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The Rules of Email Marketing

Posted by: on Thursday, June 27, 2013

Email marketing has certainly become a hot topic of late, as ISPs are becoming less and less tolerant of unwanted email sent to their users.

We’ve been paying close attention, and are hard at work on building improvements into Freedom to optimize your email campaigns.

In the meantime, remember these important concepts to ensure optimal delivery rates:

  • Only send email to people who explicitly requested to receive it from you
  • Do not purchase lists or collect email addresses online
  • If some of your emails are bouncing, do not continue sending to those addresses


Here’s a video with some useful information about how the rules of email marketing work, and how to adhere to best practices:

 
Other Blogs on Email Marketing

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Is it Time to Redesign Your Website?

Posted by: on Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Your website is a major part in your marketing strategy. Even if you have a store in a bricks-and-mortar shopping center, people will still go to your website. They want to know what you have to offer. They want to see your products. They want to see what your company and brand is all about. 

Your website offers a window into your company, your products or services, and what your brand stands for. Think of it as a critical member of your staff.

Is your website doing its job or is it time to redesign website?

Answers these questions:

  • How well is your website doing in the search engines against your competition? If your website is lagging behind on critical keywords, you need a new strategy for your website. The content on your website must be attractive to both visitors and search engine bots. If you are lagging behind your competition, something needs to change. If you cannot get visitors to your website, your leads will dry up and that means your sales will dry up.
  • When was the last time you updated your website? Many companies think that designing a website is a one time thing. They will spend money and time getting it setup. Then they will forget about it. They may have a blog update occasionally, but the rest of the website does not change. A non-changing website causes two problems. First, search engines will bring a site down in ranking when the content does not change. Second, visitors to your site will not return if you offer nothing new.
  • Do you have plenty of people coming to your website? Have you checked your website traffic numbers lately? if you are like many business owners or managers, you likely have not. You need to keep an eye on those numbers. You want plenty of people coming to the site and you want those numbers to stay steady or increase. Steady decreases or inadequate traffic are major signs you need a website overhaul.
  • How easy is your website to navigate? Ask a friend to take a stroll through your website and give you feedback. That person should have no issues finding information on your company, staff, brand, and products/services. Ask new employees to do the same. Poll trusted customers with the question. You may be surprised that your website is not so easy to navigate. If a new visitor comes to your site and has problems finding what they want, they will not come back.
  • Does your website display properly on mobile devices? Take your cell phone and bring up your website. How does it look? Have a friend do the same. Your website need to be friendly to devices of all sizes. If there is no other reason to do a website redesign, this one should decide it. The use of mobile devices is rapidly overtaking the use of desktops for web browsing. Your website needs to keep up with your competition.


Now the last question: Is it time to redesign website?

After answering the above questions, you likely have your answer.

Your website is something you cannot forget. You need a steady stream of visitors, even if you run a bricks-and-mortar store. You need content that changes and updates to keep visitors and search engine bots happy. Visitors should be able to find everything they want on your website without thinking too much. And they need to be able to do it from any device they have on hand.

When you are ready to redesign website, you need a good web design agency at your side to get the best results. Get started today.


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Website Redesign Checklist: How to Create a Great Plan

Posted by: on Monday, May 20, 2013

Would you build a house without a set of blueprints designed and signed off by an architect? Almost everyone would answer, "No, of course not." Well the same thinking needs to go into your website redesign. You need a solid plan complete with blueprints before you begin to redesign website. Without it, you will not know what you want the result to achieve.

Here is how to put together a great plan for your website redesign:

  • Analyze what you have. Have people go to the website and give you feedback. Run polls with current customers to see what is working. You may not need to do a complete overhaul. A thorough update can give you the same results as a complete redesign in some cases. Even if you go with a new design, you can incorporate elements of your old one that work.

  • Create a clear set of goals. Your analysis should have identified what is working and what is not. You may want to increase organic traffic. You may want to add more landing pages. You might want to start offering online courses or webinars. Set your goals and make them workable.

  • Look for examples of websites that you like and ones you do not like. Identify the elements that work for you and those that do not. You may have an absolute favorite web design. Show it to your designer. You may hate another. Show the designer. You may like certain elements on one page. Give those to the designer as well. It offers a solid outline of what you want.

  • Look at your competition. You want to keep up with what they are offering. If your competitor is offering online courses and you are not, that is a gap. If you have thought about offering webinars and your competition now does not, you need to get that prioritized. That will give you an advantage.

  • Make function the first priority, form second. You want a smoothly functioning website. Every aspect should be bug free and easy to use. Once you have that functionality down, you can add the pretty pictures and color scheme. An attractive website may get you compliments but a non-functioning one will get you no praise.

  • How can you increase user interaction? People like to take part in their web browsing experience. Your website needs to offer some level of interaction. It might be a calculator or a design tutorial. There are a million ways to do it. You just need to find the right combination.

  • Is your design mobile friendly? As you likely know already, more and more people are using mobile devices for browsing. That means your website needs to be friendly to those devices to connect with the most people. When you are planning to redesign website, you need to make sure that your designer takes this into account.

 

If you go through each of these points carefully, you can craft a blueprint to guide you as you redesign website. With that blueprint, you will know what you have, what you want to change, and how to get there. When working with a web design agency, they can help you build this plan. But, in the end, it is your website, it is your company, and you need to take control of the result.

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Why Website Redesign is Important To Boost Traffic and Leads

Posted by: on Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Would you pick up a magazine from 10 years ago to get the latest sports news or fashion trends? Of course, not.

Why do you think your customers would want to come to your website if you have not updated in 10 years? The answer is they don't. They may come back occasionally to see if you have anything new. But, when they see you have nothing new to offer, they will just not come back. This is why you need to redesign website regularly. It is critical for your long-term success.

Here are a few other reasons why website redesign is so important for your company:

  • Good content attracts qualified visitors. If your current website has outdated or low quality content, you are not getting the visitors you want. You need people who have an interest in your products or services. Those people want information on what is available and what you recommend. Adding content focused on that audience will help you keep those people interested in what you have to offer.

  • Valuable incentives will turn some of your visitors into leads. If you do not offer incentives, or have not changed them in a while, you need to make a change. Different people have different motivators. Adding varied incentives will grab the attention of more people. Plus, it will give you multiple channels through which to attract your ideal customers.

  • Quality content keeps leads and visitors returning to your site multiple times. If people find quality content on a subject they have an interest in, they will keep coming back. That means you need to keep updating and changing your website's content. Change it up by adding video and audio components. Failing to do that will diminish the return rate and lower your lead generation efforts.

  • Well placed calls-to-action (CTAs) can lead your visitors into the website further. A call-to-action is a piece of text or visual that directs people to do something on your website. You may ask them to sign up for your newsletter. You might offer them access to a white paper or ebook in exchange for their contact information. The CTA directs them in that direction. If you do not now use them, you need to change that. You cannot get people to do anything unless you ask them.

  • Offering case studies and testimonials builds trust. People want to hear what others are saying about your company. If you can present your company from the view of a customer in a positive light, you have an advantage. Case studies and testimonials both offer a positive statement about your products, services, and customer relations. It can show the impact your products and services can have on everyday problems.

  • Creating a mobile friendly environment will increase traffic. More and more people are using mobile devices to browse. In fact, in the next couple of years, the amount of mobile browsing will surpass desktop browsing. That fact alone should inspire you to add a mobile friendly web design.

 

These are just a few reasons why you need to redesign website routinely. Your company has likely changed in the past few years. Does your website show those changes? If it does not, you need a website redesign.

Get a top design agency at your side when you decide to redesign website. You will have the ability and artistic eye to give your online presence the boost it needs.

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5 Questions You Need to Ask Before Signing Anything

Posted by: on Monday, May 13, 2013

You are looking around for a new web design agency. You need to someone to build a website and manage it for you. That frees you up to concentrate on the core of your business. However, if you are not a web design expert, how will you know if an agency is the right fit for your company and its online needs?

Asking some essential questions can give you information about the agency. The answers will give you critical insights into whether the agency is a good fit for your company or not.

Here are five questions you need to ask any web design agency before signing a contract:

  1. How long of a contract do you require?
    Most people hire a design agency that will also host and support the website long-term. That is not a bad thing. But, signing a long-term contract is not the best idea. You need a company that will keep your website up to date. If you sign a three-year contract, you are locked in with that company. If their maintenance or coding skills go down, you are stuck. Sign no more than a 12-month deal, better yet, ask for a month-to-month agreement, ask the agency to earn your business each & every month, that way you can go with another company if the original one is not doing their job. Don't sign long term agreement.

  2. Who owns the website and design?
    Okay, you think you own your website URL and the design once the agency completes it. That is not always the case. Some agencies have a "buy-back" clause in their contracts. This clause requires you to pay a fee to take possession of your own website. So, you pay for the upfront design costs and pay for maintenance. When you want to move your website to a new company, you find that you have to pay the original company an amount to get the website in your name. Do not sign any contract with a "buy-back" clause. 

  3. Can you give links to five of your latest designs?
    Many web design agencies see a high-turnover in staff. That can mean their design quality can fluctuate if they lose talented people. A company's design quality is only as good as its latest examples. Look at the examples provided closely. Make sure they show consistent quality and offer the functionality you want. Also, contact the companies to which those websites belong. Ask about the service provided by the design agency. Was it done on time, on budget & according to the scope?

  4. Can you handle mobile-friendly designs?
    This question is critical. Every company needs to have a website that welcomes all browsers. If the agency does not have this skill set, your website will not see the traffic you want. Those who use mobile devices for browsing will not visit your site. With this as the largest growing way to use the Internet, you cannot miss that part of your audience. Take a look at the latest design they have done on a phone, tablet, laptop & monitor. Does it look great in all of them?

  5. What services are provided in your packages and what is extra?
    Many companies offer great prices for packages. What they do not tell you is that some critical components are missing. You may have to pay extra for services you thought were standard. Make sure you get a full understanding of what you are getting, what is extra, and what you need. It allows you to make an informed decision. Ask if they offer an hourly rate or a flat rate for custom add-on projects, you will be surprised of the answers. Some companies have a starting flat rate minimum of $495 per project, regardless of how long it will take, others have a $175/hour for any projects. Just ask and get it in writing.

 

These questions will give you the information you need from each agency to make an informed decision. Each web design agency is different. Their owners and employees have different goals that may not mesh with your long-term needs. Find an agency that fits your needs and keeps your website the way you want it and need it.

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What is Responsive Web Design Anyway?

Posted by: on Friday, May 10, 2013

Responsive web design...that is a buzz word you might have heard of in the last couple of years. But, what it is and why is it important for you to know about it?

Answer this question first. What is quickly becoming the most popular way to browse the Internet?

If your answer is mobile devices, you are correct. According to a white paper put out by Cisco, the use of smartphones increased by 81 percent in 2012. And 2013 will be the year when the number of mobile-connected devices surpasses the world's population.

Now, what does mobile devices and responsive web design have to do with each other?

Responsive web design offers a way to make your website friendly to mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops. With the explosion of portable browsing devices, having a mobile-friendly website design has gone from optional to mandatory. You need a web design agency who knows how to make your website mobile friendly.

How does responsive web design work?

Think about the critical difference between mobile browsing and desktop browsing: the size of the screen. On a desktop, you likely have a screen at least 19 inches. With your smartphone, you are lucky to have six to seven inches of browsing space. Tablets allow a bit more, but not anywhere near that 19-inch desktop screen.

Browsing a website built for a desktop with a mobile device is an exercise in frustration. The graphics are too big, the pages load slow, and the constant scrolling is annoying. To answer that problem, an innovative web designer, Ethan Marcotte, came up with the idea of rearranging and editing the website components depending on what size window the browser has.

This innovative idea was a major leap forward compared to earlier theories. For example, one common option is to have two different websites: one for desktop browsing and one for mobile devices. You are talking about twice the coding, twice the cost, and twice the maintenance. Not a good plan if you want to keep costs under control, but many big companies implemented this model. Some companies even created more than two sites by programming for the different types of devices. That created even higher costs and more chaos.

What makes responsive design so special?

Responsive web design offers better usability for mobile users which expands your company's potential audience. It lowers maintenance time and costs because there is only one to worry about. It offers a single URL to remember instead of separate ones for mobile and desktop browsing. Any web design agency you hire should know how to handle this type of design.

Today, mobile devices are rapidly overtaking laptops and desktops for Internet browsing. Creating a website that will meet this demand is imperative for your marketing efforts. Now, is this type of design the best solution for everyone? Not always. But for most companies, it is the beginning of creating the website they need for sales for years to come.

When you are ready to put out a new website design for your new or existing site, you need to go with a responsive web design. You need a web design agency that can handle the design. In fact, a question you need to ask any agency is for examples of their responsive web designs. That will give you an idea of what they are capable of.

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Learn How to Generate Leads from Your Online Efforts

Posted by: on Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What is the lifeline of your online business? 

The answer to the question will differ for each person that answers it. For one person it might be their healthy cash flow. For another it might be their key supplier. Still another might consider their wizard employee that critical piece. None of those answers are right. It does not matter how much money you have in the bank, who is providing your products, or who you hire.

The lifeline of your online business is your customers. To get customers you need a healthy flow of leads coming into your sales funnel.

How do you generate leads?

  • Know your audience - Your company has a target audience, even if you do not know who it is. For example, if your industry is home improvement, your audience is contractors and homeowners. If your industry is hip women's business fashions, your audience is business women in their 20s and 30s. Know your audience better than you know yourself. Create personas for them and tweak them as you learn more.

  • Aim for qualified leads instead of anybody who might come along - Many marketing experts recommend casting a wide net to bring everyone in. The problem with that theory is that you are spending your time, effort, and marketing money on people who have no interest in your product or service. Focus your efforts towards your target audience. You will get a few people come who have no interest. But, those numbers will be lower than if you cast a wide net. 

  • Build a valuable destination for long-term lead generation - Quality content is not a one-time thing. Once you have an array of content on your site, focused on your target audience, it will keep giving back over time. An article you wrote a couple of years ago may be just what someone is looking for. Look at your website content and lead generation as a long-term project.

  • Nurture your leads from the start - From the moment someone becomes a lead you need to make that relationship a priority. Send an instant thank you. Also, you might give them a section of your website not offered to others. You can send them special offers, invite them to webinars, and make them feel like a trusted friend.

  • Do not let leads go stale - A major mistake people make is not keeping the communications open. Now, you do not want to overwhelm a prospect with too many emails. But, you want to keep communications regular. Send out a weekly newsletter. Offer new blog posts every day or two. 

  • Be ready to adjust - Keep an eye on your analytics. When you see one marketing channel going stale, make tweaks or retire it. Put your efforts towards what is working. Look at what your competition is doing. If they have a winning strategy, see if you can steal a couple of ideas for your own work. 

If you can put these practices into play in your online business, you are miles ahead of most businesses online. You need to keep the flow of highly qualified customers coming into your sales funnel. First you need to know that audience and build a destination that will keep them coming back. Once they are in the sales funnel, you nurture them and keep your company on their mind. And at the end of the day, a flexible plan is always better than a single focus.

This is how you generate leads from your online efforts. 


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How NOT to Get Blocked with Your Email Campaigns

Posted by: on Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Email plays a major part in current Internet marketing. However, email is also one of the trickiest forms of marketing. People have grown super weary of spam in their email box. They will deleteanything they do not recognize or anything that might be spam.

Get Your Email Read

You want to get your email read. You want people to heed your call to action and click-through. Here are a few tricks of the trade on how not to get blocked with your email campaigns:

  • People look at the subject line first. Based on what it says, 70 percent of recipients willdelete the email. You want to be in the 30 percent that is kept. Make your title compelling and not sales-focused in any way. You want them to feel comfortable that your email is not spam.

  • People look at the "From" name next. A company name is much more likely to get deleted as spam than a real name. Use your name or a pseudonym. But, make sure you use it consistently. Changing names every time you send an email will raise suspicions that you are sending spam.

  • Previewing the email text is the third thing recipients do. If your says "Click here to view in HTML," they will delete it. Plus, it is boring and sounds blah, blah, blah. Yours need to start with something attention grabbing like "A brand new idea was born out of thin air..." That will tweak their interest and make them open the email.

  • The opening paragraph will make or break your message. Keep it short, sweet, and compelling. Tell them what you want to say in three to four sentences maximum. If it holds their interest, they will read further.

  • Keep the body short, less than half a page is preferable. Include bullets to offer concise information in easy to digest bits. Once a person reads your opening paragraph, they will skim the rest of the message. A short message with bullets will keep them reading. A long message with no breaks or white space will get deleted.

  • Do not make your message into a single image, like scanning a flyer and making a jpg.That is the biggest no-no and will get you little to no click-through. In fact, many email programs will automatically put such messages into the spam folder. Your message must include text. You can embed images, but do not make the message into an image. It will get deleted and may get your IP on a banned list for the email service.

Make sure your email has the biggest impact possible. You want people to read your email. Keep it short and sweet. Make sure the subject line grabs attention, send it from a real person, and make your opening paragraph compelling. Provide a concise body with bullets along with a call-to-action. If you do nothing else, never, ever, send out an email that has a single image of your offer.That is how you keep your email marketing efforts on track. 

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What is a Call-to-Action Message? FIND OUT NOW!

Posted by: on Monday, April 29, 2013

A common term you will hear in connection with Internet marketing is "call-to-action." Understanding just what that term means and how to apply it is essential for online marketing success. If you do not know how to apply them properly, you will not have the success you desire.

What You Need to Know About Calls-to-Action

Here is what you need to know about calls-to-action, also known as CTAs:

  • A call-to-action is a request to do something. If you do not ask, your readers will not take action. You can put buttons all over the place and links to your sign-up page. But, if you do not make a specific request, your visitors will not make the leap to become a lead. Don't make them hunt to find your sign-up page. They won't do it.

  • Any CTA you use must be in context. If a visitor is on your "Roof Repair" page, it should ask "Request a Roof Repair Quote." That link should take you to the "Roof Repair Quote" page, not the "Contact Us" page. Keep your CTA aligned with the connected landing pages. It not only means with words but with look and feel. If your CTA is a bright green button with the picture of a roof, your landing page needs some bright green highlights with pictures of roofs.

  • Every page on your website must have a call-to-action. That means ALL of them. Your contact us page should offer a chance to sign-up for your newsletter. Your home page should offer them a chance at a quote. Every blog post should have a CTA for a specific offering. It might be a white paper, a webinar, or a place to sign-up for their free video. When you leave a page without a CTA, you leave an opening for your visitor to leave without taking action.

  • Optimize your calls-to-action. "Get a Quote" is not optimized. "Get a Roof Repair Quote" is. Make sure the CTA text has keywords. Make sure the same keywords are on the landing page. You want to give a clear and concise CTA for them to do. Making your CTA too long is counter-productive and will not make people want to click-through.

  • Keep your CTAs above the fold and highly visible. Above the fold means on the top half of the page. Your visitors should not have to scroll down a long page of text to the bottom where your CTA is. It will not happen. Place your CTAs at the top and along the sides. You can add a CTA at the bottom, but do not depend on it as your only one.

Calls-to-action are an essential part of your marketing channels. It takes a visitor and entices them to become a lead. Without CTAs, your website will not generate a high number of leads. Your marketing efforts will be for naught. Add calls-to-action to all your webpages and keep them in context. Optimize the CTAs and keep them above the fold. That will get your message across and keep your visitors taking the next step. That is the way to convert them to leads and customers.

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Is Your Approach to Social Media Wrong?

Posted by: on Thursday, April 25, 2013

Social media has become a necessary part of any online marketing effort. If you have not adopted social media yet, get out of the Age of Dinosaurs. You are lagging far behind your competition. If you have arrived in the 21st century and are using social media, the question to ask is if you are using it right.

Many companies jumped into social media just to have a presence. They did not have any plan or idea of how they were going to use it. They thought they could figure it out as they moved forward. The problem is without a plan social media can become a minefield.

Here are some things to keep in mind about your social media approach:

  • Rule #1 is consistency. When someone begins to follow your company's social media, they have certain expectations. If you are a plumbing company, for example, they expect your social media presentations to include topics related to common plumbing problems, new products, and other helpful information. If you use the blog to talk to customers one day, and other plumbing professionals the next, you are being inconsistent. A customer doesn't want to hear your rant on the rising costs of plumbing supplies.

  • Social networking is not about advertising. It is about sharing. That is a big difference. You get a flyer in the mail trying to sell you life insurance. Would you want to scan that flyer into your computer and send it to all your family and friends? Make copies and pass them out on the street corner? Not likely. You find a great blog post online about the impact of life insurance on a family who lost their father at a young age. You want to share that information to encourage family and friends to protect their loved ones. See the difference?

  • The early bird gets the worm. Believe it or not social media sharing peaks at 7 a.m.Many people use the early morning hours to check their news feeds, blogs, and email. That is when they start sharing. While social media is a 24/7 business, it is important to have content out there when people are reading it. Use your content management system to schedule social media updates for early morning.

  • Social media sharing mostly focuses on talking to your current clients. Reaching others happens when your current customers share your valuable content. When you have someone who knows your company and the quality you present, they will follow your social media. When you share something of value, they are likely to share it with their network. That magic formula is what comes around to increase your follower and customer base.

  • Keep your social media real. No one wants to listen to pompous marketing BS. Hard advertising is the fastest way to get people to shut you down. Making all your communications about how your products or services will change their life will get people to drop your social media channels. Share information that helps instead of doing the hard sell. It make a big difference.

If you have not started your social media journey yet, keep these strategies in mind. If you have already begun your efforts, stop and make some changes using these strategies. You can create a consistent message that attracts your current clients and makes them want to share with others. You do not want to use your social media as an advertising channel. You need to give valuable content that people want to share.

That is how you use social media to your advantage.

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