10 Tips for Creating an Engaging Business Blog

Business blogging is a powerful tool which when used correctly, can impact your marketing significantly. Here are 10 recommendations on creating a successful business blog:

  1. Set Goals
    Have complete knowledge about your content marketing, social media and blogging goals. Make sure the goals are specific, measurable and achievable.
  2. Define Your Target Audience
    Defining your target audience personas will help you create valuable content based on their content interests. Be consistent and appeal to their pain points.
  3. Plan with a Content Calendar
    Great blog posts don’t spring up out of the blue without proper planning. An established content calendar helps ensure regular, streamlined content flow through the year.
  4. Create a Content Marketing Plan
    Increase your visibility by creating content. If your content is good, increased visibility will translate into views and leads. Promote your blog through cross promotion initiatives on social media, your website and online paid advertising. Also incorporate social sharing buttons on your blog pages for increased distribution and engagement.
  5. Assign Adequate Resources
    A successful blog needs resources: to generate quality content, for creative work (images, design, formatting etc.), to work on the editing and marketing your content.
  6. Work on Content Optimization
    Your blog is a major contributor to your search rankings. Optimize your content by using relevant non-brand keywords. Integrate your blog’s URL into your company site URL which helps in branding and further search optimization. Also, make it easy for people to access your blog from your website and vice versa. Lastly, structuring your content into short paragraphs will help visitors read your content.
  7. Brand Your Blog
    Ensure your blog is consistent with your brand identity, including brand colors, logo, font etc.
  8. Connect Your Blog to Relevant Product/Service Pages
    Make it easy for blog readers to find your products linking your blog pages to the right products/services with a persuasive call-to-action and hyperlink.
  9. Include visuals
    Balance the presence of text on your blog with adequate visuals including photos, video and presentations.
  10. Measure Performance
    Track your blog’s effectiveness by measuring important performance metrics including the amount of traffic, leads and sales generated. Also measure the extent to which your blog is helping you cut costs in search and customer service.

15 Tips on How to Create a Successful eCommerce Website

Every website needs visitors and customers. Websites are specifically designed to serve customers. An effectively designed eCommerce website experiences high conversion rate and brings the desired profit for a business. However not all the web designers understand how to make the eCommerce websites conversion-friendly. Below are 15 tips to help you build a successful eCommerce website.

  1. Identify your prospects 
  2. Have simple navigation 
  3. Use high resolution product images (or stock photos)
  4. Include valuable product details
  5. Employ simple, clear and visually engaging call to actions (CTAs)
  6. Feature product and/or service videos 
  7. Have 24/7 visibility into your shopping cart 
  8. Offer free shipping as an option
  9. Avoid distractions 
  10. Leverage landing pages to feature valuable content, products and services  
  11. Offer special discounts or sales clearly
  12. Display your contact information easily and visibly
  13. Consider multiple transaction options
  14. Feature an effective and useful Site Search: Advanced
  15. Keep the site simple, engaging and focused on providing value 

Building an eCommerce website could be a challenging task, but the tips given above offer great help even to a newbie web designer. Try to improve the usability and shop-ability of eCommerce website that you are designing. Keep in mind that building a website is a never-ending process. You’ll need to keep updating your website on a continually ongoing basis.

Don’t Be a Troll (On or Offline)

Keep it classy and don’t be a troll. Here is a simple definition to help:

A troll is someone who posts a deliberately provocative message (normally to media) with the intention of causing disruption and generally a negative impact.

The Newsroom put it better – watch below.

10 Mistakes of Social Media Marketing

Lack of planning, overextending yourself and failing to engage your audience can effect your digital marketing and social media efforts. Social media has been around for a few years, but in that time marketers and researchers have made some pretty interesting findings.

Before, sites such as MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook merely connected you with friends online. Now, businesses have taken advantage of social networks, integrating social media into their strategies. This approach has yielded impressive results, but along with those successes have come growing pains of how to best use social media for business and marketing. Here are 10 mistakes of social media marketing.

1. Not Having A Plan

Any business looking into social media must establish a plan. Determine the goals and objectives for yourself and for each site. Are you trying to get 10% more followers each month? How many people would you like to interact with each week? Having a plan is a must.

2. Not Being Active

Activity matters, size doesn’t. It’s better to have an intimate group of engaged followers who continually interact with you than having thousands of passive followers who don’t. More followers and more traffic do not equal more money; you need the right people to engage with your business. 

3. Not Dedicating Time To All Of Your Pages

Each social media account should get a fair share of your attention. If you have time for a couple social media pages then use them to the fullest extend. Don’t start accounts on social media sites if you can’t maintain them.

4. Talking About Your Business In Every Post

Vary your posts so you’re not always talking about your business. Sometimes you have to think of your business as if it were a person. Don’t be like those people who constantly talk about how awesome they are. The more you force content, the less valuable and engaging your page will be.

5. Making Grammar & Spelling Mistakes

There is nothing engaging or attractive about spelling and grammar mistakes. Double-check and proofread your material before you send it out onto the Internet. Not only will errors make you look unprofessional, but they could also harm your credibility.

6. Not Analyzing & Tracking Analytics (Or Stats) 

Statistics are important in every marketing campaign. All social media networks offer analytics and reports to track page views, post reads, shares, activities, and more. Through these valuable data you can see which posts draw the best audience response so you can offer more value to them.

7. Having No Personality 

Social media gives your business the opportunity have a strong, unique, personable voice. Be open, insightful, witty – whatever your business brand should embody and deliver it.

8. Not Engaging Your Audience

Ask questions. Get feedback. Start discussions. Social media gives you something no other marketing channel offers: the opportunity to connect directly with your audience. Not only does this strengthen customer relationships, but it also brings more activity to your business.

9. Being Defensive Or Negative With Comments

The Internet includes the good, the bad and the ugly. Unfortunately, not everyone online is going to be nice or agree with your business. Be calm, professional and handle negative comments graciously. Remember, everything said online is public.

10. Giving Up

Building your social media presence takes time. Don’t give up. Stay active. Be patient. Your efforts will pay off; just give them time.

4 Common Mistakes with Retargeting Ads

Retargeted ads offer so much potential. When a consumer goes to look at a brand or publisher’s content, they’re making the first step in developing a relationship with the company. Retargeted ads, when done right, should still create that brand recognition, but it should also go a step further and encourage brand loyalty, advocacy, and community.

Here are 4 common issues with retargeted ads:

1. Being Static

Repetition can either increase or decrease brand awareness and overall result.  You don’t want to be static and repetitive, but rather memorable and engaging. Every time you have someone look at the same image it’s going to lose it’s impact – especially when it’s already a fairly standard-looking image. Today especially, people are used to a constant flow of new information. Each interaction so be valuable.

2. Lacking Amazing Content

People don’t like ads (or content) that don’t provide value or are engaging. The burden for advertisers is to create content that is just as, if not more, interesting as the competing content on the page. This means the content should be unique, visual, and useful to your audience – even if its usefulness is just that it’s entertaining.

3. No Interaction 

Give your audience the chance to get creative in your ad experience, and make sure that that content is shareable on their social channels. Often companies will create these experiences as standalone pages, but there’s no reason why creative content can’t live within ad units around the web.

4. Not Being Human-Focused 

Every ad needs to have a human element – something your audience can see and relate to. Chances are, your audience isn’t going to relate to the model you place on every website. People can relate to their friends though. And they can relate to stories from people that could be their friends. This is where user-generated content comes in. Using retargeting to connect with the users most likely to engage with your company is great. However, you’re not going to promote any kind of longterm relationship or engagement with a boring (and ignorable) ad.

6 Tips Creating a Valuable Online Survey

Because of the wide availability of opportunities to create surveys using free online survey software, you can quickly and easily gauge customer satisfaction or interest in new product offerings via customer surveys.

When using a free or subscription-based online tool to create a survey, however, you must be certain that the survey is carefully designed to yield the most valuable data.

  1. Preliminary Research

Online survey software makes it easy to create multiple surveys, which means you don’t need to create one survey to address all of your market research needs.

So know what it is you want to know:

  • What information do you need from your survey?
  • What do you plan or hope to do with that information?

Different goals require different types of data from customers or potential customers. For example, the information you gather prior to launching a new website will be different from the information you’ll solicit before adding a feature to an existing website.

  1. Determine the Target for your Survey

Almost all survey software enables you to enter an email list. How do you determine which people to include on that list?

Choose a specific group of people you want to survey:

  • Existing customers
  • Potential customers
  • Purchased sales leads

Customize your survey for the target group. When you create a survey for college students, for example, the tone and language will likely be different from that of a survey for senior business executives.

Writing questions tailored to your target audience will increase the response rate of your survey and result in more valuable data.

  1. Write Simple Questions

Regardless of your target, use simple, straightforward language in all of your questions.
Most participants will not take the time to read a question more than once.

Multiple-Choice Questions

If you choose to use multiple-choice responses, be sure that each choice is distinct. Participants should not have to consider two responses that seem almost identical.

It is acceptable to use questions with fewer (or more) response choices than other questions if doing so improves the clarity of a question.

Double-Barreled” Questions

Double-barreled questions actually query two different data points. An example would be “How important are cost and quality when considering a new car?”

This question asks for two pieces of information, the importance of cost, and quality. And so there is no way of knowing which feature respondents have in mind when they respond.

Break down such questions into two short and simple questions; doing so will lead to better data.

  1. Prioritize Your Questions

You have a choice of how to order your questions:

  • Randomized question order: Questions appear in a different order for each respondent.
  • Static question order: Questions appear in the same order for all respondents.

To best control the survey results, choose a static order.

Create a survey that starts with questions your respondents will find most interesting. Respondents are always most engaged when responding to questions about their own experiences. The most effective survey will therefore move from the most- to least-personalized questions.

Group questions. When you create a survey, also consider the groupings of your questions. Developing blocks of questions that address a single theme from different perspectives will return very specific data.

  1. Formatting

Most online survey software websites offer premium features that enable you to customize the layout of your survey. Be sure that there is ample white space between questions.

If possible, use survey software that presents each question individually, on its own page.

progress bar will help respondents measure their progress, without being overwhelmed by a long list of questions.

  1. Test Your Survey

Finally, test your survey before sending it out to. Survey testers should, of course, check the questions for spelling and grammar errors. Just as important, however, is to learn how respondents may react to the questions.

Key issues for survey testers to assess:

  • Are there any questions that are confusing?
  • Could any be misperceived as offensive?
  • Is there a logical order to the questions that allows respondents to build upon prior responses with more detailed data?

Once you’ve vetted and revised the survey based on the feedback from the testers, release the survey to your target group.

The next time you create a free online survey, keeping these tips in mind will ensure survey results are meaningful and valuable.

Types of Marketing Emails

  1. New Marketing Offers
  2. Form Submission/Thank-you emails
  3. Product/Service Information emails
  4. Digital Magazines or Newsletters
  5. Co-marketing emails
  6. Internal updates
  7. Lead Nurturing emails with complimentary content (e.g. eBooks)
  8. Dedicated sends (e.g. monthly welcome email,  email subscriber lists)
  9. Email Confirmations
  10. Event Invitations

9 Tips to Update Your Facebook Page

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If you haven’t reviewed or updated your Facebook Page recently, it’s time! Reviewing and updating your Facebook Page should be a scheduled re-occurrence. Here are 9 tips to help make sure your Facebook Page is optimized.

1.       Utilize Your Page Cover Image

This prime location provides you with an opportunity to get creative with your cover image. You can display your web address, add a call to action, or add something that draws attention to your tabs. Make sure to take advantage of this. A helpful hint is to not let the text on the cover photo exceed 20% of the cover image area.

2.       Assess Your Profile Image

Your profile image is the first thing a user sees when they look at your company page and your posts. The logo will help reinforce your brand, and be simple, clear and easily identifiable. It should not be a picture of the business owner and if possible a square-designed image should be used.  A helpful hint is that your profile image should be uploaded at a size of 180 x 180 pixels (Facebook downsizes it to 160 x 160 pixels).

3.       Review Your Tab Thumbnails

Your tab thumbnails appear below your cover image and lead to the apps on your Page. Optimize your tab thumbnails to capture your visitor’s attention. Do this by using simple fonts and use a shorten call to action.

4.       Use Facebook Apps

Facebook apps are a great ways to boost engagement on your Page. Apps offer your visitors incentives and an interactive platform, which can boost your engagement rates. They are mostly used for running contests and offering deals and should have a sign up list for eNewsletters. Helpful hint: be sure your contest and deal meets Facebook’s promotion guidelines.  

5.       Maximize Your About Short Description

Your Facebook Page utilizes a brief description of approximately 155 characters that displays below the cover image and the profile image at the top of your Page. Maximize your short description by providing a concise, informative statement, with your website URL.

6.       Complete The Entire About Section

Be sure to complete the Company Overview, Description, General Information and Mission sections. The About area(s) are indexed by search engines and should contain relevant keywords. Also, be sure to include your address in the General Information to optimize for local search.

7.       Categorize Your Business Correctly

If you’re a local business with a physical brick-and-mortar location, this is very important. You want customers to come and visit your place, so be sure to optimize your category and Check-in option.

8.       Check Your Notification Settings

It is recommended that companies and Page managers review your settings, managers and notification settings occasionally. Responding to comments, posts and messages I recommend keeping all notifications on. This is the key to good online customer service. If your community is engaging with you, be sure you respond to them!

9.       Activate Replies to Comments

This is a helpful hint as it’s a new Facebook feature (released in March 2013). When this feature is enabled, it allows Pages to offer their community the ability to reply to a specific comment in a thread resulting in better interaction around a comment.

10 Reasons Your Company Needs an Online & Social Media Strategy

1. Your competitors have a website and social media program 

If this doesn’t get you motivated I don’t know what will. Either way who doesn’t love some good ole’ fashion business competition.

2. Make your website the stronghold of your entire online marketing strategy

If you don’t think your website is ready to compete, update it now. What is the first thing people search for online? Your website.

3. Your business is open 24/7
Even though your open light may not be open 24/7, your website and online campaigns are – make it count.

4. Think of it as an online brochure
Updating content online is cheaper, quicker and easier than with print material. It also provides you with the ability to provide more comprehensive information and will save your on expensive printing and distribution costs.

5. Extend your reach to new global markets
Through the use of the internet (and an online strategy) you can be a global player and potentially increase your reach.

6. Provide improved customer service
Easily achieve this by providing answers to questions on your website, FAQ’s, online forms and documents. My personal favorite is when companies offer customer service via social media. Being available around the clock will help you increase accessibility, visibility and customer service as a result.

7. Be sure to present a professional image

A professional website and campaign, can help a small business build credibility, instill confidence and look bigger than you might actually be. Having a professional online look can also help you drive boost online sales and conversions.

8. Sell your products online
Selling your products through your website or social media accounts can be an affordable alternative to renting a traditional bricks-n-mortar business and can be a great way to start a business. Be sure to provide secure online purchasing (e.g. PayPal)

9. Generate leads
Gather customer information by using forms and surveys and let the leads come to you. I recommend building a marketing content strategy to complement this tip as well.

10. Create a 2-way discussion
Nothing beats social media, when trying to establish an interactive dialogue with your customers. People are busy and don’t like to wait for a response. There are many different social media platforms in use today. For help selecting the right one, read my previous blog post by clicking here.

Selecting the Right Social Network for your Small Business

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We know that as a small business you have to manage a limited, tight budget. All promotional and performance boosting initiatives, must be a calculated and strategic move and need to help drive growth. Online marketing, and social media, can help small business cut costs and the ability to showcase themselves. Both big brands and small businesses are now realizing that social media sites are invaluable marketing platforms. With millions of users online, it’s important for your company to choose the right social media channel. In an article by Emily Maltby and Shira Ovide (of the Wall Street Journal), not all social media tools can help your company grow. Here are 2 helpful and essential tips to help you choose the appropriate social media platform.

1.       Consider more than just site popularity

While Facebook is still considered to be the number one social network (over a billion monthly active users and over 600 million mobile users),  Twitter comes in second, with over 500 million registered users and 200 million active tweeters. YouTube has over a billion users and more than four billion views per day, but it is not considered to be a social media network by everyone. While LinkedIn only boasts approximately 200 million users it is also a preferred option to network professionally worldwide. It may be easy for business owners (and marketers) to select the top 2 (Facebook and Twitter), but it is important to consider many different social media a platforms as they all provide differing benefits. A few examples include: Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare, and Google+.

 2.       Find one that works

Benchmark, test and review – it’s that simple. The most important factor to consider when choosing what social media tool should be selected and used by a small business is its effectiveness. The company must consider how to tool will reflect the brand, the interests of the company and the products and the services provided.

Online and most importantly social media marketing can give your small business a personalized and affordable option to increase your exposure and to compete with your competitors. With professional social media profiles your company will look credible and engaging. Your SEO will also increase, which is an added bonus as well.

If you need help selecting the appropriate social media networks, please feel free to reach out to me directly – I’m fairly active on my various social media accounts.