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How To Build A Content Strategy That Actually Works

Written by Kevin Wood

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

how to build a content strategy

Building a content strategy that actually drives traffic to your website doesn’t have to take months to get right. By being strategic about your choices and following some of the advice below you’ll be able to build a custom content strategy geared towards your unique business goals.

Simply creating content is no longer enough; you need to engineer a strategy that focuses on generating organic traffic through providing continuous value. The steps below will get you going in the right direction.

 

Nail Down Your Personas

The only way to create content geared towards your ideal user is to know exactly to whom you’re writing. This information will help you to create a unique persona that resembles an actual person.

These personas aren’t real people, but instead characters that resemble an ideal “perfect customer.” This will help you get in the head of your customer and speak to them and their unique needs.

Common traits you’ll want to nail down include both demographic and psychographic information.

 

Know Your Search Terms

By doing proper keyword research you’ll be able to see what your users are actually looking for. You can couple this data with your buyer persona and create content that truly makes an impact.

To get started follow the basic steps outlined below:

  1. Make a basic long-tail keyword list: this list includes keywords that you think your users will be looking for, based upon having initial knowledge of your market and your product.
  2. Compare this list to actual data: compare this list to actual search data obtained from Google Keyword Tool, or a similar tool.
  3. Create headlines based upon these ideas: cross-reference your initial keywords with the terms with decent search volume and brainstorm topic ideas with this information.

 

Get The Style Of Content Right

A lot of companies use different styles of content to reach different portions of their market. This includes things like, video, blog posts, slideshows, infographics, social media posts, webinars, and even email marketing campaigns.

To find out what’s right for your audience use the buyer persona you developed earlier to predict how they’re going to enjoy consuming your content.

 

Test Different Methods and Refine Over Time

Over time you’ll be able to really nail down the style of content and voice that works best for reaching your audience. In the beginning don’t be afraid to test out different styles of content.

However, make sure you track the success of each style of content so you’ll be able to see what’s actually working. The most common form of success tracking is through social media shares, or number of new email subscribers. Both of these metrics show engagement from your audience.

 

Determine A Regular Posting Schedule

Once you’ve found the style of content your audience loves then you need to deliver on a regular basis. The type of content you’re using will also dictate how frequency you post.

For instance, Twitter updates will happen more frequently than a YouTube video. People also engage across different platforms at different times, so take this into account when developing and executing your content schedule.

Content marketing doesn’t have to be brain science. Know your customer, experiment, and continue to deliver free content they’re going to love.

Is Your Business Cyber-Secure?

Written by Chris Delker

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Is Your Business Cyber Secure

Cyber attacks upon large companies are reported in the news quite regularly. In recent times, companies like Target, Ebay, Domino’s Pizza, Home Depot, and AT&T were all hacked, resulting in varying degrees of damages.

And it seems that cyber-criminals are getting better at what they do. The Heritage Organization reported that the cost of cyber crime against U.S. retailers more than doubled in just a year’s time.

But in spite of the regular news reports about attacks that have occurred, many attacks are never reported publicly. The Heritage report indicates that cyber crime occurs on a daily basis. And many companies that fall victim aren’t even aware that their security has been compromised – at least not initially.

 

Small Companies Are Also At Risk

Most cyber crime reported in the news involves large companies. And that fact might be feeding the false sense of security that exists among a number of small business owners. Many small business owners, in fact, believe that they simply aren’t attractive targets for cyber-criminals.

But unfortunately, that’s wrong. That’s very wrong.

According to the National Small Business Association, half of small businesses were the victims of a cyber attack last year. Half! And the average cost of each of those attacks was nearly $21,000.

So while big businesses are getting most of the spotlight when it comes to cyber crime, small businesses are doing their share of the suffering.

It’s true that large companies are attractive to cyber criminals due to the size of the potential payoff from a successful hack. But small businesses are also attractive targets because of the ease with which they can be compromised. Many small businesses just don’t have an effective security plan in place for thwarting cyber criminals.

 

How To Increase the Cyber-Security of Your Small Business

Your small business certainly can’t match the resources allocated to cyber security by a Fortune 500 company. But that doesn’t mean that your company is unavoidably destined to become easy pickings for cyber criminals.

The Small Business Administration offers a number of tips for tightening your cyber security, including the following:

 

  • Protective Software. Install antivirus and antispy software on all of your company’s computers. Make sure that the software is regularly updated (automated updates are recommended).
  • Cyber-Secure Policies. Put in place policies for the handling of sensitive customer data. Make sure that all employees understand and comply with those policies.
  • Up-To-Date Software. Software such as web browsers and operating systems are regularly updated with maintenance releases, and quite frequently the updates address security issues. Make certain that the software on your computers is kept up-to-date with the latest maintenance releases.

 

A great way to get started in your quest to tighten your cyber security would be to utilize the Small Biz Cyber Planner offered by the SBA. It’s free, and will help you to create an effective plan for making your business safer.

And since knowledge is power, it might also be wise to invest some time in taking the SBA’s free training course about small business cyber security.

 

The Bigger They Are…

The bigger they are, the harder they fall. And that’s why cyber criminals like hacking into big companies. The potential windfall is massive.

But cyber crime against small business is also on the rise – big time. That’s partly because of the resources that big companies are committing to increasing their cyber security.

And small businesses can fall awfully hard too, relatively speaking. If your small company is the one out of every two that is hit, the consequences can be devastating. So if you haven’t been putting lots of thought and effort into protecting your business against cyber crime, it’s time to do so.

In fact, it’s way past time.

 

*****

Chris Delker is a freelance copywriter based in Dallas, Texas.

5 Tips For Improving Your eCommerce Store Experience

Written by Alex Ivanovs

Monday, June 15th, 2015

It’s predicted that the year 2015 is going to yield as much as $2.2 trillion dollars in total global transactions over eCommerce networks. As previously reported by eMarketer, the expectancy of that amount was to be reached by 2018, but as more people are gaining access to the internet (with as many as 1 billion new internet users in the following two years), eCommerce has managed to outgrow quite a few, if not all, of the predictions made.

To launch a successful eCommerce store, the only few requirements are a reliable hosting company, a reliable piece of software/platform that can act as the actual storefront, but most importantly — an idea, a product, a vision upon which to strive and build for the future.

If you have managed to arrive at the point of completion, it might be a good time to look into some tips and ways of how to improve our eCommerce store experience, not only for ourselves, but for our biggest assets, which is the customers and consumers. Sometimes it’s enough to throw a few pages together and list some products, however these days a lot more goes into creating a seamless shopping experience.

 

1. Focus on User Experience

Any eCommerce store out there is built for the customer, and for the customer alone. Just like you walk into a bank, and expect soothing background music and free sweets to indulge in, your eCommerce store should strive to provide the same exact experience, it should feel as if people are browsing a real physical store, which can sometimes be a tricky thing to achieve.

An eCommerce store built on the principles of User Experience, will easily convey trust, loyalty and ease of mind; things that go a long way for the user to make the final decision of completing a purchase or not, these days there are no shortage of alternatives for products online, even if yours is quite special.

Things to consider implementing:

  • A clear and visible user interface that naturally explains what the page does.
  • Easily accessible menus and navigation bars.
  • Clean and organized product pages; photos, review, prices, and descriptions.
  • An easy way to access the customer support portal/platform.
  • A clear indication of social media presence.
  • Fast loading pages, popups to the bare minimum, focus on seamless.

 

2. Invest in Mobile Experience

Last year, one-third of the total internets population spent time browsing eCommerce stores using a mobile phone, in fact — that one-third of those people actually made a purchase using their mobile devices, and this number is expected to increase significantly over the coming two to three years. Sooner or later, mobile will be primary shopping experience for anyone.

On top of that, having an eCommerce store that doesn’t provide a mobile-first experience is going to scare away the majority of people who browse your store from a mobile device, it has been a proven twice over fact that is based on simple principles of a good user experience.

How to optimize for mobile user experience:

  • Keep the mobile experience as simple and straightforward as possible, and that includes a responsive design experience.
  • Utilize icons, larger fonts and text-boxes where possible.
  • Important notices and announcements to be kept above the fold.
  • Easily accessible buttons that don’t overlap with the design.

 

3. Click and Buy

In other words, don’t make the check-out process for products a nightmare. The last thing people want to do is spend more than 10 minutes trying to actually purchase something that they clearly are ready to pay money for. The hard part is to get them to actually get to this page, don’t make it a miserable experience once they do.

Approximately $4 trillion worth of merchandise will be abandoned in online shopping carts this year, and about 63% of that is potentially recoverable by savvy online retailers, according to BI Intelligence estimates. — Business Insider

That is a lot of money to be leaving at the table, so here are some tips to improve the check-out experience on your eCommerce store:

  • Allow multiple payment options: PayPal, Credit Cards, Gift Cards, Direct Deposit.
  • Free shipping on big orders.
  • Clearly state all the costs before the check-out is done.
  • Allow customers to purchase without having to signup for an account.

 

4. Optimize the Photo Quality

In an online store, there are no physical products to touch, to feel or to observe. Your images are the only way of really conveying what the product looks like, and how it works. There are, of course, exceptions where video uploads are also useful, but not everyone can afford or have the time to produce high-quality videos for all of their products. Visual content is simply easier to remember, easier to understand, and makes for a much more likely chance of a completed purchase.

The best way to display photos:

  • Try to show at least 2-4 high-quality photos of all of your products, and do it in a way that shows all the angles and aspects of the produce. This should be done throughout the whole store.
  • Outline what are the benefits/advantages of each product and have specific images for that. If you’re selling Unisex T-Shirts, show pictures of both a girl and a boy wearing it.
  • Provide the option to see what all the colors that you offer look like, it’s a shame to choose a bright pink, but have it arrive shallow. Make the customer experience as physical as possible.

 

5. Optimize for Search Engines

If you have done all of the above, and follow it with your full focused attention, then all that is left to do is do some Search Engine Optimization integration, since eventually — you want to arrive in a place where majority of your traffic is organic, coming from direct search engine queries. You can find plentiful of SEO guides on the web, but here are some outlines to focus on:

  • Have a mobile site ready. Now a Google ranking factor.
  • Have HTTPS (Secure Browsing) enabled. Now a Google ranking factor.
  • Create a content marketing strategy for your blog to attract new visitors.
  • Immerse yourself in inbound marketing to create links, news headlines, etc,.

If you can successfully implement all of these tips, what comes beyond will be patience and the ability to maintain these little strategies to keep pushing your eCommerce store forward, and beyond.

 

*****

Alex Ivanovs is an online entrepreneur who has been writing about technology, business and developer topics for over a decade. He currently manages CodeCondo — an aspiring community for designers and developers.

3 Critical Mistakes You Might Be Making with Your Business Website

Written by Chris Delker

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

3 Critical Mistakes You Might Be Making with Your Business Website

A strange but true fact: roughly one out of every two small businesses still doesn’t have a website.

That wouldn’t have been particularly surprising 20 years ago. But today? It seems rather strange. Especially when you consider that nearly 100% of consumers now do at least some of their shopping online for products and services that interest them.

So if you’re a small business owner, and you do have a website, that automatically gives you a huge leg-up over about half of your competition.

But what about the other half of your competition – the half that does have a website? If you’re like many small businesses, you might not be faring so well against those competitors.

That’s because many small businesses have websites that are much less effective than they could be. And in fact, many small businesses are making the very same mistakes with their websites. According to the Small Business Administration, there are 3 critical mistakes that many small businesses are making with their online presence:

 

#1. No Call-to-Action

Let’s say that you have a website. And let’s say that a prospective customer lands upon your homepage. Do you tell that prospective customer what you want them to do?

Many small business websites don’t. They seem satisfied to let visitors wander around aimlessly for a bit until they wander off the website – likely never to return. And that’s a mistake that more than two-thirds of small business websites make.

But it’s important to let website visitors know what you want them to do. In fact, every single page of your website should have a designated purpose – a most-wanted response. And the copy and graphics on that page should work to elicit that most-wanted response. But you’re not likely to get that most-wanted response without telling your website visitors what you want them to do.

 

#2. Mobile Incompatibility

The world is going mobile. Only a few short years ago, most customers accessed your website via a desktop or laptop computer. But that’s no longer true. These days, it’s likely that just as many customers visit you virtually with a smart phone or a tablet.

And that might be a problem for you. Because a website design that is perfectly fine for viewing with a desktop/laptop computer may not be particularly suitable for viewing with a mobile device.

In fact, it’s very likely that your website is not mobile compatible. Because fewer than 10% of mobile websites are mobile compatible.

And if you think that mobile incompatibility is no more than a slight inconvenience for some of your website visitors, think again. Google takes mobile compatibility very seriously – and may seriously ding your site in search results if you’re not mobile friendly.

(Not sure whether your site is mobile-friendly? Use this free tool to easily find out.)

 

#3. Cold-Shouldering Social Media

Social media is all the rage these days. Social media portals such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have become wildly popular. And many marketers are trying to tap into that popularity as a new way to reach customers.

In truth, there’s some dispute about the effect of social media marketing for businesses. But many marketing experts feel that social media holds far too much promise to ignore. As one expert noted in a Forbes article, there are a great many potential benefits to social media marketing.

Even so, more than 80% of small business websites don’t even bother to link to any social media accounts. And that might be a massive mistake.

 

It’s A Bad News / Good News Scenario

The three critical mistakes listed above are made by the majority of small business websites. So if you’re the owner or operator of a small business, the odds are strong that you’re in that group. That’s the bad news.

The good news, though, is that simply having a website places you ahead of half of your competition. And you can compound that advantage by eliminating any of these three critical mistakes that you might be making with your website.

Do that, and you’ll place your business in the rarified air of dominating your online competition. And that’s a very good place to be.