Three Essential Rules for Online Success 

rules for online success

When working with clients, one thing we notice is that many are focused on site design.  Equally if not more important to consider prior to starting any new site is function and usability.  A nice site design is great, but understanding how your customers interact on your site must be understood first.
Typically, the purpose of any website is to prompt a sale (product/service/information).  Understanding how customers navigate through that process is essential.  
Here are three essential rules that will help you to think through the process:

  1. Make it Easy.  Confusing navigation is a deal killer. Make it easy for customers to find the products or services they are looking for.  Think about the multiple ways someone will look for something.   Create an outline and test it.  Make sure it’s easy to navigate to everything on your site.  In thinking about your navigation headings,  don't say (for example) "pumps" when you really mean "shoes".  Think through the hierarchy of the selection.  
  2. Make it Obvious.  Don’t hide the customer service essentials, such as links to shopping carts, phone numbers or other relevant contact information.  The easier it is to find, the more it will be used.  Put timely information up front.   
  3. Make it Relevant.  It’s a drag to go back to a site that’s not updated on a regular basis.  Ask yourself what makes you keep coming back to a site over and over?  Relevant and timely information.  That takes work and time.  If you don’t have it, find someone to help, it’s that important.  Check for broken links and invalid pages.  Simply adding a blog feed will help to provide consistent, timely info to your home page.  Update home page articles regularly, especially if you're retail.

Finally, once you have your site set up and running, give it some time and then go back and study how users are interacting.  Are they getting stuck and leaving pages?  How are they navigating to your products or services?  Can you make this quicker for them?  Is the information on that page relevant to what they are searching for (does the page have a high bounce rate)?  If not, it's time to revise the copy on the page and then measure again.  Yep, it's the old "wash, rinse, repeat" cycle again.

This time, you'll be able to see your improvement, because you know what you're measuring.

Keeping these three guidelines in mind when creating and managing your site will save you time and also help to gain sales. 


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Posted by Thursday, November 20, 2014 9:08:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C marketing tips online marketing sales SMB web trends

The Comment Sections Are Dying, So How Do You Engage Your Audience? 

customer engagement

Blogging is a fantastic way of engaging potential customers and building a relationship of trust, so that when you land your sales pitch, you’ve got more chance of converting. The comments section on blog posts and articles has long provided the environment for this engagement to occur. However, in recent years, comments haven’t managed to stimulate quite as much discussion on some sites as intended. So if readers aren’t engaging on your blog posts and articles, then how can you persuade them to get involved?

Community Involvement
There’s a term that gets bandied around in the social media sphere known as ‘community’. A group of customers, big or small, that are passionate about your brand and the things you do, so much so that they are actively involved in the development and promotion of your brand. Building an active community, and reaping the rewards of customer loyalty, free publicity and social recommendations that come with it, is likened to the Holy Grail for content marketers.

But You Need Right Kind of Brand
The sad truth is, though, not every brand can build a community in any real sense. The willingness for customers and potential customers to partake in something depends entirely on the character and personality of the brand. For example, in the UK, Kimberely Clark’s Andrex toilet paper launched the ‘scrunch or fold’ campaign, an initiative that asked customers across the internet to get involved and discuss how they prefer to wrap up their toilet experience. Needless to say, the campaign fell short of expectations and was a mere drop in the, err, ocean, given the reluctance of customers to discuss their private moments so openly.

Alternatives to Comments
So how can we foster a user base of active and enthusiastic customers?

It’s our job as marketers to work out where our customers are, what they want and how they like to be communicated with. These days, it’s no secret that social media plays a large role in people’s lives. So taking the conversation onto social media, as opposed to on your website can result in an increase in engagement for the following reasons:

  • People can be themselves on social media so you’re likely to foster a more genuine discussion
  • Comments and likes spread to the commenter’s friends and followers, amplifying your content
  • This amplification can lead to more people getting involved in the discussion

To make the most of social media as a replacement for your comments system however, there are a few realities that you must face:

  1. You’ll loose control. You can’t moderate the comments you receive on Facebook like you can on your website. People are free to say whatever they please and this can sometimes divert the point of the discussion and derail the debate.
  2. Targeting frailty. It’s a lot easier to comment on something you see on Facebook because users don’t even need to read the article or visit your website to take part in the discussion. Therefore, although you may experience an increase in engagement, it may simply be people that don’t represent you target market jumping on the bandwagon. 

There are arguments for and against comment systems. They can be a genuinely pleasant experience that enthuse readers, stimulate debate and bring people closer to your brand. Alternatively, they can be a free for all mash up of random insults and incoherence or deserted, baron wastelands. Whatever the case is on your site, if the discussion has dried up, it may be time to consider moving on. And the best place to start is the place where your customers are holding their discussions instead.


Monday, November 17, 2014 3:12:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C blogging content development inbound marketing

How to Counteract Banner Blindness 

banner blindness

Over time, we’ve developed a complete ignorance towards website banners. So ignorant are we, that when studying banners through the use of eye tracking software, this study found that users blocked out the banners entirely. So if our filters are so sophisticated, how do we combat banner blindness and get our messages into the mind of our users?

Why Did We Use Banners?
Banners were the first form of advertising online and were born through developers and brands aiming to monetize the then new-fangled platform of the internet. However, the inbound nature of the internet is at odds with the outbound character of the banner ad. As the internet has developed, as has our knowledge of what to expect online, as well as our defensive filters designed to steer us clear of threats or, in the case of the internet, irrelevance. 

We have the same subconscious ignorance when it comes to the typical homepage carousel. This was proven by a study reported on Business Insider, which found that users don’t pay too much attention carousels, as they’re perceived as intrusive or ads.  With carousels, lots of competing messages in the same place, usually the home page, leads to focus being lost.

Why Do We Still Use Banners?
Perhaps there’s an element of complacency, as website owners continue doing what they’ve always done in maintaining the status quo. Alternatively, maybe brands continue to believe that banners work. Maybe they’re content with receiving the advertising revenue from their banners. Whatever the case, it doesn’t change the fact that banners still plague our screens and still have the impact of using a toffee hammer to break down a fire door. 

But what should you do instead?
The alternatives to banners will depend on the reasoning behind the inclusion of banners in the first place. 

If you use banners for advertising and revenue generating, there a more effective ways of generating income via your website. For example, you could:

  • Write product reviews 
  • Include ads in the body of your pages as opposed to in the header or side bar 
  • Affiliate schemes, including links to sponsored websites
  • Guest blogging 

If you use banners and carousels for your own benefit; to promote new products, highlight company news and developments or cross-sell services, then instead of using banners, you should consider these two significant things:

  • Timing. A banner is a generic shout at every website visitor. A catchall bellow will always fail to attract the attention of users with specific needs. Your first objective should be to serve your customer with what they came to your site for. Then, once you’ve met their needs, you can show them what would have otherwise been in the banner. Include this information on after sales confirmation pages, your form thank you pages or even underneath product descriptions or blog posts.
  • Placement. People tend to ignore the right-hand side of the page, as they’re aware that, on most websites, this area contains ads. So you need to position your offering in a place where the user is going to focus. Within the content itself could prove profitable and, in particular, at the foot of the page. Not as many people will see something hidden at the foot of the page, but for those that do make it down there, they’re searching for something else to do, a next place to go. As a result, attention tends to increase at the foot of web pages, which will give your offering more chance of being noticed and clicked.

As with most things regarding web design, it’s all about testing and iteratively improving. Try the above and see if it works for you. 

We certainly can’t reverse banner blindness, but our job as designers and marketers is to find alternative ways to make things work for both our customers and our business. Increasingly, we’re finding that banners aren’t the best way to do this these days.

Do you use banners or carousels? Do they work for you? It would be great to get your feedback in the comments below.


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Posted by Thursday, October 30, 2014 3:56:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C marketing tips online marketing web trends

The New Twitter Audio Experience: What It Means For Your Marketing 

The Twitter Audio Card

Twitter announced the launch of a "new audio experience" last week, which seeks to integrate audio into the Android and iOS app more naturally. Musicians will see the obvious advantages initially, but there are marketing opportunities for a wider range of businesses on the horizon. 

The Twitter Audio Card

The introduction of the Twitter Audio Card lets users listen to music directly through the Twitter app on both Android and iOS. Significantly, users can run the audio straight from their timeline, and then dock the Audio Card in order to continue listening whilst browsing the app. So you can now listen to your favourite artist’s new releases as and when they’re released through Twitter, courtesy of Spotify. 

The Future: Downloading Music?
Perhaps more exciting, is the future possibilities that Twitter can realise with this. After having recently introduced the facility to download apps straight from within the app, this audio integration may be the first step towards allowing users to download music in the same way. The technology is certainly there already. Imagine: 

  • David Guetta releases his new single and posts it on Twitter
  • You see it on your timeline and listen to it, docking it in the app and continuing your surfing through hash tags
  • The song is so epic that you can download it with the tap of an icon

Now imagine the possibilities outside of music for the likes of:

  • Podcasts, 
  • Audio books, 
  • Speeches, 
  • Presentations, 
  • Radio plays, 
  • Even recorded blog readings or poetry 

This could all help turn Twitter into an audio-centric marketing powerhouse. 

Potential for Marketers
The opportunity for brands within that environment is vast, especially if we can monitor exactly who is listening to what and for how long. Of course, Twitter could easily charge for analytical insights like this, or skim some commission off the top of sold items. Either way, everyone’s a winner, as a new marketplace is born.

Possible Video Integration?
It doesn’t stop there, either. Twitter could introduce the same docking method for video, similar to the YouTube iOS app. The video loads in the main window and, should the user wish to continue browsing or make a new search, they can minimise the video. The video still plays, only it’s docked in the bottom-right of the screen, out of the way, but still in view. 

This would provide opportunities for brands to provide content in a unique and engaging way, without being too intrusive. Plus, there could be some advertising potential here for Twitter. Imagine being able to pay Twitter to play a 10 second clip in the corner of your target market’s timeline. Although, that may prove a little too intrusive.

Worth Taking a Risk
Either way, Twitter is certainly feeding people’s urges for multitasking and is trying all it can to keep people using its services for longer. The results of which remain to be seen, but it’s worth taking a shot at something with potential for those brands out there that can craft compelling audio.


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Posted by Thursday, October 30, 2014 3:46:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C online marketing SMB social media social media marketing web trends

The Growing Role Of Upmost Importance 

UX design

For years, if you wanted a website, you’d need to have it built by a web developer or programmer. You’d convey your desires to the programmer, roughly, and they’d create something that delivered on what you requested.

It wouldn’t necessarily work well for the user, but then that’s not what you would have asked for. A developer’s job is to do what they’re asked and make things work and function from a technical perspective. 

Then, as things developed, front-end designers came into being in order to make things aesthetically pleasing for the user. Even today, it’s surprising what a good-looking website can achieve in the mindset of clients. 

We’ve seen clients who had old, clunky legacy systems that work as intuitively as algebra, yet they wanted nothing more than a refreshed front-end. Sometimes, a newer-looking design, some well-coordinated coloring and a few nice buttons can make a big difference in the client’s perspective of a digital tool’s quality or usefulness. However, this digital lick of paint often only coats cracks in an otherwise dysfunctional and confusing journey. If it looks good, but functions poorly, it’s still badly designed.

So, if we have programmers that make the back-end work and designers that make the front-end pretty, who is responsible for the over-arching user experience? Who’s responsible for the identification of user wants and needs? Navigation? The organization of content? The presentation of information? Cue the User Experience (UX) Designer.

UX design includes: 

  • User research, 
  • Information architecture, 
  • User testing, 
  • Usability and functionality,
  • Content design

It’s everything related to making websites, apps and digital tools for the end user; the people that actually use it; not the client and not the developer. It’s user-centric and people-focused. 

UX design is by no means a new role, globally speaking. In fact, many companies have been employing UX designers for years. Recently, however, the importance of user-centric design is growing. Companies and government have been forced into investing in the creation of seamless and as user-friendly solutions due to the following marketing conditions:

  • Rising user expectations – Big-budget companies like Google and Apple that specialize in usability, raise the expectations of users. Online, we’ve got to keep up if we want to keep our current customers and attract new ones.
  • Increased competition - It’s a lot easier to get online and trade these days and more businesses are taking the leap. For e-commerce stores, you’re competing with Amazon and Google, the SMEs and even the average Joe on eBay. More competition means we need to do more in order to convert and keep customers.
  • More opportunity – The average daily time spent online is rising every year. If people are spending longer online, then we have more of an opportunity to reach them, but our UX has to be unnoticeably smooth and better than our competition.

Having a website created is easier than ever. Having a website that looks cool is just as simple. Having a website that is a pleasure to use, adds to the user/brand experience and meets your customer needs better than your competition takes a little more work. It requires a specialist. It requires a UX designer.


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Posted by Thursday, October 23, 2014 5:23:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C SMB web design web development web trends website
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