Get in touch: +44 (0) 8436 580757

Author: Cherise Duesbury

HomeArticles Posted by Cherise Duesbury

Curated Stock Images ideal for Designers

We’ve been a little quiet here on the Edge Digital Blog… but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been hard at work developing great websites and running successful Digital Marketing Campaigns for our customers!

Keep an eye out for an update on our Portfolio page to see what we’ve been working on.

Now that we’re back, we want to share with you a few of our sources of the incredible free stock image sites we use and love!

Update:

Since we can’t get enough of these sort of sites and are always on the hunt for more, we thought we would share some more we have been enjoying recently. Afterall, you can never have too many resources when it comes to sourcing out great visual content!

Albumarium

4820878341_5d726118be_o_d

tumblr_mpp6mqgvvh1st5lhmo1_1280

A project by Vilem Reis, Albumariam has a series of niche categories to browse in from ‘red heads’ to ‘smoking’. You can probably find whatever you’re looking for here, no matter how obscure it may seem.

Superfamous

dscf1223_1250

superfamous images

It may be a more limited and smaller collection than others, but it’s definitely the case that it’s quality over quantity here. The design of the website is as unique and intriguing as the shots chosen by the creators- Los Angeles design agency Superfamous.

Jay Mantri

babyelephant

breakfast-burrito

A personal favourite of mine, all the images on here are simply stunning. A little different to the others, every photograph here is special in some way with the collection full of texture and colour.

Barn Images

barn images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

barn images

Although only launched a year ago, Latvian photographers Roman and Igor have created an impressive collection of images. Labelling their site as providing ‘non-stock’ stock images, all the content is unique and fresh and far from the standard cheesy stock photos. We have to agree, that there are photos on here that you can’t find anywhere else, and even better, the site is updated every weekday.

Free JPG

free jpg

f100006469

With a variety of categories to scroll through, Free Jpg files a range of images from an array of topics. Launched in 2008, the choice of photos of every topic imaginable means the site is continuing to grow in popularity, and we can see why! The ‘popular’ and ‘top rated’ option also makes sourcing the best current images, easy.

StockSnap.io

stock image of building

stock image of ipad

In our opinion, Stocksnap is one of the top up and coming sites for free stock photos, with over 40 new stunning images added every day of the highest quality and resolution.
Browse through their selection and bring a unique character to your website or blog with a photo from a talented photographer, free of cost.
All photos are released under Creative Commons – CC0.

 

 

Life of Pix

stock image of big bubble

stock image of ocean at sunset

Life of Pix contains a collection of high resolution photos, neatly organised into categories, making it easy for you to find the exact photo you need whatever the project.
They add 10 new photos every week, with no copyright restrictions.

 

 

Gratisography

stock image of chameleon

woman walking with balloons

A project by web designer Ryan McGuire, all photos are taken by him, and are free to anyone for commercial or personal use.
There are some brilliant and interesting photos available on this site, with more added each week!

 

 

Pixabay

resort pool and palm trees

stock image of peaches

One of the bigger free photo sites out there, Pixabay has over 300,000 free photos, vectors and art illustrations.
They are well known for their HD quality images, available for anyone to use.

 

 

Unsplash

stock image of street and buildings

pebbles on beach

Unsplash provides a wonderful variety of images from many different subject types.
All in superb high quality, all from extremely skilled photographers, and all completely free for anyone to do with what they please.
10 new photos are added every 10 days.

 

 

Picography

stock image of tree trunk

stock image of mojito

Picography, created and run by web design company Hidden Depth, allows anyone to submit their own photos to be distributed under the Creative Commons licence.
The Picography team carefully select which photos they publish, making the site a treasure chest of beautiful images.

 

To Summarise…

Whether it’s for personal use, a blog, a business website or advertisment, talented photographers are providing us with an unlimited amount of breathtaking images available for anyone online. Take advantage of sites like these! And be sure to always give credit to the photographer where possible, out of courtesy.

Let us know which of our Top 6 you like the most in the comments below. And if you have your own favourite site to get free stock photos, tell us! We want to know!

Web Agency Vs. Website Builder

5 Reasons Why You Should Go To a Web Design Agency Instead of Using a Website Builder Site

If you’re a start up or a small business with a limited budget, it may be tempting to cut costs by using a website builder like Wix, Weebly, or GoDaddy. Web designers are expensive, especially if you want top quality. (And since your website is your company’s face to the world, you want top quality.) But builder sites aren’t the way to go for any business that wants to impress clients and grow. If you’re not ready to invest in a real website, there are a number of ways to grow your business without one. But builder sites are not a good alternative. Here are five reasons why:

templates

Your website should be special and unique to you. It should represent who you are and what you offer. Using a template from a site builder will make your presence on the Web look exactly like that of any number of other companies and individuals. This means you won’t stand out from the crowd, and you may even have a site that looks a lot like those of your competitors. Limiting yourself to the few templates on offer at a builder site will also get in the way of your branding, because it’s unlikely that you’ll find a template that matches the aesthetics of your logo. Finally, the templates can look cheap, cheesy, or bland giving a bad first impression to anyone seeking out your services, whether or not they recognise it as a template.

formatting issues

One of the ways that site builders limit your ability to customise your website is that they typically offer just one page. This means your site will be pretty one-dimensional. You can’t have separate tabs for different products, locations, or features of your business, and you’re limited in terms of the data that you can store online.

Builders also often use Flash, which is not at all search-engine friendly and can be hard to open on certain web browsers and platforms. For example, Flash doesn’t work very well on Apple mobile devices. So if you count anyone with an iPhone among your customers, it’s best to avoid builder sites. Flash is also inefficient, consuming a lot of power and making browsers slow. This could mean losing potential clients who don’t have the patience to check you out. Finally, Flash is famous for its security issues, so site builders could leave your website vulnerable.

costs

Builder sites advertise themselves as low-cost or even free, but they tend to be more expensive than they initially appear. Some give you a free trial and then start charging you. High-end sites might charge $30 a month, which means $360 a year, which you’ll have to continue paying as long as you have the site. Compare that with hiring a design agency, which might cost you the equivalent of a few years of service at a builder site, but in the form of a one-time fee. With a real website the only overhead is the cost of domain and hosting renewal, and that’s manageable even on the tightest budget.

google

Google hates sites created by site builders. The use of Flash contributes to this, but using a builder also means that your site can’t be verified by Google’s Webmaster Tools. This is an advanced feature that allows you to monitor crawl rates, web traffic, and problems with your site like broken links. It’s absolutely essential if you want to use your website to grow your business, and you can’t make use of it if you’re hosted by a site builder. Additionally, because of outdated analytics technology, builder sites tend to give an inaccurate picture of how your website is faring in terms of traffic. Google analytics is the only way to go for this kind of analysis, but it doesn’t always work with sites created by builders.

advantages of a web design agency

If you’re looking to stake out your business’s permanent space on the web, there’s no better option than a web design agency. Agencies are invested in your success. When you hire them, your website becomes another key piece of their portfolio, so they have an inbuilt incentive to do excellent work for you. As your business grows, so does theirs. Builder sites on the other hand are looking to use you as free ad space, by plastering their “this-site-was-created-by” banner across the bottom of your page, which doesn’t help you in the least.

Agencies also come with the advantage of free support. Builder sites might have a support team, but sometimes you have to pay and often the department is understaffed. This could mean long frustrating hours on hold when problems arise. With an agency you’ll often have developed a relationship with the team during the building of your website, and you’ll have someone you can call up personally if you run into a problem.

Again, it may not be time for your business to start a website, but when it is make sure you invest enough to create the web presence you deserve. This means hiring a web design agency to create a real, customized website suited to your brand, product, and client-base.

Continue Reading

5 Ways to Grow Your Business Without Having a Website

A good website can go a long way towards growing your business. But it’s also a big investment — expensive both to launch and keep up.
This poses a problem for start-ups running things on a shoestring, because website development is one budget that you don’t want to skimp on. A bad website will turn potential clients away before they even have a chance to find out what you’re offering.

The good news is that there are many ways to grow your business without a website, all of which will allow you build capital first, so you can invest in high-quality web developers down the line. Here are five platforms that you should make use of if you’re not quite ready to shop for a domain name.

 

LinkedIn Logo

LinkedIn is far and away the best place to build business contacts today. Given that all your potential clients, competitors, and hires are on it, you should be too. But since everyone’s here and not everyone will be a boon to your business, you have to be strategic about who to talk to, just like at a networking party. Use the website’s advanced search features to find exactly who you’re looking for.

Don’t connect with just anyone. Read each profile carefully before sending a request, to make sure it’s the kind of quality connection you want to be making. When you do decide to reach out to a given company or individual, make your message personal. This will heighten the likelihood of a positive response. If you’re the one that sends the LinkedIn request, you should also be the one to build the relationship. Suggest a meeting or phone call to discuss how you might work together. Finally, one great way to benefit from LinkedIn is to look for ways you can help. The connection will be stronger if there’s something you can offer the people you’re reaching out to, instead of just trying to sell your product or services.

 

Pinterest logo

Pinterest is an attractive and affordable way to tell your company’s story and connect. It’s a great tool for driving brand engagement, especially if you’re trying to reach a diverse audience. Just make multiple boards targeting different client segments. It’s also an excellent way to drive sales directly without a website. If you’re a retailer you can Pin beautiful images of your products along with punchy descriptions of how they can be used. And once you do have a website you can build web traffic by linking each Pin back to your domain and leaving a Pin It Button on your home page so people can share your content easily.

 

directories

The yellow pages may be kaput, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an Internet equivalent. Online directories are an often-overlooked resource for new companies. It’s as important as ever to have your company listed—including your name, hours, contact information, etc. In addition to factual details, directories like Yelp offer another precious benefit: the customer review. With an average of 142 million unique visitors each month, Yelp is an excellent way to get your company noticed. Since it can be tedious to sign up for multiple directories, use Moz Local to see where your listings could be improved.

 

referrals

Referral may be the old-fashioned way but it’s still the gold standard of getting the word out about your services, and it’s a missed opportunity for many entrepreneurs. Once you’ve done high quality work for a few clients, they become an invaluable resource for spreading your good name. It’s important to broach the subject at the right time; aim for just after the delivery of the final product or completion of the project, when the deal is fresh and customer is feeling satisfied.

You might also offer a reward — a discount on future services, for example — as an extra incentive for the client to give you a stellar reference. It’s also a good idea to put a system in place for referrals to cut down on the workload involved. For example, project completion can come with a standard follow-up survey for the client to fill out, with information on your business which they can forward on to their contacts. Whatever system you put in place, make sure to follow up on your referrals.

 

local-media

Businesses looking to develop in a specific locale can make use of various local media to grow. For example, if you’re having a launch event, try to get it listed on your town website or listserv. This could be excellent free publicity. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to local media outlets — newspapers, news channels, bloggers — and they’ll spread the word about your event for you. PR is valuable in its own right, but it also drives SEO. Once your website is up and running a few online video and news articles will send you right to the top of searches.

The Digital Marketing RFP Guide for 2015

Are you just about to dust off a Request For Proposal (RFP) that you used three years ago? Think again. In order to make sure you find a digital marketing agency that delivers the project completely and to your full specifications, it’s time to think more creatively. There are many advantages to putting in this legwork well before the RFP invitation is to be mailed out.

A successful RFP clearly outlines the ultimate goals of a particular project. The timescale – and timeline – are equally important to get right, as is the decision on which agencies are to receive the RFP. However, even an RFP that succeeds in covering these basic requirements can fail overall. Remember that an RFP is, in part, a document that is designed to sell your company to creative and talented agencies, and that these agencies will be receiving many such documents from other companies, some of whom will no doubt be your competitors. Preparation, therefore, is everything!

Firstly, if you are working with multiple teams, internal communications can sometimes need fine tuning to make sure the RFP properly reflects the needs of each group. Secondly, a good RFP can save you time in the early stage selection process, weeding out those entries which have merely been sent as a copy & paste response. Thirdly, it is very easy to find an agency who will tell you that they can deliver the work, but if you are looking for excellence as opposed to adequacy, then a well-researched RFP will push agencies to respond in kind. We have drafted our 2015 Digital Marketing RFP Guide to help you meet these three objectives, as well as taking you through the structuring of a new RFP from start to finish.

 

Producing a detailed scope of work

When working across a number of different internal teams (from Sales and Marketing, to IT and Senior Management) the chosen agency may be required to meet distinct objectives for each team. At the very beginning of the RFP consultation process, organise a series of short, punchy meetings to discuss everyone’s ideas on how the new agency should work with the existing team structure. Ideally, the discussion should address points such as: identifying individual team members who will act as contact points for the agency; frequency of communication and method; scope of work to be addressed, and timelines for completion. Using the key points expressed in each session, draw up a list of overall requirements and email back to the teams for approval. If any of the points are particularly technical or jargon-heavy, ask your colleagues to reword them appropriately. Sometimes this initial consultation process can reveal some conflict areas, for example with the framework for delivery, so be sure to ask the individual teams how committed they are to certain deadlines.

 

Getting the questions right

Once you have pinned down the precise tasks involved, start drafting a list of questions to form a checkbox of objectives. Make sure your questions are open-ended and do not overlap. Here are some example questions to help you think about the correct phrasing for your own:

  • What is your method of calculating bids for low traffic keywords?
  • Which, if any, SEO tactics are you opposed to?
  • What is your approach to researching audiences, and what are your preferred tools?
  • What methods do you employ to deal with both seasonal traffic and one-off promotions?
  • How do you approach international geo-targeting?
  • What are your tools for, and methods of testing paid searches?
  • What can you offer in terms of (for example) mobile SEO? How about international SEO?
  • How many of your existing clients have suffered search engine penalties?
  • What will we need to do (or provide you with) in order to make the project a success?
  • What is it that makes your agency better/more efficient than your competition?
  • In what areas has your agency led the Digital Marketing field recently?
  • Are you able to give us information on projects you have completed recently for clients of yours that operate in a similar field to us?
  • Are you happy for us to contact these clients (for recommendations)?

 

Be open to what a working collaboration really means

A check-box layout of objectives (as designed above) ensures that your RFP outlines the full technical requirements, but make sure to include at least a few sentences which clearly define the overall project and its aims. Also in this short synopsis, set out the history of the project – are there any ongoing issues that would be helpful for a responding agency to know? This is where many personnel recruiters go wrong – by not acknowledging singular features of the role because of a belief that organisational weaknesses should not be made explicit. A successful agency in this RFP hiring process will become your colleague in the future, so if there are any obvious internal challenges, it is best to be upfront about them and see whether the RFP response brings back any solutions.

 

Be clear on the spec

It’s important to be as clear as possible on what kind of volume you are expecting for the project, so that responding agencies know to address any issues around capacity or deadlines. Some smaller agencies that work with freelancers will want to demonstrate that they can match the requirements of the work, and will need to secure relevant contacts to match the extent of the work. Similarly, thinking in terms of any creative work that falls under the scope of the project – do you have a clear idea of how you want the work to be undertaken, or is the project a blank canvas for the agency to work with? A brief that includes a creative element will need to factor in design proofs and approval into the timeline of project delivery.

 

Technical compatibility

We cannot really stress this point enough. Sometimes an agency that might seem right for the job in every other respect, is experienced with software that differs from your existing technical setup. In many cases, these technical skills are transferable, but making an adjustment can sometimes incur a cost element attached to working with a new system, or extra training for staff members. Consequently, this oversight can prove costly and can quickly put a serious strain on the working relationship, not to mention delaying the project fulfillment. If changing your existing technological setup does not form part of the RFP remit, then be certain to stipulate this. Make sure also that you ask for proof of working within your chosen parameters.

 

Explain how the successful agency will be selected, and your measures of success

Usually, an RFP sets out a blue sky vision of what their dream project looks like, but is less transparent about their priorities within this. It is unlikely that any agency will be able completely to meet all the objectives set out within the RFP, so it can be useful to mention the most important aspects. Too many RFPs do not mention how the eventual project will be assessed: whether reports will need to produced with qualitative or quantitative data, for example.

 

Think carefully about realistic time scales

Ideally the final, approved RFP will be completed in enough time to leave at least a couple of working weeks for the agencies to come back with a response. Setting a deadline which is too far away may cause it to be put on the back burner, or forgotten completely, so do not be too generous with the final turnaround time. Equally, take into account the usual office workflow calendar. It should be obvious that you’ll need to allow extra time if it is around the Christmas period or over the summer months, when many of the people needed to contribute to the proposal response are likely to be on holiday.

 

Discuss how to frame the question of budget

There are pros and cons when it comes to talking about the project fee. On the one hand, if you are looking for the best deal, or are unsure about what figure to realistically put on this piece of work, then there is a danger that you will set a budget that is way off the mark. On the other hand, many agencies may presume that the project is not definitely going ahead if a clear budget is not stated, and will therefore not bother responding to the proposal request. The best way to be certain of getting value for money is to ensure that enough RFP submissions are received to allow for comparison. If there is a knowledge gap in your team on how much the project should be priced at, then we suggest you take independent advice and then set a realistic bracket. If an agency thinks it can significantly undercut this figure and create an advantage over its competitors, then it is likely to do so, regardless of your quoted figure! A good question to ask will concern the breakdown of the agency’s fee structure, as this will show you where they view the highest costs in relation to your project.

 

Do you have all the answers?

No. That’s partly why you are looking for an agency to look after this particular piece of work. This is frequently the case when it comes down to a question of coding or technology; many people have a vague idea of what is missing, but are not completely sure how to put that into words; it’s quite likely that they may not fully understand the range of options open to them. Give prospective agencies a chance to show their creativity and expertise, with a real example task or scenario included within the RFP demands. If this proves tricky, then why not include a ‘Tell us something we don’t know” section to see what comes back? How they handle this challenge will also be an easy way to differentiate between submissions, when the time arrives for making a shortlist after the submission deadline. It may also save you from receiving regurgitated and unhelpful case studies that were produced for other clients.

 

Think about the RFP process in the same way as personnel recruitment

In other words, save some of the finer points for agencies which make the shortlist. At some point you will want to know the background and bios for each of the people on the proposal, but let’s be honest – it’s unlikely to be a deal breaker in the early stages. The RFP is a chance for you to get a good idea of the overall approach that an agency may take in handling your project, but ask for too much information and even the preliminary knockout round of decisions will be time-consuming.

 

Proof-read!

It is all too easy for the meaning of a sentence to be misconstrued, or the mode of application missed. If you don’t want to be bombarded with queries regarding a minor technicality in your RFP wording, get a colleague who has not been involved with the drafting process to proof-read the document, and point out whether any sections are ambiguous or contradictory. As with a job listing, make sure that the deadlines and desired mode of submission are consistent in formatting, made bold or underlined, and repeated in the document.

 

It’s ready to send! But to whom?

Most RFP submissions take a while to put together, and as a result, many business development teams make a judgement on how many to apply for at one time. Projects which seem unlikely to be won are eliminated. Sending a personal note out to the working teams alongside your finished RFP document can make all the difference, and can also encourage agency new business teams to invest time into replying with a carefully taiIored response. It will be likely to save you from having to plough through irrelevant submissions, or submissions from agencies whose capacity or location mean that you could never consider them anyway.

The Inbound Marketing Campaign 10-Point Checklist

 

With an ever-increasing number of people selling their services or products online, the competition to win new business via an inbound marketing campaign is growing. As a selling strategy, inbound marketing frequently saves money, leads new customers to your business, and can help to make even a subtle change in business direction a lot easier. However, campaigns often fail, and while this is usually down to really quite simple reasons, it can discourage people from persevering with the technique. In our 10-Point Checklist for Launching Successful Inbound Marketing Campaigns, we have brought together our most useful pieces of advice, based on experience gained from running multiple campaigns. Read on, and check whether you have missed anything!

 

  1. Think about your business goals

Creating an exciting offer that will substantially grow your customer base in a new direction requires some thought into the overall strategy of your business. See this offer as a first step towards the direction you would like to see the business going in five years time, and plan accordingly. As well as putting time into making sure the offer will be attractive to new customers, think about the amount of resources (defined in time or money) you are prepared to invest in determining the success of the deal.

  1. What kind of customers are you trying to reach?

If there is a specific audience you want to target, first think about the kind of offer that would tempt them most. It is helpful to think about the lifestyle and user habits of the desired customer, in order to make an informed decision on what would be tempting to them. For example, is this a person who would be more attracted to a lower priced product or a free item with every sale?

  1. Framing the offer on your website

Once you have decided on the offer that will draw new customers in, spend some time brainstorming different ways to frame the deal on your website. Within your team, test out a variety of landing pages to come up with a version that persuades the visitor to continue with their offer purchase. This is best done through trials of copy language and tone, and most importantly – images.

  1. Make it as easy as possible for the customer

If the offer looks difficult to access, is poorly communicated, or is hidden on the landing page then potential customers can easily be dissuaded from continuing to sign over their details. There are also some easy search engine optimisation techniques, such as adding in certain keywords, which will boost your page to searching customers.

  1. Promoting the offer

Most of the hard work has been done – but now you need to make sure the offer gets enough attention. The easiest way to do this is to blog about the offer, both on your website, and any other sites with which you have associations or direct partnerships. It might sound obvious, but within all the blogs posted on external websites, make sure that you provide direct links to the offer landing page, and always test out the links to ensure that they are not broken. Review the existing content on your own website – can any old posts be quickly updated to include links to the new offer?

  1. Share, and share widely

Many people hear about offers through links shared by their friends or followers on social media. If social media channels have not previously formed part of your online strategy, then it’s definitely time to get connected. You can easily synchronise the posts on your website to automatically publish across different networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. Before you create multiple accounts however, think about which social media channels your target audience are likely to be using – and concentrate on those. To be successful on social media, do not solely market your offer, but put it in the mix with other content. Make sure you have some analytics tools in place to track how many referrals to your site come in via the new channels, and use this information to work out what types of messages share best.

  1. Be consistent!

While the offer is running, do not post content twenty times one day, only to then have a gap that stretches into the following week. Remember that, at any one time, only a fraction of the people you are trying to reach are likely to be online, so schedule your posts or social media content to match the hours when your target customers are probably surfing the net.

  1. Do not rule out paying for additional online promotion

Most of the tips so far on this checklist have required minimal additional financial outlay, but there are options out there if you want to guarantee landing page views. Whether you invest in paid search advertisements that link through to the offer, or try promoted content on social media channels, sometimes these more traditionally commercial approaches can save a marketing campaign that is not performing as well as expected. You are not usually locked into paying continuously for these options either, so with even a small budget you can experiment with what works for you.

  1. Are your inbound marketing processes integrated into a daily, weekly or monthly diary?

Choosing an offer and marketing it well is not a difficult task, especially if you are following our 10-Point Checklist! However, consistency is key to a successful inbound marketing campaign – and many of these tasks, such as writing a blog post or navigating social media, can be incredibly time consuming. To make sure that your campaign meets its promotional targets, try making an outline of the shape of your average working week, and identify particular time slots which might work best for different activities. Many people find that first thing in the morning is the time at which they concentrate most, so if this sounds familiar, why not schedule a difficult task for then? If you are working with a team of people, think about how you can delegate various responsibilities across the project lifespan.

  1. Have you created specific materials to follow up with visitors to your site?

Hopefully, following the techniques above will bring a lot of new traffic to your website via the offer landing page, but the art of successful inbound marketing is not just about selling the offer. Remember that the campaign began as a way to create a new customer audience – and think about creating a strategy to turn new visitors into repeat customers.

 

If you need more advice on running your inbound marketing campaign, or wish to speak with us to see how we could help you, visit our Digital Marketing page or contact us today.

SME Social Media Strategies You Can Implement Today

The simplest way to think about social media marketing is that it is simply a cost-effective way to network across a variety of communities, from businesses in your local community, those in the same sector, to directly communicating with potential customers. Drop in embedded links to your website, and social media also becomes one of the more powerful ways to market your products.

However, there is an ever-increasing number of social networks out there: Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are perhaps the most recognised platforms, but Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and LinkedIn also have a committed body of users. It’s a full-time job to keep all of these accounts going, so how does a small business marketer decide which ones to use? Answer these four questions and then follow the tips below to quickly create an effective social media strategy for your business…

 

How to Decide Which Social Networks to Use

 

SME Social Media
What social networks do you enjoy using?

If you are going to invest a significant portion of your time cultivating a particular online community, then it’s not unreasonable to prioritise your preferred networks! These networks will also tend to be those in which you feel most confident, and, since the functionality of social media networks is constantly developing, you will naturally keep up-to-date with changes that happen. Facebook is one example of a social network which is continuously tinkering with updates to its service, such as the recent news that businesses will soon be able to showcase products directly on the Business page.

 

 

SME Social Sites
Which ones can you access easily?

If you usually find yourself scrolling through social media feeds on your phone, you might want to think about concentrating on social networks that have more sophisticated apps and mobile-friendly services.

 

 

 

 

 

SME-Time-for-Social-Media
How much time do you have?

Try to be realistic rather than optimistic in your estimate, as the answer will have an impact on which social networks are feasible. Some small businesses opt to outsource their social media activity after answering this question, but if you do not have enough cash to justify this company expenditure, then you’ll need to come up with a social media strategy that works with the amount of time you have.

 

 

 

efd

Where do your target market spend their time?

Go to where your customers are – if your main customer base identifies most with Tumblr, then spending hours on updating Pinterest boards may not lead to any profitable results. Equally, there are certain networks which may work better to promote the type of product you are selling; consider whether using video will best demonstrate the product’s assets.

Hopefully the answers to those questions will help you to determine which social networks are the most effective ones on which to focus your energies. In any case, getting to know which social networks perform best for your business is often a question of time, so make your best guess and move onto these proven tips that you can implement today.

 

 

 

Top Tips to Quickly Boost Your Social Media Presence

 

 

  1. Seasonal promotionsseasonal-promotions

A lot of people use their social media accounts to share good times that they have with their friends and family. This means that if it is coming up to Christmas, Valentines Day or another cultural festival in your calendar, then social networks will be flooded by people who are on holiday and have more time to spend looking at posts online. Think about how you could capitalise on this surge in online activity – perhaps posting a new seasonal product range or launching a competition. The prize could be potential gifts, discount vouchers or another experience, and is an easy way to quickly gain Likes or Followers.

 

 

  1. Join in the #conversationsocial media tips

A number of social networks organise real-time hangouts for people to connect online. If you are a craft business for example, then you might think about being present on Twitter for #handmadehour on a Tuesday night. Many of these hangouts give you a chance to promote your name and work within your sector, as well as the opportunity of being retweeted or introduced to a wider audience.

 

 

  1. Add pictures and links wherever possible!pictures-and-links

Some of the more successful business orientated social media accounts often adopt a more friendly, personable tone than the more formal language on a professional website. However cynical we may be about the proliferation of cat pictures on the interwebs, there is no denying that people do like to share cute pictures of baby animals. In fact, a good image, photograph or infographic can make many people click through to your content, or share it across their own networks. Before posting a tweet or image, ask yourself whether you would share this piece of content and let that answer help to shape your business’ online persona.

 

  1. Schedule your posts in advanceSchedule your posts

If you are exceedingly short on time, then this tip is perhaps the most valuable one to you. A platform like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck will let you schedule tweets for multiple accounts, meaning that you do not have to be constantly alert to site notifications. If linking to a website, blogpost or other piece of content, it’s a good idea to think of a few different posts that you can schedule around the clock. Do not be afraid to repeat well-performing posts, since the chances are that not all of your followers will have seen the original the first time around.

 

 

  1. Keep an offline notepad to jot down inspirationoffline notepad

One of the more time-consuming aspects of social media is trying to think of what to say. As with most creative ideas, inspiration for a tweet or Facebook post might come to you while on a run or during lunch. Do not risk distraction by logging into social networks as soon as the thought comes to you, but note down the idea in a jotter pad. When the time comes around to scheduling social media for the week ahead, these ideas can be wrapped into one task. The time delay is also useful as a precautionary measure – allowing you to correct errors and craft the message to perfection!

 

 

  1. Work out when your followers are most activedownload

There are a number of tools out there which can help you establish when your twitter followers are online. Peak times for social media use frequently tend to be first thing in the morning, towards the weekend and last thing on a Sunday night but who knows, perhaps you have a strong following overseas in different time zones? If this is the case, then try scheduling posts (see tip number four above) to match your early birds in San Francisco… or wherever in the world they may be!

The Busy Entrepreneur’s Guide to: Rich Snippets & Google’s Structured Data

Whenever you use a search engine like Google to find a product, company or service, very often a short piece of text will appear immediately below each search result. This brief caption is called a ‘Rich Snippet’ and represents a small snapshot of key information from that listing. As an example, here’s a location specific Rich Snippet for Edge Digital:

Rich Snippets Google Data

While focusing on such a short paragraph might sound like a pointless detail to an online marketeer, effective manipulation of that Rich Snippet could be the reason that a new customer clicks through to your website rather than anywhere else. This is where the coding becomes interesting, because Rich Snippets can be crafted to suit the core message of your platform in a variety of ways; pulling out product detail, flagging five star reviews or linking directly to your site’s social media networks.

 

Getting Started with Rich Snippets

In order to create a Rich Snippet, it’s important to learn how content is generally read and interpreted by the major search engines such as Google. Structured data markup is the insertion of a piece of code, written according to a specific vocabulary and usually invisibly embedded within your site. When internet search engines scour your site for information to populate their indexes, the mutually recognised code will be re-digested into a Rich Snippet.

In fact, this information goes further than just Rich Snippets; Google and other search engines will also use this information to index your content more effectively, using it to power new and developing tools such as Google’s Knowledge Graph for authoritative content.

If you are unsure of whether structured data already exists on your site, then visit Google’s Structured Data testing tool. The testing tool asks you to enter your website’s URL and is the easiest way to reveal any working structured data already active on the site.

How to Implement Structured Data Markup on your Website

First, visit Schema.org or Google’s Structured Data testing tool to work out which type of structured data is most appropriate to enhance your website for a target audience. If you are not sure which library to use, here’s a note on differentiation: Google’s tool is far more user friendly (especially to the uninitiated), but the Schema.org vocabulary supports a more extensive range of options. In any case, both library tools contain the vocabulary to support structured data markup for the most common types of data to promote, including Products, Recipes, Reviews, Events and Software Apps.

Creating Tantalising Rich Snippets

The best way to think about selecting the most useful data to markup on your site, is to think about your overall business objectives in attracting an online audience. If it is an e-commerce site or other selling platform, then highlighting vocabulary tags such as Product and Price are going to be quite influential for a shopper skimming search engines for the best deal. This is also a good place to label the top selling attributes of your product. On the other hand, if the website supports a physical shop that can be easily coordinated using Google Maps, then perhaps Location, Telephone and Opening Hours would be more useful.

Alternatively, consider boosting reviews to Rich Snippet status. You can markup data using an ‘aggregate rating’ so that the Rich Snippet contains a reviews average from across the web. (Obviously, before selecting this option it is a good idea to double-check that such a rating will reflect positively on your brand or product!)

You can find some more helpful examples of the different ways to markup data to suit a particular business purpose here.

Deciding on a structured data markup format

The second major task is to decide on which markup format to use. That’s right, more choice! On the markup table currently are JSON-LD, RDFa, RDFa Lite and microdata. As a general rule, RDFa and microdata can be used for basic structured data markups but JSON-LD (the most recent addition) can be easily embedded within a script tag in the HTML. Currently Google suggests using JSON-LD for more powerful websites which contain data pertaining to Knowledge Graphs, Sitelink search boxes or Event Related Rich Snippets.

Testing whether your Structured Data Markup is Working

Whatever data format you choose, the structured data will need to be tested in order to make sure it works. We suggest you do this using both Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool and selecting another at random from this comprehensive list of external validators.

Why Isn’t Your Website Getting The Traction You Need?

Marketing trends, particularly in terms of web design, don’t just happen randomly – at least not always. Things change, and online they change fast and often, with consequences that can catch out small business owners, SEO’s and digital marketing people. In recent months, for example, both Google and Facebook have altered the way they analyse website content, in some cases creating a need to re-evaluate your online marketing. Trends don’t just happen because they’re trendy – the trick is in understanding the underlying reason they become popular. In this post we’ll look at the trends and issues you’ll need to be on top of in 2015 in order to maximise your website’s traction.

 

Staying Relevant

Staying Relevant

Google’s changes – which happen on a regular basis – are (according to Google, anyway) entirely focused on removing poor quality, spammy sites from the top of its results page. It’s an ongoing process that’s designed to improve the experience of the user, delivering more relevant results.

While there’s a whole industry devoted to keeping on top of these changes and working around them, the underlying message is an important one; producing fresh, interesting, relevant and engaging content is always going to be a good idea, both from an SEO perspective and in terms of engaging your potential customers. The same can be said of recent changes to Facebook’s news feed; recycled ads and spam-style promotional material is going to be weeded out of news feeds, partly because it’s clogging the feeds of people who just don’t want it – and partly because Facebook wants you to pay if you’re going to advertise.

 

Fresh Content

Fresh Content

So how do you create attractive, engaging, fresh and exciting content, staying high up in page rankings and connecting with potential customers in 2015? The trends we’ll look at are popular because they do just that. Arresting images and video content are in, and getting more important all the time, while slabs of text, spammy rehashes of content and stock images are out, and they’re not coming back.

Technology itself drives trends; as mobile connectivity overtakes desktop use, and increased broadband speeds are coupled with ever-better screen resolutions (and bigger formats, like the iPhone 6 Plus), mixed content will become more important. Adding video and rich media used to be a bit of a minefield for web designers and marketers, as some visitors would be lost to slow load times and format issues. Now, though, online video has come of age. It’s far more engaging than text, more likely to be shared, and can even push you up the rankings – as long as your mantra is “quality over quantity.”

 

Targeting & Social Media

targeting social media

Secondly, think about targeted marketing; Facebook may be trying to squash the organic reach associated with its news feeds, but it’s still worth considering using its paid ads, simply because the targeting tools are so useful. In terms of overall social media strategy, you should ensure that you have one! If at all possible, assign a dedicated team and concentrate on effective use of the most relevant platforms rather than trying to be everywhere just because you think you should.

 

Make It Snappy

make it snappy

Attention spans aren’t going to get any longer in 2015. Short. Snappy. These should be your watchwords. Spending time and money creating microdata to drive people to your landing page is a waste of time if, when they get there, they’re confronted with something that’ll make their eyes glaze over. Rather than blocks of text describing what you’re about, consider using explainer videos (Dropbox being a classic example) and video presentations.

 

UX

website user experience

Why do people pay big money for Apple products? One reason is UX – user experience. Fans of these products like them because they’re simply pleasant places to be, slick and exciting to look at, and intuitive to use. Getting UX right in terms of website design is something that can represent big initial investment – but in the long run it should prove to be more effective at converting visitors into customers, and (if you’re listening to your customers) should save you money on tweaks.

 

Layout Trends

Layout Trends

Now let’s take a look at layout trends for 2015. The way websites were laid out in previous years tended to stick to a fairly strict idea of what worked and what didn’t. Things are more flexible these days, partly because website building software has offered a wider range of options.

Single image backgrounds are already massively popular, helped by the fact that they’re easy to incorporate into responsive design, optimising UX across multiple platforms and devices. Split screen and 3- and 4- block design continues to work well. This may mean that more websites have a similar basic layout, so the design of individual elements (while keeping them consistent with the overall brand message) will be more important; lettering is one example where you can make your design unique.

Of course, budgets constrain what you can do, and site builders get better all the time, but if your budget runs to an art director, use one for originality and consistency of vision. The most important overall message for 2015 is that content must always be top quality; not just because it’s the only way to engage people, but because Google and others are going to both require it – and become increasingly good at recognising it.

How to Overcome Facebook’s Recent Changes

Facebook might seem to have been around for ever, but internet time works differently from normal time. It’s not even ten years yet since the world’s biggest social networking site was opened to people outside the US, and yet many small business owners and marketers have found it an invaluable way to connect with new and existing customers. However, changes are inevitable, especially in such a relatively new medium. Recent adjustments to the way Facebook works have caused a lot of businesses to stop and think about whether it’s worth continuing with their current Facebook strategy – or even whether it’s possible.

News Feed Changes

The changes were announced towards the end of last year, with the intention of implementing them in January 2015. Essentially, their impact is intended to be a reduction in the amount of promotional content that users see in their news feeds. In a November 2014 blog post, Facebook execs explained that they’d polled “hundreds of thousands” of users, asking them what they wanted to see more or less of in their news feeds; perhaps unsurprisingly, a large number of them replied that they wanted more posts from friends and family, and fewer from companies and brands.

Ads and Promotional Posts

At this point, it’s important to note the difference, in Facebook terms, between a promotional post and an ad. The former is something that a user might see in their news feed having “liked” a page or a post created by a corporate user. The latter is simply a paid ad, and users have the option of hiding ads they consider irrelevant – or just annoying. Facebook argues that one of the problems with promotional posts has been that some marketers have simply been reissuing advertising content as promo posts, and that there’s no appreciable difference between a promo post that tries to sell a product, or get users to download an app, and an ad.

Facebook Conflicts

There’s obviously an inherent conflict between a site that was initially designed to be a way for people to stay in contact with friends and family, and a site that makes literally billions of dollars from marketing budgets. It’s a conflict that needs careful management in order to keep users from deserting the site.

Organic Reach

Up until now, marketing success on Facebook has been measured in “organic reach” and “paid reach”; essentially, these refer to unique views of anything about your company’s Facebook pages in news feeds, as opposed to the number of unique views of a paid ad. A number of articles have appeared recently that claim that Facebook’s new measures herald the death of organic reach. Is that an exaggeration, or is it time to ditch Facebook and move your time, money and energy somewhere else?

Firstly, it should be noted that well before the current round of changes were announced, a Facebook blog post admitted that organic reach was already in decline. Author Brain Boland (head of Ads Product Marketing) explained that users’ news feeds were becoming increasingly clogged with the bewildering amount of content that’s created every day, partly because smartphones and other touchscreen devices have made uploading material so much easier. Of course, the number of businesses using Facebook for marketing is also on the rise, as is the number of users. It was inevitable that at some point, there would have to be a “weeding out” of news feeds if they were to remain a useful (or even usable) source of information.

How To React

Note also that specific types of posts, particularly sweepstake entry offers and anything that might as well be an ad, will be most likely to be frowned on by Facebook. So perhaps it’s not quite as earth-shattering a development as it might seem at first; and in fact, if fewer page posts are appearing in a user’s feed, surely your post reach is likely to be higher?

The key to successful marketing on the site in the future will be to concentrate on top quality Facebook content. You can think of the changes as an attempt to de-spam Facebook, so if you’re producing engaging, original, well-presented material already, you might see an advantage.

Engaging Content

Arresting images and well-produced video are known to be far more engaging than text, for example. If you’re posting a link to some new text content, keep the link short and sweet. A hundred characters or fewer works well.

Some stats seem blindingly obvious once you’re aware of them; Facebook posts issued towards the end of the week (when huge swathes of the global workforce have mentally checked out for the weekend) do better than those posted on Monday. Interact with your audience – after all, it’s supposed to be “social” media, not “issuing of pronouncements” media. Ask questions – and take the time to answer them.

One point that should be clear in marketer’s minds is that Facebook accepts paid ads; it just wants you to pay for them, rather than try and sneak them in as posts. With that in mind, it’s worth spending a little time checking what Facebook says about what it considers to be “high-quality” posts. Given that overly pushy, even spammy posts are generally disliked by users anyway, perhaps the most important tip is to ask yourself this question: Would I want to see this in my own news feed?

 

What do you think about Facebook’s changes? How have they affected the way you use/see Facebook posts? Comment below, we want to know!

Guide to Google Analytics for Small Businesses

googleanalytics header

If your business has any presence on the web, and you are not using Google Analytics, you are missing half the equation. This Google Analytics Guide for Small Businesses is in two parts. Part 1 looks at what Google Analytics is, and how to set it up, Part 2 looks at some more advanced things it can do for you.

Part 1

What is Google Analytics?

There is an accepted saying in marketing that a prospect needs seven points of contact with a marketing message before they make the decision to purchase. This could be through a website, social media, display ads, and so on. Each of these has an effect on the final purchase decision. Google Analytics provides you with powerful tools to gain in-depth information about traffic on your website, and best of all, it’s available for free. You will have (or should have) clearly defined goals for your business’ activity on the web. Google Analytics provides the means to discover whether they are being met, which activities are producing the best returns, and which are a waste of time.

Why Use Google Analytics?

  • Being a Google product, it integrates seamlessly with other applications, such as AdSense and Adwords.
  • It gives you insight into where visitors to your site are coming from as well as what they do whilst on your site.
  • You can optimise your marketing campaigns on the fly as data comes in.
  • You can evaluate your website from a visitor perspective.
  • It can assist with separating visitors into segments according to where they are in the sales process.
  • You can customise the dashboard with just the reports that are most useful to you.

How Does Google Analytics Work?

Google Analytics uses cookies and JavaScript to monitor web traffic. Cookies are small text files stored on awebsite visitor’s computer, which identifies that visitor, and allows you to differentiate between, for example, first time and returning visitors. This does mean that if visitors have blocked cookies or JavaScript on their computer, Google Analytics cannot track their visit. For this reason you should view the data you get from Google Analytics as high level trends, not as fully comprehensive down to the individual visitor. There is more information about Cookie use by Google Analytics on the Google Developers site.

How to Implement Google Analytics on Your Website

1. Go to Google Analytics and click on Create an Account. Note that you can choose to monitor a website, blog, or a mobile app. Google calls these “properties”. You have the option to set up profiles which can track different aspects or subdomains of a particular site, giving a filtered data view. You should always have at least one profile which collects all data about a site. Note that if you delete a profile, all the data collected for that view will be deleted. More information about Accounts, Profiles and Users including common scenarios for using Accounts, Profiles and Users can be found on Google’s Support Pages. 2. Add the Google Analytics Tracking Code to your website When you set up your account, Google generated a unique “snippet” of code which needs to be added to the source code of the pages you want to monitor. The tracking code can be found under the Admin section of the Google Analytics Dashboard. Select the correct web “property” and click the Tracking info tab. Copy the tracking code snippet, and paste it into the page(s) you wish to monitor. Note that if you are using a content management system, you may only need to add the code to the “parent” level, which will then be propagated down through the site hierarchy. [IMAGE: Tracking Code Snippet] 3. Verify the Set-Up There are tips on several ways to verify that your tracking code is correctly placed on the Google Support Pages. If it is correctly set up, you should begin to see data in the various default reports.

taggingemailsgoogle

What’s on the Dashboard?

Just like the dashboard of a car, the Google Analytics dashboard brings together a lot of information and displays it so that you quickly get an overview of how your website is performing. Dashboards belong to profiles, and, although there is the facility to share with other profiles, they will initially only be visible within the profile in which they were created. Each profile can have up to 20 dashboards, each having up to 12 widgets.

Widgets

When you begin using Google Analytics your dashboard is populated with default reports displayed as individual widgets. The dashboard menu is on the Home tab. Each widget displays data in a choice of forms, metric, pie chart, timeline or table.

Filters

You have the option to apply filters to each profile. This gives you a great deal of control over the data you see. You can combine complex data sets into higher level groupings, or choose to include or exclude sections of data. You should not apply filters to your main overview profile, because you need to always maintain one profile which is monitoring all aspects of your site, in case you wish to report on it later.

What Can You Measure with Google Analytics?

feat-hed-curve

Google Analytics has some powerful tools, and it can be quite intimidating initially to know what you would be best to monitor. The key is to think about your business goals for your website.

Visitor Engagement

Google monitors how long visitors stayed on your site, and which pages they viewed during their visit, giving you an idea how well the content on your site met their needs and expectations, and a measurement of your visitors’ engagement with the site. Other data useful in this respect is the number and frequency of return visits. Visitors who return frequently, spend a long time on the site and click on links are likely to be highly committed fans, who will help you when you come to launch a new product.

Traffic Sources

Google tracks where visitors to your site came from, giving you an insight into which sites are referring visitors to you, and which keywords your visitors used to get to your site. You can monitor this in real time, to see the effect of an Ad campaign, for example.

Content

The search sub-report will tell you which of your pages are attracting the most visitors, how long they stay, and how many clicks are coming from RSS feeds. The site search reports show how successful visitors were in finding what they were searching for on your site.

Ad Words

If you use AdWords, you have access to a range of reports for traffic resulting from your adverts. You will want to monitor these carefully, to ensure that adverts are generating quality, converting traffic that is meeting your goals for the campaign. Some ads might bring in a small number of visitors, yet have a high conversion rate (the number of visitors who take the required action – clicking a link, downloading a report, buying a product.) If you are getting a high number of visitors who leave without completing the required action, you might need to reword your ad, or change your landing page to better manage visitor expectations.bizbloom

Social Media

You can easily see the effects of social media activity on visits to your site, and analyse where and when posts get the best response.

 

 

Part 2

Alerts – Automatic and Custom

Google Intelligence reports monitor your Analytics data to quickly identify unusual patterns of behaviour. Automatic alert data are collected every day, without you needing to set anything up. Current data are compared to previous, and an alert triggered where anomalies are detected. Google Analytics will assign a significance rating to each alert, based on the degree of difference between current and previous activity. You also have the opportunity to define custom alerts, watching for events that are critical to your business. SMS and/or email notifications can be set up so you will always know when an alert is triggered. Custom alerts can be set up to monitor an Adwords campaign, identifying when revenue from the campaign rises or falls, for example.

Goal Tracking

Setting goals and tracking them will confirm whether what you are doing justifies the investment of time and money. Increased traffic is easy to count, but not sufficient, since without conversions there is no real benefit. Each profile can set up to 20 goals, which immediately start collecting data. They cannot be deleted, but can be suspended. Each time the goal’s conditions are met – someone clicks a download link, spends a certain time on a page, etc – it is recorded. These events are called “conversions”. Goal categories include Revenue, Acquisition, Inquiry and Engagement; and there are four goal types: Destination, Duration, Pages/Screens per visit, and Event. Destination Goals monitor a particular URL, which might usefully be a “Thanks for signing up!” page. Duration conversions trigger when a visit lasts a specified time. Pages/Screens monitor how many different screens are visited in one visit. Event conversions are triggered when something happens, like a video is watched or an ad is clicked.

focusgoogleGoal Funnels

You can choose to monitor the path visitors take to a goal. Include pages from your site that you might expect visitors to go through on their way to triggering the goal, so that you can see, for example, at which point they decided to make a purchase or drop out. This is called a goal funnel. You will be able to see whether people are coming via your home page, or direct to your landing pages. You can then use the goal flow report to analyse not only where visitors are coming from, but also what they look at on the way to making, or not making a purchase. You can then make changes that keep them on track.

Multi-Funnel Tracking Using Google Analytics

Visitors to your site interact with it in various ways. The final link they clicked on before triggering a conversion event may not tell the whole story. They may have visited several times before deciding to download or make a purchase. Google Analytics provides five multi-funnel reports which will track visitor interaction with your different channels over the 30 days prior to conversion. In this way, you get a full picture of your visitors’ engagement with your site. You will be able to tell if they visited three times before deciding to buy, and how much time elapsed between first visiting and completing the purchase. Conversion paths track visitor interaction through referral sites, social networks, search engines, and links in email newsletters, allowing you to really analyse what is assisting the final goal conversion. Reports will show what channels visitors tend to interact with first, last and during the conversion cycle. In this way, you can identify which channels are most effective for encouraging interaction at each stage of the conversion cycle. You can find a video walk-through of the multi-funnel reports on the Google Support pages. Google also provide a “Customer Journey to Online Purchase” tool, which walks you through benchmarked data for various industries, showing how the final decision to purchase can be tracked.

customerjourneygoogle

Advanced Segmentation Using Google Analytics

Segmentation allows you to divide up data to show only a subset of traffic to your site. For example, you could show only visits from purchasers. Custom segments may be defined, but some are provided. Segmentation is different from filtering, since segmentation works retrospectively, and you can create a report which compares segments side by side, whereas you can only ever see one profile’s data at once. You can apply combined dimensions and multiple values to data in segments. Set up advanced segments for each report you want to apply them to. Navigate to the report, choose the advanced segments button near the report title, click ‘create new segment’, and define your segment by selecting appropriate elements. Google Analytics provides small businesses with invaluable data on which to base sensible marketing decisions. Without it, you could be pouring money into a black hole.

The End?.. Your Methods & Tips

Phew! thats all the tips we can muster for now! Please share your methods, tips and tricks in the comments below, and share this guide with others who may find it useful!

Continue Reading