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« Go Back | Posted in: - on May 5, 2014


An attractive, usable web design will help users spend more time on your site and trust you and your business more. If you want your visitors to associate you with quality, set yourself apart by avoiding these top mistakes in website design.

1. Poor Navigation

Help your users get around your site – or else they will leave and find the information they were looking for somewhere else. Navigation is expected to be on the top of the page below the header or on the left-hand side – if it is somewhere else, it needs to work harder to be noticed. Make sure each link is large enough that it is easy to click, and has enough white space around it to keep all the pages from blending together.

Now that you can avoid a few common mistakes, your site will come across as being more authoritative and attractive. What are your pet peeves about business websites? Are there any small business sites you see as being examples of what to aspire to?

2. Searching for Search

A huge portion of website users navigate primarily using search. Don’t force these users to take the time to understand your site’s organization. Search fields are often placed within the header, and impatient people might not look farther for it if it’s not there.

Search results also need to be high quality, and presented in a readable way. Take your guidance from Google and Bing, because those formats are what most people anticipate when viewing search result pages.

3. Mixed Messages

Do you have too many things going on with your site? Make sure each page has a specific call to action, instead of barraging your visitor with too many offers or details. This is not a reason to make moving around the site more difficult, but you should make sure different page elements are not vying for attention. Simply make your email, phone number, or sign up button presentable and clear.

4. Complicated Fonts

Trying to decipher a new font could distract a visitor at best, and might even prevent them from reading anything on your site. And if they do not have the font you are using installed on their computer, the text might default to an unintended font that will be even more distracting because it doesn’t match. And if you want to brand your business name successfully, people need to be able to read your header.

5. No Images – or No Text

Landing on a page and being hit by a wall of text does not make a good impression. At the same time, images can’t go far without words. If your visitors want to learn about your business, they need to be able to both read about it and see it for themselves.

An important factor for both images and text is leaving enough white space. Giving the eye room to rest instead of overloading the page with content is critical.

6. 90s Design

It’s not hard to figure out what kinds of designs look outdated. Repetitive or garish backgrounds, pixelated photos, and moving or flashing text are sure signs that your site has been around the block. Cheap HTML tricks or Flash movies can lose both your customers’ interest and their trust in your brand. And, please, no pop-ups or background music!

An old design can also make users distrust the facts on your site. After all, if the design is still the same, people assume the content hasn’t changed, either – and no one wants to call a phone number that’s 10 years old.

7. Too Many Ads

Your whole site is an advertisement for your own business – don’t distract your users’ attention with advertisements for other products and services. Though ads might seem like a way to subsidize your website costs, every click you get paid for is a click away from your site. Plus, ads (especially text ads) are ugly, and can quickly discredit your site.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on April 21, 2014


Google Plus, and Facebook, and Twitter – oh my!  Social networking certainly has its advantages for website owners, but trying to figure out how to master all of these various sites can be overwhelming.

If you’re a new website owner, you’ve likely read articles talking about how important it is to be active with social media.  And it’s true – social networking is booming, and it’s a great way to both improve your website’s search engine optimization and to connect directly with your target audience.

But unfortunately, the advice to be active with social media is often accompanied by panic on the part of website owners, who are already stressed by the day-to-day activities involved in running a successful website.  Is it really that important that they take time out of their busy days in order to invest in the social networking site of the moment?

The answer is yes, it is important to get involved in this latest web trend.  However, using social media sites effectively doesn’t have to be a burden.  Instead, let’s look at how to balance investment across multiple social networking sites and share a strategy for implementing effective social media usage in just 20 minutes a day.

First of all, keep in mind that it isn’t necessary to maintain an active presence on every single social networking site known to man.  In fact, it’s pretty likely that your target audiences only uses one or two social networking sites for the bulk of their online interactions, meaning that as long as you’re active on these specific sites, it’s probably enough to simply upload and maintain a profile on the other networks.

To find out what these sites are, enter your niche’s top keywords into the search features of each site.  For example, say you run a website about dog training.  Type the words “dog training” into the search bars on every social networking site you’re considering getting involved with.

Do you see an active community when you look at the results of your search?  On Facebook, do you see active groups dedicated to discussing your chosen topics?  Or, on Twitter, are there hashtags or chat groups devoted to your niche?  You might even find that your followers aren’t active on social networking sites at all, in which case it might make more sense to invest time in forums or on chat boards related to your website.

But let’s say that the results of your searches do turn up active communities on the major social networking sites.  What now?  Are you really expected to spend hours a day following conversations and responding to threads?

In a word, no.  You’ve got better things to do, so let’s break your social networking investment down to a simple 20 minutes a day.  If you find that this small investment pays off, you can always become more active with these sites.  But for now, keep your investment small in order to determine whether or not social media investment really works for your business.

In order to maximize your social networking investment, consider the following 20 minute daily schedule:

:00-:03 Minutes

Log in to each of your social networking accounts and read through any messages or notifications you’ve received.  If the action required to respond to these messages will only take a second (for example, “liking” someone’s comment on your Facebook fan page or re-tweeting a link someone shared with you on Twitter), go ahead and do it right away.

If the message requires any kind of follow-up, save it for later, once you’ve had a chance to see what else is being said about your website or your niche on these sites.

:03-:10 Minutes

Take this time to search the social networking sites on which you maintain an active presence for any mentions of you, your brand or any specific keywords that are relevant to your business.  By searching for these mentions, you’ll be able to connect with new people in your niche, while demonstrating your authority as an expert in your field.

There are a few tools you can use to simplify this process:

Google Alerts – Google Alerts are a free tool put out by Google that email you every time a specified phrase is used on blogs, in news articles, in videos or in discussions.  By setting up a Google Alert for your business name or any keywords you’re targeting to be triggered whenever the words are mentioned on blogs or in discussion, you can quickly identify opportunities to connect with members of your niche.

Tweetdeck – Tweetdeck is one of a number of different desktop Twitter programs that enables you to better sort information from your Twitter stream.  The best way to use this program to identify mentions of your business or your target keywords is to create a new “Search” column that will pull out any tweets that meet your set criteria.

In the example below, Tweetdeck would create a column highlighting any tweet with the words “dog training”, enabling you to identify opportunities to connect more quickly:

Having these tools in place can help you filter through all of the noise on social networking sites so that you can interact with your followers faster and much more effectively.

:10-:15 Minutes

Use the next five minutes to respond to any messages that require longer follow-up and to seek out new people to engage with through these sites.  For example, if a new contact posts a question to your Facebook Wall that will require more extensive follow-up, do the necessary research to compose a response and then do a little follow-up on the person.

Would it be appropriate to friend this person or to connect with him on other networks?  For example, if you see though the visitor’s public profiles that he’s very active on Digg or StumbleUpon, taking the time to introduce yourself and make a connection could result in significant traffic for your business through these channels.

:15-:20 Minutes

Finally, take this time to get updates and posts ready to launch on your social networking profiles.  In an ideal world, we’d have all day to sit around and wait for notifications that people are discussing our brand or our target keywords.  But since we’ve got other things to do, we need to instead find a way to remain active in the social networking conversation, even when we aren’t physically present.

If you’re crunched for time (and, quite frankly, what business owner isn’t?!), make use of tools like BufferApp or SocialOomph to schedule Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets ahead of time.  Although they can’t totally take the place of real-time interaction, scheduling posts ahead of time allows you to share helpful information or links in order to remain visible, without needing an ongoing time investment on social media sites.

So there you have it – a simple, easy-to-follow plan for engaging with the web’s top social networking sites in under 20 minutes each day.  If you find that your efforts are paying off, that’s great – go ahead and expand your involvement if you see fit.  Just be careful.  Social networking can be addictive, so it’s important to set boundaries in order to remain productive in the all-encompassing world of social media.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on April 7, 2014


If you build it, they will come – right?!  Unfortunately, what works for Field of Dreams doesn’t work nearly as well for our websites, and with good reason.  According to Mashable, nearly 150,000 new URLs are added to the web each day, which means that you’re up against some pretty stiff competition to get your site noticed!

What this means is that, instead of sitting back and waiting for people to come to your site, you’ve got to be proactive about bringing visitors to your page.  In this article, we’ll look at a few of the best ways to generate traffic to your website, as well as the action steps you need to add each of these strategies to your web promotion arsenal.

Strategy #1 – Blog Commenting

Blog commenting is a truly underrated tool when it comes to generating traffic to your website.  Although it’s a little more hands-on work than other traffic generation strategies, it can be incredibly useful in both improving your SEO and sending visitors to your site.

Basically, blog commenting consists of visiting other blogs in your niche and leaving comments on other peoples’ posts.  When you leave a comment, you’re able to leave a link back to your site as well.  This means that if you comment on high quality sites, you’ll get a link back from each of these sites (improving your SEO), as well as traffic back from other readers who see your comment and click through to your site.

There are two keys to getting the most out of blog commenting – choosing good blogs to comment on and leaving good comments.  When looking for blogs to comment on, choose high PageRank authority sites that have active comment sections.  Remember – if you’re the only one commenting on a site’s posts, you won’t be picking up any traffic from people reading your comments!

Once you’ve identified good sites to comment on, be sure to leave good comments.  This means taking the time to read through the post and come up with something insightful to say.  You don’t need to write a novel in response to a post, but asking a related question or sharing your own opinions on the author’s post are good ways to get your comments approved as often as possible.

Strategy #2 – Forum Marketing

In general, the best way to generate traffic to your website is by putting yourself in front of your target audience – and forum marketing is one of the easiest ways possible to do that.  Think about it – where else are you able to interact directly with your target market and convey your authority in such a meaningful way?

As you might expect, the first step in getting started with forum marketing is to find forums in your niche to participate with.  Look for forums that are as active possible – just like with blog commenting, it doesn’t make sense to go to all the effort of setting up a forum profile and posting topics if there’s no one else around to see your work!

Once you’ve identified a good forum (keeping in mind that the forum you choose doesn’t have to be directly related to your niche, as long as your target audience is present), it’s time to set up a profile.  Upload a profile picture and set up a signature with a link back to your site, as long as this is allowed, based on the terms of use in your chosen forum.

Also, keep in mind that forums are especially sensitive to being marketed to, and you risk getting kicked out if you’re too self-promotional.  Instead of using each post to blatantly advertise your website, provide helpful, substantive advice.  Eventually, people will begin to perceive you as an expert and will want to know more about your business naturally.

Strategy #3 – Guest Posting

Guest posting – or, the process of authoring articles for other websites in exchange for a link back to your site – is another great way to drum up traffic for your site.  As long as you choose good sites to submit guest posts too, you’ll benefit from increased exposure and the implicit endorsement of the blogger or site owner who runs your post.

To get started with guest posting, you’ll need to identify the best possible sites to share your content with.  Again, the best sites for this promotional strategy are those that are high PageRank, with good traffic, active readers and high rankings in the search engines.  You might need to do a little research to uncover your sites, although if you’ve been active in your niche for sometime, you probably already have a good feel for who the acknowledged experts are.

Once you have a few potential guest posting sites, contact the authors to see if they’d be interested in running your guest post (some site owners have pages on their sites to share their guest posting terms, so check there first!).  Spend some time on the target site determining what type of posts perform best so that you can share a proposed topic that you feel will resonate with their readers in this initial email.

Then, once you get the go ahead, draft a good piece of content and submit it – with HTML markup intact – to the site owner and get ready for the traffic to start flowing in!

Strategy #4 – Press Releases

Depending on what niche your business operates in, you may find that releasing notifications to the press about new developments or new achievements is a good way to drum up visitors to your site.

To write a good press release, it’s important to first have something noteworthy to publish.  You don’t need to have cured cancer or launched a rocket to put out a press release, but to get picked up by the best news agencies, you’ll want to save this technique for actual milestones in your business’s growth.

When you do have an event occur that’s worthy of a press release, Google “press release format” to find the accepted structure a press release should follow and then submit it to sites like PRWeb, PRLog and PressExposure.

Strategy #5 – Organic SEO

Truly, the best source of traffic for your website is to earn a top ranking in the organic search engine results pages (SERPs) for your target keyword.  According to a study cited by Search Engine Watch, the sites sitting in the top three spots of each Google results page account for 58.4% of clicks from all users that land on that particular SERP.

So how do you get your site ranked in the top spot?  Well, answering that question isn’t easy, as Google and the other search engines don’t release the exact factors that go into their ranking algorithms.  However, it’s widely accepted that the number and quality of the backlinks pointing to your site, the quality of the content on your site and your site’s load times all affect where your site winds up in the SERPs.

As you might have guessed, incorporating any of the first four strategies discussed in this article is a good way to improve not just the amount of traffic flowing into your site, but the backlink profile as well – both of which can have a dramatic effect on your standing in the SERPs.

 

 

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on March 22, 2014


Is it possible to make more money from your website without getting any more traffic? Yes: increase your conversion rate!

The conversion rate of a website is the percentage of people who take a specific action on your site. Yes, sales are one type of conversion, but other website conversions to be paying attention to are the number of newsletter sign-ups or accounts created.

So, how do you maximize any of those conversion rates? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Be an authority

Yes, you’ve heard this before, and you’ll probably hear it again, but it’s simple: if you don’t look like you know what you’re doing, no one will want to pay you. If your website has broken links or your checkout screen doesn’t work, customers suddenly have less faith in you shipping the right order at the right time. Make sure everything you do online is the same level of quality as the services you provide.

Answer questions

Internet shoppers can contradictions: impatient and cautious at the same time. Impatient, because they don’t want to wait and find out more about the product during office hours. Cautious, because they want to know as much information as possible about the product before purchasing it.

First, supply the answers to common questions in the FAQ page (even if the information is stated elsewhere – consider linking to it). Also make sure that contact information is prominently available so that customers can call or email direct questions. To go the extra mile, look into services which embed “chat with a salesperson” capabilities directly into your webpage.

Target the right people

When you are advertising, focus on the people who want to make purchases. Make sure you are ranking for the keywords of any items that you sell, not just related products that might generate a lead. Making long-term relationships is good, but being found by a person who is ready to make a purchase is great.

Make your site usable

There are plenty of little tweaks that can make your shopping cart, and your whole site, more customer-friendly. The site needs to be easy to understand and use. Make sure your design doesn’t disguise any buttons or links that your visitors need to follow. Also check that your pages load as quickly as possible, and work in any browser.

Call to action

Make sure your website, and each individual page on the site, asks your users to do something. Make a purchase, sign up for a newsletter, receive coupons, contact us. Not all pages need to have the exact same call to action, but all the pages should be encouraging potential customers to either make a purchase or keep in touch.

Testing, testing

Watch individual users interact with your site, as much as possible. Find people to test your site who are in your target audience, if at all possible. Different techniques and site designs work for different groups of people, and if you take every piece of advice, your site will suffer. Make decisions based on what works, not what should work.

After watching individual users, you can test large groups of visitors by using A/B testing, directing different streams of traffic to different versions of pages. You can find services online which will do this automatically, providing you with concrete results with less work.

Encourage referrals

In any business, treating your customers well is the first step to getting great referrals. The second step is to ask customers directly to tell their friends. You could suggest that they forward the newsletter to anyone they think might be interested, or make it clear that online coupons can be shared. With a little more work, you can set up an affiliate program or offer monetary incentives for referrals. Not only is this a way to increase traffic, it is a way to get more targeted traffic.

Make a special offer

No, this one is no surprise to anyone – but web shoppers are always looking for a deal. Try offering a discount or free shipping. Even better, give users a discount when they create a free account or sign up for your newsletter.

These strategies have worked for a number of ecommerce websites. Which strategies are working for yours?

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on March 9, 2014


Why would you want to increase sales on your website? That’s probably a question you can answer. How can you increase those sales? That’s a harder question. Here are a few recommendations for your own ecommerce store, so you can make some changes and see the results.

Collect leads

Without keeping in touch with your former visitors, your sales and marketing efforts are focused on the people who just happen to land on your website. To keep repeat customers coming back, or engage visitors who are not yet customers, create a mailing list and send out periodic newsletters, coupon codes, and helpful links.

Offer something different

Your business should be selling something that sets itself apart from the competition. Is it the cheapest, smallest, or highest quality? Make sure that difference is emphasized. Even anecdotes about the development or use of a product can make impressions on the viewers. People resonate with stories, and look for ways to join into larger stories already taking place. This could be as significant as donating proceeds to a cause, and as trivial as selling a shirt or toy designed for the creator’s daughter or grandson.

Perfect the presentation

Show off your product. Sometimes this is best done in a sales letter or long pitch, helping the readers to understand a more complex offering.  Experiment with photos and testimonials. Make all of the features and benefits shine so that customers will know that the product will fit their needs, instead of making them wonder.

Experiment with placement

Web pages are often too large or busy for users to focus on the whole page at once. Change the placement of the offer to make sure that the largest numbers of people possible are seeing it. For example, include a newsletter opt-in form both in the sidebar and within the copy of a sales letter. In general, the more chances people have to sign up, the more signups you will get. Just make sure you are placing it somewhere that makes sense, instead of coming off as overly pushy.

Make better offers

There are a number of different promotions to choose from – so start making different types of promotions to see what sticks. You could offer a discount off the top: a dollar amount, which is easier to understand, or a percentage, which scales more easily to larger purchases. Or include extras: free shipping, bonus materials, or a complementary gift. Find out which sales are received better by your audience.

Know your market

Who is shopping from your site? Would they rather find a bargain or get a premium product? Do they want one urgent, quickly-changing deal, or consistently good prices for a multitude of products? There is no wrong answer: these models and many more are making sales all the time. But the same people are not shopping at each of these sites, so you need to decide on your angle and attract the right customers for your site, or learn what your customers want from you.

Be different

Make sure that your customers experience their shopping experience, not just their purchase. Make sure your ecommerce site is branded well so that consumers will want to come back again or refer their friends. If the site isn’t memorable, it won’t make an impact.

Focus

Don’t concentrate on selling all of your products at once. Some online retailers even recommend only featuring one product on the homepage. And this doesn’t mean to keep it the same: change the contents of the homepage regularly to keep visitors from getting bored.

Show benefits, not features

Yes, including accurate specs and features are important for accurate representation of your products. Incorporating benefits, especially in the headline and copy, makes your sales page even more powerful. Mention what problem your customers will be solving by using your products or services.

Keep testing

Your audience is always going to be different from anyone else’s. Don’t just do research and follow instructions: try testing different formats on your own customers. Doing split-testing is the best way to do this: by showing new designs to one portion of your traffic while showing another design to the other half, you can get results without wondering if the tests are uneven. There are a number of software solutions that help you orchestrate your own split testing.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on February 23, 2014


If the words “sales copy” make you think of popular Mad Men character Don Draper and other advertising stereotypes, stop right there!  The truth is that every website “sells” something, whether you’re vending physical products, trying to capture leads for an offline business or even just trying to convince people to follow your line of thinking.  And since we all “sell” online, we all need to be concerned about making the sales copy found on our websites as effective as possible.

There’s no doubt that the specific words we use on our websites have a dramatic impact on how effective our online sales processes will be.  So if you have the sneaking suspicion that your site’s copy may not be as effective as it could be, check out the following process for improving your website’s sales process through the use of “words that sell.”

Step #1 – Identify areas of sales copy on your website

If you run a long-form sales letter style website that sells a single product on a single page of text, identifying the specific instances of sales copy on your website should be easy – it’s your entire page!

However, if your site structure has multiple pages, determining which areas of your website are functioning as sales copy may be more difficult.  For example, on an informative website, the heading text you use to convince people to stick around and read more of your content could technically be considered “sales copy” – even though the only thing you’re asking people to do is pay attention.

In general, think of any area of your site where you’re asking people to take a specific action as “sales copy.”  Again, this could be the text you use to convince people to make a purchase, or it could be the language used in your headings, your opt-in boxes or your subscription request forms to encourage readers to follow through on some defined activity.

Step #2 – Analyze the impact of your current sales language

Now that you’ve identified these specific areas of sales copy on your website, it’s time to start analyzing how effective they are in terms of achieving your website’s goals.  There are a couple of different ways we can do this…

  • The “gut check” – Isolate the sections of sales copy you identified on your website in Step #1 and look at them with a fresh set of eyes.  Do you feel compelled to take action based on this standalone sales copy?  If not, it’s safe to assume that your readers won’t be motivated as well.
  • Statistical copywriting software – If you have a little extra money to invest in your sales copy writing process, tools like Glyphius or ScribeJuice provide an automated way to compare the effectiveness of your sales text against algorithms based on past successful advertisements.  Although these tools aren’t cheap, they can be an easy way to quickly analyze and uncover opportunities for strengthening the weak spots in your sales copy.

Step #3 – Revise your sales copy using proven copywriting principles

Chances are you’ve uncovered at least a few areas for potential improvement within your website’s sales copy.  With these weak spots in mind, brainstorm a few potential variations according to proven copywriting principles.

Keep the following guidelines in mind as you create these unique versions:

  • Good sales copy uses “power” words. Certain words – for example, “achieve,” “discover” and “secrets” – have the power to capture attention and encourage action.  For more examples of these motivational power words, check out this list of “50 Power Words to Juice Up Your Sales Copy.”
  • Good sales copy encourages urgency. While you don’t need to resort to artificial scarcity tactics (i.e. – “This offer good for a limited time only!”), it’s best to encourage your reader to take action right away.  Things that aren’t urgent priorities are rarely accomplished!
  • Good sales copy focuses on benefits, not features.  Don’t just tell someone that the TV you’re selling has a 32” screen or 1080i resolution.  Make them viscerally feel how much better their favorite TV shows and movies will appear on their new TV, as well as how jealous their friends will be after viewing content on such advanced technology.
  • Good sales copy is easily understood. Leave out the big words and jargon.  Since most people only scan webpages for content that interests them, your sales copy must convey both the action to be taken and the benefits of doing so quickly and clearly.
  • Good sales copy focuses on a single priority.  Although your website might have multiple sales goals, each instance of sales copy on your site should focus on a single desired action.  Mixing your priorities can cause confusion in your readers, preventing them from completing any of your established goals.

Step #4 – Test different variations to improve your sales results

At this point, you should have a few different variations for each instance where sales copy appears on your website.  And now – as you might expect – it’s time to test them using A/B split testing!

 Split testing refers to the process of serving up two or more different versions of a page randomly to website visitors in order to determine conclusively which variation results in the most conversions.  For example, if your goal is to make more sales on your long form sales letter style website, you might create two different versions of your webpage to test, with each variation featuring a slightly different headline in order to find out which introductory line is more effective at keeping visitors on your site long enough to make a sale.

Once you’ve created your different web page variations, you’ll need to upload them into a split testing program that will serve up each version randomly and return the results of your split test.  Google’s Website Optimizer is a great free program that provides this functionality, although there are plenty of other third-party software programs that offer these features and more.

The one crucial piece of advice to keep in mind when it comes to split testing is that you’ll need to run your split tests long enough to determine that your results are statistically significant.  If you only gather data on a few conversions, it will be difficult to tell if the results you achieved can be attributed to a handful of people, or if they can be applied to the population as a whole.  For this reason, it’s a good idea to run your split tests until you’ve received at least 100 conversions.  With active testing, you’ll find the best copy for your site.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on February 10, 2014


Attracting attention online is important, whether you run a blog, an ecommerce site or an offline business website. With all of the other sites out there screaming for visitors, being heard above the din can be difficult.  Deploying linkbait content is a great strategy that will not only bring these visitors to your website, but will have others doing most of the work for you – for free!

Word of Mouth (with a Megaphone)

Word of mouth advertising has always been a great way for companies to attract new customers without spending tons of money on traditional advertisements.  And essentially social media sites are like word of mouth advertising, but with a megaphone.  The ability of good or interesting content to go viral is more likely on the internet, and the interconnected nature of the web means that it can spread farther and faster than it ever could offline.

One of the greatest difficulties with offline word of mouth advertising is that a business needs to find market leaders to spread the word about the business, those who aren’t well connected aren’t able to share the company’s message as widely.  Unfortunately, authorities in a field, well-connected people in a community and celebrities aren’t always easy to approach or convince.

Linkbait content addresses this challenge.  While contacting bloggers or those with large social media followings in a specific market can help spread the word about a business, linkbait attracts people on its own and encourages them to pass it on to others, leading to a phenomenon known as “viral marketing.”

The Good Virus

Viral marketing uses different forms of linkbait to start the spread of a message to an exponential number of contacts.  Offline, a person is limited to the people he or she knows.  Online, these same people can tell those they know, who then go on to tell others they know – and the list goes on.  This is why cute kitten videos get a million hits apiece.

The trick with linkbait and viral marketing is to avoid making it look like linkbait.  Most people can see through impure marketing motives, and web surfers may reject the content that a company wants to spread.  When creating linkbait, the intention needs to be focused on creating valuable, marketable content – the rest will take care of itself.

For this reason, a solid linkbait campaign should result in a large number of links back to a website.  This improves search engine rankings, as Google rewards sites with plenty of organic links.  It should also increase the number of targeted visitors to a site – which can, in turn, increase sales and revenue.

Various Forms of Linkbait

If you want to harness the power of linkbait content for your website, know that there are several different types of linkbait that can be used to encourage links and attract visitors.  Some are positive, and are used with the intent of informing, entertaining or flattering web surfers.  Others take the “bait” part of linkbait literally and tend to use controversy, opposition or even insults to drive traffic.  While both forms have their uses, you’ll need to determine what type of results and visitor experience you want to create when using linkbait techniques.

In general, the six most common types of linkbait are:

Attack – “Attack” linkbait pieces can be aimed at a specific target or large group, and are used to incite readers into clicking on the link. As you might expect, if not used carefully, this form of linkbait can backfire on the user.

Humor – Making people laugh is often a positive strategy when it comes to spreading links, which is why joke emails are usually passed along more frequently than political or religious messages. When used properly, this type of hook may reel in the largest catch of visitors online.

Contrary – “Contrary” linkbait is a milder form of the “incite readers” hook.  It uses controversy to drive traffic, but it does it by revealing the other side of a popular opinion or theory.  If backed with information and respect, playing devil’s advocate can also show the business as an industry leader in its field.

Incentive – Baiting a hook with offers such as free items, awards or software is a great way to bring in new visitors.  Few people can pass up on something that’s free – just make sure that the terms of your offer are clear and that there’s no catch to the giveaway.

News – Offering RSS news feeds or the latest information on a specific topic is a fantastic way to drive traffic.  There’s so much information available on the web that it isn’t easy for people to find it all.  For this reason, being a “go to” source for current events should increase your initial traffic and repeat visitors.

Resource – One way to increase the number of new customers visiting your website is to demonstrate your authority as a “thought leader” in your industry.  Creating informative content that resolves important problems for your target market is a great way to create viral links and drive search engine rankings.

17 Types of Linkbait

Now that we’ve established how valuable linkbait content can be and the different types of linkbait you can use to drive visitors to your website, here’s a list of a few specific linkbait styles you can use to improve your site’s online presence:

Video – 90% of web surfers will stop on a website that has a video.  Video links also account for a majority of social media traffic, which is why creating videos is a one of the most common linkbait methods.

Infographics – Like videos, infographcis are informative and visually appealing.  And, with the growing popularity of Pinterest, infographics are rising as one of the most popular forms of linkbait.

Lists – If it works for David Letterman, it can work for your business. “Top 10” style lists have always ranked well on the Internet, as they allow people to absorb a large amount of information in a short period.

Curative Posts – This type of content recaps the important news in a specific industry.  Most people don’t have the time to do this on their own, so they appreciate sites that recount the important information for them either once a week or once a month.

Guides – Both free and paid guides are a great way to attract traffic and links. If the content is written well, it can be included in posts, articles and resource sites for a long time.

Surveys – Whether it’s business-related, political or personal, people love to take surveys.  Use surveys to find out what a target market is interested in and increase traffic to your site.

Interviews – If you’re able to conduct interviews with authorities within your industry, these files can be used as viral-worthy content that’s sure to drive traffic.

Free Software – Shareware represents one of the most downloaded types of content on the web.  Free tools and software that helps solve major problems or make life easier will often spread virally with little effort on your part.

Giveaways – Any form of freebie – whether an e-book, report, shareware or guide – that’s made available on your website is sure to attract attention from interested visitors.

Awards – If you offer awards on your site, contestants and winners will often visit your other pages as well. They’ll also share the links with their friends, family and social media contacts, leading to more traffic and more links for your site.

Contests – Offering contents is another surefire way to create natural links.  As an example, asking people to choose a name for a new product or a new flavor for an existing product line are two popular forms of contest linkbait.

Widgets – As with shareware, helpful widgets tend to spread quickly throughout the web.

News – Keep people informed and prove yourself as an industry leader by posting breaking news in a specific field.  If you’re the first to report on a major subject in your industry, you can expect to receive a major influx of backlinks and traffic!

Industry Discussions – Similar to reporting on breaking news, being the first site to explain new breakthroughs and market news on a consistent basis is a great way to build quality linkbait.

Previews – People generally want to know as much as they can about new products, services, books, movies and more before they buy.  Writing informative previews about hot items in your industry can be a great way to promote your viral marketing campaigns with little effort

Year in Review – “Year in Review” style articles are always a great way to drive traffic.  Recapping the major events that occurred in the past year, as well as how they affected your specific industry, is a great way to create viral-worthy content.

Incite a Response – This type of linkbait creates controversy by attacking a person or company, or playing devil’s advocate on a popular topic.  This can backfire, though, so use this type of linkbait carefully.

Have you had good results with launching linkbait campaigns in the past?  If so, share your tips and tricks in the comments section below!

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on January 27, 2014


These days, the internet marketing world is a buzz with the power of “branding”.  Really, this isn’t surprising – in a digital world that’s so full of clutter you can barely click on a link for fear of a scam, it’s natural for people to seek out websites that make them feel safe.  And chances are if you’ve gone to all the effort to establish yourself as a known, reputable brand online, you likely aren’t going to waste the authority you’ve built up taking your readers for a ride.

However, offering social proof to website visitors isn’t the only reason branding is more important now than ever before.  There’s also speculation that the search engines – in their continuous effort to weed out thin sites from quality pages – are beginning to mine data related to branding metrics, meaning that websites with strong brands could be rewarded with higher search engine rankings.

According to Kaiser the Sage, a leading internet marketing website:

“With search engines mining brand related, it is almost certain that the next shift in search engine optimization is going to be mostly about branding, seeing as a strong brand presence indicates authoritativeness. Moreover, popular brands are most likely to be rewarded by search engines with higher rankings (for very competitive keywords) on their search results, knowing that they have earned their trust basing from users’ perspectives.”

So what is a “brand” and how can you use your website to build one?  Let’s explore how this powerful business building practice can be integrated into existing websites in order to attract the benefits described above…

Essentially, your digital brand encompasses what people feel and envision when they think about your company.  Think, for a second, what your mental associations are for discount chain Walmart, compared with what you picture when thinking about high-end retailer Williams-Sonoma.  Although both chains are the same in that their primary goal is to sell products, the way that they do that – and, consequently, the brand associations they’ve built around their companies – are quite different.

As a business owner, you have the ability to control and influence these feelings through specific elements of your website’s development.

Element #1 – Voice

The “voice” of your website relates to the textual content you place on your pages – specifically, the way you structure this text to evoke different feelings.

To understand how voice is deployed effectively, consider the difference in tone that would be used on a website publishing scientific findings compared to social networking sites targeting kids and teenagers.  In general, the kids’ site will be much more likely to use simple words, short sentences and quick, punchy phrases to convey a sense of fun and excitement.

The scientific journal, on the other hand, is likely to feature highly complex sentences, packed with jargon that’s unique to the specific field the journal targets.   Clearly, there’s nothing wrong with either of these examples – what’s important is how the voice used on each site appeals to its target readers.

When thinking about the ideal voice for your website, consider the following factors:

  • What is the average reading level of my readers? Unless you’re in a highly technical field, aim for content with an average reading level of grades 6-8 (as determined by a readability test website).
  • Do the words I’m using convey the emotional state I want my readers to achieve? Whether you want your readers to be excited, happy, sad or nervous, make sure this feeling comes across in the words you choose and the way you structure your sentences.
  • Should I use jargon words on my website? Be careful of using too much jargon or you’ll risk turning off readers who don’t understand your meaning.  However, on some technical websites, jargon is a must in order to make more advanced readers feel welcome.

Element #2 – Differentiation

Brand differentiation refers to making your company’s unique selling point (USP) visible across all aspects of your website.  Really, it isn’t enough to *be* different – you’ve got to make your website visitors aware of these differences and constantly reinforce them throughout various aspects of your website.

Obviously, the first step in this process is to identify your company’s USP (if you don’t already have one).  Once this is set, consider integrating your point of differentiation into any of the following areas of your website:

  • Your site’s header graphic or tagline
  • The “About me” page on your website
  • As a standalone, featured item on your homepage
  • Integrated into an advertisement on your sidebar
  • In any pop up banners you make use of

Element #3 – Design Elements

Finally, be aware that the different design elements you use can also play a significant role in how well the message of your brand is carried out across your website.  There’s no doubt that the “look and feel” of a website helps to control the way we think about the site’s brand, which is why it’s important to take the following factors account when integrating your branding message into your website design elements:

  • Color selection – We’ve talked here before about how important color theory is to conveying a desired feeling to your website visitors, but now’s the time to check your color selections to ensure they’re in line with the brand you want to build.  Think about our earlier example of the kids’ site versus the scientific journal.  Clearly, to convey the right brand message, the former would do best to incorporate bright, fun colors, while the latter type of site would benefit from more staid burgundy and forest green tones that create a feeling of maturity and learning.
  • Fonts – Many of the same associations we hold with colors apply to fonts and type faces as well.  Serif fonts, like Times New Roman, are perceived as being more formal and old fashioned, while sans-serif fonts – including Arial and Verdana – convey a more modern feeling. If you’ve gone to all the effort of identifying the right voice for your content and the best colors for your website layout, don’t diminish your branding efforts by choosing a font that doesn’t match up with your visitors’ expectations.
  • Site structure – Although the way your site is laid out may be dictated in large part by the website builder you use, alterations here can also impact the way your website (and, consequently, your brand) is perceived.  The amount of white space included, the number of images used and even how structured your layout is can all influence the success of your branding activities.

Obviously, if your company has any offline marketing materials, including business cards or pre-printed stationery, you’ll want to be sure the design elements you use on these pieces match the ones you use on your website in order to create a consistent visual experience for your customers.

On the other hand, if you aren’t tied to an offline brand, don’t be afraid to get creative here.  Put some effort into determining exactly what kind of message you want to convey, then take the time to ensure that the voice you use and the design elements you choose help to clearly explain the point of differentiation that makes your business unique.

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on January 13, 2014


Search engines use automated spiders to crawl your site and understand the content so your site can be found during search queries.  Despite all the effort you put into making your website’s design as attractive as possible, there are certain elements of your website that these automated programs simply won’t be able to process.

In general, the search engine spiders are limited to understanding the text and text-based features (for example, backlinks) on your site.  However, there are some SEO workarounds that make it possible for the search engines to understand and process non-text elements.  For more detail on how this occurs, let’s look at each of the different elements found on standard web pages, as well as how the search engines view and value them…

Element #1 – Text

As mentioned above, search engine spiders love text- based content.  They derive a number of different clues about your website’s theme and quality from these words, simply because text is the type of content they’re most easily able to digest.

However, that doesn’t mean that all websites are built to optimize the text-based content they include.  There are a few specific things you’ll want to watch out for when it comes to making your text as cleanly written and easily accessible as possible:

  • Make sure text is visible to the search engine spiders.  Occasionally, snippets of code, embedded content or formatting inconsistencies can cause text to be hidden from the search engine spiders.  To get an idea of what these automated programs see when they land on each of your pages, use the Webconfs “Search Engine Spider Simulator” tool
  • Use a text-based browser to check for additional formatting concerns that may prevent the proper indexation of your site’s content.  Lynx is one example of a browser that will allow you to view your website’s content without any additional features engaged

 

Element #2 – Images

The concept of avoiding images from an SEO standpoint is fairly well-established, but to review – any text that’s incorporated into your images can’t be indexed by the search engine spiders at this point.

So say, for example, your site uses a graphical header to introduce your site’s name and tagline.  Be aware that, because they’re embedded in an image file, these words are no longer accessible to the search engines, which can be a big problem for your site’s SEO.

As an alternative, you can add text to your images’ ALT tag attributes, but this is no substitute for hiding either large chunks or extremely important pieces in your images.  Instead, stick to design options and graphic elements that enhance your site without steamrolling its ability to rank for your chosen keyword phrases.

Element #3 – Flash

Flash is another content type that often gets a bad rap for having a negative SEO impact.  And it’s true – just as with image files, any text you embed in your Flash files won’t be read or indexed by the search engine spiders.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should avoid them entirely.  When used properly, Flash videos can be a great way to engage your audience and convey important points in an interactive way.  Just be sure to incorporate them in small, subtle ways and to add any relevant content from your videos to your site as text in other areas.

Element #4 – PDFs

Contrary to popular belief, the search engine spiders can access certain elements of PDF files.  While their overall “word-for-word” translation of these documents can be hit or miss, they are to read certain tags associated with your PDF files, including the title, author, subject and keyword tags, as well as your headline and image caption tags within the document.

For this reason, it’s important to pay special attention to the keywords you integrate into your PDF files as you create them.  While it’s unlikely that adjusting these factors alone will result in higher rankings, they’re one of the few opportunities you have to guarantee that the search engine spiders will see your chosen keywords – so don’t waste it!

 

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« Go Back | Posted in: - on December 30, 2013


No matter what type of website you’re building, you likely have some type of goal in mind for the visitors who arrive on your pages.  Maybe you want your readers to purchase your products or maybe you simply want them to share the information they find on your site with others who are interested in the same topics.

 

Whatever the case, if you want your visitors to take a certain type of action, you’ve got to make your intentions clear to them by building effective calls to action into your site! A “call to action” is just what it sounds like – using the text and design elements on your site, you’re asking your visitors to take the specific action you desire.

 

 

Type #1 – The Sales-Oriented Call to Action

Sales-oriented calls to action – as you might expect – include the text and design elements you use to convince website readers to purchase your items

Consider the example below from Amazon, a leading web retailer:

How many specific calls to action can you see on this sales page?  Just a few include:

  • “Try Prime”
  • “Shop by Department”
  • “Sell your iPad”
  • “Shop Now”
  • “Try Amazon Prime FREE for 30 days”
  • “Get 20% or more Off Select Llaptops”
  • “Shop Women’s Coats”
  • “See all movies included with Prime membership”

Visitors arriving on this website should have no doubt as to the specific actions Amazon wants them to take.  At this point, the only decision left is which particular action to take – not whether or not to engage with the company in the first place!

So what goes into an effective sales-oriented call to action, and where can you incorporate them into your site?  Consider any of the following elements when determining how and where to add these useful features into your website:

  • Good calls to action should be noticeable. Don’t bury your calls to action at the bottom of your website and expect them to still be effective!  Make them large and prominent, using bold graphics and eye-catching fonts in prime locations on your website to make your calls to action as effective as possible.
  • Good calls to action should be direct. When adding calls to action to your website, be specific about what you want your visitors to do and use direct language that makes your requests as compelling as possible.  For example, “If you have a second, consider checking out our range of women’s coats” simply doesn’t have the same punch as, “Find the best women’s coats now!”
  • Good calls to action should be used sparingly.  The more calls to action you add to your ecommerce website, the more you’ll dilute the strength of each individual element.  When adding these tools to your website, think carefully about which one or two actions you most want visitors to take, then use your calls to action to encourage these activities over lesser priorities.

Type #2 – The Opt-In Call to Action

Depending on your unique business model and the type of website you run, you may not be asking readers to buy anything at all!  Plenty of offline service professionals (including real estate agents, insurance agents and many other employees) use their websites to generate qualified leads to contact in the real world.  In addition, many websites use email marketing newsletters to pitch their prospects – a process that begins with an info-gathering opt-in form.

In these cases, the goal isn’t to get visitors to fork over their credit card information – instead, you’re after their personal contact information.  Because you’re appealing to different personal motivations in these readers, the calls to action you’ll want to use on your site are different as well.

Here’s what to consider when adding opt-in calls to action to your website:

  • Pitch benefits in your opt-in calls to action.  When asking visitors to submit their personal contact information through your opt-in form, be sure you’re basing your call to action on the benefits of subscribing, not the features.  Use your call to action to show visitors how they’ll benefit by completing your form, not just what they’ll receive for doing so.
  • Every element of your opt-in form should be tested. Test the location of your form, the color you use for your opt-in button, the specific wording featured on your button and the text you use when introducing your form and its benefits to your readers.  The more elements you test successfully, the more effective your form will be.
  • The fewer pieces of information you ask for, the higher your opt-in rates will be. When developing your opt-in call to action, keep in mind that requesting fewer pieces of personal information will improve your subscription rates.  Consider testing the benefits of a shorter opt-in form as a part of your call to action.

Type #3 – The Social Sharing Call to Action

Finally, suppose you aren’t trying to engage with individual users on a further level – whether through product sales or follow-up information – at all.  Suppose all you want them to do is to share your website content with others, either through “Click to email” buttons or on popular social networking sites.

Even in this case, you still need to make use of calls to action to increase the likelihood that your visitors will follow through and share your content.  Although the practice of social sharing is becoming more commonplace, it’s still unwise to assume that your readers will take any action on their own without your explicit reminders.

To encourage readers to share your content with other users, you need to make the process as simple as possible.

  • Build social sharing tools into your content. If you want people to share your business blog articles on Facebook or Twitter, don’t assume that your readers will take the time to copy your link, navigate to their favorite social networking site and then paste your URL into their profiles.  Unless your content is truly tremendous, website engagement isn’t usually high enough for readers to go to these lengths to share your articles.  Instead, make the process as easy as possible by integrating social sharing features directly into your website.
  • Use sharing tools in multiple locations.  There are plenty of different social sharing tools out there that can be added to your website, but be aware that one style may not be enough.  For example, suppose you use the popular TweetMeme button, which adds a small “Share on Twitter” button to the upper right-hand corner of your articles.  But what happens if a reader doesn’t decide that he wants to share your article until he gets to the end of the page?  Again, don’t assume that he’ll take the time to scroll back to the top of the article to find your social sharing button.  Add a second set of sharing features to the ends of your articles to capture as many potential “sharers” as possible.
  • Ask your readers to share your content directly.  As long as you’ve written good content, most readers will respond well to text that’s written into your articles asking, “If you enjoyed this article, please share it on Twitter so that others can benefit as well.”  Using variations of this request in your content makes your call to action more personal – and, therefore, much harder to ignore than a simple social sharing tool.

Although the process of integrating calls to action into your website may seem overwhelming, try to start small.  Over time and with continued improvements, you could see big changes in your overall conversion rates as a result of these simple additions!

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