inspiration.
Average conversion rate: 3-6%
When a customer opens an email, clicks on a link and takes action, you’ve hit the jackpot. This jackpot is also known as a conversion rate.
This is another crucial metric to watch. If your conversion rates are low, it’s time to figure out why customers aren’t following through.
Whatever your call to action is, it must be simple to complete. For example, if your call to action prompts recipients to make a purchase, make sure your checkout process is easy to navigate. If your call to action asks recipients to fill out a form, make sure the form only asks for the most vital information.
Unsubscribe rate: .05% or lower
Unsubscribe rates should only be a concern if your number is high. If you see a rate that’s higher than .05 percent, it’s time to rethink a few things.
One of the main reasons that people unsubscribe from emails is frequency of send. If you bombard your subscribers with too many messages, they’re likely to opt-out. Consider scaling back a bit.
Recipients also unsubscribe if the content they receive isn’t of interest. Consider sending out a survey that asks customers what they’d like to receive and tailor your content in that direction.
Learn more about email metrics in the third part of this guide, which focuses on tips to improve your metrics.
How are your customers, clients or donors responding to your emails? The answers are in your email metrics.
Sending and creating emails is only half of the job. To find out if your messages are reaching customers and increasing sales, you have to turn to email metrics.
With VerticalResponse, you get an easy-to-read report that tracks your success. You can see who opened your emails, what links were clicked and how often an email led to a sale or sign up.
While metrics are a vital component in email marketing, they can be a little tricky to understand. From bounce rates to conversions, the lingo alone can be tough to grasp. And in the time-strapped world of small businesses owners, which metrics matter? And how do you know what numbers are good?
We created a three-part guide to answer those very questions. We’ll define each metric in a glossary of email marketing terms, give you benchmarks to hit and provide tips to improve specific metrics.
For starters, let’s define what each metric means.
Glossary of email metrics
Open rate: The percentage of people who opened your email. This number will include people who opened your email more than once.
Unique open rate: The number of times your email was opened without duplicates. If a recipient opened your email, marked it as unread and went back and opened it again, it would only be counted once in this equation.
Bounce rate: The percentage of emails that were NOT delivered to a recipient’s inbox.
Delivery rate: The percentage of emails that made it to recipients’ inboxes after removing those that bounced.
Click-through rate: The number of people who opened your email and clicked on at least one of the links inside your email.
Conversion rate: The percentage of people who opened your email, clicked on a link and completed the desired action. The desired action could be filling out a form, making a purchase or following you on social media.
Forward or Sharing rate: The number of people who are sharing or sending your emails to friends. Think of it as a referral.
Marked as spam rate: The number of people who marked your email as spam. This means your emails will be rerouted to a recipient’s spam folder, rather than the main inbox.
Unsubscribe rate: How many people have unsubscribed, or decided to opt-out of your email list. By law, every email must have a way for recipients to opt-out.
List growth rate: This shows you how fast your email list is growing. It takes into account unsubscribes and bounces and looks at the number of contacts that are added to your list in a certain time period.
If you’re a VerticalResponse customer, your metrics will also show how your social channels fit into your marketing. For example, if you share an email on your Facebook page, we’ll show you how many people liked it, clicked on it and shared it.
Learn more about email metrics in the second part of this guide, which highlights the benchmarks you should aim for.
One of the most valuable strategies for effective marketing is segmentation.
What is marketing segmentation?
Market segmentation is dividing your total market into smaller groups based on common characteristics. The end goal is to find a small group with the highest likelihood to buy your products or services. This group is your target market, which is the audience to whom you will be directing all of your marketing efforts.
Defining your target market allows you to communicate better with potential customers.
Why do we have to segment?
As customers differ, it’s not effective for one business to focus on everyone. The more accurately you can focus on those who are most likely to buy your products or services, you’re less likely to waste resources and effort. Targeted marketing communication offers a greater scope to gain and retain customers, increase profits, and grow market share.
What are the most common market segments?
Below are the four most commonly used market segments:
1. Demographic segmentation includes dividing groups by age, gender, religion, language, income, ethnicity and education.
2. Geographic segmentation divides the market based on location such as city, country, or region. You can also divide the market into urban, suburban and rural markets. Other geographic segments include climate and population size.
3. Psychographic segmentation includes interests, hobbies, lifestyles, values, and attitudes. Grouping by types of affinity categories will help you identify which groups are most probable to have an interest in your business.
4. Behavioral segmentation divides market by purchasing behaviors. An example includes online retailers who personalize their website to visitors by recommending products based on prior purchases. Behavioral segmentation also includes benefits sought, the degree of loyalty and rate of use. Different messages may be appropriate for those who are more loyal to your product.
How do we split the market into segments?
The first step in segmentation is understanding what your business has to offer or the problem you are trying to solve. Then come up with a list of customer types who are most likely to have this problem and will benefit from your products or services. This will help you to identify the common characteristics of your potential market.
It’s always important to gather data. If you are a new business, this may require help from a marketing firm to give you research data. Ask your network of friends and associates. If you are an existing business, you can send a survey via email to your most loyal customers to find common characteristics. All this will help you to better focus your efforts.
Chances are, you probably put a lot of time and effort into launching your website. At some point, after you’ve been up and running for a while, you’ll contemplate whether you’re in need of a redesign. To help make this decision, we’ve put together five questions to ask yourself. Your answers will help you evaluate if an update to your website is necessary. These questions will also ensure you’re getting what you need out of out your site — like desired traffic, sales, repeat customers, newsletter subscribers, etc.
1. Is your website responsive?
Responsive means that your site will look great whether visitors are viewing it from a smartphone, tablet or desktop PC. Sixty-four percent of American adults own a smartphone, and 42% own a tablet (from an October 2014 Pew Internet Project research study).
This most likely means that you’ve got people that will visit your website on one of these devices. If your current website design is not mobile-friendly, your visitors will quickly get frustrated by trying to pinch, stretch or scroll their way through your PC-based website on their mobile phone. If you don’t have a mobile-friendly site, it’s time to start planning for a website redesign.
2. Are you getting enough sales or leads from your website?
One of the key indicators to let you know you need to redesign your site is if your traffic is declining.
Are fewer people visiting your site? Or, are they getting to your homepage and bouncing–leaving the page almost immediately? These kinds of metrics can show you quantitatively that your website just isn’t working for you anymore. Here are some areas to explore if you are concerned about a high bounce rate:
3. How does your website look compared to your competitors?
It’s always a good idea to check out the competition. Review your direct competitors’ websites on a regular basis. Look at not only the design but also notice their voice and how they position their product or service. Avoid plagiarizing, but you are free to use any inspiration to update your website.
Keep an eye on how they rank on search engines compared to your site. If you own a nail salon in Annapolis, Maryland, type in “nail salon Annapolis” into Google and see where you show up and how you compare to your direct competitors. If they are ranking higher, you need to look at doing a redesign that focuses on incorporating best SEO practices.
4. Does it have all the bells and whistles you need?
Besides the actual design, a website can include lots of extras that make the day-to-day management of business easier. Here are a few examples of the types of tools or apps that can be added to a website to streamline business operations:
These are just a few examples. There are many tools you can use to create a better experience for the visitor and you.
5. Are you just tired of it?
If you feel like your website would win an award for the ‘Ugliest Website of The Year’, then it’s just time to bite the bullet. Your website is the conduit for many people to get a first impression. If it’s not projecting the image you want for your business, then it’s time to invest in a redesign.
If you answered yes to a few of the questions above, you should consider redesigning your website. There are many design services available. Deluxe Websites offers a complete end-to-end solution for website design, getting your website found, making sure it’s mobile-friendly and ensuring it’s SEO-optimized.
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The post Five Things to Consider Before Undergoing a Website Redesign appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.
Delivering a relevant buyer experience is virtually impossible to manage without the right blend of touch points and messages. No doubt you use transactional messages through printed receipts, email confirmations and delivery update notifications. Maybe you’ve even added a seasonal promotional email or direct mail campaign.
Retailers can also save time and keep customers engaged by setting up auto-responders. These types of emails are triggered once an event occurs. Let’s look at three types of events and example emails.1. Surprise and Delight
The “Surprise and Delight” auto-responder is one that many retailers include in their communication plan. Simply put, it’s an out-of-the-ordinary email that a retailer sends to a customer that elicits an emotional “ahhhh” moment.
An appropriate event that might trigger this email is a customer anniversary. Knowing when a customer became a customer, and acknowledging that special day, is always a welcome surprise. More common events might be a customer’s birthday, or wedding anniversary. This special event auto-responder is designed to, well, make them feel special.
Offering a small token of appreciation goes a long way. It keeps your brand top of mind but shows your customers you truly value their business and loyalty. And although providing a gift certificate from your business is nice, offering your customer something unexpected is even better. Consider offering them a nominal gift card from a brand that complements your company or treating them to an exclusive in-store discount.
As Robert Spector, customer service guru and author of The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence: The Handbook For Becoming the “Nordstrom” of Your Industry, says “Don’t reinvent the wheel. Focus on winning one customer at a time. Be honest and sincere. Do what’s right. There’s nothing magical about this. That’s been my guiding principle. To make it work, you have to live it every day. Make it your mind-set.”
Here is a great example of a customer anniversary “Surprise and Delight” email:2. Countdown
The “Countdown Event” auto-responder email builds awareness and excitement. It also creates a sense of urgency around a sale, special promotion, new product launch, or any type of event. You can segment your loyal customers and offer them a “sneak peak” using a Countdown. The impact delivered is great customer service to your best customers with exclusivity, but with a limited time element.
Here is a great example of a “Countdown Timer” auto-responder email:3. Abandoned Cart
Last but not least, the “Abandoned Cart” auto-responder email that is triggered when a shopper leaves before going through the checkout process. You can decide to pair the email with an offer, or not. Either way, the goal is to entice them to complete the sale.
Here is the “no-offer reminder” abandoned cart email:
Here is the “offer reminder” abandoned cart email:
There is truly no one-size-fits-all approach to an auto-responder strategy but one thing is true, you can mix and match different auto-responders by combining the best elements of both.
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Segmented lists get more engagement. The open and click results are likely to be higher since the email message can be more directly targeted to a certain group of people. To make this best practice easier, we are excited to introduce our new Advanced Search tool.
This update allows for campaign activity-based segmentation, which means, you can segment your contact list based on a set of predetermined parameters related to opens or clicks. You can access this email feature on the Contacts page.
There are three selections you can make:Search
For quicker list generation, ‘Recommended Searches’ is available at the top right-hand rail. You can generate the list by clicking on the name of the search.
Once the results from your search appear, you can:
This level of segmentation can be of great use, especially if you manage a large number of contacts.Ways You Can Use Segmentation
Here are just a few ways you can take advantage of this new feature:
Advanced Search is our first phase of segmentation and available to both freemium and paid accounts. Take advantage of this deeper level of segmentation and watch how your engagement improves.
Most people know LinkedIn as the premier social network dedicated to business. Unless you have closely followed its evolution since launching in 2003, you may have missed some updates.
One of its key evolution points was the launch of Company Profile Pages in March of 2008. Since then, there have been many enhancements. Most notable was “Insights.” Insights were the 1.0 version of Analytics about your Company Page, which helps you understand how your page works and which areas you need to enhance to improve traction.
Following recent changes aimed at simplifying the platform’s usability, Company Profile Pages are now just called ‘Company Pages‘ and “Insights” are known as Analytics.
In this episode of Tips in 2, we take you on a quick tour of LinkedIn Company Page Analytics. This overview allows you to see how much information you can gather from the data behind your page.
Click on the video below and let us show you around.
For more info on LinkedIn and other social media platforms, click here.
The post Understanding Your LinkedIn Company Page Analytics [VIDEO] appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.
Wrestling with growing your audience? Grappling with landing page conversion rates? Then we’ve got the thing for you! We’re happy to announce our newest integration with SumoMe, an innovative platform built to help marketers create high-converting landing pages, grow their email lists, and make sense of their website traffic and visitor behavior.
Get on the Mat!
One of the biggest challenges marketers face is conversion. How can I get my site visitors to subscribe, opt-in, and not abandon the page altogether? SumoMe’s Welcome Mat tool helps you do just that.
Welcome Mat displays a full-screen call-to-action when visitors land on your site. You can use this page to encourage visitors to join your email list, check out your blog post, or whatever action you want them to take.
With its completely customizable design and mobile optimization, you can increase your email conversion rate through better visitor engagement. Best of all, Welcome Mat is integrated with VerticalResponse, so any email addresses you collect with the tool will automatically be added as new contacts to a VR list of your choice. This is a great way to immediately engage and convert a site visitor, while increasing productivity since you won’t have to enter each new contact into VR manually. Check out Welcome Mat here!
Tip the Scales with List Builder
If utilizing a full-page call-to-action isn’t a great fit for your site, SumoMe has another solution. List Builder is a fully-customizable lightbox pop-up used to prompt conversion at just the right time. List Builder’s Smart Mode technology detects the exact moment when a visitor is about to leave, and then entices them with a call-to-action or signup form so you’re less likely to lose that visitor. And, again, thanks to List Builder’s sync capability with VerticalResponse, any email addresses given will automatically be added as a new contact in your VR list.
Timely and strategic visitor engagement is key to conversion. List Builder will help you with this targeted interaction, and also decrease your workload since you won’t have to add these new contacts manually to your VR Lists!
How Can I Sync SumoMe and VR?
It’s quick and easy!
1. Select any of the SumoMe apps for collecting emails: List Builder, Welcome Mat, Scroll Box, or Smart Bar.
2. In your campaign, select the Services tab and click on VerticalResponse.
3. On the next page, click “Connect.”
4. Sign in with your VeritcalResponse credentials.
5. Select the VR list to which you’d like each collected email pushed.
6. All set!
Let us know how this integration works for you.
Are you currently using social media sites to enhance your business’s online strategy? Posting to these platforms on a regular basis is a great place to start. If you want to increase sales, brand awareness, and website traffic, you’ll have to up your social marketing game by going a bit further.
These nine social media marketing hacks will help you:
Hacks to help sell products on social sites
Your website shouldn’t be the only place for customers to browse and buy your products. Remember that your social sites can also serve as mini, digital storefronts too.
Why not entice your social audiences to make a purchase in 140 characters or less for example. When it comes to selling items on your social sites, you have a few options.
1. Turn to Facebook ads
Facebook has an easy-to-use advertising platform, which allows you to showcase your product to an audience of your choosing. To maximize your views, be sure to target your ad by location, age or interests.
In terms of cost, the ads are affordable. You can start an ad campaign for as little as five bucks, with the idea of progressive spending as you focus on reaching more customers over time.
2. Use a ‘shoppable’ app like Shoppost
This handy resource creates ads for your Facebook page. The ads can display an image and also provide pricing, colors, and sizes. When a customer clicks on the ad, he or she is taken directly to your site to check out.
Keep in mind, your website must use Shopify, Etsy, Amazon or Bigcommerce as its e-commerce platform for this tool to work, but it makes buying simple for your customers.
You can check out the site to see the ads.
3. Try a ‘Like2Buy’ button to increase sales
Ready to turn the great images you share on Instagram into transactional posts? Use Curalate’s Like2Buy option. Customers can see your products and, like the Shoppost app, are directed to your website to make a purchase. Users can even save products in their own gallery to purchase later.
Hacks to help you find and post eye-catching images
Social media is propelled by images. With so many images in social streams, you can’t post any old picture and expect viewers to pay attention. To beat the competition, you have to upload creative and clear images. So how do you get your hands on images that attract attention and spark engagement? Here are a few hacks to help:
4. Consider using paid stock sites
Using stock photos is probably the most common way to obtain creative images, but it can be costly.
5. Browse free stock sites
If you don’t have a budget for pictures, turn to Flickr. Through their Creative Commons section, you can search images that are free. However, you’ll want to narrow your search depending on how you plan to use the image.
For example, if you plan to use the image for a commercial purpose, search under “commercial use allowed.” Just go to the creative commons section and use the drop menu on the upper left side to narrow your search. Here’s what you’ll see:
While the images are free, when you post it on your site you need to provide attribution.
6. Standout by creating a cinemagraph
Everyone is vying for visual attention, so how can you stand out? Try creating and posting a cinemagraph. What’s a cinemagraph? It’s a still image with a small section of animation. It’s like a GIF, but with better quality and control.
Since Facebook has an autoplay video feature and Instagram can play videos on a loop, these mini-moving images are powerful and attention grabbing. You can create cinemagraphs by using apps like Cinemagr.am or Flixel.
Hacks to use social media marketing to increase website traffic
Your website and social media networks should work well together. To accomplish this, you’ll want to shuttle traffic between the two sites. In other words, links on your social sites should direct people to your website, and links on your website should bring customers to your social sites.
What’s the best way to keep this digital highway flowing?
7. Install ‘ClickToTweet’
This free tool puts a small ‘Click to Tweet’ link next to any piece of text, which allows your customers to then share that selected text on their Twitter feed.
How can you incorporate it? You could put together a list of frequently asked questions on your website, or a short list of statistics that customers can share. The ‘Click to Tweet’ link can sit next to any valuable tidbit of information. When clicked, the sentence automatically loads to Twitter. All the customer has to do is click ‘share’, and it hits the Twittersphere.
8. Increase social traffic with a ‘Hello Bar’
Create a call to action button on the top of your website that drives traffic to your social sites. A Hello Bar is a thin bar that appears at the top of your website that contains a short message and a call to action.
The best part about a Hello Bar is its versatility. You can change the call to action and the message to achieve a variety of goals. You can encourage people to visit your social sites, sign up for your email list, download an e-book or visit a specific page on your website.
Visit the Hello Bar website to learn more.
9. Use Colibri.io to ‘listen’ on social media
What are people saying about your business? It’s impossible to monitor every comment made, but Colibri.io makes it easier. This platform collects data across social media sites and shows you exactly what people are saying about your business, industry as well as your competitors.
With this information, you can insert yourself into the conversation. You’ll be able to offer help to customers that are unhappy with a competitor’s service, drive traffic to your website, and maintain your overall online reputation.
These nine hacks will help improve your sales and customer engagement; however, you don’t have to implement all of these changes at once. Try to set up a new tool every month so you can learn how each one fits best with your digital brand.
The post 9 Social Media Hacks Every Small Business Can Benefit From appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.
So you want to define a social media strategy for your business? The place to start is with a full understanding of the most widely-used social platforms, their unique purpose, and whether or not your business will be able to reach its target audience.
Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest all trend highly with small and medium-sized business owners. With the greatest volume of users per month, these platforms allow you to build a following, showcase new products, and sometimes act as an arm of customer service.
We’ll look at what differentiates these three popular networks, comparing various key metrics so you can feel confident starting your path towards social media success.
To begin, frame your evaluation of each platform with the following questions:
Evaluating Purpose and Unique Attributes
There’s no shortage of social-driven platforms so spend time exploring once you’ve gotten your feet wet. You’ll find that Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are more than likely the places with the highest concentration of your key demographics. In examining the purpose and unique attributes of each, you’ll find that though they are all ‘social’, they have different strengths and selling points.
Primary Purpose: Builds brand loyalty and reputation. Establishes your business as an authority through interesting content and informational posts.
Primary Purpose: Shares breaking news and quick updates, promotes new products, content, or brand contests, collects instant feedback from your audience.
Primary Purpose: Acts as an online scrapbook, showcases products, and displays brand essence through inspiration boards.
Most businesses find that Facebook helps strengthen relationships once initially established. If you want to grow an audience around promotions and sales, Twitter or Pinterest has the quickest impact. Check out these informative results of the 2014 Pew Research Center study.
Understand and find your target audience
Defining your target audience and knowing where to find them is the foundation to navigating the non-stop maze of social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest each have significantly different mixes in regards to average age and gender:
Average Age Range of Users: 25-45 years old
Gender of Users: 60% female, 40% male
Average Age Range of Users: 18-29 years old
Gender of Users: 50% female, 50% male
Average Age Range of Users: 18-35 years old
Gender of Users: 80% female, 20% male
If you’re looking for ways to define the particular needs of your audience, consider developing personas for your target social media audience. This will create a precise vision of exactly who they are, what content or information they’re craving, and where you should focus to communicate with them.
Consider the time commitment required
The keyword in social media is ‘social’, probably the most understated and forgotten portion of the equation. Not unlike good public relations, businesses should use social media as a source of ‘2-way communication’ with their audience, regardless of the platform.
This means that in addition to posting articles, videos, and other relevant posts you want your audience to ‘Like’ and ‘Share’, you need to interact with them.
How often should I post to my social networks?
The average amount of time spent by small businesses on social media per week? 6 hours and counting.
Bottom line: Don’t feel pressured to be on every platform. Start with the one that connects you with the right audience, aligns with your business’s needs, and one you can regularly manage.
Want more insight on social media marketing? Sign up for an upcoming ‘Fundamentals of Social Media’ webinar.
The post Social Media & Your Business: Choosing the Best Platform appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.
Is your online store as customer-friendly as it could be? You want a visitor’s experience to be easy and enjoyable for them to make a purchase or book an appointment, and share their positive experience with friends. If your website isn’t up to par, you could be losing customers. Here’s a quick checklist of things that your site should have to meet customers’ expectations.
1. Social media icons
Make it simple for customers to follow you, share their wish lists and purchases, and inspire them to pass your social posts on to friends. Turning customers into brand advocates without adding to payroll is a big win.
2. An About Us page
Few things build trust like putting a face to a name. People want to know they’re doing business with a real person. An About Us page is the perfect way to tell a bit about your company, staff or even just yourself. Include a picture that shows customers who you are.
3. Your return policies
Customers like to know that if something arrives broken, doesn’t fit or just isn’t what they thought it would be, they can return it. Clearly post your return policies, including things like how many days they have, whether or not there’s a restocking fee, and if they can return the item to your store. If you offer FREE returns, where customers don’t have to pay return shipping, you may want to make it a headliner on your homepage. Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer, saw a 357 percent increase in sales after instituting a free return policy for a year.
4. Shipping rates and important deadlines
Nobody likes the sticker shock associated with shipping rates at the very end of the order. In fact, according to a June 2014 study released by UPS and comScore, unexpected shipping costs was the top reason for shopping cart abandonment. Include flat-rate shipping costs and an estimator that uses the customer’s zip code to provide shipping costs before checkout. Shipping time estimates are also vital, especially around Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day. Be sure to include options for speedier delivery during these peak purchase periods.
Shopify can help you add shipping tools to your site.
Besides decreasing the number of phone calls and emails that need a response, a Frequently Asked Questions page can satisfy customer needs with immediate answers to their most common questions. It’s safe to assume that customer frustration is synonymous with lost sales. In fact, according to a report by Forrester, 55 percent of adult customers are likely to abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question. You can also provide links to other pages in your answers, which will save your customers multiple steps.
6. A search function
A search box provides a service to not only your customers but also your analytics. What better way to find out what your customers are looking for and how they word it? A good search function will take into consideration spelling mistakes, singular vs. plural words and even synonyms (e.g., pop, soda, cola).
Check out Swiftype. This tool can help you create and add a search bar to your site.
7. A social login option
Who doesn’t dread those lengthy registration processes when preparing to buy something from an online store? Offering a social login option allows your customers to use existing login information from one of their social networks, like Facebook or Twitter. That means there’s no additional username and password to remember (and decreased customer support for password retrieval), and no false email addresses.
If you’re using a WordPress site, you can install this option in a few easy steps.
8. Guest checkout
Another login option for the registration-weary customer is to provide a guest checkout. Nothing kills momentum like having to create an account from scratch just to make a purchase. In fact, according to a 2014 e-commerce survey by Visual Website Optimizer, 23 percent of users will abandon their shopping cart if they have to create a new user account.
9. Clear security protocol
That same Visual Website Optimizer survey found that 13 percent of shoppers abandon their shopping cart due to payment security concerns. It’s important that you take measures to secure customer information and explain those measures on our site. SSL Certificates encrypt all the data that is exchanged between the customer and your site.
With these nine website must-haves, your customers will have the quality of experience they expect.
Wendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer with four books and thousands of published articles to her credit. Contact Wendy at WendyBurt@aol.com.
The post 9 Things Your Online Store Should Have To Keep Customers Happy appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.
How are you currently engaging your customers? Studies show engaged customers have positive responses to businesses, which translate into higher sales.
You want customers to love your brand and go out of their way to buy your product or service. Loyal customers like these can boost your revenue by 23 percent, according to a customer engagement survey conducted by Gallup.
One of the easiest ways to increase customer engagement is through email. By sending the right messages and promotions, you can increase engagement and sales.
What kinds of emails should you send? We’re glad you asked.
This guide will help you create four emails (featuring examples!) that are designed specifically to boost engagement. Plus, we’ll highlight the components of the email that you should try to mimic when you sit down to create your own.
1. Welcome email
Making a good first impression is vital when it comes to customer engagement. You want to start the relationship off right with a conversational and friendly tone that is in the voice of your brand. Show the customer your appreciation and explain the benefits of your email list.
In this example, UK retailer House of Fraser provides an introduction to its new guests with this friendly and organized welcome email:
Tips to create a welcome email:
Pro tip: Consider automating your welcome email.
With a VerticalResponse account, you can trigger an email to send within hours of a new contact joining your list. All you have to do is create the email and set up a delivery time. It’s a hassle-free way to guarantee immediate engagement with prospective customers.
When you’re ready, use these step-by-step instructions to automate your emails through VerticalResponse.
2. Event email
What better way to engage your customers than to talk with them face-to-face? Whether you host a holiday sale, customer appreciation event or a webinar, interacting with customers on a personal level is one of the best ways to make a connection.
Event emails are just as important for non-profits too. When volunteers and donors see their contributions in action, they’re engaged and more likely to continue their support.
Here’s an example of an event email template:
A food bank invites guests to an upcoming event with this simple, yet informative email.
Tips to create an event email:
Pro tip: Use tools to improve the registration process.
Customers can register by sending you an email, but there are registration tools that can help.
Try creating a Facebook Event. With this tool, guests can RSVP to your event. Once you create the event on Facebook, include the link in an invitation email. When a customer clicks on the link, they’re taken right to Facebook to RSVP. Plus, your fans can invite their friends, which can give your attendance numbers a real boost.
When you’re ready to create a Facebook event, check out these step-by-step instructions.
If you’re hosting an event that requires a registration fee, you should check out PayPal or Eventbrite. You can set up a page for your event and, once again, use that link in your email so customers can easily register for your event. Both PayPal and Eventbrite will take a small percentage of each transaction.
3. Email Newsletter
Friends swap stories about their day and keep each other informed about what’s happening in their lives. To maintain a friendly relationship with your customers or donors, you should do the same. Keep your audience in the know by sending out a regular newsletter. The more your audience knows about your business, the more likely they are to frequent your checkout counter.
Here’s an example of a newsletter:
SurveyMonkey sends a well-designed newsletter that’s full of helpful advice.
Tips to create an email newsletter:
Pro tip: How to get new ideas for your newsletter.
Coming up with topics for your newsletter can be tricky, especially since a newsletter is an ongoing commitment. Your newsletter is free space that can cover a range of topics, but when you’re stuck, turn to our list of ‘75 Email Newsletter Topics’ for help.
4. A ‘freebie email’
Keep customers smiling (and buying) with an occasional free offer. Consider offering a gift with purchase, tickets to a local event or a free download. A freebie is a nice way to maintain that warm, loyal feeling that you’re working for.
Here’s an example:
Craftsy offers a free pattern with this email.
Tips to create a freebie email:
Pro tip: Segment your list.
You don’t have to offer a freebie to everyone on your list. This is a great time to segment your contacts. Offer the freebie to your loyal customers, first-time clients or inactive customers that you’re trying to bring back.
Of course, these are just four ways to engage your audience. You can also create a social media competition and invite people to participate via email. Consider creating a survey and ask customers what they’d like to see from your company. Feel free to get creative and explore new ways to engage your audience through email marketing.
To make the VerticalResponse email editor even easier to use, you now have access to three new content blocks that will have you on the path to an incredible email in minutes. In today’s episode of Tips in 2, we have the pleasure of getting a demonstration of these content blocks from VerticalResponse’s Product Manager, Patrick Khajehtoorian.
Patrick shows how to use and edit the button block, image group and divider line to make emails and newsletters professional and aesthetically pleasing. Click on the video below to see all the specific details.
If you’d like to check out the email editor for yourself, sign up for a free account today!
The post How to Use the Email Editor to Make Your Emails Shine [VIDEO] appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.
When it comes to developing a strong brand, it’s important to be ‘in the know’ with current trends in marketing and advertising strategies to help create and sustain a consistent brand voice. Who better to learn from than the most influential men and women in business? Follow these 3 LinkedIn influencers to get tips and tricks on how you can create a consistent brand voice for your company.
Richard Branson – Founder of Virgin Group
Richard Branson shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to expanding the Virgin Group. He started with Virgin Records and then branched out into the world of mobile communication and air travel. His most recent endeavors include Virgin Galactic as a space tourism venture and Virgin Fuels as a means to produce cheaper fuels for automobiles and airplanes.
Brands need to relate to their audience on a personal level to build trust. This has never been truer than it is now in our consumer-driven economy. Consumers use the Internet to educate themselves about the products and services before buying.
Every one of the Virgin Group’s entities embodies Richard’s fun-loving attitude from the logo and website down to the safety video on Virgin Atlantic flights.
Follow Richard on LinkedIn to learn how being yourself can be your greatest asset when it comes to managing your brand.
Beth Comstock – CMO at GE
In 2003, Beth was hired by GE to help increase GE’s brand value. She was the first CMO hired in over 20 years. For a company that was struggling to be a relatable and compelling brand, Beth took the bull by the horns and built a creative and unexpected brand experience for GE’s customers.
You wouldn’t expect such a large corporation to have much of a sense of humor, but GE has stepped up their comedic game with social media. Their Pinterest page, alone is thoroughly entertaining, not to mention informative!
To create a more relatable brand, Beth stresses the importance of starting small. “We’re constantly tinkering with our business models to get leaner and more agile and get closer to our customers – to act small even though we’re big.”
David Edelman – McKinsey partner leading Digital Marketing Strategy Practice
David is no spring chicken in the world of digital marketing. With over 25 years of experience helping marketing executives accelerate growth for their business, he’s well equipped to offer advice on marketing and brand development.
He stresses the importance of building a community for your brand to create a forum where customers feel comfortable communicating with your business and with each other. He believes building communities will create brand advocates and help new customers with their purchase decisions.
When you have some time to kill waiting for your lunch to arrive or on your commute to work, check out these three influencers for tips and tricks on building a consistent brand voice.
Keep up to date with marketing trends by signing up for our weekly newsletter.
Pay-per-click advertising is a popular and economical way to generate more website traffic and reach a larger target audience online.
Although it can be quite daunting to get started, the ROI on most pay-per-click ads is higher than its other digital and offline alternatives including direct mail and using basic keywords in your content. To help speed up your learning curve, we’ve created a list of frequently asked questions designed to give you the foundation you need to start a pay-per-click campaign.
1. What is pay-per-click advertising?
Let’s start with the definition. Pay-per-click advertising, or PPC advertising, is a specific type of search engine marketing designed to drive traffic to your website. When certain keywords are entered into a search engine, your ad appears in the search results. In terms of cost, you only pay when the ad is clicked on, hence the name pay-per-click advertising.
2. Where do ads appear and what do they look like?
Ads appear at the top of search results and along the right side of the list.
The ads can have several different looks depending on which search engine you decide to advertise with. In the example below, “Sandals For Kids” was typed into Yahoo.com. The top four links, as well as the images inside the box, and the small text that’s underneath it are all considered PPC advertising.
3. What are the benefits of PPC ads?
It’s quite tough to get your site on page one for search results. With PPC ads, your website not only gets “front and center attention,” but it is also displayed to customers who are looking specifically for your product or service. Plus, these eye-catching ads can be more affordable for small businesses compared to other types of advertising.
4. What sites offer PPC advertising?
When it comes to PPC advertising, you have several options. Google Adwords is the most popular, but there are several others that you should research. Here’s a quick list:
5. What are the components of a PPC ad?
To start, you might want to opt for a text ad. However, you can create a PPC ad that’s a banner, video or product listing. When getting started, use the guidelines below to design your ad:
Of course, there are length restrictions for each component. For example, with Google Adwords, headlines can only be 25 characters long.
6. How do you find the best keywords to use in an ad?
When you create an ad, you should select a set of keywords that will trigger your ad to appear based on popular searches. Keyword selection can make or break your ad, so you must choose wisely. Fortunately, there are tools to help you select the best keywords. Try Google Keyword Planner, Keyword Tool or check out this list of keyword tools.
7. What’s the difference between broad, exact and negative match?
When you create an ad, you’ll not only select keywords, but you’ll also decide how “exact” you want the match to be. Here are some terms to be familiar with.
8. How can I target my PPC ad?
Although search engines vary, most use these three basic targeting options:
9. Where can I find more resources on PPC advertising?
We’ve compiled a list of useful resources to help expand your basic understanding of PPC. Get started by clicking through these links:
Now you’re ready to begin your campaign. Head over to the PPC advertising page on the search engine of your choice and set up an account. Remember, start with a small budget and do a little experimenting to see what works for your business before launching a full-scale effort.
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Looking for an easy and affordable way to promote your business? Try Vine. You can use this video-sharing app to create six-second videos to captivate your audience. We shared Six Reasons to Use Vine for Your Business in part one of this guide. In part two, we explain everything you need to know in Getting Started: How to Use Vine for Your Business. In this third and final part, we give you five ideas along with several examples to get your creative juices flowing.
Here are five ways Vine can work to promote your business:
1. Ask customers to participate in a Vine competition
Vine has become an everyday tool, which means your customers are likely familiar with it. Why not ask your customers or clients to produce a video for you?
Consider creating a Vine competition that encourages customers to create a video that showcases your product or brand in some way.
For example, Disney created a competition that asked its fans to show how much they loved Disney Parks with its “Vine Your Disney Side” competition. Users had to submit their Vine by a certain deadline and use the hashtag #DisneySideCompetition. Cash prizes were given away, along with a chance for one winner to work with Disney to create a series of videos.
This kind of competition generates what marketers call “user-generated content,” which you can use to market your business. Put the winning video on your website, ask Facebook fans to vote for their favorite, and tweet new submissions as they come in. The promotions are endless.
2. Show off a new product or service
Planning to launch a new product or service? A Vine is a great, quick way to give your audience a sneak peek.
For example, eBay introduced a new delivery service with a Vine. With eBay Now, customers can shop and get their orders delivered within an hour. The e-commerce giant created two videos. The first video revealed the new service, and the second outlined the area that can utilize the new delivery feature. Both are simple, yet creative videos.
3. Create a timeline
Consider creating a timeline that showcases the evolution of your business, product or logo.
Adidas used the timeline idea to show the evolution of the FIFA World Cup soccer ball. Take a look at the example and consider trying something similar for your business.
4. Make a connection to a current event
When a current event or trending topic rolls around, capitalize on its popularity by connecting it to your product or brand. For example, when Opening Day of baseball is around the corner, make a vine that combines America’s favorite pastime with your business.
Don’t limit yourself to sporting events. Any current event will work. Volkswagen, for example, made a Vine during Discovery’s Shark Week. Check out this Vine.
5. Show your product in a clever way
Some might say you can’t be creative in six seconds, but the limited amount of time is exactly what encourages creativity.
Need an idea? Try to show customers how to use your product in a different way. Post the video on your social channels and encourage customers to comment and explain how they use your product.
Or, just make a cool video that has your product in it. Samsung created a clever video that showcases several of its smartphones. An animated basketball player moves through various phones. Check it out.
Want to learn more about Vine? Don’t miss the first two parts to this guide:
The post How to Use Twitter’s Vine To Promote Your Business [GUIDE - Part III] appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.
Starting a newsletter from scratch may seem a bit daunting. If you’ve never made one before, or you feel like your current newsletter campaign is in dire need of an overhaul, this post is for you. With a few tips and best practices from this two-part post, even as a first-timer you can create a successful email newsletter campaign that keeps readers engaged and eager for fresh content.
Before you worry about the design of the newsletter, determine the type of content to include. Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of my newsletter?”
Depending on your business, industry, and time of the year, this answer could vary widely. Your goal may be to increase traffic to your online store or blog, direct readers to a landing page for an event, make an appointment, or some combination of the above. If you’re stumped for content, we’ve got a few ideas to inspire you.
Once you’ve determined the goal, follow these three tips when creating content:
1) The 80/20 Rule
Your newsletter should strike a balance between educational content and self-promotional content (and yes, the 20% part is for promotional content). Why so little promotional content? Because your readers may become overwhelmed and annoyed if the majority of your newsletter is telling them to buy, buy, buy.
Subscribers want educational or informative value. That can come in the form of breaking news about your company, product, service, or industry. If your content leans too far to the self-promotional side, you may risk burning out your list with higher than normal unsubscribe rates and spam complaints.
2) Set expectations on the Sign up Form
Tell new subscribers exactly what they can expect from your newsletter. You can provide this information on your sign up form page. It’s helpful to include both the type of content they will receive (product updates, industry news, informative blog posts, etc.) and the frequency in which they will receive it.
As long as you set newsletter expectations, you can take rule #1 with a grain of salt. Let’s say you have a daily deals site. If you explain to potential new subscribers that they’ll receive a weekly newsletter chock full of nothing but sweet savings and promotions, then it’s OK to offer up less educational content.
3) Use a compelling subject line so subscribers want to read your content
The subject line is perhaps (after deliverability) the most important aspect of your email content. After all, if they aren’t compelled to open your email after reading your subject line, then they won’t see all of that great content you put together!
You can find a ton of information on the art and science of writing subject lines. We frequently blog about it. You can find a few posts here, here, and here. Most importantly, use a creative and unique subject line for each and every newsletter. In other words, don’t start every subject line with “This Week’s Newsletter.” Instead treat your newsletter like an actual newspaper and your subject line as a headline that inspires readers to read on.
That wraps up part one of Tips for Email Newsletter First-timers. In part two, we’ll dive into design fundamentals so your email layout supports your content. Stay tuned for more!
The post Tips for Email Newsletter Campaign First-Timers – Part I: Content appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.