10 Tips to Improve Your Site for the Holidays

10 Tips to Improve Your Site for the Holidays


Your website is your business’s online home. During the holidays, your traffic is likely to go up as consumers complete their shopping and other end-of-year business. Unfortunately, errors in your site can make a negative impression on visitors. And many will simply leave and go to your competitors’ sites instead.

So fixing these issues should be your top priority this season. Here are some tips to optimize your site for all that holiday business.



Test Your Site

The first step in improving your site is figuring out what is needed. This starts out pretty simply… just visit your site and make sure everything works. Click various links, look at the photos, and try out various features.

SEO consultant Bill Hartzer said in an email interview with Small Business Trends, “You can view the pages on your site, make sure that all of the images load, there aren’t any errors like (404 not found errors), and that your contact form works.”

Make Sure It Loads Quickly

Even if everything on your site technically works, if it takes forever to load, people will leave. When you visit each page, make sure everything pulls up within a few seconds. If it doesn’t, changes may be necessary.

Test the Contact Form

Another important element to focus on is the contact area. Hartzer says that sometimes updates or plugin changes can lead to errors. This means you may have people trying to contact you without success. Try to send messages regularly to make sure they go through.

Look for Technical Errors

In some cases, you may not notice every error just by visiting. But there are tools to help you weed out these technical issues.

Hartzer says, “You can use a web crawler such as the Screaming Frog SEO Spider, Siteliner, Sitebulb, or OnCrawl to crawl your website. Each of them will report technical errors, 404 not found pages, redirects, and other technical issues that should be fixed. You an even verify your website in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools for free and they’ll tell you about any technical issues on your website.”

Optimize Images

If your site loads slowly, the culprit may be your photos. There’s a good chance you uploaded large files to the site, which take a long time to pull up. Resize or compress the photos to the actual size you need so they don’t take up unnecessary time.

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Add Google Analytics

Google Analytics can help you learn more about how people use your site. You can identify popular pages and search terms. And it may even call your attention to ongoing issues like a high bounce rate on certain pages. Installing it is easy. You simply sign up for free and upload a code to your site.

Back It Up

Hackers tend to be especially active during the holidays. They know that both businesses and consumers are really active online. So they may try to steal your data or take control of your site. Just in case you experience issues, making a backup of your site can help you get it back up and running quickly.

Update the Plugins

Updating your website software and plugins can also make your site more secure. These updates often include security patches to address areas where hackers might take advantage. It’s good practice to update these items whenever they’re available. But it’s especially important during vulnerable times like the holidays.

Check Your Domain

Some small businesses focus so much on the content of their website, but forget about the domain. Luckily, there are ways to ensure that your domain is set up to work on all browsers and even control emails.

Hartzer says, “I recommend running a free DNP Score on your domain name, which will alert you to any issues with how you have your domain name set up. For example, do you have DMARC, DKIM, and SPF records set up? Those will help you send/receive email and help make sure that your emails actually go to the recipients’ inboxes. That’s especially important if you have an email newsletter that you send out. And DNSSEC should be enabled on your domain name, as well. The busy season isn’t the time to lose your domain name (well, anytime isn’t a good time!). But if you lose your domain name, your website goes down.”

Don’t Make Dramatic Changes

If you’re eager to make big changes to your site, the holiday season is actually not the time for that. Big changes often come with complications. So it’s best to save these for a less busy time and instead focus on fixing small problems.

Hartzer explains, “Any major changes to the design or functionality could have more negative effects than positive ones. I recommend waiting until the holiday season is over to start thinking about any major changes.”

Image: Depositphotos.com




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10 Tips for Righting the Ship After Experiencing Business Challenges

10 Tips for Righting the Ship After Experiencing Business Challenges


Running a business isn’t always smooth sailing. You’ll run into bumps and get off track periodically. So your ability to right the ship can help your company survive during tough times. Here are tips for navigating difficulties from members of the online small business community.



Use Corporate Strategy to Save Your Business

It’s easy to get off track when you have no plan or strategy. But some companies try to wing it instead. Even if your plans get off track, a strategy may help you recover more quickly. Learn more in this Process Street post by Jane Courtnell.

Find and Approach Clients on LinkedIn

If you’re struggling to get enough clients through traditional means, LinkedIn may be a helpful platform. Learn how to find and approach clients on the site in this Business Load post by Aditya Sharma. Then see what the BizSugar community had to say here.

Get Your Business Back on Track After COVID

The pandemic has slowed sales and caused businesses around the country to close. Even if you’ve reopened, you’re probably off track with the goals you set at the start of the year. To get back on track, read the tips in this Biz Epic post by Ivan Widjaya.

Learn Effective Keyword Targeting in 2020

SEO trends and capabilities are constantly evolving. If your efforts haven’t gone as far as you’d like this year, you may need an update. In this Search Engine Watch post, Aleh Barysevich offers a framework for effective keyword targeting in 2020.

Delete Previously Disapproved Facebook Ads

If you’ve ever had Facebook ads disapproved, they could impact future ads on the platform. However, deleting them may help you make a bigger impact. Trevor Goodchild shares how and why in this Social Media Examiner post.

Improve Your Writing

If you use content marketing in your business, you need strong writing skills. But business owners don’t always start with this ability. So you need to improve over time to make a big impact. Read this Content Marketing Institute post by Penny Gralewski for actionable tips.

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Maintain Employee Engagement During the Pandemic

Many companies still have employees working from home due to the pandemic. Some may even continue this practice indefinitely. So how can you keep employees engaged? Get tips in this Small Biz Daily post by Lena Hemsworth.

Create Brand Messaging for the New Normal

When things change, it can be tough at first to adjust your brand messages. But if you don’t, your business could easily fall behind. If you haven’t updated your messaging since the onset of the pandemic, it’s probably time. Get more information in this Crowdspring post by Katie Lundin.

Mix Marketing with Other Departments

In some businesses, the marketing department operates totally independently from other departments. However, marketing shouldn’t just be about marketing in 2020. Learn more about working across business units in this Kexino post by Gee Ranasinha. BizSugar members also shared comments on the post here.

Learn About Conversion Rate Optimization

You may get plenty of potential customers to your website. But if you don’t effectively convert visitors into paying customers, your business can get off track quickly. To fix this problem, check out this SEMRush rush post by Connor Lahey.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: sbtips@gmail.com.

Image: Depositphotos.com




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The 5 Major Cybersecurity Mistakes to Avoid as a Small Business Owner

The 5 Major Cybersecurity Mistakes to Avoid as a Small Business Owner


Your computers and devices are the lifeblood of your small business — your company uses them to communicate with vendors, clients, make critical business decisions, and hold your trade secrets. That’s why you can’t afford to make any of the following cybersecurity mistakes:

Mistake #1 Underestimating Cybersecurity Threats

As businesses grow more dependent on the Internet, trolls and hackers use increasingly sophisticated tools to target them. Cybersecurity experts like Malwarebytes advise companies to be wary of the most common malware attacks.

  • Computer viruses can quickly do incalculable damage by rapidly replicating on your system while modifying or deleting files and folders essential to your operation.
  • Computer worms spread through your network, almost instantly infecting every computer in your business as they modify and delete vital data.
  • Spyware quietly spies on you and your employees, and transmits your company’s sensitive information to cybercriminals for blackmail or industrial espionage.
  • Keyloggers are a sneaky type of spyware that log your keystrokes and send them to hackers to help them commit financial fraud.
  • Ransomware is an especially dangerous type of malware that locks your critical files, folders, systems, or entire network until you pay a ransom in the form of a nearly untraceable cryptocurrency,  a small fortune.

Many of these types of malware are delivered to you or your employees through phishing expeditions or Trojan horses. A phishing attack usually comes in the shape of an authentic-looking email to your company and carries fraudulent links or malware. Meanwhile, Trojan horses are malware disguised as legitimate software.

To combat these threats, you need the right antivirus software. But with so many options out there, you need to make smart choices. Not all cybersecurity solutions are created equal.

Mistake #2 Relying Exclusively on Your Default Security System

Whether your company uses PCs, Macs, your default security system isn’t strong enough to protect your business. For example, Windows Security has been criticized for weaker malware detection rates than other leading antivirus solutions and it has shown poor performance in hands-on phishing protection tests.

The subpar performance of Windows Security should alarm business owners because of the regular discovery of security vulnerabilities in the Windows operating system. Such security holes can be exploited by hackers to breach your system with malware and steal your data.

Unfortunately, Microsoft usually takes precious time to patch security holes. Your best defense is antivirus software that offers real-time protection and shields your valuable data from threats at all hours of the day, and one that actually analyzes the behavior of malicious programs to detect whether they’re targeting your system.

While Macs are traditionally safer than PCs due to a more tightly controlled manufacturing process from Apple, cybersecurity threats against Macs are growing by the day. According to the 2020 State of Malware Report, Mac software threats climbed 400% in 2019, more than Windows. It’s a good thing that well-reviewed antivirus software for Macs can crush malware, adware, spyware, and other threats.

Mistake #3 Relying on Free Antivirus Software

You wouldn’t use low-cost padlocks to lock your company doors, so why would you use free antivirus software to secure your business’s computers?

  • Free antivirus software offers low detection rates
  • Leading free antivirus software breaches your privacy by collecting data about your usage
  • The most downloaded free antivirus software issues false positives to appear useful
  • Many free antivirus programs carry bloatware and intrusive ads that slow your computers down to a crawl, hindering your business’s productivity.
  • The most popular free antivirus solutions suffer from data breaches, making them counterproductive to use

When something is free, you need to ask yourself, “but at what cost?” Free antivirus software will cost you in the long run, whether compromising your uptime or tying up your time as you scramble for solutions once your system’s security is already compromised.

Remember, creating, running, and maintaining a comprehensive business security system that runs at lightning quick speed and prevents zero-day exploits, ransomware, or malicious downloads requires resources. When you use a free security solution, you pay for it one way or the other down the road.

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Mistake #4 Not Being Proactive

Not Being Proactive

It’s critical to be proactive when managing your company’s cybersecurity. Think of it as insurance that protects your business from worst-case scenarios.

According to Forbes, 28% of small- to medium-sized businesses experienced data breaches in 2019. While some companies took months to repair the damage, others struggled to recover and closed permanently. Small businesses like yours should take these attacks seriously, especially during the pandemic, as more employees work remotely, away from the safety of company computers and networks.

The right cybersecurity software for your business should secure and empower every member of your team, be lightweight, offer dedicated support, and work on various platforms. Moreover, it should be cost-effective.

Remember, there are 350,000 instances of new malware detected every day. Only advanced antivirus software can remediate such emerging threats by using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to recognize malware behavior based on patterns, scrutinizing the program’s overall structure, programming logic, and data.

Mistake #5 Ignoring the Bigger Picture

Safeguarding the integrity of your data is essential for your business, employees, and your customers. A security breach can permanently erode consumer confidence in your company and adversely affect your profitability and revenue.

A breach in your cybersecurity doesn’t just mean that your information is compromised — it means your clients’ data might be exposed as well.

When you’re a small business, you have no margin for error when it comes to cybersecurity. When some of the largest, most influential companies in the world suffer from data breaches, they have the resources to reach an astronomical global settlement with their clients. Can your small business afford to ignore the bigger picture?

As your small business’s digital footprint grows more prominent, you must subscribe to cutting-edge cybersecurity software in order to secure your business and focus on improving your profitability stress-free.

Images: Malwarebytes




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10 Tips for Looking Ahead and Planning for the Future of Your Small Business

10 Tips for Looking Ahead and Planning for the Future of Your Small Business


If you buy something through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

The end of 2020 is just around the corner. So it’s the perfect time for business owners to think more about the future. Whether you’re planning for the holidays, 2021, or even further down the line, listening to the experts may help. Check out these tips from members of the online small business community for looking ahead.



Get Data to Help You Prep for the Holidays

Even though this year has been unique, the holidays are still likely to bring an influx of business for many. So preparing ahead of time is key. Data can be instrumental to your efforts. So check out the research in this Search Engine Watch post by Sarah Mehlman for details.

Adjust Your Business Model for 2021

This year has forced many businesses to adjust. But the ability to change on the fly is always important. And entrepreneurs will need to continue to flex this muscle in 2021. Ivan Widjaya explains a few adjustments for businesses to consider in this Noobpreneur post.

Help People Feel a Sense of Belonging on Social Media

People always want to feel like they belong. And that’s especially true during tough times. If you’re changing your social media strategy this year, applying this concept may help. Rachel Strella of Strella Social Media elaborates here. And members of the BizSugar community chimed in with their own thoughts as well.

Use This Guide for Building Organic Links

Organic links are helpful for any business looking to bring more traffic to their websites. But you can’t always control what other website owners choose to link to. So how can you improve in this area for your business? Leks Drakos shares a helpful guide in this Process Street post.

Leverage Documentary Storytelling in Your Marketing

Storytelling is becoming increasingly important for businesses looking to connect with their customers. And there are several styles that may help get messages across. The documentary style is one that more and more businesses are starting to use. Learn more in this UpCity post by Lysanne Louter.

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Make Etsy Shoppers into Repeat Customers

Marketplaces like Etsy are useful for getting your products in front of lots of shoppers. But you have to compete with tons of other sellers as well. So how do you turn shoppers into loyal customers for your business going forward? Laura McLoughlin of Small Biz Daily explores the concept here.

Take These Steps After Incorporation

Once you incorporate your business, the paperwork doesn’t stop. If you’re trying to get a new business up and running in the new year, more steps are needed. Nellie Akalp goes over what comes next in this post on the CorpNet blog.

Walk the Line Between Strategy and Generosity

Many business owners change marketing strategies when they don’t bring in quick results. However, there are some key concepts that are always relevant, even if they take time to show dividends. Helping people is one, as Ryan Biddulph points out in this Small Biz Tipster post. Check out the discussion in the BizSugar community for more on the subject.

Learn from These COVID-19 Business Ideas

The pandemic has been tough on a lot of businesses. But it has also forced a lot of innovation. Moving forward, you can learn from these ideas and apply that type of thinking to your own operations. Read this DIY Marketers post by Ivana Taylor to see inspiring examples.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

The pandemic has forced many individuals and business owners to step out of their comfort zone. This can be stressful. Or it can be a time for personal and business growth. Jamie T. Wiseman offers tips for making the most of these changes in this post on the Miss Millennia Magazine blog.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: sbtips@gmail.com.

Image: Depositphotos.com




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How a 22-Year-Old Company Pivoted During COVID

How a 22-Year-Old Company Pivoted During COVID


One of the ways to succeed in a COVID economy is to use “old school” marketing techniques. With people so isolated in their homes, postcards and direct mail are making a huge comeback.

On the Small Business Radio Show this week, Joy Gendusa discusses how she grew PostcardMania, from a small startup into an industry leader employing 285 people and generating over $60 million in Clearwater, Florida. Her company has printed almost 2 billion postcards and mailed over 700 million more while helping almost 100,000 small businesses.

Joy Gendusa Interview

Joy recounts that in the months when COVID first hit, it seemed that small businesses stopped their marketing. From March to April, her revenue was down 40%.  She initially “lost her cool and freaked out”, but resolved not to make any rash decisions since her company had been around for 22 years. Joy had done this in 2008 during the Great Recession and regrated it. She had to make a decision that would be in the best interest of her staff and utilize her financial reserves.

Instead, Joy reimagined their business from a direct mail company to a tech company that specializes in multi-channel campaigns and trigger-based direct mail. They are now focusing on bringing big-business agency tools and APIs to them to small businesses that can’t afford full-time marketing help. As Joy describes, “we help small business owners succeed at marketing and stay competitive for an affordable price.”

As a result since May, sales have started to pick up and PostcardMania has had its best summer ever. They have added 33 positions to their team.

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She catalogs  through case studies the anonymous results of customers that have used her service and keep be more secure in their marketing investment.

Listen Joy’s success story and the entire episode on the Small Business Radio Show.

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Image: postcardmania.com




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10 Tips for Getting More Bang for Your Marketing Buck

10 Tips for Getting More Bang for Your Marketing Buck


There are so many tactics that small businesses can use for marketing. But it’s not always easy to get full value from each strategy. Members of the online small business community understand this struggle. So they’ve come up with plenty of tips and tricks for achieving maximum value. If you’re ready to get more bang for your marketing buck, read on for tips.



Properly Manage Your Marketing Budget

Every company has a marketing budget. Some are larger than others. But regardless of how much you have to spend, it’s important to be intentional with how you use it. In this 3Bug Media post, Gary Shouldis shares an example of how to effectively spend a $500 monthly marketing budget.

Optimize Video Content for Optimal Search Rankings

Video marketing can be an important part of your promotional mix. But many companies don’t optimize this type of content for search like they should. If you want to make the most of your video marketing, read the tips in this Process Street post by Thom James Carter.

Use These Ingredients for Startup Success

Finding success as a new business isn’t easy or straightforward. You’ll likely need to use several strategies at once. And finding the right mix may require some trial and error. But the ingredients in this Startup Professional Musings post by Martin Zwilling may help to guide you.

Keep Up with Digital Transformation

Many businesses have been forced into some level of digital transformation recently. But this isn’t a short term process. In fact, it never ends, according to this ISHIR post by Katie Johns. After reading, head over to BizSugar to see more commentary on the subject.

Make the Most of Your Small Business Success

Once your business reaches some level of success, your journey isn’t complete. Some businesses are able to leverage their success into even more opportunities. This Biz Epic post by Ivan Widjaya includes a discussion about how to make the most of your success.

Repurpose Your Livestream to Get More Out of Your Content

Livestreaming can be an effective way to share information and interact with customers. But once it’s over, so is the impact. That is, unless you repurpose that content. In this Sprout Social post, Chloe West shares tips for getting more out of this type of content.

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Leverage Behavior Analysis for Your Online Business

If you want to market as effectively as possible online, it’s important to understand customer behavior. Analytics tools can be especially valuable to this process. Mandeep Singh goes over the concept in more detail in this Search Engine Watch post.

Use Care When Analyzing Social Media Insights

Interacting with customers on social media can give you insights about their opinions and behavior. But basing all your research on this tactic can lead to challenges. In this Social Media HQ post, Christian Zilles details how insightful social media can be when learning about customers.

Learn About the Role of Community Managers

If you plan to leverage social media for your business, you need to effectively manage a community. Community managers can be an essential part of this process. In this post, Rachel Strella of Strella Social Media shares an interview that may help new business owners. BizSugar members offered thoughts on the post here.

Make Agility a Long Term Foundational Tool

Many small businesses have had to become more agile during the pandemic. And this quality isn’t just useful during uncertain times. It may be a major benefit to businesses going forward. Stacey Ackerman of Marketing Land explores long term agility for small businesses in this post.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: sbtips@gmail.com.

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Content Marketing Statistics You Should Know

Content Marketing Statistics You Should Know


Need to justify that content marketing works? Discover the latest content marketing statistics below. They show that content marketing is one of the most popular marketing strategies for small business. The numbers are stunning.

Over  91% of businesses use content marketing, according to SEMrush. And it’s not hard to understand why. Marketing through content is cost-effective.  It’s doable for beginners and small businesses all the way to the largest enterprises.  Whether your goal is to attract new customers, get repeat business, or cross-sell to existing customers — it is flexible enough to work in all situations. To prove the benefits, we’ve assembled the best content marketing stats, facts and figures.



Content Marketing Statistics

Content marketing involves using content to formulate marketing strategies and plans.  But there are many different types of content including written content, such as blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks, and articles.  Content can also mean images and infographics, or video and audio.

Some techniques apply if your business sells to consumers (B2C), or to other businesses (B2B), or to both.  With so many small business statistics available, it’s easy to get confused.  But these content strategy statistics and metrics will help you make sense of it.

Content Marketing Statistics You Should Know

image: Content Marketing Institute

Content Marketing Strategy Stats

Content marketing strategies play a key role in digital marketing plans. In fact, more and more organizations are hiring content marketing services to grow.

A content strategy can be effective in building a brand:

  • 31.8% of companies with a content strategy achieve 27.1% higher win rates than those without a content strategy (CSO Insights).
  • 80% of people prefer learning about a company through custom content (Demand Metric).

B2C Stats on Content Marketing

When it comes to strategy for B2C content marketers, a report by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI B2C) notes:

  • 71% of B2C marketers agree that their company needs a content marketing strategy.
  • 33% said they have a documented content marketing strategy.
  • Meanwhile, 20% of marketers plan to have a documented content strategy within 12 months.
  • Three out of four B2C content marketers believe their company is successful with content marketing efforts.
  • Insofar as the preferred content marketing format for B2C marketers, 94% chose social media marketing, and 80% prefer blogs and short articles.
  • 39% of B2C content marketers say their companies are in a sophisticated or mature phase of content marketing maturity.

The top strategic goals that B2C marketers have achieved through content marketing in the last 12 months are:

  • create brand awareness (84%),
  • educate their audience (75%),
  • build credibility and trust (65%), and
  • generate demand and leads (61%).

But interestingly, only 48% have used content to directly generate sales and revenue. (CMI B2C).

B2B Statistics on Content Marketing

If you are a B2B marketer, the content marketing B2B statistics are a bit different. According to the B2B Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI B2B):

  • 43% of B2B marketers have a “documented” content marketing strategy.
  • 36% of B2B marketers have a content marketing strategy, but have not documented it.
  • Another 17% plan to have a content marketing strategy in the next 12 months.

As far as strategic goals, additional B2B marketing stats from the Content Marketing Institute are:

  • 86% of B2B content marketers rated creating awareness of their brand as their biggest goal over the past 12 months.
  • 79% said their biggest goal is educating the audience. Building credibility and trust, generating demand and leads and nurturing subscribers, audience and leads also ranked high as goals among B2B marketers.

Content Marketing ROI Statistics

Return on investment (ROI) is a critical part of any digital marketing campaign. But the first question is, how many marketers actually measure content marketing ROI? The answers may surprise you:

  • For B2C content marketers, only 51% measure ROI on content marketing, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI B2C). The most common metric measured is conversions, at 81%. Other top metrics are website traffic (80%), website engagement (79%), and social media analytics (76%).
  • For B2B marketers, the good news is that 81% are using metrics to track their performance. However, 90% are merely tracking site traffic. Email opens, clicks, and other email stats are the next most common tracked metric at 86%. Only 37% track the cost to acquire a lead or customer (CMI B2B).

But ROI for content marketing is proven and pays off, as per the following statistics:

  • The cost of acquiring a new customer through content is around 15% less than through paid channels for subscription-based businesses (Profit Well).
  • Subscription-based businesses using content see 5-10% better retention rates (Profit Well).
  • 96% of marketers find content marketing to be effective for their companies (Zazzle).

Content Marketing Budgets

When it comes to content marketing budgets, for B2C marketers the annual budget averages $230,000. Of course, respondents in the study included some very large enterprises. For small businesses with under 100 employees the average budget for content marketing is less than half, at $111,000 annually (CMI B2C).

For B2B company content marketing budgets (per CMI B2B):

  • 47% had an annual content marketing budget of less than $100,000.
  • 7% had budgets exceeding $500,000.
  • For small businesses of under 100 employees, about 57% of those had budgets under $100,000.
  • Even more interesting: 32% of small businesses did not have any established budget for content marketing.

The 2020 pandemic increased the emphasis on doing business online, and by extension using content marketing to attract customers. That affected budgets. One third of respondents anticipated increasing B2B content marketing and content creation spending as a result, according to the Content Marketing Institute report.

SEO and Content Stats

Good search engine optimization (SEO) increases organic traffic, which in turn cuts down on paid advertising. And good SEO depends heavily on content – you must “feed the search engines” if you want your content (and site and products) to get found by searchers.

To rank well, content creation requires adept usage of keywords and other search engine optimization techniques.

SEO boosts visibility of your content. The result is that more people find your website or products in Google, and click through, according to Ignite Visibility’s Google Click-Through Rates by Ranking Position 2020 report (Ignite Visibility):

  • According to the report, 55% of people say they would click on a familiar brand in search results.
  • And 85% said they prefer to click on organic results.

Buyers use search engine content to research purchases. Having a powerful SEO strategy can increase the number of prospects and your conversion rate. According to FRACTL’s The Truth about Inbound and Outbound Marketing report (FRACTL):

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  • 89.5% of people use online search to gather information about a product or company.
  • 81.3% visit a brand’s website to learn more about a company or product.

Creating sufficient SEO-optimized content can be a challenge. SEO content must include well-researched keywords. A 2020 report from SEMrush explains:

  • Creating content that generates quality leads is the biggest challenge for 54% of marketers.
  • 60% of marketers do not outsource content creation at all, but apparently do it all themselves.
  • The report also reveals that 94% of marketers use social media content to raise awareness.

The value of search engines and Google search is well recognized:

  • Optimizing content for Google Search is a must. Google dominates search engine use with an average net market share of 70.38% (Smart Insights).
  • Getting featured in the top Google results can grow business. For example, 60% of smartphone users have reached out to a business directly using the search results (Think with Google).
  • See PPC statistics for more.

Email Marketing and Blog Stats

Content Marketing Statistics You Should Know

image: Orbit Media

Blog content creation is essential in the marketer’s arsenal. One of the most popular types of content is the blog post.

About 86% of B2B marketers use their organization’s blog to distribute marketing, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends 2020 report. Here are specific business blogging stats:

  • Informative, well optimized blog posts can increase organic traffic to websites. Companies that blog receive 55% more internet users to their websites than those that don’t blog (HubSpot). Respondents rate the content quality of the blog post as the most important success factor.
  • Working with an editor has a direct impact on the success of your blog posts. One in three bloggers work with an editor and bloggers who update old blog posts are 3x more likely to get success (Orbit Media).
  • Length of the blog post has a direct impact on social shares. Blogs of long-form content (3000 to 10,000 words) get more social shares than short-form content. Listicles, infographics, how-to articles, what / why posts, and videos are the most commonly shared content formats. And listicle articles with 10 items get more shares than others (OkDork).
  • All copywriting statistics enforce the importance of a good headline. On average 8 out of 10 readers will read headline copy, but only 2 out of10 will read the rest (Copyblogger).

Blogs and articles can be very useful resources for establishing thought leadership. According to an Edelman research survey:

  • Around 88% of decision-makers think thought leadership is an effective tool to enhance an organization’s perceptions.
  • However, only 17% of respondents rate the quality of thought leadership they read as very good or excellent.

Content marketing and email marketing can work together to build your business. Here are useful email marketing statistics:

  • 87% of B2B marketers use emails in their content marketing (CMI B2B).
  • Make sure your emails are readable and formatted for mobile. Mobile opens accounted for 46% of all email opens (Litmus).
  • Email marketing can help businesses retain customers. 80% of organizations believe that email marketing is effective to increase customer retention (Emarsys).
  • 53 to 73% of millennials prefer communications from businesses via emails (HubSpot).

Lead Generation and Content Marketing

Creating quality content for B2B audiences can help in lead generation. Smart content marketers create “lead magnet” content in order to entice B2B buyers to share their contact information. Examples of lead generating content include case studies, interactive content that draws B2B buyers in, resources such as white papers, and even blogs. In this way, B2B marketers gather leads.

  • Almost half of B2B marketing experts use white paper marketing, with 47% saying they used white papers in the last 12 months (CMI B2B).
  • 57% of B2B buyers said they are willing to share information in exchange for case studies, 63% would do so for e-books, 66% would share information in exchange for third-party or analyst reports, 76% would do so for white papers and 79% would share information in exchange for a webinar. That’s according to Demand Gen’s Content Preferences Survey Report (Demand Gen Report).
  • Meanwhile, 19% of buyers will exchange information for podcasts and videos, and 24% of buyers will do the same for infographics (Demand Gen Report).
  • Content marketing generates three times as many leads as traditional marketing for every dollar spent.
  • And running content marketing campaigns costs 62% less than traditional marketing. Demand Metric: The Guide to Marketing Genius: Content Marketing (Demand Metric).

Podcast and Video Content Marketing Statistics

The latest video marketing statistics and podcast trends show that businesses are increasingly exploring different types of content formats to reach the target audience. Adept marketers build a library of video and audio resources.

According to Wyzowl’s Video Marketing Statistics 2020 report (Wyzowl), here are some video content marketing stats:

  • 87% of those surveyed said video marketing has increased traffic to their websites, and 81% of respondents said video marketing increases the time visitors spend on the page.
  • An explainer video can help the audience to learn about products. 96% of people have said that they have watched an explainer video to understand a product or service.
  • 87% of respondents say that video marketing has increased traffic to their websites, and 81% of respondents say videos increase the time visitors spend on the page.

How effective is video from a marketers point of view? Animoto research says:

  • About 88% of video marketers are satisfied with the ROI of video marketing efforts on social media.
  • Also, 93% of video marketers say that posting a video on social channels leads to acquiring a customer.

In the Discover Pods Podcast Trends report, marketers can see how podcasts can reach their customers (Discover Pods):

  • For example, 82.4% of users listen to podcasts for more than 7 hours each week.
  • As a result, 59% of users spend more time listening to podcasts than they do on social media.

Adopting podcasts can be a good digital marketing strategy because podcasts can help businesses sell products. Want more proof?

  • Consider that 61.3% of respondents said they bought an item after listening to an ad on a podcast.
  • However, 61.3% of podcasters state that marketing and building an audience are among their top challenges.

 

What’s more, according to The Infinite Dial report on podcasting from Edison Research, the appetite for this particular content marketing platform is growing:

  • Consider that 75% of Americans age 12+ are now aware of podcasting, which is 5% up from 2019.
  • And 55% of Americans have listened to a podcast at least once.

Visual Content Marketing Statistics

One of the biggest differences between content marketing today and five years ago is that more emphasis is now placed on visuals. Searchers and buyers want to see things in more than text. The following visual content marketing statistics from Venngage show how important visuals are to digital marketing strategies.

  • 49% of respondents said visuals are very important to their marketing strategy.
  • 74% of marketers said more than 70% of their content includes some form of visual.
  • 62% of respondents said they create visuals for blogs or landing pages.
  • Stock photography is on the rise and more readily available today at low cost. So it is no surprise that the most commonly used visuals are stock images (40%).
  • Other frequently used visuals are original graphics (34%), videos and presentations (14%), and charts and data visualizations (8%).
  • 72% of marketers spend less than 10 hours each week producing visual content.
  • 36% of marketers use an online tool or graphic maker to create this type of content. See these infographic tools to create your own beautiful infographics, some with interactive content.

Visual content has perhaps the biggest impact in social media marketing. Marketers say they need every edge, because social media algorithm changes make it harder than ever to get visibility:

  • Facebook posts with images get 2.3x more engagement than those posts without images (BuzzSumo).
  • Tweets with images receive 150% more engagement than those tweets without images (Buffer).
  • 130 million Instagrammers check shopping posts every month (Instagram).
  • 200 million Instagrammers check at least one business profile daily (Instagram).
  • 6 in 10 Instagram users visit the platform at least once a day (Pew Research).
  • Influencers on Instagram get between $100 and $2,085 per post from brands (eMarketer).
  • See more Instagram statistics.

Top 3 Content Marketing FAQs

The following are among the most often asked questions here at Small Business Trends by marketers and small business owners.

How much staff do small businesses dedicate to content marketing?

Almost three-fourths of smaller businesses have zero or just one person dedicated to content marketing full-time (CMI B2B). The breakdown is as follows for small businesses with under 100 employees:

  • 44% have no full-time person assigned to marketing with content.
  • 29% have one full-time person.
  • 27% have two or more full-time people .

How much should I budget for content marketing?

B2B companies spend 26% of their total marketing budget on content marketing. B2C companies spend 22% of their total marketing budget on content marketing. However, most successful companies spend closer to 40% of their total marketing budget on content marketing. (Marketing Insider Group)

What is the most popular type of content marketing?

The most popular type of content marketing is blog content, followed by email and infographic content marketing. About 86% of businesses engage in blogging, while 67% of businesses send emails. Another 45% of businesses do infographic content marketing. (SEMrush).

Image: Depositphotos.com


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ProTips: 5 Ways to Scale Customer Support Without Breaking the Bank

ProTips: 5 Ways to Scale Customer Support Without Breaking the Bank


This is a guest post by Himanshu, Exotel

Customer support directly impacts customer loyalty, revenue churn, and customer lifetime value (CLV). As businesses grow, scaling customer support is important to deliver the same level of customer experience. But how does a company scale-up support without breaking the bank? Just increasing the team size by hiring more agents isn’t enough, as there are many other factors at play. Below are five things to keep in mind while scaling support:

ProTip 1: Invest in the Right Tools  

Helpdesk tool

Having the right helpdesk tool in place is pivotal in assisting your move to a bigger support team. Not only does it empower your support team to communicate effectively with your customers, but it also helps you streamline other aspects of support, like setting up SLAs, tracking metrics or assigning tickets contextually.

Here are a few benefits of choosing the right helpdesk tool:

  • Adds personalization to your customer communication
  • Helps increase the productivity of your agents
  • Collect customer feedback, track CSAT scores and other metrics easily

Calls are one of the most commonly used channels to support customers, so the platform you use to power your calls is just as important as your helpdesk tool. To help your team communicate effectively through calls, you need to invest in a cloud communication platform that integrates with your helpdesk tool. Exotel does all that and more.

Here are a few benefits of using a cloud telephony platform:

  • Increased call visibility
  • Low maintenance and minimal upfront costs
  • Enhanced customer privacy through virtual numbers
  • Manage calls from anywhere

ProTip 2: Automate & Integrate

Automation

Support automation can save you hundreds of hours of work and resources every day. While many companies are still skeptical about using bots or workflows for providing support, data shows us just how well it works.

In fact, according to a report, AI-powered chatbots have the potential to resolve 8 out of 10 common customer queries. More importantly, support automation doesn’t replace agents, but assists them in getting things done faster. This means you don’t need to worry about providing poor customer service.

Let’s look at some of the ways to levearge automation:

  • You can create a workflow automation in Zoho Desk. It helps you add a rule, set alerts, and more. You can use it to update tickets, trigger email notifications, and more.
  • Eliminate manual ticket assignments by creating conditions to assign tickets to agents
  • Zia, the inbuilt chatbot inside Zoho Desk, shares relevant solutions from your knowledge base directly with your customers depending on their query

Integrations

While scaling support, make sure to integrate the various tools that your support team uses. These integrations simplify your transition to a bigger team by streamlining your support processes. They remove the need to switch between apps and get things done.

Let’s look at some popular Zoho Desk integrations and how you can leverage them:

  • Jira – Easily convert tickets raised in ZohoDesk to engineering issues in Jira
  • Exotel – Triggers calls and tracks missed calls right from the dashboard
  • Slack – Get real-time support updates, collaborate with your team, and boost productivity

When done right, both automation and integrations can help you:

  • Increase the productivity of your agents
  • Reduce support costs
  • Reduce customer waiting time and the number of open tickets
  • Get advanced insights from combined reports

ProTip 3: Prioritize Support Queries

A huge part of making your move to a bigger team efficiently is by prioritizing the right support queries. Not all queries require the same attention, and having more people on your team isn’t going to help you improve customer service if you fail to address critical issues at the right time.

Moreover, it’s simply impossible to reply to everyone immediately, and that’s what makes ticket prioritization so crucial.

So, how do you identify which support queries to prioritize?

The best method is to create a prioritization system. Most helpdesk tools, including Zoho Desk, allow you to tag a ticket as low, medium, or high priority. This can be done both manually or automatically. Here are a few popular methods of prioritization you can implement:

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  • First in First out  (FIFO) – Queries are resolved in the order the customers raise them
  • Manual assignment – An agent goes through each ticket and tags the priority manually
  • Automatic assignment –  Priority is automatically determined using custom workflows
  • Categorization – Assigning priority depending on the type of the query

Remember, these systems are not a one size fits all. It depends on factors like your team size,

working hours, the kind of product you have, and more.

While you’re setting up this system, you should consider setting SLAs as well. These are guidelines that state the maximum time that an agent can take to answer a ticket. This time can be set according to various parameters, including the priority level. For example, the maximum response time for a critical support request can be set to 30 mins. 

ProTip 4: Enable Self-Serve

Customer support doesn’t always require an agent’s assistance. Sometimes support queries can be resolved using a knowledge base or a quick tutorial video. Not only does it saves the agent’s time, it also empowers customers to instantly solve a problem themselves. This is the reason most businesses suggest customers to go through their articles before allowing them to raise a support query.

Knowledge bases are one of the most effective ways to enable your customers to self-serve.

Most helpdesk tools, including Zoho Desk, allow you to create and format knowledge bases. You can also use it to create forums, customize it according to your brand, and more. Additionally, these pages are also SEO-friendly, which helps attract relevant customers from search engines.

You can also integrate knowledge bases with a chatbot to suggest customers the right solutions directly on chat. This makes chatbots very useful and effective.

ProTip 5: Track Important Metrics

To ensure you are delivering high-quality customer support, you need to track some critical support metrics. These metrics help you understand your performance, find areas of improvement, and stay focused on what matters most. Here are five key support metrics you should track:

  • First Response Time – This indicates the time spent in responding to a customer query. Don’t confuse it with the total time taken to resolve a query.
  • Customer Satisfaction – CSAT scores indicate customer happiness. The results are based on the customer’s feedback after a ticket is resolved.
  • Resolution Time – This is the total time taken to resolve a particular query.
  • Call Wait Time – This is how long a customer has to wait before they are connected to an agent.
  • Net Promoter Score – The Net Promoter Score is an index ranging from -100 to 100 that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others.

The best part is that you don’t need to spend time tracking these metrics manually on a sheet. Once you’ve configured them on your helpdesk tool, most of these metrics are tracked automatically.

Scaling support is not a one-time thing. You’ll need to do it at different stages as your company grows. While tools play a very important role in helping you scale, it’s eventually all about taking the customer-first approach. Remember, loyal customers are your biggest brand advocates.

They provide positive endorsements and reviews that help you acquire more customers and strengthen your brand.

Exotel Zoho Phonebridge integration helps you manage calls and fetch information directly on Zoho apps. After using the integration, you can enable incoming call notifications, access call details with recordings, and trigger calls inside any Zoho application which supports Phonebridge v3 APIs.

Try Exotel for Zoho Desk

What are the different ways you’ve found useful for scaling your support? Let us know by dropping a comment below.




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War Horses for Veterans Gets Returning Soldiers Acclimated to Civilian Life

War Horses for Veterans Gets Returning Soldiers Acclimated to Civilian Life


War Horses for Veterans provides combat veterans and first responders the tools to reintegrate into their communities and recover from trauma.  The program is based in Stilwell, Kansas. It’s an all-expenses-paid equine bonding/ networking experience. It’s been designed for combat veterans from across the country and first responders in the Kansas City Area.

In a recent exchange with Small Business Trends, co-founder and military veteran, Patrick Benson, explains the end goal of his business:

“We envision a community of combat veterans, first responders and others,” he said. “They support one another as each individual moves from trauma through recovery to a productive and sustainable life.”

War Horses for Veterans pays for the training, travel, lodging and food to attend the program for qualified veterans. All the participants work with horses. They get involved with care, groundwork, saddling and different levels of riding.



War Horses for Veterans Helps Soldiers Acclimate

These programs offered by War Horses for Veterans can be customized.

“Some groups are reunions, decompression from operations, transition programs and/or leadership and communication training.  All of this is taught using horses,” Benson says.

He describes a parallel layer of help.

“We use other tools that help with focus areas for groups and individuals.  There’s a course that has been modified for us,” he said. “It helps understand how each participant learns and processes information. It includes their strengths and limiters.”

Mentorship

There’s also a 9-day mentorship program. And a new indoor facility/riding arena with a 2,500-square foot lounge/professional kitchen. It’s staffed by volunteer chefs. There are also one-day workshops.

They have also just launched their First Responders and Culinary Programs.

Benson has a personal stake in his company. He served six years in the US Army infantry, including a tour in Iraq in 2003.

“Then, just like that, I went from firefights to civilian life in just weeks,” he said.

He needed help and reached out to a contact. Benson knew of a renowned horse trainer and clinician. He wrote to him about attending his program when he got home in 2004.

After attending that program, Benson started his own business called PB Equestrian LLC at that time as a result. There were unintended consequences to his entrepreneurial spirit.

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“What I was doing was having an impact on my issues with PTSD and TBI ,” he said.

A few other chance encounters along the way paved a path for his new company.

“I met a gentleman after a clinic I taught in North Carolina,” Benson said. “He said you do a great job fixing those horses but you don’t realize they are fixing you.”

Benson learned the gentlemen was a Green Beret from Vietnam. That veteran told him how horses had saved his life. Then he started making connections between soldiers and these animals as he met more returning veterans.

Lessons To Learn

“There were so many lessons to learn,” he says. “Like leadership, communication, feelings, reflection, peace, humility, strength, trust and love.”

Fast forward to the horse operation Benson took over from mentor Andy Brown in 2013.

“One day after work, Andy and I sat on the front porch of his home. He turned to me and said he wanted to help veterans. I told him I had an idea and 30 minutes later War Horses for Veterans was born.” Andy and Patricia Brown are co-founders alongside Benson.

Many Successes

The program has seen many successes so far. They include veterans who become mentors and others who found purpose and direction through War Horses for Veterans.

“Others have started their own programs in other arenas of need for veterans and their own businesses,” Benson said. “Many are able to work through their anxiety and depression to be able to just live life in peace.”

In the end, he stresses their inner strength and fellowship are their best assets.

“Horses are the bridge but veterans are their own best therapy,” Benson says.

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Image: Depositphotos.com




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Why Double Opt-In Isn’t Counterproductive for Your Email Marketing

Why Double Opt-In Isn’t Counterproductive for Your Email Marketing


“I get more subscribers when I use single opt-in.”

“My emails already have an unsubscribe link, so why do I still need to confirm when someone signs up”?

These are common replies from some email marketers when asked why they forego double opt-in. It’s almost as though they’re happy with what single opt-in offers and don’t want to see what else is out there.

So is double opt-in a risk? Not really! It’s actually a great, long-term way of building a healthy mailing list. Given the current global scenario, it only makes sense to discuss a solution for building long-lasting relationships with your audience.

Reality Check: What is Double Opt-In?

At its most basic level, it’s going one extra step to ensure that your audience really knows what they’re signing up for. Once someone hits the submit/agree button of the signup form, a verification email with the confirmation link is sent to their inbox. Only after clicking the link do they become eligible to receive your marketing emails.

The So-called “Downsides”

Some feel that double opt-in means:

  1. Frustration for the user, because people want the process to involve as few steps as possible
  2. Fewer sign-ups, as someone who fails to click on the emailed link is a lost contact

However, in reality, these cases are rare.

The Benefits of Double Opt-On

1. Increases Email Deliverability

With double opt-in, the chances of invalid email addresses being added to your lists are zero.

Assuming a user makes a typo (guilty as charged!) while entering their email address in your signup form and clicks submit. They’re not going to receive emails from you at all unless they immediately realize their mistake.

In summary: A lead vanishing in a puff of smoke.

Now the (error-strewn) email address remains in your system until it is removed. If it’s not removed, it can hurt your chances of reaching the inboxes of your legitimate audience down the road. How? Emails sent to bad addresses return as a bounce. If these bounces happen too often, the reputation of your email-sending domain takes a hit. As a consequence, Email Service Providers (ESPs) like Gmail, Yahoo, Zoho Mail think you’re a spammer and send your emails to the spam folder.

How does double opt-in solve this problem? Simple! Unless and until someone clicks the confirmation click, their information doesn’t make it to your mailing list.

Note: As an aside, your subscribers clicking the confirmation link sends a positive signal to the ESPs, thus increasing your chances of inbox placement in the future. (This is because they’re showing great interest in your ties by opening and engaging with the confirmation email.)

2. Helps to Avoid Spam Traps

First off, what’s a spam trap? It’s nothing but a trap set by the ESPs to identify spammers. Now let’s see how double opt-in comes into play in two scenarios.

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Pure spam trap:

The ESPs deliberately create certain duplicate email accounts and circulate them across web pages. More often than not, spammer-programmed web crawlers (spambots in this context) copy those addresses. Why? They want to create bulk email lists so they can either send spam or sell them in the market.

In some cases, the ESPs blacklist the domains used to send such emails . Therefore, the story ends there.

But if that doesn’t happen, it puts the marketer in the firing line. This is because no one can opt-in using those addresses, so sending emails to them tells ESPs that the sender must either be a spammer or using a purchased list.

Double opt-in doesn’t really enter the picture here. You simply avert the whole problem by saying no to purchasing lists.

Recycled spam trap:

One of the good signs of an email marketer is identifying inactive contacts, segmenting them, and planning a re-engagement strategy. This not only helps you boost your conversion rates, but also helps you avoid hitting the spam traps that exist in the form of inactive IDs.

Inactivity could also mean contacts are no longer using their IDs. Such email accounts can be converted into spam traps based on the inactivity period different ESPs define.


Even though staying away from manual uploading of lists solves this problem, you might feel there are times when you’re forced to resort to this method.

A common example is conducting a trade show and collecting new leads. So how do you prevent collecting dead addresses or addresses that are on the verge of being considered inactive during your next trade show? A QR code is the answer.

Most of today’s sign-up forms can be accessed via QR codes.


If someone scans the QR code of a (double opt-in) signup form, they have to click the confirmation link to become your contact. This means you collect only active email addresses.

3. Keeps you compliant with the law

With email marketing laws like GDPR, CAN-SPAM, and more thoroughly emphasizing the need to obtain consent from your subscribers, double opt-in qualifies as the best possible solution. Needless to say, it also offers protection against spammers who exploit privacy loopholes.
I hope this has helped you better understand double opt-in. Stay tuned to this space as we work on debunking the next biggest myth in email marketing.




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