Posts about web design, site structure, coding, etc.

How Do Customers See Your Brand?

It doesn’t matter if you think your brand has the potential to be the next Apple or Nike—what matters is what your target audience thinks of your brand.

Understanding brand perception is essential to succeeding in a competitive marketplace, according to Brian Woyt, founder of the branding agency Wolf & Missile. “Ultimately, your brand is what the marketplace says it is,” Woyt says, “Not what you think it is.”

To be long-lasting, your brand must form a connection with your audience. That connection is based on trust, and your brand earns trust when it remains true to what your audience expects of it. Unfortunately, it’s hard to remain true to your customers’ expectations when you don’t understand those expectations in the first place.

You need to research how customers view your brand so that you can develop resources that meet your audience’s expectations.

Brand Discovery: When You’re Starting from Scratch

If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ll be able to use real customer feedback to understand your audience’s perception of your brand (more on that later). But if you’re new on the scene, you won’t have any marketplace feedback yet. Instead, Woyt recommends performing a brand discovery exercise:

  1. List the attributes or features of your product or service. (e.g. The FidoVac 5000 has a power rating of 8.5 amps.)
  2. Determine the consequences of the attributes (With the power of FidoVac5000, pet owners will be able to suck up pet hair from all surfaces).
  3. List the benefits of your product or service. (FidoVac5000 owners will enjoy the appearance of a cleaner home and won’t have to worry about pet hair getting stuck to their clothes when they sit down.)
  4. Determine the value of your product or service to your customer. (FidoVac5000 owners will enjoy greater peace of mind in their clean home.)

This exercise should help you move from the features of your product (which you already know) to the value of your product (which is what customers care about). Once you’ve identified the value your product or service offers, you can use this to define your brand. Your value should stay front and center of your traditional and digital marketing branding.

Positioning: How Your Customers See You vs. Your Competitors

Your brand doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Like it or not, most of your potential customers are weighing you against your competitors. To stand out, you’ll need to determine what makes your brand different from similar brands. Ask yourself: What does my audience want that I can deliver but my competitors can’t?

Woyt suggests taking the following steps to position your brand:

  1. Research the competition.
  2. Create a four-quadrant map of the competition’s positioning, as in the example below.
  3. Add your brand to the positioning map.
  4. Ask yourself what you need to do to minimize overlap or set your brand apart.

Next, you should write a brand positioning statement. This can be a sentence or two that states your brand’s unique value in the marketplace. To write this statement, ask yourself:

  • Who do my products/services appeal to and why?
  • What are the people at my company passionate about?
  • What promise is my brand making to the customer?

Understanding Brand Perception

If you’re an established business, you should be talking to real customers (and potential customers) to better understand how they see your brand. Conduct surveys by phone and email, and organize focus groups if possible. Questions to ask your customers include:

  • What attracted you to our brand instead of a competitor? Or, if you chose a competitor, why did you go with them?
  • What are the biggest frustrations you experience when trying to do business with companies in our industry?
  • Have you ever recommended our brand to another person? If so, who? And why?
  • What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear our brand name?

In addition to interviewing customers directly, you can also use social monitoring tools to see what kind of online reputation your company has on social media and review sites.

There are dozens of social monitoring tools on the market, and you’ll have to do your due diligence to determine what’s best for your business. Here are just a few of the most popular tools:

  • Google Alerts: Lets you set up email alerts for mentions of your brand and other keywords in online publications
  • Hootsuite: Lets you view brand mentions (on social channels, blogs, and news sites) in real-time and gauge brand sentiment
  • Talkwalker: Lets you track mentions across all major social channels, print publications, and TV and radio broadcasts globally
  • Buzzsumo: Lets you view social shares of your brand’s content and identify specific users who have shared your content

Pay attention to both positive and negative sentiment. Looking at negative sentiment can help you identify what you need to change to improve your customers’ perception of your brand.

Your Customers See Your Brand Differently Than You Thought—Now What?

If your research reveals that brand sentiment is largely negative, it may be time to rebrand. As part of your rebrand, develop buyer personas. Identify buyer needs and pain points. Think about how your messaging can better connect with your customers. Work through the brand discovery exercise (if you haven’t already) to make sure you’re focusing on the value you bring to customers, not just the features of your products or services.

If brand sentiment is largely positive, but your customers think of your brand differently than you do, it’s still worth making some changes. Ask yourself if your brand’s actions and interactions are aligned with your positioning statement. If they’re not, think about how you can better tailor your marketing resources to your audience’s expectations.

Need help positioning your brand in a crowded marketplace? Leverage now offers digital marketing branding services—contact us now to learn more.

And don’t forget to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter to receive our latest blog posts in your inbox.

SEO Trends and Predictions for 2017

The beginning of 2017 may be a fresh start for you, but for Google, progress in the sphere of optimizing Internet search won’t slow for a second. The preference for mobile Internet consumption, the desire for quicker and denser content, mounting pressure to increase ad revenue, and the unstoppable development of digital assistants and voice search point to a new golden rule for search engine optimization (SEO) trends:

Make it for mobile.

Mobile-First Is Undeniable

chart of hours spent daily on mobile devicesSEO experts have been predicting the latest SEO trends as part of their jobs for years, and there’s one that keeps making an appearance in the latter 2010s: mobile is the future of Internet and search. Major search engines are putting mobile at the forefront as trends in SEO continually point toward the indomitable strength and convenience of mobile consumption.

More Americans are spending more of their free time watching the screens on their smartphones and tablets, according to comScore. If the amount of activity on social networks is any indication, it’s likely that most of those hours are spent scouring Facebook and Twitter feeds for images and videos. Social apps and mobile search are in line to become some of marketing’s biggest targets for paid advertisements and organic efforts. Changes in the way that search will respond to mobile users as well as desktop users point to an almost certain future of mobile takeover.

Mobile-First Indexing

In the latter half of 2016, at the beginning of October, the first iterations of mobile-first indexing became a reality. Mobile-first indexing resets the priority of Google’s indexing bot to read through a site’s mobile version when determining how a site should be indexed. That means Googlebot looks at the relevance, speed, and technical organization of mobile sites over desktop sites when it decides where your page goes on the search engine results page (SERP).

Desktop SERPs Match Mobile

December also saw a UI update for desktop search engine results pages that helped them match the appearance and function of mobile SERPs. Specifically, desktop users see more specialized cards such as featured snippets and maps when they perform searches that trigger those cards. Of course, in such early stages, the desktop experience isn’t quite optimized for desktop searchers:

how long does google take to index serp with mistake

As of 2016, producing cards for desktop searches runs into trouble when wording is ambiguous. In our example, it seems that Google understands our query to be something closer to “How long does it take, Google, to [get to] Index, [WA]?”

Fortunately, development of semantic search promises to inch ever closer to matching the meaning and understanding the context of searches and the searcher’s intent. Consistent improvements in machine learning allow more of your searches in 2017 to reflect the intent of your search rather than the face value of the words you have typed into the engine. While returning relevant search results has long been a goal of Google search, the rise of digital assistants and voice search has lit a new fire in the quest to teach machines to parse language in the same way as humans.

Progressive Web Apps

Google has created a streamlined way for business owners to build progressive web apps, mobile applications that integrate the in-app experience with web capabilities. In many ways, they are web pages that look and act like apps. The intent of progressive web apps is to keep users engaged with apps by:

  • Provided online and offline service
  • Drastically decreasing loading times
  • Eliminating the need for purchase and installation
  • Offering an app experience without the maintenance of an app

Progressive web apps are perhaps the first step toward creating seamless product and service shopping experiences without the need to download apps. Users can keep progressive web apps on the home screens of their mobile devices and load them instantly.

The goal is customer retention. According to Smashing Magazine, users are three times more likely to reopen a mobile application than a website, especially after receiving push notifications. If integrating the app experience with the web experience can make purchasing easier for users, SEO experts will need to focus efforts on driving more customers to those progressive web apps organically.

Video and Images Are Next

The Content Is King mantra is steadfast, but SEOs need to consider more than ever that content has a greater reach than text articles. Major search engines, too, are looking for ways to read and organize all types of content. The term content includes video, animations, and images as well as text. Quality videos and images are proven ways to increase customer engagement and retention, and SEO experts will need to find ways to optimize videos for search in 2017.

Multimedia works in all parts of the marketing funnel and matches the goals of SEO:

  • The intent to purchase of users who enjoy video ads increases by 97%
  • One-third of all online activity is encompassed by watching video
  • 87% of marketers are using video content

These incredible facts from HubSpot make the user preference for video and image content clear. Check out some of the ways marketers are using video content in 2016:

Branded Video Content on Social Networks

titanfall advertisement with video on facebook

Autoplay pushes social videos straight to the brain. When advertisements combine exciting content with beautiful presentation, customers watch – and buy.

Live Streaming

new york times live stream video facebook

Anyone can instantly live stream a video on lots of social networks. Companies can get on-the-spot engagement by sharing stories, information, or just entertaining audiences.

Background Video on Home Pages and Sales Pages

life of pi home page background video

Companies can capture attention instantly with moving backgrounds, then entice users to stay with text overlays or an in-video call to action.

GIFs everywhere

giphy home page with trending gifs

GIFs resonate with young audiences, and marketers are learning how to pull on their heartstrings with simple animations that celebrate their favorite people, movies, shows, and music.

Closer Ties for SEO and PPC

Ad-heavy search results mean that competition for top rankings in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising will likely push advertisers to improve the quality of their paid content. SEO experts must be ready to focus on improving quality scores for ads in 2017 as Google search moves toward a role as a PPC giant as well as an organic search engine giant.

Voice Search and Digital Assistants

The artificial intelligence that governs the functions of voice search and digital assistants is the focus of research for many of the companies developing such technologies, including Google. Digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant use artificial intelligence to attempt to understand natural language and harness that knowledge to produce useful information and resources for live people.

If they weren’t already, SEOs should look to improve relevance, usability, and permanence of content so that digital assistants and voice searchers can utilize the real language contained within the content to find the highest quality information.

What Should We Focus on in 2017?

In anticipation of an even more quickly changing search landscape, SEOs should focus on:

  • Crafting all SEO strategies and making design decisions based on mobile use
  • Building a video strategy that integrates with other marketing solutions
  • Sharpening PPC and paid search knowledge to keep customer rankings high in the paid sphere
  • Optimizing organic content to be found by digital assistants that understand real language

Don’t be afraid of change, be ahead of it, and remember: Make it for mobile.

Leverage Marketing can take you every step of the way through the SEO process – but we also do so much more. If you’re thinking about changing the way you market your business, let us guide you through it. Start by getting your hands on our 2017 Digital Marketing Budget Guide and find out what it will take to pull your marketing into 2017.

The Best and Worst of Call to Action Marketing

Writing call to action phrases for your website can be a tricky task. It seems like it should be simple to throw together a few quick words for a call to action to engage customers on your site, but call to action marketing is more of a science than most people think.

If you’re not sure what an example of a call to action (otherwise known as a CTA) would be, chances are you’ve clicked on one at some point before. A call to action phrase is a lure that turns site visitors into leads that your company may eventually nurture into customers. Whether it’s the button asking a reader to commit to that newsletter signup or the red letters asking an online shopper to act now for the lowest price, the best call to action will invite a lot of value with only a few words.

On the other hand, a bad CTA can act as a barrier in front of your leads. Having poorly written or badly designed CTAs hanging out on your site is sometimes the only thing preventing success, and you may not even know it.

We’ve put together a list of a few great and terrible CTAs that are sprinkled across the internet. Beware – this may convince you to step up your website’s game. Read on!

Worst: “Submit”

Submit Button Call to Action

Using almost any call to action phrase is better than using this word. Short of including no CTA at all, using the word “Submit” is the lowest you can go. No one gets particularly excited about submitting something – it makes most of us think about paying bills or filling out long forms, and no one wants to do that more than they absolutely must. There are better ways to compel a customer to follow through. Essentially, you need to come up with a better way to say “Please hit this button.” Such as…

Best: “Sign Up Now” or “Get Your Free Estimate”

Get your free analysis call to action

Instead of using formal, tedious language that simply states what the button is for, use purposeful language. Good call to action phrases tend to accomplish at least one of these goals:

  1. Tell the customer exactly what to do.
  2. Tell the customer what they’ll be getting when they commit.

A command such as “Sign Up Now,” “Take a Virtual Tour,” or “View Our Top Models” explicitly tells the customer to take action. And “Get Your Free Estimate,” “View Our Free Whitepaper,” and “Claim Your Tickets Today” are CTAs that offer both a command and a promise of value to the clicker.

Worst: “Buy Now” or “Join Now”

Buy now call to action

This command is not ALWAYS a CTA no-no. If placed strategically on your site, a “Buy Now” as a call to action phrase can be surprisingly powerful. However, placement is everything. You can’t ask too much of your customers too soon. You should consider the buyer’s journey as they browse your site or look through the search results. Commanding users to “Buy Now” on your homepage or a search engine result page can sometimes be overkill, as customers may not be ready to make a commitment at an early stage of product or service exploration. This is especially true if what you are offering is expensive or if the purchase commitment is otherwise high. In other words, if you sell $0.99 kazoos, asking them to “Buy Now” is asking a lot less of the customer – and is likely to be slightly more effective– than asking someone to buy your $60K car immediately.

The type of customer that usually comes to your site is also a factor to consider before adding the words “Buy Now” as your call to action. Do your shoppers tend to browse a lot, do a lot of research, or consume large amounts of information before converting? Or do they tend to navigate straight to what they need and buy it right then? Check Google Analytics to get a better idea about what customers do and search for on your site.

Best: “Get Started” or “Learn More”

Learn more call to action

If your customer requires a little more convincing than a colorful button, there are still lots of good ways to incorporate call to action marketing that is more appropriate to their stage of the shopping process. Use informational commands, such as “Learn More,” to draw your customer further into your site without implying any serious commitment. If you offer a free service or benefit, such as a rewards program or consultation, draw customers towards a profitable conversion with call to action phrases such as “Get Started,” and follow up with a simple option such as a free sign-up. You’ll still be able to glean some vital customer information without asking for as much of a commitment from the shopper.

Worst: Mobile Unfriendliness

What’s worse than trying to do something quickly on your mobile device, only to find that the web page to which you’ve navigated requires messy zooming? Or that the site has confusing navigation options that are difficult to click on a touchscreen? It’s annoying, it’s a hassle, and research shows that mobile unfriendliness will cause around 60% of browsers to bounce off your site. These kinds of statistics have been out for a while, and if you’re familiar with Google’s search algorithm, you’ll know that sites that haven’t been optimized to fit mobile devices have seen heavy organic search ranking penalties as well as high mobile bounces.

As far as call to action marketing goes, it doesn’t matter if you have the best call to action on earth is if your site isn’t responsive – the game is over before the user even sees the CTA. Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Google has a handy mobile friendliness tool that you can use to check and see if your site is good to go. Even if your site is mobile friendly, it is all too easy to stuff your CTAs in sidebars, headers, and footers, which users may not always be able to see or access on mobile devices.

Best: Responsive Formatting

In an age in which Google incorporates your site’s mobile friendliness into search rankings and users refuse to browse on mobile unfriendly sites, it is truly imperative that you convert to a responsive format. This may require you to switch to a new theme, template, content management system, or ecommerce platform, but the time and investment will pay off in better organic rankings and conversions.

Confident that your mobile-friendly site has no problems? Don’t get too passive– your site may be mobile-friendly, but it is still critical to make your call to action marketing efforts work for mobile formats. Make your CTA large, central, and colorful enough for every shopper to see. Try incorporating them strategically at the ends of content blocks to provide users with a seamless transition from information to conversion.


Have more questions about how to incorporate call to action marketing into your digital marketing strategy? Stressed about implementing a user-friendly site design? The Leverage team is here to help. Sign up for our newsletter or contact us directly, and we’ll be in touch with the latest and greatest for your site.

 

5 Awesome Holiday Landing Pages (and What They Teach Us)

The holidays are a time for home-cooked meals, family gatherings, and seasonally-appropriate landing pages.

All right, maybe the only people who are thinking about holiday landing pages are the marketers and business owners who are preparing their websites for the busy shopping season. But if you’re in that category, you know that landing pages, which visitors are directed to after clicking a link or ad, are a big deal. For businesses that rely on lead generation, landing pages capture lead information (such as a name and email) that can be used later. For ecommerce businesses, landing pages encourage visitors to click-through to an offer that will take them farther down the sales funnel.

I’m going to share some of the best Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas landing pages of the year so that we can all get some web design inspiration for our holiday-centric offers. Consider using some of these examples to create your own Christmas landing page template.

The North Face: Minimalist Design Makes the Message Clear

While some may grumble about winter weather, the team at the North Face—an activewear company known for their jackets—clearly loves it. This is the perfect season to show off their cold weather gear, and that’s exactly what they’re doing with their Holiday Adventure Gift Guide landing page.

North Face holiday gift guide landing page

This image is what you see above the fold. The North Face has chosen a winter landscape for their background, which fits their brand style (and the season) without appearing too busy or distracting. Because the sky in the image is a deep gray, the white text and CTA buttons almost seem to jump off the page. With three buttons that clearly segment the gift guide (into Women’s, Men’s, and Kids’ products), this holiday landing page makes it easy for viewers to click through to the section that best fits the person for whom they’re shopping.

Mulberry: Capture the Holiday Spirit with Bright Colors

Where the North Face uses muted background colors to draw the viewer’s eyes to their CTA buttons, Mulberry takes the opposite approach.

Mulberry Holiday Landing Page Purses

The luxury British fashion company chose a bold red background and four bright, monochromatic purses that instantly grab the viewer’s attention and put them in a festive frame of mind. The minimal copy in a white font creates a nice contrast with the red background, and the single Explore CTA button makes it obvious what the viewer should do next.

One nice thing about this bright and simple page is that it’s straightforward and inviting for people who might not know the Mulberry brand well but who are shopping for a fashion-conscious friend or family member. The purses featured on the page are a sample of what the brand has to offer, and the viewer knows that when they click Explore, they’ll be taken to a carefully curated gift section.

AO.com: Highlight a Strong Incentive

This AO.com holiday landing page is from last Black Friday, but it still serves as a great example for this upcoming shopping season.

AO Black Friday Lead Generation Landing Page

What I like about this page is that it offers up two strong incentives to get viewers to submit their name and email. First, it creates a sense of exclusivity by letting the user know that when they enter their email, they’ll get access to Black Friday deals before anyone else. If that’s not enough of an incentive, the copy below the sign-up form lets readers know that when they submit their email, they’ll automatically be entered into a contest to win a 50” TV. Filling out a short contact form seems like a small task when there’s a big-ticket item on the line.

Hubspot: Know Your Audience

Hubspot might not be the most obvious candidate to run a holiday campaign: they’re a B2B business that provides CRM, sales, and marketing software. However, they recognized that marketing agencies would be prepping for Cyber Monday and decided to draw those potential customers in by creating a #HolidayHub microsite.

Holiday Hub and Cyber Monday Countdown

The landing page for the hub features a countdown to Cyber Monday, which creates a sense of urgency and reminds marketers that it’s time to take action.

Hubspot Holiday Landing Page Downloads

Below the fold, Hubspot offers a selection of valuable holiday marketing resources that are available to download. The content on this page is clearly targeted to ecommerce businesses (and the marketing agencies that work with them). By using their landing page to hone in on this niche audience, Hubspot can deliver appealing resources that will entice qualified leads to submit their email addresses.

Club W: Address and Solve a Common Holiday Problem

Copywriters know that one good way to appeal to an audience is to address a problem they have and offer a solution. Club W, a wine delivery service, does this in just two lines on their corporate gift landing page.

Club W Holiday Landing Page

By saying “This year, give a gift everyone will love,” Club W implies that it can be challenging to pick out a gift that will appeal to a large audience—especially when you need to get a gift for a corporate client or partner. Their clever second line “(Hint, it’s Wine)” provides the solution. Below this copy, Club W offers a couple of options for viewers to click on: curated wine gift packs or gift cards for a monthly wine club. Holiday problem solved!

So What Should You Do for Your Holiday Landing Page?

As the examples above reveal, there isn’t a single formula for creating holiday landing pages. Different approaches can be equally effective, depending on the brand on the audience. As you create your Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Christmas landing page template, keep the following points in mind:

  • As you develop a festive design, keep your brand aesthetic (and voice) in focus.
  • Keep it minimal. Your landing page is meant to direct visitors to take a specific action, whether that’s filling out a form or purchasing a product. Don’t include too many CTAs or distracting elements.
  • Give visitors a good reason to click through or fill out your form. There are plenty of other businesses offering holiday incentives like free shipping, so think about how you can make your offer stand out.
  • Know who you’re targeting. As a B2C, you may be creating landing pages to appeal to consumers who are shopping for their loved ones. As a B2B, you may be creating landing pages that offer resources for businesses as they prepare for the holidays.
  • Use your landing page copy to quickly explain to your visitors how you’re going to solve a problem for them, whether that means helping them find a present for that hard-to-shop-for person or giving them early access to Black Friday deals.

Keep these points in mind to create powerful holiday landing pages that drive your visitors to sign up or buy.

Want help generating leads, increasing click-through rates, and more beyond this holiday season? Contact our team of digital marketing experts for advice.

Prep Your Website for Black Friday: A Marketing Checklist [UPDATED]

This post was originally published on October 8th, 2015. We’ve updated it with several new checklist items for 2016.

With Black Friday coming up on November 25th and Cyber Monday following right on its heels, your holiday marketing is no doubt well underway. In all the chaos, it’s easy to overlook some of the small but impactful online marketing tactics you can use to boost sales on two of the biggest shopping days of the year. With that in mind, we’ve put together a marketing checklist of things to do in the weeks leading up to Black Friday.

Download a PDF of our Black Friday Checklist

Web Design

o Update homepage for Black Friday.

Make sure anyone who lands on your homepage in the days leading up to Black Friday/Cyber Monday knows about the deals you’re going to offer. Add relevant banners and calls-to-action, change your home page header/hero image to highlight your Black Friday offers, and consider adding a countdown clock to build excitement. You may also want to create a banner that you can place at the top of all pages to remind shoppers about your deals.

o Simplify forms and checkout process.

Take some time before the holidays to go through your checkout process and identify steps where shoppers are likely to drop out. Eliminate unnecessary form fields and try to minimize the clicks it takes to complete a transaction.

Compress and resize any images that are weighing down your pages. 

Unnecessarily large images can slow down page load times, and online shoppers aren’t going to wait patiently for your site to load. Take some time before Black Friday to check images on your home page and most popular product pages, and either resize or compress high-resolution images.

o Test site to ensure all pages are mobile-friendly.

By now you likely know how important it is to have a website that looks good on mobile devices. Even if you think your site is fully responsive or adaptive to mobile, it’s worth testing individual pages—especially new ones you’re adding ahead of Black Friday. Enter page URLs into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test bar to determine if all pages meet Google’s criteria for mobile-friendly design.

o Set up live chat.

There are dozens of live chat systems available online, and you can easily set one up by adding a piece of HTML code to all the pages where you want the chat window to appear. If you don’t have a system in place yet, install one before your big holiday sales days so that potential customers can quickly get help from one of your team members.

Email Marketing

o Craft emails to build anticipation for your sales.

Schedule your emails so that subscribers receive an initial announcement about your holiday sale, followed by several messages designed to build anticipation and keep you top of mind. Consider revealing some of the upcoming Black Friday sales prices on top-selling items, or send out a sales offer that is exclusive to email subscribers.

A/B test subject lines.

Remember: before you can get readers to click on email links leading to great Black Friday deals, you have to convince them that opening your email is worth their time. Businesses flood their subscribers’ inboxes with promotional messages around the holidays (MailChimp delivered 1.2 billion emails last Black Friday), so you need to make sure your messages stand out. Be clear about the deals you’re offering in your subject line, and A/B test different subject line variations to see what gets the most engagement.

o Write copy for transactional emails.

Tailor order confirmations, abandoned cart notices, and other automated email messages to your Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. Consider adding copy about upcoming holiday sales to encourage visitors to shop with you again before the end of December.

o Write emails to remind shoppers that your sale is about to end.

Create a segmented list of email subscribers who haven’t purchased anything on Black Friday or Cyber Monday and send an email several hours before the end of sale, reminding them that there is limited time to take advantage of your discounts.

o Test email links.

Before running any of your holiday email campaigns, take a few minutes to make sure none of your email links are broken and that all links go to the appropriate landing page.

o Create landing pages that align with email CTAs.

It can be jarring for email subscribers to click on a call-to-action that takes them to a landing page with a completely different offer—and shoppers aren’t as likely to convert if the initial CTA and landing page don’t match. Check the copy in your email message and on the landing page to ensure it’s coherent.

SEO

Make sure you’ve enabled ecommerce tracking. 

If you sell products through your site, you should absolutely set up Ecommerce Tracking in Google Analytics (if you haven’t already). Ecommerce Tracking will give you more insights in your customers’ behavior patterns so that you can better tailor future sales to your audience. If you’re not sure how to set up Ecommerce Tracking, check out our step-by-step guide.

o Check page load times.

Go to the Site Speed tab in Google Analytics to check the load times of your web pages. On average, people will give a page three seconds to load before abandoning the site, so if you have pages with slower load times, you’ll need to fix them. If you’re not sure what’s causing the slow load time, have your marketing team perform an audit.

o Create landing pages for sales categories.

Include ‘Black Friday’ or other holiday-related keywords in your title tags, header tags, and content so that the landing page has a better chance of being served to web users who enter relevant search queries.

o Research long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords will have a lower search volume than more general Black Friday-related keywords, but they will also have less competition and are more likely to attract shoppers who are looking for your specific products or services.

o Pitch products to influencers who curate gift guides.

Backlinks from high-quality third-party sites are a ranking factor for SEO, so it’s always a good idea to make connections with bloggers and journalists in your industry who may be interested in sharing your content. Lots of sites begin publishing holiday gift guides in November and December, so try pitching some of your best gift products to relevant sites. In addition to the SEO-value of backlinks, having your products featured in gift guides can also help drive traffic to your site.

o Local brick-and-mortars: check your online listings.

If you own a brick-and-mortar as well as an online store, go through all the major online directories to make sure your address, phone number, and other important information are up-to-date. If you have not yet claimed your business on Google, do so now using Google My Business.

PPC

o Set up meeting with your PPC team.

Keyword bids will be high around Black Friday because this is one of the busiest shopping times of the year, so you need to get the most out of your budget by choosing the keywords that are most likely to lead to conversions for your business. Unless you are a PPC professional, you should meet with your PPC team to discuss strategies.

o Create PPC campaigns tailored to consumers who are researching before Black Friday.

Most Black Friday/Cyber Monday shoppers will be researching deals in advance so that they can get the products they want before they are out of stock. In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, tailor the copy in your PPC ads to your customers’ research phase.

Prepare ads for several top sellers if you think you may run out of inventory.

Have you been promoting a particular product heavily? Is it possible that this product will be out of stock before the end of Black Friday? If so, write ad copy for several other top sellers so that you will have ads ready to go if you have to pull the ads for an out-of-stock item.

o Retarget web users who have already visited your site.

If you have a retargeting pixel set up on your site, start remarketing to customers who have previously browsed your site. This is a good way to stay top of mind and announce deals to people who may not be on your mailing list but who have shown interest in your products.

Use day parting and bid scheduling to maximize your paid search budget. 

Look at your historical data to see which times of day you’re likely to see the highest levels of traffic and conversions. Allocate more of your paid search budget to the top-converting hours of the day to maximize your ROI.

Social Media Marketing

o Use Facebook and Twitter remarketing.

Retargeting pixels on your website aren’t just for PPC ads—you can also use them to create ads for custom audiences on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook even lets you serve ads to Lookalike Audiences—that is, people who are similar to your existing customers and therefore likely to be interested in your products. If you’ve never done this before, talk to your online marketing team about creating targeted social media ads before Black Friday.

o Create exclusive offers for followers on social media.

Offering exclusive discounts is a great way to reward your followers on social media—and to encourage those followers to recommend your social profiles to their friends and family.

o Put together holiday gift guides and share on social sites.

Use a design template site like Canva or Piktochart to create visually-appealing gift guides in different categories (e.g. ‘Stocking Stuffers’, ‘Gifts for Grillmasters’, etc.), and share those guides on your social channels. If you have a following on Pinterest, keep in mind that you can now create buyable pins that integrate with Magento, Bigcommerce, and IBM Websphere.

Use relevant holiday hashtags. 

Do some research into hashtags that are being used around Black Friday and think about how they pertain to your sale. You can, of course, use tags like #blackfriday and #cybermonday, but keep in mind that everyone else will be doing this as well. To stand out and get customers excited for your sale, consider using additional hashtags related to your store name and location. Let social media users know they can get updates on your sale (or maybe even get entered into a contest) by using your business-specific hashtag.

o Make sure at least one team member can monitor Twitter on Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

If you have an active presence on Twitter, you should assign at least one team member to monitor this social site for mentions. If customers are tweeting at you because they have a question or complaint related to your sales, you’ll want to be able to respond quickly.

Having trouble with any of the action items above? We’d be happy to help you check all the boxes on your holiday marketing to-do list. Contact us to get started.

How Your Healthcare Practice Can Reach New Patients Online

Want to bring new patients to your healthcare practice? You’d better have an online presence. Consumers expect to be able to do just about everything online, and that includes looking up health-related information and making medical appointments.

One of the most important components to consider when reaching new patients online is having a website full of patient-friendly information. In addition to building up your website, it can be valuable to engage with potential patients on the social media networks and review sites they’re most likely to frequent.

Need more tips to get started? Below are five ways your healthcare practice can gain new patients online.

Optimized Health Practice Websites

Medical Center Website on Mobile

According to a recent Pew Research Center report on U.S. smartphone use, 68% of respondents have used a mobile device to search for information about a health condition. Because of this trend, mobile design is an important component to acquiring new patients online. Responsive Web Design (RWD) is a web development process that allows patients to view your medical practice site across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices without lag or disruptive design elements. This approach will enable your medical practice to provide a rich site experience and empower patients with quality information about symptoms and health conditions when they need it most. Another benefit of having responsive web design is that users will be easily able to access one of the most important components of your site: the contact form. Optimized contact forms should be quick to fill out and should only request essential information needed to follow up with the patient.

Health Content

Google reports that around 1% of all search queries they receive are about health symptoms. Searching for illness indicators to self-diagnose is all part of the digital patient journey. However, one of the biggest challenges for some healthcare practices is providing easy-to-understand health information to prospective patients. An easy way to draft and implement content for your medical practice site is by focusing on common health conditions first and then moving upwards into more complex illnesses. A content strategy for your site should include critical information about diagnostic methods, possible outcomes, and ways your medical practice can provide solutions. Having this type of search engine-optimized content will allow your medical practice to gain new patients who are seeking health-related information.

Quality Care through Online Services

A recent 2016 Physician Compensation Report found that most doctors spend around 13 to 16 minutes with each patient. With such limited time, your medical practice can face challenges meeting the new demands of quality care. An effective way to improve efficiency through your website is by enabling online users to submit documents such as patient questionnaires and other intake forms electronically. Adding this feature to your medical practice site can help speed patient wait times and improve overall satisfaction. Another way to improve the quality of care and gain new patients is to provide additional online support after the consultation. Website content about common procedures, chronic illnesses and medication guides can empower patients to make necessary recommendations, support adherence to treatments, and improve outcomes.

Social Media Engagement

Embrace social media and acquire new patients by building relationships and credibility. Many healthcare practices avoid using social media because of the liability of patient information and other legal considerations. However, it is possible to create protocols for social media communication that are compliant with all regulations and state laws. For a full list checklist on how to use social media for your healthcare practice, check out the Forbes guide.

Online Reviews

Doctor on Laptop

Healthcare review sites such as ZocDoc and Yelp are important to patient acquisition. In fact, a Software Advice survey found that 77% of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor. Review sites can provide your practice with a wealth of information regarding patient experiences and overall satisfaction with the services provided by your practice. This valuable feedback can be used to make improvements in quality of care and present to prospective patients the key benefits of choosing your practice over others.

Considering technology use, search trends, and emerging services can help your healthcare practice get new patients and retain existing ones. Your website should serve as a portal with the most reliable and up-to-date health information. You can make that information accessible using proven and reliable web optimization strategies that connect new patients with your services.

For more information on establishing your medical practice website, contact Leverage Marketing and ask about our web design and content creation services.

Key Takeaways:

  • Creating your site using responsive web design will help patients reach your site across all devices. This is especially important for patients who want to book an appointment on mobile devices without any lag or annoying web design problems.
  • Before looking for a doctor, patients first search for health symptoms to self-diagnose. Having easy-to-read content about common health conditions, symptoms, treatments, and potential outcomes will help your site reach those patients.
  • A higher level of service can be achieved by taking advantage of timesaving processes such as electronic patient questionnaires and providing additional patient education sources.
  • Don’t be afraid of using social media for your practice. Establishing proper protocols that comply with regulations and laws can help you establish relationships with new patients.
  • Analyzing patient reviews on sites like ZocDoc and Yelp will help you gain a better perspective of your practice. Use positive and negative reviews to come up with ways to improve the overall patient experience.

Why Mobile Marketing Matters to Your Brick-and-Mortar Store

As a local business owner, it might seem to you as if web design and mobile marketing are the domains of ecommerce companies. After all, your primary goal is to get customers to make purchases in your brick-and-mortar store, not off of your website.

However, even if you don’t sell any products or services online, local mobile marketing still matters to your business, and you need to have a mobile-optimized website. According to the latest Pew research, almost 7 in 10 Americans now own a smartphone, and the majority of these smartphone owners have used their mobile devices to find information about local businesses. You’ve probably experienced this yourself—maybe you’ve pulled out your phone to search for a good lunch spot close to work, or you’ve searched for nearby bike repair shops after getting a flat tire.

As you no doubt know from your own mobile search experiences, people who look up local business information on their phones or tablets are typically motivated to take some sort of follow-up action. In fact, one study found that 55% of mobile-influenced retail conversions take place within an hour of the original search.

Your website serves as an online storefront, and it can be a powerful tool in getting customers through the door. However, a poorly designed website can create a bad first impression, and if mobile users struggle to find the information they’re looking for on your site, they’re much more likely to go with a competitor.

By developing a mobile strategy for your retail or hospitality business, you can make sure your potential customers get the right first impression and make the leap from your website to your brick-and-mortar location. Below are a few tips to help you improve your local mobile marketing.

5 Tips to Improve Customers’ Mobile Experience

Choose Your Mobile Platform: Site vs. App

Facebook and other apps

There are two primary ways that users could find a business on their mobile device: they could open a web browser and go to a mobile site, or they could install and open an app. In most cases, a mobile website will be your best bet—it’s easier to create, and two-thirds of mobile phone users say they prefer getting local business information from a site rather than an app. However, an app might make sense if you are able to use it to provide additional benefits to customers—for example, you could use an app to send push notifications to users about the latest discounts and specials available at your store.

Test Site for Responsive Design

Responsive design is a popular choice when optimizing a website for mobile because it allows web content to adapt to fit any screen size. If you use responsive design for your site, perform your own user experience test by going to the site on your phone or tablet and making sure all pages are fully responsive and easy to navigate. And if you own a restaurant, make sure mobile users can view your menu without downloading a cumbersome PDF.  Due to the relatively large file size, PDFs often download slowly on mobile devices, which can be frustrating for mobile users.

Make Key Information Prominent

When consumers access your website on the go, they’re most likely looking for some essential information. According to an eMarketer survey, a physical address is the most commonly searched piece of information about your business, followed by map and driving directions, open hours, and phone number. Make sure this information is readily available on your mobile site—consumers don’t want to waste time scrolling or navigating through different pages to find what they need. Business name, address, and phone number should appear across all pages, with a consistent format (this is important for search engine indexing as well as making it easy for people to find key information).

Promote In-Store Deals

If you’re competing with online retailers, use your mobile site to convince web users that it’s well worth their while to visit your physical location. Prominently display special discounts or deals that consumers can’t get online, or highlight additional benefits associated with going to a brick-and-mortar location. For example, if you own a running apparel store, write website copy that explains how customers can test shoes out by running on your treadmills and find the perfect fit with the help of a running footwear expert.

Pay Attention to Local SEO

Local Search Marketing

In addition to optimizing your website so that it looks great on all screen sizes, you’ll also need to focus on technical and on-page SEO so that local shoppers can find your site when they enter relevant search terms on their mobile device. Here are a few strategies to try:

  • Optimize your copy with location-based keywords (e.g. ‘San Diego chiropractor’)
  • Make sure you have claimed and filled out your listing in online business directories (e.g. Google My Business)
  • Encourage customers to share their feedback on review sites that typically rank highly, such as Yelp
  • Create local content that is relevant to your business, such as a neighborhood guide or list of upcoming local events
  • Make sure your landing pages are optimized with location information

These tips provide a high-level overview of what goes into a solid mobile strategy for local retail and hospitality businesses. To learn more about how you can improve your online storefront through web design and SEO, contact our team of digital marketing experts.

4 Ways to Kickstart Your Ecommerce Sales

Establishing relationships with customers in ecommerce can pose several challenges, especially when your business is competing with larger retailers. Savvy shoppers are equipped with mobile devices that can compare products in a global market, and this has changed the way many businesses price inventory and offer discounts. However, there are ways to incentivize customers through rich online experience that differentiate your business from even the most powerful online retailers. Below are four customer incentives ideas that can help you establish trust and jumpstart ecommerce sales.

Price Comparisons

Woman performing price comparison in a store

Never underestimate the power of consumer price comparison tools. According to a recent ecommerce report, 52% of online shoppers check or compare prices on travel products and services, as well as consumer electronics. Price comparison tools such as search engines and mobile applications enable shoppers to seek the lowest prices across multiple ecommerce sites based on brands, product categories, and even location. These tools have made it difficult for some smaller ecommerce sites to compete with powerful online retailers. However, consider the following tips to stay competitive and increase ecommerce sales though price comparisons tools:

  • Analyze the Competition: Search for online competitors offering the same brands or similar product categories, and take note of strengths and weaknesses. Do they offer a better shopping experience? Do they offer better terms of service? Researching top competitors directly will help you tailor a competitive strategy for your ecommerce site, especially when the market is saturated and you’re not the only one offering a specific product or service.
  • Update Prices: While you may not be able to compete directly on price with larger online retailers, you must remain competitive across similar competitors. If your ecommerce site offers a wide range of price points, research popular products and trends to determine which items consumers are searching for online. Choosing a select few stock keeping units (SKUs) or services will allow you to focus on a particular brand or product category, instead of your entire inventory. By taking this approach to updating prices, you will be able to develop a competitive pricing strategy to promote and incentivize new and existing customers.
  • Bridge the Gap: If you can’t compete purely on price, offer an exceptional shopping experience and customer service. Online shoppers want to be able to access products and services without any hassle. For an ecommerce site, the checkout process is a vital component that can make the difference between a sale and an abandoned shopping cart. Streamline your checkout process by incorporating social media application program interfaces (APIs) to establish new accounts or to streamline payment processes. If your site experience is solid, focus on providing exceptional customer service by responding to customer questions and requests as soon as you receive them. Building trust and gaining positive reviews online through swift customer service actions will help differentiate your ecommerce site.

Free Shipping 

ecommercecontent

Customer incentives such as free or discounted shipping on items sold on your ecommerce site is a crucial step to increase ecommerce sales. A recent 2016 retail report highlighted that 9 out of 10 customers would shop more online if free shipping is offered by ecommerce sites. While most small businesses may find it difficult to absorb the cost of shipping, incorporating newsletter registrations, follow up customer reviews, or linking social media accounts to free shipping incentives ensures that your business receives something in return. There are also ways to reduce the cost of shipping by negotiating with multiple carriers on pricing schedules based on volume. In essence, the more packages that you ship, the more power you have to negotiate lower shipping rates for your valued customers.

Mobile Integration

Creating a seamless shopping experience between desktop and mobile is essential to increase e-commerce sales among new customers. Mobile retail ecommerce in the U.S. alone is predicted to increase to $130.92 billion in 2016, up $44.75 billion from 2015 according to a recent market report. Having a fluid and rich mobile shopping experience will ensure that your customers are able to browse products and services without annoying design issues. Incorporating a simple and uncluttered mobile user interface (UI) is a way to make it easier for customers to browse items on multiple screen sizes without lag. The checkout should also be easily accessible on the mobile UI while eliminating the use of multi-page processes that can result in abandoned carts.

Social Media 

Having your ecommerce business on social media is essential to building meaningful relationships with new and existing customers. According to a recent study, 40% of global consumers ages 16 to 24 reported using social media platforms such as Facebook to research products before making a purchase. 30% of the general population also reported similar social media product research behavior. What this means for ecommerce is that you must engage your audience with your unique brand story that ties into the products or services sold on your site.  Once you establish a relationship with your target customers, social platforms will allow you to offer ecommerce incentives such as discounts, promotions, and news about your products or services in a meaningful and engaging manner.

Offering online incentives to kickstart sales is only one step in building trust with your customers. Finding a unique brand identity and incorporating the story across desktop, mobile, and social is crucial to differentiating your ecommerce site from the competition. Ultimately, hiring a professional marketing agency to create a customized mobile responsive ecommerce site with integrated content strategies can help increase online visibility for your business.

Building a Strong Brand Online

Does your company have a strong brand presence online? If not, it’s time to start thinking about what you can do to change that.

Building a strong brand online can have far-reaching positive effects on your business. With consumers and businesses alike increasingly seeking products and services online, your brand experience should encompass several key elements that help your company achieve the ultimate goal: profit.

For many small and large businesses, unfortunately, online branding falls short, as it is sometimes difficult to justify and prove to upper management that allocating funds towards a holistic online brand experience matters to the bottom line.

A good way to change perception is by reinforcing the idea that website branding is an asset that adds value and differentiates the company from its competitors. To help you get started, we’ll look at the definition of brand equity and how to add value to a new or relatively unknown brand.

What is Brand Equity?

Brand equity is an intangible business asset that adds value to a product or service in the mind of the consumer in the competitive marketplace. In other words, the owner of a well-known brand name has the potential to make more money with that recognized and established brand than with a lesser-known brand or a generic equivalent.

The role of brand equity encompasses all aspects of a business. For example, having strong brand equity can make it easier for your company to launch new product lines or services, since the consumer or target already has an established perception about the added value your brand has over the competition. Building brand equity for a product, service, or company can be achieved by making online brand experiences memorable, distinctive, and with strong positive attributes and associations that reinforce perceived quality, and brand preference in the mind of the consumer or target.

Online Brand Building from the Bottom Up

A great starting point to building brand equity for your company, product, or service online is by starting from the bottom of the pyramid. The Consumer Based Brand Equity (CBBE) model encompasses the key components needed to build strong brands. If your brand is relatively new, it is important that you begin by assessing your brand’s salience.

CBBE

In the CBBE model, brand salience refers to the likelihood that your brand is considered or noticed in the mind of the consumer when they are making purchase decisions. Building brand salience online can be achieved by developing a memorable brand identity that gives consumers or targets a strong point of reference that can be easily remembered.

You can start brainstorming and developing a brand identity by assessing the following:

  • What is your business or organization about?
  • What problem do you solve for the desired customer?
  • What is it about your company or organization that sets you apart from competitors?
  • Is there a unique story behind your business?
  • What are the top three adjectives that best describe your company?
  • What is your company vision?

Answering these questions will help establish the foundation to build your brand online. Doing internal company research such as interviews and surveys is one way to find the answer to these questions. Additionally, hiring a professional marketing company can help speed up website development and content strategies that build strong brand equity for your company.

Web Design Is NOT Dead

Sergio Nouvel, a designer in the Latin American sphere of technology, recently published an article for UX Magazine outlining why he thinks web design is dead. Among his reasons were the templatization of web design for inexperienced hopefuls and trends of branding toward social media and mobile app use.

However, it’s important for companies, marketers, designers, and users to understand that many of these new ways of consuming content are simply additions, and not replacements, to the proven power of a website and its design. Web designers have nothing to fear; user experience and web design can work hand in hand to create complete content experiences for users all over the world.

Let’s take a closer look at Sergio’s reasoning for the death of web design one by one:

Modular Website Building

Just like getting a mobile home and laying on a foundation at a wonderful discount, new business owners and amateur web designers can create entire websites from beautiful, responsive templates that have been laid out for them already. The cost is usually marginal and the time it takes to create a working website is nearly nonexistent compared to the work put into professional web design.

But creating a design in minutes based on a professional look is a sure way to make sure your brand blends in with the rest – extremely quickly. Templates are cheap for a reason: They save time and effort, but ask you to sacrifice usability and character in exchange. Templates restrict the designer’s ability to create a seamless user experience and optimize the page for use by real people as well as search engines. You’ll need a professional site designed by a professional web designer to make any impact on customers and rank in any search engine.

No More Web Design Innovations

Responsive design and parallax are poor examples of the lack of web design innovations. Responsive design was born out of necessity, and parallax is more of an experiment in possibility than a viable way to catch the user’s attention.

We’ve barely touched on the possibilities of the web. The masters of science still have to craft devices capable of harnessing blazing fast data transfer rates before we can realize the true potential of websites. Even if the code of mobile apps is more flexible than the age-old combo of HTML and CSS, we won’t be able to truly grasp the potential of that code until every website is an app and every app is a website. And even then, won’t web design and UX design really be the same thing?

Automation and AI Are Ahead of Web Design

Even if artificial intelligence like that of The Grid is able to create a semantic understanding of what you want out of your website, we still don’t have the technology to truly mimic the human brain.

Just look at the issues facing Google’s semantic search. Semantics is a concept far too advanced for us to simulate it properly any time soon. Who’s to say that an AI designed website is really perfected for use by actual customers? Web design requires more than just the skill to make a web page look pretty – you need to create a page that speaks to a real person, and real people are still the best at doing that.

Facebook Pages Will Replace Business Pages

It may be true that more users are relying on Facebook pages to connect with businesses – but more doesn’t mean a lot. The pages that Facebook has templated for businesses also aren’t as user-friendly as web pages – nor as easily navigable.

It would take a major shift in the structure of Facebook’s business pages to make them viable as a replacement for business websites. Businesses would need more options for customization to be able to brand correctly, and they will eventually want to be able to curate content in their own way. In the end, even Facebook pages would be just a locked down version of web pages, and web design would still need to step in to create memorable brands and products.

Mobile Makes Web Browsing Difficult

Actually, mobile really does make browsing pages difficult. But people use their smartphones and tablets for a lot of different things, and it’s not always to look at web pages.

Certainly, it may be less than ideal to use a mobile device to access a web page with the data you’re seeking, but there are few apps that are any better at delivering that information. The nature of touch screen navigation for modern mobile devices simply means that unless there’s some clever innovation that makes typing obsolete, mobile devices are in no position to replace computers, where websites (and web design) still rule.

Web Services and Push Content Are Rising

There really is a saturation of content on the Internet. The amount of data available to users is ludicrous, and the percentage of that data that is completely useless is even more unbelievable. But the good, useful information that makes web services and content consumption possible is still placed on web pages – and people prefer that those pages encourage them to read. That’s where web design steps in – no matter how well-integrated services become with other services, there will still need to be a home for all of the accessible information to belong, and that information needs to be beautiful and readable.

UX Design Will Take Over

Web design is alive, and so is UX design, and there’s no reason for them to be mutually exclusive. It’s rash to jump to conclusions that certain technologies are obsolete if they are still growing and show no signs of stopping.

No matter how savvy of a marketer or designer you may be, none of us are fortune tellers, and it’s unwise to discourage journeymen of a medium in its prime from mastering and evolving their craft. As for brands considering setting web design aside – do so at your own peril.

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