Before we start… What is a”winning homepage”? Your homepage is your brand’s welcome mat on the web. People will stop there before crossing the threshold to your website content. They’ll form an impression about who you are, how welcome they are, and how you treat your guests. A winning homepage is one that does a great job with all of those things. Think about the welcome mats of your friends & relatives. There’s your festive aunt who has a personalized mat for each holiday, the dog lover with “Wipe Your Paws” out front, and the sibling who sorely needs to replace their threadbare mat (it’s so useless, you don’t bother wiping your shoes on it!) What does your welcome mat – your website homepage – say about your business? (Pro tip: Be like your aunt!) How do you invite people in? Do you send the right message, drive users deeper into the site, and help qualified visitors do business with you? That’s what a winning homepage does.  Let’s talk about how to make one.

1. Pop Quiz, Hotshot: In 30 Seconds or Less, What Are You?

From the instant a visitor lands on your home page, they work to figure out if they’re in the right place. You need clear statements about who you are, what you do, and why a visitor should care.  The goal is to help qualified visitors stay on the site and move towards an objective, and to help unqualified visitors hit the “back” button. What I’m saying here isn’t new and isn’t different from how newspapers have been drawing in readers for years.  For years, visitors have been wanting instant answers from homepages – Neilsen Norman Group supported this when suggesting a website’s homepage use a One-Sentence Tagline back in 2002! Here are a few websites where you can know what they’re about in 30 seconds or less: “Inbound marketing is complicated. Moz’s software makes it easy.” https://moz.com “Create Surveys, Get Answers.” https://www.surveymonkey.com/ “Design T-shirts Online” http://www.customink.com/

2. Make It Embarrassingly Easy to Get Around

Every website has two goals to achieve – your goals and your user’s goals (and hopefully those are aligned!)  You must know your users goals, then design these areas to help them get what they came for:

  • Make menus easy to locate, easy to read, clearly worded, and don’t use too many menu items.
  • Use sections below the header to highlight specific topics and give calls-to-action.
  • Have an easy-to-find search bar and easy-to-read, accurate search results.
  • Don’t forget to consider all of the devices they might be using to complete a task on your site!

3. Show Them A Company They Can Trust

You know you are an ethical company and your customers know they can trust you, but new visitors don’t unless you give them a reason.  Inc.com’s Jayson Demers sums it up in 11 Simple Tactics to Increase Trust Online: “People do business with those that they like, know, and trust.” New visitors use a variety of signals to tell if you’re trustworthy, including:

  • Well-known symbols like the BBB or Norton logos
  • A lock symbol in the address bar (or an https:// in your domain name indicating an SSL is used on your website)
  • Testimonials from other clients or a list of clients with logos
  • Social links to your other profiles and pages
  • Availability of a Privacy Policy / Terms & Conditions page

 


Now you’re on your way to a winning homepage that helps the right visitors get things done on your website.  What other ways are you going to achieve your website goals in 2015?  


 

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Joomla Websites Under AttackIt is common knowledge that there are legions of hackers trying to gain access to websites around the world. It is accepted as part of having a web presence that someone (human or automated) will try to attack your site many, many times each day. We have recently learned of an unusual spike in such events, and wanted to share it with you.

Many websites are built using a content management system such as WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal.  The developers behind these plataforms work hard to fight hackers and spammers from gaining access to your website.  They do a good job of blocking most attempts. Despite their diligent efforts, however, it does happen. This past couple of weeks we have heard from a few colleagues and clients that their websites have been hacked.  All of these sites have been built on the Joomla! CMS platform. This is causing issues ranging from website downtime to complete server failure.  Repairing a site after these hacking events have been very time-consuming, and, in some cases, has involved the need to rebuild the entire website.

As we have been repairing these websites, we have had conversations with industry insiders – reputable internet authorities at the big web hosts – and have been told that Joomla! sites have been specifically targeted and are being hacked at an alarming rate over the past week.  They are not only hacking sites of big companies, but are also attacking sites of companies as small as one or two employees. According to one industry insider, the method of “how to hack” these sites has been published on hacker websites and it’s become a free-for-all among their community.  In short: Your website WILL be hacked.

If your website is built on the Joomla! platform, especially if your site is on a version prior to Joomla 3, it has been at risk, but is now that risk has increased greatly. We strongly recommend that you consider moving your website off the Joomla! platform, and to a more secure CMS.

If you would like to learn more about how to avoid a potentially serious issue with your website, or would like to move it to a more secure platform, please call us or contact us now to get started with a website upgrade.

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Kickstart Your Goals for 2014It’s that time of year again.  Time to set some goals.  For many, goal-setting is an oft-dreaded activity, one where you sit in front of a blank screen or sheet of paper, infected with writer’s block, unable to bring anything of value to mind.

What about setting goals is so difficult?

It’s a number of things, the most powerful of which is tied right into our humanity – the fear of failing.  The fear of setting a goal, not reaching it, and dealing with the feelings that follow.

I’m here to tell you that not setting a goal is a far worse failure than setting one you don’t achieve.

Just because you haven’t written down your goals and tracked progress on them doesn’t mean you’ve missed the mark in some way – by avoiding the “making goals” part, you’ve just given yourself an out from the guilt, but I guarantee you it’s going to creep up in some other, far more detrimental way.  You’ll have to let an employee go because you aren’t making enough to keep them on.  You’ll have to cut Christmas bonuses next December.  You’ll have to stop charitable programs or community outreach.

“That stinks!”  I know.  So let’s get started with some Kickstart Tips for Goal Setting!

1.)    What do you WANT, and what do you NEED to get it?  Want to be the best at customer service in your market?  You need to get an extra $30,000 from your top-line to afford customer service training for staff.  How can marketing help you do that?  This is a great way to start rough-drafting your goals and gain momentum –  stuff you can get excited about.

2.)    Get back to the basics.  Revisit your mission statement, your core values, and the dream you have for your business.  Have you been on track in the past year’s efforts?  If you lost the way, what happened?  If you did a good job in creating your mission statement, and you truly believe it, weaving it in to your goals will make them much easier to achieve because they’re aligned with your beliefs – your purpose.  And it’s much more fulfilling at the end.

3.)    What’s bugging you?  In the last year, what’s come up most often at team meetings? What battles have you been fighting? What problems have you sought help with that are still unresolved?  Create some goals about tearing down those barriers and putting those issues to rest.

4.)    Everyone says it because it’s true. Make your goals SMART.  You may know about SMART goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timebound.  Whether you are familiar with them or not, it’s easy to miss a step when you add 5 new steps to creating one single goal.  Make sure you don’t miss a beat by using a SMART Goal Template designed by our friends @HubSpot.  http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33898/How-to-Set-SMART-Marketing-Goals-for-2013-TEMPLATE.aspx

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AdWords Success Tip: Prioritize Your Campaigns

 

Working with Google AdWords you quickly learn: It is one thing to create and monitor the activity of a campaign. It’s another thing to know what actions to take based on the data you collect. You’ll see AdWords Success when you learn to Prioritize your Campaigns.

Out of my own frustration, I researched and came across a system to analyze and improve campaigns, turning what used to be a drudgery into a relatively easy and enjoyable task.

It’s called the Growth-Share Matrix, created by the Boston Consulting Group in the early 1970s. Applying their matrix, I came to understand that all AdWords campaigns fall into one of four categories:

Stars:  The campaigns that are both profitable and popular.

Workhorses: The campaigns that are very popular, but generating little money – or you’re losing money on them.

Puzzles:  The campaign with a low cost-per-click for one of your most profitable products, on which you get to the first spot with little trouble, but after weeks, there are zero impressions.

Dogs: This campaign is unpopular, and on the rare occasion that you do get a click, it’s at such a high cost you don’t make any money on the conversion.

AdWords Success Tips

Click here to download a PDF of the chart

How to Prioritize your AdWords Campaigns

In the end, you want a portfolio of Star campaigns. Here is a step-by-step process to follow:

First, identify your Star campaigns.

  • What aspects of this campaign are working? The URL?  The Headline?  Is it easy to show up in the first position? Take the best elements of your Star campaigns and apply them to poor performers.

Next, let’s tackle the Workhorses.

  • If you are on “Automatic bidding,” switch to Manual Bids and lower them.  With all other aspects of the campaign being equal, you may have a good click-through volume at a lower cost.
  • Look at the quality score.  If it’s below 6/10, you could likely raise it for a lower CPC.
  • Cut Bad Keywords!  If you’re using a keyword with high cost-per-click, consider cutting it completely.

 Time to solve the Puzzles.

  • People like what they see when they actually SEE this ad.  Is there an opportunity to increase impressions by adding more keywords & ads?  Think about other search terms being used for this product or service and consider them.

 Consider Letting the Dogs out.

  • Can anything be changed to save this campaign?  Is it worth saving?  If the low performance is impacting the account overall quality score, consider pausing it indefinitely or deleting it altogether.

Once you have sanitized your campaign portfolio using this method, you’ll need a plan to monitor, evaluate and improve campaign performance going forward.  We recommend categorizing campaigns by their performance at least once a week.  Over time, you’ll find it’s very easy to identify the campaigns in seconds!  If your time is limited, always attack campaign improvements in this order:

  1. Dogs
  2. Workhorses
  3. Puzzles
  4. Stars

 

 Keep at it and within weeks you should see better performance on all your campaigns. Little by little, you’ll end up with a portfolio of Star Campaigns!

Lucid Business Strategies

 Lucid Business Strategies helps people like you build and grow a revenue stream throug Google AdWords.

email for info or call (586) 254-0095.

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4 Reasons Blogging is Better for Business than Twitter

Blogging compaired to TwitterWhat am I, crazy?

Am I suggesting that you stop with the 140-character thing and get back to writing articles? Don’t world communications revolve around Twitter?

To answer the first question, there was a Waylon Jennings song some years back titled, “I’ve always been crazy, it keeps me from going insane.” Enough said on that one.

Now the other two: It’s true that the general public in entranced by Twitter and its usefulness in smack talk about famous people and bringing down nasty political regimes.  But it’s not the strongest platform if you’re serious about establishing authority and relevancy – two factors Google includes in the search engine results page (SERP) equation.

Your blog is the real foundation for your content and social media strategy. Here are 4 reasons why:

1)      Twitter is popular because it is easy and immediate. As for its relevance – well, a 3rd grader could do it. Blogging takes time, thought, research, and planning, and if done correctly, requires that you continue over long periods of time, with consistent frequency.

2)      Old articles are valuable and often read years later because they rank well in the SERPs for the keywords on which they are built, and add to your authority. Old Tweets… well, forget it, because everyone else will.

3)      Most blogging platforms give you some form of analytics – you’ll see just how many people are reading your posts, which posts garner the most interest, and a host of other factors that can help you build stronger relationships and more business.

4)      As Adam Singer of Future Buzz says, “Everyone on Twitter is looking for the next big thing to link to. Wouldn’t you rather be that big thing instead of merely another person pointing at it?

Think about blogs and tweets in terms of food:  A tweet is a snack. But your customers want a full-course meal. They want to be engaged, they want something interesting enough to satisfy their hunger. You simply cannot give them that in 140 characters.

 The Take Away:

Blog first, then tweet. Write your very best content – content that proves you know your stuff, content that compels the reader to engage, to think, to act – then tweet the link, and include it in your next e-newsletter (you do have one, don’t you?). Do it consistently and over time you will see results.

Yeah – Crazy like a fox.

Lucid Business Strategies

 

Lucid Business Strategies helps people like you grow your online relevance, authorship and revenue.
email for info or call (586) 254-0095.

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The Flip Side of Google AdWords “Automated Intelligence”

AdWords Pay-Per-Click ServicesBe careful when you let Google do the thinking for you in pay-per-click!

Last week, one of my Google AdWords clients ran through their entire ad budget within a few of days. That might be fine for some campaigns, but in this case, the plan was for those dollars to take them through the entire month.

When I received the “low balance” notice from their AdWords pay-per-click account, I had one question:

What is Going on Here?

The first thing I do when there is unusual activity in an AdWords account is check the account balance. The best information about what’s happening with an under-performing, over-performing, or just downright confusing AdWords campaign is right there, under the Billing tab.  And sure enough, the balance had fallen to a whopping $0.01!

What keywords were costing my client so much money?

I headed over to the Search Terms Report – the place in AdWords that shows you the exact search terms people entered that caused Google to show them an ad.

The client was advertising for participants in an study about ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), but much to my surprise, the keywords driving clicks to the site were things like, “add songs to your ipod,” “adding lawn seed to soil,” “add reminder,” and just plain “add” – all ranging from $5 to $36 per click.

Why people searching for how to add songs to an ipod would click on a link to an ADHD Study is a question for another day. Suffice it to say that the monstrous costs per click and the number of clicks from these bad search terms wiped out my client’s budget in a heartbeat, all because Google decided that “ADD” was a suitable synonym for ADHD, and showed my client’s ads to people searching with those terms.

As a Google AdWords Certified Professional, I know when it’s the right time to call Google directly, and this was clearly it.

I knew exactly what the problem was – my campaigns were set to “use close variants” of my keywords. Google is pretty forgiving and willing to return credits for these types of mistakes, so long as you take the steps necessary to avoid it happening again. Realizing the potential of more ADHD-related keywords improperly attracting searches including the word “add,” I changed the settings so that the campaigns run only for the exact spelling of my keywords – no close variants. Google agreed to credit the client’s account.

The Lesson Learned: Think about & research what words Google might consider as a synonym or “variant” of your keyword before starting, or you might be out of cash before you know it!

Lucid Business Strategies

 

 Lucid Business Strategies helps people like you SPEND LESS and EARN MORE through pay-per-click marketing programs.
email for info or call (586) 254-0095.

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Video or Podcast: Which is Right for Your Business?

Video or Podcast: If you are a business owner it is no longer a question of whether you should invest in internet broadcast such as YouTube or a Podcast. The only question is: which is right for your business?

 Don’t Assume Others Like What you Like

Videos-icon39-Podcast-iconWhat works well for you might not work for your best friend. I’m a visual learner, for example. Video attracts me. I rarely listen to podcasts. I often “tune out” the radio as I drive around town. My friend Maureen is the opposite. She’s a podcast junkie, rarely watching a video and paying close attention to every word on the talk radio station she loves.

Don’t assume others like what you like. Consider your audience carefully, and search out research that allows you to see trends in the behaviors of the people you wish to attract.

 Weigh your Content

Video requires two senses – vision and hearing – and full attention. Podcasts require only hearing, which means some people will multi-task, giving only partial attention to the broadcast. The more your viewer/listener needs to think, the more senses you should include.

Is your topic light or heavy? Does it require people to “think through” something, or is it intended more for entertainment? Run your content through the Fleisch Scale for a better understanding. If your content is rated “difficult,” you’ll need to rewrite your script.

Short is Sweet

At a recent video shoot for a client, our President and Lead Consultant, Jeff McElyea, chatted with the videographer recommended to us by Comcast. He told Jeff that Comcast recommends business videos be only about 2 minutes in length, and podcasts only 30 seconds – like a commercial spot. Both are meant to promo your company with “fast fact” info. Anything much beyond those guidelines and you begin to see dramatic fall-off from viewers/listeners. This suggestion is backed by HubSpot research, which shows that 33% of viewers move on after watching just 30 seconds of a video. 44% leave at the 1-minute mark, and 60% bail on your video after 2 minutes.

 On the Lighter Side

A while ago our Marketing Specialists, Erin Vezzetti, came upon a YouTube video that has become the “poster child” for the type of work we like to create. The commercial, which based on Erin’s research cost about $5,000, has been viewed 10,821,818 times as of today. They have 110,000 followers on Facebook. What made this 1.5 minute video a smashing success? The attitude, the approach – poking fun at themselves and their business while presenting a great deal. But would it do well in a podcast? I don’t think so. Take a look and see what you think!

Lucid Business Strategies

 

Lucid Business Strategies helps people like you build profitable companies and great social media marketing strategies.
email for info or

call 586-254-0095

 

 

 

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What Your Social Media Photo Says about You

Social Media Profile Photo

What does your Social Media Photo Say About You?

Maybe you think that photo of you and the grinning kids at the beach shows your “fun side.” Maybe you think a sardonic smile and half-wink makes you look sophisticated.

The truth about Social media profile pictures is that it doesn’t matter what you think. What matters is how you are perceived as a result of that photo – and the impact it can have on your business or job prospects.

In a recent blog post, DuctTape Marketing’s John Jantsch says “Don’t settle for that phone ‘selfy’ bounce shot off the mirror or the ‘look how arty I can be’ shot… get a series of professional shots done.”

The First Impression Factor

Ron J. Williams, CEO of Knodes & SnapGoods, and one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People In Business, says business networking is a lot like dating, and the online dating industry has tons of data on the impact of a first impression.

The Dating Site OKCupid did a study in 2010 that looked at the number of contacts made based on three factors of the photos:

  • Attitude. Are you smiling? Looking into the camera or away from it? Are you flirting?
  • Context. Where are you? Is there alcohol, a pet, or other people in the photo? Are you inside, or outdoors?
  • Skin. How much skin is showing? How much face?

They found that a small change in “facial attitude” increased contacts as much as 30%. The really fascinating part is what worked best based on gender:

  • Women smiling directly into the camera received more contacts than those that looked away from the camera.
  • Photos of men facing away from the camera and not smiling drew more response than those that smiled into the camera.

The study also shows that traditional headshots get better results than the one in your waders with the big fish you just caught, or the cuddled-up-with-your-pooch shots. No matter how you look at it, first impressions count, whether the viewer is looking for a date, vetting you for a job offer, or considering doing business with you.

Take a fresh look at your Social Media profile Photo. What does it say about you? Is that the impression you wish to give?

 Lucid Business Strategies

Lucid Business Strategies helps people like you build profitable companies and great social media strategies
email for info or

call 586-254-0095

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Blogging: The Rule of Authority

On or off-line, people trust, follow, and share the wisdom and content of those they feel have greater authority than themselves. As children we accepted the authority of our parents, babysitters, teachers, the police, and clergy. When we matured, we also honored the orders of our boss, attorney, or doctor.

 Authority Holds Power

In an on-air stunt, a TV reporter dressed in a uniform and carrying a badge and baton placed a sign on the ATM that read “OUT OF ORDER – GIVE DEPOSITS TO GUARD ON DUTY,” then stood next to the machine.

“Do you need to make a deposit, or a withdrawal?” he asked as each bank patron approached.

Without hesitation, the customers handed over cash, checks, Social Security numbers, credit cards, account numbers, and PIN codes. In two hours time, the reporter gained access to over $10,000 in check deposits and account balances. Only one out of ten showed any signs of hesitation, even though they were all giving away private information that could leave them penniless if it fell into the wrong hands.

When the reporter ‘fessed up and asked the people why they were so willing to hand him money and private information, every one of them stated that the sign and the uniform gave him authority. [1]

Blogging: The Rule of Authority

Online Authority

Google and the other search engines give “authority” to people who have earned a following and share all they can on a given topic. The more “authority” Google ascribes to you and your web page/blog, the higher your page will rank in organic search results.

While the search engine authority equation is complex, the concept is simple: online, your authority is based on what other people say about you, which includes the number of other authoritative people who link to your site or blog.  As humans, we seek out the people who are credible, knowledgeable, and reliable. We give them authority, and when we see that someone else has the “blessing” of those authoritative people, we give them authority, too, so we link to them or subscribe to their blogs and feeds.  Why do you think unknown authors pay $10,000 or more for a two-sentence front-of-the-book “endorsement” from famous names? They become authoritative by association.

How do you Build Authority?

Aside from technical steps related to coding for Search Engines, there are quite a few things you can do. Here are four no-cost avenues with which to start:

Stories that STICK & Educate: “Sticky content” is the stuff that brings people back to your website again and again. It’s relevant to the reader, and it educates. Sticky Content is not loaded up with sales talk.

Great Headlines and Hooks: Without ‘em, you don’t have a chance to attract attention. 80% of people read only the headline. Only 20% read the rest.

Good Content Promotion:  Great Content + Limited Promo = Fail. Great Content + Great Promo = Great Results. Be consistent and strong in your promotions, but don’t load it up with sales talk.

Loyal Subscribers:  You can yammer on all you want about your favorite topic, but you are speaking into the wind if you don’t have a growing following. Offer incentives and/or freebies – an e-book, for example – when people subscribe to your blog, then stay in touch. Look them up on Facebook or Twitter and learn a bit about them, contact them and ask for their feedback. Show them you are interested in them, and your list will grow because they will talk about you to their network.

On or off-line, people trust, follow, and share the wisdom and content of those they feel have greater authority than themselves. Will you be one of them?


[1]  Story told by noted Copywriter Dean Rieck www.directcreative.com

Lucid Business Strategies

Lucid Business Strategies helps people like you gain authority online.
email for info or

call 586-254-0095

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How to Make Google Like Your Blog and Rank it Higher

Part of Google’s Matt Cutts blogging presentation at a recent Word Camp shed light on how Page Ranking works, and how to make your blog relevant to your readers as well as to Google.

In case you are new to the blogging world, page rank is one of the measures Google uses when deciding which websites or blogs to put in the results list on any given search, and in what order.

Google will like your blog and rank it higher based on an equation that includes:

Relevance and Reputation

According to Matt Cutts, the “relevance” side is drawn from what you say on your blog – the content you serve up. Like any other web page, your blog post has to deliver what it says. If your title is “Making People Laugh,” your content must be about making people laugh, not delivering newspapers. “Content” includes the images you use. Learn more about the relevance of image files here.

“Relevance,” then, is what you say in your blog. “Reputation” – the other side of the equation – is about what people say about you and the things you write.

How does Google determine if you are relevant and reputable?

The “Relevance” side of your blog comes from Google crawling your website code, looking to see if the page title and content and images all work together and cover the same topic. If they do, Google will like your blog and rank it higher. The “Reputation” side of your blog comes from the number of people who link to your blog, the importance of those people, the frequency of their visits to your blog, and how deep they go into your blog.

 Here’s a very simplified example of the Reputation side:

You and a guy named Joe both write blogs on the same topic. You have 10 links back to your blog from other sites. Joe has 20. Six of your ten back links are from the New York Times, famous authors, and other “important” people, who tend to come to your blog each week and invest time in looking at a number of posts.  All of Joe’s 20 back links are from his co-workers, friends, and a few of his college buddies, who have linked one time and never returned.

Guess whose blog ranks higher on the “Reputation” side?  Hint: it’s not Joe.

Three Things to do so Google will like your Blog:

  • Make sure your page titles, image names, and image ‘alt’ tags use keywords related to the main focus of the blog post.
  • Scatter the keywords throughout your content, but don’t “keyword stuff.”  Your content should be written naturally, not too sterile and without using the keywords so much that it’s uncomfortable for the reader.
  • Seek out people with authority in your subject who might be willing to link to your blog post. Be careful here so that you are not getting links from disreputable people, and don’t become obsessed with getting back links. When your content is good enough to be shared, back links will occur naturally.

Keep in mind that doing these things may not make Google like your blog and rank it higher right off the bat. But over time, and with consistency, you will see your relevancy, reputation, and page rank increase.

Lucid Business Strategies

Lucid Business Strategies helps small business owners create and maintain blogs that are liked by Google.

Learn more about our blog strategies and services by calling:

586-254-0095

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