Wednesday, 24 December 2014

How To Create An Online Customer Survey

With the wide range of free online survey software available today, you will have no trouble finding something to help you gauge the priorities or satisfaction levels of your target customers. But finding the software is the easy part: what matters is that you spend time designing it carefully in order to obtain the most accurate market research possible.

In order to do this there are several steps you can follow, for example:

Define Your Goals: Before your write the questionnaire itself it’s a good idea to do some preliminary research. Be clear about the kind of information you want from your survey: are you testing the market for possible new areas of product development, for example, or are you looking for a more general picture of how your company is perceived and what customers want? What will you be doing with this information once you have it? Once you know the answer to these questions you will find it easier to target your survey accordingly.

Finding Your Target Audience: One you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to identify the target audience for your survey. If you want to know how you have been performing over the past year, then you’ll probably want to contact existing customers. In this case, you can use your mailing list. If, on the other hand, you want to test the market for future development possibilities then you will have to broaden the scope a bit and find other ways of getting your survey out there. You will also need to know the age and demographic of your audience as this will determine how you word your questions.

Writing Questions: It’s important that the questions you use are straightforward, unambiguous and encourage concise answers. This is for two reasons: first you want them to be simple for people to answer so they are more likely to complete the survey; secondly, you want to make it easy to analyse afterwards. Bear in mind that you are looking to produce some usable data, not gather a series of carefully-written essays on your company’s strengths or failings. For this reason, questions should also be organised in a logical way; for example, you can group them around specific themes if there are a lot of them. Also, people prefer to answer questions about their own experiences so your survey should always be relatable if possible.

Simple Layout: It is not just the questions but the formatting of the survey itself that needs to be clear and simple. Most free online survey software will allow you to customise the look of the final product so you should make the most of this feature. Leave plenty of white space between each question so they don’t run into each other and don’t be tempted to use too many colours.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

How To Increase Newsletter Subscriptions From Your Website

Publishing a regular newsletter is a great way to keep customers updated on the latest events at your company. It can include any new products, special offers or recent achievements. But more importantly, every time you get a new subscriber to your newsletters you have also gained a new contact. And getting contact details from website visitors is crucial for any business. It’s not enough just to get them to visit your site: you have to turn them into proper customers.

But how can you modify your website to help ensure you get these all-important subscriptions?

Use The Top Right-Hand Corner: In case you didn’t realise it, the top right-hand corner of the page is the prime position to place any kind of call to action. Visitors seem to be programmed to expect an option to be available there, and it’s the place to which the eye is naturally drawn. If you place it right next to the main menu it makes it even more accessible.

At The Bottom Of Posts: Having a blog section on your website is a great idea. For one thing, publishing well thought-out pieces on the sector in which you operate sets you up as an expert in your field. It helps visitors to your website to see you as trustworthy and that is sometimes half the battle. But it’s also an excellent way to get newsletter subscriptions – but you should always put this at the bottom of the post. Why? Think about it: if a person has been interested enough to read all the way down to the bottom of the post then you have grabbed their attention. They may well be hooked. What better time, then, to ask them to sign up for future news or posts from your company?

Pop-Up Notices: Some companies don’t like to use these but they can really be very effective if you don’t overdo it. And there are several ways in which they can be employed. Some websites like to use a pop-up notice when visitors go to leave their site. This has the element of surprise to it and allows you to make one last-ditch attempt to reel them in with something new and fresh, or a particularly tempting special offer if they sign up to your newsletter. Pop-up boxes for first-time visitors are also becoming increasingly popular. These can redirect them to website content prepared especially for beginners.

Header Bars: Finally, you should always be trying to make the best use of your header bar to increase newsletter subscriptions. After all, this is probably the most prominent section of your website and it can now be made to float down as the user navigates the site – meaning that it’s always visible. Always have a special ‘newsletter’ section on your header toolbar and, once the user has clicked on it, make sure the text on your sign-up page emphasises the benefits they will gain from subscribing.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Tips For Writing Effective Web Content

Writing content for your website is very different to writing for print. Ideally, your visitors will be on the look-out for the kinds of products and services you provide. Hopefully they will have been driven there through an effective SEO or online marketing strategy. The idea is to get them to make a quick decision.

To convert them to paying customers as soon as possible. Here are some tips to help you achieve this:

Get your priorities right: 
Tell your visitors the most important facts first, and tell them quickly. Don’t waste their time on lengthy sales spiels, preambles or market reports. Think about what they need to know. What makes your products different to everything else on the market? What kind of discount are you offering? Any additional information can be added later on. After all, buying decisions are usually made in a matter of seconds. First get them through the door. Then you can show them the room.

Don’t Be Obscure: 
Where many companies fall down with their web copy is trying to be too clever or creative. People don’t have time to puzzle out what you mean. Or they may find your obscurity off-putting. Keep your text as simple as possible. Even if you’re a person who’s fond of a clever analogy or likes a sub-text, your website is not the place to indulge this. If you want to use jokes to keep the tone light, make absolutely sure your target audience will get them right away.

Use Familiar Words: 
When it comes to writing website content, you also need to think about your SEO strategy. Put yourself into the mind of your customer base: what kinds of search terms are they most likely to enter into a search engine? If you sell discount shoes, for example, don’t talk about your ‘competitive pricing’. Use the kinds of words that they might automatically enter – think ‘low-cost’, ‘cheap’ or ‘discount’. It may not sound classy but ultimately it will lead more customers to your website. It’s only when you are going for the very high end of the market that you can afford to use more specialised terms.

Scan-Friendly Design:
Many people will tend to scan website content to get the gist of it. They may not have time to read every word. With that in mind, your text has to be set out in the right way. Make sure that the most important phrases – the things that are likely to clinch the sale – are in bold or appear in cross-headings throughout the text. This way the scanners will pick up on what you want them to know.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

What Are The Most Common SEO Mistakes?

SEO is easy to get wrong. It’s a fact. But when you get it right, it can make an immeasurable difference to your company’s online standing. But a bad SEO strategy can be more damaging than no strategy at all. With this in mind, it’s just as important to learn what not to do as it is to keep up-to-date with the latest techniques. There are plenty of common SEO mistakes that companies continue to make time and time again. To help you avoid making them yourself, here are some of the main ones:

Choosing The Wrong Keywords: Your keyword selection, if you’ll pardon the expression, is key. Many people choose the wrong ones simply because they sound impressive, or perhaps because they don’t fully understand their customers’ priorities. It pays to do proper keyword research and analysis to find out exactly what kinds of terms your customers would type in when they are searching for products or services like yours.

Keyword Stuffing: This is an absolute no-no, as anyone who has fallen foul of this rule will tell you. Stuffing is when a person over-uses their keywords or phrases. This was OK when search engines were relatively unsophisticated, but now they can pick up on keyword-heavy blocks of text and you may well be penalised. This is because search engines are geared towards helping users find the highest quality content. A piece of text that simply repeats the same thing without telling them anything new does not qualify as useful. You have been warned.

Duplicated Content:
More and more, search engines are penalising websites that don’t publish original or high quality content. It used to be far too easy for companies to simply copy large chunks of text from one site to use on their own. Doing this on a regular basis will now reduce your rankings to get producing some useful and original content.

Too Broad-Based: If your website doesn’t have a strong focus then search engines will find it much more difficult to direct users to your site. And once they’re there, if your content is too broad-based you will be lacking a certain authority. What you need to do, at least to begin with, is specialise. That way you can have a small number of really targeted keywords and work on building up a reputation as an expert in your field.

Poor Backlinks:
Backlinks are just as important for your SEO rankings as keywords. But you have to be selective about them: links from sites with little relevance to your subject or to poor quality sites will not do you any favours. And another thing – never be tempted to buy backlinks to boost your search online standing. Search engines are now wise to this and regard it as a form of cheating. If you practice this regularly you may well find your site blacklisted and this is very hard to recover from.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

How To Respond To Negative Social Media Comments

Social media offers many benefits to companies in terms of marketing and connecting with customers. But alongside this, it does carry the downside that occasionally you are going to come up against some unhappy customers who aren’t shy about sharing their views with all your other followers. When this happens – and at some point it will – it’s a good idea to be prepared.

Learn some tactics for responding to negative social media comments, such as:

Work Quickly: If someone feels they have a genuine grievance against you, then the longer they have to wait for your response to their post, the more annoyed they will get. Also, because these are public forums it means that every minute you waste is a minute that the story can be spread around other users or exaggerated. Respond calmly, telling them you are aware of their complaint and are looking into it right away. Often the biggest frustration for people is not being able to get hold of someone to talk about their issues. If they know they have your attention they are likely to calm down and be willing to work out a solution.

Be Human: Offer your name and give a sympathetic, warm response rather than a generic, corporate reply. You will find that this can go a long way towards softening people. It is far easier to deal with upset customers if you talk to them like human beings and really listen to their grievance.

Make It Right: If the mistake is on your side then you need to make a genuine apology to the customer. The next thing to do is to find a solution they will be happy with. If it is a case of a faulty product, for example, most people will usually be content to accept a replacement or refund. If they feel they have received a poor service or a member of your staff has been rude, an apology, voucher for credit or something similar will help to show that you are taking the matter seriously.

Don’t Get Into Arguments: Even if the allegation against you is unreasonable or completely false, as a company you should always be above getting into a social media slanging match. Remember that absolutely anyone can see this and it will make you look very unprofessional. If someone is being rude, aggressive or complaining just for the sake of it, you should simply give a single, calm response stating your position and then ignore them. They will normally get bored very quickly.

Keep It Open:
If you are working to fix a mistake your company has made, you may be tempted to ask the customer to take the conversation offline and email you privately. This is a mistake: it’s actually better to keep things in the open as it shows you have nothing to hide and other potential customers can see that in such cases you do your best to fix the problem. It can actually work to your benefit by giving other people confidence to buy from you, knowing that if there is a problem you can be contacted.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Twitter Followers: Why You Should Never Fake Them

If you’ve ever been struck by the huge amounts of Twitter followers some of your competitors seem to have, it’s worth pausing for a while before you boil over with jealousy. You may be thinking that your tweets and the information you share are far more valuable, so why is it that internet users are flocking to them in such great numbers? The answer may well be that many of these followers are in fact fake.

But how do these companies even get their ‘fake followers’ to begin with? One way, believe it or not, is to simply purchase them. In this way you can suddenly acquire 1000 Twitter followers in one sweep. By contrast, a company doing things the normal way might perhaps hope to get about 20 new followers each day if they are really putting a lot of effort into their social media marketing.

On the other hand, it’s also possible to acquire fake followers by accident. In fact, around 5 per cent of total followers will be from fake accounts that make it a point to follow other users in order to appear real. If you don’t want to get involved with fake followers then be on your guard and don’t follow anyone back if they seem suspicious.

But are you still tempted to fake some followers because it seems like an easy option? A lot less work? Well think again, because this kind of practice can destroy your online credibility. It can be quite obvious if you have a large number of fake followers and if you’re trying to make your mark in a B2B environment, where trust and reputation are key, you will do your credibility a lot of damage. People will simply avoid you.

Also, bear in mind that if the majority of your followers are fake then this is just a meaningless number at the end of the day: you will not be able to engage with them and this means you won’t be using your Twitter account to boost your brand. After all, social media is all about engaging in conversations, sharing content and ideas. If all you’re doing is garnering a lot of followers who won’t respond to you, it not only makes you look bad but it is also a waste of a valuable marketing opportunity.

As a last point, fake followers are actually contrary to Twitter’s terms of service which means that if you are employing this tactic regularly then your account can simply be suspended or deleted. Once it becomes known that this has happened to you it will take you a long time to build up respect within the online business community again – if indeed you are able to at all. Taking all this into account, it really is best to hone your social marketing skills and do things the honest way. Yes, you may have fewer followers to begin with but they will all be relevant to you and hopefully willing to engage with your tweets.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

How To Get Ideas For Good Online Content

We’re all aware of the need to keep our website content fresh and relevant for online marketing purposes – ‘content is king’, as they say – but how on earth can you keep coming up with new ideas and keep your business running at the same time? It may seem as though everybody else finds it easy to churn out more and more interesting content whilst you sit there racking your brains and coming up with nothing. In fact, there’s no real secret: anyone can do it if they just learn how to identify those hot topics through some simple techniques.

Such as:

Watch Google Trends: If you really want to keep your finger on the pulse, then Google Trends will let you know what’s being searched for in real time. It works by breaking down hot searches and updates constantly throughout the day. Helpfully, it also sorts this information by sector so if you’re in a particular niche you may need to look no further to find a suitable topic to blog about on your website. You can also search by keyword or current trending news stories if you want to be a bit more specific.

Google+ Communities: Another helpful tool from Google if you’re looking for content: if you put your search terms into the search bar and then filter the results to look for ‘communities’ you can find the ones with a lot of posts and followers. Have a look at the kinds of things they’re talking about and any issues people are having that you may be able to help them with through useful blog posts.

Search News:
This is as simple as it sounds. Every search engine has a news function that you can use to look for the latest events relating to a particular topic. If you’re the kind of person who is able to come up with content quickly then this can be very useful as it means you can be one of the first to comment on a particular story.

Twitter Advanced Search:
This has become a vital source for content generation because the Twittersphere covers just about everything in short, succinct dialogue so you can quickly pick up an idea of the opinions around a certain topic or issue. All you need to do is go to the Advanced Search function in Twitter and enter a few keywords of your choice into the ‘any of these words’ section to get you started. You will then come up with plenty of potential content leads to follow.

The above are just a few examples of the resources available to you. Other useful tools are online forums, Reddit – the list just goes on. By compiling yourself a guide of the different content generation resources out there you should never be stuck for hot topics to comment on again. As a result, you can keep your website fresh and relevant.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Want To Get More Comments On Your Blog?

Blogging is a very simple form of online marketing and it’s certainly one of the cheapest. All you have to do is identify your area of expertise and begin writing informative articles about it. If you’re a business owner this is a way of establishing yourself as an expert in your sector by offering worthwhile advice or sharing tips.

But to be really successful at this you need to build up a readership. One sure sign that you’re efforts are working is if a lot of readers are engaging and contributing to the ‘comments’ section usually to be found at the bottom of any blogging page.

Here’s how to get those comments coming in:

Don’t Sit On The Fence: Readers won’t feel compelled to respond to your blog if it doesn’t give them something to think about. For this reason, you should never be afraid to voice clear opinions (as long as you aren’t being offensive). Challenging people by taking a stand on a certain subject gives them the option of either agreeing or disagreeing. Whichever side of the fence they sit on, they will often feel compelled to offer their own opinions. You will not get comments if your blog is simply a dull outpouring of platitudes or previously expressed opinions.

Pose Questions: The simplest and most direct way to get people to comment on your blog is to ask questions. People like to be asked for their input, so you could for example ask what articles they would like to see featured, any problems they have working in this sector; or what their priorities are. Even better if it is relating to a controversial issue that is likely to divide opinion and produce a strong response.

Cross-Blogging: If you interact with other bloggers through commenting on their blogs you will often find that they will do the same for you. Look for blogs which are similar to yours without being identical. You may then find that people who read and comment on their blogs will see the link to yours and follow that too. Also, remember to respond to any comments on your blog, whether this is to thank the reader for their interest or follow up on any point they have made. If you can establish an interaction with your readers they are far more likely to continue commenting in the future.