What Website Owners Need to Know About Cyberattacks In 2018

What Website Owners Need to Know About Cyberattacks In 2018

 

 

Imagine if one in every 15 websites you visited was secretly taken over by cybercriminals trying to steal your credit card information or other personal data. Now imagine if that website was your website, and you had no idea it was harming your visitors. This is the reality for many website owners, and now more than ever, they need to be on alert for cyber attacks in 2018.

In Q3 2017, alarming cybercrime trends have been discovered that will likely affect websites for months to come. The most worrying trend for website owners: cybercriminals are increasingly using malware, or software that is used for malicious purposes, to take advantage of website visitors. In fact, nearly 15 percent of malware attacks targeted website visitors with the goal of exploiting them for sensitive data, website traffic, and other assets or resources. That’s not all: cybercriminals attempted to compromise more websites in Q3 2017 than in the previous quarter, increasing their attempted attacks by 16 percent.

The frequency of these attacks means that your website – and your visitors – could be impacted at any time. Without proper website security in place, your website is likely to experience a cyber attack and suffer the consequences.

Using data, we’ll reveal how cybercriminals are able to exploit website visitors, what they gain from targeting visitors, and how you can put a stop to it in 2018 and beyond.

How are cybercriminals taking advantage of website visitors?

Stealthy cybercriminals prefer types of malware that can enter a website and cause damage quietly, as cyber attacks are typically more effective when both website owners and visitors are unaware the attack is happening. It’s for this reason that backdoor files were often used to execute visitor attacks in Q3 2017.

Backdoor Files

Backdoor files allow cybercriminals to gain administrative access to a site without the knowledge of the website owner. As the name suggests, you can literally think of it like the backdoor to a house that someone uses to enter and leave without being noticed. More specifically, backdoor files are uniquely encoded files that are difficult to detect. Cybercriminals can encrypt their backdoor files with a decoding key that only they possess, meaning, no one else has access to their malicious file. In Q2 2017, backdoors accounted for 23 percent of malware files. Because malware is becoming increasingly complex and easily hidden, backdoor files pose a large threat to website owners. Once a backdoor file is left on a website, cybercriminals can use it to return to the website at their leisure to cause more damage.

Once malware successfully infects a site, it can be used to deploy visitor attacks.

Visitor Attacks

Visitor attacks are attacks that occur on a website with the goal of exploiting the website’s visitors. These attacks can target sensitive customer data, steal website traffic, or spread malicious content.

In Q3 2017, visitor attacks accounted for 26 percent of malicious files cleaned, which means that if an attack occurs on your website, it’s likely targeting your visitors.

The most frequent visitor attacks in Q3 fell into one of four categories: SEO (search engine optimization) spam, redirects, defacements, and phishing kits. Below is a breakdown of what these attacks are and how they can harm website visitors.

SEO Spam

SEO (search engine optimization) spam takes advantage of the way keywords are used to influence how well a website ranks in search results. For those unfamiliar with SEO, a website has a better chance of ranking for a certain keyword if that keyword is used on the website. By injecting unrelated keywords into a victim’s website, cybercriminals can attempt to force a website to rank for those unrelated keywords instead. SEO spam is a top objective for cybercriminals, as the number of SEO spam files removed from websites increased 10 percent from Q2 to Q3 2017. SEO spam can add keywords directly onto to the pages of the website or inject them into the website’s code. The result: the attacker’s website sees higher traffic and improved rankings in search engine results, while the victim’s website loses traffic due to lower rankings and confused visitors.

SEO spam is classified as a visitor attack because it tricks visitors into viewing irrelevant content on the intended website. For example, if your visitors came to your blog looking for your latest recipe but found a post about prescription drugs instead, they’ll likely leave confused and unsure of whether your website is trustworthy. These irrelevant keywords can also devastate your website’s rankings in search results and draw traffic away from your website by directing your visitors to a different, malicious website.

Phishing Kits

Phishing kits are illegitimate replicas of popular websites like Google, Netflix, or various online banking applications that seek to steal sensitive information. Over 300 different organizations were targeted by 29,000 phishing kits in 2016, allowing cybercriminals to imitate several reputable websites. For example, if a visitor tries to complete a purchase on your site using PayPal but is unknowingly taken to a phishing site that looks like PayPal, that customer has just handed over their payment information to a cybercriminal. If they never receive the order that they paid for and discover that their information was stolen, you’ve not only lost a sale but likely a customer as well.

Redirects

Website redirect attacks occur when visitors arrive on your site and are instead redirected to a phishing or malware-infected website. These attacks account for 8 percent of malware files. Redirects are often part of an SEO spam attack or a phishing scheme, causing a loss website traffic and a decrease in trust from your visitors.

Defacements

Defacements change the appearance of your website when a cybercriminal replaces your website’s content with their own. You can think of it like digital graffiti on the homepage of your website. This content often includes an ideological or political message that could be off-putting to your customers. A defacement can render your website unusable, meaning you will lose leads, sales, and traffic. And when your website is restored, you can expect those numbers to stay low as visitors decide whether they still trust your website. Perhaps the most well-known type of malware, defacements accounted for 15 percent of malware files detected in Q3 2017.

Why are these cyber attacks happening?

While cybercriminals continue to increase their efforts and develop new types of malware, website owners largely continue to operate under a false sense of security. 13,000 website owners were surveyed to find out who they believe is responsible for their website security, and the responses were alarming. Of the surveyed website owners, 70 percent either believed their website was protected by their web host, or simply couldn’t answer the question.

It’s a common misconception that hosting providers offer security for each website they host. However, your web host only protects the server your website is hosted on, not the website itself. Think of it like securing an apartment building. Property management takes responsibility for securing the building, but each tenant must lock the door to their own apartment.

Another common website security misstep is relying on search engines for malware warnings. Popular search engines do their part to help create a safe internet by looking for websites with malware. To protect visitors, search engines will place a warning on a malware-infected site indicating that the site may be compromised. Search engines might even de-index the website if the infection isn’t resolved in a timely manner, meaning it will be removed from the search results. This process is known as “blacklisting,” and all too often – or perhaps not often enough – this is how website owners discover they have malware. Blacklisting can have a devastating effect on a website, causing a loss of traffic, trust, and revenue. For this reason, search engines err on the side of caution and only flag websites when malware is definitely identified. However, only 21 percent of infected websites are blacklisted, meaning that unflagged websites might still be infected with malware.

Fortunately, there are much more effective ways to secure your website.

Protect your website and your visitors in 2018 and beyond

Now that you’re aware of some of the ways malware can exploit your website and visitors this year, you should reinforce your website’s security. Here are a few simple best practices that can be implemented right away:

  • Use strong, unique passwords on all your website applications to prevent cybercriminals from guessing your password.
  • Update your applications and add-ons as soon as security patches become available and remove anything you’re not using anymore to help prevent vulnerabilities.
  • Maintain offsite backups of all website content so you can restore a clean copy of your website in the event that a cyber attack happens.

While everyday best practices are a great first step to securing your site, to combat threats effectively you’ll need to install a website scanner that looks for and removes known malware every day. You’ll be alerted when malicious or suspicious threats are identified, allowing you to resolve issues immediately and reduce the risk to your site and its visitors.

You’ll also save money by:

  • Not needing to hire an expert to remove malware manually.
  • Preventing costly downtime caused by cyber attacks. Website downtime can cost small businesses as much as $427 per minute.
  • Retaining customers and visitors. Recent data shows that 65% of customers who have had their data compromised refuse to return to the website that was responsible or simply stopped shopping online altogether.

With your website running safely and efficiently, you’ll be able to invest your time and money back into your business.

By taking proactive measures to protect your website, you can stay ahead of busy cybercriminals, cyber attacks and new trends in malware.

Is Social Media a “Pay to Play” in 2018?

Is Social Media a “Pay to Play” in 2018?

 

Remember MySpace?

It was one of the first social media platforms that revolutionized how people interact online.

In those days and even in the early days of Facebook, people were still trying to get comfortable with online “friendships.”

Some people didn’t join until a significant portion of humanity had already signed up. And even then, they were a bit hesitant.

Now, however, people are acquainted with social media, how it works, and why it’s fun. They trust it and they enjoy it. Therefore, they use it.

And in the days of social media discovery, everyone sort of wondered, “How are these platforms making money?”

Well, now we have the answer.

In a word, advertisements.

The more people that these platforms have access to, the more money they make from businesses wanting to sell those people their products.

And today, 62% of people living in North America have a Facebook account.

 

Since Facebook sells all of that user data to advertisers, they make a lot of money.

Unfortunately, that also means that growing an organic audience on social media platforms is only becoming more difficult.

Because Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, and Instagram want you to pay them money to reach your audience.

They don’t want you to be able to do that for free. At least, not easily.

While social media platforms might look like a simple and fun idea on the outside, the reality is that each one is a business.

Still, though, paying to play is well worth your time.

Not only does a massive portion of the human race use social media, but they use it regularly.

Over 75% of Facebook and Instagram users visit the platform at least once per day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that means if you advertise on the platforms, people will see you.

Social media is attracting people like crazy, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

For that reason, many marketers and advertisers are still using the platforms to spread their products and message, despite the “pay-to-play” models.

Just take Facebook, for instance. 93% of social media advertisers use Facebook Ads.

 

 

However, even the massive number of marketers and advertisers who use social media to sponsor their businesses struggle to quantitatively measure their effectiveness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s a damaging truth.

Not just to your spirit, but to your pocketbook. Maybe if you’re only trying to grow an organic following on social media, then it isn’t as detrimental.

After all, you’ll probably invest less money while trying to grow an organic following.

However, social media platforms are intentionally trying to get you to pay.

So first, I’ll discuss why and how that’s happening on social media platforms and then lay out some strategies to help you get the most bang for your buck on your advertising efforts.

Why social media is “pay-to-play”

It used to be that you could grow a social media following with some creativity and determination.

Now, however, you also need dollar bills.

And the more you have, the better you’ll be able to reach your audience.

That is, of course, on purpose.

Social media sites want you to pay to reach your ideal market. They don’t want you to able to reach it for free, and they definitely don’t want you to be able to go viral without paying for it.

Over the years, that truth is only becoming more prevalent.

As social media platforms establish themselves, they can require businesses pay more to reach their target markets.

And they are doing so. Vehemently.

In fact, on average, brands only reach 6% of their fans without using paid advertisements.

Clearly, that isn’t very promising.

Additionally, average Facebook engagement is on a downhill slope.

 

In other words, not only is it difficult to reach your ideal audience, but it’s almost impossible to get them to engage.

The answer, of course, is to run paid advertisements.

As Facebook’s stock price has increased, the average organic reach of business pages has decreased.

 

 

Why is that?

Because, again, Facebook doesn’t want you to build a following for free. They want you to pay for it.

Just consider this promote button that they constantly encourage businesses to click.

 

 

If you have a Facebook page, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

You probably even receive occasional notifications telling you to boost your post for $5 or $10.

That is a great way for Facebook to make money. But it might not be a great way for you to make money.

And that boost button becomes even more tempting when you find out that Facebook won’t even show your post to all of your current followers.

Just consider this post. My page has almost 920,000 followers, but Facebook has only shown the post to about 15,000 people.

 

 

Is that just because only some people have been on Facebook at the time of the post?

No. No, it isn’t.

It’s actually because Facebook intentionally restricts how many people a page can reach with their posts organically. They want you to click that boost button, and they want you to do it as often as possible.

The more you do, the more money they make.

That is, of course, only one example of the increasingly expensive social media climate that advertisers find themselves in.

So what can you do to get the most bang for your buck this year?

Specifically, five things. Here’s what they are.

1. Understand your advertising goals

Since every advertisement is going to cost you cold, hard cash, you shouldn’t run one unless you’ve first determined what the goal of the advertisement is.

If you don’t know, then it’s probably best for your bank account to forego paying for an ad.

The process doesn’t need to be complicated, though.

Just start by taking a look at your funnel, from awareness to consideration to transaction.

 

Then ask yourself where the advertisement falls within that funnel. What is the end goal of the ad?

Traffic? Conversions? Brand awareness?

The goal of your ad should directly impact the copy, image, and message that you send. If you don’t have a direct goal for your advertisement, then you shouldn’t run the ad in the first place.

Especially since an unsuccessful ad will cost you loads of money and time.

Naturally, there are a variety of different goals you can choose from.

This ad, for instance.

 

Is trying to do something far different than this ad.

One is trying to build brand awareness and strengthen Buffer’s brand image, while the other is trying to actually sell Buffer’s SaaS product.

One is top-of-funnel and the other is bottom-of-funnel.

Sometimes, you’ll want to run ads to a piece of content you created on your website.

Other times, you’ll want to simply sell your product.

Which goal you choose for your advertising campaign will also impact the audience you target.

If you’re trying to build brand awareness, then you might try to target people who’ve never heard of your business.

But if you’re trying to generate conversions, then it’s probably a better idea to run ads to people who already know about you and have indicated that they are interested in buying.

One thing’s for sure, though. If you don’t know what the goal of your advertisement is, then you don’t really have an advertisement at all.

Start with deciding a goal for your advertisement and don’t run the ad before you’ve determined it.

2. Choose the right social media platform

Each social media platform is different.

Some social media platforms are great for B2B advertising while others are great for B2C advertising. Still, some work for both.

Not only that, but each platform also offers different advertising options.

On Facebook, you can target custom and lookalike audiences, which we’ll talk more about it in a bit.

And on LinkedIn, you can target matched audiences.

With Pinterest, you can use Shoppable Pins.

Above all, though, Facebook shines through as the preferred option for marketers and advertisers everywhere.

In fact, 95% of marketers said that Facebook produces the best ROI for their advertisements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn fall into second, third, and fourth place.

If you’re looking to advertise on social media, then you should at least consider those top four platforms.

Still, one platform will work better for B2B while another works better for B2C. And one will work better for SaaS while another works better for physical products.

How can you decide which platforms to use and which to ignore for the sake of your business and your ROI?

Well, if you’re marketing for a B2B company, then LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube should stand at the top of your marketing list.

 

However, keep in mind that, on LinkedIn, you can’t do a very good job of selling your actual products.

For generating leads, the platform is remarkable. But for generating conversions, not so much.

Twitter is great for quick advertisements that drive leads and conversions. And YouTube is perhaps the best platform for building a meaningful connection with your audience since it’s based in video content.

Here’s a quick overview of each social media platform and their specialities.

 

 

In particular, you’ll notice:

Pinterest is great if you have a female audience, Twitter has the largest penetration in the U.S., Facebook is mostly on mobile, Instagram is all about images, Google+ has 300 million active users, and LinkedIn is B2B oriented.

Those unique differences should impact the place you advertise and the advertisements you use.

And each one will cost you money because each social media platform is a business.

So you need to choose the platform that will provide you with the best ROI. That way, you’re not wasting your hard-earned cash on a platform that simply doesn’t work with your business.

3. Target custom and lookalike audiences

Here’s what you don’t want to do.

You don’t want to pay for advertisements, run them for weeks on end, and receive little-to-no attention.

Unfortunately, that’s often what happens when marketers run advertisements without taking the necessary precautions. Or at least, having the necessary knowledge.

Take, for instance, the audience you choose to target.

You can target everyone in the social media world with the right interests. Or, you can target people who are similar to your current successful audiences.

In most cases, the latter option is far more effective.

Fortunately, most social media platforms offer a variation of what Facebook calls custom and lookalike audiences.

 

 

LinkedIn calls it matched audiences and Twitter calls it tailored audiences.

But the feature is largely the same across the board.

So what exactly does the feature do?

Well, it allows you to target audiences that are similar to your current successful audiences.

Imagine, for example, that you have an email list that is incredibly successful. Your open rate, click-through rate, and engagement rate are remarkable for your industry.

With customer and lookalike audiences, you can leverage that email list.

The feature allows you to do one of two things.

  • Target your email list or some other predetermined audience.
  • Target an audience that is similar to your email list or other predetermined audience.

The benefits of those features are obvious.

If you have an audience that is already successful, then targeting those same people or people with a similar attitude and demographic is likely to pull results.

In the case of Facebook lookalike audiences, advertisers experience higher-quality and scale than other advertising options.

 

 

However, using the feature for one of your social media campaigns will usually require you to install a tracking pixel on your website.

This is what that looks like on Facebook.

 

 

ortunately, that’s quite simple and anyone can do it.

Most social media platforms will walk you through the steps to do so, and all you have to do is follow.

Once you’ve installed the pixel, that social media platform will receive data from your website to understand how your ad is performing.

How many people visit your website? How many people convert? Or how many people abandon their shopping cart?

That’s all available information if you install the required pixel.

Then you’ll be able to use custom and lookalike audiences, giving your advertisements the best bang for your marketing buck.

4. Run retargeting ads

Similar to customer and lookalike audiences are retargeting ads.

These allow marketers to show advertisements to people who have taken (or not taken) certain actions on their website.

Again, you only have access to retargeting ads if you install the corresponding social media pixel on your website.

Most social media websites, though, will allow you to run retargeting ads with ease.

Here’s how they work.

Someone visits your site, and the social media pixel tracks their actions. Let’s pretend, for instance, that they put an item in their shopping cart, but leave before buying.

Then, when they go on Facebook, they see an advertisement that targets them with the exact item they added to their cart, maybe offering an additional discount as an incentive.

 

 

For obvious reasons, retargeting ads are more successful than their less-targeted counterparts.

But just how successful are retargeting ads?

Well, on average, they receive three times more clicks, and they are four times more likely to convert new customers.

Here’s what a retargeting ad sometimes looks like. The person visits the website and then they see a sidebar ad on Facebook of the exact same item.

 

 

The other regard in which retargeting ads help your marketing success is across different devices.

In today’s world, people use multiple devices. They view your website on their laptop and then Facebook on mobile.

As you can see in the chart below, the device percentages are almost evenly split.

 

 

With retargeting ads and a social media pixel, the ads don’t depend on cookies, which are device specific. But they often identify the actual user.

That means even though the person visited your website on their laptop and then Facebook on their phone, the pixel sees the person instead of the different devices.

Clearly, that’s a win for your marketing strategy.

Here’s a retargeting ad, for instance, in which J. Crew Factory offers a discount for a user who abandoned their cart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And another example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And one more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do that and you’re sure to get more bang for your buck out of your advertising dollars.

Retargeting ads are less risky than most other advertisements because they target people that, you know, are already interested in your product.

You just have to give them a little push before they buy.

Conclusion

As time goes on, social media is only going to get more expensive.

Each platform is trying to run a business, which means that they are trying to make money.

You are their customer.

And your customer is their product. Fortunately, the story isn’t all bad.

Social media is remarkable at finding and targeting your audience.

Even though you now have to “pay to play,” as long as you use your dollars wisely, you can use social media to advertise your products and grow your business.

The four things you want to focus on are understanding your advertising goals, choosing the right social media platform, targeting custom and lookalike audiences, and running retargeting ads.

Then, and only then, will you get the best bang for your buck in the expensive social media climate you find yourself in.

18 Digital Strategy Tips to Consider for 2018

18 Digital Strategy Tips to Consider for 2018

As we kick off 2018, now’s a good time for companies to take a look at their digital strategies and try out a few New Years resolutions. Recently at Ignite Academy, we’ve been talking a lot about the importance of building a solid strategy. To get the year off right, we believe a good strategy articulates your business goals, the audience you’re trying to reach, and the most cost-effective methods for managing your time and resources.

We also believe that companies should strive to stay ahead of the curve, utilizing a toolbox of the latest trends and techniques. As new and improved technologies become available, make sure you’re on top of your game with tools tailored to your business needs.

Gearing up for 2018, let us present to you our top 18 tips to take your company’s digital strategy to the next level.

1. Connect Your Business Objectives with your Digital Marketing Strategy

According to Forbes Magazine, reviewing your current strategies is an important first step in making improvements to ensure that your business objectives and digital marketing practices are on the same page.

In many companies, there’s still a divide between traditional and digital departments. Take a look around at what you already have and ask yourself how you can integrate these departments for operational optimization.

2. Integrate Video into the Customer Journey

Making it personal is the key here. Trends from 2017 show an increased demand for video personalization, as well as an interest in integrating video marketing into the customer journey.

By inserting a well-placed video to illustrate your company’s product, service, or cause, you can create a personalized journey for your customers. It’s a creative way to leave an impact.

3. Integrate Content Marketing into the Customer Journey

Did you know that 70% of people said they’d rather learn about a business through an article than an ad?

Good storytelling can humanize your company. Another bonus to consider: content marketing is cheaper than many other forms of marketing (plus it can produce more leads). You can also go to town with creativity here: content marketing can take many forms, from blog posts to videos and infographics.

4. Keep Your Eye on SEO (Still)

SEO is not going out of fashion any time soon, the majority of people searching for your company on the web still refer to search engines as their first port of call.

If you have a presence in the top positions for keywords the user is searching, then you have a much better chance of attracting more attention and trust for your company.

As for utilizing technology: consider a strategy on how to optimize your site’s content to meet Google’s standards for Featured Snippets.

5. Get On Board with Live Video

Live video is nothing new, but it’s growing exponentially. Lately, everyone wants a piece of Facebook Live – in fact, 80% of users said they’d rather watch a live video than read a blog post, while according to Facebook, live video gets 3 times more views than regular video content.

Here are 3 quick tips for getting started with live video:

  1. Use live video at events to give followers a behind-the-scenes look at the event.
  2. Use live video to introduce your followers to your employees.
  3. Advertise an exclusive sale or promotion to anyone who watches your live video.

6. Consider Paying Attention to Generation Z

Everyone loves to hate marketing to Millennials, but Generation Z can now start taking some of the heat.

In 2018, lots of businesses will want to start focusing on Generation Z marketing – the next generation. You might as well get started now, since this generation spans almost 20 years.

7. Consider Hyper-Local Marketing

The digital landscape is making it easier than ever for local businesses to interact with consumers. Google Posts rolled out to all businesses in 2017. Facebook Local gives consumers a more localized social platform.

Also keep in mind that Local Services Ads make it easier to prove you’re trustworthy. Let’s hope we see more of this local focus in search results and social media in 2018 and beyond, because this gives local businesses the chance to compete with even the biggest brands for consumer attention.

8. Check out Machine Learning for Advertising

New platforms like Acquisio and Trapica promise to optimize ad spend through advanced machine-learning algorithms. Marketers simply need to set basic campaign parameters, and the platforms then do the work of identifying ideal audiences and effective creatives.

For example, Acquisio’s High-Frequency Predictive Algorithms learn and decide how to optimize digital marketing results across ad platforms, making optimized bid adjustments within budget 24/7.

9. Incorporate Social Messaging into Communications

Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of incorporating social media into their digital strategies. As an addition, you might also want to consider using direct messaging apps along with other social media marketing techniques you already have in place.

According to the latest Ofcom Communications Market research, more than half of the total mobile audience uses Facebook Messenger (61%) while exactly half uses WhatsApp (50%). These significantly large audiences should not be ignored when considering the integration of messaging apps as part of your strategy.

10. Don’t Forget to Test

As advertising tycoon David Ogilvy once said:

“Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.” 

The more you test, the more likely you are to see patterns emerge which can help guide your subject line creation.

In other words, don’t go full steam ahead unless you have the full picture. Proper testing can save you precious time and resources down the line.

11. Consider (More) Email Automation

Lindsay Tjepkema, Director of Content at Emarsys, says that marketing automation is a powerful software that aims to automate marketing processes.

With a little bit of research and training, your marketing department can greatly benefit from this technology. Learn how you can more efficiently manage repetitive tasks – including emails, text message campaigns, social media, and more – so that your team is free to focus on other aspects.

 

12. Try Customer Experience Marketing

Customer experience marketing is exactly what it sounds like – making sure the customer has a positive experience from start to finish as they navigate your company’s marketing process. Notably, 68% of marketers claim that their business is increasingly focusing on customer experience in marketing.

Why is customer experience essential? Customers see your company or brand as the sum of the experiences they’ve had with you. This could be anything from in-store customer service to finding your local listing online or seeing one of your company’s ads on Facebook.

So, make sure you’re putting your best foot forward – from start to finish.

13. Don’t Shy Away from Transparency

In a world where everyone has access to reviews, transparency and trust are big factors when consumers are checking out an organization. There’s a lot out there that people can learn about you from the web. They search for your social media profiles. They “Internet stalk” you. In short, they want to know everything they can possibly know about you before they come to your business.

We’re most likely to see this transparency increase in 2018. So, beef up your review marketing strategy. Feel free to give consumers a behind-the-scenes look at your company.

Instead of shying away from transparency, embrace it by adding a human element to your marketing, so that whomever is searching for you will see you as more than just your service or logo.

14. Think About What Influencer Marketing Can do for You

Want to quickly build your brand online and raise awareness among your target audience? According to Social Media Today, influencer marketing is growing faster than digital ads.

The beauty of influencer marketing (if done right) is that the audience is already there. All you have to do is figure out a win-win partnership where your influencer benefits – all the while generating new leads for your company.

 

15. Utilize Instagram Stories

Instagram is growing at an impressive clip. In 2017, Instagram announced that approximately 800 million people now use the platform each month. Their latest tool, Instagram Stories, became more popular than Snapchat just one year after going live.

Since brands tend to see better engagement on Instagram than any other social media platform – and because of great advertising controls – Instagram is poised to become the go-to channel in 2018 for brands interested in social media marketing.

16. Revisit Twitter – Do You Need it?

Twitter has only shown moderate growth in 2017. This may be due to the fact that the platform has focused on user acquisition rather than on making improvements to their ad platform – as a result, marketers are already using other social media platforms to connect with prospects. It may be worth considering whether Twitter is still producing the results you want as part of your 2018 planning.

17. Consider Which is Better for You – Gated Content or Stronger SEO

In the B2B world, gated content is how many marketers generate leads, but some of the top brands – including Hubspot and Zendesk – are now un-gating their content. The reason for this? Developing a stronger organic search presence in an increasingly crowded content landscape.

If you think this might be the right move for your company, consider making the switch for 2018 as well.

18. Remember, Strategy Over Tactics

Your strategy is the process that defines your approach to reach your business goals. Without a strategy, the time and resources you’re putting into your tactics may turn out to be a waste.

A solid strategy will help you determine your budget, while it’ll also assist with the evaluation process so that you can effectively cut out what’s not working and push forward with what does.

Once you’ve determined your goals, make sure your strategy is fully committed to achieving those goals. In other words – don’t be reactive; be proactive.

Source: SocialMediaToday

Loose Potential Clients in 3 Seconds if You Don’t Follow These 29 Steps

Loose Potential Clients in 3 Seconds if You Don’t Follow These 29 Steps 

The ever expanding world of online business has initiated companies towards paying due attention to their websites. Known as the face of an organization on the web world, a website is a source of information for the users and a way to connect with their needs.

They project ideas, products and services to the target audience and evoke them to act favorably. This mandates for designing a good layout that suits the eyes as well as the senses. Indeed, the designs should be attractive enough to spellbind the users and magnetize them to make purchases.

While creating an impressive design, it is necessary to note some of the cautionary steps to make it big on the web world:

Here is how to make a good website layout?

#1. Pen Down Ideas:

Each time your mind hits with an idea, capture it, because you might not get a second chance or the same idea again. Maintain a diary where you can jot down all the ideas as and when you get them.

Collaborating all these together you can create a masterpiece project.

Also Read: 9 Top Moodboarding tactics that web designers need to implement in the year 2016

#2. Sketching the Layout:

Making a rough sketch of the layout planned will give a fair idea about the positioning of all the elements to be included. Be it the image, content or video, everything needs to be properly placed in a visually appealing layout.

As designers sit down to sketch, they will be able to make alterations as per the notes made earlier till the perfect layout sketch is crafted.

#3. Start with the Grid System:

On the base of the sketch made, access the latest version of the Photoshop with enhanced features. Start by giving a grid to the PSD file as the grid system makes the exact placement of images, content or videos as per the measurements ideated.

It is meant to support the structure of every section in a website. In fact, it is the first step towards achieving perfection in designing the website’s layout.

#4. Font Selection:

Appearance is one of the most important aspects of a website design. Typography just like any other component has a crucial role to play in deciding whether people will love your design or not.

It should be bold enough for an efficient visual appeal and helps the user to understand what is written. Indeed, symmetry is important in the website and it is always better to use one type of Font for the entire website; unless, it is extremely necessary to change it at some points.

#5. Choosing the color theme:

Colors are vital to the health of a website because they tend to add life to a structured layout. With so many colors to choose from the palette available in Photoshop, consider the color as per the idea of the company’s business.

Taking colors from the company’s logo can be an ideal choice; but, sticking just to it is not the suitable thing. Try selecting the matching colors, or maybe the contrast ones for a better choice. In doing so, it is necessary for the designer to think twice that a particular color may not irritate the users or be eye-catching. This will affect the web traffic ratio to the website.

Also read: How to Choose the Perfect Color Scheme for Your Web Design Projects

#6. Selecting apt images:

The images are meant to describe the ideas, which mandates for selecting them cautiously to represent business thoughts.

Along with this, detailed images are always welcome for the products displayed, so as to give a fair idea to the consumer. This will help in building the trust factor of the users for your website.

#7. Analyze the interactive pattern:

Once your layout has been fixed, don’t sit back and relax! You are not yet there.

You have miles to go before the final layout is ready to use.

Designers are at the advantage of deciding the user’s behaviour over the web.

Also, when you design the website, you are at the liberty of choosing how quickly your people find out what they are searching.

There are certain patterns and conventions in web designs that exist because no one has given these a second thought or there was no considerable rethinking on what are the actual requirements.

So, once you finalize the layout, pause a while and rethink whether you are doing this and how well will this benefit your customers.

#8. Hunt for ideas:

Successful designers were not created in a single day. It is years of practice, dedication, innovation and creativity that leads to perfectionism.

Being perfect is the call of a designer’s profession.

When you design a website, let it not be just a part of the existing bandwagon.

Bring out something innovative, take up the challenge. Ensure that you create a design that is unique and ousts all your previous works.

You could do something like adding up an artificial intelligence system or modifying some of the minor components or bring about a change in the selection of colour palettes that you choose to design the web.

#9. Each component is important:

Being a designer myself, there have been several situations wherein I had kept aside certain components to be tended to at the last.

But honestly, I  couldn’t offer justice to such components or elements of my design layout.

Sometimes, I would think it’s okay to have shown a little disrespect to these entities when the rest of the design glows and shines.

When I think of those components that were left out, I feel guilty. I should have given time to these and designed them well.

So, when you design, remember each component of your site is important and try to make it unique.

#10. Are your PSD’s sparkling clean?

Though there might be a whole team of designers involved in your project, no matter whether it is a small one or bigger one, you have to ensure that your files are clean.

Advantages:

  1. Speeds up the design process
  2. Makes it easier to export different sections
  3. Also, you can share the files with others, who can collaborate their work.

#11. Is it something that people can relate?

You can start evaluating whether the design is something that people can relate easily.

But, before you think about the people think of whether it is possible for you to relate to these designs?

Often, it is found that what pleases you might not seem to be a pleasant idea to your client.

It would be great if you could request client suggestions at each stage and also try to view your designs from the client’s perspective.

#12. Fancy stuff is good but not always:

We do not need a lot of fancy stuff to ensure that our website looks beautiful.

Minimize the use of images, flashes and javascript in your design.

The worst part of having fancy stuff like a lot of images and flashes is that it will trigger the site’s loading speed and you do not want to lose you valuable people just because your site took a while longer.

Also Read: How to Enhance The Loading Speed Of a Website by Perfect Optimization

#13. Dividing the layout structure:

Every piece in the website layout has to be joined meticulously to create a symmetry. In this regard, it is necessary to divide the structure and check as to what part will take how much space.

As a part of this process, there is a need to give right spacing between the sections to make the layout look extensively attractive.

#14. Attention to details:

Giving high weightage to the detailing is imperative because it directs the way of a website’s appeal.

Be it adding gradient touch to the buttons or adding small popup or changing the color or even an animation, each and everything should be intended to give a collective look and not scattered pieces.

This mandate for the designer to keep re-checking and fine-tuning the website layout for any kind or additions or subtractions to give it proper shaping.

#15. Keeping the resolutions intact:

Blurry pixels is one of the most unwelcome things in the web world. The users tend to shun away from the website with blurry images or even the blurry edges of the image.

This accentuates the designer to create the layout with the highest resolution possible so that the pixels of the images do not get blurry on being expanded. Moreover, It will create a bad impression on the users too.

#16. Design for a variety of devices:

In designing the website layout, the designer should keep in mind the popularity of varied devices in prevalence. With the websites getting designed for different screens,

it is necessary for the expert to see that his website should be compatible with every screen and allow access to varied sections of people in need.

Also Read: Fundamentals Of Responsive Designing That You Must Master

#17. Support the developers:

Developers have an innovative mind and they are expert enough to assist in deciding the concept of the website layout.

So, they should be included in the ideation process from the start and not when their practical task has to be endured. Certainly, sharing the ideas with them will definitely lead to better procedures

#18. Constant check over the website:

As the website enters the development phase, the designer is required to pay attention to his layout because it may not get disturbed by the elements of web development is used. After all, designing layout is an integral part of how a website would look on the web world and slightest of negligence with it will be an obstacle in the way of establishing a brand name.

In the growing world of technology, websites are forming as the base for the organizations to stay in connection with their target audience and persuade them to act favorably.

This necessitates for the designers to keep their mind alert towards selecting the best images, appropriate content, suitable theme and the justifiable colors to make a good looking website layout. Moreover, the first impression is the last and this consideration should drive the designers to do their best.

#19. Choose a template:

Ask your web design company or web designer to illustrate or for a demo of the templates they have been using for their previous clients. If they have been designing across the same ideas then, it is better to drop the idea of getting the layout designed by them!

Someone who is using the same template over and over again cannot give you anything new because they are afraid of failure which is one of the reasons why they stick to the same old template.

All the people are using the same template then, why do you want to join their bandwagon and bore your people?

Think different, act different that should be the policy of the web Design Company you are choosing as it will reflect in the templates and layout designs that they will curate for you.

You need your design to stand out! It is impossible unless they are willing to use a template that is quite different from others. If they can provide you with a number of choices then, things are easier and you can go ahead with the web designer.

#20. Customize the template for your design:

Now that you have got your template, the next step is to blend it with the vision of your brand. Customization is what you have to do!
Bring in some images, content and maybe, a video and combine it all.

The shape, borders, page sequence, fonts, color and much more are all an integral part of your layout that needs to be customized according to your brand and customers your business is seeking out.

You can choose to keep your layout as simple or decorative as you wish. But, before you set out to mixing in a lot of components consider the kind of audiences that you are targeting.

It is always an important factor to design your layout for the audience rather than blending in things that you like.

#21. Tweak the appearance:

Once you add up and adjust the appearance of your layout’s design, it is ready to take the final call. But, there is something that you need to do before you proceed.

Remember there are those aspects of a website that are important beyond choosing the right color and typography for your layout.

You could introduce parallax scrolling to your website or add videos in the background or inject in wide strips to draw your user’s attention to the website.

#22. Navigation flow:

It is not a new factor that we are hearing of! We are all familiar with the importance of navigation flow when it comes to designing layout for a website.

It is important to plan your site flow strategically such that the users are clear with the site structure and know where exactly to look for the main menus, pages, subpages, and the internal links.

#23. Call-to-Action:

It is the place where the user responds and takes the required action.

So, when designing the layout of your site it is important to have a clear picture of what you are going to demand from your visitors.

The position where you are going to place the call-to-actions also matters.

It is where your customers will start doing something for you as per your request.

Subscription forms or contact buttons or sell or buy options are the common things conveyed through call-to-actions. This is where a customer decides what they are going to do on your site.

Also Read: Call-To-Action that works: Above or below the fold?

#24. Content arrangement:

Content is one of the most important things on your website layout.

Before you start you need to decide where you will get your content inserted into.

The hierarchy of your content is another thing that matters a lot.

You need to decide which are the portions that deserve more priority and which are those areas that deserve lesser priority and then, make the arrangements accordingly.

As you know content is the king and the future of your business is determined by the flexibility your content offers to your people in terms of fulfilling their needs.

Do not stuff in a lot and irritate your people. Keep it simple and precise. They will love it!

#25. Readability:

Another most important point to consider when placing your carefully written content on to your website layout is the content’s readability.

Find out the degree to which your content is readable!
If it is not readable and the people have to take an extra strain to read your content then, it is of no use.

They do not need a reason apart from this to leave your website.

Select the fonts carefully. Also, the color, size and the other details of your font do matter when it comes to readability.

#26. Is it ready for the search engines:

This is one of the other most important factors that need to be considered when designing your site.

What use is a website that is not optimized for the search engines?

If you have a website that is invisible because it is not keyword optimized, then you will never reach the top of the search engines and no one will ever know that you have a website and you have got all the answers for their questions.

So, while you fix the layout get your SEO analyst fix the keywords and work on competitor analysis so that you can incorporate it when the website is ready.

The text and the images also need to be SEO optimized before fitting them into the website.

This will ensure that your website is ready for the search engines.

#27. Link Building:

If you get a link from another site then, it is one of the best things to happen to you.

You could make your visitors share your content and also, submit your site to directories to increase your reach and acquire genuine website links.

It helps to drive more traffic from the search engines.

#28. Mobile:

When you are working on your layout design, another most important thing to consider is whether your site is optimized well for the mobile devices and not just the desktop devices.

As you know the likes and interests of our audiences are changing and it is necessary to make our site optimized for all the devices that they are likely to use rather than choosing to optimize it for just a few.

#29. Connect with your audience:

Before your site goes, live this is one another factor that you need to take into consideration.

Your website needs to be liked by your audience. It is necessary that they come to your site frequently.

So, there are a few things that you need to incorporate in your layout design to ensure that your audience will stay connected.

You could include a blog, social feed, and newsletter which will ensure that your audiences will stay connected with you throughout.

So, apart from the points we discussed above,

What are your thoughts  about a good web layout?

 

 

13 Website Design Trends You Hope Your Competitors Don’t Know About

13 Website Design Trends You Hope Your Competitors Don’t Know About

Written by Karla Cook | @krla_cook

The landscape of web design is constantly evolving.

Something that looked modern and fresh yesterday can appear dated seemingly overnight, and trends once dismissed as irrevocably passé can unexpectedly cycle back in vogue.

To help you prepare for wherever the web design tide takes us in 2017, we’ve put together a list of 13 trends to keep a close eye on. Check them out below, and get inspired to tackle your web design projects this year with style.

13 Web Design Trends to Watch in 2017

1) Bold Typography

More and more companies are turning to big, bold typography to anchor their homepages. This style works best when the rest of the page is kept minimal and clean, like this example from French agency Big Youth.

2) Cinemagraphs

Cinemagraphs — high-quality videos or GIFs that run on a smooth, continuous loop — have become a popular way to add movement and visual interest to otherwise static pages. Full-screen loops, like this stunning example from Danish agency CP+B Copenhagen, are sure to hold visitors’ attention for longer than a quick glance.

3) Experimental Compositions

To stand out in a sea of tidy masonry style layouts, some designers are opting instead for more eclectic structures. Design director Will Geddes displays samples of his work in this unexpected collage of overlapping images.

4) Bright Gradients

Kaleidoscopic gradients are coming back in a big way. Zurich-based agency Y7K illustrates a perfect example of how to make this two-tone effect look fresh and modern, with their full-screen, gradient-washed homepage.

5) Vivid Layers of Color

Staggered, stacked layers of color add depth and texture to a simple site layout, as seen in this stylish example from the São Paulo-based team behind Melissa Meio-Fio.

6) Straightforward, Simple Text

Some websites are cutting out images and prominent navigation sections altogether, relying on a few choice lines of straightforward text to inform visitors about their company.

Danish agency B14 uses their homepage real estate to simply describe their mission statement and provide links to samples of their work. It’s a modern, uncluttered approach to presenting information.

7) Illustration

More companies are turning to illustrators and graphic artists to create bespoke illustrations for their websites. After years of flat design and minimalism, adding illustrated touches to your site is a great way to inject a little personality, as seen in this charming example from NewActon (designed by Australian digital agency ED).

8) Ultra-minimalism

Taking classic minimalism to the extreme, some designers are defying conventions of what a website needs to look like, displaying just the absolute bare necessities. The site from designer Mathieu Boulet is centered around a few choice links to his social profiles and information.

9) Duotone

These parred-down, two-tone color schemes look cool and contemporary, like this example from Australian Design Radio.

10) Mixing Horizontal and Vertical Text

Freeing text from its usual horizontal alignment and placing it vertically on a page adds some refreshing dimension. Take this example from director Matt Porterfield, which mixes horizontal and vertical text alignments on an otherwise very simple page.

11) Geometric Shapes and Patterns

Whimsical patterns and shapes are popping up more frequently on websites, adding some flair in a landscape otherwise ruled by flat and material design. Canadian design studio MSDS uses daring, patterned letters on their homepage.

12) Modular Design

Modular design is certainly sticking around in 2017. It’s a foolproof way to create a clean, accessible website that keeps visitors interested. This example from design studio Waaarkoffers a twist on modular design: When you hover over the dividing edges between modules with your cursor, you produce an unexpected ripple effect.

13) Overlapping Text and Images

Text that slightly overlaps accompanying images has become a popular effect for blogs and portfolios. Freelance art director and front-end developer Thibault Pailloux makes his overlapping text stand out with a colorful underline beneath each title.

What web design trends do you think will really take off in 2017?

Can Color Determine Your Website’s Fate? 12 Insider Tips

Can Color Determine Your Website’s Fate? 12 Insider Tips

Did you know that 85 percent of shoppers base their product purchasing decisions on color?

It’s true.

At first, I found that stat to be amazing.

But after considering just how visually-driven we are as humans, it made total sense.

Visual stimuli guide nearly everything we do.

So why would it be any different when it comes to buying?

And just think about some of the world’s biggest brands.

Most tend to have a distinct color scheme associated with their brand identity.

For McDonald’s it’s red and yellow.

For Dell it’s blue.

And so on.

Color and branding

As we all know, establishing a solid brand identity is vitally important.

It’s a key ingredient in building trust, making consumers feel comfortable, and creating long-term brand advocates.

And what’s an integral part of a brand?

Its logo.

The color scheme that a company chooses for its logo is forever entwined with its brand identity.

According to research, “Color increases brand recognition by 80 percent.”

So I think it’s fair to say that color scheme is pretty important.

There’s something else to keep in mind. Brand color has a correlation with brand value.

Sure, there’s some cause/effect tradeoff, but take a look at these stats:

Valuable brands care about their colors. A lot!

If you were to go and mess with the colors of an existing brand, it would completely change how that brand is perceived.

Take a look at these examples from TheLogoFactory.com

You can instantly spot the artificial logos, and you feel something different surrounding that brand!

Website color scheme

Just like it’s crucial to choose the right color for your brand logo, it’s equally as crucial to choose the right color scheme for your website.

You don’t want to pick your color scheme at random or base it on “whatever looks cool” to you.

Of course, you want awesome aesthetics and to “make it pop,” but color scheme is something that you want to give plenty of thought.

Why?

“People make a subconscious judgment about an environment or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing. Between 62 and 90 percent of that assessment is based on color alone.”

If you choose the right color scheme that’s naturally geared toward your demographic, you’ve already won half of the battle.

I would now like to offer 12 essential tips on how to pick the perfect website color scheme based on research and my own personal experience.

  1. Understand how color affects emotion

The first thing I recommend is familiarizing yourself with how color affects humans on an emotional level.

Here’s a breakdown of how various CTA button colors affect shoppers in North America.

Note that the impact of color can vary depending on geographical location.

For instance, a color that appeals to American shoppers may not necessarily appeal to Indian shoppers.

I also came across the Color Emotion Guide that explains the emotions we associate with colors and provides some examples of brands that use each color.

I suggest spending some time looking at these examples and thinking about the psychological implications of the various colors.

  1. Consider your overall demographic

Now I’d like you to think about your target demographic.

Who is it you’re trying to reach and sell to?

What types of emotions are you trying to arouse?

These are extremely important questions to ask yourself.

I recommend checking out this information from Fast Company that explains the emotions and psychology behind common colors.

Consider the personality and emotions of your target audience.

Then choose the best color to serve as the primary color for your website color scheme.

For example, if you’re an organic food company, your best bet would probably be green because it’s associated with nature and health.

  1. Consider gender

Although this won’t apply to everyone, some companies mostly cater to a specific gender.

If you’re one of these companies, you’ll want to know what are men’s and women’s favorite and least favorite colors.

Research from Joe Hallock’s Colour Assignments found that on average each gender has definite color preferences.

Here’s what I mean.

As you can see, men really like blue and dislike brown and purple.

Women like blue and purple and dislike brown and orange.

This is just another factor to keep in mind.

  1. Consider age group

Here’s something to think about that may not be obvious — age group.

Did you also know that a person’s color preferences can change with age?

According to research from Joe Hallock, it’s true.

Here are people’s favorite color by age group.

Here are people’s least favorite color by age group.

If a certain age group dominates your demographic, then this too will be a factor to consider.

  1. Take “the color quiz”

If you need a little help deciding on a primary color, you may want to take this quiz from Grasshopper.

It will ask you things like “what best describes your customers” and “what type of product you offer.”

It’s quick and easy (only seven questions) but can point you in the right direction if you’re a little confused about which direction to take.

  1. Let go of your biases

Here’s a mistake that I’ve seen many businesses make when choosing a color scheme.

And that’s basing it on their personal preferences rather than psychology.

If your favorite color is blue, it’s very tempting to make blue your primary color.

But if you’re a cosmetics company targeting a female demographic, this would be a mistake, and you would usually be better off going with purple or pink.

This is just something to keep in mind because you don’t want your own personal preferences to end up costing you sales and potentially diluting your brand over time.

  1. Decide on how many colors to use

So at this point, you should have a primary color in mind.

Now it’s time to figure out how many colors you want to use in total.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for this, I would like to point out something that’s called the 60-30-10 rule.

Long story short, this rule is used to come up with a color scheme in areas like interior design and fashion and involves dividing three colors into percentages to create a “perfect harmony.”

Here’s how it all breaks down.

  • 60 percent of a dominant color
  • 30 percent of a secondary color
  • 10 percent of an accent color

This means that the primary color will account for roughly 60 percent of the space on your website, the secondary color will account for 30 percent and the accent color will account for 10 percent.

If you want an example of the 60-30-10 rule, look no further than Quick Sprout.

Notice how green is the primary color, white is the secondary color and black is the accent color.

So when you boil it all down, this means that the ideal number of colors to use would be…drumroll please!

Three.

Now I’m not saying that you have to go with three colors, but it’s a good number to shoot for.

Using any more than four colors can make things complicated and downright ugly.

  1. Choose your set of colors

What you want to do now is determine which set of colors you want to use.

Now I’m not a design expert, but one thing you’ll definitely want to achieve is contrast.

I personally prefer sites that have a light colored background with darker contrasts in the foreground.

This should make it easier on your visitors’ eyes and creates at least a certain amount of aesthetic appeal.

Here’s a good example.

However, there are sites that can pull off a dark background quite well.

Take Wonder Bread for example.

  1. Consult the color wheel

Remember back in art class when you learned about “the color wheel?”

Well, it can be a huge help for choosing a website color scheme.

What you want to do is choose either “analogous colors” that are similar and next to each other on the color wheel or “complementary colors” that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

One choice for complementary colors would be yellow and purple.

Another would be green and orange.

One choice for analogous colors would be orange and red.

Another would be green and blue.

  1. Use tools for help

Here’s a tip for streamlining the process.

Use a tool like Colorspire.

It gives you a quick and easy way to test out different color combinations to give you a better idea of how they would actually look on your website.

This can save you a lot of time and should help you find the color combination that’s just right.

Or if Colorspire doesn’t tickle your fancy, I recommend looking at this list of awesome tools for choosing a website color scheme.

  1. Check out the competition

You can also learn a lot from competitors in your industry.

I recommend checking out at least three websites of direct competitors and looking for overarching patterns in their color scheme.

This should give you a sense of what types of tones they’re using.

From there you have one of two choices.

  1. Create a similar color scheme that fits the conventional mold
  2. Go the opposite direction in order to differentiate yourself from the pack

I’m personally a proponent of the second choice if you’re looking to establish a distinctive brand.

  1. Compare a few different color schemes

Here’s the thing.

You don’t need to commit to the first color scheme you come up with.

In fact, that can be very limiting.

What I suggest is coming up with three or four different color schemes and compare each one side-by-side.

Have your colleagues or business partners do the same to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

Then narrow it down until you find the color scheme that fits your brand to a T.

Conclusion

You don’t need to be a world renown artist to come up with a workable website color scheme.

It’s just a matter of understanding the psychology behind color and the emotions that various colors conjure up.

You’ll also want to have a basic understanding of the 60-30-10 rule and how the color wheel works.

With a bit of experimentation and trial and error, you should be able to come up with the optimal website color scheme.

In the long run, this will enable you to make an emotional connection with more visitors and can contribute to a lower bounce rate, more time spent on your site, and a higher conversion rate.

All of which can have a tremendous impact on your business.

DDA Can Drive Conversions and Reduce AdWords Costs- Learn How

DDA Can Drive Conversions and Reduce AdWords Costs- Learn How

 

There are more moments throughout the day for businesses to connect with consumers than ever before. It’s critical for marketers to know which moments matter, and which ones don’t.

The search process doesn’t start and end with “buy the exact product I already know I want.” People tend to click on multiple ads before converting. This process makes it challenging to assign the proper credit where it’s due. Last-click attribution, the default choice in AdWords, ignores everything except for the final, “buy the exact product I already know I want” ad click.

As marketers, it’s crucial to understand which of your clicks are the most impactful, whether or not they’re the last click before a conversion.

Data-driven attribution (DDA) uses Google’s machine learning technology to determine how much credit to assign to each click in the user journey. With DDA, you can understand how much credit should be assigned to the click on an ad for “features for product I think I want.” Even though it doesn’t convert immediately, you might see that people who click on that ad are much more likely to become customers later on.

DDA was introduced to AdWords back in May 2016, and since then, we’ve been studying how it affects performance. A recent analysis of hundreds of advertisers using DDA revealed that performance improved when compared to last-click attribution:

When compared to last-click attribution, DDA typically delivers more conversions at a similar cost-per-conversion

For Search, data-driven is now the recommended model for all eligible advertisers. It is a better way to measure and optimize performance.

How data-driven attribution works

DDA is different from rules-based attribution models. It uses your account’s conversion data to calculate the actual contribution of each search ad click along the conversion path. By comparing the paths of customers who convert to those who don’t, DDA determines what truly matters for each conversion path.

As long as your account has enough clicks and conversions, you’re eligible for DDA. We automatically train a model that’s unique to each of your conversion types. The model observes what your customers do before converting, and what they do when they don’t convert, to measure what’s important. Using Google’s machine learning, the models continue to improve over time. Read more about DDA.

The benefits of knowing which clicks matter

Here’s how DDA has already created value for other companies:

Select Home Warranty, which provides warranties to homeowners for household repair projects in the United States, saw a 36% increase in leads and a 20% decrease in cost-per-conversion after making the change to DDA.

“Switching to a data-driven attribution model unlocked growth for our business because it allowed us to give proper credit on mobile devices and non-brand keywords, resulting in a significant increase in overall conversions.” – Joseph Shrem, Founder, Select Home Warranty

Medpex is one of the largest mail-order pharmacies in Germany. Using Smart Bidding  and data-driven attribution, they drove 29% more conversions while reducing cost-per-conversion by 28%.

“An algorithm is better equipped than any manual optimization to react to dynamic changes such as price changes of competitors or delivery bottlenecks.” – Frank Müller, Chief Marketing Officer, medpex

H.I.S., a travel agency with global presence in over one hundred cities worldwide, combined DDA with Smart Bidding and Dynamic Search Ads to grow conversions by 62% at a constant cost-per-conversion.

“Data-driven attribution helped us to acquire new users because we could strengthen our approach to users in the consideration phase.” – Ryoko Kume, Customer Communications, WEB Promotion , H.I.S. Head Office WEB Division

Updating your model

Making this change is straightforward. When you change your conversion action settings, use the dropdown in the Attribution Model section to select Data-driven as your attribution model:

Going forward, your “Conversions” column in AdWords will report your conversions based on the new DDA model. Smart Bidding will automatically adjust to this new way of measuring conversions. If you’re bidding manually, use the “current model” columns to make the initial set of adjustments. You can find these under the set of attribution columns.

Making the most of DDA

Updating your “Conversions” column is a big step, but there are a couple of other steps to ensure that your account sees the most potential improvement:

• Adjust bids considering your new DDA-based conversions. Once you’ve updated your attribution model, your “Conversions” columns will begin to populate with stats that reflect your choice. From there it’s easy: Optimize your bids to account for the numbers in those columns. The recommended approach is to adopt an AdWords Smart Bidding strategy, like Target CPA or Target ROAS. Historical performance for that model can be found in the “current model” columns, which you should use as you make initial bid changes.

• Give DDA some time. Those multiple clicks in a user’s conversion path take some time to happen. Give users a chance to convert or make a purchase before evaluating results. Once your account has settled into the new method, allow a couple of weeks to pass where you gather results.

• Re-evaluate keywords that tend to be earlier in the click path. Last-click attribution could have favored some keywords at the expense of others. Now that you’re doing a better job measuring what matters, you may find that some campaigns make a big difference in the user journey. That difference may not have been measured appropriately in the past.

• Stop reviewing assisted conversion metrics. In the coming months, we’ll be removing columns that reference assisted conversions from your statistics tables and reports.

Watch this video for more information about getting started with data-driven attribution. For more detailed guidance, including the steps to follow to properly test a new attribution model, check out our best practices for going beyond last-click attribution.

DDA is recommended for all Search ads, and we’re dedicated to improving DDA elsewhere. You can also take action on DDA if you use DoubleClick Search. In addition, DDA is also available in Google Analytics 360 and Attribution 360. We’ll continue to invest in DDA to make it even better across platforms.

According to analysis, when compared to a last click attribution, DDA delivers more conversions at a similar cost-per-conversion.  Have you started using DDA? How has it impacted your conversions?

 

Join in the conversation with your comments in LinkedIn or at our Blog below.

 

Source: Adwords.googleblog.com

Think Outside the Box to Score Google’s Answer Box Position

Think Outside the Box to Score Google’s Answer Box Position

 

Google’s Hummingbird update introduced the answer box to SERPs and began the scramble to score the coveted 0 page position.

Optimizing for the answer box is pretty simple and straightforward if you think about it.  How to Optimize Your Content for Google Answer Boxes walks you through the logic.

Oh, answer boxes. Position 0 for the majority of its existence has been mystifying as Google seems to reserve this spot for websites that just happen to get lucky. However, as more answer boxes are appearing in SERPs, we as marketers have the opportunity to obtain these highly coveted positions.

In this post, I’ll share how answer boxes first came about, why formatting is crucial for answer boxes and lastly, a real-life example of how Seer has helped a client appear in position 0.

History of Answer Boxes

Answer Box Types & Formats

How to Rank for Answer Boxes

Answer Box Success Story

Quick History of Answer Boxes

In 2015, Google released the Hummingbird update which changed the search algorithm and improved the way Google helps its users. Instead of heavily relying on keywords to determine rank for answer boxes, Google began prioritizing user engagement metrics to help determine which website would earn the position 0 ranking.

With the recent release of RankBrain, Google is now able to bridge the gap between short-tail and long-tail keywords, making answer boxes even more effective at directly answering users’ queries.

For example, prior to the HummingBird algorithm update, the answer box below would have bolded keywords like “seo specialist” with a definition. Now it highlights the answer to the user’s actual question (the salary):

 

The answer box (pictured) now highlights the answer to the user’s searched question.

What do algorithm changes mean for answer box optimization? For starters, we know that answer boxes are appearing for more queries than ever before. This means that companies have a major opportunity to rank in Position 0 for direct long-tail and short-tail searches to ultimately address users’ questions more thoroughly.  

Common Types of Answer Boxes

Answer Boxes display various content formats within the SERPs, including paragraph, table, and list formats (in numbers and bullets). Additionally, answer boxes can pull in images. Our friends at GetStat.com studied over 92,000 featured snippet queries and found that:

“Paragraph snippets were most common, showing up in 82 percent of featured snippets. List snippets appeared in 10.8 percent, and table snippets in 7.3 percent. All three occasionally showed images, but the formats never overlapped one another.”

Check out the example answer box formats below.

Paragraph-Style Answer Box

Content that typically appears in this format addresses the following questions:

What

Who

When

Where

The type of content that typically ranks here is structured in a definitional, simple straightforward answer. Keep in mind that paragraph formats are the most common type of answer box. If Google does not have the desired format (table or list) to pull from existing website content, it will revert to paragraph style answer boxes. When reviewing the SERPs for the types of answer boxes ranking for a certain query, try to assess if users’ questions would be better answered in a table or list format.

Table-Style Answer Box

 

Content that typically appears in this format addresses questions that can’t be answer directly such as:

Which

Different use cases

Best

Types

Table formats typically appear for more robust questions that need various pieces of organized information to fully address the answer, such as nurse salary ranges.

List-Style Answer Box

Types of questions that typically show up here include:

How

Have

Best (Tables & Lists)

List style answer boxes appear for questions that require individual steps or a long list. Such as “types of nurses” or “best colleges in PA.” Google heavily favors content that is in a numbered or bullet list format for these types of search queries.

How do you rank in the answer box for a specific query?

Now that you know the common types of answer boxes, you’re ready to start creating your content. The two most important ways to obtain answer boxes results is by addressing the users’ queries first and foremost, and then optimizing the answer in a user preferred format.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Audience: Is my content directly answering users’ queries about the topic?

If not, tweak the content to directly address the user’s question in the best way possible.

SERP Landscape: Is there currently an answer box appearing for related terms?

Yes: Does the current content ranking in the answer box have a helpful format that clearly addresses users’ questions that you’d want to emulate in your content?

No: Would an answer box help users answer a query related to my content? (Refer to the common formats above and reflect on what format would make sense for your content).

Just because Google is not currently showing an answer box for a search, does not mean one won’t appear in the future.  Perhaps no one has created content that is relevant and purposeful enough for Google to rank in position 0.

Using audience research to guide you, test out different formats that you think would best answer users’ questions for your piece of content.

Optimizing: Is my content formatted correctly for the answer boxes?

Is the answer quick and easy to find within the content?

Is the question and answer presented in the relevant user preferred format (tables, lists, or paragraphs) with proper markup?

Identifying users’ preferred format is truly the secret to success when it comes to answer boxes. As Google continues to add more answer boxes in the SERPs, marketers can find areas where the answer box is displaying the “wrong” type of snippet, aka a format that doesn’t provide users with a format that answers their questions.

For example: “[online nursing schools]” isn’t using a clear table format, instead it’s showing a bulleted list. A table with facts next to each school would better address this search query.

After choosing the correct format, it’s important to pose the related question in an h2 or table header, while including the answer in a table format. The page should also be marked up to include the correct code such as <table>.

Answer Box Success Story

In February 2016, Seer and one of our education clients optimized a Nursing Salary Guide for answer box results. The guide provides information to potential nursing students when they first begin seeking degree information online, such as what is the average starting salary of nurses?

After analyzing the SERPs and reviewing audience data, we came to the conclusion that paragraph formats would be the most relevant type of answer box format to optimize for, as users are looking for a quick answer when searching for this information.

After tweaking the copy, we altered our H2s into questions and answered the question directly in the copy beneath the headers.

Since mid-June this page has ranked in the answer box result for “what is the starting salary of a nurse” and other related keywords.

Behind the organization’s homepage, this guide is the second highest traffic source. Crazy to think that before we had optimized this page, the guide had barely made it into the top 20 ranking positions!

In addition, the answer box result has begun to pull in images from the page, showing that Google includes different visual formats and information over time depending on what will best answer users’ questions.

Join in the conversation with your comments in LinkedIn or at our Blog below.

 

Source: Seerinteractive.com

 

You’re So Vain – I Bet You Think This URL is About You: Using Vanity URLs to Track Off-line Marketing

You’re So Vain – I Bet You Think This URL is About You: Using Vanity URLs to Track Off-line Marketing

For as long as marketers have been advertising they’ve been collecting data on ad performance.  Unique phone numbers and promotion codes were the standard tools for calculating print and radio advertising ROI.  These days, the judicious use of Google Analytics and vanity URLs give you the ability to measure offline marketing campaigns with the ease of their online counterparts.

Brandon Wensing explains how to deploy this tactic in How to Measure Offline Advertising with Google Analytics.

Since I’ve been in the digital space, I have worked under the title “web analyst,” using “web analytics” tools like Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, and WebTrends. However, the preface “web” is misleading. The term “digital analytics”, though broader, still doesn’t do justice to the capabilities of these platforms.

We can measure so much more than just web or digital efforts. We can even go as far as measuring and analyzing the effectiveness of offline or non-digital efforts as well. Because of this, a more suitable classification for this field is simply “analytics”.

Organizations of all sizes, from small companies to enterprises, often overlook this capability. Their offline marketing efforts go unmonitored and they continue to throw marketing dollars at a wall, hoping something sticks.

By measuring offline marketing tactics with tools like Google Analytics (GA), you can directly tie those efforts to downstream behaviors, leads, and even sales. This then grants the ability to refine those efforts, much like you do with digital efforts such as Paid Search. Below are the steps you can take to measure your organization’s offline marketing with Google Analytics.

How Offline Campaign Tracking Works

Campaign tracking with Google Analytics is pretty simple. In order to differentiate campaign traffic from standard referral or direct traffic, GA relies on URL parameter values. For more information about how campaign tagging works, check out Google’s official documentation. This is pretty straight forward for digital / online advertising, however offline advertising is a bit more involved.

The key to tracking offline campaigns is the vanity URL. A vanity URL is a short, easy to remember alternative to standard, and typically longer page URLs. The vanity URL is preferable when it comes to offline advertising like billboards, as drivers typically only spend a few seconds at most viewing it. A longer URL would be difficult to remember. For example, if my landing page is www.mysite.com/products/widgets/widget-5000, a much less-wieldly vanity URL could be www.mysite.com/go. The vanity URL is typically set to redirect to the full URL.

To track this with Google Analytics, you can set the vanity URL to redirect to a campaign-tagged variation of the full landing page URL. For example, let’s pretend that the above Vanity URL is used on a billboard:

Instead of telling the server to just redirect www.mysite.com/go to the full landing page URL, you can have it redirect to a tagged version, like:

So after a person sees the billboard, they go home and remember to check out your company’s site. Not only that, they recall that easy-to-remember vanity URL and go to www.mysite.com/go. When they do that, the server redirects them to the tagged URL. Once it loads, Google Analytics recognizes that they came to the site with the following identifiers:

Source: billboard

Medium: offline

Campaign: widget-5000-fall-campaign

Keyword(utm_term – re-purposed to detail messaging of ad): tired-widgets

Content(utm_content – re-purposed to detail location of ad): route-422

The most important part of tracking these ads is thinking ahead and mapping out your needs. Below are some steps to take to do offline campaign tracking right.

Plan Ahead

Like all analytics efforts, great insights only come from great measurement strategies. Look at your marketing calendar for the next 6-12 months. You’ll not only want to identify what offline marketing campaigns you’ll be running and when, but also how many variations and placements as well. Highlight any areas where an ad variation will appear across multiple channels or mediums (for instance the same messaging across radio and print ads). It’s important to know the landscape and where overlap might exist, as it might be valuable to be able to view data at those levels.

Identify and Prioritize Questions

Now that you know what non-digital advertising you will be running over the next year and in what flavors, it’s time to identify the questions you’d like to answer about them. Aside from wanting to know ROI for these efforts, you should ask yourself some additional questions:

Do you need to differentiate between customer segments that arrive from these ads?

What level of granularity do you need to slice and dice this data by? At the individual billboard level, or simply at a regional level?

How will you need to analyze performance of these channels and campaigns over time (quarterly, yearly, etc.)?

Knowing how granular your data needs to be will dictate how you go about tracking these campaigns. It will also help you future-proof your campaign measurement strategy so historical analysis is as easy as possible. Need help building a measurement strategy? Send us a line!

Identify Landing Pages and Set Up Campaign Tagging

Now that you know what questions will need to be answered about these efforts as well as how success will be gauged, it’s time to create / identify all of your landing page variants. Depending on your answers to questions like those listed above, you’ll need to create tagged versions of these landing page URLs that follow the needed hierarchy.

For example, let’s say you have two billboards with the same messaging that you’d like to point to the same landing page. One is set up on one highway (Route 422), the other is set up on another (Route 76). Your stakeholders have noted they’d like to know how many online sales come from customers that saw each of these. To differentiate these you will need 2 unique vanity URLs (one for each billboard). Both vanity URLs will redirect to the same landing page of <b>www.mysite.com/products/widgets/widget-5000</b>, however the campaign tagging will be slightly different for each:

Billboard 1 – Route 422

Vanity URL: www.mysite.com/go

Redirects to tagged URL:

As you can see, we identify that it came from the Route 422 billboard via the utm_content parameter.

Billboard 2 – Route 76

Vanity URLwww.mysite.com/now

Redirects to tagged URL:

Note the different vanity URL for this billboard. Once again, you can see that we used the utm_content field to specify that this traffic came from the Route 76 billboard.

NOTE: This is assuming that the above 2 vanity URLs are only used in those instances. They should never be used anywhere else (online or offline) unless you wish to also track multiple ads with the same identifiers.

This was just one example. You could also use the other URL parameters to differentiate between billboards and print, different campaigns or messaging on the same channels, etc. The combinations are endless. It just depends on how you need to see the data. This is why planning ahead with your campaign tagging strategies is so crucial.

Once all URLs are tagged and vanity URLs are set up to redirect accordingly, ALWAYS test before sending the vanity URLs out to be printed or used! You should ensure that they redirect properly, preserve the campaign tagging parameters, and that everything works as intended. Unlike digital ads, offline ads are much more permanent and changes cannot be made easily.

Leveraging the Data

Once everything’s implemented and the ads are live, you should start to see data for traffic coming from them. So what can you do with this data? Just about everything you can do with data from digital ads!

Just like anything else, this method isn’t perfect. It obviously cannot help identify people that may have seen the billboard or heard the radio ad but proceeded to the main domain or used Google to find it when they got home.

This can give you great insights into specific target audiences depending on messaging or even geographic location, and not just based on the location that GA picks up based on their IP address. If you followed a similar method as the above example, you can use this data to gauge effectiveness based on WHERE the person actually saw the ad.

This data can also provide insights into customer decision process and journeys. It can answer questions on when brand exposure first occurs, and how messaging effectiveness could vary depending on channel, timing or location. It can also shine more light on how channels work together to get customers to purchase.

As you can see, setting up the mechanisms for offline tracking is the easy part. It’s the measurement strategy that requires the most attention. But once you have it all thought out, the process becomes regimented and the insights gained become invaluable. Gone are the days of throwing advertising at a wall and hoping something sticks.

Take the guesswork out of calculating ROI. Vanity URLs are an effective means of gathering in-depth data on off-line marketing efforts.  Have you used vanity URLs?  What were the results?

 

Join in the conversation with your comments in LinkedIn or at our Blog below.

 

 

Source:Seerinteractive.com

 

15 Practical Ideas to Improve Your Customer Retention Rate

15 Practical Ideas to Improve Your Customer Retention Rate

Customer retention is incredibly important for growing a sustainable business, but before we look at some strategies for improving it, let’s put an important data point front and center:

According to the Harvard Business School, increasing customer retention rates by 5 percent increases profits by 25 percent to 95 percent.

I’ve compiled a list of my 15 favorite tips–many backed by academic research and case studies–on improving customer retention, divided into five sections.

Effective positioning and messaging

1. Stand for something

A quick way to get customers to ignore you is to not stand for anything. Research from the Corporate Executive Board that included 7,000 consumers from across the U.S. found of those consumers who said they had a strong relationship with a brand, 64 percent cited shared values as the primary reason. If you want loyal customers, you need them to care about you. What do you stand for?

2. Utilize positive social proof

While negative social proof (“Nearly 90 percent of websites don’t use heat mapping software!”) has been proven to dissuade customers rather than encourage them, numerous studies on customer motivation have shown that positive social proof (“Join 20,000 of your peers!”) is usually the most effective strategy for getting people to listen and stick around.

3. Invoke the inner ego

Despite what we often say, most people like things that resemble them in some way. This cognitive bias is called implicit egotism, and is an important thing to keep in mind when communicating with customers. In order to attract the sort of customers you want, you need to identify your target customers down to the last detail and then craft a brand message that perfectly matches their pains, goals and aspirations. It’s easier to fill an existing demand than to create one.

Compelling marketing and sales

4. Use the words they love to hear

Not all words are created equal. Certain persuasive words encourage customers to buy more than others, in particular: free, new and instantly. When customers hear these words, and the promises they imply, they’ll enjoy their purchases more than they would have otherwise.

5. Reduce pain points and friction

All businesses, no matter the industry, are going to have to sell to the three types of buyers that are out there. According to neuroeconomics experts, nearly a quarter of these buyers will be conservative spenders, or “tightwad” customers. George Lowenstein of Carnegie Mellon University recommends using bundles, reassuring words (e.g., change “a $5 fee” to “a small $5 fee”) and reframing as strategies to better sell to these conservative buyers.

Generous reciprocity

6. Realize that budget is negligible

Giving back to customers can appear incredibly costly, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead, embrace the art of the frugal wow by understanding that reciprocity is built even with small gestures. In fact, psychologist Norbert Schwarz found that as little as 10 cents can create reciprocity between two individuals (it really is the thought that counts!).

7. Utilize surprise reciprocity

Although reciprocity works incredibly well on its own, research shows that it is even more powerful when started by surprise. For a simple example, recall a time that someone did something nice for you unexpectedly; the gesture probably wasn’t all that unusual, but the fact that it came out of nowhere left a strong impression on you.

8. Make it personal

In a study from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers found that waiters could increase their tips by 23 percent by the simple act of returning to tables with a second set of mints. So do mints have magic powers? Apparently not: The researchers concluded that the mints created the feeling of a personalized experience among the customers who received them. So it was the personalized service received that made them enjoy their experience so much more.

Effortless customer support

9. Speed is secondary to quality

When it comes to customer service that keeps people coming back, the research shows that quality matters more than speed. According to a study by the Gallup Group, customers were nine times more likely to be engaged with a brand when they evaluated the service as “courteous, willing, and helpful,” versus the “speedy” evaluation, which only made customers six times more likely to be engaged.

10. Customers enjoy businesses who know them

Telling your team to spend more time with customers might seem risky, but smart support managers know that isn’t the case. Everybody views their service experience as more positive when they don’t feel rushed or ignored. Don’t spend time idly, though; have employees attempt to find out key customer traits, just like Derek Sivers did with his employees at CD Baby.

11. Choose the right platform

The best way to improve your online customer service efforts is to utilize the channel your customers most prefer. Although research has shown that a majority of people still prefer and use email more than other services, you need to pick the channel that makes the most sense for your business. Hosting companies know that online chats are critical when their customers’ sites go down, but other businesses may have customers who are just fine using email as their primary method of contact.

12. Make it a communal effort.

Countless case studies have made one thing clear when it comes to creating an efficient support system: You need to keep everybody in the loop. At Help Scout, we use tools like Campfire to access real-time notifications of what’s happening on the customer end; we were able to improve our response time by 340 percent by enabling a support room that all employees can access.

Sticky loyalty programs

13. Get people started

Consumer researchers Joseph Nunes and Xavier Dreze are known for their studies on The Endowed Progress Effect. Their results have conclusively shown that the biggest wall that prevents customer loyalty programs from sticking is getting people started. They’ve shown through their notorious “car wash study” that people are twice as likely to finish loyalty cards if they are automatically started (or rewarded) as soon as they sign up.

14. Get ideal customers to be VIPs

Additional research by Nunes on loyalty programs has shown that people love being VIPs or gold members of programs. There is one caveat, though. This only works when people know there is a class below them on the totem pole. Speaking to human nature, Nunes saw a notable increase in gold members’ participation as soon as he implemented a lesser silver class.

15. Label your customers

Research on voting patterns conducted by Stanford University showed that people are more likely to participate in something if they are labeled with a positive trait. Our friends at Buffer refer to their premium customers as “awesome” members, and even label their upgraded payment plan as the “Awesome Plan”–a much easier phrase to embrace than “paid member.”

There are many tactics, but no shortcuts

You can’t “hack” a personal relationship, so why should we assume business relationships are any different? Truth is, the tactics above should hopefully give you some fresh ideas for approaching retention, but they’re not a cure-all. Customers buy and stay loyal to companies they appreciate, believe in, and get value from. Your product or service will do most of the heavy lifting in keeping customers loyal, and there are no shortcuts for that.

Source: Inc. Magazine