All posts in Online tools

Circuit boardEvery webmaster has to be concerned with two main focuses: creating high-quality, compelling content and then delivering that content quickly and consistently to visitors. One way to achieve this is to use a content delivery network, or CDN. How will this help – and how can you choose the best option for your business/website?

A content delivery system is a network of web servers that are dispersed across multiple areas. Data copies are placed on the servers, which can respond to requests based on which server is closer in proximity. While data should move at the speed of light, it still takes longer for it to travel 3,000 kilometers than 20, so the CDN can help put a turbo-booster on your content. Many CDNs have a dozen or more servers, from Amsterdam to Los Angeles to London to Osaka, so they can be nimble and agile.

This is important because even small delays in load times can harm your conversion rate. When you eliminate the delays loading images, scripts, videos, stylesheets, and other elements, you can cut that time. Here are some tips for choosing your CDN:

  • Look for services that focus on content delivery and front-end optimisation (FEO). Front-end elements account for as much as 90 percent of users’ wait time, so it is important that your CDN be able to reduce this and increase speed. Techniques include minification, compression, versioning, and resource consolidation.
  • Consider setup times. This should be minimal, and the cost should be equally minimal.
  • Speaking of price, it will vary based on geography. But gone are the days when CDNs cost thousands. The first computer was purchased for $6800. Today, we can buy computers for £255. It is the same with CDNs. In fact, some, like Amazon CloudFront, charge based on use.
  • Does the CDN offer intelligent routing and redundant networks?
  • Is the content served from their edge servers or yours? The former can reduce bandwidth demands and speed up delivery.
  • Does the CDN offer reporting tools so you can track performance?
  • Some top CDNs to consider: Amazon CloudFront, MaxCDN, CloudFlare, Akamai, and EdgeCast.

CDNs can help you lighten your content load, improve user experience, and keep your content moving in an efficient and effective way.

Carpenter Series 1Google’s Matt Cutts recently posted a video in which he explains the five most common mistakes SEOs make. Crawlability issues, keywords that don’t reflect what searchers are really looking for, lack of compelling content and marketing, and lack of descriptions and titles are among his top picks, as is to be expected. One that may not be as obvious is the fifth mistake: not using webmaster tools. There is so much high-quality information and help available for webmasters. It is there for the taking, but many do not take.

While you’re working on improving crawlability or creating great content, here is a quick fix for mistake #5. We’ve compiled a list of the best webmaster tools:

  • Google Webmaster Guidelines. You have to start somewhere! Google has a wealth of free information and guidelines for site owners and developers. From staying within technical requirements to enhancing visibility via snippets, you will find a great deal to look through and learn here.
  • Bing Webmaster Tools. A complete selection of help and how-tos. Bing also produces webinars on a variety of topics. You can catch them live or watch them later on Bing’s website.
  • iWeb Tools. This site has a compilation of helpful tools, including those that check backlinks, speed, rankings, and more.
  • WebToolHub. Much the same as iWebTools, this offers some great tools for tightening up your SEO and web presence.
  • YouTube. SEOs love talking about SEO, and they love making videos. YouTube has a lot of great content to help webmasters, from reputable sources like Matt Cutts. In addition to GoogleWebmasterHelp’s channel, you can find equally useful info from BingWebmasterHelp.
  • Webmaster Forums. These are communities of like-minded (or maybe not) individuals who are willing to help out, give advice, share suggestions, and ask for feedback. Take advantage.
  • FreeWebmasterHelp. You can find more technical information here, including tutorials on HTML, cookies, PHP, Javascript, and more.

There are also offline seminars offered. Google (or Bing!) “SEO Seminars” in your area to find if there are any good options for you.

There are so many practical, and free, webmaster tools to help create engaging, effective sites. This is one SEO mistake that is easy to fix.

King

Content is king, and it can be a pretty demanding one at that. According to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Report, the biggest challenges faced by content producers are producing enough in terms of quantity and variety and making sure it is engaging and relevant to searchers. To combat these issues, you need to have a toolbox full not only of ideas, but of ways to generate them, ways to expand on them, ways to capture the attention of your audience. Here are a few of the best content marketing tools to help you break through obstacles and create winning content.

Ideas, ideas, ideas

The more, the merrier. If you have a repository of relevant topics, no slow news day will ever stop you from producing relevant content. The first places to start gathering ideas are, of course, Google Alerts, LinkedIn (from Answers and your group discussions), and Quora. Beyond that, try:

  • TrendSpottr. Simply type in a search (or browse their trending topics) and find all the latest information on that topic. This is a goldmine for ideas – and it can help you keep on top of your industry’s news.
  • Pinterest. Watch out; this can be a time-sucker! But it can also lead you to top information and opinions on relevant topics. Further, it helps you see what is trending and popular as far as content types.
  • Topsy. This is a great tool that lets you search social media, find relevant topics, identify key influencers, and receive alerts of changes, negative mentions, etc.
  • Bubbl.us. Create a mindmap and flesh out your best ideas.
  • Trello. This helps you organise your content ideas, share with others, create a repository, create a community bulletin board, assign projects, etc.
  • Evernote. This is a wonderful tool that keeps track of all your notes, your interests, and your ideas in a streamlined way. If you see something online that catches your eye, you can save it here. If you see something in real life, snap a picture and save it. Very useful.
  • Visual.ly. Now you have the (free!) tools to create compelling, shareable content. Visual.ly specialises in creating infographics and data visualisations and has a network of 3500 designers to help.

These are just a few of the great content creation tools out there. Play around with them, and see which you find most useful.

Photo Frame

A picture is worth a thousand words. That is no less true online. The right images can capture your visitors’ attention and imagination. But are those images also capturing the “attention” of Google’s bots? About 60 – 65 percent of people are visual learners. Google, though, is not! It depends on code to decipher your website and serve it up to searchers. When your images are not optimised, they are invisible to bots. How can you ensure your images really are worth 1000 words?

Optimising images is not difficult or time-consuming:

  • Remove the bloat. There is a lot of information attached to an image that is useless as far as your web visibility efforts go. You might have information about the camera model, the date, the colors, etc. To remove this, use an image compression tool. Try Smush It, PunyPNG, JPEGmini, Caesium, or Kraken, all available online.
  • Use image alt text. The image below means nothing to Google. Adding alt text gives the search engine the information it needs. You would just add a line to your image tag:

<img src=”dogs-playing.jpg” alt=”Dogs Playing” />

A Springer and a Golden 1

  • Choose a file name that includes a keyword or keyword phrase that describes the image accurately, and for which you would like to rank.
  • Use descriptive captions. Google doesn’t as yet take this into consideration, but they do look at bounce rates. If your captions do not accurately describe your image or give searchers what they expect, they will click out. Your bounce rate does influence your rankings.
  • Size appropriately. Select a size that is as small as possible but does not impact quality. This will keep load times reasonable and provide visitors with clear, sharp images. You can once again turn to tools, such as Dynamic Drive’s Image Optimiser, to help you size or even convert the file format.

Images can be incredibly powerful. Make sure they appeal to users and are accurately described, and then make sure they appeal to Google’s algorithm-following bots.

Social Media is the addiction of our era, weather you use it for personal reasons or for business purposes. The good news is that, as opposed to many other offline addictions, using Social Media doesn’t affect your health (unless you tweet about a fire before your escape the building) and it can be rather beneficial for your bank account. If you can put it to its good use!

Social Media time managementThis being said, it is hard to imagine a business today that is not keen on increasing its web presence. And that means optimizing their content for search engines, posting, streaming, creating, updating and monitoring social media accounts, submitting social bookmarking profiles, following industry and competition news. And the list can go on forever.

But time is money. And time is becoming such a precious commodity, that we cannot afford to squander without serious consequences for the business. Social Media marketing is only part of your online marketing effort, and online marketing is only part of your overall marketing.

The question that rises is this: What is the optimum time you should allocate to Social Media, in order to achieve its maximum potential and still be able to focus on your core business?

The correct answer can be found only after you spend enough time (yes, time!) to effectively define your Social Media goals. Resist the temptation to run for the most popular on the web position! It takes way too much effort and it hardly brings benefits. Engage with your present and potential customers and you may have something going for you. Your consumer insights studies are some of your best allies here.

  • Schedule your social media. Allocate a number of hours weekly for all social media activities. Depending on your audience, it can be divided in a smaller number of hours everyday of the week or by selecting „activity” days, where you can spend alternatively an afternoon or a morning, to be able to engage within as many time zones as possible.
  • Develop your social date book. Implement and stick to a social media activity calendar. The biggest Social Media marketing sin is to set up pages and then abandon them. The second biggest is to update them irregularity. This is not cool with search engines and alienates your followers. You can use free online calendars, like Google Calendar, Yahoo! Calendar, or Mozilla Lightning to plan your activity and sync it with a larger team.
  • Disperse responsibilities. Build a team with specific tasks to implement your Social Media plan. In some cases, it is not only useful, but also necessary. For example, you need multiple employees to leverage a LinkedIn profile for B2B reasons.
  • Hire experts. On a long run, it can be cost-effective, and easier to handle than doing it all yourself. You need professionals in order to present yourself professionally and to ride the wave of the digital revolution. Experts can get you started by establishing a model for your staff to follow or you may want to hire them for long-term tasks, such as writing and editing your blogs for consistency.

 

How about if your friends send emails to all their friends, and their friends keep cascading emails to their friends, and friends of the friends, recommending the amazing quality of your products and services? Soon enough, the whole world will celebrate you!

online presenceUnless you died and went to the marketing heaven, the earthly reality cannot match this utopia. For all that, social bookmarkings may come quite close. We could also name them peer-to-peer referral networks, because they run on input from „real people”, as opposed to the soulless algorithms of a search engine.

There are several things that can be shared and recommended on the social bookmarkings, depending on their specificity: websites, blogs, photos, videos, products, and content. A user can make their own list of favourites, and they can also view their friends and other users favourites. Bookmarkings can be searched by tags, keywords, category, most recent, or most popular.

There are hundreds of such services, and it is up to you if you want to invest time to sign in to all of them. Some examples of popular bookmarkings are: StumbleUpon, Delicious, Fave or BonzoBox. On AddThis, you can take a good look at all those social bookmarkings out there. They can be sorted by trends, popularity, regions, and the type of services they provide.

Among the benefits of using them, the most important ones are:

    • higher search engine ranking
    • inbound links
    • readership
    • influence
    • traffic
    • visibility.

However, some services may not allow a direct submission of your own website or blog, and require the users to do so. In this case, you can feature a “badge” on your site, to inspire your viewers to submit your page.

How to decide which social bookmarking is for you?

As with any other marketing activity you undertake, you start with narrowing down to those tools that can get your closer to your client base. Alexa offers an easy and direct way to find out more demographics and traffic statistics for each bookmarking.

In accordance with your online marketing goals, a good social bookmark should have a lot of traffic, focus on your market niche and be able to attract your target consumers. Periodically, you may want to measure their efficiency and stay tuned for new up-and-coming social bookmarkings, as their world proves to be quite volatile.

History has a funny way of repeating itself. The good old days when the grocer knew every customer’s name, culinary preferences and marital escapades were quickly replaced by the detachment and stiffness of the industrial era. Big scales, automation, and the commercial marketing techniques brutally cut the warm-hearted connection between the retailer and its customers.

eCommerce

Today, the eRetailers are making significant efforts to re-enact that special bond with their clients, as part of their odyssey to gain trust, loyalty, appreciation, and naturally, bigger sales.

The advent of the Social Media turned the wheel in favour of the consumers. Its exponential growth over the last few years triggered the frenetic chase for eCustomers, right where they like to hang out the most: on the social networks.

By now, pretty much all online and offline retailers know they cannot continue treating customers as masses. And those who don’t … are probably learning it the hard way. People’s voluntary submission to social media made it possible for everything to become personalised. And thus, companies and brands came to learn their names, culinary preferences and, if they don’t cover their online traces well, even their marital escapades.

Oh well!

 

Make Social Media Matter to your Business

Let’s say you are an Online Communications Manager. As the one responsible for Social Media in your company, you have a hot potato in your hands. If you still think in terms of B2C, switch to P2P! Person to person, that is.

You get a carte blanche to dodge the rigid corporate identity rules and to connect in a more friendly, more direct and more entertaining manner. But does it mean you should be experimenting with rhetoric and hope for the best? We don’t think your CEO would like it. And you might give a bad name to all those content editors out there.

Instead, make Social Media “matter”, and by this I mean make it contribute to the company’s objectives.  One way to demonstrate its efficiency is to keep track of the business metric ‘return on investment’, or ROI.

Let’s go through the ROI formula:

Return on investment calculation

Here are three things you need to check on your list in order to make sure your Social Media activity is influent and you are actually bringing revenue in for your company.

 

1.    Tie Social Media to Business Performance

It all starts with defining your objectives clearly. Now, having fuzzy goals is pretty much one of the most common mistakes in business. People invest a lot of time and money in their companies, but when the time comes to measuring their results, everything becomes uncertain. It’s like throwing darts into a white wall.

Reaching business goals

“We want to increase our number of clients” is the perfect example of fuzzy goal. Does it mean that one more client would do? Or maybe ten thousand? The correct formulation would be, for instance: “We want to increase our number of clients by 20%”. Thank you, this is much clearer!

When it comes to Social Media objectives, things get even more complicated. Contrary to popular belief, Social Media does not have self-standing objectives. Remember! Being popular on web is not a business objective.

Social Media activities offer support to other business functions of the company, which already have their own goals. So you just have to plug in!

Voilà!

 

Basically, your task is to translate into company revenues your recently acquired, let’s say, ten thousand followers on Facebook. If 20% of them make an acquisition on your website, than you contributed to the sales objectives. If the customer support costs are reduced by 20% because more clients benefit from largely broadcasted online support, then you’re doing great here.

With LinkedIn, you can help the HR team to hire top professionals without having to pay a fortune in head-hunters fee’s. Checking out your competitors’ Social Media pages can give you instant access to valuable business intelligence. For Marketing and PR, Social Media input is the most obvious: instant direct dissemination and online reputation management. The golden rule stays the same:

Marketing golden rule

2.    Measuring the true cost of Social Media

You know there is no such thing as a free lunch, right? Then you know very well that Social Media, even if it runs on free online platforms, is not really free. In fact, there are a lot of costs involved.

Time. Ask yourself how much time you spend on Social Media. Is it worth it? Do you find yourself spending many hours every day posting updates, making comments, responding to messages, checking out competition and answering everyone’s comment and remarks? Try to find equilibrium between giving followers a close, personalised approach and managing your time efficiently. Put a time limit on every activity and stick to it, no matter what!

Time management

Human resources. If your company is bigger, you need to grow and manage a team of communication specialists. That means your department has to budget salaries for these people, taxes, benefits, and whatever HR costs it may imply.

Specialists. Whether you do it for a single project or for ongoing support, you most likely benefit from the input of SEO specialised agencies, web designers, advertising professionals and all those people that can make you look good online. Some of them may have substantial fees. However, nowadays competition is quite tough, which gives you a good hand to negotiate costs in your favour. And since they are good at what they’re doing, the return can be generous.

Equipment. There are countless gadgets that are launched ever so often, and you have to keep up with the technology, right? Laptops, tablets, smart phones … who can work without them? And they don’t come cheap. To these, you can add, of course, connection fees.

Productions costs. There has been a rampant increase in the visual content on Social Media in the last few years. Quite frankly, if you don’t have good quality photos, video, presentations, animations, applications and other such visual materials, your message gets washed out in the see of colourfulness and effervescence that Social Media has become.

Subscription web tools. In order to monitor and manage your workload, you probably use several web tools that offer a free or paid version. You may want to upgrade your HubSpot, Batchbook, Earlyimpact, MailChimp, HootSuite, NetVibes, or any other solution you embraced, to the Pro version. They usually offer valuable analytics for a reasonable fee and they help tremendously with time management.

 

3.    Measuring the effect of your campaign

Remember, if you can’t count it, it’s fuzzy. That’s why, when it comes to measuring performance, business professionals use the Key Performance Indicators, or KPI’s. Basically, it relates to hitting a specific target and it depends, naturally, on what you want to measure. Clicks, visits, fans, likes, followers, tweets, registrations to webinars, newsletter subscriptions, they are all potential Social Media KPIs.

Key Performance Indicator

So, as a direct consequence of our first two recommendations, you know by now that you should measure only what is relevant to your activity objectives. Otherwise, there are so many internet measuring tools out there, that you can spend the rest of your life measuring things that are neither critical, nor relevant to your campaign.

Let’s say your company sells shoes. And the Sales goal is to increase the volume by 20%. That translates into selling 1,000 pairs of shoes from the Spring – Summer ‘13 collection, known as “La Vampe”.

What would be the Social Media KPIs in regards to the sales objectives, for the period?

For example, something like this:

  • 10 000 likes on Facebook on the “La Vampe” fan page
  • 500 re-Pins of the shoes picture on Pinterest
  • 10 000 new click-throughs of links leading to “La Vampe” web content
  • 100 redeemed discount codes for “La Vampe” on the eStore.

It is important that you establish before you begin a Social Media campaign what data you want to track. It is equally important to have the means to correctly correlate it with the respective sales statistics. Now, this could be quite tricky if you don’t have access to data, which, depending on the company, can fall under the task of Sales, IT or Accounting departments.

In order to establish your Social Media activity contribution to Sales, here are some important numbers you should be able to track:

  • transactions per month
  • new customers
  • number of customers returns
  • amount spent per transaction
  • use of promo codes, vouchers
  • data from the same period in the past, to compare against.

Sales represent the most tangible business function, therefore the most obvious one to measure. But don’t let other functions, such as HR, Customer Support, Marketing & PR, go off your radar. Your activity can have a positive impact and you want to add it to your achievements. Make sure you collect and compare data from these departments and measure the difference your campaign makes.

 

Can you think of anything else I may have missed when measuring the effect of a social media campaign?

Weather you are planning to start your online shop or you already have one, we’ve selected for you four very helpful web tools that have the potential to increase your online business success.

Shopping Cart

Order eCommerce

OpenCart is a great shopping cart tool for those who host and manage their own eShop. It gives you more control and customization, while it is not quite as complex and resource-hungry as other similar providers. OpenCart has multiple features and is easy to use, search engine friendly and with a visually appealing interface. The costs are quite reasonable and it offers thousands of high-end eCommerce themes. Other relevant features are: multi-currency, multi-language, product reviews, product ratings, unlimited categories, unlimited products, unlimited manufacturers, 20+ payment gateways and 8+ shipping methods.

 

Comprehensive Dropshipping Database

Comprehensive worldwide dropshipping

 

Worldwidebrands.com is a database of 100% genuine Dropshippers and Light Bulk Wholesalers that are willing to work with small online sellers. It represents millions of top-level wholesale products from thousands of certified dropshippers and bulk wholesalers that you can use for your online store or auctions. These are the same suppliers used by some big retail stores around the world. A new online seller won’t have to worry about falling for the countless wholesale scams that are everywhere on the web.

 

Web Chat Software for online shops

Say hello to your customers, ZopimZopim embeds a chatbar on your website, so that any visitor can chat with you directly by clicking on the chatbar. Just like in a real shop, Zopim allows you to have live conversations with visitors on your website. You can engage and satisfy visitors, and by doing so, you convert them into loyal customers before they move on to the next site! It’s reasonable priced (also features a free simple version), and can be easily used by placing a customizable chat widget on your website. You can start having genuine conversations with visitors within minutes.

 

Online Accounting Tool

Easy to use web based accounting toolYou need to count your hard-earned online money and one of the best web solutions is Xero. They pride themselves for being the world’s easiest accounting software. It connects to your bank accounts, and imports and categorizes your latest banking, credit card and PayPal transactions. It also connects with your customers, manages cash flow by scheduling bill payments and sending invoices automatically.

Xero manages all aspects of your business by picking from a range of powerful add-ons for CRM, inventory, timesheets and job management, plus other specialized tools. And then there are payrolls, fixed assets, expense claims, budgets, complete financial reporting – all done when and where you need it: at work, home, or on the go.

 

 

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