Thursday, September 26, 2013

What is Ad Retargeting?

Big Brother is watching you. At least that is what you might be thinking when you're suddenly presented with online popup ads related to a recent web search. Is it safe to say that you were being tracked from one website to another?

Actually yes, but there is nothing sinister about this.

It is a very common practice known as ad retargeting and it's helping many online businesses pull in new customers. Are you currently running an ad retargeting campaign? If not, you should be, because the conversion rates on retargeted banner ads are much higher, in many cases up to 20%. Retargeted ad campaigns target the 98% of the audience that don’t buy after leaving a website.

Regaining the lost lead.

Traditional display advertising has mostly been used as an awareness and branding tool. Whereas, retargeted ad campaigns have been great for driving conversions on your site, be they sales, sign ups, leads or subscribers.

If the goal of your advertising campaign is direct sales or signups and you have a decent amount of traffic then retargeting is ‘right’ for you.

It’s all in the cookie.

Every time you log onto the Internet and start surfing you leave a trail of breadcrumbs wherever you go. Those "breadcrumbs" grow into cookies. This is the tracking technology that allows visitors to any e-commerce site to pick up a cookie with every visit. Now they are tagged for potential retargeting.

You'll be paying a company to set up a retargeting platform that will collate all those cookies and present a bid to run your ads across many other web portals. These ads are banner ads which can bring that customer right back to your website – especially if they are dynamic.

Understand the threshold.

There is a minimum recommended traffic size that you should have coming to your website before starting a retargeting campaign. You should be aware that retargeting only targets your site visitors.

If your site only receives a small amount of traffic per month, then you will only have a small pool of users to target resulting a low sales volume
It has been found that if your site must receive at least 5,000 unique visitors per month. Even if you have less than 5,000 uniques, you can still add a retargeting tracking pixel to your site but your goals should be towards branding instead of sales.  Run a contest, or a lead generation campaign. 

Does ad retargeting work?

According to a comScore study, companies who use ad retargeting can see a 726% increase in return visits to their websites within four-week period. As for online shoppers, 72% don't finish shopping when they put items in their cart. Of that group, 8% return to make the purchase. Factor in ad retargeting and those returns bounce up to 26%.

These numbers definitely provide a convincing argument that ad retargeting should be a strong force for the smart marketer.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Google and High Quality Content

Love it or hate it, Google is the dominant force when it comes to ranking your company's website. That ranking is registered when a prospect types in a keyword to find something they're looking for like "dentist in East Lansing" or "T-shirts in Fort Lauderdale." Google wants to reward it's users by presenting the most relevant websites at the top of their ranking page.

There aren't any "Google elves" sitting there answering keyword searches. Instead, an algorithm is activated for every search. Throughout the years, Google has tweaked the algorithm to make it better at finding great websites for the respective search results. They keep the algorithm a secret as many companies try to game it in order to be ranked higher. However, there are general rules that Google has outlined what a relevant website should follow in order to be ranked high.

According to Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s WebSpam team, fresh, relevant content is the foundation for high rankings. So, how does Google tell if a web page has high quality content? Consider these factors:

Duplicate Content

Google performs an instantaneous scan and recognizes just as fast whether or not a web site has overlapping and/or redundant content on your site. They look to see if you’ve copied content from other sites by checking the age of the content and percentage of similar content when comparing sites. Here is where your inclusion of keywords could actually come back to haunt you, especially if they are being overused. Does this mean you should abandon those keywords? Absolutely not. However, you might also want to freshen up your existing content if your keyword phrases all appear to be using the same phrasing.  

Quality Content

Google is looking for quality. When it can deliver that to its users then those users will come back for more. Is your content well written? Are there grammar or spelling errors? Does it read like a robot wrote the piece? There are many quality content writers out there who can deliver engaging content. If you don't have the skills, hire someone who does. One way Google measures quality content is through tracking how long an user stays on the page. If they arrive on the page and leave immediately, Google knows that the page wasn’t relevant to the search query, or that the website content wasn’t good.

Relevant Content

Here is where you need to search out the competition. Pretend you're a customer and Google the same keywords you hope someone would use to look for your site. What businesses come up on the first ranking page? More importantly, why did those sites come up first? Take the time to study those pages to see what they are doing right in terms of content, titles and headers. This is what you should be striving for.

Viral Content

The best type of content is something that will be shared. Whether that is an infographic, top ten list or really cool photo, if you can get viewers to bookmark or share that piece then you're spreading your message further across the web. Information and humor are two solid items that can make a piece of content go viral. If you can add a short, funny video all the better!

When you get right down to it, it's not rocket science. It's all about quality. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tips on Creating a Good Infographic

Infographics are a fun and quick way to learn about any topic without any heavy reading. There are many reasons why infographics are often better than just writing a blog post. They range from:

- Providing a data-rich visualization of a story or   thesis

- A great visual tool to educate and inform that is easily shared

- And a great way to build brand awareness that can be at a lower cost due to the viral sharing opportunities.

When done right, the infographic is a bold and fun way to present information about a subject. It's something you can quickly scan, presenting data-rich information visually.

The best type of infographic is one that can be shared across many websites. If you're the company that has created that popular infographic then you should be able to benefit from increased traffic, as users will want to learn more.

Adding an infographic to your website isn't as complicated as you think. Start with Googling "infographic templates." From there you'll want to follow the following tips on creating a good infographic:

Tip #1: Get the Right Data Source

The most important component in an infographic is the actual "info." This means you need to find a legitimate source for all your data points. Thanks to all the published studies, surveys and research it shouldn't be hard to collect the data points you need to support the purpose of your infographic. You could even borrow data from another infographic. Just make sure that you source your data within the content of your infographic.

Tip #2: Get the Right Designer

Although you might find a free template for your infographic that doesn't mean you'll have the skills to get the job done. Instead of driving yourself crazy, look for a terrific graphic artist who has experience creating these kinds of pieces. Yes, this is an investment but it's no different than paying for original content. As you shop around for a graphic artist you might find some who will do the job for a flat fee while others work on an hourly rate. Don't hesitate to check out their portfolios before committing to hiring them.

Tip #3: Get the Right Wireframe

Your infographic wireframe is essentially the outline of the story your want to tell. You have your data points. Now you want to lay them out in an order that provides the information in a compelling way for the viewer. Remember an infographic is vertical so build your story with a engaging beginning, middle and conclusion. In terms of the number of data points, six seems to be what generates the most follow-up Tweets. Make sure your logo and website information is included at the bottom of the graphic.

Tip #4: Get the Right Headline

All your hard work won't amount to anything unless it gets read. That's where a strong headline comes into play. This is your hook. Research has shown that most viewers are attracted to number headlines like "Top Ten" or "Five Best" etc. If you can work in numbers to your headline you'll be ahead of the game.

Tip #5: Get the Right Promotion Tools

Before you're ready to send your infographic out into cyberspace make sure you've got embed code that will make sharing this piece as simple as a click. You should then search for the blogs that would appreciate the information that you're sharing. Set up a targeted email campaign for the high PR blogs. Those blogs will be happy to use your content to fill up their pages.

Don't believe that? Google "Marvel vs. DC" infographic to see how many sites are sharing this single piece about which comic book company has better box office results. Hopefully, your infographic will have the same potential to go viral. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How to Protect Your Idea without Using a Patent

Taking your idea from the drawing board to the store shelf is going to take many months (or, in some cases, years!) of dedicated work. During that development process, someone could swoop in and steal your idea right out from under you.

At least that might be your biggest fear.

This is why you want to make sure your product or idea is patented, right?

Although that may make sense, during the development and start-up phase filing for a patent can be a costly and time-consuming process. So, should you put your great idea on hold?

Absolutely not! Here are some ways you can protect your idea without using a patent.

Non-disclosure agreement (NDA)

If you have any proprietary information or plans that you're going to share, you should make sure you get a non-disclosure agreement signed by that person before you show them anything. This is a binding contract that compels the second party to confidentiality. They can't talk about your product or idea to anyone else without your permission. You can get a lot of work done with a NDA without worrying that your idea will get stolen as it is developed.

Non-compete agreement

This is an agreement you sign with someone you are hiring for your company. It will compel them not to start a competing business that could take direct aim at your profits. For instance, if you've come up with a great new ice cream making process and you share that with your workers they can't turn around and use that same process in their own store if they've signed a non-compete agreement. Of course, if you want to sell them franchises go for it!

Work-for-hire agreement

This is an agreement you'll enter into with a freelance worker who will be lending some of their talents on certain elements of your product development. With a work-for-hire contract, you will own all the work that person creates on your behalf. If they design a killer logo for your brand, under this contract, that logo will be all yours.

Go provisional

Another layer of protecting your idea is by filing a provisional patent. This is something you can do yourself using resources found online. The provisional patent can throw a "protection net" over your idea for up to one year. With this type of patent, you can make the claim of "patent pending." In that year, you should be working out the kinks and lining up investors. Then you can pull the trigger on the patent. You might also find that your product has changed greatly in that year. Better to get it right than to rush into a patent. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Social Media and the Law

Does your company need a lawyer every time you post on Facebook? Obviously not if it is your personal page.

However, when you dive into social media to promote your business you would be well advised to speak with a social media law specialist to keep an eye on what you post. Look at it this way, when a company creates an ad that makes certain claims about their product, that ad has to go through a strict legal review to protect the interests of that company.

This is the same approach you should be taking when you begin engaging customers through social media. In other words, get protected before you post. Here are some areas to think about with regard to social media and the law.

Do you have an action plan?

On many levels, you can gauge a successful social media campaign by the amount of followers or "likes" you achieve. Yet when you drill down, an effective social media campaign is much more than a numbers game.

Before you meet with a lawyer, you'll want to put together your company's action plan. This can come in the form of a prepared background document. Included in this document should be the supporting data for the following:

  • Current social media uses
  • Lists of various social media platforms being utilized
  • Type of material being shared (blogs, videos, Tweets, photos, etc.)
  • Staff members responsible for generating social media content
  • Any company policies regarding posting
  • A review of competitors’ social media campaigns
  • Guidelines for employees posting on behalf of the company such as language/photo use

All of these issues pertain to a certain level of risk management with regard to employee interaction. Without guidelines you could find yourself dealing with inappropriate posts that could cause great harm to your brand.

Do your employees know what they can or cannot post?

It's hard to imagine a company getting through the course of business without creating a "disgruntled" employee. Usually, these are the folks who are dismissed because of poor work performance and go on to vent their frustrations. These types of comments can be managed but what about posts from current employees that could be a problem? Make sure that your employees understand that company secrets or making fun of a customer are not something that should be done on social media.

All of these types of postings need to be explored with your legal representative in order to form a comprehensive set of rules for your staff. It is much better to work through all the possible scenarios as opposed to doing damage control. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Areas of Potential Liability for Website Owners

When was the last time you read the fine print on the terms and conditions of a website? Most of us don’t take the time to read them, finding the legalese too boring. We just click "I accept" so we can get to the good stuff.

However, as a business owner you don't have the luxury of skipping over that fine print. In fact, those terms and conditions might actually become your strongest defense against frivolous litigation.

This is why companies invest in experienced legal counsel to craft liability language. This will make sure your business is protected even from the casual visitor who might have "issues" with your website content. The goal is to reduce the possibility of a lawsuit.  

Here are some things to consider adding to your own terms and conditions to afford any potential liability claims.

Protect your data. If you intend to sell your email list to a third party (it can be a good source of revenue) then you need to be protected with a strong "personal information" provision that spells out your intentions. Even if you don't plan to use that information you still want to be protected in the likelihood that the data is compromised.

Errors and omissions. This is a clause that is include in most business contracts but should also be included on your website. Suppose you post content with facts or figures that prove to be inaccurate or become out of date? Hopefully, you can correct that when notified but until then you shouldn't be held as negligent for a simple oversight.

Unknown malware. There is no telling if or when your website could be attacked by an outside entity until it is too late. If a visitor picks up a "virus" by visiting your site should you be held responsible? Not if you have the right kind of language in your terms and conditions.

Transmission problems. If your server goes down and a customer's own business or service is interrupted, you shouldn't be held liable. Crashes will happen and you'll need to be protected especially when the loss of data could occur.

Copyright infringement. You should do your best not to engage in any copyright infringement but that doesn't mean it can't occur. Suppose you have a forum where a user posts something that is protected. Are you liable? What if someone considers material as defamatory? You can't predict everyone's reaction to all that you'll be posting but you can protect yourself from those reactions.

Confiscation of data. There may be instances where a user's personal information is subjected to foreign government control. In the U.S. there are many heated discussions about this very issue as it pertains to investigations sanctioned by the Patriot Act. You can let your users know they might be subjected to these types of date mining through no fault of your company.

Fortunately, businesses have worked out many of these issues in their own terms and conditions language. You can take advantage of that by obtaining boilerplates of these provisions. You'll still need a lawyer to review them before you post on your website but using boilerplate language can reduce the costs of writing up this liability protection. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Some Startup Business Ideas For 2013

Where is the next great startup business idea coming from? It might already be out there waiting to be plucked off the internet and put into practical use. Always remember that in business there isn't really just "one thing."

Consider your own neighborhood. How many dry cleaners are there? How many nail salons? How many restaurants?

Businesses offering the same goods and services can coexist. What makes your business successful is how you innovate and market. Since more and more folks are turning to smartphones and tablets for daily use, you could find a sweet spot developing a product or website to fit the needs of all those potential users. If you're looking for an idea for a startup business consider these hot concepts:

Neighborhood Social Networks

Yes, everyone is on Facebook but that doesn't mean everyone is "connected" in real world terms. When it comes to social networking, staying local could be a big benefit. Developing a social hub for various communities could turn into a broader venture. Just keep it in the community.

Social Network Address Book

Speaking of social networks, there doesn't seem to be a decent address book that works across several platforms. Yes, every Smartphone has a version of an address book but supposed you want to organize all your online social contacts in separate categories? Where is the app for that?

The Next Great App

There is always room for a new great app. What about a digital business card or a digital customer loyalty card? If there was a way to scan those types of items and share them with other Smartphone users it could be a big plus to many businesses and reps.

A New Kind of Craigslist

So far, Craigslist has cornered the market when it comes to internet classifieds. Is there a better version? Perhaps something that isn't so cluttered? Maybe one that focuses more on trade than personals? Worth thinking about.

Group Shopping

Many fans of shopping like to do so with friends. What if you could go online shopping with your BFF? That could be a huge game changer for a smart ecommerce site.

Photo Sharing

There are many popular photo-sharing sites like Pinterest, Tumblr and Flickr. Is there room for more? When you think about the amount of pictures being shared today then the answer is "yes." The hook would be to come up with that tool or "cool factor" that the other sites are lacking.

If you've started up a new business this year, let us know. We'd be happy to share the good news!