Google+ For Businesses & Google My Business Explained

If you have no idea what the difference between a Google+ Brand page and a Google+ Local page is, or what Google My Business is, you are not alone. In this blog post you will get an understanding of each of the Google products, why you should use them and how to set them up.

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business (previously known as Google Place Listing and Google Places for Business) is the information search engines use when listing your business. Having control of your listing allows you to determine which information to present to searchers about your business. This information can include your phone number, address, images, hours of operation and more. All of this information can be found whether users are using Google Search or Google Maps.

What Are Google+ Local & Google+ Brand Pages?

There are two types of Google+ pages that businesses can set up:

1.) Google+ Local pages (for physical stores or businesses that serve customers within a service area)
2.) Google+ Brand pages

Both the Local and Brand pages are about the social aspect of search. Similar to Facebook’s model where companies can have a profile page, companies can create a Google+ page. Users on Google+ can then connect with brands by adding them to their circle. If they have added you to their circle, they can see your company updates in addition to Zagat reviews.

Google+ Local is when a company (usually a local business) creates a profile on Google+. It has features that enable customers to engage with a business’s physical store (similar to Google My Business).

Side note: Coincidentally, a Google+ Local page will be automatically set up when you verify your business using Google My Business.

Google+ Brand pages are created for businesses that don’t need to include an address or other physical information. These can be created for a product or brand, sports team, artist, etc.

What the Similarities Between Local Google+ & Google My Business Listings?

You may be thinking that Google+ Local and Google My Business sound very similar and you are correct. They both allow for uploading images, allowing users to leave comments and reviews and add your general business information.

What are the Differences?

Besides the fact that their layouts are different, a Google My Business listing appears on maps or the search results page. You can also verify your business and utilize the Google My Business dashboard to manage your listings.

A Google+ Local page is mainly for social purposes. You can share articles on your feed, in addition to connecting with others in the industry and consumers.

What Does My Business Need?

It’s very important for businesses to get involved with Google My Business & Google+ (whether it’s a Local page or a Brand page). Utilizing both products helps you be in control of your brand. Whether you put it out there or not, your company is going to be mentioned on the internet. It’s up to you to make sure your brand is represented to the fullest extent. You can not only add images and contact information, but you can also connect with consumers by responding to reviews or answering their questions.

Being on both Google My Business & Google+ helps increase your visibility on search engines. What this means is that Google is factoring these listings into the SERPs and will continue to do so. This will allow for your business to OWN the results page. Imagine if you had a top position in organic search, a Google My Business listing in addition to a Google+ Local page featured! Take a look at the below for an example of Pizza Hut owning the search results page for their local franchises:

google my business and google+

Click to enlarge

 

How Do I Set Up a Google+ Brand or Google+ Local Page?

Below you will find 4 easy steps to setting up your own Google+ page for your company:

1.) Choose a Gmail account that is accessible to multiple users.
2.) Visit https://plus.google.com/pages/create to begin the process of creating your Google+ page. Choose between a storefront, service area or brand as your business type.

local google+

3.) Once you have selected your business type, fill out the business information & customize your profile with your tagline, logo, etc.
4.) Now that you have your page set up (whether a Google+ Local page or a Google+ Brand page), you can begin to post content such as videos, updates and photos and engage with customers/people in the industry.

How Do I Set Up & Verify a Google My Business Listing?

Below you will find 5 easy steps to claim your listing on Google:

1.) If you have created a Google+ page for your business, you can find your business and verify it. This can be either by phone, postcard or the new instant verification via Webmaster Tools.
2.) If you have decided not to create a Google+ Local page, you will first need to choose a Gmail account that is accessible to multiple users that you can use on Google My Business.
3.) Once you do this you can search for your business and begin the claiming process.

google my business set up

4.) If your listing has not been claimed yet, you will get a notification that Google will need to create a Google+ page.

Our recommendation for local businesses: Create a Google+ Local Page first, before you try to claim your business on Google My Business. This way all of your business information is already inputted and the same across both Google products.

google my business claim

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.) Once you have access to your listing, like I mentioned in step one, verify your listing by phone, postcard or or instant verification via Webmaster Tools.

Why Should I Verify My Business?

Verifying your business allows for you as the company owner the ability to manage the listing to make updates, respond to messages, upload pictures, etc. It also gives customers the peace of mind that the location is managed by the verified owner, and prevents edits from unauthorized users.

Summary

Hopefully this helped clear up the confusion about Google+ Local, Google+ Brand and Google My Business similarities, differences, why you should use them and how to set them up. What did we forget or have any follow up questions? Let us know in the comments section below.

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How to Determine if Pinterest is Right for Your Business

Have you ever wondered if Pinterest was right for your business? Here are five simple ways to determine if this social channel will work for your brand.

Related: If you’re not sure what Pinterest is, here is Pinterest Explained.

1.) Check The Facts:

The first step in deciding if Pinterest is right for your business is to determine if you target audience is even on Pinterest. Users on Pinterest are mainly women- 68.2% to be exact. That doesn’t mean the men that make up 31.8% don’t matter, just realize more women are present on this platform. The age demographic of Pinterest is wide, but the majority are between 25-44 years old.

Also, uses for Pinterest can be different for B2B vs. B2C companies. Pinterest tends to work well for B2C businesses such as crafters, builders, designers, clothing retailers, food establishments and more. These are direct to consumer products that can be displayed in a v  isually appealing way. Using Pinterest as a B2B company will depend on the products/services sold. B2B brands tend to see higher success when they utilize infographics that help explain their products, processes, services, etc.

men-women-pinterest

To determine if Pinterest is right for your business, first determine who your target audience is. 68.2% of Pinterest users are women.

Example: If you’re a B2B company who is targeting C-suite level executives in a male dominated industry, Pinterest would not be an ideal channel to invest in.

Related: If you are stuck and cannot figure out which channels are right for your business, a channel plan is highly recommended.

2.) Check Your Insights:

If you are certain your target audience is on Pinterest, check Google Analytics. You may find that your users are already coming to your site as referral traffic. If this is true for you, your customers are already making a case for you to consider investing your time.

pinterest-analytics

Dig into your data to see if users are already coming to your site from Pinterest.

3.) Check Your Current Stock of Images:

You could be sitting on a gold mine if you have quality images of your work/products/services. Since Pinterest is a visual platform, these images which could include quality product images, infographics, action shots of your products in use, lists, etc. What we hear from many of our clients is that since they don’t have a “sexy product,” they feel as though they don’t have any visuals worthwhile to share. See below for the example of the official Pinterest board of IBM Research. If an IT company can have a Pinterest account, so can your business. IBM has a board about different topics including infographics, industry trends and employees, all of which look visually appealing.

Utilizing images that you already have is a great way to get started on Pinterest without having to allocate a huge amount of time or money.

ibm-pinterest

If you have an abundant amount of images, put them to good use! Pinterest is the perfect platform for them.

4.) Check Your Bandwidth:

Before you get on Pinterest, make sure that you have the time and can put forth the effort to create a constant flow of content. Remember that Facebook, Blog or Twitter account of that business you’re interested in that has been inactive for a year? Left you with a bad impression, right? A stagnant social account does not set a good tone with current or new customers.

In addition, you need to make sure you have the bandwidth and follow through to keep up with this account. Do you have someone who can devote a couple of hours per week, minimum, creating and posting content? It is imperative to have a dedicated team member(s) who will be actively engaged in managing this platform on a regular basis. Similar to a website, a brochure and other collateral, Pinterest is an extension of your brand and shouldn’t be left stagnant for a long period of time.

Related: Here are a few Pinterest ideas for your brand.

5.) Check Your Goals:

If you are thinking about adding your business to Pinterest, what sort of success are you looking to get? Your Pinterest strategy will be different depending on the goals that you have. Do you want an increase in customer engagement? An increase in traffic to your site? An improvement in brand awareness? All of these are goals that need to be strategized before pulling the trigger to engage on the platform.

 

Now that you know if Pinterest is right for your business, let us know in the comment section below if you are going to create an account! If you have other questions about if Pinterest is right for your business, ask one of our social media marketing gurus at BEM!

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Ecommerce Advanced Segments for Google Analytics

Collecting data is awesome. Analyzing data is awesome-er. Segmenting data is awesome-est. If you only gain one thing from this post, let it be that bit about segmenting. Looking at data without segmenting doesn’t really show you much. Sure you might see a trend here or there, but if you want to get real, actionable insights out of your analysis, you NEED to segment! There are countless ways to slice up the numbers, and it really doesn’t matter which route you choose, as long as it takes you down a path of enlightenment.

Advanced Segments

Ecommerce sites are a great case for segmentation, because you can see precisely how much revenue your site is generating. Logging in to Google Analytics and reviewing some aggregate metrics such as bounce rate, conversion rate, and the traffic source report isn’t going to tell you much. You might notice that a lot of traffic is coming from Bing, or that you overall conversion rate is 2.6%. But what are these things even really telling you? Nothing. At least nothing that translates to an action you should take. Here’s a list of some of the most useful segments for ecomm analysis.

  1. Let’s say you’ve created an advanced segment in Google Analytics for ‘whales’ (aka big spenders). Essentially this will look at every visit with a transaction that is excessively higher than your average order value. If your AOV is $200, your ‘whale segment’ might be visits with a transaction over $500. *Note, you’ll want to make sure you have enough data for this segment, if you only had 1 transaction in this segment, back down the dollar amount until you get enough data to derive some great insights. This is a great segment because it allows you to break down how these big spenders got to your site, where they landed, and what other pages they viewed. Now you can analyze this data and makes some recommendations on how to acquire more whales and/or convert more of the average spenders to whales. Add this segment to your Google Analytics: Whales. This particular segment is defaulted to orders over $500, adjust to meet your needs.
  2. On the other side of the whales coin, you’ll find minnows – or transactions are that far below the AOV. With Whales we were looking for channels that drove big spenders to the site, whereas the minnows segment will show us where all of our small transaction came from. Here, you might find a particular channel is driving a lot of purchases, but they’re all relatively small. Segmenting this way will highlight that and allow you to adjust the campaigns in question accordingly. You can use the same segment in whales, just change the name and the spend filter.
  3. Another great way to breakdown your data is to slice it up by category. If you operate a clothing/shoe site for example, you probably have a men’s section and a women’s section. You might want to see how different groups of users interact with the site. Another way to break it down might be by product type, for example running shoes vs. causal shoes. Looking at data this way might show you which types of products you need more of, which ones need more focus, and which products convert better. Here’s you own copy of the ecomm category segment, again, you’ll need to updated the settings of this to suit your needs. Hint: you might also want to create a couple different categories to compare side by side.
  4. Chances are your ecomm site has a search feature. These last 2 segments will involve both users who use site search, and those who don’t. It’s helpful to compare both of these groups of users at the same time since there’s only 2 options, you used it or you didn’t. You might notice significant behavior differences for these 2 segments. Maybe one group converts at a much higher rate, or they stay on the site longer. If you notice a big difference in the amount of visits in each segment, you might want to change up your search functionality and visibility – for example, if you don’t see a lot of people searching, maybe your search bar isn’t easy to find – easy insight, move it! Bottom line here is these 2 segments are great and you’re bound to find something that can improve your site usability and ecomm conversion rates. Here’s the segments: Visits with Site Search and Visits without Site Search. (‘Performed site search’ is a standard segment, but I included both of these so they show up side by side on your list) You won’t need to change these segments, as they stay the same regardless of the site, so segment away!

These next 3 segments will require a little bit of custom event implementation in your Google Analytics account, but it’s well worth the up front investment to gain the insight that this data will provide you.

  1. You may have noticed you have a particularly high cart abandonment rate. Enter the ‘Added to cart’. By chopping up the data to show only users who added an item to the cart (without completing a purchase), you’ll be able to see the behavior of these specific users. Maybe they have a referral source in common, or they add to cart on a mobile device (perhaps with the intent to buy later on a desktop), look for commonalities or outliers – outliers almost always drive action.
  2. You’ve got an ‘Add to wishlist’ feature on your site, but are people using it? This segment breaks down users who added something to a wishlist, but didn’t make a purchase. If you notice a high percentage of people fall into this segment, perhaps it’s time to spin up an automated reminder email campaign.
  3. It’s no secret, marketers LOVE social sharing. After all, isn’t that why we’re here? To spread the word about awesome products?? By segmenting out visitors that share your products on social, you can narrow down who your brand advocates are and possibly find awesome little gems like a common traffic source or geography.

So now you have 8 of the best Google Analytics Advanced Segments out there. They’re simple, yet really great at helping you drill down into what’s happening with different types of user. And just to reiterate, segmentation is awesome-est, so chop that data up the best way that works for your business and start driving actionable insights.

Do you have another segment you frequently use for ecommerce analysis? Share it in the comments!

 

 

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How Long Will It Take To Rank In Local Search?

“How Long Will It Take To Rank In Local Search?” – This is one of those questions we get asked frequently, and is usually answered with a slew of follow-up questions. Why so many other questions? Well the simple answer is that local search isn’t too much different from a typical organic search, and any algorithm-based search is dependent on a multitude of factors.

How Long Will It Take To Rank In Local Search?

So let’s go over some of these follow-up questions:

  1. How competitive is your industry/location? I’ll set the stage for this with 2 examples: In example one, your business is a Philly Cheese Steak restaurant in, yep, you guessed it, Philadelphia. Now I’ve never been to Philly, but I’ve watched my share of the Food Network and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is an extremely competitive market in a highly populated city. This is going to be tough, doable, but tough. For example two, your business is a vegan bakery in Nacogdoches, TX (yes, that’s a real place). I don’t imagine Texas has too many vegans, and Nacogdoches is a pretty small place, so getting local results here will be much quicker. All in all, you can expect to see results in under 6 months in a non-competitive market and 3-9 months in a competitive market.
  2. What level of optimization is currently in place on your site? There are 3 levels here: A poorly optimized site, a site that stopped optimizing months ago, and a site with some optimization. Site with poor optimization take the longest, as it takes additional time to undo the shoddy optimization that’s currently in place. In competitive markets, it can take over 6 months to accomplish significant results. If you’re in a less competitive arena, it’s reasonable to expect local visibility in 3-6 months. If you’ve previously disengaged in SEO efforts, you can expect recovery time to increase proportionately to the amount of time it’s been since you ceased local optimization – 34% of ranks can be lost after 3-6 months, and over 50% of ranks can be lost if it’s been 2 or more years since your last efforts.
  3. Have you had manual penalty from Google? Maybe you had previously (unknowingly, of course) hired an agency/free-lancer/employee that was utilizing some black hat link building practices, which in turn led to a questionable link profile. Search engines can be tricked occasionally, but the honeymoon will end. Previous attempts to game the system will be discovered, and eventually you’ll get a penalty that will knock you out of the top search results. So what do you do? Invest a lot of time into link take-down requests and get some really high quality links to outweigh the ones you can’t get remove. About 59% of local search gurus believe results can be earned back in under 6 months, with the proper amount of effort.
  4. Is your business brand new? The problem that new businesses are often faced with is history – which means they lack a domain name with longevity and a good set of links pointing to their site. Since you can’t do anything about your domain age, the best thing to do is go after links – good links that have a reason to be pointing to your site, links that will make people say “I’m glad I clicked that link!”. These can be other local businesses in your area, local directories, citations such as Google My Business, Bing Places, etc.. The important thing is to make your site findable by both search engines and people. It can take up to 2 months for Google to even index a website, so the easier you make it for them to find (by way of links), the more likely it is that you’ll be indexed and visible. Of course in this situation, refer back to question 1 as your market will have an effect on the amount of time significant results take.

Local search is becoming increasingly important in today’s world, with smart phone use on what seems like a permanent upward spiral, being discoverable via search engines can be the key to your success. If you’ve still got some questions, comment below!

*all statistics from a recent survey by BrightLocal

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Beyond Follower Counts – Social Media Marketing Metrics That Matter

In the digital landscape, where search engine optimization and email marketing can be considered members of the old guard, social networks are still a fairly new channel for many brands and marketers. Given the huge potential reach of these platforms, most organizations know that they need a strategy for the social space, but often have difficulty measuring performance and judging success for these campaigns. For ad campaigns on social media, we can typically use some more established & familiar metrics, but when it comes to tracking “organic” social efforts, everything becomes much less defined. How many retweets should I expect to see? Are Facebook Shares of my posts actually generating anything? What is the value of one Pin?

Like any new marketing channel, there is a tendency to rely on big, high-level metrics that are easily understood – for example, Facebook Fans, Twitter followers, etc. While follower counts are important to monitor, I would urge you to look beyond these numbers and dig a bit deeper in order to identify your true key performance indicators (KPIs). While these data points are not in short supply, selecting your KPIs should be a well-considered and focused process. Based on your organization’s goals in social, you should try to identify one or two KPIs that you religiously attempt to improve with every action.

Below are a few examples of common social media goals, along with some common metrics that you can use to measure your efforts towards that goal. Remember that starting with a solid strategic foundation should be your first step; you’ll want to make sure that whatever KPI you tie yourself to, it directly impacts your marketing goals (which should, in turn, directly impact revenue)! I’d also urge you to read Avinash Kaushik’s typically-excellent post on the best social media metrics – while the numbers below are platform-specific, all of them can be grouped into his 4 major buckets of measuring social performance: conversation, amplification, applause, and economic value. A very informative read, and highly recommended.

Now, onto the numbers! Note that in this post, we’re focusing on Twitter and Facebook metrics, specifically, but most social platforms provide very similar metrics.

Goal #1: Increase # of Followers on Twitter

This should never be a goal. NEXT.

Goal #2: Increase reach of content posted on Twitter/Facebook/etc.

This is much better! Follower count, in and of itself, does not directly contribute anything to the brand or goals of the organization. What use is 200K followers if they never bother reading your wonderful posts? A goal like this one can be considered a branding effort, similar to many display campaigns, or traditional mass-media ad buys. In this case, the key is simply raising awareness and getting in front of as many eyeballs as you can.

Common KPIs: Impression-based
Facebook – Post Reach is an easy way to judge your organic visibility, as it simply measures the number of people that your posts were served to. This number here is heavily affected by how much engagement your content drives – we’ll talk about that more in goal #3, but keep these in mind for corollary metrics. You should also monitor Shares of your posts – a user sharing your content to their Facebook friends can be a great way to get in front of a new audience. Also monitor your negative actions – things like Post Hides, Spam Reports, and Unlikes can indicate a disconnect between your content and what the user expected, or potentially an issue with the frequency of posts.

Twitter – tracking raw impressions of your Tweets can be difficult. Many tools define this as “the number of user feeds this tweet appeared in”, but that doesn’t mean that the tweet was actually viewed. Instead, more accurate impression metrics can come from using a third-party link shortener tool such as bit.ly to track clicks on shared links, or an image service such as imgur to see how many times an image was viewed. And, of course, retweets should be closely watched as well – similar to the Facebook Share, increasing the number of retweets is key to building organic visibility on Twitter.

Goal #3: Increase engagement on content posted to social media.

This goal is even better than the previous one! While extending the reach of content shared via social media is ideal for raising visibility and brand awareness, the real power of social networks is the community building element. By driving this interaction with your followers, the visibility of your content can be dramatically extended, you can cross-promote other marketing efforts, and ultimately foster a better connection with your customers.

Common KPIs: Click- and comment-based

Facebook – you have a big incentive to drive engagement on Facebook posts, since highly active status updates are rewarded with better visibility in users’ News Feeds. As such, you’ll want to closely monitor the number of comments, Likes, and Shares that your posts generate. You may find that a calculated metrics, such as “Average Engagement Points” ( [total number of Likes, Shares, comments] / [number of posts] ) is a good way to summarize this data. Don’t forget the power of segmentation here, as well – do your Fans prefer photos, text posts, or videos? What time of day is ideal for driving interaction? Am I doing everything I can do encourage Likes, Shares, and comments?

dennys facebook post

Denny’s is surprisingly very very good at social media. And at food.

Twitter – retweets remain important for measuring engagement on Twitter, but you’ll want to measure post-level replies, and retweets which specifically add a comment or respond in some way. Measuring the number of tweets that contain your brand (either via #hashtag or @username-mentioned) is similarly important, as is your follow up action (you have prepped your customer service team for issues in social, right?). Tweets heavily marked as “Favorites” should be tracked and monitored – similar content should be planned in the future.

Goal #4: Increase revenue/leads generated by social media traffic.

Now we’re getting into the big boy – I want to see what kind of revenue my social media traffic is generating. A great question, but one that is a little bit harder to answer, and one that requires a bit of upfront work. Since the vast majority of revenue or sign-ups or new subscribers or whatever will actually happen outside of your social media networks, you’ll need to plan accordingly – for many businesses, this means setting up an analytics tool on your website, in order to capture visitor information. This would include traffic source data (for example, how many visitors arrived on my website from a link on Pinterest?) but also conversion data – an action that a website visitor takes that indicates a “successful” visit.

Common KPIs: The ABCs of Analytics – Acquisition, Behavior, Conversions

Acquisition – the first stage of the visitor’s experience on your website/mobile app/service platform, acquisition metrics help determine not only the quantity of traffic you’re receiving from social platforms, but also some important data about visitor frequency & recency. A common question is, “I have X% first time visitors to my website, is that good?” This really depends on your business model and product or service – for content-driven websites, or for products/services with a long buying cycle and lots of research time, you may want to see this somewhat lower, as it indicates that your website/content/product is compelling enough to pull users back in. For simpler, transactional products, you’ll likely want to see a higher percentage of new visitors – knowing that if users don’t convert on the first visit, they probably won’t later, you can focus your energy on driving new prospects instead.

Behavior – in this group of metrics, you’re really focused on how visitors react to your content. A great number here is bounce rate (the percentage of users that viewed only one page and then immediately left), since it’s a great indicator that whatever the person saw on your website, it wasn’t what they expected. I usually like to see this number around 35% – 40%, with some leeway for certain kinds of content (e.g., blogs and customer service articles may have a higher bounce rate, but hopefully it’s because the visitor immediately found what they were looking for!). Average pageviews and session times are helpful as well, but try to think relative here – for example, is a session time of 6 minutes good? Is that better than 4 minutes? I certainly don’t know, but if I notice that users from Reddit spend 3x as long on my blog as the average social media visitor does, I may start looking at that particular channel a little more closely

Conversions – If you ever find yourself looking at a report that does not directly measure outcomes, please stop and lay down for a minute. Conversions, revenue, transactions, outcomes – these are all ways to judge the quality of any given visit to your website, and ultimately boils down to, “was the person able/willing to do what I wanted them to do?” While of course you’ll want to monitor the major conversion points on your site (purchasing a product, signing up for your newsletter, filling out a demo request form), don’t forget that other actions can be great signs of intent as well. These micro-conversion points might be downloading a PDF, adding a product to a wishlist, sharing a product to their Facebook feed, or Pinning a photo. Remember that whenever possible, you’ll want to assign a value to these actions. While this is easy for things like transactions, others require a little more research – for example, if your business typically signs clients to $10,000 deals, and they close 50% of the leads, the value of one lead is $5,000. Don’t worry about getting this absolutely right! Ballpark metrics are better than nothing.

Example Insights and Wrap-up

It bears repeating that whatever metrics and KPIs you ultimately end up selecting as your primary focus, you should be able to directly relate these to organizational success and marketing goals. Tying digital metrics back to broader, C-level numbers is a great way to prove your own value as a marketer, and ultimately helps convince people that analytics is more than just reams of data. To close, let’s take a look at a report straight out of an analytics tool, and see what data we can extract.

 

google analytics social media report

(Click to embiggen) The social media channel report from Google Analytics, divided into acquisition, behavior, and conversion metrics.

The Google Analytics report above is taken from the website of a high-end grocer that has a fairly small ecommerce section. The date range is the first half of 2014, and even at this high level there is some interesting data here!

  • Users coming from Urbanspoon view almost twice the number of pages as other people, but don’t convert – why? What can we do to capture these people? Are our landing pages ugly?
  • Yelp users love you! It is extremely hard to get a bounce rate that low, plus that conversion rate is nicely trouncing the site average. You should make sure you’re doing as much as you can to increase volume here
  • And holy cow, look at that bounce rate on Twitter users. What is our social media team doing here? Clearly there is an issue with whatever website content we’re promoting on Twitter, since it’s not effectively driving people further into the site – our conversion rate for Twitter users is nil!
  • And finally, the white elephant in the room – that ecommerce performance. The average order value isn’t great (about $50 for social media traffic), but an even bigger factor is the ecommerce conversion rate. We like to see this between 2% and 3% for ecommerce websites.

So! Imagine your instant promotion if you said to your boss, “Ms. Boss, our goal for the first half of 2015 is to monetize social traffic. We propose two primary objectives: raising the average order value 50% to $75, and increasing the ecommerce conversion rate to 1%. Assuming 200,000 visits, by achieving these goals we stand to generate $144,700 in revenue – a 733% increase over last year.

At this point you may drop the mic and walk off stage.

drop-mic-bam

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Outlook: Making It Work For You

Outlook Best Practices – Outlook Productivity Tips

When used properly, Outlook can really work for you to help manage your day. Many people install it, configure a few custom settings and then they’re off and running. Using Outlook the way it’s intended versus a default out of the box setup can easily equate to an hour saved each day. Knowing Outlook will keep track of all those things you need to remember to do can be quite liberating and can free up your mind to focus on the big stuff.

Does any of this sound familiar? Your inbox constantly looks like you just got back from vacation. Colleagues frequently ask you if you’ve received their message. Sticky notes plastering your desk and walls. Try these Outlook strategies below for a couple weeks and you’ll see a big difference.

You’ll need to spend some time setting up your Outlook Dashboard and perhaps cleaning up and organizing previous Outlook carnage. This may take a couple hours, but it’s well worth it. Your Outlook Dashboard is where you will view your calendar, email, email boxes and tasks. The goal will be to end each day with your inbox empty and all tasks assigned for today “handled”. Note that this doesn’t mean you’ll get everything done, but it will be “handled”. You’ll manage your email, calendar and tasks instead of feeling like they have the best of you.

Let’s get things staged using some Outlook Best Practices for Setup

  • Inboxes: Many people have a lot of inbox folders. Things get misfiled sending you on a game of inbox-hide-and-go-seek. Also, with lots of inbox folders, it’s not always clear which folder an email should be filed in. Eliminate these issues by using very limited subfolders within your inbox. Seriously, it seems daunting, but give it a shot. Try this approach … have one subfolder called Archive (so it shows up at the top) to file most all email once you are done with it (Outlook has great search), one called Follow-ups, and maybe a Read Later folder and perhaps a couple others for very special situations. Creating a “favorites” list can also help simplify your dashboard – Outlook has so many standard folders that even leaving it as-is can be too much. Setting up a favorites list enables you to hide everything except what you need to see.
  • Setup your Outlook Dashboard to have easy access to everything you need to see to manage your Outlook activity. Try this dashboard configuration … Use the View Command > Layout options.
      • Folders on the left pane
      • Reading Pane in center
      • Preview Pane next
      • To-do Pane on the right to show the tasks and email follow-ups needed. Arrange the task pane in a custom manner: Filter to show only those not complete; Sort by Due Date, Priority and Alpha; Group by due date; Columns to display include Icon, Priority, Task Subject, Complete, Start Date, Due Date. This will display your follow-ups nicely organized – sorted and grouped by date. Then as you need to change due dates, it’s easy to drag and drop between the grouped dates. Note: the to-do section will also show you emails you’ve flagged for follow-up.
  • Setup quicksteps: Quicksteps are a great little function in Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013. Setup Quicksteps to do multiple actions with an email based on clicking one button or command. Quicksteps you’ve created appear in your command ribbon so they are always at easy reach. To use one, you’ll highlight the email or task, select the desired quickstep and those actions will be taken on that email. Using the Home // Quicksteps menu options, try setting up these Quicksteps to start with.
    • Read, File, Done Quickstep – marks an email as read and complete and files it in the Archive inbox folder you created above
    • Reply, File – brings up reply dialog box, marks original email complete, and files email in Archive folder (++)
    • Forward, File – brings up forward dialog box, marks original email complete, and files in Archive folder (++)
    • Follow-up today – sets follow-up due date as today and files in the Follow-up inbox you created above
    • Follow-up tomorrow – ditto as above but due date of tomorrow
    • Other follow-ups that are pretty easy to configure with Quicksteps include Follow-up this week, Follow-up next week, Follow-up this month, Follow-up next month
    • (++) Note that these Quicksteps sometimes bring up the dialog box behind other windows, so you may have to look for them. Also, if you use these Quicksteps and hit cancel if you decide to not send the reply, the rest of the steps in the Quickstep still happen (aka, the original email gets marked completed and filed).

Now for the Day to Day process of managing your email, calendar, tasks and follow-ups:

  • Outlook Calendar Management: If you have a double monitor setup, open your calendar and move it to the secondary monitor. This keeps your schedule top of mind thru the day.
  • Outlook Email Management: Triage email throughout the day. Some say only check email a couple times a day. In today’s fast pace environment I don’t think that possible or prudent. So check it as often as you feel you need to, perhaps once an hour or so. As you read thru email, you’re going to do one of the following to each one.
  • If junk (spammer) flag as such and delete – taking this a step further, if you see the same sender continually sending you junk, create a rule and automatically delete anything from that person/bot.
  • If can read and handle in less than 60 seconds, do so. Use your Quicksteps to reply/file, forward/file, or read/file when done.
  • Else, flag the email for follow-up later. Use your Quicksteps to flag for follow-up today, tomorrow, this week, next week, etc.. Remember, once you flag an email for follow-up it will appear in your to-do pane based on the date. So if you used a Quickstep that files an email in your follow-up folder and marks it for follow-up tomorrow, it will be listed in your to-do pane with tomorrow as a due date. Due dates can be easily changed by right clicking on the item in the to-do pane.
  • Task Management: As “to-dos”, meeting follow-ups or necessary reminders hit your radar, enter as a task. Easiest to just enter at the top of the task pane in the Outlook Dashboard view and then drag and drop to the “real” due date after the task is created.
  • “Desk Time”: During desk time, look thru the items in your “To-do” pane and handle them by either completing them as needed or moving them to a different day you will work on each item.
  • Goal at the end of each day is…
    • To have all items “handled” from your inbox, meaning you’ve completed it, deleted it, or flagged for follow-up later. Your inbox is empty .. A truly amazing feeling!
    • To have all Follow-ups and To-dos schedule for today in the To-do pane, “handled”, meaning you’ve completed it, deleted it, or flagged for follow-up.
    • Clear out your Junk folder to get that cleaned up daily
    • Make sure you move any tasks from today not complete and reschedule for completion to the most appropriate time.

Again, setting all this up will take a good amount of time, but when you consider how much time it will save you in the long run, it’s well worth the investment….not to mention the organization value added to your work day. Do you have any Outlook productivity tips that we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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When Is a Mobile App Beneficial?

I hear/see this discussion all over the place these days: “Should I built an app or a mobile site??” This conversation should never happen! Answering this question properly means understanding the purpose of these two platforms, so let’s go over that first.

Purpose of a mobile site:

  • To be found via search engine by a prospect using their mobile device
  • To provide users an experience that has been optimized for smaller screen size
  • To serve relevant information to that on-the-go user (location specific content, etc..)

Purpose of a mobile app:

  • To engage existing customers
  • To make mobile shopping experiences easier
  • To provide functionality above and beyond what a website can easily accomplish (think location services, push notifications, etc..)

Notice the primary difference here is the point at which people are in the buying cycle. A mobile site, we recommend responsive websites (and so does Google), will help you attract new customers by way of non-branded search engine queries. People aren’t going to discover your company by way of an app store search, they’re going to discover you through search engines.

Now, let’s get into the “when is a mobile app beneficial” part of this discussion. Mobile apps provide functionality that goes far above and beyond what the typical website can do. They can send push notifications for sales/promotions which the user sees instantly and they can use location data to present relevant content to users. For example, let’s say I run a grocery store chain and have an app built to present coupons to my customers, new products, etc. I use my app to notify customers of specials, coupons, and in-store events like wine tastings. One way I might utilize location data is to give users the option that when they are near one of my stores (can even narrow down to just the one they frequent), they get an alert reminding them to check the app for coupons, or to remember to use their membership card. Getting even more targeted, I could install Beacons throughout my store which could fine-tune my coupon serving. Beacons can be installed in stores and pin point exactly where in the store a customer is using Bluetooth. So when you’re in the cookie aisle, your app knows that and we can push you a coupon for cookies you like based on your purchase history (because you’re logged into the app using your VIP info)…talk about serving the right promotion at the right place to the right person exactly when they need it!! This is just one example of app engagement, but the possibilities are endless.

The moral of the story is this: Before you ask yourself if you need an app, you need to evaluate how you want to connect with your current customer base. If you’re trying to attract new customers, you should probably abandon the app idea and look at acquisition channels.

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3 Tools for Mobile App Analytics

Mobile apps have become such a big part of marketing plans, that to build one and not understand how it’s used is almost criminal. Just like websites in the beginning, the strategy for a mobile app was to built it, push it, then update it when enough users complained. Those days are long over, with the new tools that have rolled out, you no longer have to wait to find something users don’t like.

  1. Google Analytics – just like a website, track how many people use your app on a regular basis, find out which parts of the app people spend the most time on, and which parts people avoid like the plague. Notice a lot of people leaving your app after trying to log in? Maybe the log in button is broken, access to metrics like this can provide you with great actionable insights.
  2. Optimizely – Your A/B test dream come true! Run experiments on different imagery, button color, call to action text, et al. This works the same as it would if you were running A/B tests on your website; create a variation on the original, send half of users to the original, and the other half to your variation. Statistical significance will be automatically calculated based on the goals you establish (actions, clicks, views). The best part, is that it rolls out instantly, no need to update your app and wait on approval from the App Store – just instant testing when you want.
  3. Heatmapping - Heatmaps are basically overlays that show exactly where in the app people click/tap. Building on what we’ve already discussed about where people spend time on your app and which color button converts better, is heatmapping. Sure, it’s great that Google Analytics tells us which pages people visit and how long, but how did they get there? Notice a few buttons on the app’s home page that nobody clicks? Get rid of them, no need to clutter up the page with unnecessary actions. If the heatmap is showing a lot of activity around a tiny ‘search’ feature, or particular link? Run an A/B test where you make that feature more prominent in a variation and see which performs better!

As you can see, running all 3 of these tools in unison will give you a mountain of opportunities and endless variations to test. Don’t have a mobile app yet but looking for a developer? Check out our mobile app development services.

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