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Ways to Evaluate Your Web Agency

Since your web agency is going to be responsible for your long term success, it is critical to select and agency that provides exceptional results. To be certain you get real results to propel your website to the next level, you need to keep some important things in mind. Since they will handle everything from your SEO to consulting with you, you can’t risk your reputation with subpar results.

When you look at the web agency, it is important they don’t utilize the same formula for everyone they work with. Every company online has their own unique situation and their needs are based on their particular situation. The web agency should take the time to create a comprehensive strategy to provide actual value to your company rather than doing cookie cutter tactics that may only have a minimal impact.

Another critical area look for in your web agency should be key performance indicators, which help to better maintain the success and work towards the goals you set. Working closely with you, they should identify what metrics will be used to help determine the amount of success you have and on a routine basis, they should provide you with a report to give you an assessment of improvement and let you know the techniques that helped to achieve these results.

You should take a moment to also review their website. Pay attention to their top keywords and see where they rank and the layout of their page. If you notice they are struggling and not actually getting the results they have promised you, it might be a good idea to proceed with caution. After all, these are the people you would be entrusting with your own success.

You should even challenge the information they are providing you. Before you sign with the company, ask for proven results and websites they have done business with. Many shady companies will claim to have thousands of results only to have a mediocre track record and by the time you have figured it out, it may have already cost you thousands.

Find out what tools they will be using for your campaign. Most companies utilize some types of tools that will allow them to better optimize your website, track results and to better automate things. While it is fine if they are using tools, it is a good idea to see what they will be using, especially if they plan to install anything on your website. You don’t want any surprises later on.

Above all, it pays to trust your instincts. Watch for areas of concern, such as misspelled words and broken links. If something doesn’t add up, ask them to clarify it or point out the concern. If they sidestep it or become aggressive, just walk away from the situation and find a different company.

Ultimately, your online success is up to you. Make sure you take the time to evaluate any web agency you plan on using, keeping the above tips in mind. That way, you have a better chance of being successful when dealing with them and you should then run into fewer concerns when transforming your website.

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Evaluating Your Marketing Firm and Your Marketing Plan

Most companies have a formal budget that is reserved for marketing. They have an upper level to which they can go. They spend it each month and in all honesty, are probably not entirely sure that the budget is getting a return. If the marketing budget is spent on your website, an SEO team, brochures or articles, it’s hard to measure a real return in some cases, so you’re never quite sure if your marketing firm is working for you.

Any time that we spend money with a  marketing firm, we have to look at that expenditure and ask ourselves how well it working and whether the expense is netting a return. Very few companies actually lay out a plan that allows them to measure whether it is working and how well it is working to determine if the current marketing agency is doing the job or if they need to consider another alternative.

In order to track the worth of your marketing, there has to be a yardstick by which you measure it. What is that yardstick and how do you as a business implement it?

To a large extent the way in which you measure the return will depend on the way in which you are marketing and what you are marketing.

Logically, different types of measurement will apply to your marketing campaigns, those being:

Initiation of Contact. Customer contacts from the marketed area are one logical measurement to determine if the marketing is bearing fruit. If you are using, for example, a phone book advertisement and none of your calls comes from that campaign, it’s reasonable to assume that it is not a workable method.

Visibility-if you’re using a website marketing team and your website is no where to be found in search, does not show up on any keyword term and has no visibility overall in social media, the odds are very good that your particular marketing campaign is not viable.

Creating some bottom lines and benchmarks by which to measure is in the best interests of every company as a means to measure success from a marketing campaign.

When you seek to determine if your marketing firm is working for you, some things that you may want to take into account are these:

Get a starting point for each area of marketing.Determine where you were in search prior to hiring the company and where you are each month. Is there a rise in your visibility?

How frequently did you receive calls prior to hiring the marketing firm that could be linked to your website or your phone ad or other methods that you are using now? Have the number of calls risen dramatically or risen at all?

Once you’ve made the determination that the marketing firm is working for you,(or is not) consider how well it is working and why.

Evaluate what you are spending and how far it will go. Bear in mind that you cannot ask a company to do twice what you want to pay for. Consider the budget, be realistic about what it will do for you and consider expanding on it if you find that the company is giving you a return for what you’ve already spent.

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Website Navigation
Technology is just advancing at an amazing speed, isn’t it? The way that we search for things and the websites that we use. In the old days, navigation was just a little strip of pretty colored buttons running down the page. Those days are pretty much gone. . . or are they? Very often those simple navigations that we had ten or fifteen years ago were superior to website navigation today. The reality is that they were simple and it was easy to find what we came for.

Have you ever been to a website that was simply annoying to navigate and it felt like you couldn’t find what you wanted if you stayed a hundred years? Those are the kinds of sites that you simply leave– sometimes leaving a little webmaster feedback on the way out–and you don’t visit them again do you?

Statistics tell us that we have about a minute to offer up the information that our reader came to find before they become impatient and leave our site, very often to not return at all. Website navigation problems are the number one reason why visitors leave sites and find another, easier to use site. That means that you want to get it right the first time.

Web design navigation has some common problems that are seen frequently in older sites and in some brand new ones. The most common problems that are seen are:

Circuitous navigation that doesn’t take you anywhere. One page links to another to another, and the navigation on every page is different. This is frustrating to the user and hard to find what you came for. Once you do find it, you can’t find your way back to the first page.

Navigation that is hidden or hard to find–we’ve all seen this. About a third of the website buttons on the top bar and the remainder buried at the foot of the text on the front page or a content page because someone told them that would make people go deeper into the site. The reality is that sometimes it does. Usually it just annoys them because what they are seeking is not readily apparent. One very popular website company actually recommends this method.

Avoiding those problems means planning ahead. Determining what information you will house and how you will set it up logically to give people a good chance to see it quickly.

Set up the navigation when you build the site. Ideally you will be able to do that but if you can’t, fix what you have or rebuild the site to make it easier for people to find what they want. Website navigation is the be all and end all today.It’s a reason why search engines rank you well and people come back again and again. If you’re not getting the traffic that you want from your website or your bounce rate is inordinately high, ask yourself why.

The search engines today–and your readers– are all about a good experience. They want to find it quickly and read it in bite sized pieces. Hiding the navigation is a problem for both you and the website visitor because it is frustrating to you and that means that you lose customers.

It means that your readers and your prospective customers can find the information that they want easily or the products that they want to buy readily. If that isn’t the case in your website, it’s time for a change.

 

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New Website Design: Moving On from Your Old Website

You invested your heart and soul into your old website, but it just doesn’t load as fast as it used to. You still have the vision that inspired the site in your mind, but it takes more searching to see that vision when you look at what your site has morphed into through the months or years. Visitors aren’t responding to the site as well as they once did, and you know that it is time to take action.

When the analytics for your site start to look far less impressive than you are willing to tolerate, you have two options. You can embrace the need for change and breathe new life into your site’s design, or you can abandon the site entirely and watch it decline into nothing of value. You have invested far too much time to let it go completely, which leaves you with the first option: revive the site through change.

A thorough analysis of your old website will help you decide what type of change you need. Here is a quick checklist to help you complete this analysis:

  • Identify features that are used most often by visitors and which hold visitors on the page longest.
  • Identify features that are no longer used or are quickly abandoned by users.
  • List all complaints that you have received from visitors.
  • Test your navigation system to make sure it is still efficient.
  • Identify outdated or irrelevant content that needs rewritten or eliminated.
  • Have friends or family members give you their opinion on your overall site design.

In most cases, you will find that a completely new site design is needed to bring the site back to life. You can work with a professional designer to tackle this project, which often turns into a balancing act. While you need to maintain the essence of the site so that your loyal followers do not lose the features they find useful, you also need to upgrade to something more eye-catching and appealing to a larger audience.

Decide What Features to Keep

Make a short list of the features or design elements that you know should remain on your new website design. This will help you feel better about moving on from your old website, since you get to keep the elements that make the site unique.

Any features or pages of content that your regular site visitors use frequently should make it onto this list. You may end up redesigning some elements of these features, but you know that they must remain on the site to appease your regular followers. You may also want to keep evergreen content that gets a lot of attention from search engines and human visitors. You may also identify pages that are struggling but which might thrive if you give them a makeover with fresher content and better SEO strategies.

The Excitement of Going Live

It can take several months, to completely overhaul your website design into something more appealing to today’s viewers. Get in touch with your market and view competing websites so that you see where your new website design can one-up your competitors.

When it is time to take your new website live, prepare for a period of analysis. Make sure to analyze the elements of your old website that were not working to ensure that they do work with the new website design.

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Subject-LineIf you knew that something as simple as changing a few words could make your email marketing campaign more successful, how long would it take you to implement those changes? You would probably implement them immediately because you want to maximize results from every campaign. That’s good because you are about to learn about some of the simplest mistakes that email marketers sometimes make. If you identify them as problems for your own campaigns, get ready to take action and fix those errors.

Say What You Mean

Creativity is fun to play around with, but it doesn’t always work well with email subject lines. Recipients want to know what is inside your email and why they should spend their time reading it. You can add fun symbols like hearts and stars, but your recipients are just as likely to be annoyed by that as intrigued. You can create slogans that grab attention, but if they may not make a reader curious enough to open the message.

You don’t have much space to make a subject line work, so use it wisely. Get to the point and speak directly to your reader. Why should they spend their time listening to what you need to communicate to them? Give them that urgent message directly so that they want to hear you out.

Keep It Positive

Internet marketers are experts when it comes to playing on the emotions of their targeted audience. Unfortunately, playing on negative emotions like fear do not work for most consumers when it comes to email subject lines. Studies have shown that readers are far more likely to open a message that makes them feel hopeful or happy rather than fearful or scared.

Any word that is associated with a negative experience or emotion could hold your email campaign back. Some words to watch out for are “cancelled,” “reminder” and “eliminated.”

Make It Exclusive

Can you offer a “limited” deal to “select” customers? What about an “exclusive invitation” just for special customers? When you make individuals feel special, they are likely to click your message open and see what you have to offer. You don’t have to limit the number of people who receive these email messages. The goal is to make every recipient feel like they are a member of a select or chosen group.

A Note on Personalization

It is now commonplace to add a recipient’s name into their email in order to make a personal connection. While that has shown to help with opening rates to some extent, research is showing that it isn’t always enough to get someone to open a message. If you can add the name of the recipient and somehow hint that time is running out or the deal is only good for a limited amount of time, then the personalization may work more in your favor.

If you have the technology to insert personal names in your email subject lines, it doesn’t hurt to add that personal touch. Just don’t expect that alone to get your recipients to click your message open.

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Attract-More-Visitors

You took the time to find a talented website designer and invested in a professional web design. You poured your soul into writing high-quality content ready to inspire, motivate, teach and entertain your website visitors. You looked all over for the perfect images to create the perfect look and feel for each page of your site. You are now proud of what you have created, but there is a big problem: no one else seems proud of your site.

This is a problem many website owners encounter, but there are creative actions you can take to bring more visitors to your site. If you haven’t already started a marketing plan, right now is the time to change that. If you have been marketing your website but haven’t received the results you wanted, the following tips will help you develop a more efficient, results-driven plan. Get ready to unveil your beautiful creation on the rest of the world.

Spill Your Heart in a Blog

Do you have a blog for your website? If not, your goal is to change that this year. If you do, your goal is to change the way you think about your blog. This is not a space for stuffy declarations of your worth or heavy advertisements. Blogs are not meant to be updated once a month or only when you have a new product to push. Your blog is your space to tell the world what makes you tick, why you are special, and how you see your industry and the world at large.

Write tightly-focused blog posts that drill home one central idea in a personal manner. Speak directly to your readers so that they see you as a person to whom they can relate. Ask questions and take the time to read the comments when they start coming in. This is hard because you are revealing your true self in a vulnerable manner. Go there, and you will be rewarded.

Give Your Heart Away

Do you have an eBook, long report or other digital product that you know would help millions of people if they gave it a chance? Instead of pedaling it for what it is worth, give part or all of it away for free. This may make you squirm a little, but that only tells you that it is something of value that will work. The goal is to have other products to offer when people realize the value of your freebie and come back for more.

You can also write brilliant blog posts and give them to other bloggers. Why would you do that when you are starting your own blog? You do it because giving away that top-notch post allows you to tap into the audience already secured by other bloggers.

You will need to make updates to your website to make these ideas work. You may need to add an opt-in for visitors to receive your freebie in exchange for their name and email address, and the blog will take some time to setup. It will be worth it in the end as you get more for your marketing time and dollars.

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ecommerce onlineThe Last Word on Tips

The technology we use today is different than we used five years ago and will have undergone more changes in the next five years. A final tip will be to examine each change in technology for ecommerce to determine whether it will improve your site and make a better experience for your customers. Will new analytics tools provide information toward this end? Will the new tracking trends lead to improving your site overall? In most cases, the answer is most likely yes, the new technologies will bring improvements. Not always, but customer insight can help you decide if they do.

Staying on top of changes in technology and testing new methods is an ongoing process. No matter how much technology changes the tools used, the basic processes will remain the same. It is all necessary, though, if you want to achieve your goal of making the engagement of customers on your site as pleasant an experience as possible since that is what will keep them there and bring them back.

The bounce rate and customer feedback will always be the two best tools for improving your ecommerce site. Good feedback is wonderful but feedback about what customers don’t like could be the most important for improving the overall experience. Don’t discourage feedback about problems customers had on the site, invite it. This is especially important if your bounce rate goes up. Other tools will tell you what it is doing and may hint at why it is happening but it is customer insight that will tell you the most.

All the tools and tips you use from analytics to tracking should have one goal and that is to make the site comfortable for customers to navigate to find the products and information they want. Everything from site design and layout to product descriptions and pricing to checkout needs to be appealing so the customer’s engagement with the site is positive in every way possible. A customer who finds what they came to the site for quickly and easily is one who is more likely to spend more time finding and comparing other products as well.

Even though the technology and tools will change, you still need to test, analyze, track, update keywords, use creatively written product descriptions and information, update informational product demo videos (if you opt to use them) and evaluate customer feedback regularly. Based on what you learn from all of this, make changes that will make using your site easier for the customer. After all, those tools, tips and customer insight are what will make your ecommerce business successful.

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ecommerce websiteThe first part of this series identified some valuable ecommerce tools that help you keep a close eye on how well your website is performing. One of the most difficult parts of website analysis is processing big data and making sense of the results. This is referred to as visualization, and the following tips will help you make sense of the big data your website generates.

Visualize Your Keywords

You probably pay attention to keyword density when creating content for your website, but do you know what words actually appear most frequently in your content? Would you be surprised if your targeted keywords were actually not the words that stand out most on your site? Until you turn the words on your site into an image, it is hard to visualize your content as keywords.

You can use Wordle to create a cloud image representing the importance of each word on your website. You select text from your site and place it into Wordle, and the resulting image will make words that appear the most often larger than the surrounding words.

Get In Touch with Viewer Behavior

Your navigation system is one of the most important parts of your website. If it is not easy to find and use, your visitors may not make their way from the product pages to the checkout system. If you have elements on your website that are overlooked or distracting, then that can interfere with sales as well. You have to see how these elements of your page are interacting with your visitors in order to fix potential problems.

You can’t be a fly on the wall watching each visitor maneuver through your website, but there are ecommerce tools that show you what your users are doing while on your site. These tools are known as heat maps, and the best ones offered are Click Density and Crazy Egg.

Google’s overlay tool is also important because it allows you to follow users from one page of your site to another. This helps you determine what your content is compelling people to do. You want them to take a specific action after looking at each page, and this tool tells you if they are doing what you want them to do. From there, you can tweak your content to get better results.

Scrutinizer is another overlay type ecommerce tool, but it works by highlighting a given area of your website. It is intended to help you influence visitor behavior so that important areas of your website are more noticeable.

Prioritize Your Environment

Have you ever thought of your website as a living environment? If not, you may want to play with a tool called Feng GUI for a unique visualization experiment. Just as you might use feng shui to arrange the furniture in your home for maximum comfort, you can use this type of ecommerce tool to visualize the most prominent or attractive elements of your website. The tool uses a complicated algorithm to determine what elements of a website draw the eye.

While these e-commerce tools are fun to play around with and can give you some insightful information, there is no replacement for market research. Real people are still the best tools for visualization and visitor experience information.

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ecommerce toolsA successful ecommerce website requires so much more than snappy product descriptions and a secure checkout system. If you aren’t constantly thinking about how to maximize conversions, attract more targeted traffic and one-up your biggest competitors, you probably aren’t making the sales that your site is capable of making. Thankfully, there are many ecommerce tools that help you bring your website to maximum profits.

This is a three-part series packed with e-commerce tips designed to help experienced and new ecommerce site owners. This first part will cover some analytical ecommerce tools that will help you keep tabs on your site so that you know what is working for you, what could work better, and what is not working at all. Without this insight, it is difficult to maximize conversions.

The Google Analytics ecommerce tool is probably your go-to for site analysis, unless you have an extremely high-traffic site. You probably already know how to use the basic features of Google’s tool, but there are a few advanced features that you may not be aware of yet.

Advanced Segment Analysis

When you run Google Analytics with its default settings, your results are based on all data available for your site. This includes all of your customers regardless of location and all referrers regardless of the quality they provide in their referrals. If you want to look at smaller segments, such as customers from the United States or the UK only, you have to use advanced segment analysis.

If you know that customers from a specific location tend to buy different products than customers from another location, that will affect your advertising strategies. If you discover that the leads coming in from one referrer are always low quality, you can take action on that.

Customized Reports

Do you get valuable, insightful information from the standard reports delivered by Google? Most site owners find those reports lacking, but customization is the solution to the problem. You select what information you want in your custom report and what data you want included. This turns a useless report into something useful.

Advanced Filtration

You may already know about this e-commerce tip, but many people aren’t aware of the advanced filter settings on Google Analytics. Scroll to the bottom of the results when looking at your analytics, and find the advanced filter button. You can select some categories of data to eliminate from your results in order to reduce the number of results delivered.

Filtering allows you to narrow your results down to the exact information you want to view. It also makes your results much easier to comprehend and process.

Analytical Intelligence

Analytics become time-consuming if you have to set up customized reports for every little detail you want to track from bounce rates to sales. If you have to compare reports in attempt to track changes affecting your site, you will spend more time finding problems and not enough time fixing those problems. Intelligence is your solution.

This feature will send you alerts when important trends are detected on your site. For example, if your visitors suddenly stop sticking around for more than a second or two, you will receive a notification about the change in bounce rate for the site.

For many site owners, these e-commerce tips are effective enough to keep tabs on a site. If you need more advanced or in-depth analysis, there are other analytical ecommerce tools out there, such as Clicky.

Are you ready to tap into the power of visualization? Look out for the next part in this series.

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You took the time to find a talented website designer and invested in a professional web design. You poured your soul into writing high-quality content ready to inspire, motivate, teach and entertain your website visitors. You looked all over for the perfect images to create the perfect look and feel for each page of your site. You are now proud of your website, but there is a big problem: no one else seems proud of your site.

This is a problem many website owners encounter, but there are creative actions you can take to bring more visitors to your site. If you haven’t already started a marketing plan, right now is the time to change that. If you have been marketing your website but haven’t received the results you wanted, the following tips will help you develop a more efficient, results-driven plan. Get ready to unveil your beautiful creation on the rest of the world.

Spill Your Heart in a Blog

Do you have a blog for your website? If not, your goal is to change that this year. If you do, your goal is to change the way you think about your blog. This is not a space for stuffy declarations of your worth or heavy advertisements. Blogs are not meant to be updated once a month or only when you have a new product to push. Your blog is your space to tell the world what makes you tick, why you are special, and how you see your industry and the world at large.

Write tightly-focused blog posts that drill home one central idea in a personal manner. Speak directly to your readers so that they see you as a person to whom they can relate. Ask questions and take the time to read the comments when they start coming in. This is hard because you are revealing your true self in a vulnerable manner. Go there, and you will be rewarded. All and all making your more proud of your website!

Give Your Heart Away

Do you have an eBook, long report or other digital product that you know would help millions of people if they gave it a chance? Instead of pedaling it for what it is worth, give part or all of it away for free. This may make you squirm a little, but that only tells you that it is something of value that will work. The goal is to have other products to offer when people realize the value of your freebie and come back for more.

You can also write brilliant blog posts and give them to other bloggers. Why would you do that when you are starting your own blog? You do it because giving away that top-notch post allows you to tap into the audience already secured by other bloggers.

You will need to make updates to your website to make these ideas work and be proud of your website. You may need to add an opt-in for visitors to receive your freebie in exchange for their name and email address, and the blog will take some time to setup. It will be worth it in the end as you get more for your marketing time and dollars.  So make these steps, put in the extra work and be proud of your website!

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