Category: Marketing

Google’s 3 Core Web Vitals

What they are and why they matter?

Google is reinforcing the importance of Core Web Vitals with a major update. The gradual rollout began as of mid-June and will be complete by the end of August, giving you plenty of time to make adjustments before it impacts your business. For the SEO community, in particular, this change has significant implications for their strategy moving forward; refining these new metrics can lead not only towards better user experience but also improved ranking!

In order to pass the Core Web Vitals assessment, you need a good score (based on field data) for the following three sections: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

Throughout this article, we’ll frequently talk about field data and lab data, so let’s understand what each represents: Field Data is gathered from real users through the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX for short). Lab Data, on the other hand, is gathered within a controlled environment without any involvement from real users (using Lighthouse).

Now that we’ve understood that, how exactly do Core Web Vitals fit into Google’s ranking algorithm?

Well, in the past, Google would gauge user experience based on whether a site would be mobile-friendly, offer safe browsing, offer HTTPS and be free of intrusive interstitials. Now they’ve added their fifth factor – Core Web Vitals – and together, these five factors now form the group of signals that Google uses to grade Page Experience. Google had already announced in May 2020 that it plans to incorporate Page Experience as a core component of Google Search ranking. This is part of a broader strategy to improve overall web user experience.

 

core web vitals

It’s also important to note that Core Web Vitals will most likely be a moving target, which is something you’d expect from metrics measuring user experience. The web and its users are constantly evolving, so it’s only natural for CWVs to evolve along with them.

What are Core Web Vitals?

The famous Top Gun quote “I feel the need…the need for speed!” probably comes to mind, but Core Web Vitals are about more than just speed.

Core Web Vitals are a set of user-centric metrics that measure loading speed, responsiveness and visual stability, helping site owners get a better idea of how users experience their website.

Web Vitals are split into two groups: Core and non-Core Web Vitals.

Core Web Vitals are:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Non-Core Web Vitals are:

  • Total Blocking Time (TBT)
  • Time to Interactive (TTI)
  • Speed Index (SI)
  • First Contentful Paint (FCP)

Each metric measures how “solid” one aspect of the Page Experience is.

These Web Vitals help you gain a deeper insight into a site’s performance. You can use this information when making decisions to improve your website performance, meet business goals and fulfill customer needs.

Why should you care about Core Web Vitals?

The following are the three major reasons why you should care about your website’s Core Web Vitals:

  1. Visitors love fast sites that are easily accessible on any device, from any location. The bottom line is: you’ll win more visitors if they can access your website without having a difficult time navigating or waiting for it to load. More visitors mean more prospective customers!
  2. As of mid-June 2021, Core Web Vitals have become a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. While we don’t expect to see an immediate shift and relevance remains much more important, we do anticipate that its importance will grow over time as it becomes one of the most prominent ways for websites to rank better on search results pages.
  3. Google has dropped hints that they may start displaying a “Good Page Experience” badge in their search results. You can be sure that this is more than just an empty gesture, as it influences searcher behavior which feeds back into Google’s algorithms and helps you rank higher.
  4. Passing the Core Web Vitals assessment will not only improve your site’s user experience but also ensure fewer visitors retreat back to the SERP. In fact, according to a study in 2009 by Akamai, if a page takes more than three seconds to load, as many as 40% of its visitors would abandon the site. With average attention spans decreasing across users globally, we can predict that this percentage is even higher today!

    In February 2021, JR Oakes (Sr. Director, Technical SEO Research at Locomotive Agency and Author at SearchEngineLand.com) was scrolling through Google Search Console’s front-end code when he detected that Google has already made some preparations for the new Page Experience badge:

core web vitals

 

Web Vitals in Detail

Let’s dive into the nitty gritty of each of the Web Vitals metrics. We will start with the Core Web Vitals!

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is a Core Web Vital that measures the time in seconds from when the page starts loading to when its largest text block or image element renders on screen. It aims to measure how long it takes for a site’s main forms of content, like large blocks of text and images, to load onto users’ screens. The lower LCP score, the better! A fast LCP ensures that users do not have to waste their precious time waiting for a page to load its main content. You can measure a website’s LCP using both field and lab data.

In the field, the browser stops reporting new LCP candidates when the user first interacts with the page (via clicking, scrolling, or switching tabs). In the lab, however, it’s not very clear when the LCP is done loading. We expect that this moment occurs when the page is nearing Time to Interactive (TTI), and the final LCP candidate is made apparent.

Important considerations

While loading a page, the largest body of text or image could change. To measure LCP accurately, the most recent candidate is used when it becomes larger than any other on-screen element.

For example, consider an H1 heading being your biggest text block at first but then you load in a bigger image element. The image will now be your leading candidate for measuring LCP.

Note: elements are not currently counted as candidates for measuring LCP, so if you have a big logo loaded up as an , it won’t count towards this metric due to simplicity reasons. We anticipate that this may change in the future.

It’s still unclear whether Google considers elements as LCP candidates or not.How to interpret your LCP score?

Here’s how you can interpret your LCP score:

  • Good: <= 2.5s
  • Needs improvement: > 2.5s and <= 4s
  • Poor: > 4s

What causes a Poor LCP score?

There are several possible causes of a poor LCP score, however, a few common ones are: slow server response time, render-blocking CSS and JavaScript, and your largest content resources being too heavy.

How to improve your LCP score?

With a little extra effort, you can make your site load faster with techniques like optimizing the critical rendering path for browser processing, minimizing CSS and caching assets. For more information on how to accomplish that check out web.dev’s resources on LCP score optimization.

First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay (FID) is a Core Web Vital that measures the time in ms (milliseconds) between the user’s first interaction with your website (i.e. clicking a URL, or button, or tabbing through) and the browser’s initial response to that interaction.

The FID indicates a user’s first impression of your site’s responsiveness and interactivity. And as the old adage goes, “Your first impression is your last impression”!

You can only measure FID using field data, as it relies on user interaction data. The lower the FID, the better your website’s responsiveness.

For lab testing and debugging purposes, the Total Blocking Time (TTB) metric is used, as it’s closely correlated with the FID.

Important considerations

The FID does not take into account the time it takes the browser to process an interaction, nor does it consider the time it takes for the user interface to update afterward.

When it comes to measuring FID, scrolling and zooming aren’t considered interactions, since they’re continuous in nature and have very different performance constraints (i.e. the scrolling action is performed by the GPU rather than the CPU, or more specifically, the CPU’s compositor thread rather than the main thread).

How to interpret your FID score?

Here’s how you can interpret your FID score:

  • Good: <= 100ms
  • Needs improvement: > 100ms and <= 300ms
  • Poor: > 300ms

What causes a Poor FID score?

One of the most common causes of a poor FID score is when a browser’s main thread is focusing on parsing and executing JavaScript code and cannot respond to user inputs or interactions.

How to improve your FID score?

In order to improve your FID score, you’ll need to assess what’s holding the browser back from going interactive. The following are examples of things you can do to lower your FID score: reduce the duration of JavaScript execution, break up longer tasks, and use a web worker to run JavaScript on a background thread.

There are a lot of things that can affect your FID score and some might not even be relevant to you. However, if you want more information on how to improve it, we recommend checking out web.dev’s resource on FID score optimization!

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is a Core Web Vital that measures the cumulative score of all unexpected layout shifts within the viewport during any given page’s lifecycle. The aim is to measure visual stability, as this heavily influences user experience. CLS can be found in both field data and lab data: lower scores indicate greater visual stability!

Unlike the other CWV’s, CLS isn’t measured in seconds. CLS measures the movement of unstable elements between two frames and works from the viewport size. The total layout shift score is the product of two components – the “distance fraction” and the “impact fraction”.

The “distance fraction” represents the greatest distance the unstable element travels between both frames, divided by the viewport’s longest dimension. Whereas, the “impact fraction” represents the area of the viewport that the unstable element occupies in both frames.

To build a better understanding of how to calculate your CLS score, check out this useful resource.

Important considerations

A page’s entire lifecycle is often measured for days or even weeks. This means that the CLS field data and lab data will be vastly different, because while tools only gather lab information over a brief period of time, pages can remain open much longer.

Testing for unexpected layout shifts can prove quite tricky in lab environments as some functions may not be enabled or they might behave differently. For example, cookie notifications might not pop up, live chat might be disabled, and personalized content may not load.

How to interpret CLS scores?

Here’s how to interpret your CLS score:

  • Good: <= 0.1
  • Needs improvement: > 0.1 <= 0.25
  • Poor: > 0.25

What causes a Poor CLS score?

The main causes of a poor CLS score are: ads or images that have undefined dimensions, resources that load asynchronously, and DOM elements that are dynamically added above existing content that has already loaded. This pushes away the content that has already been loaded and reduces the visual stability of the page.

How to improve your CLS score?

There are many ways to prevent unexpected layout shifts on your website. One simple way is by always including size attributes for all of the images and videos you upload onto it, as well as not inserting any content above other content that’s already been loaded into a user’s browser window. Check out web.dev’s article on CLS score optimization for more information about how these changes can help improve overall performance!

Conclusion

With the digital economy taking precedence, media optimization will only grow in importance. Slower websites that have a low CWV score won’t be able to compete with those who optimize their content and rank higher on Google’s Search Engine Results Pages. So don’t let your visual media and content work against you by not optimizing it properly- instead try to ensure your site is running as smoothly as possible so people actually want to stay there! Make media optimization a priority today!

Read More

10 things every Salesforce Admin should know

Do you know that 150,000 customers are already using Salesforce? It’s no surprise that using Salesforce increases revenue by 20%, and on average, ROI increases by 50%.

Salesforce is the leading CRM in the market with a market share of more than 33% it is evident that companies who use Salesforce generate more revenue and can boost the productivity of their team. However, for a Salesforce admin or anyone using Salesforce, few things are necessary to know.  

In this blog, you will learn ten things that can drive massive sales and make your employees uber-productive. 

1. Where to get help?

As an admin, it is necessary to learn a few things before you start using Salesforce. Begin with Trailhead. If you want to know something about a feature and how it generally works, Trailhead is a place where you will get tutorials on that.

Just search whatever help you need, and you will get related topics and tutorials against your search. 

Next comes the Trailhead community. Here you can meet people in your neighborhood, share a slice of Pizza and discuss whatever issues you have with Salesforce.

The next place to seek help is the official documentation of Salesforce. It is not fun like Trailhead; you will feel like reading a full dry manual of your car. For instance, if you need to know which permissions you need to enable for a feature, this is your go-to place to get help. If you want to know which license you need to enable and where to click to activate it, you will find it here.

Lastly, if you need some expert advice, you can always seek help from implementation partners. They are like experts who are using Salesforce for quite some time.

Here is what you can ask from each help group:

Salesforce support

  • Seek help if a feature is not working.
  • An error message or if you cannot log in.
  • Premier support.

Community

  • Ask you why, and why not. Which feature can be used for what purpose, and how you can effectively use a feature?
  • For any non-technical help.
  • Discuss company goals and objects.
  • Anything related to the contract.
  • Pricing and product questions.

Implementation Partner

  • Niche based expert level-questions

2. Use Lightning, it is amazing

If you are using Salesforce for quite some time, Lightning UI is something that you must try. It is modern, efficient, and easy to configure. Check out how to migrate on Lightning?  

The best thing is that it is easy for the admin and the end-user.

In conclusion, every new feature that is rolled-out is the Lightning-only feature.

3. Reports & Dashboards

You need to understand that reports are different from tabs. When you click on Accounts or Contacts tab, you will get data; this is not reporting.   

To generate a report, you must first know the type of report that you want to create.

For instance, if you make a report for Accounts, you will not be able to read Chat Transcripts in it. For that, you need to create a separate report type. 

Source

I would suggest that you learn how reporting works because you will make decisions based-upon these reports. If you are confused about reports, you can always try to download some free report samples from AppExchange.

You can easily schedule reports for a weekly or monthly basis, whatever if your preference. One great USP of Salesforce is its ability to create accessible reports. Therefore, everyone who uses Salesforce needs to learn how to create reports.

4. Automation

In the professional edition of Salesforce, you can create up to 5 rules. This does not mean that you can only create five small objects. It means that you can create one rule and create smaller objects within those rules. For instance, if you want 15 automation for lead generation, you can create them under Lead generation rule.

When you start using rules, you will learn how to use rules smartly. But learning them will help you a lot, so do not ignore these automation rules.

5. Customizing Salesforce

Salesforce wants you to customize it according to your need. Just like Disney, HP, or Fox, you can customize your own Salesforce and make it admin friendly.

You can simply point and click things so that there is no need for the same things again for your company.

You can create custom reports as mentioned earlier and use them to analyze data and make decisions.

One thing to remember here is that do not do customizations in the production phase, do them in Sandboxes. And when you feel that it is mature, you can shift it into full operation.

6. Record Types

In Salesforce, you can use Record types to create business processes, picklist values, and page layouts for various users. These record types differentiate your regular sales deals with professional engagement that offer way much more value.

You can use record types for the following things:

  • Display various layouts on one object as per the requirement.
  • Restrict some access on record type and page layouts.
  • Develop business processes.

What is a Business Process?

A business process is merely tracking various departments like sales, support, marketing, and further divisions in them.

The records you keep will make it easy for every department to analyze data as per their department.

You have the choice to make specific fields visible for some users and make it read-only for others. The page layout can be used to customize the content of record pages.

In short, as a Salesforce admin, you must know how to create, keep, and edit records.

7. Security Model

There is a thing called Organization-Wide Sharing Setting. If it is public, everyone can see every record. And if it is private only people with limited access can see it. Roles are defined in a hierarchy, and only the people above the hierarchy can see some fields. Understand the hierarchy.

Next to understand is profile. With a profile, an object can be hidden, or even a whole field can be restricted—the permissions that can be given to specific profiles.

In conclusion, the login security where who can log in at which time, will there be a two-step identification necessary for that profile or not? Can there be a single sign-in from one profile or not.

8. Actions & Micros

If some feature or option is recursive, you can create an action for it. For instance, to create polls, ask questions, and announcement, you can create an action, and whenever you need that action, you can use it without doing everything again.

Learn mobile actions, productivity actions, and custom actions that can help you to reduce your time and resources. Lead more about actions from this link

9. Email, Calendar, and Files

All the Salesforce users will get email synced. You can import email from Outlook, Gmail, right in Salesforce. Above all, for SharePoint and GoogleDrive users, there is an option to import, which allows you to search for any files in Google or SharePoint to pop-up in the search results.

The beautiful thing is that everything can run on mobile. Spend some time learning on all these features. And that sidebar in Gmail or Outlook, you can customize it. Put videos, images, to-do lists, reports, or charts in there. 

10. Import, Export, Integrate

You can easily import 100,000 records in Salesforce. Do you want to delete 50,000 records, be careful you can do it too?

One of my favorites is Dataloader.io. You can easily import, export, and integrate as much data as you can without any fear of losing data.

If you are more comfortable with excel, you can export the report with such a few clicks.

11. In-App Guidance

Here is a bonus tip for you. There is the latest feature, ‘in-app’ feature that lets your employees learn about new updates and features launched by Salesforce.

It is not a full training just a little bit of text to give you an overview of the new feature.

The Big takeaways

  • If you have not started using Lightning, start using it.
  • Start Customizing Salesforce with Sandboxes.
  • Educate users on how to use reporting.
  • Take feedback and learn from the community.
  • You can do almost anything, and it just demands energy and money.  
Read More

8 Powerful Tips To Help You Create a Strong Personal Brand

Zig Ziglar said, “If people like you they will listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.” That’s why it’s essential that you create and maintain a strong personal brand, regardless of what you do. Here are 8 tips to help you do that:

 

1. Understand your industry.

This is an essential first step in any branding effort. You can’t set yourself apart from the competition if you don’t understand them from both a product perspective and in terms of their own personal brand image. What are some positive and negative appeals in your industry, and how can you use that information to differentiate yourself? Armed with those answers, you can develop ways to set yourself apart in you industry.

A good example of this is Sprint. They understand Verizon’s offerings so well, they’ve created an entire marketing strategy around the fact that they offer mobile service that’s almost as reliable as Verizon’s, but at half the cost. They’ve even gone so far as to hire Verizon’s ‘can you hear me know’ guy to pitch their service, and copy the concept and visuals from Verizon’s “drop the mic” television commercial.

 

2. Understand your ideal customer.

Because branding is all about appealing to prospective customers, it’s critical that you know who your ideal customer is. After all, you can’t effectively market to someone if you don’t know anything about them – their behavior patterns, motivations and goals, and relate to them as real humans. Understanding your ideal customer makes it easier to tailor your marketing efforts to the needs of different groups. Remember, not all customers are created equal.

 

3. Improve on something that others are already doing.

Too many people think they have to create something entirely new in order to stand out. But all you really need is a better way of doing something. On a personal level, that could mean streamlining an existing process or set of procedures at your job. In business, that could mean creating an improved version of an existing product. One example of this happens every year in the automobile industry when auto-makers introduce their new models. They’re always trying to outdo one another, so there is always something new.

 

4. Stay focused.

Efforts to create a strong personal brand should focus on one thing – setting yourself apart as the go-to person for whatever it is you do. If you lose that focus, your brand will become distorted in people’s minds, and you’ll have to spend valuable time and resources regaining brand clarity.

For example, if you’re a freelance writer specializing in helping businesses create content for their blog, you shouldn’t spend 75% of your time talking about making money with a YouTube channel. The importance of using a professional writer to meet their blog content needs should be the focus of all your marketing efforts from social media posts to your own website and blog content; from your personal networking to print advertising.

 

5. Actually be what you’re trying to portray.

It’s not enough just to say you’re an expert in this or that; you must back your claims up with some reality. In personal branding, you can’t fake it ’til you make it. For instance, you can’t claim to be a social media marketing expert just because you spend several hours a day on Facebook. You need to invest some time and money actually learning about marketing in general and social media marketing in particular.

 

6. Be a great conversationalist.

Sadly, this is becoming a lost art in a world that’s dominated by online interaction, but it doesn’t have to be. You can still be viewed as a great conversationalist the online world. It’s simply a matter of sincerely treating every contact, either in person or online, like they’re going to be your new best friend. In person that means making friendly eye-contact, smiling, shaking hands, and repeating their name so you remember it. Online that means engaging with people as you would your closest, most respected friend. Most importantly, always leave the person wanting a bit more of your time.

 

7. Expand your circle of influence.

Nothing can grow your personal brand like leveraging your circle of influence. Every person you come in contact with has their own circle of influence. When an individual becomes part of your circle of influence, that opens up their circle of influence to you. As long as your personal brand image is positive in the eyes of those in your circle of influence, you can leverage them. Usually, it’s a matter of just asking for their help. What that help looks like for you depends on your industry, but it most commonly comes in the form of referrals.

 

8. Leverage public speaking opportunities.

According to a report published by Statistic Brain, 74% of people have a fear of public speaking. That represents a great opportunity for the remaining 26%, or anyone who is willing to work to overcome their fear. Nothing sets you apart from the competition like getting up in front of a group of people and giving a presentation about your area of expertise. The very fact that you’re willing to do so sets you apart. You can do this through seminars and webinars. If you don’t want to host your own events, you can offer your time and expertise as a guest speaker for others who are sponsoring seminars or webinars.

 

In Conclusion:

An important reality of life that most people don’t even realize is that each of us is the CEO of our own company, whether we own a business or work for someone else. That’s why creating and nurturing a personal brand is something we should all be engaged in.

Contact us today to learn more about personal branding. We also invite you to continue following our blog for more great content and ideas, and to share this post with your friends and associates.

Read More

5 Advanced Marketing Strategies to Elevate Your Business

When marketing your business online, you have to stay ahead of the curve. Rather than simply creating a social media account, you need to make sure that you can engage your audience in ways that your competition is not taking advantage of.

For that reason, marketers and business owners constantly inquire about the newest and most effective marketing opportunities available online. If you have a similar question, here are 5 advanced marketing strategies your business can take advantage of.

1) Add Value to Your Product or Service

Value adds are a perfect way to both increase awareness of and loyalty towards your brand. If you can give away more than the actual value of your product or service, the persuasive power of your marketing efforts will increase immensely.

Value additions can come in a variety of forms. For example, you can give loyalty discounts to repeat customers, or add a free promotional gift for new customers. Increasingly, companies focusing on digital lead generation are adding value through high-quality gated content, such as whitepapers, webinars, and free trials.

The goal of this marketing strategy is simple. If a member of your target audience has to choose between you and your closest competition, what will make them more likely to choose your product or service? The answer to that question translates into your specific value ad.

2) Take Advantage of Enhanced Personalization

At this point, it’s no longer news to say that your digital marketing efforts should be personalized. In fact, the clear majority of your audience expects exactly that. In turn, distinguishing yourself from your competition has to include an effort to go the next step.

In your digital marketing, that next step could consist of smart content. True website personalization goes beyond simply including a recipient’s first name in an email, instead adjusting website content dynamically based on previous information gathered about a visitor.

An existing lead, for example, can now see an entirely different homepage than a visitor that has never before made it to your website. As a result, you can deliver more personalized content, which in turn helps to increase the relevance of your messaging for your audience.

The same personalization is also possible through other marketing channels. Emails, for example, can be customized entirely using advanced audience segmentation and custom content blocks. The goal, as in the above, is to create a more relevant marketing experience for potential customers.

3) Build an Influencer Network

Many experts in digital marketing believe that leveraging influencers is the next big thing. Audiences across demographics are growing increasingly weary of traditional advertisements. Ad blockers are causing billions of revenue losses. The solution: work with key members of your audience to make sure the message comes from them, not you.

Building an influencer network takes significant time and effort. It includes not just finding powerful online users who your audience trusts, but also developing a relationship with them. Only finding the right users, and successfully encouraging them to share the right content, can help you succeed.

But if you get there, the positive effects are powerful. In fact, one case study found that influencer marketing delivers an 11 times higher ROI than other digital marketing methods.

4) Utilize the Power of Local SEO

In the last few years, search engine optimization has evolved to far more than a universal ranking on search results. For example, Google now takes into the account the location of searchers, allowing local brands to stand out even against national competitors.

As a result, Google is now encouraging businesses of all sizes to focus on local SEO. The keys to success can vary. But a successful strategy can ensure that your key demographics will find you when looking for a brand like you.

Especially mobile audiences can make a big impact on your SEO efforts. In fact, 50% of users who conducted a local search on their smartphone visit a store they found in that search the same day. Meanwhile, 89% of participants in a recent survey said they search for local businesses at least once per week.

5) Create Enriched Visual Content

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of visual content. Unless you are new to digital marketing, you probably already know the impact that videos and images can have on your visits, engagements, and conversions. But the possibilities don’t end there.

360 degree video, for example, is becoming increasingly popular. It allows you to showcase your brand and its product in more creative ways. Google and Facebook both support this virtual reality opportunity, while the cost of 360 cameras has dropped to prices affordable even for small businesses.

The key is no longer to use visuals, but to use visuals that are different from your competition. Enriched content, such as 360 degree video and even infographics, can help you get there.

Building a Digital Strategy for 2017 and Beyond

These strategies are not always simple. It’s easier to simply send out an email blast or post on social media than it is to create a 360 degree video or rank #1 in local searches. But executed correctly, they can become the cornerstone of a successful digital marketing strategy that puts your brand ahead of your competition.

Of course, you need a sound backend for any of these strategies to work. Increasingly, websites are becoming the foundation of successful digital marketing, offering the conversion opportunities as well as in-depth content your audience looks for after first being exposed to your marketing messages.

For help in creating a website that can support advanced marketing strategies like the above, contact us. We’d love to work with you in making sure that your marketing efforts stand out, both in 2017 and in years to come.

Read More

8 Critical Elements of a Successful Product Launch

One of the most exciting times in business is when you’re launching a new product. Adrenaline runs wild because there’s the potential for tremendous success, and the risk of incredible loss at the same time. A successful product launch calls for a different approach than managing an existing campaign, or even opening up a new market for an existing product. Here are 8 things every marketer should remember for a successful product launch:

1. Develop a Specialized Marketing Plan.

Most marketing plans fall into two distinct categories: creating awareness of the product, or selling the product. However, a successful product launch requires you to do both simultaneously. You already have a customer base for an existing product, and you can leverage that base when opening up new markets for that product. But new products have no customer base, so the number one priority is to quickly and simultaneously create awareness and drive purchases.

Many marketers focus on marketing new products to their existing customer base, converting them from an old product to the new one. This approach does little to increase the bottom line because it’s not creating new customers for the company – the whole point of new product development. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having existing customers buy new products – Apple does it every time they upgrade the iPhone and iPad. But the primary goal of developing and launching a new product should be to attract new customers to the company.

A successful product launch requires a larger marketing budget and a significantly more aggressive marketing plan. Remember, your goal is to quickly ramp up awareness and buzz, so you’ll pushing out marketing materials more frequently.

2. Review the Plan, and Make Adjustments.

All marketing plans require a lot of research, thought, and time to develop; and it’s rare to get it right on the first draft. In fact, it’s common to go through several drafts before you have a workable plan. An effective way to build a solid plan is to involve other members of your team at every step along the way. Encourage members to play devil’s advocate to help find weaknesses in the plan. No plan is perfect, so fostering an environment where honest feedback is encouraged will result in a better plan. If you ignore this element, it will come back at you later in the form of additional expense at best, and complete failure at worst.

3. Test Your Product and Your Message.

It’s rare for a new product to stumble out of the gate, then go on to succeed. You really only have one shot at a successful product launch, so you can’t leave anything to chance. That’s why testing your product and message on current and potential customers is critical.

Gather a group of existing customers and potential customers, and demonstrate the product to them. Allow them to use it and ask questions, then get their feedback. You should also present them with variations of your marketing message and materials, and get their feedback on that too. At the very least, take careful notes. Better still, set up a video camera to record the group. Going over the video later allows you to hear their exact verbal responses and see their body language. Armed with that information, you can make adjustments to the product itself and the marketing message, if necessary.

4. Establish Goals and Measure Progress.

When you take a long road trip to a place you’ve never been before, do you look at a map once and just drive until you get there? Probably not. If you tried that, you’d risk missing your destination. So you periodically check the map, road signs and other indicators to make sure you stay on course. In marketing you need to do the same thing.

When creating your marketing plan incorporate key metrics, then measure and monitor them to ensure your plan is producing the desire results. With so many sophisticated measurement tools, many of which are inexpensive or even free, you can monitor key metrics in near real-time. This lets you know quickly whether the marketing strategy is working and enables you to make necessary adjustments.

5. Nurture Public Relations.

If the PR section of your plan only calls for distributing a press release or two, you might as well not bother. PR is only effective when it’s comprehensive and ongoing. For several weeks before the actual launch, you should be creating and nurturing buzz through repeated contacts with journalists and bloggers who cover your industry. Offer personal demonstrations and make your CEO and key product developers available for interviews. Journalists love these behind-the-scenes peeks at your company. If you don’t already have relationships with these people, you should start cultivating them.

6. Understand Communications Channels.

You probably know which communications channels your existing customers use, and you’ll use those channels to market your new product to them. But do you know where the new people you want to reach with your new product are? If not, you need to find out and start using those channels to market to them. Remember, the goal is to simultaneously build awareness and generate sales. If you’re not expanding beyond the same old channels, you’re not reaching prospective new customers and expanding your customer base. Using new marketing channels is also a good way to reach new customers with your existing products.

When using different channels, adapt your message to each channel. For example, you wouldn’t use the same format in an email that you use on Twitter. And you wouldn’t use the same format on Facebook that you use on Twitter. You must customize your message to fit the channel.

7. Turn Your Staff Loose on Social Media.

Just like the rest of the world, your staff members are probably active on social media. Some may even have thousands of followers! So why not leverage that by asking your staff members to post something about your new product? Of course, this should be completely voluntary, but most would probably be willing to do so, especially if they have some involvement in developing or marketing the new product.

8. Leverage Business Relationships.

You undoubtedly have relationships with other, non-competing businesses within your industry – vendors, manufacturers of related products, current customers, etc. If you’ve nurtured those relationships, you should be able to ask for their help with your launch. For example, you could ask them to include your new product announcement in their next newsletter or email, or to post about it on their company blog or social media pages. Leveraging these relationships can help get your message into markets you might otherwise not be able to reach.

Remember, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. That adage also applies to new product launches, so you’d better get it right the first time. For more ideas about how to conduct a successful product launch, contact us. We also invite you to check out the additional resources below for more information and insight on this topic.

18 Tips for Planning a Flawless New Product Launch

The Right Way To Launch A Successful New Product

Read More

12 Tips To Help Your Marketing Emails Produce the Desired Result

For years various so-called marketing experts have been claiming that email marketing is dead. If you drill down into why people make that claim, you’ll probably find that they’re promoting some new best marketing tool. But, according to a survey commissioned by Marketing Sherpa, 72 percent of U.S. adults prefer that communications with companies occur through email. The real problem with email marketing isn’t the medium itself; it’s the way businesses use it. Here are 12 actionable tips that can help your marketing emails produce the desired result:

1. Maintain a Strong Email List.

Any email marketing program is only as good as the list of subscribers you’re sending your email to. So your first priority must be to grow and maintain a strong email list. According to HubSpot, email lists degrade at a rate of 22.5 percent per year. So it’s essential that you keep growing your list by at least that rate, just to stay even.

 

2. Develop Engaging Content Ideas

Every good email marketing campaign begins with good content ideas. No matter how much time and energy you put into creating email content around a bad idea, it’s time and energy wasted. Regardless of which medium you’re using to publish a piece of content, it’s essential that your content be engaging, so invest ample time in content ideation.

 

3. Create Intriguing Email Subjects

Here’s a great little tip about creating intriguing email subjects: the process is guided by the same principles as blog post and article headlines. In the email world, your subject is what makes people want to open the email. Of course, just like any other marketing-related topic, there are endless articles and blog posts out there about creating compelling headlines. A good starting point is Neil Patel’s 3 step guide to writing powerful headlines.

 

4. Write Compelling Body Copy

A huge mistake many email marketers make is creating a really intriguing subject, then following that with lackluster body copy. They apparently assume that if the reader opens their email, they’re subconsciously committed to reading the message. The truth is, the opposite is probably true – a compelling subject creates a subconscious expectation that the message be compelling too. A great resource to get you started creating copy that’s based on sound principles is Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins.

 

5. Personalize Your Message

No one likes feeling as though they’re being marketed to so it’s important that you create an email that makes the reader feel as though you’re speaking to them one on one. And we’re not talking about the standard “Dear {first-name}” feature of your autoresponder. We’re talking about personalization that speaks to the reader’s specific needs.

 

6. Keep it Brief

The rules for email length differ from blog posts and other forms of online content. Blog posts, etc. should be longer because that’s what search engines like, among other things. Emails are very different. According to Constant Contact, an email with approximately 20 lines of text and 3 or fewer images produces the highest click-through rates.

 

7. Use Images

Most marketers know that images are a must in blog posts, social media and other online content. Well, the same is true for emails. Imagery in your emails will help boost subscriber engagement and get them to respond to your message. Keep in mind that 3 or fewer images achieve the best results.

 

8. Use Video

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much is a video worth? Well, even if it’s only worth 1,001 words, it’s better than still imagery. Of course, video is really worth much more. So consider using it in at least some of your emails.

 

9. Always Include a Suitable Call To Action

Imagine for a moment receiving an email with a subject so intriguing, you can’t help but open it, and a message so compelling you immediately want to take action; only to have that motivation thwarted because there’s nothing telling you what that action should be. Sounds silly when you read it, doesn’t it? Of course you have a call-to-action (CTA) in all of your emails. But not all CTAs are suitable for every circumstance. You should select a CTA that will achieve the desired result.

 

10. Make Your Email Mobile-Friendly

As of June, 2016, 54 percent of emails were viewed on mobile devices, according to Litmus’ email analytics. With the continued growth of mobile usage in general, that email number is bound to grow. Unless you want to risk having more than half your subscribers ignore your email or unsubscribe from your list altogether, you must make your emails mobile-friendly.

11. Segment Your Market

Not all of the customers and subscribers on your email list care about the same things. To reach more people with your email campaigns, you must segment your market based on different characteristics such as interests, need, geographic location, etc. A good place to start, if you’re new to the process of market segmentation, is The Beginner’s Guide To Segmentation and Buyer Personas.

 

12. Test, Test, and Test Some More

Marketing campaigns must continually evolve if you’re to remain successful. This is especially true in the internet age where trends often come and go in a blink of an eye. Marketers must continually test their email campaigns to maximize their effectiveness. The best way to do that is through A/B testing (aka. Split Testing). A/B testing is a way of determining which of two campaigns promoting the same product or service is most effective in producing the desired result. In an A/B test you create two slight variations of the same campaign and send them to a small percentage of your total recipients. Whichever variation works best is the one you send to your entire email list. Here’s a beginner’s guide to A/B testing that will get you started in the right direction.

 

In Conclusion:

We’ve given you a lot to think about here, and it may seem a bit overwhelming at first; but you don’t necessarily have to do it all at once. Instead, pick one tip and put it into action this week. Then do another next week, and so on. To learn more about effective email marketing, contact us. We also invite you to check out the resource list below, and follow our blog for more great marketing information.

Additional Resources:

Read More

8 Digital Marketing Tools You Should Master in 2017

Just like auto mechanics need one of those big roll around tool chests full of all kinds of tools in order to tackle any problem that may need fixing on a car or truck, digital marketers need a well-stocked toolbox to be effective at what they do. Here are 8 digital marketing tools that every digital marketer should have in their virtual toolbox:

 

1. Researching Trends

Google Trends is a free search tool that enables you to see how often specific keywords, phrases, and subjects have been queried over a specific period of time. You can query up to five keywords, phrases, or topics simultaneously and see the results displayed in graph called the “Search Volume Index”. You can even export the data to a .csv file for later use.

You can filter Google Trends data in two ways: real-time and non-real time. Real-time randomly samples searches from the last seven days. Non-real-time randomly samples searches that can range anywhere from 2004 to 36 hours ago.

Whether you’re just starting a business, researching competitors, creating a new campaign, or looking for good keywords or phrases for your next blog post, Google Trends can help.

 

2. Keyword Research Tools

There are actually two keyword research tool that work well together: Google’s Keyword Planner and Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer.

Google Keyword Planner is a free tool that’s part of their AdWords product – AdWords only costs money if you actually place ads. You can research all you want for free. Keyword Planner allows you to research keywords by country and language, then shows you approximately how many times the term was searched. It also gives you a general idea of the competition for a particular keyword. Keyword Planner is a good tool for weeding out keywords so you can further research the more promising ones using Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer.

Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer is one of several tools offered by Ahrefs, and is more useful than Google’s Keyword Planner. Keyword Explorer provides relevant keyword suggestions from a huge (3 billion+) keyword database that’s updated every month. Keyword Explorer also provides advanced metrics like the “Clicks” metric – just because a keyword has a high search volume (as shown by Keyword Planner) doesn’t mean people are actually clicking on the keyword search results. Keyword Explorer is the only tool that shows the actual click data for your keywords.

 

3. Keep Tabs on the Competition

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could keep track of your competitors online, and even see a side-by-side comparison of, say, your top five competitors? SimilarWeb Pro is a great way to do it. You can even include your own website and get an eye-opening picture of how you stack up against the competition. SimilarWeb gives you an estimate of a website’s traffic, the sources of that traffic, the countries its traffic comes from, keywords the site ranks well for, and lots of other useful information. They also have a free version of the tool.

 

4. Finding Content Ideas

Have you ever had problems coming up with productive content ideas for your website or blog? Of course you have – we all have. It’s one thing to come up with content that just takes up space on your blog. It’s quite another to come up with content that engages your audience and gets shared.

Buzzsumo is a tool that helps you find out what content is popular by topic or by website. You can’t create engaging, shareable content unless you know what’s popular; but scanning social sites to learn what people are talking about and sharing is an impossible task. With Buzzsumo, you can enter your search criteria and let it discover what content is working in your area.

 

5. Facebook Advertising

No discussion about digital marketing tools is complete without social media in general, and Facebook in particular. Everyone knows that Facebook is the largest social media network in the world. They boast over 1.86 billion monthly active users as of February 1st, according to Facebook itself; and 76 percent of people use their Facebook feed to find interesting content, according to HubSpot. Add Facebook’s ability to collect a lot of user data, and you get an advertising platform that is second to none, at least in the social media world.

 

6. Planning Facebook Ads

Speaking of Facebook’s ability to collect copious user data, that data feeds into one of the most effective ad targeting systems out there. The Facebook Audience Insights tool provides a great deal of useful data for marketers, including aggregate information about geography, demographics, buying habits, the device they’re using, and even life events. The good news is, it’s easy to use, so you won’t spend a lot of time on the learning curve.

 

7. Using Smart Hashtags

Another important element of social media marketing is hashtag marketing. Hashtags are everywhere these days – Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. As a digital marketer, you can’t just ignore them. Hashtags can help expand your content reach, amplify your brand, target your market, improve your SEO, and more. But you need to be able to track your hashtag results, and that’s where Talkwalker comes into play. Tirewalker is a social media analytics platform that enables you to track hashtags and analyze which channels are making the most impact, identify messaging strategies that resonate with your audience, and create more relevant content using the hashtag cloud.

 

8. Search Engine Advertising

If you asked 1,000 internet marketers the first thing they think of when they hear the words “search engine advertising”, 999 of them will say Google AdWords, and the other one is probably asleep. That’s because it’s one of the most popular online ad platforms in the world. If you’re a serious digital marketer, using AdWords is a must, and for good reason. As of February 1st, Google is still the number one search engine with 1.6 billion unique monthly users – 4 times that of their closest competitor. With all those unique monthly visitors, you have a virtually limitless pool of prospects.

 

In Conclusion:

No marketer, regardless of how talented or experienced, can be effective if they don’t use the right tools; and digital marketing tools are always evolving. So it’s essential that you stay abreast of the best and newest tools available. Certainly, the 8 we’ve outlined here barely scratch the surface of what’s out there – some new, some tried and true. We invite you to check out MarkGrowth.com’s 53 Digital Marketing Tools You Should Master in 2017 and Spinweb’s Favorite Digital Marketing Tools for 2017 for more ideas.

You can also contact us to learn more about digital marketing tools in 2017, and continue following our blog for more great content.

Read More

6 Marketing Trends To Watch For, and Act On, in 2017

Ever since 2006, when HubSpot began providing some focus on the concept of inbound marketing, businesses have been on a seemingly endless quest for the next big thing in content creation and distribution. The smart ones look for upcoming trends. The successful ones look for ways to capitalize on those trends. Here are 6 marketing trends to watch for in 2017, and some thoughts on how to make them part of your own marketing strategy.

1. Mobile Use Will Continue To Expand

This is really no big surprise, as evidenced by the fact that mobile internet usage (51.3%) worldwide surpassed desktop usage (48.7%) for the first time last year, according to StatCounter. What is currently a small gap will do nothing but get larger in 2017 and beyond as more mobile apps and other capabilities are developed.

The immediate challenge, for those who haven’t already done so, is to deliver content in a mobile-friendly format. This goes beyond just having a mobile-friendly website to other content like coupon images, videos, survey forms, subscription opt-ins, and social media. What content do you currently produce that could be more effective if published in a mobile-friendly format?

2. Email Content Still Rules

In spite of what many people think, email is far from dead. In fact, it’s as healthy as ever. The email newsletter (formerly known as “ezine”) is still one of the most effective ways to communicate your message to customers and prospects. Of course, the successful email newsletter of yesteryear, which contained primarily textual content, has been replaced by a more vibrant piece containing color imagery and/or video. In today’s email newsletter, text plays more of a supplemental role.

In addition to more eye-appealing content, today’s email newsletter is more personalized than the old “Dear {first_name}” greeting that your auto-responder filled in. With email list segmentation, you can tailor your marketing campaigns based on a variety of customer preferences and behaviors from buying frequency to call-to-action clicks.

Review your current email newsletter program, and look for ways to make the content more appealing; both in terms of its look and feel, and targeting. If you don’t currently have an email newsletter, make it a priority to create one that meets current email marketing standards.

3. Live Streaming

One surefire way to identify growing trends is to follow the money. With Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube all investing significant sums to improve their own live stream platforms, it’s a no-brainer that this is a strong trend. While 2016 was a breakout year for live streaming, 2017 promises to be even better as marketers discover new ways to use live streaming in their overall marketing strategy.

In addition to the live stream event itself, which is a great way to attract attention and engage people, you can continue using the video as a marketing tool for years to come. A great example of a live stream creating a lot of immediate and residual engagement is Buzzfeed’s Watermelon Explosion video, which had over 807,000 live viewers at the peak of its 45-minute run time, over 1.3 million views on Facebook (as of November 11, 2016), and more than 870,000 residual views on YouTube (as of February 22, 2017).

If Buzzfeed can create that kind of success with a 45-minute exploding watermelon video, what can you do with live streaming to market your products and services. Here’s a hint: it doesn’t necessarily have to be a product-centric video.

4. Niche Marketing Will Grow

In years past, marketers targeted a broad range of people with their content – the more people, the better. The idea was, if you blast content at a large group of people, a certain percentage of them will eventually become customers. This practice was based on the law of large numbers.

With the growing use of social media, it’s becoming easier to cater to more specific groups of people based on the websites they visit, their social media usage, and other factors. With such detailed information available, it makes sense for marketers to focus on specific niches.

To niche market effectively, you should start by understanding your prospect and customer base better than you have in the past. The best way to do this is to create buyer personas. HubSpot defines the buyer persona as:

“…a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

When you understand your ideal prospects and customers better, you’ll be better able to craft content that speaks to them and their needs.

5. Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is another phenomenon that began to takeoff in 2016. As more people gain access to virtual reality, marketers will be forced to get on board and start producing virtual reality content. To get a feel for the impact of virtual reality on the viewer, you need only take another look at Samsung’s 2016 Christmas commercial.

The challenge for you, regardless of what kind of business you’re in, is to come up with ways you can use virtual reality to attract and engage prospects and customers. Imagine, for example, how much more impactful Buzzfeed’s Exploding Watermelon video would be if the viewer could watch it through the eyes of one of the people putting rubber bands around the watermelon.

6. Blasts from the Past

Our final trend is actually the rebirth of a popular content distribution tool from the twentieth century – the print magazine. One of the first apparent benefits of the internet was the ability to consume print media on a computer monitor, and later, a mobile device. Well, for some, that trend seems to have gone full-circle; and smart marketers are taking advantage of the fact that some consumers are harkening back to the days when they consumed print content.

But it’s more than just the harkening back of Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials. Centennials are almost completely unfamiliar with print media because they literally grew up with digital media. So, print magazines like AirBnB and allrecipies, are seen by them as new and unique.

What can your company do to take advantage of this trend back toward print media? Here’s a hint: think beyond magazines and newsprint. Is there content that you can produce in printed form (ie. special reports, case studies, testimonials, etc.) Of course, you should continue distributing this content online too.

Conclusion:

As you work to take advantage of these trends, remember that providing quality content is always key. Regardless of how you deliver it, if your content is sub-par or irrelevant, it won’t do you any good. To learn more about content marketing in 2017 and beyond, contact us. Meanwhile, we invite you to follow our blog for more great marketing content.

Read More

Increase your visibility in Google with these 3 easy steps

After successfully launching a new web design company and receiving a few repeat clients, most businesses usually gets trapped inside a comfort zone. They just stop trying to impress their clients or even look for new and better clients.

Of course, making a good profit is the number one goal of any business. However, it shouldn’t be your only goal.

Never let profit margins, finances, or budgets keep you from achieving greatness. You may be running a small web design agency with a couple of your friends, but you could also be the guys who design the next version of Google Play, or something even greater.

If you’re the owner of a web design business or at least plan on building one, here are a few tips for building a company that grows bigger in size each day.

Read More