Spooky Website Design Stats That Haunt Us

Website Design Tips

Holidays like Halloween are an excellent time to both reflect on past achievements and look forward to what the future may hold for us mere mortals. This is also true for those of us in business, who work day and often into the night to make magic happen.

We certainly have seen our share of websites that do a better job of scaring customers away rather than attracting them. What worked 10 years ago will likely not work well today. Simply put, everything has changed. Technology has changed, and people’s habits are changing, too. Just as crucial to your business’ health is how your competitors have changed and what that means in an age of ghoulish competition that seems to creep up on you unexpectedly.

Since we are all about excellent web design and customer experience as it pertains to your website, regardless of what kind of device it’s viewed on, we thought we’d share some insight from the folks at Vendasta who know a few things about good website design from a marketing perspective.

If you want to know what “bumps in the night” concern us, consider these eight spooky website design stats.

  1. 38% of consumers will stop engaging with content that is unattractive in imagery or layout.
  2. A consumer’s first impression of a website is 94% design-related.
  3. Website credibility is judged 75% on the site’s overall design.
  4. 85% of consumers will abandon a site due to poor design.
  5. Given 15 minutes, 66% of consumers would prefer consuming content that is beautifully designed than something simple.
  6. It takes consumers 0.05 seconds to form an opinion about your website, so use that time wisely!
  7. The right colors increase brand recognition by 80%.
  8. 52% of consumers state “aesthetics” as the main reason why they would not return to a site.

What does all of this mean? Here’s the bottom line: Don’t spook your would-be customers with bad website design! If this is you, reach out to Fox Web Creations and tap our website experience. We can transform your website from spooky to spectacular!

9 Tips On How To Promote a New Blog

This article is about promoting blogs, not just publishing blogs, the latter of which is the easy part. For those of you that are eager to share your earth-changing ideas with the worId, but only have some foggy ideas on blog promotion, here are some tips that may not be so obvious or understood.

Self-Publishing Your Blog – This Is Not The Same As Promotion

In decades past, there were 100s of blogging platforms with their own distinctive flavors. The idea of self-publishing on endless blogsites centered around getting your blog posted in as many places as possible so your article could be found. This only worked on platforms that generated credible traffic, but that was 15 years ago.

Today, most bloggers use the popular blogging platforms from Google or WordPress. WordPress has the advantage of being integrated with your website, meaning that your blogs will always follow your site, regardless of who hosts it. On the other hand, if you use Blogger and post on BlogSpot, those blogs will never be part of your website—but if all you are doing is blogging—this may not matter to you.

So, the act of publishing your blog is indeed the easy part, but please don’t confuse this with blog promotion. You can post a blog on multiple websites, but if no one is reading and sharing your blog, it hardly matters.

The art of promoting your blog is what will attract readers to yours from the 100s of millions of blogs (no one knows the exact number) that have been posted since 1997.

Blog Promotion Begins Here

Blog promotion should take into consideration what you are trying to accomplish (e.g., advertising revenue, market feedback, thought leadership) mixed with expectations from the target readership. Ultimately, if you meet peoples’ expectations and needs, then you’re on your way to making history because those readers who like your blog, will tend to quote it, maybe even promote it, or simply share it.

Take the outspoken economist Paul Krugman for example, who has one of the highest circulated blogs in the United States, thanks in large part to a massive number of followers who read his books, take his classes or see him in leading advisory roles. Besides being a well-known contributor to The New York Times, he is well respected by academic circles as a professor of economics and international affairs at top universities, and it doesn’t hurt that he has won many awards including a Nobel Prize. No wonder why The Washington Monthly called him “the most important political columnist in America.”

OK, so you’re not Paul Krugman, which begs the question: who in the world will ever see your blog let alone read it? In a recent blogging survey on what things worry bloggers the most, 69.4 % said they worry about a lack of traffic and readers the most!

Can your blog writing become a driving force in your field of expertise? Yes, it can, but you need good content! In addition to relatable and digestible content, this is where you develop a particular skill at finding needles in haystacks. Your “needle” is your niche in the world of blogging and based on your public status and specialized area of expertise, you may find your place in a world filled with at least a billion blogs—aside from Krugman—of course.

So, good content is the foundation of blog promotion, regardless of who you are and where you publish it.

Nobody Cares About Your Blog—Yet

OK, so now you know there is more to blog promotion than meets the eye. Since I’m writing this for up-and-coming stars, I’m assuming you are not a famous person—at least not yet. So to clarify, you don’t need worldwide fame to be a favorite blogger, just esteem in your little corner of the world.

Here are the first questions you need to ask yourself: Why would anyone read my blog? What am I giving my reader that is unique and they cannot merely get elsewhere?

Once you start thinking about your audience, you have taken your first step to successful promotion, but your path will be unique to your situation—there is no secret formula or tonic that just magically works.

For example, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, it is easy to be surprised by the way something worked when you thought it to be something else entirely. Your first step on the yellow brick road to blog promotion occurs when you consider your audience.

The second step on the yellow brick road to promotion occurs when you garner the courage, make an effort, and consistently share your finest ideas on blogsites, community forums, and media platforms that best match your area of knowledge.

Most importantly, give people a reason to care about what you have to say in your blog. After all, if you care, they just might care, too.

Give Your Blog a Jump Start – Online Forums

This most prominent issue in promoting a blog is getting it noticed, especially if you don’t already have a ready following clamoring for your e-books, social media posts, newsletters, or media channel like YouTube.

However, if you have specialized knowledge in a field where you can offer insight because of your intellect, experience, expertise, and insight, you could jump-start your blog by participating in online forums to help build your visibility, credibility, and yes, eventually, a following.

If you are not familiar with Quora, you should get familiar with it. It’s a question and answer site where people participate and engage in serious dialog. Trolls are flagged, and the entire community monitors the site to keep it legitimate. Besides being self-managed by members, the community also votes answers up and down accordingly.

In my experience with Quora, I have found that most often the best answers get voted to the top, while self-serving and less insightful answers tend to get shoved down to the bottom where no one reads.

Possibly the most appealing aspect of this Q&A approach through forum involvement is that you only answer those questions where you shine. This approach also provides insight into what topics you should consider for your blog. After all, you already know people are interested in particular ideas by the simple fact they have asked the question, and you can gauge its popularity by how many people have attempted to provide an answer or voted answers up or down accordingly.

Online forums help circumvent such limitations of knowing what to write about because community members post questions on topics of interest, and from that, you know what people are reading by their level of involvement and feedback. If you’re an expert that is yet to be discovered, Quora might be your ticket to self-promotion that can be turned into blog promotion as you gain followers using a well-written bio.

Your Public Status Matters

I played a role as a “thought leader” about 18 years ago in a nascent market called digital signage. I spoke at conferences, was a founding board member to the industry’s first association, worked at a leading development firm with a team of engineers and established five branded and trademarked products. Finally, I became a product evangelist touring the country educating potential stakeholders about the virtues of digital signage, which up to that time, sounded more like an oxymoron to listeners than a product category.

However, this is the kind of activity that significantly builds your credibility. Keep in mind that I did this activity before I began blogging, not after.

After I did this sort of public activity for a few years, I began writing blogs to share what I was envisioning and learning as an industry insider. It was only a matter of time before various stakeholders, including editors and publicists, began asking me for both interviews and blogs on the topic, primarily because I had an inside track in a nascent industry that people were eager to learn about! So, your public status does matter, but that’s not the end of the story.

Why Influencers Matter

It’s possible for influencers to fall into your lap if you are well connected socially, or your particular brand has some rabid fans, but most likely, you’ll have to look for them yourself. Don’t look very far, because those that are closest to your topic are probably only a step or two away from becoming your best influencers.

Of course, it’s not often easy to find such a relationship, and many such relationships are arranged based on some kind of contract, but the most valuable influencers are those who genuinely believe in you and your message and are doing it with or without a for-profit incentive. Influential fans will always be your best influencers, whether they are paid or rewarded some other way.

This is why most companies with a social media strategy look for and incubate influencers anywhere they can find them. The long-term ripple effect of influencers is often more significant than any paid promotion because the best influencers can reach further and out last advertising.

Paid Media Is Sometimes The Best Way To Promote Your Blog When Starting Out

This tip is not a sell out to “the man”—but yes, it will require a budget! Regardless, it will likely be the quickest way to find and build an audience for your lonely blog.

Once again, it’s possible to find editors willing to publish your great content as a guest writer for no charge! This assumes your content and expertise resonates with the editor’s requirements. However, if you cannot find a media channel willing to publish your blog as a guest contributor, then paid media or ad promotion may be another way you can promote your blog.

Consider your blog’s keywords and metadata tags. These should be used in word strings known as long tail keywords to produce traffic patterns for people who are looking for what you have to offer. Without getting into the marketing strategy of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, this might be an effective way to promote your blog and help your search engine optimization (SEO).

I was not the very first person to blog about digital signage at the turn of this century, but I can tell you for sure that there were very few people who had even heard of the nascent technology in 2002. Fortunately for me, at the time, Wikipedia picked up my blog’s RSS feed and linked it their somewhat newish website under the search term, you guessed it—digital signage, as a resource. This was my first lesson in what media can do for a topic—my readership went into the atmosphere like a kite!

However, even freebies come to an end, and I had to pay the piper—literally! Wikipedia rebuilt their pages after a few years, and I lost my link. Ironically, even though I spent many dollars on paid media in the following years, I was never able to reproduce the traffic numbers that came from that one fortunate link on Wikipedia!

Proper Links Will Help Your Blog Be Found And Promoted

Now let’s consider a point that has withstood the test of time—obtaining site links from credible sources to your blog will be one of the most important ways to promote your blog. Hyperlinking your blog from other topic-related websites, blogsites, and directories as a reference or source will dramatically help people to find you in the blogosphere.

In the old days, bloggers tried to get their blog published on every blogsite in the world, but once again, this is not promotion—just an outdated SEO tactic. This might have had a little merit 20 years ago, but it is a terrible idea today because it’s a waste of time! Think about it this way: What would you rather do, fish in a lake with ten fishing poles but no fish, or fish in a lake with lots of hungry fish and only one fishing pole? In other words, the number of places you publish your blog doesn’t matter if interested readers are not finding it and engaging with you. Most importantly, Google is not SEO friendly to those that duplicate their content all over the Internet.

What matters is where your blog gets posted relative to its content and who links back to you as a credible resource. Today, it’s about linking your blog to relevant websites along with encouraging influencers and followers to share your blog—sometimes for a fee but not always.

Also, don’t be afraid to email a short blurb to editors that you think may have an interest in your topic. For example, if you are or have the potential to be an influencer in a sought after market or specialty—then you most likely will find opportunities to become a “guest contributor,” which will open the platform up to your ideas.

Depending on the media company, they may ask you to keep the article exclusive for such-and-such time, but in the long run, this is not asking too much given their level of reach and influence.

Learn From Those Who Have Successful Blogs

Of all of the resources at my disposal as a blogger, I think this website is an excellent resource for anyone just starting a blog–regardless of motive. The site’s author speaks to over 100 things you can do to promote yourself for free, getting into the nitty-gritty of promotion including technical how-tos and many step-by-step guides.

Of course, you don’t have to do all of these things to be successful, and some are much more important than others depending on your situation, but all of it is good advice that is easy to understand. Try picking 10 or so actionable items that you can do and give it go.

Here’s a final thought about the subject of blog promotion. It’s important to remember that bloggers are a community of aspiring writers. Since many blogs are written by non-experts to help SEO, it’s easy to lose sight that the essence of blog writing is sharing one’s experience, knowledge, and insight with those that are interested in your topic.

I’ve already recommended some good non-commercial sources for bloggers of all persuasions, but possibly I saved the best for last. If you would like to join a significant community of writers who write on nearly any topic, I’d suggest submitting your articles to the blogsite known as EzineArticles. Here, you will find a serious community of bloggers, support and coaching staff, educational materials, writing rewards, and one of the most reputable self-publishing platforms in the US. It’s not the be-all and end-all of blogging, but it’s a great start.

May these tips push your blog promotion from mundane to extraordinary

SEO Best Practice–Why Page Loading Speed Matters

 

SEO Best Practice: Why Page Loading Speed Matters

Most website managers who care about things like page conversions have at least heard that page speed matters, but they may not be able to say why that’s so. What do you think?

We all can relate to a website that simply stalls before loading content, or in another typical scenario, experience content that loads painfully slow. Most of us agree that either experience is annoying. But beyond annoying web visitors, let’s find out what the real consequences are for a sluggish website.

Show Me the Money

Once you assign a dollar value to speed, it becomes crystal clear in terms of real costs why the enduring visitor perception and experience with page speed relates directly to customer service and brand value.

For example, KISSmetrics presented statistics from Akamai who studied the dollar cost of speed as it relates to page conversions. They found a 1-second delay in page response time results on average in a 7% increase in page abandonment. The kicker here is that page abandonment exponentially grows as seconds add up, so a 4-second delay results in about 28% page desertion, which means your sluggish website is hemorrhaging visitors and potential income at an alarming rate!

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal if you measure things like downloads and other call-to-actions where speed is not considered a critical metric, but it is an important metric when applied to an e-commerce site making $100,000 per day.

Think about it; a 1-second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales per year. Additionally, page speed is an important online metric for both perceived customer service and brand quality.

Download the KISSmetrics infographic to see all of the statistics.

SEO Best Practice: Check Your Website’s Speed

What does speed mean to website managers in 2018 and beyond? Don’t ignore it! Do everything in your power to increase the page speed of your website for both desktop and mobile sites. If your website is responsive, make sure it works well on every device imaginable. If you test your website and it’s found to be less than optimum, contact a competent web developer who knows how to optimize your website’s speed. It’s more affordable than most other SEO endeavors, and you have nothing to lose but customers—right?

Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see your score and take notice of any advice they may give you in the results. Secondly, take a look at the size of your page, as many sites are bloated nowadays. Try to shave off as much as you can by optimizing images, compressing code and loading fewer external scripts and ads.

Maybe it’s time to drop the most egregious designer “cuties” that bloat your website and go with a more minimalist approach. What customers love most about your site is the content and how quickly they can see it!

Google Loves Speed, Too

Speed is most critical when web visitors are using mobile devices, but desktop websites are not off the hook. Google takes note of your website’s optimization for all devices, and poor results reduce search ranking automatically by its Page Rank algorithms. If your website speed is annoying enough to catch Google’s attention, then it’s a sure bet your user experience is in the toilet, too.

Of course, there are over 200 factors that make up Google page ranking; however, not all elements are weighted evenly or even come close to the importance of speed. Yes, your website should be responsive so it can work well on all types of devices. Yes, you should have a security certificate whether you are doing e-commerce or not. And yes, you need to optimize your website for speed. Once these things are in order, you can continue to add to the list, but these items are the most important after great content, which will always be number one.

5 Ways to Harness App Development For Your Business

 

5 Ways to Harness App Development For Your Business

 

In the wake of significant movers and shakers like Amazon, mobile app technology is being effectively deployed by B2B and B2C businesses with helpful features that attract customers from all demographics. Here is how to turn this tool of business disruption into an advantage for your business.

If you read my previous article, Amazon’s Secret Weapon, then you already have a foundation for understanding why app development and technology is a game changer for many businesses.

According to worldwide research conducted by Accenture Mobility in 2015, the majority of top executives in all the key industries found apps to be critical to their business—especially in light of the digital eco-sphere that many corporations are building around customer experience and engagement.

Of course, today, app technology is commonly baked into the entire customer experience from significant product innovators like Tesla to everyday service providers such as utility companies. For many of us, app tech has been part of our daily lives going past ten years now. Most importantly, apps are often the way many customers prefer to engage today.

Because it is so widespread, it is typical to make the mistake of thinking app technology is easy—which is pure fantasy—at least for enterprise applications that are making a difference in customer experience and engagement.

app development cost

The Cost of App Development

For example, the real cost of an app lies in the custom engineering required to make it do all those wonderful things that appear real-time on our screens. Many potential app buyers are shocked to learn that the average cost of a mobile app is $270,000, according to a recent survey, and development can take from seven months to more than a year.

But I have good news for SMBs. If you are determined to deliver a better customer experience, don’t let the high cost of typical app development faze you! If you are a small business enterprise, many useful apps can be developed for under $50K.

5 App Development Applications For SMBs

Here are some important points that your business needs to consider before discounting mobile app technology as a waste of capital. According to Mehul Rajput, CEO of Mindinventory, these are the 5 top mobile applications that SMBs can use internally and externally to enhance both customer and employee experience, convenience, loyalty, profitability, and productivity. Let’s see if you can identify with any of them.

  1. Customer Engagement (it’s about instant access to what’s important)

Mobile apps let customers (and employees) get access to needed and often secured information at their fingertips when and where they want it. As a result of reaching your customer anytime, anywhere, and on their terms, you build goodwill right into the experience. This kind of positive experience with your brand often leads to peer-to-peer recommendations and possibly a positive review. Since peer review and recommendation is the number one source for gaining a loyal customer across all demographics, this might be a more significant benefit than you had ever imagined. Most of all, app engagement doesn’t have to be flashy to be valued. Even more mundane tasks like account management or remote management of various assets can score big with clients.

  1. Promoting Products, Services & Discounts

With the use of a mobile app specific to your business, you can provide customers with accurate information about products or services, discount offers, etc., or entice them with personalized promotions that increase relevancy. If you are a retailer, an app installed on a smartphone opens the door to another possibility, too. It makes it possible to take advantage of in-store beacons that can trigger on-the-spot specials, announce events or contests, or maybe just as important, provide more personalization to the shopping or visitor experience.

  1. Facilitate Sales

You can also promote business sales by integrating a mobile shopping cart. If you already sell your products and services online, then a mobile app is likely your next best step to increasing sales, particularly as it provides your customers the flexibility and convenience to do things they would have otherwise done sitting at their desks. Undoubtedly this benefits retail, but B2B buyers also have similar needs when away from the office at a remote job location or wherever.

  1. Customer Service

Mobile applications provide customers a simple yet efficient way to get in touch with your business as you can include detailed information about your company, products & services, hours and direct contact through texting, phone, or email. Even more, request feedback and suggestions from your customers by merely inserting polls and surveys.

  1. Enhanced Customer Experience

Businesses can make the best use of apps like never before by personalizing some functions such as messaging, photo sharing, loyalty programs and push notifications that connect us to things we want or need to know.

Of course, there are many factors that can disrupt thriving businesses—even well established one with celebrated business models. However, most are not that relevant to small business concerns. Nevertheless, small businesses aren’t immune to disruption.

We considered a top disruptive technology that is the most important for SMBs to consider now and in the near future. Mobile apps can be a significant business tool for all kinds of reasons, and you may have an idea even now that can set your business apart. If so, share it with a trusted app developer who can give a “ballpark” estimate to turn your idea into reality. Then you can weigh its benefits to projected cost to see if it’s worth pursuing.

The big guys like Amazon cannot easily disrupt your business if your business is local and offers more than a shippable commodity. And when you combine your local business with the omnipresence of an app and all of the convenience that it provides customers, your business can give the best in customer service just like the big guys.

Maybe it’s time to brainstorm some ideas with a developer? An app unique to your brand could be just the edge you need to equalize the competition and propel your business forward.

Why Amazon’s Secret Weapon Is Disrupting Your Business

 

Why Amazon’s Secret Weapon Is Disrupting Your Business

Business innovators are breaking traditional retail models and shaking its foundations. It’s important to note that these kind of disruptions are not brought about by deploying new and shiny marketing slogans or branding, updating package colors, spending more money on advertising, or for that matter, doing anything that traditional marketing departments may likely address. Many buyers don’t give a flip about these things in 2017, at least not when it comes to deciding what to buy and who to buy from.

Millennials are driving customer experience and satisfaction to new heights

What do today’s buyers give a flip about?

What do today’s buyers give a flip about? They care about buying value that starts with the product or service as most of us think of value. However, part of the value equation with today’s customer often includes meeting personal objectives, e.g., shopping convenience, relevant information and/or experience, sustainability, brand purpose, monetary incentives, and tech tools to make it all happen ASAP, to name some of the more important factors.

Here’s a word of caution about today’s retail environment: If your business thinks of brand value only as the intrinsic value of your product and/or service you deliver, you are ripe for disrupting!

Since it’s our business to help you be more successful with Internet technology, the focus of this article centers on an effective tool that you can deploy to help create a better than ordinary customer experience. It may not be a right fit for your business, but read on to decide for yourself anyway.

How much we value business disruptions are typically linked to whether we are the disruptor or the disrupted. And when such disruption is fueled by genuine innovation, then many more people may benefit than not by such disruption and the world becomes a better place.

Take Amazon for example. Is Amazon disrupting your business or helping your business? Maybe Amazon is the frenemy of brick-and-mortar retail? If you are a retailer of packaged commodities and you have a successful Amazon store, then your daily shipments via the Amazon network may exceed your daily walk-in business.

Source: MarketingProfs Article: How Americans Feel About Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter

Even more, according to a recent survey, online buyers have the highest regard for Amazon and may be more inclined to purchase your product because of this overall sense of goodwill and trust that Amazon has built with customers.

Of course, the Amazon store may be just one click away from being a competitor, too. Regardless of where your coin lands on this merchant dilemma, I’m going to suggest that all of our business challenges are bigger than any one competitor. Amazon deserves a lot of credit for being a true innovator by significantly improving the customer experience.

Here’s the real dilemma: We now live in an age where customers, competitors, and technologies are changing so rapidly that common problem analysis and problem-solving are too slow at addressing solutions!

Adam Richardson, the creative director at global innovation firm, frog design, characterizes this enigma quite well in his book, INNOVATION X – Why A Company’s Toughest Problems Are Its Greatest Advantages.

He summarizes two key points of what he calls colliding business disruptions that are affecting all businesses regardless of size:

  • POINT 1: Today, we have disruptive competition and blurring of industry boundaries as companies leap into each other’s spaces (this is a traditional way a business disrupts the marketplace).
  • POINT 2: Today, we face more demanding customers who place a higher premium on the experiential qualities of using a product—ease of use, how it makes them feel, how it fits into their lives, what it communicates to others, does it sync with personal values—that go above and beyond familiar objective criteria like performance and price (this is relatively new phenomenon…the connected generation is driving massive changes in the marketplace).

Richardson summarizes where he sees this leading, noting that “there is a need to create integrated systems of physical products, software, online experiences, and services that work as a single whole. (Often these integrated systems are the keys to meeting customer needs in ways impossible from a more isolated offering.)”

Richardson is talking about something related to product eco-systems, but that subject is vast, and we need to boil it down to one important detail if we are to gain a better grasp of what we might do to help SMB businesses succeed in the rapidly changing present.

With this in mind, let’s consider Amazon’s secret weapon that they deployed with large success but not much fanfare over the last couple of years. It facilitates and drives both customer experiences and satisfaction.

Some of you are currently using their secret weapon; it’s their well-designed and functional mobile app. According to Millward Brown Digital research in early 2016, 76% of all digital shoppers have downloaded the Amazon app, and that is by far the largest acceptance of any mobile shopping app in the United States. The next closest is Walmart’s at 33%.

Author Adam Richardson
Mobile apps are rapidly improving customer experience and satisfaction

Source: Accenture Mobility Research 2015 | Growing the Digital Business: Spotlight on Mobile Apps

If you are a B2B owner or manager, you may be thinking right now something like this, “I don’t compete with Amazon, I don’t sell consumer products—none of this really matters to my business!” If that is you, I’m really amazed you read this far—but I’m glad you did. It’s important not to discount app technology too quickly, even if you are not in a consumer business where shopping convenience rules.

What does rule in any business is customer service, and if a well-designed app can give you an edge in customer service, there may be one in your company’s future, too.

App technology is a tool that can have a significant payoff for your business in the form of better customer convenience and service, and if you think of it the way Amazon thinks of it—it’s all about delivering better customer convenience, experience, and service, relentlessly.