Posts Tagged 'ebusiness'

Skype Subscriptions

skype_logoIf you are a one person consulting business, or work in a distributed environment, you should be considering Skype.

For those unfamiliar with the technology, think of it as IM on steroids, that taps into the telephone system. It’s a great tool, and comes at an even better price.

Skype offers all of the standard IM features, but provides the added bonus of designating a phone number to your account.  Non Skype members can dial you using their landline or cell phone. You get the benefit of calling anywhere in the US and Canada for about $3 per month. What’s even better, is that you can make unlimited calls to 36 countries for just $10 per month.

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Skype provides many features that small businesses will find useful. You can make conference calls, add plugins allowing you to share your desktop and for podcasters it gives you a simple way to record phone interviews. The newest release has upgraded full screen video.

Skype’s new subscriptions make the service even better. Skype-to-Skype calls to anyone, anywhere are always free. You can purchase an online number, and make calls from your computer to anywhere in the US or Canada at no additional charge. Pay as you go options are also available. With call forwarding included, you’re free to roam and still receive calls where ever you have mobile or landline access.

Skype comes as a download, and installs just as easily as other IM applications. You can purchase phone numbers in most US area codes. If you’re seeking a simple, effective and low cost telephone solution, this may be your answer.

CRO and Keyword Advertising

Keyword advertising costs money.

Now that we’ve stated the obvious, let’s look at another simple statement of truth. Keyword advertising offers one of the most cost effective and flexible mediums to advertise your business.

The second ‘truth’ depends greatly on your commitment to finding how best to convert ad clickers, into customers. The smartest businesses focus on conversion rates. It’s smart business, because it gleans the greatest return on your advertising investment.

Keywords and the Diverse Internet Audience

Because the internet involves such a diverse group of users, one size will not fit all. Good keyword advertisers internalize this concept when writing ad copy. The words you use, affect the types of users you attract.

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Many internet users search before buying. This group searches using more general keywords—they seek information to make a final decision.  Other users want to commit to a purchase. These users tend to search using specific product names or brands. Professional internet marketers know that each group requires its own ad text.

Include Keywords in Multivariate Testing

When implementing CRO, remember your groups, and their varying motivations. Landing pages consume a great deal of the conversion conversation. Multivariate testing often relies on testing variations of landing pages, but not variations in keyword text.

Your ad text may compel one market segment at the initial click, while your landing page compels clicks from a different segment. You then begin the ‘black box’ task of reworking your landing page. Changes in your ad text, may be the key to unleashing an already effective landing page. Using this approach saves work, and has the potential to reveal valuable market segments.

SEO and CRO: The Long and Short of It

landingrhtcolpromoIf your small business maintains a website, you’ve most likely considered, talked about or implemented some type of SEO strategy. The belief being, that if you can attract traffic, you will by default attract customers or registrants. This may be the case to a small degree, but doesn’t accurately represent how things usually work.

Your site does need to attract visitors, but it also needs to drive those visitors to some goal. Establishing that goal, and subsequently compelling the user to satisfy that goal, means just as much to your business. Internet gurus label this concept conversion. Though the concept remains the same for all websites, the specific outcome— the actual goal, may vary. Your desire may be to register users, request a sales call or make a purchase. In any case, the final outcome provides some benefit to your business.

SEO and CRO work in concert to benefit your business.

SEO and CRO work in concert to benefit your business.

Just like SEO, where we optimize our sites so they will be found during user searches, we need to optimize websites so that they convert as many visitors to successful visits as possible. This concept is known as Conversion Rate Optimization. Many experts agree, including most major online retailers, that conversion rate should be considered just as important as SEO. Jamila White, owner of E-Commerce Diva said about conversion, “So many small biz owners don’t know that is THE most important metric.” The two concepts do not contradict, actually one complements the other. They do need to be approached with a different perspective.

SEO the Long Term Strategy

Irrespective of many claims by some SEO consultants, results from SEO take time. That’s because SEO is organic in nature. You should commit yourself to at least a six month effort before expecting consistent benefits. During that six month time span, you’ll need to work and rework your strategy to stay ahead of the pack. In short, SEO strategies are long term strategies.

CRO

CRO focuses more on the present. In short, it focuses on how well we compel the current site visitors, to accomplish a desired result upon visiting.  CRO has a more immediate effect. Conversion rate matters, whether you receive 100 visits per day, or 1000 visits per day. Conversion rate impacts your website efficacy more than SEO.

You can receive 100 visits per day, but convert twenty visitors into customers. This would have more impact than receiving 1000 visits per day, and then only converting ten visitors into customers. Again, we can stress the immediate focus of CRO, no matter the number of visitors, we need to convert as many as possible.

SEO and CRO a Combined Approach

SEO and CRO should not be considered competitive concepts. As website owners we should combine the two practices, knowing that our strategy will have short as well as long term business impact. It should also be noted that  CRO will benefit your SEO efforts.  CRO helps to better identify successful market segments, thus enhancing your ongoing SEO practices.

When converting customers, you will hopefully have analytics giving you customer data. Knowing what regions, pages or search terms used to find your site will elucidate more about the segments that find your product, service or information attractive. If this market doesn’t match your present SEO focus, now you know how to adjust, or better focus your current strategy.

SEO and CRO: Continual Efforts

Both CRO and SEO require continual modification. Consistent testing of landing pages and conversion paths– your CRO efforts, will greatly benefit your long term SEO. Let’s look at an example.

CRO can be affected by numerous factors. If a CNBC guest makes recommendations about what to look for in certain financial products, or throws out a new term, this could alter what financial products customers seek. Sudden drops or increases in conversions, could be the first clue to  a change in your visitor’s needs. Knowing this, allows you to also adjust your SEO strategy to be in place when that CNBC audience turns to the internet to find the company who will sell that product.

Online Top 10 Retailers: What We Can Learn

analyticsrhtcolpromoTake a look at the Top 10 Online Retailers for December. You can find the info at Marketing Charts.com. First thing to notice— the list relies on conversion statistics not total sales. That measure of success, reiterates the importance of conversion rate optimization (CRO).

Also notice the conversion percentages  ranging from 19 to 31%.  That’s pretty good, especially when research from Fireclick tells us the average conversion rate hovers between 2 and 3%.  Imagine the impact of a 10% conversion rate increase for your small business’s revenue.

Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, let’s look at some things you can replicate in your site, that may help increase your conversion rate.

Keyword Ads Link to Product Pages

The right keyword text, linking to the right landing page. When the user clicks on keyword text that says ‘luxurious lingerie’ , they don’t land in the soap section of victoriassecret.com. They don’t land at the home page either. If the visitor searches for potatoes, they want potatoes.

Graphics Heavy Home Pages

All the big winners had very graphic intensive home pages. The text explained large graphics highlighting featured products.  Outside of that, very little text. Its all about the visual and pushing product. Be assured that the featured items are most likely proven sellers.

Unique Page Titles

Every page has a unique title.  Product pages were titled with their respective product names. They do this because page title holds a high priorty in page rankings. Make sure your ecommerce application allows you to use product names as page titles. 

Alt tags for Every Image

All images posses ‘alt’ text. Another SEO strategy,  alt text influences search engine page ranking.

Products to the Left, Checkout to the Right

All the product pages held true to form– product image on the left, description, size charts, colors and checkout on the right. Visitor attention tends to gravitate towards the visual first. Marketing research suggests that users have a harder time moving from right to left, than left to right. Looks like our top ten retailers saw the same study.

The Conversion Lynch Pin: Understanding Search Habits

All these retailers understand the search habits of online buyers.  They search based upon specifics, not generalities. A web buyer looking for shoes, generally will search for a specific shoe type– ‘xj7 running shoe’, ‘rockport men’s dress shoes’. Knowing this, its better to focus your ecommerce SEO efforts on your product and category pages, not just the home page.

Ramping Up
You’ve got almost a full year until the next Christmas shopping season. Start implementing changes now. Starting now gives you the opportunity to test what works best. It also allows you to evaluate your ecommerce application. Make sure it automates things like page titles and alt tags. If not, check the upgrades or another vendor.

By the time the heavy shopping traffic begins, you’ll be in prime position to convert visitors into revenue.

Get It In Writing

requirementsI just finished reading Startup Daddy’s post, Starting A Business: Define Your Definite Major Purpose & Envision Your Desired Outcome. The post focuses on the concept of defining one’s purpose, as in what’s your purpose in going into business. It speaks about the importance of defining one’s goals, both personal and professional, and how that helps in selecting your niche.

New web entrepreneurs often ignore this step when building a new website. You need to establish your site’s purpose. If you don’t, you risk a lack of focus that will cascade throughout your web presence, inhibiting SEO planning,  online marketing efforts and many times delaying site completion. You can’t select the best keywords, write good ad copy or build effective conversion paths without site focus.

Just like your business, your website needs a sound plan. That plan should be built before you ever speak with a web designer. In business its called a business plan. In the techie world, we call that plan a requirements document.

Building the Document, Then the Website

Start your document off with a purpose– literally.  Write down a few sentences about your business. In this summary include what you do, how you do it and your market segment. Don’t forget to include any differentiators.

Follow this with a short paragraph about the reasons you desire a website. Try to match your need for a website, with the summary of your business. This purpose will provide scope to your web project.

Determine Required Site Sections

List out all the sections that need to be included in your site. If you can diagram them using Visio or some other tool, that would be great.

Next you want to describe the pages to be included in each section. The ‘Services’ section of your site will have a Services landing page, and most likely a page for each Service you offer. 

Now list what you want included on each of the pages listed under each section. Include images, cross promotion, forms or widgets.  For forms and widgets, be specific about what functionality should be included.  For forms list the fields that should be included, what to do with the form information and designate required fields.

Add the Icing

Now list pages, content or functionality that would be nice to have, but not mission critical. This might seem like wasted effort, but it helps to understand future goals when designing your current website.

Now You’re Covered

Your requirements document provides insurance on your design investment. When working with a professional web designer or firm, you have more security. Get the designer to sign the form, recognizing it represents what will be delivered.  This prevents confusion with billing. It also helps recuperate penalty fees for missed deadlines.

10 Tips to Improve eCommerce Sales

analyticsrhtcolpromoThe holiday buying season has come and gone. Now its back to the day-to-day grind in terms of sales. What little money many consumers had, has been spent. So now we need to really focus on converting visitors to buyers.

Once you implement your marketing strategy, its time to find ways to close the deal. Internet retailing relies heavily on your technical infrastructure and store design. I’ve formulated ten tips gathered from advice by the biggest players in the eCommerce space. Read now, and you’ll find a bonus tip:

1. Identify Your Top Searches

Plain and simple, you will need to be customer focused to be successful. Knowing what customers want, makes you better able to serve them.  Perform test searches. You want to make sure visitors find what they want– and you provide. For obvious reasons, note searches for items you don’t sell.

2. Find Customer Exit Points

Outside of your sales confirmation page, you want to know where customers most often leave your site. If they leave at your product pages, it might be time for a redesign. If they leave during the checkout process, look at ways to simplify your checkout process.

3. Test Site Performance

Online shoppers don’t like to wait. If they did, they would shop at a physical store. Test how well your site functions at peak times.  Test user flows to analyze your purchasing paths.  Be particularly aware of any errors that occur. Test during low traffic periods as well. If performance problems still exist, this might be an indicator of a software or hardware problem. Compare your site metrics with these indice from ECommerce Times, to see how your site measures up to competitors.

4. Monitor Usability

Usability may be a reason for some of the exit points you found in tip #2.  Navigation should be a key area of focus, especially for sites with large offerings. If users get lost, or can’t find what they’re looking for, statistics tell us they’ll find another retailer. 

You also want to test your usability in various browsers and browser versions. With the introduction of Chrome, there’s a new landscape to traverse in terms of compatibility.

5. Optimize Product Pages

Test various layouts of your product pages.  Try different copy to determine what drives sales best. If you’re serious about increasing revenue, implement a multivariate testing strategy.

6. Find Customer Tendencies

Again, we’re back looking at customer focus. How customers navigate your site says a great deal about their needs. For example, if visitors tend to visit certain products in groups, you’ve got a hint on what to include in your cross-sells items list.

7. Make Your Most Popular Products Easy To Find

Sounds like common sense– and it is. Yet, many shopping sites don’t do this simple thing. If you sell shoes, make sure each subcategory page displays at least your top seller on that page. If you can display your top three, you’re in even better position to sell.

8. Simplify Checkout

As internet retailers, we have to accept cart abandonment. The idea will be to reduce it. Make sure your checkout process doesn’t confuse visitors. Add a step-by-step navigation bar at the top of the cart, indicating what steps still need to be completed. Consolidate steps where possible. Make sure you provide simple easy to understand instructions to facilitate checkout.  Don’t forget to make the ‘help’ or ‘faq’ button highly visible.

9. Address Shipping Charges Sooner Not Later

No one likes surprises on their bill. Provide shoppers with some expectations about shipping costs prior to checkout. 

10. Review Your Customer Service Plan

Recent surveys indicate that customer satisfaction with online shopping has dropped. The causes of this increased dissatisfaction have yet to be thoroughly identified. Be assured customer service will be some where on the list. Asses how well you handle customer inquiries and returns

Test and Retest      

Develop a conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategy. Testing various page layouts, copy and combinations of both, can greatly enhance you sales success. CRO should be just as important as SEO to your internet sales plan.               

Jeff Prus, senior director of user experience at VistaPrint recently stated at the Internet Retailer Conference 09, “VistaPrint regards ongoing site optimization as a revenue-generating function, one that generates millions of dollars per year in proven business value,” . CRO maximizes your SEO benefits. In these economic times every dollar counts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Tips for Better Forms and Qualified Leads

formtips2Finding good leads make or break a salesman. The better the lead, the easier the sale.  This concept has a name— qualified leads.

Generating leads via the web presents its own set of challenges. The online form works day and night, gathering information about potential customers. The form constrains us, due to its finite nature, limiting us to a fixed set of questions. In the end, we act on faith more than assurance that leads will be of any substance. 

Creating good forms, forms that create qualified leads, requires a trial and error effort.  Here are ten ways to increase qualified lead generation via online forms:

1. Ask For the Right Information.

The basics:

  • Name
  • Email Address
  • Company Name
  • Visitors Title (helps to establish buying decision power)
  • Phone Number (distinguish between work and cell)
  • Reason for the Request/Type of Request (just looking or ready to buy)
  • Market Identifiers (ask questions that will define segment of market)
  • Influencers (who else will be involved in the decision)
  • Anything specific to your industry or product

Obviously the Name and email should be required.  Don’t be afraid to require a phone number, especially for services. Required phone numbers will fend off the casual visitor. In addition, get the phone number type, work or cell. A work number indicates a more qualified lead.

2. Use Dropdowns
  • Use drop down menus to isolate prime targets in your market
  • Drop downs allow for more flexibility, while keeping control of the provided information
  • Drop downs are easier to answer, allowing you to squeeze in two or three more questions
  • Two or three well thought out drop downs are worth one big additional notes text field
3. Generate Specific Forms for Specific Conversion Paths
  • Users in different roles have different needs, cater to the roles in your forms
  • Use specific forms for specific products or services
4. Give Up Something to Get Something
  • Requiring a form for a whitepaper has a less salesy feel
  • Require a form to get pricing
  • Utilize form completion for user group membership
  • Add a private users section to your blog, requiring registration
5. Make Forms Convenient
  • Make sure form questions are easy to read and understand
  • Put forms in the margins of high traffic pages
  • Make text in links to forms real marketing copy, not ‘get more info’
6. Make Specific Forms for Requesting a Phone Call
  • Create a form specifically for people wanting a sales call
7. Strong Validation
  • Make sure you validate important form fields (name, email, phone, etc)
8. Keep the Number of Fields to a Minimum
  • Too many fields can run off potentially good leads
9. Always Follow Up Form Submissions
  • Unreturned requests can harm your company’s reputation
10. Implement a Conversion Rate Optimization Strategy

Optimizing form conversion rate via testing, should be you top priority.  In order to find the best form, you will need to test.  A form completion is a funnel goal. Its a link the visitor clicks that has potential value for your business. You’ll need to test various combinations to get the form that produces the most submitals, as well as the best qualified leads. Multivariate testing provides the best way to optimizing success. If you don’t test, you will waste valuable time and resources, while losing business to your testing competitors.