31 August 2010

Email Marketing - Measurable Result

The difference between marketing and advertising, is the ability to track results and measure your efforts.  
And, for a business owner, this is a valuable ability.

You see, when you measure your marketing efforts... 

and then take the time to make the appropriate changes,
you are going to see the results in the increased number of sales.

So how can you measure your marketing efforts?

Well, good tracking and measuring is going to take
a combination of Internet know-how and automated,
marketing systems. But, between the two, 
you can easily track and measure:
When you are able to SEE what is working, 
your marketing will become more specific,
targeted, and successful. 
Even with a stellar marketing campaign,
there is always room for improvement. 
Measuring your results gives you the
chance to keep getting better, 
and bring in more and more sales.

When uncertainty rules... 

marketing campaigns are nothing more than a shot in the dark! 
With the ability to measure, track, and tweak,
you can become a marketing powerhouse and start
adding more money to your bank account!

At Scream Media we make use of one
of Europe's leading email marketing platforms,
Vertical Response provides tracking on all aspects
of email marketing. Contact us today for a free no obligation quote.

26 August 2010

Website Home Page Design Guidlines

The first impression customers get of your website and your business is geared by the impression made by your website homepage. It has a major effect on its success or failure.
Your website homepage can be the determining factor in the reader’s choice to delve further into your site or bounce off after a cursory glance, to go back to the search engine and look for something more relevant.
Despite this, many websites miss this great opportunity to lure in its readers, simply by having poorly targeted or poorly displayed homepage content that does not immediately inform them what the site is about.
You have just 4 brief seconds to convey to a potential customer what your site has to offer. Each moment wasted where visitors try to decipher your website, is a moment lost to create the right impression.
To create effective, compelling homepage content, here are some easy to follow guidelines:

1. Your homepage serves as the introduction to your company. You should be seeing to welcome your visitors – throwing out the red carpet for them.
On entering your site, the reader should be able to know immediately what you and your website offers, without having to click around or scroll. In your introduction, or your website header area, do not assume that the reader has previous knowledge or understanding of your site’s products or services.
It’s a good idea to add a breakdown of how it works if you’re offering something innovative, and new to the market to help customers understand your online offering. If you want to, it’s a good idea to add in a link or two about your company. (But be careful not to make your homepage all about your business! Customers find that really dull!).

2. Your homepage should contain contemporary content. Fresh homepage content, if suitable, appeals to the reader as it shows that your sit e is current and up to date.
Change the content as needed by displaying popular or hot features that are relevant while keeping the design consistent. Doing this will attract more readers but does not alienate your regular audience. If your homepage looks dated, customers will question the validity and credibility of that information – worse still, if it looks really old they might think you’ve gone out of business!

3. Your homepage should have a set of unique selling points (USPs).
Your USPs must explain the benefits of your site to prospective clients or customers and should be in a prominent position on your homepage. They also tell your reader why your site is better than others similar to it and what you can offer them that others can’t.

Summary
Remember, you only have a few seconds to encourage your website visitors to find out more about you. The customers whole browsing session at your site is determined by how they rate the experience of visiting your homepage and learning more about your business (or not!).
Before you invest in any offline or online advertising campaigns, like pay-per-click (PPC), make sure your prospects are going to understand, and value, the place you’re directing them to – otherwise you’ll be wasting money.

For more advice on having a clear, effective website homepage, contact the friendly team at Scream Media today on 021 559 0800.Customer-friendly website have been proven to make more money online for their owners

25 August 2010

Link Backs - Link building Techiniques

Whether links or content is King, we see enough questions on forums about link building techniques to know that backlinks are central to success in the SERPs (search engine result pages).

Link Bait. The most powerful technique, hands down, is to create content that will attract links. The rest of the "self service" links - those that you can create yourself - have some value, but there is nothing like the "citation links" that come from other webmasters. Where to start with link bait:

* Freebies - Give away an e-book or a tutorial or?
* Review products in your industry
* Write about news in your niche
* Develop a tool and share it (another freebie, yes)
* Interview someone famous in your industry and publish the article on your own site
* Start a controversy
* A Contest or Award Program
* Create a Resource: lists of the best the books in your industry, a glossary of terms for your niche
* Report on Statistical or Financial trends in your industry.

Social Media. Not all links are created equal. Some links from social media are followed, some are not. But as in many things in life, you get what you "pay" for. Twitter links may not be followed, but if you put in the effort and post useful information, the traffic will come. With the right information in your Tweets and on your website, you will attract more links from your visitors.

What is the motivation for one web site owner to link to another web site? The fundamental principle of the web is to allow any document to link to and to be linked from any other document. This is how Tim Berners-Lee intended it when he first proposed the hypertext protocol in 1989, before most of us had ever heard of the Internet.  Initially developed as a way to help researchers interlink related documents from computers all over the world, the web was soon discovered by those more interested in commerce, and several years later, here we are. 
It's interesting to me that nearly every commercially related web development since its founding has been in some way related to the link (that is, an attempt to find new ways for one site to be linked to another). Banner ads are, at their core just a link from one site to another. So are text ads, whether on web sites or in newsletters, or in an email message.  And buttons, badges, icons, etc., are all just another form of link. A PPC listing or a Twitter tweeted URL or a list of search results are nothing more than links. Your Yahoo! directory listing, BBB member page listing, even that cool widget you created -- no matter how you spin it -- are all links. 
Anything to be clicked on that shuttles people from one place to another while online constitutes a link. 
The development of all form and fashion of linking types has never improved upon the original, and no amount of cleverness will ever change one universal truth: the less useful your content, the less likely you are to ever receive a link to it.  
"The less useful your content, the less likely you are to ever receive a link to it"
If we think of the word "useful" as a continuum, then the most useful sites are those that provide rich, quality content on a specific subject on which the editor or provider is an authority. Think of the U.S. Government's CancerNet site aka The National Cancer Institute. Now there's the ultimate example of content on the right side of the continuum -- tens of thousands of pages on every facet of cancer, all free, all generated by experts in the field. 
In fact, with no marketing department, the CancerNet site has tens of thousands of links pointing to it from other sites around the world. It's one of my standard sermons: Useful content gets linked.
 
But...the reality is we can't all be CancerNet. Most sites simply do not have the kind of content that engenders tens of thousands of links. So what do you?  What if you are simply trying to sell a few widgets and don't have any reference to quality content? If your site lands on the left side of the useful continuum, you accept that you are not going to get many links. And those links you do get, you will probably have to pay for. And those links you pay for are not likely to help your rankings, and might even hurt them.
If you don't want to accept this reality and truly want to earn links to your site, you have one (and only one) other option available to you. Make it link-worthy. 
 
What is a linkworthy site? Let's imagine you have an online magic store that caters to professional and amateur magicians. On your site, you sell tricks, supplies, hats, capes, and wands, even the saw-the-person-in-half gag. 
If your content were nothing more than an online store, why would anyone link to it? You might get a few links on any magic-site web guides and link lists. But then what? If you are an online store with nothing but products as your content, then you MUST look to associate/affiliate programs as a means of generating links. Basically, paying for them. 
But maybe there is something more you CAN do, if you are willing to roll up your sleeves. 
What if, along with your products, you create a searchable database of information on magic. What if you had complete biographies of more than 700 magicians? What if you had a section devoted to magical world records, or a glossary of magical terms, or a directory of magicians on the Internet? 
This would then be an excellent example of how a store site can add rich, relevant content, value, interest, and community to its web site, as well as sell merchandise. This site would be covered by just about any writer who writes about magic and/or reviews web sites. 


It's difficult to find high-trust online media outlets and curator/site reviewers willing to cover or link to marketing/sales sites. The more a site offers deep information on a certain subject, databases, community, guides, forums, reviews, etc., the more likely the editors are to want to cover it. Whether it's a business or consumer site, the more content-rich the better, especially if the site's mission is sales. A site designed to sell a product is far different than a true reference site with hundreds and hundreds of pages of free information on a particular subject. 

10 August 2010

Website Design trends for Small to Medium Business

The importance of having an attractive website that converts visitors into buyers and helps cleverly promote your small business is essential in these fiercely competitive times.
Your website has to capture a visitor’s attention, entice him or her to stay and browse around, create an interest in your product or service, and result in sales. For small businesses with limited time and budgets, design is an essential factor in both attracting and converting potential customers.
With this in mind, here are five current design trends that most small businesses can utilize to great effect.

1. Minimalist


While this web design style has been popular for some time, it’s worth revisiting as no small business owner wants to turn visitors away with a cluttered, overbearing and hard to navigate website.
Minimalist design effectively strips away the excess and helps the user concentrate squarely on the content. If a page has too many elements, the user will easily become confused about where to focus on, with many elements vying for attention.
With page weight now affecting your Google ( search engine position, it’s the perfect time to reassess how streamlined your design is.
There are several principles and steps you can follow to create a more minimalist design:
  1. Go through your site and prune any unnecessary widgets or elements which aren’t serving a real purpose.
  2. Make good use of whitespace, which is the space between different elements of a design. Used well, it will allow for easier scanning of your site and help frame the elements on each page.
  3. With fewer elements, choosing the right color palette or accent color is critical. As color has great significance and meaning, it’s best to test how certain colors interact with each other.
  4. Browse your site through the eyes of your visitors, evaluating if there is too much information, confusing or off-putting elements, or sufficient calls to action. Answering these types of questions truthfully will help you prioritize the essential elements.
A minimalist design doesn’t have to be bland and boring; it can easily be modern, fresh, sophisticated, elegant or refined, based solely on the details within the design.

2. Unique Photography

 

Two men shaking hands, a group of people in suits sharing a joke, the call center girl: these are all tired, clich├ęd images that litter thousands of business websites. These types of images fail to convey either information on the company or a sense of the site’s character, and are essentially meaningless.
Using custom photography or artwork whenever possible is recommended, though for small business owners, both time and budget are limited and stock photos are a relatively cheap and accessible resource.
So when choosing stock imagery, it’s best to keep in mind these four tips:
  1. Research your competitors and industry and take note of the images used. You can then find a unique way to represent your product or service.
  2. Avoid being too literal in your choice of imagery as abstract compositions often give a more dramatic and memorable effect.
  3. Don’t always opt for the cheaper low-res image, as pixelated imagery devalues your overall design and looks unprofessional.
  4. Veer away from the bland and predictable and let the images ‘break out of the box’.
Imaginative imagery will reinforce your brand message and add greater character to your website. So, when you must use stock imagery, do so with great care and take the time to find the right piece that will convey the true personality of your service or product.

3. Bold Typography

Web design at its core is about communication, and typography is a vital component of that. Great web typography helps bring order to information and creates a coherent, visually satisfying experience that engages the reader without their knowing.
A recent trend is the use of big, bold typography which helps to create contrast between other text while grabbing a user’s attention. Oversized text can help create hierarchy and ensure users understand your message loud and clear.
In order to utilize typography to create a bold statement, keep in mind the following tips:
  1. Determine the single most important message you want to emphasize, as too many messages can lead to choice paralysis. Understand the qualities of the message you are trying to convey, and then look for typefaces that embody those qualities.
  2. Choose a typeface that will match the character of your work. For instance, if your company embodies the feel of an Old Style font, you should consider Bembo, Garamond and Sabon. It will also greatly depend on what you want to convey with the type, because legibility is as important as the character of the type.
  3. Give the typography the prominent position it deserves by surrounding it with a generous amount of whitespace. This will add emphasis and create even more focus on the typography.
  4. Test out some of the various font replacement options such as Typekit or Typotheque. These allow you to license fonts to embed within your site, and help you to experiment with beautiful typography.
Typography is an art and the decisions you make are subjective; however, carefully selecting a typeface can make a huge difference to the quality of your design.

4. Clear Calls to Action

As a small business owner you want your visitors to complete a certain task when they land on your page. It could be to download, sign up or checkout, but these calls to action are one of the most important (and overlooked) elements in a small business website.
You want to grab your visitor’s attention and move him or her to take action. Crafting a clear, concise call to action is essential.
Here are four tips to keep in mind when designing a call-to-action button or advertisement:
  1. Language: Keep the wording short and snappy (always start with a verb), but also explain the value behind the action the user is taking. In some instances it also helps to create a sense of urgency using words such as ‘now’, ‘hurry’ and ‘offer ends,’ with ‘free’ being the number one incentive.
  2. Positioning: Ideally, calls to action should be above the fold, and be placed on every page of the site in a consistent position. For instance, Squarespace , not only has a large call-to-action button at the top of the page, but also has a slightly smaller button in the footer of every page.
  3. Color: The color should make the call stand out from the rest of the design. Brighter, more contrasting colors usually work best for smaller buttons. For larger buttons, you may want to choose a less prominent color (but one that still stands out from your background), so as to balance out its size.
  4. Size: The call-to-action button should be the largest button on any given page. You want it to be large enough to stand out without overwhelming the rest of the design
It’s vital you test different combination's of call-to-action buttons and see how each affects your conversion rates (see A/B Testing below). It’s also best to make sure they fit within your overall design.

5. A/B Testing

With competition growing fiercer online, it’s important for small businesses to have a website that converts visitors to buyers and creates a competitive edge. That’s why it is important to continually measure and improve site performance, usability and conversions.
One of the foremost ways of optimizing your web design is via A/B testing (sometimes referred to as split testing). An A/B test examines the effectiveness of one landing page over another. The two versions are randomly shown to site visitors to see which generates the best results. You then evaluate the performance of each and use the best version.
Various elements can be tested, including, layouts, copy, graphics, fonts, headlines, offers, icons, colors and more. Here are a few tips for A/B testing:
  1. Clearly define your goal before beginning any test. For example, if you wanted to increase sign-ups, you might want to test the following: type of fields in the form, length of the form, and display of privacy policy.
  2. Start with elements that will have the biggest impact for minimum effort. For instance, you could tweak the copy on your checkout button to see if conversions can be improved.
  3. Don’t use A/B testing in isolation as this alone won’t give you a well-rounded picture of your users. Instead, use other feedback tools, such as Feedback Army or User Testing, in conjunction with A/B testing to get in-depth analysis of user behavior.
A/B testing won’t make a bad design great, but it will prove an effective aid in optimizing your current design’s usability and conversions until you decide to overhaul your website design completely.
These are just five web design trends that small businesses can take part in to enhance their websites. Which web design changes would make the most sense for your small business? contact Scream Media today on 021 559 0800 and one of our business consultants will assist you to make the right choice for  your business.