Online Marketing

10 Ways to Amplify Content Promotion Strategies

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Generating content is the first step in engaging your audience, but your job isnt quite done once the content is out there. In order to get the most out of your content, you need to understand how to market what you have. Employing content promotion strategies can help boost your reach. Here are 10 ways you can expose your content to more prospects.

1. Ask For Contributions from Top Influencers

By publishing content, you automatically leverage the attention of your existing audience, but tapping into a bigger influencers larger base can open up your content to a wider crowd. How do you do this? Simply cite and link to top influencers when applicable. When you mention these influencers, you have a good chance of getting them to share the content, thereby exposing it to their audience.

Related Class: Finding Influencers to Amplify Social Reach

2. Give Those Influencers Meaningful Incentives

If you hope for an influencer to share your content, you must be prepared to give something in return. Give influencers an incentive, whether its a promotion or a product review, or any other form of mutual exchange. In turn, they are much more likely to help build your audience by sharing content on their platform.

3. Engage Niche Communities

It would be great to achieve mass appeal across a wide range of audiences, but that’s not how you should focus your attention. Instead, focus on the smaller segments that your content appeals to most. You might have content that specifically appeals to online marketers or the tech community; if thats the case, seek out places where these people tend to gravitate, and stay active in those communities.

4. Using the Skyscraper Technique

One way to create content with a built-in audience is to use the skyscraper technique. The idea behind this method is to find the best content thats already published by your competitors and build on it. Any content can be improved on with better design and more in-depth material. This isn’t the same as plagiarism, or spinning: borrowing ideas and making them better isn’t stealing. It’s how all writers, artists, thinkers and innovators thrive.

5. Create Hero Content

Rather than focusing on quantity of content, work on bigger and better content. Concentrate on producing resources that can be marketed and promoted, and spend the effort getting it out to the community.

Related Class: Creating and Curating Content People Love

6. Use Native Advertising

content_promotion_strategies_2

Native advertising is paid content that fits into the standard structure of a site. Native advertising usually performs better than something like a banner ad, as long as it doesnt come off as pushy, or clash with the tone of your site.

7. Use Broken Links to Your Advantage

When you write powerful content, find other sites that have linked to similar articles, and identify those with broken links. You can use extensions to identify sites with broken links or broken redirects. Then, contact the staff to suggest your article as a replacement for the broken link or redirect. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it works. If they agree, that backlink will help your SEO for that particular page, thus improving the visibility in Google’s organic results for that article.

8. Buy Niche Property

If you are already a large Internet business, buying niche property is a viable option for you. While obviously an expensive prospect, acquiring an existing site that focuses on your market is a great way to quickly expand your platform and get your content out to the right audience.

9. Give Incentives to Sharers

Contests and access to exclusive content are both great ways to increase your audience’s engagement. If you provide them something in exchange for sharing your content, you can gain considerable growth directly from that incentive.

10. Use Snip.ly

Snip.ly is a tool for creating banners on the bottom of your content that links to other articles and resources on your site. This is a great way to keep site visitors around longer, which helps garner clicks and improve usability metrics.

Content promotion strategies can significantly boost your audience reach, which means more clicks, leads and sales. While I’ve touched on a number of these methods, don’t get overwhelmed: dedicating yourself to just one or a few can have a big impact.

Nick Rojas is a self-taught, serial entrepreneur who’s enjoyed success working with and consulting for startups. Using his journalism training, Nick writes for publications such as Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, and Yahoo. He concentrates on teaching small and medium-sized enterprises how best to manage their social media marketing and define their branding objectives.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Finding Influencers to Amplify Social ReachContent Marketing Strategy for Social MediaCreating and Curating Content People Love

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here!

 


 


8 Ways to Turn a Negative Online Review into a Loyal Client

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In the age of social media, things can turn ugly fast. Small incidents turn into crises, which can become a public relations nightmare spreading bad press about your business to your current users/clients, and even to those who have never even heard of you. Dealing with these situations requires a level head, and a good crisis management plan. But part of avoiding full-blown crisis is responding to individual complaints effectively, whenever they arise.

It’s never fun to find a negative online review about your company. Whether the review is an honest account of a client’s experience, or the result of a partnership gone sour, it can be very discouraging. However, a negative review can also be a great opportunity to create a loyal client.

Remember that leaving a negative review takes effort. The easiest way for a client to handle an issue is to terminate their relationship with your business and go their merry way. The fact that they have taken the time to write and post a review indicates that they would probably like some response from you. Any feedback, positive or negative from a client is an opportunity for your business to grow and improve.

Here are 8 ways to turn a negative online review into a loyal client.

1. Listen

The first way to turn a bad online review into a positive experience is listening to the client’s complaint or story. This means putting ego and defensiveness aside. Read between the lines. For example, if they mention that their account representative didn’t respond in a timely manner, the real issue is that they felt your team wasn’t reliable, or a resource they could turn to in a crisis.

For B2B firms, most phone calls and emails are returned the same day or within 24 hours during the work week. However, when there is a crisis for a client or an urgent request, those need to be prioritized. We’ve all encountered a crisis at work, and we remember the folks who helped and the folks who didn’t. By really listening to the issue that has caused the negative review, you are taking a first step towards resolving the problem and addressing the client’s real concern.

2. Research

Your gut reaction and management’s directive may be responding to a negative review immediately. While quick response time is a priority, you should never act in haste. Research what happened with the client. Talk to the people involved and get the facts. Whether the client is right or wrong isn’t the priority; you want to assess the situation reasonably, and determine the underlying factors.

The priority during your research should be to determine what happened and how to resolve the issue or complaint. If you discover that your team honestly did everything to accommodate the client, then it may be a case where an explanation is needed. Many negative online reviews are caused by misunderstandings or miscommunication. Assemble all the facts, including dates, times, and the people involved so you can draft a coherent, thoughtful reply.

3. Apologize

A great response to a negative online review should start with an apology. It doesn’t have to be an apology about what transpired, but it should take the client's experience seriously - clients are human beings with feelings. If you don’t validate a client’s feelings in any way, they are unlikely to be receptive.

For example, you can start your response with, “We are sorry to hear that you had a negative experience with our customer service team.” Apologizing in this case is not accepting blame for the situation, but shows that you understand their experience was a negative one. Conversely, if you discover in your research that your team was at fault, it’s best to accept blame immediately. This kind of apology could be, “We are sorry that we inadvertently overcharged you for services last month. We accept responsibility for that and are working to reverse the charges immediately.” Whether the issue causing the review is your firm’s fault or not, always begin by acknowledging the negative experience, and apologizing for it.

4. Empathize

The best way to address a negative review is to show empathy. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. We’ve all been frustrated when we can’t access an online account, or forget a password, or experience a product failure. Relate to your client’s frustration and show that you understand their experience.

The main challenge that businesses face here is the temptation to patronize, or express dry sympathy. Saying things like, “I’m sure that is frustrating” or “You must be so frustrated” or “It’s not a big deal” can be insulting. The latter statement is condescending, and the first two are examples of sympathy instead of empathy. The difference between these two states is subtle, but very important: to sympathize with someone is to express regret at their situation. To empathize with them is to show that you relate with their experiences, and know what it's like to be them.

State your empathy in a genuine manner. Really mean what you are saying. Something along the lines of, “We understand how frustrating it can be to have login problems during a meeting with the boss.” In the majority of negative reviews, people just want to be heard and understood. Show that your business listens by empathizing with their situation.

5. Resolve

Don’t bother responding to a review if you don’t have a resolution. Always, always offer a resolution to your reviewer. If you need more information from them to provide a resolution, offer a contact name and number so they can get in touch. Let the negative reviewer know what you need to resolve their issue and how you plan to do it.

In many cases, you may not be able to ferret out enough information during the research phase to resolve the issue. In these situations, the resolution is to give the name and email/phone number of a particular problem solver and ask the reviewer to get in touch at their convenience. A great way to address this is by saying, “We apologize for the error you mentioned in your review. We’d like to work with you to resolve this issue. Please connect with Jeremy by calling 555-5555 at your convenience. Jeremy is aware of your feedback and is ready to help you find a resolution.”

In my experience, half the time the negative reviewer will follow up and work towards a resolution. The other half, the simple act of reaching out resolves the issue by itself. The best part is that responding with a resolution shows other clients and potential clients that your business is responsive, and works to resolve issues issues when they arise.

6. Respond

It’s important that you not only respond to the negative review online, but respond to any questions or requests the client may have afterwards. If they get in touch, make every effort to respond quickly. Everyone who interfaces with that particular client should be aware of the situation so they can work together to repair the relationship. Taking this type of approach often makes clients grateful, which in turn creates loyalty. They know that even when the going gets tough, you’ll work with them. Just like friendships, when things are great, everyone is your “friend,” but when you have an argument, misunderstanding, or make a mistake, the people you really trust work with you towards a resolution.

7. Correct

Once the review has been responded to and the client’s issue has been resolved, you aren’t done. It’s time to correct the issue. Does the internal team need additional training? Is there a bug with your software that needs to be resolved? Do you need a new approach for managing clients? Taking steps to correct the problem and prevent the same issue in the future is essential.

When the issue is corrected, whether it takes days, weeks, or months, it’s important to acknowledge the fix and communicate it to your client base if appropriate. If you followed all the tips above and were able to reverse the negative experience for the client, taking the additional step to incorporate their feedback and fix the issue for all clients shows that you take feedback seriously. Clients become loyal when they know you are listening, and take their input seriously.

8. Follow-up

Following up with the negative reviewer is the final step, regardless of how the situation was resolved. If your team was able to address the issue for the client and has continued working with the client, it’s important to follow-up after time has passed. This can be a quick check-in to see whether they are happy, whether they have any feedback on the process, or if they see anywhere else your firm can improve. This lets them know their feedback is valued.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if the client never responded and ended their relationship with your firm, it’s still important to follow-up in a non-invasive manner. Don’t be pushy, but do send some form of follow-up whether it be an email, a letter, or voicemail. These are delicate communications and should indicate that while you are sorry to lose their business, you found their feedback to be valuable and are always working to improve your products and services. They may not respond, but making an effort to repair the relationship is always worthwhile.

jeremy

Jeremy Durant is Business Principal at Bop Design, a B2B web design and digital marketing firm. Jeremy works closely with businesses in need of a website, marketing and branding strategy, helping them to their unique value proposition and ideal customer profile. Jeremy received his BA from Merrimack College and his MBA from California State University, San Marcos. His writing has been featured in EContent Magazine, PublishThis, Marketing Agency Insider, Visibility Magazine, and Spin Sucks.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Crisis Management with Social Media, Twitter PR and Crisis Management

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


Improve Conversion Rates With Data Democratization

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One of the most critical components of web analytics and conversion rate optimization is interpreting data, analyzing it, and turning it around like a Rubik’s cube. For instance, you can rotate and arrange the traditional 3x3x3 cube in 43 quintillion ways – 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 to be precise. Similarly, you can build billions of models from your data. However, only one of these models will give you the best conversion rate, and this is the elusive Holy Grail you must find to maximize your efforts.

Let me illustrate this with another example. As you can see in the image below, there are 3 expressways you can take to go from Chicago to Wyoming. The shortest route is the 196, but if you take a detour and go via 131, you might end up adding an hour to your journey. There are a couple of other routes to get there too, but both will take longer.

maps

Image Source: Google Maps screenshot

In the same way, any of your conversion tactics can prove lucrative and get you to your goal, but one will get you there faster than the others.

So how do you find the perfect, elusive model to reach the optimum conversion rate? The answer lies in data democratization, data decentralization, and data transparency. Let’s dig a bit further into the whys and hows of revolutionary data processes so you can play around with the data you’ve collected and find your conversion sweet-spot.

Data Democratization

We have more data than ever before, sometimes more than we know what to do with. If you were to narrow down data and scrutinize bounce rates on Google Analytics, you would probably start with entry and exit pages, then move on to user flow, keywords, location, language, device, browser compatibility, site speed, and more.

This is just one issue (bounces) and one data source (Google Analytics). Now imagine you add legacy data, POS transactions, social media conversations, survey results or feedback collected from trade events, and make inferences from the pool of data available: even if you are an insatiable data glutton, you’ll be quickly overwhelmed!

It is inappropriate, impractical, and immature to restrict data to the elite few, whether they are CEOs or domain-specialized data scientists, and expect them to make sense out of it for everyone. This is why 2016 has been heralded as the year of data democratization. Data democratization ensures everyone in an organization has access to data, and is therefore in a better position to make decisions.

Finish Line, an athletic apparel and footwear retailer with nearly 700 physical and online outlets, uses POS data, loyalty data, social streams, and beacon data to improve one-on-one communication and up-sell to customers. The results were impressive: Stephanie Bleymaier, Director of Digital Personalization and Loyalty, reported a 50% increase in email open rates and a 30% rise in return on social media ad spend. Guess where that would have taken conversions?

Related Class: Leverage Social & Customer Data for Email Relevancy

Other departments were able to “increase their efficiency...by tapping into the data pool,” Stephanie said. The first priority for any decent collaboration and data management tool is making data available to all users, ensuring healthy debate, consensus, leading to quicker, more informed decision-making.

The idea of data democratization may cause worries over security. But to protect sensitive data, you can use a sophisticated collaboration tool that offers secure file sharing, access control and group or individual level permissions, ensuring data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. For instance, campaign tracking and project management tool WorkZone allows users to share sensitive data and plans securely with a particular team, giving each person access to just the right amount of information.

workzone

Image Source: WorkZone screenshot

With this tool, users can send emails, comment, make changes or record meeting notes to data resources that are relevant to them. WorkZone also automates the approval workflow, sending requests to managers, tracking responses, and recording access. This way the entire team stays informed, and you have an organized, time-stamped record of all activity.

Data Decentralization

As we saw above, data democratization bought a significant jump in email open rates for Finish Line, but democratizing doesn’t happen on its own. You need to make your data more intelligent and intuitive for any layman to understand. A standard practice of data democratization is to collect data from all touch points and make it available to each and every user. This is known as data centralization.

From the conversion point of view, data centralization is an exercise in profiling every customer, by collecting data on their preferences and behavior from CRM, point of sale, logistics, customer services incident management, and other systems, integrating all of it in one common data bank. When you enter a particular query about the customer, their data is processed, de-duplicated, and cleaned to give you accurate search results in a simple, transparent and aesthetically pleasing format.

This is how data is crunched, in a cost-effective way in large organizations.

This is the way things have been done up until now.

This is a bad way to democratize data.

Data centralization makes your analytics sluggish and its results are unintuitive. Here’s an analogy: say you are a data scientist or a user, your furniture is your data, and your house is a storage unit. Data centralization means you put all your furniture in one single unit or a room so you have a single point of access. Now imagine finding and pulling something out of such a room.

Data decentralization means letting your data stay where it is, so each unit is able to localize, process, and analyze data in an agile manner. This way, you go directly to the kitchen if you need to access the chopping table, and consequently, get the job done quickly.

Telecom major Vodafone successfully kept their decentralized systems in operation and created a unified view of customer data for their customer service agents, while minimizing data replication by using Denodo’s data virtualization platform. Denodo added a data virtualization layer to legacy systems, liberating data by keeping it where it was, but allowing users to get a complete, updated view of customer data, even though it was scattered across disparate sources.

denodo

Image Source: Denodo

Vodafone was able to reduce average service response time from 6 to 2 minutes. They also found better upselling and cross-selling opportunities, retained more customers, and stretched the usability of existing data infrastructure as a result.

Related Class: Drowning in Data: How to Effectively Leverage Web Analytics

Data Transparency

The last piece of the puzzle is to increase the clarity and comprehensibility of data. When I say “data transparency,” I mean inside and outside the organization. In a bold move, Omniconvert (formerly Marketizator) announced a product revamp strategy that allows marketers and customers to decide on the features and capabilities for what they call “the first democratic CRO software.”

Source: Omniconvert screenshot

Perhaps Omniconvert’s strategy is risky. But it is also rewarding. It allows organizations to build products while maintaining close contact with their communities, ensuring customers get what they want. With this master stroke, Omniconvert has banded experts and users together to create a successful product that has the features and agility of an open source platform while maintaining the reliability and robustness of proprietary software.

Valentin Radu, CEO and founder at Omniconvert is optimistic about the move since “everyone can publicly see the priorities of the features as they are voted for.” The whole voting system is completely transparent, as every planned update with new features is publicly shown on the site. There’s also video streaming of all the kick-off meetings, making the whole process more engaging and open-sourced.

Over to You

These are just a few ways you can liberate data and make it more accessible to users, getting you to your goals faster. How does your organization use data in creative and intelligent ways to increase conversions? Let’s hear your stories in the comments below!

Tracy Vides is a content strategist and researcher who gives small business and entrepreneurs marketing and social media advice. Tracy is also a prolific blogger - her posts are featured on Engadget, She Owns It and Usability Geek. Connect with her on Twitter @TracyVides for a chat anytime!

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Leverage Social & Customer Data for Email RelevancyDrowning in Data: How to Effectively Leverage Web AnalyticsHow to Create a Data-Driven Culture

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


The Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Marketing

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Although the strict line that professional marketers have drawn between inbound and outbound marketing is disappearing over time, the difference between these strategies can almost be described as the difference between paid content marketing and display banner advertising. That description may be in the right ballpark, but it only lands us on first base.

There are a myriad of differences between inbound and outbound marketing (of which different conversion strategies are only a small part), differences which even celebrated thought leaders sometimes equate with the “old” and “new” dichotomy. This way of thinking rarely moves the ball forward for the rest of the marketing world.

When examined more closely, the relationship between inbound and outbound marketing is a bit more complicated, and that’s why we’ve dedicated this post to explaining the relationship between them in terms that marketers of all stripes are likely familiar with: Conversion Strategies, Target Audiences, and Offers. We recognize the ‘versus’ terminology that we employ to describe this relationship may seem to imply an opposition between them; it’s not meant to do that. It is more intended to set up a spectrum along which any marketer’s inbound or outbound tactics may fall, whether they are deployed for content strategy, an email marketing campaign, or the design of an advertisement—or perhaps most effectively, all three.

1. Conversion Strategy: Attraction versus Promotion

The motivational force behind attraction is a pull. The motivational force behind promotion is a push.

When marketers adopt inbound conversion strategies, such as content publication, they want to gently pull users and consumers in their direction, converting with an attractive offer. When they opt for outbound marketing strategies such as banner advertisements, they want to gently push users and consumers along a predefined path, converting with a promotional offer.

A standard inbound conversion strategy will more often reach for indirect methods of persuasion (like branded infographics or product placement) than a standard outbound conversion strategy, which will more often cut to the chase and make a direct offer. These outbound strategies might include “buy-one-get-one-free” promotions, discounts, and other types of financial incentives. The best marketers are often able to blend these two conversion strategies, perhaps opting first to gently push an outbound promotion to raise awareness of a free offer, and then placing additional, attractive information along the path toward accepting the original offer. This information can be designed to gently pull the user or consumer toward accepting an additional offer, and create enough loyalty to make them a paying customer. In fact, many successful software as a service (SaaS) companies, including LinkedInAncestry, and the popular buzzword search tool BuzzSumo, use this exact conversion funnel strategy to grow their customer bases.

2. Target Audience: Business-to-Business versus Business-to-Consumer

The art of targeted business messaging lies in the science of research. The art of targeted consumer messaging lies in the science of even more research.

Finding the right audience is one of the hardest parts of marketing. Die-hard proponents of inbound marketing strategies would probably tell us that’s why we should allow our ideal audience to find us, while die-hard advocates of outbound marketing strategy would probably tell us that’s why we construct ideal audience personas: to target those we suppose would be most interested in what we have to offer. The assumption underlying both suggestions is that business audiences will naturally gravitate toward subtle, inbound messaging since they are constantly looking to improve their business, whereas consumer audiences require a more robust, outbound message, since they are a more passive bunch.

But strategists who are dogmatic about either approach tend to miss the mark by overlooking the art and science of research—that is, listening rather than pushing new ads and pulling new leads. Some of the best marketing strategies are born from long stints of research and development, which culminate in the creation of the most relevant message reaching its most relevant audience. It’s often easier to research a business than it is to research a consumer. After all, there are fewer businesses on the planet than consumers, and consumers tend to change their preferences more frequently than businesses do. But taking the time to listen to an audience and shape our message around their proven needs and desires offers a much more lucrative payoff than leaving a trail of breadcrumbs or shouting into the void. As market research has shown, marketers for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies can make good use of Facebook analytics to discover and monitor new target markets.

Related Class: Facebook Advertising and Targeting

3. Offers: Education of User versus Sale to Consumer

An offer of educational information is perceived to be more valuable by users of services. A promotional sales offer is perceived to be more valuable by consumers of goods.

Value is more often determined in the eye of the consumer than in the eye of the supplier, at least in a free market. When it comes to goods and services online, the case is no different. But there is a difference in our marketing expectations for service providers and suppliers of goods. The expectation for marketers of services, particularly SaaS, is that they should adopt an inbound marketing strategy by publishing content like blogs and videos, whereas we expect marketers of goods to adopt an outbound marketing strategy by pushing online promotions such as discounts and free shipping.

The problem with these expectations is that they often force young SaaS companies and commercial online vendors to make uninteresting offers to users and consumers who want to see more than another marketing agency infographic or commercial website sign-up coupon. Some of the best and biggest companies have risen to the top because they balance educational information with promotional sales. The increasingly popular massive open online course (MOOC) providers like UdacityCoursera, and edX are excellent examples of what can happen when we hybridize user education with promotional sales, as their business is premised on offering a quality education for 1 percent, and sometimes 0% the cost of taking an equivalent college or university course. Imagine what could happen if more companies started flipping the script, and commercial websites like Amazon began offering courses in web sales, while marketing agencies began offering bundle deals on memberships with their company that included access to all their best content. Content entrepreneurs and educators at Online Marketing Institute are already doing this with the provision of corporate training courses and certifications, the former of which specifically prepare business teams to expand their inbound and outbound online marketing expertise, while the latter helps individuals gain expertise in online marketing on the whole

Such hybridity is the lifeblood of the marketing era we find ourselves in now, an era that demands innovation every day.

A version of this article first appeared on BestMarketingDegrees.org

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Top of the Funnel Tactics for Inbound Marketing, Facebook Advertising and TargetingContent Marketing Implementation: Executing a Winning Content Program

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


How to Get More Traffic to Your Blog in the New Year

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For most of us, the new year is motivation to sort out our digital mess, clear the inbox and fix old bugs. I like starting a new year with the feeling of old stuff being sorted. This way I feel better prepared for new projects and challenges in the New Year.

As business owners and marketers, one of the things we tend to put off is sorting out our blogs. We’ve become accustomed to handling small inconveniences and bugs. Many of us can  barely find time to publish new content let alone find the time to research the  countless new plugins available or update old articles.

Well, I hate to break it on you, but getting all that technical staff in order is probably more important than publishing new content. Lack of security opens you up to the risk  of losing all your precious content. . Slow pages and broken links means lost readers and conversions. You need to start thinking about your blog performance now, so you can  start the new year with a better converting, more successful blog. So what to do to first?

Fear not, this checklist will take you through the complicated lists of plugins and tools, so  you can get right down to execution.

Step 1: Fix or remove broken links

One of the most widespread issues with a website of any age is broken links. Broken links present both SEO and usability issues. The more broken links your site has, the less trustworthy it looks both to a user and a web crawler. You may have no control over pages that go down over time (resulting in broken external links) but you are fully responsible for the links that you have on your pages, even older ones.

It's impossible to keep track of broken links and images, even if you have a smaller site. You need a reliable tool to handle this for you.

Netpeak Spider is an ideal solution for larger-scale websites. It's a desktop program, so you won't have compatibility issues with your browser. It’s also fast, and very flexible - you don't have to be an SEO expert to use it. Just run the tool regularly and fix new errors as they are found. Look for errors in red, those are the most important to eliminate.

netspeak

If you have a small blog, make sure to install the awesome Broken Link Checker WordPress plugin. It may slow your site down if you have too many pages, but it works great for blogs with under ~500 articles.

To avoid slow-downs and downtimes, you should disable automatic crawling to make sure it will run a new report on demand.

The plugin saves a ton of time by letting you remove broken links right from its dashboard.

linkchecker

Step 2: Keep an eye on your site security

Did you know that around 37,000 websites are hacked every day? It's no joke! Even with some security measures taken, you still run the risk of getting hacked. Huge sites, with multi-million dollar budgets like Yahoo! and LinkedIn are regularly hacked, and WordPress is not the most secure environment out there.

A proactive measure is submitting your website to  Google's Search Console. They have one of the largest databases of compromised websites, and they almost instantly know once a new site has been hacked. They will send you an email once they notice anything weird with your website so you can take measures on the spot.

Now that we have monitoring in order, make sure you have taken these steps:

  • Always update your WordPress version as soon as possible, and update your plugins as well.
  • Always install well-trusted plugins. Search Google before installing anything and only install from the wordpress.org website.
  • Never keep "admin" as a user. Come up with a different username for the blog administrator and use a powerful password (later versions of WordPress will generate a good one, so just go with it).
  • Use Login LockDown to limit login attempts.
  • Never login to your blog using public WiFi, never give anyone admin access unless you know and trust them, never give anyone permissions to upload anything to your blog (use standard contributor permissions for your site contributors).

Step 3: Make sure you address downtime timely

How often is your site down? According to these stats, even the most popular hosting providers have terrible uptime numbers. Your site may be down without you even realizing. Being offline is one of the worst thing that can happen to a digital entity. It means your website visitors have nowhere to click, no way to get in touch with you, and no way to engage.

Try Monitority to be notified whenever your  site is down. The tool is absolutely free and the moment your site goes down, your email is pinged so you can look into the problem right away. If you have a few sites to manage, give Pingdom a try. It has some cool analytics and monitoring reports you'll find useful. Pingdom also talks to the monitoring dashboard with Cyfe.

cyfe

Step 4. Find better keywords for your old content

Your content can be outstanding, and people may still not be able to find it. That means wasted effort. It's a new year coming, time to make the most of your old content so you’re ready to create new articles.

Try Serpstat to discover good keywords and optimize older articles. Just take a core term from your article, run it in Serpstat and set the competition filter between 0% and 3% to discover relevant phrases that may take you on top of Google's search results page.

results

Step 5. Try and push those search positions higher

There are tons of search queries that your site is already ranking for. You may be unaware of those because they rank below the fold and hence they are not sending too much traffic. However, these are often keywords that have huge potential.

Try Google's Search Console "Search Analytics" feature to show you which search queries are driving traffic to your blog. Make sure to check a box called "Position" (for some reason, it's unchecked by default). This way you'll see your page average position for each search query.

analytics

If the average position of a keyword is 5 or lower but it's driving traffic, this means two things:

  • It will send tons of visits if it's #1 or even #3.
  • It is not that hard to push it higher, without additional effort.

What to do with these keywords:

  • Discover which exact pages are ranking for the term.
  • Use this WordPress plugin to send more internal links to that page.

Usually, this quick exercise results in 2-3 higher positions and therefore better traffic.

Are you ready to take action? Hopefully this checklist will get you started. Happy New Year!

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here.

 


5 Major Content Marketing Trends You Can Expect in 2017

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Ah, content marketing.

Influenced heavily by Google’s algorithms, content marketing has the undivided interest of entrepreneurs and internet marketers around the globe. Marketers know that using content for SEO is more affordable than traditional advertising, but improvements to search engine algorithms (and rapidly changing consumer demand) means it’s never been more difficult to stay in the limelight.

2017 will usher in a new, dense tangle of requirements for content marketers; but before we take a glimpse at the upcoming challenges, let’s take a moment to review what happened to content marketing in 2016:  

Content Marketing in 2016 Became:

  • Saturated. Statistics show that over 2 million blog posts are published daily, in addition to millions of YouTube videos, GIFs, infographics, and other types of written and visual content. Simply put, the amount of content online is cluttering the digital world.  
  • Focused on “Behind the Scenes” Strategies: The enormous amount of visual and written media released in 2016 made content marketing heavily dependent on “behind the scenes strategies” like promotion and outreach.
  • Ruled by Niches: Marketers today have two options: make your content visible, or allow it to become lost in the jungle. To make their way through the thicket of blogs, videos, and infographics, effective marketers used niche sites to zero in on their target audience.

With this background information in mind, let’s take a look at 5 content marketing trends you can expect in 2017:

1. Visual Content Will Become Crucial

We’ve already seen  the power that Facebook Video and YouTube Live hold. In 2017, this growing demand for visual media will skyrocket. A combination of live and staged videos will be used by brands that are openly embracing the inevitable change from written to visual media.

What to do:

Visual content is arguably one of the most time-consuming types of content creation.  Thanks to improvements in technology, creating branded videos and images isn’t as difficult as it once was.

Without a budget:

Startup companies and small businesses already have the tools they need to begin creating visual content: company cell phones and computers. Through a combination of social apps like Snapchat, and broadcasting sites like the ones listed below, your business can start building a visual content strategy that won’t stretch your budget.

A few (free) sites to consider include:

It's also a good idea to publish visual content on free sites like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, which have a primarily visual focus, and massive audiences.

With a budget:

Brands with a small marketing budget should consider pairing the free solutions above with the work of a professional videographer, photographer, or media agency. Professionals like these can help to plan a unique visual content strategy that captures your brand’s unique personality. 

2. Shifting Focus to Data and Retention

Marketing is an industry driven by two factors: results and data. For content marketers, showing how a blog can drive return traffic and therefore sales is difficult - without the right tools, that is.

What to Do: If you’re not already using analytics tools to track your basic content marketing efforts, it’s time to get started. Many agencies use Google Analytics to track basic site data, then expand on that tool with diversified metric tracking tools like:

  • Bitly
  • Linkody
  • Cyfe
  • SEM Rush
  • Hubspot Marketing Automation
  • Ahrefs
  • Kissmetrics
  • CrazyEgg
  • Piwik
  • SimilarWeb
  • Moz OSE

Be sure to learn more about how data analytics can be leveraged to improve the quality of your website, and increase conversions.

3. Mobile Compatibility Will Be Key

These days, it’s rare to see millennials (even baby boomers!) without a cell phone clutched tightly in hand. Google has monitored the shift from computers to mobile phones closely; as a result, it’s rumored that the Goliath of search engines will make mobile users a  key focus in upcoming algorithm changes.

What to Do: If you don’t already have a responsive website, it’s time to invest in one. Content that is easy to read on mobile devices will be critical in 2017. Once a site is set up to support mobile, it’s time to craft content strategies that cater to mobile users. Mixing up content lengths and trying new formatting tricks are just two ways to optimize content for mobile use. A few other ideas include:

Integrating a mobile content strategy with mobile oriented PR and outreach can increase your exposure to audiences who primarily access the Web through mobile devices.

Remember: it’s likely that shorter-form content paired with minimal visual content will become more important as time goes on.

4. Distribution Will Rule

The internet is saturated with content – everything from plagiarized to carefully written articles can be found in just a few keystrokes. Because of the immense clutter, promotion of existing content will matter just as much as the quantity that’s produced.

What to do: Although there are hundreds of ways to promote content, social media and vertical content platforms will be essential in 2017.

Social platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter will become marketing staples as we progress into the new year. To reach very specific audiences, vertical platforms are highly recommended. A few “mainstream” examples of these emerging platforms include:

Industry: Home & Garden

  • Houzz
  • Zillow
  • Better Homes & Gardens

Industry: Pop Culture

  • Pinterest
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • StumbleUpon

Industry: Internet Marketing

  • Moz
  • Hubspot
  • Contently
  • SEMRush

5. Interactive Content Will Be a Hallmark of Content Leaders

In 2017, brands using interactive content (such as quizzes, questionnaires, and worksheets) will become the thought and trend leaders of the content marketing industry. A few brands already engaging in interactive content include Buzzfeed, The Content Marketing Institute, and Kissmetrics.

How to do it: Whether you want to code your own interactive content or use a site that builds them for you (like ThingLink), start producing  interactive content of the kind  listed below.

  • Quizzes / Polls / Surveys
  • Interactive E-books
  • Interactive White Papers
  • Calculators
  • Responsive Images
  • Games
  • Maps
  • Interactive Infographics

Conclusion

By mixing a variety of these interactive assets into your content marketing strategy, you can attract and retain site visitors in your target audience.

To stay competitive in 2017, online marketers will need to stay agile and adapt to emerging content marketing trends. Creating mobile-friendly content and websites will be essential to maintaining a competitive edge: once a site is optimized for mobile, build systems for creating and distributing visual content assets. After reviewing updated data on returning visitors and bounce rates, adjust your strategy to boost retention and conversions.

Angela Higbee is the director of the content marketing agency, Progressive Creativity. She spends most of her time doing business and reading; away from “the desk,” she can be found with family or exploring the Colorado outdoors with her dog.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: B2B Social Visual Storytelling on Instagram, Pinterest & TumblrLeveraging AnalyticsMobile PR & Content Marketing

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


11 Ways to Acquire More Leads Using Your LinkedIn Profile

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LinkedIn can be a great source for generating potential B2B leads if you know the right tactics. In this article, we’ll go over the top 11 strategies to acquire more leads from LinkedIn:

1- Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile to Connect with Potential Prospects

The very first step is optimizing your LinkedIn profile. In order to do this, you must expand your network by connecting with other industry users. The trick is to form connections with people who you’re unfamiliar with, with the goal of establishing a long term relationship whenever possible. However, this requires subtlety; otherwise, you might be seen as a spammer.

When LinkedIn users receive an invitation, there are two ways they can see it: their notifications bar, and the message inbox. The notifications bar showcases a small preview including your name, title, and the beginning of your message. If these are people who don’t know you, chances are they require more information before they accept your invite. To learn more about you, they’ll click on the invitation to view the full message.

The full message contains your name, picture, your title and tagline, and your message. A profile picture is very important, and without it, you won’t be taken seriously. Your job title will help users decide whether you’re worth connecting with or not.

The main thing that people check for when poring through your profile is legitimacy. The best thing you can do to help increase this is to simply make sure you’ve completely filled out the details of your profile page, including links to your website and published works if applicable. You may also try adding a line that lets people know you’re willing to connect with new users.

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2- Tag Prospects and Influencers in Your Conversation

LinkedIn tags are a great way to enhance your efficiency and provide your sales cycle with a more streamlined process. These tags enable you to group your contacts any way you want, and though LinkedIn offers some generic options to start, the real fun begins when you create custom tags.

Filtering and organizing your connections becomes very simple with LinkedIn tags. Tags make it easier to understand various segments of your connections, based on details that are not available on their profiles. A maximum number of 200 tag categories may be used at a time.

You can tag based on location, clients, prospects, industry, media contacts, event tags, and strategic partners. It’s even possible to use LinkedIn tags in your sales process to identify their position in the sales cycle; you no longer have to worry about forgetting leads and tracking prospects.

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Just click on the Tag button and select appropriate tags from the drop down, or create new ones

3- Frequently Add Connections to Your Network

It’s a good idea to invest a bit of time each working day to build your connections. Using the “People You May Know” list, you are able to broaden your social network easily. At the same time, you’ll become known as a person who reliably expands their network, which is important. Keep in mind that every person you speak to regarding work or business in the course of a business day is a prospective LinkedIn connection waiting to be added to your network.

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4- Join Groups and Share Updates

LinkedIn enables you to interact with people who are present in the same groups as you. You can use this as a targeted method to add value to other users, expand your present networking with connections and prospects, or exchange helpful business insights. All it will cost you is five minutes of your time each day to post an update to your network. You can use this daily update time to post videos, blogs, or articles that will be of interest to your customers and prospects. You might even use the “Pulse” feature present on your dashboard. Every time an update gets posted, your profile is displayed on the feeds of all your connections. However, take care never to sell when posting updates. Use them only to share your business expertise and add value to your network.

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Go to Interests, click on Groups, and step into the world of LinkedIn groups.

5- Buy LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn ads allow you to get in front of suitable prospects. Ads improve your visibility, thereby increasing your “know, like and trust” factor in the community. LinkedIn ads possess great targeting options, and micro campaigns allow you to limit advertising costs, gain more visibility, and track your progress easily. Learn as much as possible about paid ads to maintain a high score and run the most effective campaign possible.

Ads can be bought in two ways: CPM, also known as cost-per-mille (‘mille’ meaning 1,000 impressions), and cost-per-click (CPC). For sponsored content, it’s probably best to go the CPC route. CPC ads generate fewer clicks in the short term, but LinkedIn will continue to show them until money is earned. This is helpful when you want visibility and recognition.

In the case of text ads, CPM is the way to go. These are great for lead generation.

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Go to the Business Services menu and select the Advertise option to create an ad and explore your options.

6- Use Ad Rotation Strategically to Prevent Banner Blindness

When using LinkedIn ads, it’s best to create a bank of different ads for rotation, rather than putting all your eggs in one basket. This not only helps to prevent banner blindness, it also allows you to determine which ads perform the best. Choosing the winning ad can lead to a massive spike in conversions and clicks generated.

Applying for ad rotation is easy. You can rotate your ads evenly, or enable the LinkedIn algorithms to pick the best one. You should allow your ads to run for at least a couple of weeks before evaluating their performance, to make sure you have a large enough sample size. When you’ve found the best-performing ads, you can easily swap out the losers and begin testing new ones.

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7- Regularly Post Your Articles on Pulse

Pulse is an amazing tool for LinkedIn users to discover meaningful, reliable content that they can share with their target market. Users who remain active on the platform will stay at the top of their network. This sort of passive awareness comes in handy when reaching out for an introduction. It is good practice to promote guest contributions on your LinkedIn profile and engage with potential customers by seeking feedback on your content. Posting articles frequently on Pulse gives you a chance to educate leads, which in turn adds to your value and leads to stronger relationships.

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8- Adopt the Auto-Suggestions Provided by LinkedIn to Constantly Improve Profile Visibility

You will receive frequent notifications from LinkedIn to add new users to your network. Your ultimate goal should be to establish a connection with them and ensure that when they view your profile, they will see helpful and relevant information about your business. Growing your network on a regular basis will boost your profile visibility. Auto-suggestions are extremely helpful in connecting you with the right users in your industry. When it makes sense, it’s a good idea to ask for recommendations, and provide them to members of your network. This will strengthen the connections you already have, and increase the overall reputation of your profile.

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9- Add Valuable Content to Your Sponsored Updates

Sponsored updates are a more subtle form of advertising that allow for more precise customer targeting. To use them effectively, you must first generate lots of quality content, then create different sponsored updates within a fixed time frame to promote that content to your target audience.

While this may seem like a lot of work, you can reap rich rewards as a result. The point of this method as opposed to CPM or CPC is to deliver value upfront in order to attract customers. When using sponsored updates, make sure to track your campaign’s success after it’s begun to evaluate the most valuable incentives and implement any changes to your sponsored updates in the future.

Take the time to learn how effective content is created to give your advertising strategy a tremendous boost.

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10- Make Use of Advanced Search

Advanced search filters are a great way to search LinkedIn users based on their relationships, company size, seniority level, and function.

The first criteria you should use in the Advanced search is location, title, and industry. The trick to B2B sales is  targeting the same level of employer or employee in every company, and this is where the title filter comes in handy. If location is a factor to doing business, use the location filter ensures that all the contacts you find have the potential to do business with you, similarly, you can use the industry filter helps you scope out targets within your target industry.

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Click on the Advanced option to the right of the search box on your LinkedIn homepage to access advanced search.

11- Run an Email Marketing Campaign on LinkedIn

LinkedIn has its own personal messaging system called InMail to help you connect with new users. It’s easy to apply for your own marketing campaigns. All you need to do is ask your round table and webinar guests to cover an event on their networks. This method works best if you send focused messages to recipients using the filtering tools offered by InMail. It is easy to filter recipients on the basis of industry, company size and role, and thereby locate ideal targets for boosting your campaign.

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Final Thoughts

Nothing beats LinkedIn when it comes to highly relevant social media marketing. As an entrepreneur, creating an effective LinkedIn engagement strategy is a surefire way to acquire more leads and connect with the people who matter. With the profile management tips and tricks we’ve shared above, you’re now ready to leverage your profile to attract more leads than ever.

About the Author

Joydeep Bhattacharya is a digital marketing evangelist and author of the SEO blog, SEOsandwitch.com. He is a Google Adwords and Analytics certified professional helping brands increase their presence online. He can be reached via Twitter or Facebook.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Creating a LinkedIn Engagement StrategyCreating and Curating Content People Love, Email Marketing Tactics

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.

 


How to Create a Blog That Converts

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If you are like most bloggers, you aren’t blogging as a hobby: you want to make some money. Making money boils down to converting traffic into sales. The first step is to figure out what you want to write about. It should relate to your business, and be valuable to your readers. Next, you need traffic, and various ways of getting visitors to buy your product or service. That's the short of it. Let's dive in a little deeper with 9 tips to help you on your way to a successful blog.

1. Speed Up

You need to have a fast website. Otherwise, your visitors are going to move on to one that is faster. According to Google, speed is one of the main things looked at in search ranking algorithms. Make sure that your site is as fast as possible, and don’t use a lot of high resolution videos that will slow things down. Videos are important, but to prevent long loading times,  it’s best to sparingly use shorter videos that will retain the attention of your visitors.

2. Make Sure Copy is Scannable

Many users will not give your page their full attention, so you need to make sure that it’s scannable. Keep paragraphs short so readers can easily discern the structure of your content. Use bullet points, dashes, arrows, etc. to get your points across, and readers will be more apt to pay attention to what you have to say. This will let you effectively lead them to the CTA.

3. Build a Subscriber List

It’s important to have an email marketing list if you want to grow your blog. Use your list to make connections and market your products or services. You will need to find the right email marketing tool, and you need a platform for storing subscribers. Once you have your list, you can send out regular newsletters, announcements, personalized notes, etc. to keep your business fresh in the minds of your customers. Be sure that your email content offers something of value to your customers, and draws them back to your website.

4. Use Visuals

Our brains process visuals a lot faster than text: 60,000 times faster, in fact. So, it goes without saying that content containing  a lot of visuals are going to be viewed more often than content with no visuals. Having awesome visuals engages visitors, and show readers what your business has to offer. Visuals include both photos and videos; the better they are,  the better your sales are ultimately going to be.

5. Use Your Call-to-Action

In order for you to get sales, customers have to act. That is why you need a call-to-action (CTA). You must ask your customers to do something. Use a CTA that is going to grab their attention, but make it simple: think titles like “Buy it Now” or “Download Now”. Make sure that the offer is tempting enough that they will want to take advantage and click on the CTA. If your CTA is persuasive and the customer finds your product valuable, chances are that they will go to the next step.

6. Make the Design Stand Out

Your landing page should be attractive and eye catching, and never cluttered. Take advantage of color psychology; soft blues create a calming sense, and red stimulates. Leave a bit of white space so that the page is easier to read. Use images and videos to grab attention, but don’t go overboard and bombard the senses of your readers with too much flash and bang. This often comes off as pushy and inauthentic.

7. Conduct Regular User Surveys

In order to know what your customers really want, you have to come right out and ask them. This is why it is so important to do customer surveys on a regular basis - for instance, users who create CoSchedule accounts are asked to take part in surveys at the point of registration, which allows CoSchedule to see what users are looking for.  You will need to use the right tool, such as Survey.io, which lets you create user surveys regularly. Use this feedback to make sure that you are giving customers what they need.

8. Offer Validation from the Big Guys

When you are able to do affiliate marketing, you can use name brands to draw readers to your own brand. It may take a bit of time and effort, but try to get brands that are well known, and avoid the lesser known brands. When people see brands they recognize on your site, they are going to associate you with the brands that they already know and trust.

9. Start a Podcast

Podcasts are a great way to build your personal brand and credibility. Through podcasts, you can inspire other bloggers and help them by offering guidance and support, using various online marketing tools. This is a great way of adding personal touch to your blog. Seize every opportunity to connect with your audience and deepen the relationship between your brand, and your readers.

Want to learn more about any of the topics discussed in this article? Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here. 

 


7 Things to Consider When Launching an E-commerce Site

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If you’re considering the launch of an e-commerce website, you are poised to cash in on a continually growing trend. UPS’s 2016 Pulse of the Online Shopper study reported that 51 percent of shopper purchases are made online.

However, there’s more to launching an e-commerce site than simply launching your business in cyberspace. There are technical, legal and fulfillment challenges, to name a few.

First, you must choose a domain name. If your business has a unique name like Wally’s Wowza Widgets, you’re in luck. Otherwise, you may have a hard time finding a URL that’s not already taken. Cyber squatters have found it quite lucrative to buy up popular domain names and sell them for profit. Keep in mind that .com is no longer your only option, and not necessarily your best. Newer choices include .shop, .store, .buy and dozens more. One site you can use to check domain availability is WHOis.net. While you’re there, you also can register your domain, which is the next step on the road to a successful e-commerce site.

Next, you’ll need to decide whether you want to build the site from the ground up, so to speak, or use a prepackaged option such as  Shopify’s E-commerce Website Builder. The latter is a good option for smaller companies or those with a tight launch time frame.

Let’s assume you want to go it on your own. Here are the basics you must consider before “going live.”

  1. The Home Page & Beyond

Think of the home page as your storefront. It’s where you’ll promote seasonal specials, new items, and more. This is the most valuable “real estate” on your entire site, so don’t waste it. While product images will attract potential customers, it’s content that will attract the search engines.

That’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is so important. Not only should you have quality, relevant content on your entire site, you must include common keywords and phrases to boost your position in search results. Learning how to use SEO effectively is important for the success of your business.

The home page is the gateway to all of your products, so you must make it easy for visitors to navigate your website. Just because you categorize products in a certain way doesn’t mean your customers do. If you already have a brick-and-mortar store, take note of how departments are arranged and how products are displayed.  

Categories in your navigation menu do not have to be listed alphabetically. If it makes more sense (and results in more sales) to list top-selling categories first, then go for it.

Amazon does a great job of making it easy for customers to find what they want. As illustrated below, it guides first-time visitors and welcomes return customers. It features seasonal content in a clean, uncluttered layout.

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  1. Products, Hierarchy & Descriptions

As with an offline store, you must determine the inventory for your e-commerce site. You don’t have to offer everything you sell in your brick-and-mortar store. In fact, you shouldn’t. Think about it: if you have very large items, shipping costs can be exorbitant, and the hassle is rarely worth it. If you do decide to offer oversized items, arrange for in-store pickup only. This is especially true if you offer free shipping, as you’re likely to take a big loss here.

Once you determine your product assortment, you need to create a visual presentation. This is often referred to as the product gallery. A few things to think about:

  • How many rows and columns per page?
  • How big should each product image be?
  • Will customers have the option to zoom in on an image? Pick color swatches?
  • How many clicks will it take to purchase?

Uncommon Goods offers visitors two ways of finding products. First, more traditional categories appear in the navigation bar on the home page. As shown below, because it is a gift-oriented site, products are  grouped by occasion and other attributes.

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Just as you don’t need to offer the exact same items that are in your offline store, your pricing structure may differ, too. Many customers expect to find better bargains online, so you’ll have to manage those expectations. Some companies, such as Lenox, do not traditionally offer discounts on individual products. To make up for this, they offer a percentage off the entire purchase, free gift wrap, a bonus gift or similar promotions.

How you describe your products is equally important, but when it comes to this point, don’t think you are restricted to a single style or standard.  Fans of “Seinfeld” will remember Elaine, who worked as a copywriter for the J. Peterman catalog, hailed by those in the industry for its eloquent copy. Its real life site, like its catalog, uses product descriptions much longer than industry standards. However, it’s actually effective, as evidenced below. You’ve got to figure out what works best for your products and your audience and run with it. Whatever you do, though, you can’t ignore SEO.

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  1. User Experience (UX)

Try to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Sometimes you are too close to your products to understand how they are perceived by others. You need to walk through the online shopping experience from beginning to end, uncovering any roadblocks along the way. Best practice is to ensure that no more than three clicks are needed for a user to reach his/her destination.

Web features that you may think are great might actually annoy your customers. Take dropdown menus, for instance: menus that automatically expand when your cursor hovers over them may obscure other elements on the page, making for a frustrating experience.

Give your customers the option to continue shopping once they are in the checkout area. The inability to return to the exact point where they left off can be irritating.

You also can't ignore mobile design. It goes without saying (but we'll say it anyways) that your site must be optimized for mobile devices. That means you might have to rethink your desktop navigation to make it mobile-friendly. Make sure to test your website on many devices, including desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets to ensure that the experience maintains a consistent quality across platforms that your customers are likely to use.

  1. The Checkout Process

If you’ve ever been stuck with a careless cashier or behind a clueless customer in the checkout line, you know how frustrating a slow or disorganized checkout process can be. The same goes for the online shopping experience. You want to create a streamlined checkout process. Failure to do so can easily result in the dreaded shopping cart abandonment.

Any time you obtain customer information, you run into privacy issues. This is extremely important for e-commerce sites which obtain credit card data. You not only need to have a privacy policy posted on your site, you must also be in compliance with legal regulations. In addition, your site must have advanced levels of security to protect confidential information.

Many customers prefer to pay by PayPal, so that is something you may want to consider. PayPal will even take care of managing credit card information for you, so this can be a good option for security and convenience.

Consider too, if you have a brick-and-mortar store, whether you will arrange procedures to allow for in-store pickup, and how to seamlessly integrate this option into the checkout process. These are just a few of the issues you'll need to address before setting up shop.

  1. Fulfillment

If you have offline stores, you already have order and fulfillment operations. If not, you must determine how you'll get orders from Point A to Point B. Will you house products in one main warehouse? Will you drop ship orders? Will everything be done manually, or will you use automation? Will you ship to Canada? International? U.S. only?

Before opening your store, decide on these issues, and plan your business around them. Getting an order from China can be expensive if your system was only organized with domestic shipping in mind.

  1. After the Sale

Your job is not over once a sale is made. Indeed, it's only beginning. You'll want to set up automated emails (called "triggered emails," because they are triggered by a user's action) to send order and shipping confirmations, and other order-related notifications. Note that these types of emails do not fall under the same CAN-SPAM guidelines as other emails.

You will need dedicated customer service staff for your e-commerce site. The site will be available 24/7, but will your customer service reps be? Will you offer live chat? Be sure to have a robust FAQ section to cut down on the number of inquiries to customer service.

You will also need to establish a return policy. Zappos is known for its customer-friendly policies:

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Take a look at the return policies of other companies, especially those in your market, since these will determine your customers’ expectations, and decide what’s right for you.

  1. If You Build It, Will They Come?

Just because you purchase a URL, build an e-commerce site and launch it, doesn't mean items will be flying off your virtual shelves overnight. In order for your venture to be a success, you'll need to promote it. You'll want to plaster your new URL on everything — collateral, packaging, point-of-purchase displays (if you have an offline store), advertising, etc. You will also want to invest in search engine marketing (SEM).

Establish a customer email database so that you can market regularly. For this, you will need an email signup on your homepage and be sure to comply with CAN-SPAM regulations.

You'll also want to track traffic, interactions and purchases on your site. That means you will need to set up tracking codes to use when directing traffic from emails, banner ads, etc.

In short, to run a successful e-commerce site, you need a plan. Think both short- and long-term. Rely on the guidance of experts — supply chain, legal, marketing, accounting, UX, creative — whether they are consultants, or full-time employees. Remember: you don't have to launch everything at once. It's best to launch your e-commerce site in phases. Start with the basics and add the bells and whistles once you've worked out the kinks.

Let the online shopping begin!

Darcy Grabenstein is a freelance copywriter with more than 20 years of experience in print and digital advertising. In the digital world, she has worked extensively with e-commerce and email campaigns. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: SEO For Business OwnersTurn Website Visitors into Customers via Conversion Optimization, Fundamentals of Online Marketing

Visit the Online Marketing Institute  to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here.