Services

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WebDesignerVIP.com  services work with wide established fundamentals, which are required to push the distinct Internet existence. We provide reliable, flexible lot of services, and web solutions, which can bring attention to an inviting crowd on your website. This will eventually pamper a delayed business on the whole World Wide Web. Below mentioned are the best and the most trustworthy solutions offered, which are functional, creative, and absolutely accurate.

Domains – Creating a Business Name

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We provide various kinds of domain names which are cheap and safe for you to use. Here you can find how the domain is registered and how you can buy one. Creating your own website is not very tough these days, all you need is your desirable domain name and a web hosting along with it, which you can get from here at an affordable price. The first thing you need to keep in mind is what kind of website you want to create. The example of a domain names available on our site are “.com”, “.org”, “.in”, “.net” and the list goes on.

Now, let me explain you in a very simple language about how you can buy a domain name from here and how you can use it. We are one of the best web hosting and domain name provider available on internet today.

Make sure the domain name you are searching on our site is available and matches with your work and you can also have your name in it but it must not be very long or very short, e.g. “yournamemobiles.com”. Having a short domain name means your customer need not to remember some lengthy name to visit your site.

Different kinds of domain names on our website are available at cheap prices. You can also buy web hosting plans at reasonable rates to store or upload your data. You can register for a new domain or transfer your old one to here at a nominal rate.

There’s no doubt that our site is verified and fully secure so that you can do your work safely.

These 25 Successful Startups Were Built With Outsourced Development

Starting a venture and developing your product or service requires working quickly and efficiently. You need to ensure your startup offers value in terms of innovation, quality and convenience, even though you have limited resources and may be racing against the competition to be first to market.

So, how do you strike the perfect balance?

It’s up to the talent you bring in to make this happen. The problems are you (much like myself) have limited funds to hire talent, who may be new to the process. There is an alternative approach that many companies have actually used during the startup phase: outsourced development.

While this may be little known, perhaps because there is considerable controversy over using outsourcing, here are 25 large startups that have succeeded using this strategy to launch their highly-valued businesses:

  1. Slack: Now valued at nearly $3 billion, this company used outsourcing to develop its solution in its earliest days.
  2. Fab: This large startup partnered with developers in India to maximize funding while scaling up when their business showed signs of growth.
  3. Skype: They used a team of developers in Estonia to help them build out their business.
  4. Klout: To get its technology in the right place before launch, Klout relied on many outsourced developers.
  5. AppSumo: The company has used many freelancers in various fields, including marketing, content and IT to grow its business.
  6. Staff.com: Serving as a company that offers outsourced talent and freelancers for other organizations, Staff.com utilized the same model to grow from a start-up into a globally successful business.
  7. Branchout: This app was created entirely with outsourced development.
  8. Github: The company has used numerous people who completed development work virtually from home.
  9. Basecamp: The same practice of outsourcing worked for Basecamp as it developed itself into a technology leader.
  10. AlertBoot: The company decided to outsource infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and cloud hosting to speed those areas of development.
  11. MYSQL: From the start, the company believed and proved the success of a growth strategy that included using a mostly outsourced staff in various countries to ramp up operations in each location.
  12. SeatGeek: This company found a considerable cost benefit to outsourcing specific tasks to talent in other countries. That helped them build their infrastructure quicker at less cost than hiring in-house staff.
  13. Squawker: This company partnered with an outsource provider to build its platform solution.
  14. JPay.com: Outside developers built their technology and infrastructure. They used people in India, China and Israel for quality assurance, engineering and hardware. It helped to have the outsourcing in place to handle growth. They eventually sold the company to Securus Technology.
  15. Splunk: This company, known for search and analysis of data, has used outsource agencies to find the talent that rapidly developed their infrastructure and solution.
  16. Opera: This web browser company relied on developers in other countries to create and implement its platform.
  17. Pingar: The company helps organizations with data analytics. While establishing itself in its industry it called on outsourced talent to develop its business.
  18. Axeda: The company relied on developers to create the software and platform to offer its cloud-based solution.
  19. Solix: Even technology outsource companies have used outsourced talent to create its infrastructure as Solix has done.
  20. Cloudmunch: This Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) company utilized an Indian outsource company to cull talent it needed to start up its operations.
  21. Gliffy: This web-based diagramming tools company has turned to outsourcing for specific aspects of its technology development.
  22. Net2Text: The company outsourced the development of its mobile payment platform.
  23. Proximate Global Inc.: This company used an outsource service provider to create a location-based service for smartphones called Face2Face.
  24. Mailburn: This iPhone email client solution developed thanks to a partnership with an outsource service provider that helped with many of the technical aspects of the solution.
  25. Mindspark: This mobile app development company has used outsource providers to create its business and many of its current apps.

After learning about this list I started researching good companies that could build my invoicing for freelancers startup. I now have a large team of developers who are cranking away at new features.

These startups and many others, like myself, have recognized the value that outsourcing brings, whether that is talent in other countries or homegrown experts who work virtually. The primary driver is that outsourcing costs startups much less an in-house team. Outsourcers come with skills already in place, so you do not spend time training. The low costs and knowledgeable talent means you can get infrastructure developed faster and your company launched sooner.

My one tip for success is, before you engage long term, test a couple developers and make sure the code is clean. There are numerous horror stories, so make sure that you have someone who understands code to manage this outsourced team.

Here’s to growing all of our businesses online!

25 Businesses That Make Life Simpler for Other Businesses

As a small business owner with my own personal brand, streamlining my process by finding resources that are affordable and easy to use is a must. I’ve written about productivity here before, but soon after, I received requests to write more about additional solutions that make our business lives more manageable. I’m happy to fulfill these requests, partly because my list is ever-changing and expanding, with new solutions coming to market constantly.

Here are 25 startups that will simplify your business life, and help you get more done.

1. Buffer.

Any small business owner knows that you must have a social media presence. Buffer allows you to streamline your postings with a simple UI and times them so that they post throughout the day. I recommend this to any entrepreneur who needs to build their followers, but only has five minutes to plan their tweets.

2. Charlie.

Charlie has become an ace in the hole for me. The app tells you everything you need to know about the person you’ll be talking to in your next meeting. It gives you a cheat sheet before the meeting, including LinkedIn connections, breaking news on the person’s company, or what’s happening with their competition. I’ve found it to be invaluable because it provides information that can be used as icebreakers in conversations.

3. Crazy Egg.

Crazy Egg shows you interactive heat maps of users on your website, and tells you who’s leaving the site. See where people are clicking, where they’re interested, and where they aren’t. Tools like these help you better monetize your site and turn visitors into revenue

4. Documaster.

Having a hard time finding documents on your computer? Documaster uses natural language processing, machine learning, and other keyword strategies to better organize your documents and find what’s actually important.

5. Doodle.

Looking to manage your schedule better but can’t afford an assistant? Using a free web tool like Doodle is one of the simplest ways to control your calendar as well as a helpful way to find dates for meetings with your colleagues.

6. Dreamfunded.

Need funding? Looking to fund startups? Dreamfunded is an angel investing crowd funding platform started by angel investor Bill Payne, who curates startups for angels to invest in. These types of platforms are becoming more and more popular, and are perfect for both angels and startups, as veterans like Payne sift through the ideas so that only really good ones make it on the platform.

7. Due.

One of the biggest headaches that a company faces is paying bills. Due is one of the better services out there at handling it. This platform helps manage accounts payable and receivable and provides easy to use time tracking.

8. Flock Draw.

White-boarding and brainstorming creative ideas is often important to taking virtual teams to the next level. Flock Draw allows your team to whiteboard together in real-time, so everyone can visualize what’s being said. Create a free session, and have access to tons of tools to show your idea to the entire team.

9. Grubmarket.

Scaling quickly in 10 markets, farm to fresh Grubmarket provides your office with some of the best food and snacks available. Part of being a great employer these days is providing fresh food and snacks for you employees, and Grubmarket will bring you some of the best.

10. HipDial.

This services greatly simplifies conference calls by allowing colleagues to simply call a personalized phone number assigned to you. HipDial lets you take a conference call at any time without the hassle of scheduling or creating a new room for each call.

11. Hostt.

Every business needs a website, and therefore needs web hosting. Hostt provides free website hosting, perfect for eliminating an unnecessary expense and helping you bootstrap.

12. Infographics.space.

No type of online content is shared quite as much as infographics. Infographics.Space is a design agency that specializes in making highly professional infographics for entrepreneurs on a budget.

13. Last Pass.

Most business owners have to keep track of a thousand different passwords, and often each one has to be different for each site. This includes numbers, letters, bizarre combinations, and other items that can be difficult to remember. Use a tool like Last Pass to keep all of your passwords in one place so you can access them from wherever you are.

14. Lumi.

Going to conferences and need some cool swag? Lumi allows you to put your logo on anything. Being able to put your logo on items that people keep is a huge bonus, rather than choosing cheap stuff people will just throw away.

15. Near Me.

Need a turn-key responsive marketplace website to sell your merchandise? Near Me empowers owners of small business by making marketplace management simple from design to analytics, and letting small business owners look like a larger company, without any coding or engineers.

16. PandaDoc.

One of the most important parts of the sales process is the sizzling proposal that hooks the prospect. Having the right proposal can make or break a deal. One tip I have for proposals is knowing a client’s hot buttons and making sure they land in the proposal. That’s what makes PandaDoc so great. You can modify and personalize the proposal for each client to insure its gets the clients attention. You can track once they open your proposals as well as what they’re looking at within to quickly follow-up and intelligently address objections.

17. Peer Space.

Need to rent a space for a party, or an office for a day? Have an important meeting and need to impress? Perhaps you have an office your team only uses a few days a week. Use Peer Space and rent a spot, or rent out your own – it’s like an AirBnB for business offices.

18. Product Hunt.

I’ve found this site to be the most helpful location on the Internet for discovering new products. Apps that help startup founders are highly popular on Product Hunt. Founder Ryan Hoover’s Reddit-like daily list of recently-discovered products has built a massive community, too. Some startups I talk to say they’ve received tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of visitors when they “hunted” their product on the site and it floated to the top portion of the front page. Overall, this is a highly effective way to launch or find new users for an app, product or service.

19. Redirect.com.

If you have international traffic, you should be using this service. Redirect monetizes your international web traffic with a geo-targeting system that uses a combination of CPC, CPM, and CPA strategies.

20. Remoteinterview.io.

Interviewing engineers is important to building an A team, however a business owner must usually require some rapid prototyping/live coding to insure that the engineer can actually code. Remote interview allows potential employers to watch the engineer code in real-time and therefore help to insure he or she is qualified (or simply learn about his or her thought processes). The service also provides programming tests, saving your business a lot of time and money before you invest in a team member that doesn’t work out.

21. Searchmetrics.

The cornerstone of a business in the 21st century is its web presence. Being found on the front page of Google for specific keywords is critical. Searchmetrics provides SEO analysis to optimize your content marketing strategy so that your company is found under the right circumstances.

22. Shyp.

Most businesses have to ship packages at some point, whether its merchandise, contracts, company property, etc. Waiting in long lines at the post office is a waste of company resources, so that’s where Shyp becomes a helpful resource. Take a photo on your mobile phone, upload it to the mobile app, and Shyp comes and does the rest – including using the most low-cost, reliable shipping method possible.

23. Trello

Need an online collaboration system to help you work with teammates in order to complete a task? Trello could be the right project management solution for you. I’ve used it on multiple occasions and it definitely cuts down on confusion, not only in determining how a project should be completed, but in figuring out where in that process you are currently working.

24. Wrike

Need another project management recommendation? There are many of these platforms, and entrepreneurs tend to switch among them a little more often than you’d think. Wrike is one that several founders have recommended to me in conversation. It allows your team to have real-time collaboration, document sharing, and a news feed to keep everyone informed.

25. Zirtual

Often, as small business owners, we become overwhelmed with the little things, and the little details slide. Unfortunately its the little details that often set you as an entrepreneur apart. Zirtual is a virtual personal assistant who take care of calendaring, scheduling, inbox management, and gives your team an extra hand.

5 Tips for Hiring a Great Web Developer

A web developer can be one of your most critical hires. After all, that’s the person who will create the online face of your company and enable you to interact virtually with your customers.

So, it’s especially important that you hire the right talent the first time out. Otherwise, you risk hurting your business, as well as wasting time and money seeking a replacement.

Here are five tips that can help in the selection process:

1. Hire for DNA first, then work experience.

When I hire web developers, their personal DNA is the most important consideration. While experience is important, the bigger predictor of success is someone’s innate DNA and how it fits your company. Are drive, determination, persistence, curiosity, important to you culture? Or, are you more low-key and relaxed about time management and deadlines? Whatever characteristics make up your culture, you want to ensure that the web developer will fit in.

For example, a brilliant web developer who has worked at a large financial institution may not do well at a startup. Why? A startup typically requires traits like versatility, adaptability, risk-taking and a self-starter personality, but these may be less important at a large company.

So, make a list of your company’s DNA requirements. Do you foster an environment of relentless drive? Do you want great team players? If you come up with five requirements, make sure the interviewee matches at least three. Hiring for DNA also can help you to start to define a company culture and ensure that your team will work well together.

Of course, it’s easy for some people to fake it in an interview, so you may need to evaluate them in other ways to ensure they’re a good fit.

2. Try out a new developer with a small project first.

Although you might think you’ve identified your ideal candidate, just to be sure you should give him or her a small, non-critical project. That can let you observe the person in action and provide additional information beyond the job interview.

You can see how efficient the candidate is in delivering products and how buggy the final product is. Did he or she go above and beyond to get the product delivered? How creative was the solution? How well did he or she work in a team and communicate problems and delays?

3. Pick a developer with aptitude, not a particular skill set.

In the tech space, skills become obsolete every two years, give or take. So, it’s better to hire a web developer who can learn new technologies easily rather than someone who knows a specific technology now but may not adapt when a new one comes along.

The easiest way to detect whether someone will adapt well to change is to ask questions that will reveal whether a Web developer has a love for learning. For example:

What new programming languages did you learn recently?
What are your go-to places for learning new tech tips and tricks?
What are your favorite technology conferences?

4. Don’t ask trivia questions about programming.

These are examples of trivia questions you want to avoid asking when interviewing web developers:

Who is the primary creator of the Java programming language?
In what year was PHP released?
What is the origin of the Python scripting language’s name?

While such information may seem useful, trivia questions are often a terrible way to determine if someone is smart. They just single out people who can memorize things.

As a rule of thumb when I conduct technical interviews, I never ask questions that can be easily searched for and found online. Instead, I focus on open-ended questions and listen. What I look for is how much passion candidates show in their answers and how well they communicate and explain tech terms.

Some examples of open-ended questions:

How do you manage conflicts in a web application when different people are editing the same data?
Which design patterns have you used, and in what situations?
Can you name any differences between object-oriented design and component-based design?

5. Hire slow, fire fast.

Take your time when hiring, but if you realize the person isn’t working out, let him or her go as fast as you can. An ineffective web developer can be disruptive to the entire team and potentially the entire project.

At Webgrrls.com, I made a significant hiring mistake a few years ago and let that person stay on for far too long. Although he was a talented lead developer, he’d sometimes disappear for days, missing important deadlines. Missing deadlines can be especially detrimental to startups where resources are tight and the ability to develop and improve products quickly and efficiently can make or break them.

The fire-fast rule may be difficult to follow in small companies where there’s often a feeling of everyone being in it together and forming close friendships. But don’t let that stop you.

10 Steps to Finding the Right Co-Founder

A common challenge faced by every entrepreneur is that they don’t have the bandwidth, interest or skills to do everything that is required to build their startup. Of course, they can outsource part of the work or hire employees, but that approach means more time and money to manage the work, which they don’t have. The right answer is to find a co-founder with complementary skills.

Two heads are always better than one in a startup. Both need to share the passion, long-term opportunity and risk, rather than just getting paid to do a job, win or lose. Investors worry about a single entrepreneur getting overloaded, disabled or led astray, with no balancing and supporting partner. The challenge is how to find that elusive perfect-fit partner.

Don’t expect someone else to find the partner for you, since it’s really very much like finding a life partner. Your version of the right chemistry, similar values and passion for your solution probably won’t match mine. Yet from my own years of experience in the startup community, here are 10 common steps that have worked for other entrepreneurs:

1. Write a “job description” for that ideal partner.

Your best friend, spouse or a family member is the least likely candidate, so don’t start there. Take a hard look at your own business strengths and weaknesses, and write down what partner skills and experiences would best complement yours. Seek input from seasoned investors and peers.

2. Network to find co-founders just as you network to find investors.

In fact, many of the same venues, such as industry conferences, entrepreneur forums and local business organizations are useful for both. Online, it pays to join entrepreneur groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, and interact with people who meet your criteria on Twitter.

3. Join online “matchmaking” sites for business partners.

Co-founders are business partners for startups, so don’t be afraid to join and explore sites such as StartupWeekend, StartupAgents and CoFoundersLab. Also start a discussion on the wealth of business blogs frequented by entrepreneurs, where you can make your interests known.

4. Attend local university entrepreneur activities.

University professors and student leaders always know a host of top entrepreneurs, alums or staff members who are just waiting to find the perfect match for their own interests, skills and entrepreneurial ideas to change the world. Support local activities and you support yourself.

5. Look for a partner from a different background.

In today’s global economy, your ideal partner may be half way around the world, from a different geography and business culture. Every startup infrastructure is flush with smart people from all cultures, many of whom may be ready and able to bring new energy and creativity to your startup.

6. Follow up with associates from prior job assignments.

If you were impressed with someone’s drive and capabilities in a prior work role, now is the time to connect again to check their interest and availability, or recommendations they may offer. Use caution to avoid employer conflicts of interest and non-compete clauses.

7. Relocate to a more likely geography.

Finding a high-tech co-founder in the middle of Kansas may be a long search. There’s a reason that Silicon Valley and Boston are hubs for high-tech startups. These areas may have not just your co-founder, but also the robust ecosystem your startup needs for investors, programmers and customers.

8. Explore candidate common interests outside of work.

Co-founder chemistry and interest matches are best explored outside the office. Find some common hobbies or sports to get acquainted before giving away half your company. Business partnerships are long-term relationships, so take your time getting acquainted before closing the deal.

9. Jointly define major milestones and key metrics for the startup.

This process is the ultimate test of a true shared vision and working style. Building a startup is hard and unpredictable work, and people get busy, so now is the time to jointly commit. If you can’t work as a team now and easily agree, it probably won’t happen at all in the future.

10. Negotiate and document roles early, including who is the boss.

No matter how equal you all are, there is only room for one at the top to make the final decision on hard issues. Especially when everything feels good today, don’t be hesitant to ask the hard questions of each other. There can be only one chief executive officer.

For the success of your startup, finding the right co-founder is one of the most important things that a new entrepreneur needs to do. There are so many challenges in a startup that no founder should try to go it alone. When you find someone that works, I’m betting you will be together on your next startup, and the one after that. Great teams persevere, and success breeds success.

Thinking of Going Solo? 7 Reasons You Need a Co-Founder.

There are few decisions in business that are more important than deciding whether you’ll “go it alone” or team up with someone that you may, or may not, already know. Although there are a couple of reasons that going alone might sound appealing — like owning more of the company and being completely in control of decision-making — there are considerably more that should direct you otherwise.

Let’s have a gander at a short list of reasons why you should reconsider a solo career in entrepreneurship.

1. Starting a business is hard. Really hard.

When you have the idea for your new startup it’s easy to get excited — after all, you’re going to sell for a zillion dollars and have your birthday set as a national holiday, right? Yep, the adrenaline is flowing. Then you begin executing on your fancy new idea, only to realize that there is a heck of a lot of work to be done. While struggling to keep your head above water isn’t terribly fun, doing it alone is much worse.

2. Distribute the stress.

As a result of the enormous amount of work that is required to launch a new enterprise, mountains of stress inevitably come. Do you know what you can’t do — or shouldn’t do? Take it home with you. Now I realize that this may not be entirely realistic but it’s important that you know in advance that your significant other and/or children aren’t going to understand what you’re going through and no, you can’t vent to your employees — they’re not your friends.

As a solo entrepreneur you’re never going to feel more alone, so put yourself in a situation to share the stress with someone that you’re working with every day.

3. Nobody will understand your business like you do.

This is a point that cannot be stressed enough — if you’ve never started a company before, I can assure you that the number of details and intricacies will be orders of magnitude greater than your wildest expectations — and the only person that will understand them like you, when you need help the most, is a co-founder.

4. Problem solving can’t be one-sided.

We know that problems are going to come up — no need to beat a dead horse. The issue is that you’re going to need the perspective of another person that understands your business like you do, and that person can only be a co-founder. It’s equally as important that you have an opposing view. Hiring a co-founder that thinks like you do and shares the same opinion won’t be much better than having no co-founder at all.

5. Advisors are advisors, not partners.

You may have gone out and built the greatest crack squad of advisors imaginable. The problem is that you can’t call one of them at 11:15 at night when you’ve had a “eureka” moment or are struggling to come up with a solution to a problem — even if they said you could. Keep in mind that their job is to provide you with advice on an “as needed” basis, which is typically going to be for larger problems than those that appear multiple times throughout the day.

6. Split the early and out-of-pocket expenses.

Hopefully this doesn’t come as much of a shock, but starting a business can be expensive — and fundraising early and without a product or prototype is really difficult, unless of course your grandfather invented Velcro. The opportunity to work with a co-founder will allow you to split the initial costs of getting a working product or prototype going, which will in turn allow you to raise funds at a better valuation.

Are you concerned about giving up equity? Don’t be. Would you rather own 50 percent of something or 100 percent of nothing?

7. Mitigate risk for investors.

At Beachwood Ventures, we’re rather opposed to investing in single-founder companies — that’s not to say we won’t in circumstances where the founder is a repeat entrepreneur with past success, we just prefer a team with at least two founders. Yes, having too many founders can also be troublesome, but that’s a different article.

The potential problems here are many. If the founder has a major problem in the highest levels of the new company, he’ll be relying on employees of the company for help — whom have a different mindset and priority base — as well as people outside the company that won’t understand the intricacies like the founder will.

If the founder burns him or herself out or gets hit by a beer truck, both the company and our investment are likely gone — sorry to be morose, it’s just reality. Unless it’s a truly otherworldly opportunity and all the stars align, it’s just not worth the risk as an investor.

4 Simple Reasons Your Website Isn’t Converting Visitors Into Sales

You are attracting website visitors through social media marketing, email marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click marketing. Your traffic is highly targeted; and let’s assume you are selling the exact product or service that your visitors want. You also have the lowest price online, yet you still aren’t converting sales.

So, what’s the problem?

Sometimes a simple website problem will drastically hinder your sales. Here are four reasons why your website might not be converting as well as you would like.

1. Your website provides a horrible mobile experience.

You have to have a mobile-friendly website — there is no way around it. It’s very easy to check to see if your website passes Google’s mobile-friendly test, but a passing grade doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your website is going to provide a pleasant experience for your users.

There are many things to consider when optimizing a landing page for mobile traffic. Using text that’s large and easy to read, having just a single call-to-action, avoiding large paragraphs of text and ensuring that a visitor can access every feature using just one finger are a few things to consider.

Invite feedback from actual users — friends, family and customers — and watch them run through every page of your website on a mobile device. Take notes based on their feedback in real time to determine what works and what still needs to be addressed, to give your visitors a hassle-free experience on their mobile devices.

2. Customers are required to create an account to complete the checkout process.

I won’t purchase from a website that requires me to create an account before checking out, and I promise I’m not the only one that shares this stance. Consumers demand speed, efficiency and convenience. Requiring someone to create an account not only adds time-consuming steps to the checkout process, but also acts as a repellant, pushing away consumers who are sensitive about putting personal information online.

You don’t need to completely eliminate the ability to create an account; some consumers, especially repeat visitors, like the convenience of stored information, such as a preferred payment method and shipping address. Just make sure you offer a “guest” checkout option, as well, allowing someone to quickly make a purchase and be done.

3. You don’t offer any visible discounts, special offers or free shipping.

We all like to feel that we are saving money or receiving a special perk. Make sure that all of your special offers, even standard ones, are highly visible.

Here’s an example of how a simple change can make a difference: An ecommerce website I consulted for was offering free shipping on all orders. When the company implemented a two-step exit offer to let visitors leaving the site claim free shipping, its conversion rates went through the roof. We also strategically placed the offer throughout the website. Without adjusting anything else, the company’s revenue numbers grew much stronger.

The message? Work current special offers and discounts into your website design, and include them in areas that are clicked and viewed often (Tip: Use a heat-map tool like Crazy Egg to see where your visitors are scrolling and clicking.) Also, build exit offers that include these special offers, enticing the visitor to stick around and complete a purchase.

4. Your website speed and load time are painfully slow.

What happens when you land on a website and it doesn’t load immediately? You leave. I leave. Everyone leaves. Your website visitors aren’t any different.

If someone leaves your website because it loads slowly, I have news for you — not only did you just lose a possible sale, but you lost all future sales from that person, as well, since he or she will never return. There are several free tests you can run to audit your website speed and load time. In addition to making the changes those tests suggest, you should use quality website hosting, utilize caching and consider signing up for a content delivery network (CDN) to improve your website performance.

10 Questions to Ask When Optimizing Your Website for Mobile Users

Americans can’t get enough of their smartphones. Most of us compulsively check them countless times a day, then stash them by our bedsides at night, according to the Pew Research Center. We’re hooked on them because they make our lives easier.

Fortunately for businesses large and small, smartphones also make it easier for people to research and make purchases on the go. And that very (and very lucrative) mobile purchasing power is precisely why it’s critical for your company website to look great and work smoothly on smartphones — and on tablets, too.

Here are 10 crucial questions to ask when optimizing your company’s website for mobile users:

1. My website looks okay on mobile devices now. Is it really worth it just to make it look and feel as slick as possible on smartphones and tablets?
Yes, without a doubt, says Brian Alvey, “chief scientist” at Ceros, a cloud-based real-time web content authoring platform. Global fashion, auto and retail brands look to Ceros to publish interactive marketing experiences that are designed to “work flawlessly” on all types of devices, and smartphones and tablets are no exception.

“Mobile used to be the future of business,” Alvey says. “Mobile used to be a trend. Now it’s the norm.” The bottom line: If you don’t adapt to mobile and quick, you could miss out on a prime revenue-generating opportunity, or even lose customers to competitors who already embrace mobile.

2. Should I have a dedicated mobile version of my existing website or simply make my existing website responsive to mobile?
You have two choices. You can either opt for a single website that displays content responsively for different device and browser types, otherwise known as responsive web design. Or you can create a standalone dedicated mobile website separate from your main website. If your main site is www.examplesitehere.com, then your dedicated mobile site would likely appear as m.examplesitehere.com. The .m signifies mobile.

Alvey prefers an all-in-one responsive site. He says he’s heard that Google and Bing prefer them as well.

3. Should I try to mobile-optimize my website myself or delegate it to someone on my staff? 
Particularly for small businesses that are light on resources, it’s best to leave it to the pros. The mobile optimization process is generally too cost-prohibitive, complicated and time-consuming to go in-house.

“Most SMBs can’t justify even a single full-time designer, so in-house isn’t an option,” Alvey says. “Unless you have the time and experience to directly manage freelance designers, I’d hire a company [to do the job].”

4. What are some of the best mobile optimization options available and what do they cost?
Luckily, there are a wide variety of solutions available for every budget. Alvey suggests deciding what you’re willing to spend, then choosing the best available option from there.

Alvey’s favorite mobile services are from popular website hosting companies like WordPress (free hosting, plus premium upgrades), GoDaddy (hosting costs $4.99 to $7.99 per month) and SquareSpace (free 14-day trial, hosting costs $8 to $24 per month). Each offers a broad array of automatically mobile-friendly, attractive prefab website designs, features and themes, plus premium add-ons.

Another is bMobilized, whose slogan is “mobilize any website… instantly.” This can be a smart option if you simply want to add mobile responsiveness to your existing website. The service’s software mobilizes your site with the click of a button. Pricing is monthly and reasonable at $15.20 per month annually or $19 month-to-month.

5. Should I just hire a contractor?
Hiring a contract web designer for the job is also an option, though it could cost you more in the end than using an online solution. Alvey says web designer fees are generally charged hourly and vary quite a bit from city to city. If you do go the contractor route, he advises that you hire locally and carefully check customer references before committing.

6. What are some key, must-have mobile site features?
Required mobile features vary, Alvey says. “Obviously, if you don’t have e-commerce, then a shopping cart is useless.” But if you do sell goods online, you should definitely include one in your mobile design. Or, if you own a brick-and-mortar retail business, be sure to prominently display your store address and hours, and perhaps a link to driving directions as well.

Another essential feature all businesses should position front and center is a “click-to-call” phone number. All mobile users have to do is click the number and their smartphone will call you, allowing them to instantly and directly engage with your business.

“Never forget that a customer who is checking out your business on their phone — is holding a phone.”

7. What about social media integration?
Social media integration is like free advertising. It lets users generate a buzz around your brand. In most cases including social elements is a must. For example, on the mobile site for a free online deal-tracking service called Hukkster, first-time users can sign up to use it by entering their Facebook (and Google) credentials. Hukkster’s Facebook integration makes it easier for its users to share their favorite product discounts with their friends on the popular social platform, while simultaneously broadening Hukkster’s marketing reach on Facebook.

Alvey points out that, because they’re so inherently visual, hotels and fashion companies thrive on Instagram and Pinterest, so those particular platforms make sense to integrate into their mobile sites. Whereas Twitter integration is a better fit for airlines and TV shows, which tend to experience high engagement on the microblogging service, he says.

Whichever social platforms you settle on, it’s wise to limit yourself to only two or three social media sharing buttons, not a dozen, Alvey says.

8. What’s the best way to test my mobile site before launch?
Test-driving your site helps you discover and weed out bad links, confusing navigation and a host of other potential functionality issues. Be sure to test yours on as many devices and browsers possible, “not just the ones your team or your CEO uses,” Alvey says.

Interestingly, he also suggests swinging by Best Buy, which he cheekily calls a “free mobile testing lab,” or a similar consumer electronics retailer to check your site out on as many of their sample smartphones and tablets as possible. You’ll get a hands-on feel for what works and what doesn’t — at zero cost.

9. How can I track the success of my mobile strategy?
The most popular, user-friendly website traffic and usage tracking option available is Google Analytics. The free self-service tool shows you how many people visit your mobile site, from which devices and how often, along with where they live, how they found your site and much more. It also tells you which social channels drive people to your mobile entity and what content they share from it. Use what you learn to fine tune your mobile strategy over time.

10. What are some common mistakes to avoid?
One of the biggest blunders is poorly targeting which devices users will view your content on, Alvey says. “If you send my Android phone to a desktop version (of a website) or my iPad to a smartphone version (of a website), you’ve lost me as a customer.”

Other common mistakes on Alvey’s list of mobile mistakes to skip include: crowded designs with links that are too close together for people’s fingers to accurately click, not optimizing image sizes for mobile bandwidth, making people fill out complicated forms and “harassing me to download your app.”

The Best Social Media Marketing Tips for Your Specialty Food Business

In Start Your Own Specialty Food Business, the Staff of Entrepreneur Media Inc. explain how you can launch a profitable specialty food business, with information on the hottest trends, insight from practicing specialty food business owners, and how you can differentiate your business. In this edited excerpt, the authors offer advice on using social media networks to promote your business.

Social media outlets present a fantastic opportu­nity for all specialty food business owners to meet and engage with targeted audiences full of thousands of potential custom­ers. If used correctly, participating in social media will help your business grow through powerful word-of-mouth campaigns. Here are eight tips on using social media to your advantage:

1. Before you start any social media outreach, define your target audiences. How old are they? Do the people in your audience tend to be more female than male? What groups, organizations, or associations are they likely to join? Are they foodies? Or just people who like to eat healthy or unique foods? Think about the kind of people you market to and want to use your business — then hang out with them via social media outlets.

2. Once your target audiences are defined, locate them online. Search Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest for groups, organizations, channels, or discussions that would contain the people you’re looking to meet.

3. Use social media search and organizational tools to help you find your audiences. Some sites like Facebook and YouTube have great, built-in search functions that will help you find your audience. To find your audience on Twitter, try using external sites like Twibes.

4. Once you’ve found your audience on these sites, join their groups and lists so you can follow the ongoing conversation. Don’t jump right in with a sales pitch! Listen instead. Learn the etiquette and major players. Spend some time just following along.

5. After you’re familiar with the etiquette and people involved, jump into the conversation when and where appropriate. Don’t hide who you are or the company you represent. Become a regular voice in the conversation and offer your friendly expertise to others. Invite people back to your website and social media accounts to see what it is you do and offer.

6. Once you’re a regular voice in the conversation, don’t be shy about doing a little pro­motion. Contests, giveaways, and raffles can be great tools for audience interaction and promotion of your products. People will love the chance to play in your contest and will invite friends to join in the fun.

7. As your audience grows, stay creative. Invent new ways to engage your audi­ence and encourage them to invite their friends. Continue to avoid hard sales pitches. People don’t forward commercials to their friends. They forward value.

8. Don’t try to do everything everywhere. Focus on the top two or three social media sites that have proven to contain the largest number of people in your target audience. Remember, social media provides you with the opportunity to meet your audience — not sell to your audience. People join these social media networks and participate for friendly interaction and the value it adds to their day. Provide that friendly interaction, and watch your audience grow.

Blogs

Blogs are typically personal and short, diary-like entries that touch on a specific topic. Perhaps you went to an event trade show and found out about a great new technique you’re going to try in the next product you introduce. Or maybe you went to a seminar on whipping cream and want to share what you learned.

Like websites, there are templates, mostly free, available to make the blogging process simple — you sign up, create your blog, write your entries, and the template sets up an archive for you. Tumblr, WordPress, and Blogger are a few more popular blog platforms. Some website template services, like Weebly, offer blogging as an option with your website.

Try to include both pictures and perhaps links to sites with further information in your blog. Again, use it to engage potential customers but don’t use it as a strong selling tool. This is your chance to be personal with existing and potential clients. Give them some good information, and even if they don’t become immediate customers, they may use you to cater their event or they may remember you kindly and tell their friends who are looking for a specialty food source to check out your blog.

You can link your blog to your Facebook and LinkedIn pages as well, so your friends and acquaintances on those sites will know when you’ve posted a new blog entry. It can appear with some initial teaser copy, enticing them to click on the link.

Facebook

Facebook started as a way to communicate with your network of friends. However, not only have people always used it to promote their businesses but Facebook itself has been offering ways to make the social media platform business-friendly. And friends “like” websites that they want to support. So definitely create a Facebook page for your business but use it sparingly for directly promoting your product.

Postings to your Facebook wall might include some fun tidbits you learned about a new type of mustard or the region from which it comes, or some blooper packaging experiment you did. Check out the pages of other food-related businesses and see how they’re using Facebook to their advantage.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is thought of as the Facebook of the business world. The general advice is to make your LinkedIn page more formal than a Facebook page might be. This is where people might go to see your resume, client list, a headshot of you.

LinkedIn is almost definitely going to be the more likely place your business is exposed to the corporate world if, for instance, your products include something that could be used for corporate gifts. However, no one can see more than the most basic information about you without your approval of a “connection” with them.

Twitter

A Twitter account for your business may be best used as an extension of a blog. You can send quick messages of up to 140 characters, a “tweet,” to your subscribers. “Found the greatest fair trade coffee to use in next batch of macaroons — check the Macaroon Mania website for details!” or “Stop by the store Wednesday evening 6 to 8 for tastings of our latest chocolate bars paired with red wines from WineBar at 123 Front Street” might be messages that promote your service while also offering a benefit to readers.

The web reacts to Facebook’s Reactions

It’s inappropriate to ‘Like’ someone’s firing, breakup, fashion disaster, or untimely demise. That’s the conundrum Facebook has been struggling with since it introduced its ‘Like’ button seven years ago.

Today, after announcing the move last year, Facebook has rolled out its new ‘Reactions’ to all users. The six buttons—Like, Love, Wow, Sad, Bashful, and Sneezy—are intended to convey the full spectrum of human emotion, or at least give users more options to express themselves than they previous had.

Facebook’s ‘Like’ feature has been so fundamental to the definitive social network that it’s part of its branding; as recognizable, if not more so (especially after last years rebrand) than the company logotype itself.

It’s a modern-classic problem for a startup that has outgrown its original use-case: the UI that users are accustomed to, no longer reflects the tasks users are trying to accomplish. Twitter faced a similar issue in 2015 when it rebranded its star icon as a heart. It’s a problem LinkedIn would bite your hand off to be troubled by.

Strangely, given how important this update is to Facebook, the icons are both visually, and semantically inconsistent: only the ‘Like’ and ‘Love’ buttons are icons, the other four reactions are emoticons; ‘Like’ is a mild version of ‘Love’, but there’s no ‘Mild Distain’ reaction to partner ‘Hate’; ‘Wow’ could be both positive, or negative.

56cdf1f8c36188951c8b457d

WhatsApp kills BlackBerry app and tells owners to upgrade their phones

In what is yet another nail in a firmly-closed coffin, WhatsApp has announced that it will drop support for its BlackBerry app by the end of this year.

The messaging app used by more than one billion people said that it would end support for the once all-conquering smartphone, as well as older versions of Nokia, Android and Windows Phone software.

Despite their gradual fade into obscurity, BlackBerries still have a following among fans of tactile keyboards and reliable email services. David Cameron admitted to still using one last year, and Kim Kardashian has been a vocal supporter of the keyboard-enabled handsets.

Although BlackBerry’s most recent device, the Priv, runs Android, it was still releasing devices running its own operating system last year, so the (presumably small) number of people who bought one will be without WhatsApp in 10 months’ time.

When the messaging app, now owned by Facebook, was started in 2009, it was developed for BlackBerry and Nokia’s Symbian, the dominant smartphone platforms at the time, and faced tough competition from BlackBerry’s own BBM. Android, iOS and Windows Phone had less than a quarter of the market.

But the Canadian manufacturer’s share of smartphone sales now stands at just 0.2pc, according to Gartner, with smartphones running BlackBerry OS selling 1.7 million units.

WhatsApp said it had made a “tough decision” to stop supporting BlackBerry by the end of 2017. “As we look ahead to our next seven years, we want to focus our efforts on the mobile platforms the vast majority of people use,” it said

Perhaps most offensively for BlackBerry fans, WhatsApp recommended that users upgrade “to a newer Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone before the end of 2016”.

As well as BlackBerry, WhatsApp said it would end support for Nokia S40, Nokia Symbian S60, Android 2.1 and 2.2 and Windows Phone 7.1.

“While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don’t offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future,” WhatsApp said.

14 Tips to Setup Google Analytics

Let’s say you’ve installed Google Analytics on your website and now you want to cover all of your bases. This is the post that will give you those essential items to review in your GA deployment and setup.

(I will assume that you know the basics of setting up your Google Analytics already, including goal tracking. It’s pretty well explained in the GA Getting Started section.)

1. Don’t get hijacked

When you add GATC to your website, anyone can come and copy that code, put it on their website and have their pageviews show up in your reports. Just what you need! You probably don’t want your data to be rendered useless by random pageviews. Avoid that trouble by only tracking pageview data from the domain(s) you wish to track. Setup the following filter in your profile:

2. Filter out internal IPs and known visitors

Your sales people and other internal team members are likely to be visiting your website on a frequent basis and browsing the website in a particular pattern. You don’t want their traffic to be diluting the patterns of the potential customers you’re trying to analyze on your website. One of the most effective ways of solving this issue is to filter out the office’s IP range. That can be accomplished in the following way:

Check out the Google Analytics tool that can help you write regular expressions to help cover an IP range.

Sometimes, though, you’ll have cases where people in your organization have dynamic IPs that change all the time. For those folks, you’ll want to create a unique page (say “/remove-from-ga.html”) for them to visit that places them in a Custom Variable that you can, in turn, filter out from your reports. You can go about this by adding the following line to your GATC (before _trackPageview) on the unique page to send to those you wish to exclude from  your reports:

_gaq.push(['_setCustomVar',1,'Internal Team','Exclude',1]);

Then go into your filters and do this:

3. Track views of 404 pages

Although many tools can provide you with 404 errors by crawling your website, it’s a good idea to track how many error pages your visitors actually see. You can do this by adding the following GATC to your error page header template. What it does is appends a unique name to the beginning of the URL so that you can quickly filter those pages and figure out what the requested URL is in each case. To find the URLs that are being reached and giving a 404 error, simply run a table filter in your content section of Google Analytics.

_gaq.push(['_trackPageview','/404errorpage/' +document.location.pathname+document.location.search']);

Read this for more: How To Track 404 Errors in Google Analytics

4. Monetize your goals, even if you don’t sell anything

That’s right. Even if your goals include things like the filling out of a contact us form, the clicking of a mailto: link, or the download of a PDF, you should be adding a monetary value to each conversion in Google Analytics. Come up with a number based on roughly how much revenue is made per 100 converions of X and dividing by 100. At the least, give the lowest value goal the value of 1 and work up from there. To setup your goals with monetary values, simply go into your goals area in the Admin section and add in the values:

The reason this is so important is because it will give your visitors, traffic sources, and pages all a value (besides conversion %) that is far more granular than what you’ll have with no goal monetization.

Want to take it a bit further? Setup your non-ecommerce website as though it were an e-commerce website. The main benefit of this is to not be restrained by the 20 goals allotted for in GA and to be able to track many more different types of goals as products, each with varying monetary values.

5. Tag URLs with campaign parameters

Whenever you have the power to do so, add URL tags to your links so that your traffic sources are as accurate as possible. You should be tagging the following types of links with campaign parameters:

  • Emails, Tweets (before links get shortened) and other social shares, RSS (can be done through Feedburner), links in digital documents (.docs, .pdfs), TV ads (using redirects from vanity URLs or custom subdirectories), QR codes, and anything else you can think of where someone might click a link to come to your website.

The best way to organize your campaign tags are to standardize them so that you do not have an overabundance of mediums. Those should be kept at a minimum: email, docs, social, etc.

To help with tagging your URLs, you can use the Google URL Builder.

6. Use profiles to protect and organize your data

Profiles can be used to create web propery subsections, such as to isolate the performance of a mobile website or a separate part of your website. Whether you want to segment data in more useful ways is up to you, but whatever you do, it’s good to have the following types of profiles setup in you GA account:

Google Analytics Profile Setup

  • A “Catch-All” that has no filters applied to it. That way you have a place to go in case you’ve lost some valuable data.
  • A “Primary” profile that is your main source of actionable data. It should have all of your important filters (such as filtering out internal visits and ignoring URL parameters) applied to it.
  • A “Test” profile where you can try out new things. Say you want to add a new filter and you’re not sure if it will end up tracking properly. Here’s where you can try it out, risk-free. Or perhaps you want to track form fields as pageviews and you don’t want that data mingling with your pristine “Primary” profile’s data.

7. Increase the sample rate of your site speed tracker

Google Analytics provides some nice, on-going data on page load time. To make the numbers more accurate – especially on low-traffic pages or websites – increase the size of the visitor sample that GA uses to report this metric. Here is the modification you have to make to your GATC:
_gaq.push(['_setSiteSpeedSampleRate', 10]);
_gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);

The sample rate parameter (in the example above “10”) determines the percentage of pageviews for which load time will be tracked. By default it is set to track 1% of pageviews. The sample rate can be increased to include up to 10,000 hits per day.

To figure out how high you can set your sample rate, simply divide 10,000 by your total daily pageviews. For example if you get 4,500 pageviews/day, you can set your sample rate at 100 (%). If you get 450,000 pageviews/day, you’ll want to set it at 2(%). Anything more and you should not worry about modifying this parameter at at all since GA will not track more than the 10K maximum of pageviews.

Note: make sure to use data from your “Catch All” profile to determine how many pageviews you get since that is what GA will be using to determine where they’ll put the cap on the sample size used for your page speed reports.

8. Connect your AdWords and Google Webmaster Tools accounts with GA

By connecting your AdWords with GA, you’ll have a complete view of your paid search keywords, placements and ads and the resulting visitor behavior. To connect your AdWords account:

  • Go into AdWords, under Tools and Analysis Google Analytics Admin.
  • Locate and click on the GA account that you want to send AdWords data to.
  • Click on “Data Sources” and you should see something like this:

adwords analytics connection

Link your account and select the profiles that AdWords data should be sent to.

With a Google Webmaster Tools integration you won’t gain quite as much insight, but you will be able to see query impressions, clicks (and CTRs) for various keywords. The information can be beneficial in some cases, such as spotting keyword opportunities. Having that data in GA allows you to use advanced filters to get to the info that really matters. To make the connection:

  • In GA, go to Admin Property Settings.
  • There, click “Edit” under Webmaster Tools settings.

analytics gwt integration

 

9. Ignore some parameters

Your website might generate random parameters that get added on to URLs. The worst are session IDs. These include tracking parameters that don’t use the “utm_” syntax. It’s a good idea to keep your data clean to ignore those parameters from your pageview reports so you can get a consistent reading on pageview data. That way you’re not looking at a report that has “/productA.php” and “/productB.php?kk=234” listed as two separate pages when in fact they are the same page.

To ignore URL parameters, go to Admin Profiles Profile Setttings.

ignore parameters analytics

10. Setup custom alerts

Rather than obsessively checking your GA reports on a daily basis looking for one or two specific metrics, setup custom alerts to let you know when the significant event that you are waiting/hoping/fearing for occurs. For example, I’ve got a few setup for specific keywords. If we get a bunch of traffic for a specific keyword, it will indicate that we most likely moved up in search rankings. I also have one setup for 404 errors. If there is a high number of 404s then I’m alerted so that I can solve the issue.

Say you have a campaign that has a conversion rate threshold that it must stay above. A custom alert would be good to have in such a scenario as long as you’re not using that information to prematurely make changes without a significant sample size.

To setup custom alerts, go to Admin Assets Custom Alerts.

11. Track PDFs and external pages as page views

You might have links that open PDFs or that go to another website from which you expect users to return to yours. I’d recommend tracking these as page views rather than events. This way you can see user flows through these content pieces and can attribute value to pages.

For PDFs or other docs, you need to add the following to links that open them:

<a href="http://www.bluefountainmedia.com/uploads/2012/6/20/tech-specs.pdf" onclick="javascript: _gaq.push(['_trackPageview', '/pdfs/tech-specs.pdf']);"</a

For external websites, consider tracking page views as /external/myfriendssite.com.

12. Track views of your website videos

It’s great to see whether or not visitors are clicking on your videos, but are they watching them all the way? And if they are, does it help increase conversions? You can track whether visitors are watching some or all of your videos by using the YouTube API.

track youtube events in google analytics

See this blog post for instructions on how to do it: How to Track YouTube Player Events in Google Analytics.

13. Re-attribute your traffic sources

It’s important to be able to properly attribute traffic to the right sources. That way you can give credit where it is due. This is especially crucial when working with multiple vendors all playing different roles in  your marketing campaigns.

To relabel incoming traffic, you can either modify your GATC or create filters. I prefer filters as they don’t alter data until it’s come into a profile. In other words, you can still have a profile that collects raw, unfiltered data while you have a profile that has many re-attribution filters applied to it. This is what a filter for one of the examples below looks like. You’ll need sound RegEx skills to ensure you don’t mess it up. This is again why you want to have separate profiles to test out your filters.

Here are modifications I’ve made to traffic source/medium attribution:

  • Relabel organic, branded searches as “Direct”. The reason for this is so that conversions don’t get wrongly attributed to “Organic” or keywords like “Blue Fountain Media” when in fact there is an upstream medium that is responsible for that conversion. Labeling branded search terms as “Direct” will make GA attribute the conversion to the medium one prior to “Direct”. Also, it’s a well-known fact that many people use Google’s search bar as an address bar. Many branded searches are so navigational in nature that they may as well as be considered Direct.
  • Track social referrers as “Social” rather than “Referrals”. Gather a list of social media websites that you are likely to get traffic from and relabel their medium as “Social”. This will separate them out from your list of referring websites. These sites and the users are probably very different from a typical website linking to yours. It comes down to personal preference on whether this seems like a useful medium to be tracking separately.
  • Relabel mail client referrers as “Email”. This is a simple one. Go through and find all of the email clients that show up in your referrer list and create a regular expression that matches them all and change the medium to “email”. That way you know much more of what is really coming from email.
  • Relabel common search websites as “Organic”. GA doesn’t recognize all search engines and will label visits from small search engines as referrals when they are in fact organic search visits.

Bonus: Track form fills

You can track forms as a page or each field as a separate page view, thus taking a 2 step funnel and turning it into multiple, multi-step funnels. Read this for the how-to: How to Track Form Fields as Pageviews in Google Analytics

– See more at: http://www.bluefountainmedia.com/blog/must-haves-google-analytics-deployment/#sthash.nRSVzmti.dpuf

5 Ways Brand Journalism Will Drive Your Social Media Strategy

Press

There is plenty of chatter about brand journalism these days. If this is the first time you’re hearing the term, listen up because you’re about to hear it a whole lot more. Big names are already capitalizing and practicing this new style of content marketing, often so effectively you may not have even noticed.

Done well brand journalism leverages social media to build influence, improve search results and spread ideas and excitement about a particular industry. At its most basic level, brand journalism involves storytelling that invites audiences to participate through digital and social media channels.

Essentially brand journalism is the practice of covering your business and your industry like a reporter. It also means transforming your marketing department (even if that’s only you!) into a publishing team that can produce content for readers and reporters.

The future belongs to businesses that become media. The key to your success is producing and hosting unique content designed to engage and attract a new audience. And how you leverage social media to drive this new style of journalism can mean the difference between success and failure.

Below are five tips on how to get started.

#1 This Isn’t Your Boss’ PR Program
For decades consumers have been bombarded with very “me” oriented messaging: My product, my service, my company, my plan. In order to thrive in the evolving digital landscape, you must get out of the “me” business so popular and common in public relations efforts. Instead, become a storyteller to attract, engage, entertain and inform your targeted audience.

Produce great content – articles, videos, infographics – and they’ll come to you.

This storytelling process is a fantastic inbound public relations approach that will pull consumers, competitors and media towards your business’s content hubs – company website, blog and important social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

For example, wireless telecom-giant Qualcomm is leading the charge in brand journalism and its efforts are often followed with savvy social media strategies designed to pull in a larger audience.

They understand it’s not all about the “me” approach.

The company’s publication, QualcommSpark, often focuses on cool and interesting gadgets and games which their products “touch”, and it rarely speaks directly about any chipsets or processors they may have created for use in these platforms (see below). It’s about creating interest around subjects they are involved in.


While there aren’t many of us with the financial resources of Qualcomm, remember many people once also thought blogging was the prevue of the big players. If you follow Qualcomm’s storytelling lead and learn how to talk about your company without actually talking about it (or at least not talking about it too much), you’ll attract an audience you’d never reach with old-style press releases.

  • Start small with one or two posts a week about things that interest people in your industry.
  • Hone your storytelling efforts by requesting feedback (put a comment section at the bottom).
  • Share your story using social media channels (Twitter, Pinterest, Google+) to pull your audience toward you. Add social buttons on each content page to make it easier for readers to share.
  • Develop interesting content that will encourage readers to make an effort to learn more about you and your business.

#2 You Are the Media Now – Start Acting Like it!
Now that you’ve decided to become a storyteller in your space, you’re better off thinking like a newsperson.

“You are now the editor of an online publication dedicated to following news and trends in your industry.”

The first step in this phase involves listening: learn the questions and concerns of your target audience. Instead of relying on “push” communications, such as e-mail marketing, direct mail and advertising, content is moving toward “pull” – pulling people to your business as opposed to pushing out information – which is a better long-term strategy.

“Our goal is to lead the conversation, to spark engagement, to identify trends relevant to our business and the industry,” Karen Snell, social media communications manager at Cisco, wrote on her blog recently.

Cisco Systems recently launched The Network, a technology news website tied very closely with its social media engagement program.

“There is no requirement to mention Cisco at all, in fact a vast majority of the stories don’t…and that is just fine,” said Snell. “As for the stories inviting audiences to participate that is where sitting on the social media team really kicks this effort into high gear.”

Because social media is intertwined with every aspect of digital – from commenting to social actions (Likes, Shares, Tweets, etc.) – Cisco encourages their audience to take content and republish it elsewhere, and share it through all social media channels.

Once you start treating content meetings like you’re in a newsroom, the editorial team will develop an eye for developing shareable content. Monitoring where it travels will also help hone your technique and overall voice.

  • Invite team members to editorial meetings to pitch and produce good stories around topics you focus your business on.
  • Create an editorial calendar and let readers know they can expect fresh content on a regular basis.
  • Share and share some more. Social media is the engine that drives content engagement. Share and encourage everyone else to share your storytelling efforts.

#3 It’s a Story, Not a Campaign
Not since the invention of the printing press has publishing seen such a quantum leap in content accessibility for the masses. The continued advancement in publishing technologies is changing journalism to that point where anyone can now create it. However, developing campaign-style content won’t cut it. It has to have the look and feel of a real news story. And, in fact, it will be a real news story; the type that a reporter at a larger publication might see and run with. It happens every day.

If you are trying to create a campaign – content created based primarily on your products or services -forget it. They won’t go for it.

Today, the messages people see and hear are the messages they choose to see and hear. And this means you must share unique experiences, ideas and strategic thoughts instead of product launch dates and discounts.

  • Content must be created with a view toward being reusable and re-purposed across multiple media platforms.
  • No longer are you only a provider of goods and services, you’re aiming to show the world you are the expert in your field.
  • No campaigns will make it far across social media. The content must have a life of its own away from your product, or service in order for it to move.

#4 Listen and Learn
As we’ve mentioned, listening to the conversation and learning the questions and concerns of your target audience is an extremely important first step. This will ultimately help you craft a more effective editorial calendar and lead to a greater understanding of what people are yearning to know. It’s the same process reporters undertake when studying their beats.

The best and most effective efforts are designed to engage a wide audience, and can be managed, monitored and continually tweaked based on the feedback and actions (or non-actions) of your target audience.

Let’s say you’re in the wedding dress business. It is a sensible approach to set up your listening posts in places such as the popular wedding website The Knot and its community page to learn more about what brides-to-be are talking about.

Knowing what your intended audience wants to talk about is a big part of learning your new “beat” and will help you craft relevant, engaging stories. Once you’ve rolled out your first edition, continue to focus on listening to what they are saying about your content through social media.

Consider this: 21.3 million people in 2011 discovered a new brand or company through social media, and another 22.5 million say they use platforms to learn more about brands and products, according to recent study from the Center for Media Research.

By setting up social media listening tools to filter out all that chatter on the internet, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what people are saying about you and your content. Try, a social media search and analysis platform designed to aggregate user generated comments into a single stream of information.

#5 Invite Others to Participate
For many aspiring brand journalists, the end-goal will be achieving earned content – others creating and publishing content on behalf of your business, which generates buzz and further dissemination. While this is a very significant goal it can be hard to achieve.

However, the more you share with others, and the more often you invite others to participate and share with you, and the more clearly your content is designed to interest rather then tell, the more visible your own content will become.

There are likely many websites in your business realm that would welcome quality content. Give it to them. Allow others to post your material across their channels, and invite high-quality columnists to contribute to yours.

Still, don’t be confused. We aren’t talking about your standard social media outreach here. We are talking about creating a seperate publishing entity that will enjoy a full news cycle directed by your and your team.

A continual challenge for smaller businesses is to achieve a resource balance that can also maintain growth. When it comes to content, especially for these smaller businesses, sharing content responsibilities with others is an extremely helpful method of brand journalism. At the same time, sharing the responsibility with others can exponentially increase the content’s visibility through social networks.

  • Ask contributors to spread content on all of their social accounts.
  • Encourage commenting and write articles people will want to comment on.
  • Use calls to action like “tell us what you thought in the comments.”

And now get to work.

So, what do you think? Any ideas about the direction brand journalism is heading, or concerns about the practice may undermine traditional journalism? We’d love to hear more from you! Leave comments in the box below.

 

How Building Communities Leads to Commerce

Social media remains a hot button issue, even hotter over the past couple of weeks with Facebook’s valuation and subsequent reactions to its IPO. Add to the mix an evolving public perception of Google+ and Foursquare’s very public push to be a large prescense at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and you’ve got a lot of attention focused on one space.

In the midst of all of this media activity, Twitter took time out during Internet Week New York recently to showcase ways that partnerships with them can not only help brands build community but also provide avenues for that community to purchase goods and services. The theme of the event was The Conversation is the Canvas which further illustrates that, especially in social media, effective campaigns begin best with regular dialogue.

Here are a few highlights.

Social Media is as American as American Express

The highlight of the #Twitter4Brands presentation was provided by Leslie Berland, senior vice president of Digital Partnerships and Development at American Express. The credit card company famous for digital initiatives with Foursquare and Small Business Saturday has fully embraced the digital nature of their community which has been reinforced by their new partnership with Twitter.

The idea itself was obviously born in the old marketing and general life adage of K.I.S.S. and illustrated with the launch of this program at SXSW:

1. Securely sync your credit card with Twitter.

  • Awareness of the program and launch was done in conjunction with GoGo Inflight Internet – a very smart move to connect with all of the people traveling into Austin for the tech part of SXSW.

2. Tweet specialized hashtags from merchants to load the offer directly to your credit card.

  • Create tweets with #JayZSyncShow.

3. You receive a tweet back from the American Express Sync Twitter account informing you that your discount has been loaded to your credit card;

  • Which is clear; and
  • Redeem your offer. The savings are already there.

American Express did not stop there. They also provided the hashtag #AmexAustin10 for use with any Austin-area merchant during the conference.

What AMEX did was very straightforward:

  • They pinpointed the merchant’s need – creating an easy, seamless service for a customer; and
  • Created a bridge between the merchant and customer so that an easy, seamless purchase can be made through an action the customer was very likely to already take.

By engaging in these two planning actions, they gave consumers no excuse or exit strategy to leave the offer. The consumer is (1) already active on Twitter; (2) engaged with the brand(s); and (3) doesn’t have to perform any “work” in saving. There’s no print coupon or print confirmation. There’s not even a coupon code which incidentally work pretty well. In this case, the consumer sees something they want to purchase, says they want to purchase the item(s) (which they would probably do due to FOMO) and makes the purchase: a truly organic user experience.

Allowing simple conversation—one of the most important aspects of social media—a brand is able to show their consumer that they are part of the process and, in turn, these consumers are more willing to naturally jump on the soapbox for the brand.

Please note:Twitter does not view community building with the help of hashtags and creating points of purchase as exclusive actions—there is a natural progression and purchasing is not forced. My colleagues in social media will appreciate that little disclaimer and you as a brand should surely appreciate and embrace this concept as well.

What do you think? Can you incorporate this type of community building in any of your campaigns? Let us know in the box below, we’d love to hear from you.

 

How To Share Custom Reports, Advanced Segments and Dashboards

Google-behavior

Google Analytics  can be an invaluable tool for busy marketers. It saves time, helps keep you on track and provides a peak into data that can be particularly relevant to your long term success.

For example, let’s say you’ve got a client that has a dozen domains that need to be monitored; each with its own unique analytics to measure. At this point, you’re talking about a lot data to check, verify and monitor. And all this must be done before you can even think about creating an action plan to improve performance. The ability to share this type of information – custom reports, advanced segments and dashboards –  would definitely go a long way in streamlining your efforts.

Google is obviously paying attention to marketers complaints. Last week the search giant upgraded Analytics’ existing custom report sharing and added the ability to share advanced segments and dashboards with other Analytics users, making life a bit easier and definitely more organized.

Here a a few tips to consider when looking for the Share button in these sections:

  • Custom Report: In the Actions menu on the table that lists your reports.
  • Dashboard: In the top-left corner over your dashboard.
  • Advanced Segment: Visit the Admin tab in the top right corner of your account, then select Advanced Segments to enable sharing.

The button will bring up a URL that you can send to anyone, or even publish on your blog.

If you’re like the rest of us, you’re probably concerned with sharing traffic data with just anybody. No need to worry, however, because sharing this link will only share a template, not your site’s metrics. What it does provide a user is the dashboard name, widgets and data fields to be populated with data from their Analytics account.

When you or someone else opens the link, they will be prompted to choose a profile in which to import the custom report, advanced segment or dashboard. They will also have the option to change the name. After that is complete they will see the template populated with data from their account.

Below are five steps to help improve any of your analytics process.

It is important to note that links to shared templates are permanent snapshots that, once shared, allows you to change or delete a dashboard in your account. This will not change the experience for anyone using the previously shared link.

Basic blog dashboard: If you’re working on a blog you can use this dashboard to keep tabs on where readers come from and what they do once they arrive on the site.

Mobile ecommerce dashboard: If you’re getting into mobile commerce (and really, who isn’t these days?) use this dashboard to get an end-to-end view of your customer experience.

Site Performance dashboard:This dashboard contains various speed metrics to help identify issues with your pages or servers. The IT team will like this one.


Engaged Traffic advanced segment
: This advanced segment measures traffic that views at least three pages AND spends more than three minutes on your site.

 

Daily Ecommerce report: Use this report to keep tabs on all parts of the ecommerce lifecycle: acquisition, engagement and conversion in one single table.

 

Did Our VeriSign Seal Really Increase Conversions by 42%?

verisign-increase-conversions

You’ve probably heard that placing trust seals like the VeriSign trust seal clearly visible on  your website helps with conversions. I wanted to know if this concept would hold true on our website. I decided to test it out on our Request a Quote form. Back in September, I found that redesigning the form increased form fills by 37 percent. I considered that to be a decent success….until I ran my latest a/b test using the Verisign trust seal. The results were not short of astonishing.

The current form:

Note the sidebar of the form. It does not have the VeriSign trust seal.

request-a-quote-before

The “challenger” form:

Note the sidebar of the form. It has only the Verisign trust seal and nothing about privacy of information.

request-a-quote-after

The difference between the two forms: 

raq-before-after

The difference in the percentage of visitors to our RAQ form who filled it out was 42 percent, based on testing with Google Website Optimizer. What I found by looking at Google Analytics was even more shocking. The improvement in form fills from organic, non-branded search traffic was 81 percent! 

I have trouble believing the results, so I have relaunched the test in order to confirm these findings. What I will also do is figure out if it is necessarily the presence of the VeriSign seal or simply the absence of the note regarding privacy that caused such increases in form fills. Could it be that the note about “Your Privacy” is creating fears that would otherwise not be there, while the VeriSign seal only adds confidence? What about if there is nothing there?

I will be testing further and will share that info right here. Any suggestions? Drop a comment or tweet me.

Join us at NYC Conversion Optimization Showcase!

If you’d like to showcase some of your own conversion optimization examples and have a live discussion once a month in NYC, then join our new Meetup, Conversion Optimization Showcase. Our first Meetup is scheduled for February 15, at our Madison Ave offices.

 

How to Track YouTube Player Events in Google Analytics

Blog - How to Track YouTube Player Events In Google Analytics

Anyone who has embedded YouTube videos on their website knows how valuable it can be to find out whether visitors are actually watching those videos. You might want to track whether people are watching until the end or whether they stop short. Here’s how to find that out using the YouTube API and some Google Analytics ninja skills.

The original example for this came from Brian Clifton’s newly published Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics, which we’ve been reading here at BFM. We realized that there were a few small omissions in the jscript provided on page 250 (in 2012 edition) so we have corrected those below.

Objective:

Track when a visitor clicks to play a video and whether they watch it until the end. You’ll be able to see this in your Google Analytics reports in your Events section:

track youtube events in google analytics

Implementation:

1. Place your usual Google Analytics tracking code (asynchronous) in your header.

2. Create an empty div element within the body, with an id of “player”. This is where your YouTube video will be placed shortly.

<div id="player"</div

3. Make a script tag, and insert the YouTube iframe player API code. Don’t close the script tag, there’s still more to do.

<script 
var tag = document.createElement('script'); 
tag.src = "http://www.youtube.com/player_api"; 
var firstScriptTag = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; 
firstScriptTag.parentNode.insertBefore(tag, firstScriptTag);

4. Create the iframe and player. Replace the ‘zLQFkztsozw’ with your video ID tag and customize your video height and width requirements.

var player; 
function onYouTubePlayerAPIReady() { 
player = new YT.Player('player', { 
height: '390', 
width: '640', 
videoId: 'zLQFkztsozw', 
events: { 
'onReady': onPlayerReady, 
'onStateChange': onPlayerStateChange 
}); 
}
function onPlayerReady(event) { 
/// event.target.playVideo(); 
} 

5. Use the onPlayerStateChange method to look for events, such as the video starting or stopping. You can also close the script tag here.

function onPlayerStateChange(event) { 
if (event.data ==YT.PlayerState.PLAYING) 
{_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Videos', 'Play', 
player.getVideoUrl() ]); } 
if (event.data ==YT.PlayerState.ENDED) 
{_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'Videos', 'Watch to End', 
player.getVideoUrl() ]); } } 
</script

I hope that this helps you get a better insight into how users are interacting with your web video production embedded on your website. If you have any questions, please comment below!

 

How to Track Form Fields as Pageviews in Google Analytics

Google-behavior

This article was updated on 12/13/12.

Picture this: you’re tasked with increasing the percentage of visitors to a web form who fill it out. Or maybe, your job is to increase the percentage of visitors who get through a multi-step form such as an application or checkout process. What analytics data would you look at to identify areas of opportunity? (Where are your visitors dropping off in the process?)

If you have a one-page form, then all you have is the percentage of form fills to go by. And for the multi-page forms, you can take a look at your goal funnel report to find out what pages are causing abandons. But what about looking at each form field separately as a step in the funnel process, whether you have a one-page or multi-page form?

The tips below will give you the ability to track each form field as a virtual pageview and thus create either one or multiple conversion funnels.

Before we get started, let’s cover some precautions of using this technique. Tracking each form field as a pageview is likely to have the following effects on your overall analytics data:

  • It will decrease time on page statistics.
  • It will inflate pages/visit.
  • It will influence your page depth reports.
  • It will affect your goal flow reports.
  • And more.

For these reasons, I advise doing two things when tracking form fields as pageviews:

  • Use a separate profile to track your form field-generated pageviews and create your conversion funnels in there.
  • Create a filter to exclude form field-generated pageviews from the profile(s) where you track site-wide numbers. A filter like this might do the trick for you:

Let’s get started.

Implementation:

1. Add the following code to your form fields. What this does is create a virtual pageview every time someone clicks out of a form field (using onBlur). You can also trigger the virtual pageviews when people click into fields using onFocus, but it has a tendency to mess up funnels on the last step where the visitor will click into your last field (trigger the last field pageview) then click out of that field to review their form (thus viewing your form page again). Whereas, with onBlur, that sequence of events is less likely to cause funnel reporting issues. You will want to edit what comes after _trackPageview to be what URL you want showing up in your reports for each field.

<form action="submitted.php" method="post" name="testform"

<input name="firstname" type="text" onBlur="if(document.testform.firstname.value != '');_gaq.push(['_trackPageview','/form/firstname'])"

<input name="lastname" type="text" onBlur="if(document.testform.lastname.value != '');_gaq.push(['_trackPageview','/form/lastname'])"

<input name="email" type="text" onBlur="if(document.testform.email.value != '');_gaq.push(['_trackPageview','/form/email'])"

<input name="Send" type="submit" /

2. Setup your conversion funnels. Since Google Analytics limits you to 10 steps per funnel, when dealing with long forms, you have a few options:

  • Only add some of your fields as funnel steps. For example, rather than adding First Name and Last Name, only add the Last Name field and call that funnel step “Name”. Then instead of tracking each field of an address section, count that as one step in the process. You get the idea. The caveat here is that this can defeat the whole purpose of doing this in the first place by providing generic data that isn’t as actionable, especially when dealing with really large forms. I would say use this in situations where one field really is not a major pain point and where it doesn’t make sense to create multiple funnels to track a form due to it’s small size (say 11-15 fields).
  • The other approach is to create separate conversion funnels for separate parts of your form. This is especially practical when your form is broken-up into multiple pages that you want to see as separate funnels.

3. Look at your reports and start optimizing those form fields!

Update (Dec 13, 2012): A great question from Renato Fuly on Twitter:

Our resident Rubik’s Cube champion, Bryan Mytko, helped by providing me this answer:

No, it won’t work, at least not universally. There’s strange behavior with radio buttons in webkit, and some new versions of Firefox. The issue has to do with radio buttons not gaining focus, therefore never getting blurred. 

A clever work around is to add an onclick handler to radio inputs, which gives itself focus. Here’s a a quick example:

 

How To Share Custom Reports, Advanced Segments and Dashboards

Google-behavior

Google Analytics  can be an invaluable tool for busy marketers. It saves time, helps keep you on track and provides a peak into data that can be particularly relevant to your long term success.

For example, let’s say you’ve got a client that has a dozen domains that need to be monitored; each with its own unique analytics to measure. At this point, you’re talking about a lot data to check, verify and monitor. And all this must be done before you can even think about creating an action plan to improve performance. The ability to share this type of information – custom reports, advanced segments and dashboards –  would definitely go a long way in streamlining your efforts.

Google is obviously paying attention to marketers complaints. Last week the search giant upgraded Analytics’ existing custom report sharing and added the ability to share advanced segments and dashboards with other Analytics users, making life a bit easier and definitely more organized.

Here a a few tips to consider when looking for the Share button in these sections:

  • Custom Report: In the Actions menu on the table that lists your reports.
  • Dashboard: In the top-left corner over your dashboard.
  • Advanced Segment: Visit the Admin tab in the top right corner of your account, then select Advanced Segments to enable sharing.

The button will bring up a URL that you can send to anyone, or even publish on your blog.

If you’re like the rest of us, you’re probably concerned with sharing traffic data with just anybody. No need to worry, however, because sharing this link will only share a template, not your site’s metrics. What it does provide a user is the dashboard name, widgets and data fields to be populated with data from their Analytics account.

When you or someone else opens the link, they will be prompted to choose a profile in which to import the custom report, advanced segment or dashboard. They will also have the option to change the name. After that is complete they will see the template populated with data from their account.

Below are five steps to help improve any of your analytics process.

It is important to note that links to shared templates are permanent snapshots that, once shared, allows you to change or delete a dashboard in your account. This will not change the experience for anyone using the previously shared link.

Basic blog dashboard: If you’re working on a blog you can use this dashboard to keep tabs on where readers come from and what they do once they arrive on the site.

Mobile ecommerce dashboard: If you’re getting into mobile commerce (and really, who isn’t these days?) use this dashboard to get an end-to-end view of your customer experience.

Site Performance dashboard:This dashboard contains various speed metrics to help identify issues with your pages or servers. The IT team will like this one.


Engaged Traffic advanced segment
: This advanced segment measures traffic that views at least three pages AND spends more than three minutes on your site.

 

Daily Ecommerce report: Use this report to keep tabs on all parts of the ecommerce lifecycle: acquisition, engagement and conversion in one single table.