5 Sources for Inspiring Marketing Content

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By Sue Brady

IdeasIt’s not news that engaging, informative and interesting content is key to gaining readership and attracting visitors to your website. Many business websites have blogs. In fact, the number of blogs from January 2015 to January 2016 has risen by 25% to 276 million (source: statista.com).

And there are plenty of stats about how blogging can help a business. Just these three stats alone from Business2community.com should be enough to convince you that you need a blog on your website. Sites with blogs that have continual postings:

  • Have 97% more links to their site
  • Generate 55% more site visits
  • Have pages indexed <by search engines> 434% more often.

So where do you get the content for those blog posts?

The Competition – What does your competition post about? Reading your competitors’ content can give you a good sense for how they are positioning themselves. And, it can give you some good ideas for your own content.

Customers – Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If you were in the market for your product, what would you want to know about? You can even take the step of asking some of your customers what’s important to them. All great fodder for future posts! Plus, your customers post on social media, sometimes about your company. Stay vigilant in tracking those posts so that you can identify topics that are of interest.

Your Salespeople – Ask your salespeople what objections they hear most often when they are on sales calls. Use those objections as a way to formulate content that counters them. You wouldn’t want to say: “Our customers say our product easily breaks. But our studies show…” Instead you’d write a post about how you build your product using the top materials available in the industry.

Your Customer Service Staff – These people are on the front-lines. They talk to your customers every day and have great insight. They may be able to identify potential issues that may come up on their calls, and if you can tease them out, you can write a post that counters an issue before it becomes a real problem. And, they hear about other things, not just issues. All of that can be turned into compelling blog posts.

Other Bloggers – Identify bloggers who write about your industry and actively read those blogs. They will be a great source of information that you can write about too.

Write on!

 

5 Obvious Things you Should be Doing on your Website

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By Sue Brady

Aces

It’s easy to overlook the obvious. So here are a few helpful hints to remind you of some basics to make sure your website starts the New Year on the right foot.

  1. Ask customers to take the action you want them to take.

Buy now. Learn more. Add to Cart. Checkout.

If you don’t tell your customers what to do, they might not do it. Here’s a post on this subject.

2. Make it easy for your visitors to take an action. The harder they have to work for it, the less likely they are to do it. I was on a well-known site yesterday and really wanted to add a photo book I’d created to my shopping cart. I couldn’t do it. I could clearly see the quantity button and the price (I drew the green arrow in the picture), but there was no ‘add to cart’ button. I had to completely exit out and come back in through a different set of commands before I was shown the ‘add to cart’ button.

Make it easy

3. Make your action buttons large enough so that they stand out on the page.

4. Don’t use reversed out white type in your body copy. Yes, this is one of my pet peeves, but it should be yours as well! Reversed out white type is hard on the eyes when used on more than a line or two of type. And if your web pages are hard to read, your potential customers won’t read them.

5. Have a mobile version of your website. Seriously, you should have done this a few years ago, but if you somehow haven’t, make it your next project. The time spent on the Internet via a mobile phone has now surpassed the time spent on the Internet on a desktop computer (Mary Meeker KPBC Internet Trends Report). Consumers now expect sites to be mobile friendly and will leave your site if it’s not (latest research from Google shows 29% will bounce immediately!). Plus, having a mobile friendly site helps you with your Google organic search. When a user is on a mobile phone, Google gives preference to mobile friendly sites over non-mobile friendly sites when it returns search results.

Obvious tips, but so often overlooked. Get your website into the best shape you can so that you start 2016 off right!

Verbs are Your Friends – The Importance of Call-to-Action Buttons

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By Sue Brady

Red Button

Call-to-action buttons, or CTAs for those in the know, are the buttons a user clicks on from your website to complete an action. Typically, it’s to complete an action you want the user to complete, like ‘BUY NOW,’ and that’s why they are so important. Most importantly, test your CTAs to figure out what will work best best for your site.

Elements Worth Testing:

Message – Does it call on the user to do something specific?

Appearance – Does it blend in or stand out?

Size – Again, does it blend in or stand out?

Color – Hmm, does it blend in or stand out?

The message. Text can be short or long, but make sure you include a verb. Action words will get users to take action. Funny how that works. Most experts who write about button text will say that shorter is better, and they are probably right. But you won’t know until you test it yourself, on your particular pages.

And make sure you are directing the user to do something you want them to do. For instance, if your CTA is simply ‘Learn,’ a user might not understand why he should click. Retailers seem to have figured out that a button that says ‘Add to Cart’ is universally understood as the next step needed when someone wants to make an actual purchase. Your own CTA should be just as clear.

Appearance. It’s a mistake to make the user have to work to figure out where they are supposed to click. If your button blends in too nicely with the look and feel of your site, it will be difficult to find. Test something bold and different. Make sure the button is ‘findable’ without having to scroll. And also, reversed out white type works just fine against a bold button background.

Size. Big and bold. This relates back to my previous statement about making sure the user doesn’t have to work to know where to click. With a big and bold CTA button, the direction to the user should be obvious. If someone sees nothing else on your page, you want them to notice that CTA button.

Color choice. Way back when I first started working with direct response websites, I remember someone telling me that I shouldn’t use red on my CTA buttons. That advice makes sense. Red means stop and has a negative ‘feel,’ but the truth is, won’t know until you test. When I worked at AOL, where we tested everything often, orange was frequently a clear winner in this type of testing. That was many years ago, and I still see orange used a lot, but I also frequently see green and blue.

Remember:

  1. Test, test, test
    2. Verbs are your friends!

Don’t Make These Common Website Mistakes

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By Sue Brady

ABCsIf you haven’t evaluated your website recently, it might be time. Put on your customer hat as you take the journey through your site. Do you intuitively know where to click? Can you easily find what you’re after? Does the content make sense to you? If you’re using your mobile device, does it render properly, quickly and show you appropriate content?

The most important thing to remember is, make it easy. The harder you make it , the more likely your customers will leave. KISSmetrics gives the following reasons (among others) for why people leave websites: Poor navigation, too many ads, bad content structure, automatic video and audio content, registration required, poor legibility.

Here are 8 tried and true things to consider:

1. Do your navigation buttons match with the things users do most often when they come to your site? Look at your analytics to determine if you are calling out the right things. If you have a tab for Case Studies for instance, check to see if anyone is reading them. If not, perhaps something else should have the prominence, and your case studies should be moved.

2. Is it clear to the customer what they should do when they get to your site? There’s a difference between a landing page and a website. If a user has clicked your ad, they should end up on a landing page that makes sense based on the ad copy they just read. There should be a clear call to action so that the customer knows what you expect them to do.

It’s the same idea on your website. You’ve generated the visitor, now make sure they know what to do by visually giving them clues that lead them to: ‘Click here for product information,’ ‘look at this burst for our latest offer,’ ‘focus on our carousel for the latest and greatest products/information/offers.’ Quick note on carousels: I have read consumer studies showing that users don’t like them. Carousels move too quickly to read the offer and are too hard to get to the right screen if something was of interest. If you have one on your site, be thoughtful about how you use it.

3. Is it easy for users coming to your site to quickly figure out where to click if they want:

  • More information
  • To purchase your product
  • To contact you

4. Do your web pages load quickly? The Nielson Norman Group did a study that revealed that users stay less than a minute. Granted, their sample was mostly related to blogs and news stories, but it still should give you pause. More interesting, according to KISSmetrics, almost half of all website visitors expect pages to load in a couple of seconds or less, and 40% will leave if loading takes longer than 3 seconds. 3 SECONDS! Tweet that! That means you need your pages to load quickly, and immediately engage the reader.

5. Are you taking mobile into account? Everyone’s been talking about Google’s mobile search algorithm change scheduled for this Tuesday, April 21st, 2015. It seems as if that change will only impact the top 10 mobile organic search results. If you don’t have a mobile site, your results are not likely to organically show up when someone does a mobile search. But more importantly, if you do have a mobile site and it loads too slowly, the user will bail before you have a chance to engage. And if you don’t have a mobile site, your mobile user will bounce as soon as that becomes clear.

6. Is your site easy to read? This one is so obvious, but I continually see web pages that use reversed-out white type in their body copy. REVERSED OUT WHITE TYPE IS HARD TO READ! This is one of those changes that you should make to your site now…without testing! It’s been tested for you…lots of times. It’s fine to use it in titles, headlines and subheads, but a paragraph or more is too difficult to read.

7. Have you considered basic SEO practices in your site design? I’m referring to easy things like using your keywords in your content, especially on your home page, adding meta titles and page descriptions to your pages, including a site map at the footer of every page. You can read more about basic Google tips here.

8. Have you made it easy for your customers to buy from you? Make sure it’s easy to add products to the shopping cart. And then make it easy for them to check-out. Don’t force a registration or ask for information that you won’t use or don’t need to make the sale.

If you are looking to tweak your website, check out this article. It details a methodology that uses continual tesing and improvements to maximize the effectiveness of your website.

Remember to think like your customer. It will make your website a better place.

Improve your Marketing Results with these Testing Tips

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By Sue Brady

TestingAny direct marketer worth their salt knows how important it is to test on a regular basis. Testing is your path to improved marketing results. But how do you know what’s worthwhile to test? The biggies from the offline world mostly apply in the online one: Offer, copy and creative, in that order. But there are a million things that are worth testing. If you are fortunate to have a steady stream of visitors to your website, you can learn things on a daily or weekly basis. For instance, think about testing the critical elements on your home page:

  • The call to action button and location
  • The location of the phone number on your home page
  • Your website headline
  • Your website hero image (the primary image, usually at the top of your home page)
  • The order and description of your product benefits
  • The placement of your offer

These elements can be tested using A/B testing methodology or using multivariate testing. The difference between those two is that with A/B testing, you are evaluating one element change at a time. It’s called A/B because A is your control (the version currently being used) and B is the new test. With multivariate you are able to test a number of things at one time. This can be very useful if you have a highly trafficked site and can swap multiple elements in and out in a controlled manner. And there are over-arching tests you should be doing as well, such as sending a searcher to a landing page vs landing on your website directly, or using different landing pages for specific ad groups from your search campaign (with dynamically generated keyword specific content).

In addition to driving online conversions, most websites offer a toll-free number for prospective customers to call. The call center that receives those calls is another place where testing can and should happen. Phone technologies are readily available that allow you to A/B test scripting, call routing or other key elements. You might want to test something quickly and on a small scale, and there are ways to do that too. For instance, my employer, RM Factory offers a service called iQueue. iQueue is a cloud-based mini call center that allows for highly controlled testing and optimizations of offers, copy, scripting, and positioning. Sometimes the larger call centers don’t want to take on small programs, but a mini test lab like iQueue can take care of that.

It’s always fun to test into a new winner. Here are some surprise winners (highlighted in green) on programs that I’ve worked on. The control is listed first:

  • $200 rebate vs Free installation (free is the most powerful word in direct marketing, so this one really shouldn’t have come as a surprise)
  • Image with no person vs image with a person
  • Red type vs green type (color matters!)
  • Website with corporate focus vs customer focus (actually, this one came as no surprise)
  • Staid, talking head DRTV ad vs humorous ad

Please share your testing surprises in the comments section below!