CATEGORY: Tips

Establishing Trust and Confidence- More On Conversion Optimization

Four Conversion Optimization posts down, two to go! Today I’m going to be talking about establishing trust and confidence in your potential customers. Have you ever landed on a website with terrible, flashy design work that hurts your eyes? How about a site without SSL? Inputting your credit card number into sites that seem immature doesn’t make consumers feel good. Personally, I bounce off a site right away if I get the impression that the transaction will be insecure or complicated.

The bottom line- people don’t want to give you payment information unless they trust your website. Building trust is done in four steps. The first step is awareness. People cannot trust you if they don’t know you exist. Awareness can be ramped up with online marketing and SEO efforts. The next step is knowledge. As soon as potential customers are aware of your existence make sure they understand who you are and why you’re a better alternative to a bigger name. This can be done via a value proposition, which is a statement that you come up with based on what you offer and what your customers expect from you. Value propositions should be clearly displayed and built into every element of your website to constantly remind visitors that you are unique.

Once you’ve established your existence and that you are unique and valuable visitors will decide whether or not they like you. Keeping your design clean and consistent does this and you should also ensure that all of the questions a visitor has about your site are answered. Finally, if you make it through awareness, knowledge, and your visitors like you, you will earn their trust. Feels good, doesn’t it?

Establishing trust and maintaining trust are two different things. Customers may decide that they like you enough to make a purchase, but if they are dissatisfied with the product or the level of customer service and support that they receive the chance that they will become repeat customers diminishes greatly. Don’t just focus on getting people through your sales funnel, focus on delivering quality products and services to ensure that people come back to your site and tell others about it as well.

I’ll wrap this post up with some words from the wise on Social Media. When new visitors are trying to decide whether or not they like you they will often search for your company or products on social media. Take the time to make sure that you have some sort of framework in place for social media. I’m not saying that you need to have Jared Ewy slaving away at Twitter and Facebook all day and all night (thank you!), but make sure that someone in your organization has their thumb on the pulse of social media. You’ll often find it helpful to know what your customers and potential customers are getting worked up about. Knowing what your company’s external image looks like can be enlightening.

SEO Part 3: Human vs. Machine: How people REALLY interact with the search engines

(In part 2 of our series we discussed the importance of link structure. Today we seek the help of humans.)

It can be easy to forget that, at the end of the day, all SEO efforts are not just about the latest algorithms, counts per click, and bounce rates, but are really about getting the human at the other end of the machine to pay attention to your message.

Machines can get in the way of views.

While much time, effort, and energy is spent on man beating the latest machine innovations (in terms of search engines, that is), there are some simple things to remember about how people REALLY interact with the search engines. Here are a few tips:

Readable Copy – Make sure that ad titles and descriptions are targeted for each group at each point of the buying cycle. Effective copy takes into consideration competitor messaging and audience composition.

Keywords – In order to have effective copy, your site’s keywords need to be targeted and well researched. Many industries have a template list of keywords, so be sure that your long and short-tail keywords follow current best practice.

24/7 Management – Monitoring sites for performance daily is the best way to find what triggers any day to day changes. Match types, geo-targeting, accelerated delivery, and day parting need constant evaluation and monitoring. Any positive keywords or negative keywords need to be added or stopped based on performance.

Budgeting and Bidding – Make sure budgets are flexible enough to move across search engines/content networks/campaigns as needed. All strategies need to be well articulated and flexible. In addition, the bid strategy for each campaign needs to be clear – maximum clicks; most conversions, highest click-through rate, best ROI, and the highest cost per conversion are several important considerations.

Content Channels – What are the specific content network channels? Who makes the creative decisions? Copy in all content ads should be different. That way, it better grabs the attention of someone reading an article.

Lead Generation – If a company is using a lead generation site, what are the metrics for success? Also, in addition to online lead forms being filled out, phone calls should be tracked, recorded, and properly evaluated for internal training purposes. Be sure that any PPC data is synched with CRM data in order to calculate a true ROI.

Synergized SEO – Are all SEO efforts synchronized and synergized? Keywords need to be strategically targeted between organic and paid so that a site will command search engine results. Web analytics data from organic searches needs constant review in order to find the most effective keywords to add to any PPC campaign.

A picture of a human.

While there is still the attitude of “human versus machine,” when you are familiar with and use these techniques, it will not be such a lengthy battle. After all, a human touch is most certainly required for managing PPC properly and maximizing SEO results.

User Personas- Knowing Your Customers Can Really Increase Conversion

The time has come for another Conversion Optimization post! In today’s edition of Conversion Optimization Blog Posts I’m going to discuss User Personas. You can find the other Conversion posts here.

Having a website allows you to reach people all over the world at any hour of the day. However, not having a face-to-face relationship with your customers can be difficult and companies can often lose sight of who their customers actually are. Enter user personas! User personas are model individuals that are created based on marketing data of the people who use your website. They’re the marketing team’s attempt at relating to customers as individuals and humans.

In case you’re not following along, they’re made up people that companies use for planning purposes. You take data from your website, surveys, customer feedback, market segments, purchasing habits, zip code demographic analysis, design testing and everywhere in between. Once you have this information you break it down into segments and track user habits and characteristics within the segments. Then it gets even more granular, take these habits and characteristics and them into a persona. For instance, we have a persona here at name.com for Eman Moc, a developer who loves to get his domain on.

Eman

Eman Moc

Name: Eman Moc
Age:
27
Location: Sunny Denver, CO ~1 mile from downtown. Bikes often, drives a Suburu
Education: CU Boulder, Computer Science
Occupation: Front end developer at Start-Up, OnSwipe.com (convert your website to tablet or mobile in 3 minutes)
Income: $60,000/yr
Family: Comes from a very large family, is still single (dating but no children).
Technical profile: Deep technical understanding. While at work Eman strives to bridge the gap and put the average joe at ease but on his own time he is relentlessly pursuing new technology and trends. He often feels like he is the “wizard behind the curtain” because he helps to build pages that are extremely technical on the backend yet easy to use for the customer.
Hobbies: Biking, skiing, hiking, yoga, cooking, drinking with friends, hanging out at fun dive bars, chilling in the mountains, photography, dabbles in picking up the guitar, visiting farmers markets
Favorite sites: Mashable, TechCrunch, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Gawker, LinkedIn, YouTube, Amazon, SteepNCheap
Favorite places to shop: Apple, thrift stores, Ikea, Zappos, tries to support small/ local when possible
Favorite material items: flannel shirts, nerdy tshirts (think StarWars), Patagonia jacket, iPhones/androids, iPods, mac books & skiis

So, what do we do with Eman? We think about him as we evaluate new designs. We ask “Does this page confuse Eman? Does he like the web elements? Can he find what he’s looking for on this page?” and if the answer to any of those questions is “No” then it means that the team needs to rethink the design. You should have between 4-7 personas depending on the diversity of your user base. While we have one for Eman we also have one for a baby boomer business owner who is totally unfamiliar with technology. The idea is to make sure that your entire user base is represented in your personas, and that you think of each of them when designing your website.

Creating personas is exhausting work, just ask Ashley (our Marketing Coordinator)

Designing your website to appeal to your user personas should help increase your conversion rates. If your users don’t understand or like new things on your website they are likely to fall out of the sales funnel. Keeping users in mind when making design choices and continuing to test these choices after the fact is the bread and butter of a good Conversion Optimization strategy.

Now, if you already have user personas for your website you are very, very lucky. Seriously, pat yourself on the back. Developing user personas is a painful process that takes a dedicated level of insight and willingness to sift through data, reports, and feedback to find trends. If you don’t have user personas for your website start digging, you might be surprised to find totally different trends than the ones you were expecting to see.

SEO Series Part 2: Why Link Structure is So Important!

(If you’ve just shown up, click here for Part I of the SEO How-to Series. And welcome)

Links = Votes!

Links as votes is a helpful analogy to remember. Basically, if Page A links to Page B, then Page A is casting a vote that Page B is relevant to the keywords used in the link text or anchor text connecting the 2 pages (example: in the link to Name.com at the end of this sentence the “link text” or “anchor text” is domain name). In addition, votes can be stronger or weaker depending on factors like overall trust of the link, PageRank of the page it came from, and even how significant the relationship between Page A and Page B is.

In other words, the more votes that Page B gets, the higher the likelihood it will rank higher for keywords. The more internal links you provide that point to any given page on your site, the more opportunities there are for that page to rank highly for its targeted keywords. Here are three important internal “link structures” and some simple tactics to optimize them.

1. Global Navigation – The template for global navigation (including home page alt tag) is one of the most elemental starting points for SEO. This is especially true for large sites because the more pages your site has, the more votes the global navigation template is providing for you. This is not to say that you need to have lots of pages. By putting the right keywords in global navigation links like the drop-down menu, your site is more likely to get credit for any internal links. That’s why indexing the links is both important and helpful.

2. Link subsets – There can be any set of links existing on the page template which specifically targets page groups with targeted keyword phrases. This is an ideal vehicle for creating that ever-important link connectivity to the high priority pages. Typically, this is in the footer area or on the right column of the page. Sites may have buckets for “Related Topics” or “Most Popular Pages” or a similar subset which is both related to the main link and relevant. Look at the Name.com Footer for an example of how this is done.

3. Navigate the breadcrumbs – Breadcrumb navigation is an internal link structure that can enhance SEO; especially for any sub-pages that are not linked by global navigation. Any links appearing in the global navigation template will typically occur in the source code before any breadcrumb navigation or content links. This means that global navigation links supersede any other links on the page. Mainly because most search engines (like Google) only count the first link found in the source code between Page A and Page B. Any breadcrumb navigation links must be keyword focused as the primary purpose of them, SEO-wise, is to link to any pages outside of the global navigation template.

Remember that the main purpose for all three of these types of link structures is to direct users to the right information. When the link structures are keyword focused, it aids search engines and users in finding the relevant information.

Search Engine Optimization or SEO… an Introduction

“Everybody’s talking at me. I don’t hear a word they’re saying. Only echoes in my mind.” Nilsson for the soundtrack to Midnight Cowboy, 1969

When it comes to understanding the wonderful world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), we can all feel like Joe Buck in “Midnight Cowboy.” However, when you break it down again and consider what it means, SEO is not all that difficult.

Here is a brief primer on what you need to know about SEO.

1. Content is King.

The major search engines like Yahoo, Bing, and Google interpret importance or relevance as popularity. The more traffic a site is getting, the more eyeballs are examining it, then the more valuable the information on that site must be. That is why having good content that attracts more visitors really is what matters most. Popularity online can be proven, too. There are a number of successful metrics and tools available that interpret popularity (Google Analytics is a good free start). In fact, Facebook has even come up with their own metrics and analytics to measure online traffic and popularity.

How can you be popular? With the right SEO it’s much easier than high school and without all the hassle of your hair. All of the search engine web guides agree that there are several ways, but that one area is key to increasing popularity for a web site: relevant content. Make sure your content is useful, meaningful, and maybe even a little funny.

2. Drink lots of link-juice.

Next in the hierarchy of being popular online are the number of sites linking to a site and how regularly updates are made. Although you will hear lots of news about keeping up with the changes to the search algorithm and the latest scams, err “methods” to boost online presence and popularity… the cold hard fact is that the World Wide Web is simply a network or web of sites. Much like the stops on the London Underground or New York City’s alphabet soup of a subway system. SEO is all about guiding the right passengers to your particular stop (website) and giving them proper directions about what is there. When you populate your site with well-chosen keywords and valuable content, you will soon find it being visited, linked and then “crawled” regularly and by increasing numbers of people. Obviously, I think you can guess that SEO Tutor is our favorite tool for not only measuring the number of links to your site, but also finding sites to build links on as well as getting regular updates on new links… not that we’re biased or anything.

Name.com Search Engine Optimization Made Easy

“It’s elementary my dear Watson, you need better keywords.” -Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and anyone since 1887 trying to make an obvious point

3. The key is Keywords.

The most basic foundation of SEO is how well the keywords for your product, good, or service have been chosen. It does not matter how long or short the tail on the keyword is (more on that later), what matters is that it is the most concise and specifically chosen word or words that best attracts your niche. You need to know who wants your product, good, or service. Really reflect on whom you want to attract to your site, how they talk, and what they are interested in. From there, it is easy to use an online tool like SEO Tutor to generate the most specific, relevant, and valuable keyword phrase for your site.

Thus, we close the first in our series on SEO with the simple question…what words do your customers use to find you?

Click here for Part II!

Conversion Optimization- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

You’ve waited for it and here it is! This is the second blog post in our Conversion

Numbers are fun!

Optimization series. Today we’ll be discussing conversion metrics, the numbers that measure a website’s effectiveness. Obtaining a higher conversion rate is the ultimate goal, but looking solely at your conversion rates doesn’t paint the whole picture. If you missed the first conversion optimization blog you can check it out here.

Bounce Rates represent the percentage of visitors who leave your site from the page they land on without navigating to another page. Alternately, Exit Rates are a lot like bounce rates, except they capture the percentage of visitors who leave your website after visiting more than one page. These metrics help you determine which pages of your site need optimizing, as well as which funnels are most effective.

Average Order Value gives you an idea of how much money people spend on your site in a particular purchase. This can be very useful in analyzing the buying habits of your customers. It can also be insightful to compare this number to the Customer Lifetime Value, which tells you how much a customer spends on your site across all purchases made. If your average order value is the same as your customer lifetime value it probably means that you have a problem with customer retention. However, if your customer lifetime value is much greater than your average order value there is revenue potential and you’re probably doing something right.

The Checkout Abandonment Rate is the percentage of visitors who add items to their cart, land on the checkout page, and do not place an order. Checkout abandonment plagues every website because companies often make poor decisions in designing their checkout pages. This is the place where users make their final buying decision, having links that navigate away from this page can lead to poor conversion rates. Evaluating the checkout abandonment rate on your site will provide insight into where visitors are falling out of the funnel.

Tracking your website’s Traffic Sources can help you determine which ad campaigns are working and which are not. A traffic source is exactly what it sounds like – a website, banner ad, email campaign, or anything else that directs traffic to your site. Google Analytics has a very cool dashboard that breaks down traffic by source.

The Google Analytics Traffic Source Overview

There are many other KPIs that businesses pay attention to and your taste in KPIs will evolve as your website does. The first step is understanding these metrics and deciding on how you want to use them internally. You may decide that customer lifetime value doesn’t matter, or that focusing on decreasing checkout abandonment is more lucrative than decreasing bounce rates on your homepage. The end goal is to increase conversion on your website, but the path you take to get there depends on what you discover about your site from analyzing your KPIs.

Building a Company Vision from the Inside Out: We Begin

When we last left off we were discussing the awkwardness of a pubescent company. See the introduction here. Today, Ashley begins the journey that should end in a BHAG. Not sure what that is? Continue on and see if you can set your sights on something Big, Hairy and Audacious…

Part 1: Finding our Vision

In order to do this we’ve got to dig deep. The end goal is a mission statement, but there is much reflection, thought, and work ahead of us before we’ll get there. We’ll be brainstorming:

1. What is our core ideology?

2. What are our core values?

3. What does our envisioned future looks like?

4. What sort of big hairy audacious goals (BHAG) we can set our sights on achieving?

In our initial research phase of this project a colleague of mine, Bo, sent along a fabulous article that I’d highly recommend to anyone else going through this process. It’s called, ’91Building Your Company Vision‘ by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras. (I will be leaning heavily on his work through the rest of this post/series so please give him credit where due!)

I’ll admit it; all this ’91vision talk’ sounds fluffy. But truth be told, the need for companies to have a clear understanding of their purpose is greater now more than ever. In our increasingly globalized society, in order to retain, motivate, and attract outstanding employees, companies must make their work meaningful (Collins). So where does one start in this massive undertaking? Defining your Core Ideology of course! Core ideology defines what you stand for and why you exist. Your core ideology will never change. An example would be the truths in the Declaration of Independence – we’d be in trouble if someone took a big red pen to those invaluable statements.

The process that Collins outlines for developing a core ideology is to come up with two distinct parts, core values and a core purpose. Brainstorm a list of 3-5 core values (if you have more than 5 you are more than likely confusing core values with other things such as operating practices or business strategies). Once you have your refined list, ask yourself, ’91If circumstances changed and we were penalized for holding this value, would we keep it?’ If you cannot honestly say yes, then it is not a core value.

So who from your organization should be in on the brainstorming sessions? Collins suggests creating a Mars group – that is, you’ve got 1 space shuttle w/ 5-7 seats headed to Mars and you’ve got to pick who fills the seats. Ask yourself who in the company, across different departments, is a “representative slice” of your company DNA. That is, they are highly competent and credible and they live out and are exemplars of your core values.

Here is a list of questions (suggested by Collins) that individuals should be able to answer:

-What core values do you personally bring to your work?

-What would you tell your children are the core values that you hold at work and that you hope they will hold when they become working adults?

-If you woke up tomorrow AM w/ enough money to retire, would you continue to live those core values?

-Can you envision them being as valid for you in 100 years from now as they are today?

-Would you want to hold those core values even if at some point they became more of a competitive disadvantage?

-If you were to start a new organization tomorrow in a different line of work, what core values would you build into the new organization regardless of its industry?

If you work for a company and you are unclear as to what your core values are, try borrowing some of Collins’ framework and running through some of the exercises. It’s a great team building activity and can actually turn out to be pretty fun! This is the stage we are at right now for Name.com. We have done our research and selected our Mars group, next step will be explaining the importance of these activities to the team and then begin the brainstorming sessions.

As we sit around and brainstorm these topics, we’re interested to hear what you guys have to say. What does Name.com mean to you??

Stay tuned; the next topic is on developing a Core Purpose.

P.S Do you find this interesting? Is there anyone out there involved in a start up or thinking of starting a business or project that finds this information useful? It sure gets my heart pitter-pattering, but I want to make sure I’m providing content you guys enjoy reading and keep coming back for. If you’d rather hear about something else please let me know! 🙂

Affiliate Getting Started, Series 1: Choosing An Affiliate Network

by Caroline, Name.com Domain Concierge

We’re assuming you already know what an Affiliate is and have a desire to start making money by promoting services/products in your niche on your blog. A quick way for locating Advertisers in your niche is through an Affiliate Network. Affiliate Networks act as intermediaries between you the Affiliate and the Advertiser. Affiliate Networks allow you to compare various offers from Advertisers and you can choose which offers to participate in and promote via your blog.

Soo’85How the heck do you choose an Affiliate Network? We thought http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/4388.asp had a few great suggestions for you to consider when selecting a network. We then took those suggestions with a few of our own and applied them to 3 Affiliate Networks who score pretty high on ranking sites. Check it out…

  • Tracking Methods (can you see real time results, can you customize your data)
  • Payment Methods. How the network pays commissions.
  • Payment Threshold. you have to earn before you are paid. If you are just starting a lower threshold -such as $1.00- will mean you receive money faster depending on payment cycles)
  • Ways to earn money (Type of programs they specialize in-Pay Per Lead, Pay Per Sale, Co-Registraion) If you are new to Affiliate Marketing then a range of ways to earn money gives you a chance to try different methods with your blog readers. See which method works best for your blog then seek advertisers who pay based on that method.
  • Industry Verticals Specific industries the network focuses on (or has success in). Make sure they support the industry you wish to promote.
  • Support/Training. Support provided to you as an Affiliate. Look for training opportunities too with an Affiliate Network. Networks want you to be successful and that starts with your success. You’ll want to make sure the help desks are easy to navigate and support is timely.
Category

Company

CJ.com

Clickbank.com

LinkShare.com

Tracking Real time tracking real time tracking, options to customize near real-timer reporting, will work with you on customizing
Payment Methods Check, Direct Deposit Check Check, Direct Deposit
Payment Threshold Check $100.00, Direct Deposit $50.00 $100.00 $1.00, however Advertisers can customize the threshold
Ways to Earn Money Advertiser Choice (Possible options: Perecent of sale, Cost per lead, Cost per Click) Percent of Sale Advertiser Choice (Possible options: Perecent of sale, Cost per lead, Cost per Click)
Industry Verticals Finance, Travel, Automotive, Consumer Products, Education, Health and Beauty, Retail, Business, Entertainment, Special Interest Arts & Entertainment, Betting Systems, Business / Investing, Computers / Internet, Cooking, Food & Wine, E-business & E-marketing, Education, Employment & Jobs, Fiction, Games, Green Products, Health & Fitness, Home & Garden, Languages, Mobile, Parenting & Families, Politics / Current Events, Reference, Self-Help, Software & Services, Spirituality, New Age & Alternative Beliefs, Sports, Travel Auto, Business & Career, Clothing & Accessories, Computer & Electronics, Department Store, Entertainment, Family, Financial Services, Food & Drink, Games & Toys, Gift & Flowers, Health & Beauty, Hobbies & Collectibles, Home & Living, Internet & Online, Mature/Adult, Miscellaneous, Office, Sports & Fitness, Telecommunications, Travel
Support/Training Tips and Training articles and webinars, support ticket support from within account Monday-Friday 7am-6pm Mountainn Time. Blog, PodCast, Webinars, all for ongoing education Email, Help Center, LinkShare University, Blog

Of course these are not the only 3 Affiliate Networks. Try this Google search for researching your own Affiliate Network to join. Best of luck with your Affiliate business!

The Importance of Focus: Small Business Leadership Series

Whether you’re a small business owner, individual, or an entire company, one of your biggest enemies may be multi-tasking. I’m not talking about the fire hydrant you took out last week while driving and trying to check your email and talking on your cell phone’85that’s just insanity. What I’m talking about is the much simpler idea of focus–of taking one idea and moving it forward, intentionally, wholeheartedly, and very consciously at the expense of all others–and it’s exact opposite, multi-tasking.

To get an idea of just how big of a problem this is for you or your company, count how many projects you’re working on right now. Add them up’85 how many did you get? 5, 10, 20, 50? Usually I range anywhere from 5 to 15 individually, and as a company I would say we’re usually anywhere from 100 to 250.

So why is it a problem? Well, there are really two issues. One is the quantitative fact that it makes every single project take longer. The second, is that it allows people to hide failure, roadblocks and missed deadlines.

Steve Jobs Felt Your Pain

Issue #1: Every project takes longer

So here’s what it looks like if you focus on one project at a time:

Here’s what it looks like if you “multi-task” and try to do it all at once.

The more you switch back and forth, the worse the numbers: more and more switching time and the first two tasks finish later and later. This isn’t to say you lock yourself in a room (I’ll leave whether it’s padded up to you), crush your cellphone, and maniacally focus on one task… that’s unreasonable. All we’re getting at is there is a cost to switching back and forth between projects in terms of both wasted time and later finish dates.

Issue #2: It allows people to hide failure, roadblocks and missed deadlines

If you only have one project, then when you run into issues with that one project you have no choice but to deal with the issues. On the other hand, if you have two projects, then you can just move to the second project. That’s great news for efficiency because now there’s no “down time,” but increase the number of projects to 3, 4, 5’85and I think you see the problem.

So why do we let this happen? It’s easy. Rather than do the hard work of actually fixing roadblocks and completing projects, you can just start another! Eventually, you have so many projects being “worked on” that it’s hard to keep track of what is stalled, what is moving smoothly, what is on time and what is late. Great if you’re someone looking for the path of least resistance, but a nightmare if you are an individual with a to do list or a company trying to meet deadlines!

The bottom line is that it takes discipline and focus to pick one project and see it through to the end.

What about you or your company? How many projects do you have going at once? Let us know below!