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  • Tips for Creating the Perfect Landing Page

    by SF SF | Aug 16, 2016

    Your website’s landing pages are crucial to the success of your marketing efforts. A landing page provides people what they were promised in the online ad or search result that got them there. Your landing page should target your audience, offer them something of value and provide the information they came to find, such as the option to download a resource, purchase a product or contact you.

    Minimize Landing Page Distractions

    Distractions are one of the most common landing page killers. Distractions take away from the focus of the landing page – whether that be a sign-up form, a download or a purchase.

    Make the important elements of your landing page bold and reduce the appearance of your navigation menu. In fact, landing pages that take up the entire screen can be very effective at converting visitors, since they remove all distractions including navigation links and page content.

    Ultimately, a single call-to-action button should be the focus of the page. Change any page elements that distract from this call-to-action in order to improve conversion rate.

    Simplicity is Key

    Landing pages with a simple design are more effective at converting visitors. Your website’s design should do the following:

    • Tell your visitor something about your brand.
    • Explain what you are selling or offering your visitor.
    • Clearly point out your call-to-action button.
    • Your landing page should look professional, but not overdone or flashy.

    Make All Forms User-Friendly

    Forms that are divided into multiple pages aren’t a favourite among most web users. Instead of breaking up each field of your form into multiple pages, include all fields on one easy-to-use form. Make this form conspicuous on your landing page, so your customer can easily locate it and fill it out. Lastly, provide a great deal of value in return to maximize conversions and grow more leads into repeat customers.

    Design Your Landing Page to Match Your Ad

    If you’ve posted an ad that redirects visitors to your landing page, make sure the ad and the landing page have matching styles. When your landing page compliments your ad, it shows your visitor that they’ve reached the right place.

    Keep the font, typeface and colour scheme consistent to show visitors they’ve reached their destination. In addition, connect the keywords and copy of your ad to your landing page – for example, an ad featuring “new summer styles” should lead to a landing page that also boasts “new summer styles.” This tailors a seamless experience for your visitors and improves their chance of conversion.

    Deliver an Exceptional User Experience

    Your visitor will likely continue to browse your website after fulfilling your landing page’s call-to-action. You may have converted your visitors on the landing page, but you must improve your post-conversion user experience if you want to nurture long-term customers.

    If you’d like to know more about how to create an exceptional user experience, check out our guide here.

    Talk to a web design expert today

    Looking for ways to improve your website’s landing pages to convert more visitors? Learn how Graphically Speaking can help improve your website design today! Book a free consultation.

  • Website Design Guidelines to Achieve an Exceptional User Experience

    by SF SF | Aug 11, 2016

    There is a lot more to designing a website than just how your website looks. Besides aesthetics, you should optimize your website for usability and user experience – make it simple and enjoyable for people to visit your website. Websites with an exceptional user experience typically perform very well. If your customer can reach their destination with ease, they are more likely to stay on your site for longer and re-visit in the future.

     

    What Makes an Exceptional User Experience?

    A fantastic user experience is made up of several factors. Here are just some of them:

    • Minimal distractions
    • Logical hierarchy
    • Optimal navigation
    • Conventional layout

    Your website has an exceptional user experience when users can easily and quickly find the information they need. If customers or readers feel confused or frustrated by using your website, there’s a high chance they will leave.

    How to Improve Your Website’s User Experience

    There is no formula to create the perfect user experience. However, there are helpful guidelines you can use to improve your website:

    1. Keep it Simple

    Cluttered webpages can confuse customers. Instead, keep your website as simple and straightforward as possible.

    • Use five colours or fewer on all pages.
    • Choose a simple, easy-to-read typeface and font for your content.
    • Use graphics and media to inform your customers, not to fill up white space on your website.
    • Include plenty of white space to make content readable.

    2. Implement a Visual Hierarchy

    Structure elements of your website should be ordered logically, according to their function and importance – this is known as a “visual hierarchy.” You can establish a visual hierarchy by positioning important elements near the top of the page. Important elements should feature bold colours or fonts in order to stand out against the rest of the page.

    3. Improve Navigation

    Orderly and intuitive navigation is key to an exceptional user experience. Optimize your site’s navigation using the following tips:

    • Minimize the number of navigation options on each screen to seven or fewer.
    • Add major navigation options to the footer of your website.
    • For websites that are content-heavy, include a search box.
    • For websites with more than three levels, implement “breadcrumbs” to show users which pages lead them to their current location.

    Finally, ensure your website’s navigation is consistent across all pages. The location of your navigation links and the labels for each link should remain the same throughout your website.

    4. Use Responsive Design

    The number of mobile users is overtaking desktop users at an ever-increasing rate. As such, it’s important to enhance your website for both desktop and mobile experiences. By implementing responsive design, you website will work smoothly on almost any device, including:

    • Smartphones
    • Tablets
    • Desktops
    • Netbooks
    • eBooks

    Webpages can adjust to the size of a user’s device when a responsive design is used. This makes it easy for users to view and navigate your webpage, no matter what device they are on.

    5. Follow User Interface Conventions

    Most webpages follow a basic design formula which online visitors have come to expect. For example, the logo is usually located at the top of the page, followed by major navigation links, then important content. Contact information can usually be found in the footer.

    Follow common design conventions, even if you have more exciting ideas in mind. This will give your website a solid foundation to deliver an exceptional user experience.

    When a user visits your website, they will decide to stay or leave within several seconds. Improve your conversion rate by delivering an exceptional user experience – think about what you’d like to see as a customer, and implement your ideas into your own user interface.

    Talk to a web design expert today

    Book a free consultation and learn how Graphically Speaking can help optimize your website to deliver an exceptional user experience to your visitors.

  • How to Get the Most Out of Your Website

    by SF SF | Jul 28, 2016

    Make Your Website Work For You

    Your website is one of the most powerful marketing tools for your business. Every website can help you hit your company’s objectives if you follow the right steps. Often times, a few small changes can drastically improve the function and value of your website.

    Plan Your Navigation

    People are visiting your website for a reason and it usually revolves around finding useful and relevant information. Your web interface should provide easy navigation to all of your site content. Information pages, product pages and customer-service information should be made very clear to your visitor from the moment they reach your website.

    Navigation should be intuitive and easy to understand. Browsing menus should be hierarchical, and all pages of your website should be clearly labelled. Your customer shouldn’t be confused as they make their way through your website – make it clear what page they came from, which page they are on and how they can reach their destination.

    Present Your Message

    According to recent statistics, you have only 59 seconds to generate interest in your prospective customer before they leave your page. When users visit your website, they want to know what you are offering – or they will leave.

    Your homepage and key landing pages are powerful conversion tools. Use these pages to:

    • Present your product.
    • Present your mission.
    • Present a lifestyle.

    You’ll convert more page visitors into customers if you show them exactly what they’ll be getting from the very first second they reach your page.

    Optimize Your Loading Times

    In our growing culture of impatience, people have little tolerance for slow websites. According to Kissmetrics, 40 percent of online users will leave a webpage if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. This gives you a very small window to attract visitors – particularly if your website is slow. Especially for an ecommerce website, a slow loading time could affect your bottom line.

    In addition, Google ranks quickly loading websites more highly than others. If your website loads in less than one second, you’ll be more likely to rank highly on the first page of Google search results. Optimizing your website’s loading times can be done using a number of free and paid online tools:

    Beware of Video Autoplay

    Video marketing is prevailing in today’s online market. More people than ever are turning to video reviews for products and companies. Including videos on your product pages is a great way to increase your conversion rates, but autoplay can be very frustrating for your users – in fact, a recent study shows that over 70 percent of online shoppers found autoplay videos to be more annoying than helpful.

    Videos that play automatically re-direct the focus of your user. They may venture away from your page in order to stop the video. In some cases, customers will close your website entirely, in order to avoid hearing or watching your video.

    Stay Active

    When users visit your website, they should not be greeted with outdated content – particularly if you run a blog. Some ways to keep your website active include:

    • Posting new, relevant content on a regular and consistent schedule.
    • Updating sales and featured products on your homepage.
    • Re-releasing evergreen content to repurpose your best work.

    Update frequently, but don’t overdo it. The more readers you have, the more frequently you should post.

    Talk to a Digital-Marketing Specialist Today!

    Looking for ways to make your website work for you? Learn how Graphically Speaking can help you optimize your website to attract more visitors today! Book a free consultation.

  • 5 Ways to Improve Your Content-Marketing Strategy

    by SF SF | Jul 28, 2016

    What is Content Marketing?

    Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing that brings potential customers to you. It is considered to be one of the top marketing initiatives for B2C and B2B companies. By creating content that answers customers’ questions and needs, you can attract qualified prospects to your business.

    Common Content-Marketing Mistakes

    If you’re experiencing trouble with your content-marketing strategy, ask yourself two questions:

    1. Is my content useful and relevant to my target audience?
    2. Am I promoting my content and making it easy to find?

    With these questions in mind you can begin to fine-tune your content-marketing strategy.

    1. Write for Your Audience First

    Write for your audience first and search engines second. Avoid creating content that is overloaded with keywords. This practice can be very obvious to your reader and will make your posts feel inauthentic. Google’s ranking algorithms may also penalize you for having excessive keyword density.

    Instead, use keywords as the foundation for your content – create topics based on commonly searched keywords, then write content that relates to your reader.

    2. Keep Evergreen Content Fresh

    Evergreen content is content that is timeless and continually relevant to your readers. The idea is that it stays fresh and valuable for months and years to come.

    Creating evergreen content is an investment. As time passes, you can re-publish evergreen content with new or updated information. This is useful in converting site visitors into loyal readers, as your content will always appear fresh.

    3. Stick to a Publishing Schedule

    In order to establish an audience, you’ll need to post content consistently. Create a regular publishing schedule and stick to it. Your readers will come to expect new content from you daily, weekly or monthly and they’ll be more likely to re-visit your page.

    4. Write Scannable, Long-Form Content

    The length of your posts will depend on your topic and audience, but long-form content tends to perform best among both readers and search engines. According to recent statistics, posts with an average of 1,500 to 2,000 words see the most readers online. Long-form content shouldn’t appear as a wall of text. Creating scannable content is also crucial to the performance of your content-marketing strategy. Most people don’t read articles diligently, word for word, so make your content more digestible with:

    • Headings and subheadings
    • Images and videos
    • Paragraph breaks
    • Bullet points and numbered lists

    5. Promote Your Content

    Social-media platforms are among the best online tools for sharing your content. They allow you to personally interact with your readers to build trust and engagement. The best social-media platforms on which to post your content include:

    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Google+
    • LinkedIn

    In addition to social media, there are other free and paid tools online you can use to promote your content. Deciding which service is best for you will depend on your audience, but these tools should not be overlooked. Investigate the following to see what they can offer you:

    • Mixpanel
    • TrendSpottr
    • HubSpot
    • Eloqua

    Ultimately, you’ll need to find out which sharing platforms your audience visits most so you can market your content there.

    Talk to a digital-marketing specialist today

    Need help implementing your content-marketing strategy? Learn how Graphically Speaking can help you bring more potential customers to your website today! Book a free consultation.

  • Scannable Content: Writing for the Web

    by SF SF | Jul 28, 2016

    How to Create Effortlessly Readable Web Copy

    Writing for the web is very different from writing for print. Most online readers do not actually read text on the internet; instead, they scan the text to pick out valuable bits. That’s why creating scannable content on your website is crucial to getting your message across. Inspired by Eddie Shleyner’s HubSpot post, here are some tips for creating effortlessly readable web copy.

    According to a study by Jakob Nielsen, the guru of webpage usability, combining these three best practices will help make your content easier to digest:

    • Concise: get your point across quickly
    • Scannable: make it easy to read and save users time
    • Objective: keep it non-promotional and use facts

    Tips for Writing Effective Web Copy

    Scannable content is designed with your reader in mind – it should be short and to the point. There is no set formula for writing scannable content; however there are a number of tips that will help you when writing effective web copy:

    • Prioritize Key Information

      Your reader wants information, and they want it right away. Provide the most important details at the beginning of your article, and include less important information near the end.

    • Be Concise

      Avoid overloading your content with unnecessary details. Provide what matters, and cut out irrelevant information.

    • Headlines and Subheadings

      Content structure is vital to scannable content. Use informative headlines to attract readers and section your content using subheadings – particularly subheadings that contain questions to which your reader needs answers.

    • One Idea Per Paragraph

      Use one main idea for each paragraph to highlight throughout three to five sentences. Paragraphs help you break up lengthy blocks of text into a few shorter ones.

    • Large Type and Bold Text

      Use a large enough font size that is easily readable. Bring attention to important keywords, ideas or critical steps using bolded text.

    • Graphics and Captions

      Strategically place images and videos to support information found in your article – infographics and animated explanatory videos are perfect for scannable content. Include captions to help give readers more context.

    • Bullet Points or Numbered Lists

      Long lists are excellent for organizing large amounts of information. Use short lists for information that can be delivered without a sentence. Long lists and short lists are both great for scanning, so use them whenever appropriate.

    • White Space

      Walls of text do not make for quality scannable content. When writing for your website, include white space to make your content more readable for your audience.

    • Active Voice

      Write in the active voice because it is it easier to read and understand. “Always write in the active voice” is written in the active voice; “the passive voice should never be used for your content” is written in the passive voice.

    Value of Creating Scannable Content

    To grasp the value of the above tips, let’s take a look at a before-and-after example from Nielsen’s study.

    Here’s a control paragraph that Nielsen used in his experiment: “Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized attractions that draw large crowds of people every year, without fail. In 1996, some of the most popular places were Fort Robinson State Park (355,000 visitors), Scotts Bluff National Monument (132,166), Arbor Lodge State Historical Park & Museum (100,000), Carhenge (86,598), Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer (60,002), and Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park (28,446).”

    And here’s a new version that resulted in an astounding 124% improvement in usability: “In 1996, six of the most-visited places in Nebraska were:

    • Fort Robinson State Park
    • Scotts Bluff National Monument
    • Arbor Lodge State Historical Park & Museum
    • Carhenge
    • Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer
    • Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park”

    What this means for your website is that scannable content could result in better reader engagement and a higher chance of conversions.

    Testing Your Scannable Content

    Using these elements can improve your content but it is important to test just how scannable your content is. There are a number of tools online that you can use to test your document’s readability and scannability. You can find some readability services online for free (such as Readability Score), and many others for a small fee. If you own Microsoft Word, you can use the program’s built-in readability feature to analyze your content.

    Talk to a Digital-Marketing Specialist Today!

    Need help with optimizing your website content? Learn how Graphically Speaking can help you improve your content strategy for higher engagement and conversions today! Book a free consultation.

  • Key Methods for Reducing Cart Abandonment

    by Moneca Looui | Jul 21, 2016

    What is Cart Abandonment?

    Cart abandonment is a common phenomenon on ecommerce websites. Visitors navigate your online store, they pick out items they like, put them in their cart, but never complete the checkout process. In many cases, your would-be customer abandons their shopping cart because they feel intimidated by the purchase they are about to make.

    High shipping costs, slow shipping times, and excessive taxes are all shopping cart abandonment reasons. In other cases, your customers may abandon their cart because they are uncomfortable with your checkout process. In fact, a common reason for shopping cart abandonment is the length of the checkout process itself.
    If your business is experiencing excessive shopping cart abandonment rates, you’ll want to understand why your customers have trouble committing to their purchase. Once you understand the reason for high rates of cart abandonment, you can implement a solution to combat the issue.

    How Often do Customers Abandon Their Carts?

    Many companies have conducted studies on shopping cart abandonment rates, with results ranging from 59% to 78% of customers taking part in the practice. The Baymard Institute collected data from 33 reputable studies on shopping cart abandonment rates, and found the average of the studies to be about 68.63 % – meaning that nearly three quarters of all online shoppers abandon their cart before completing their purchase.

    Further shopping cart abandonment statistics show that the average conversion rate for online retailers is around 3%, meaning that only a small handful of online shoppers will complete a purchase once they’ve visited your store.

    CPCStrategy found that retailers lose about $18 billion each year as a result of shopping cart abandonment, which means your business may be losing out on a lot of money annually because of non-committal shoppers.

    Why do Customers Abandon Their Carts?

    As it turns out, there are dozens of reasons customers abandon their carts.

    Shipping Costs

    Shopping cart abandonment statistics show that 44% of shoppers abandon their purchase because of shipping costs, and another 22% do so because there is no shipping information available on the website or checkout page.

    When a customer feels as if they can get the same product in stores without needing to pay for shipping and wait for delivery, they’ll be very likely to abandon their cart and take a trip to the mall. Many shoppers prefer shopping online because they believe they will find better pricing than in-stores, and high shipping costs are often enough to convince them otherwise.

    Comparison Shopping

    Sometimes cart abandonment simply cannot be avoided. According to shopping cart abandonment statistics released by CPCStrategy, about 30% of online shoppers abandon their cart because they are “comparison shopping.” Shoppers commonly check the price of a product from multiple stores before committing to their purchase. Even if you have the lowest price, they may leave their cart initially only to return at a later time and complete their purchase. When evaluating your shopping cart abandonment rates, keep comparison shoppers in mind, and do what you can to get their purchase in the future.

    Payment Processing

    In addition to shipping costs and comparison shopping, there are a handful of other shopping cart abandonment reasons. About 2% of shoppers will abandon their cart if there is an issue with payment processing, 3% will leave because of unclear product descriptions, and 15% will abandon their purchase because the item they wished to buy is out of stock.

    How Can Shopping Cart Abandonment Be Reduced?

    Remove boundaries

    The simplest way to reduce cart abandonment is to remove any boundaries that may make your customer question their purchase. One of the best ways you can improve your shopping cart abandonment rates is to offer first-time shoppers a free shipping coupon, or a discount on their first order.

    Offering free shipping for all orders during a certain timeframe or for purchases over a certain amount is also a proven way to reduce cart abandonment.

    Create Urgency

    Combating cart abandonment as a result of comparison shopping can tricky, since you may not be able to offer the lowest price on a product for a number of reasons. While reducing your prices is a clear way to win over comparison shoppers, the same effect can be achieved by offering a time sensitive coupon or discount to your customers.

    Shoppers respond to urgency, thanks to their ‘fear of missing out.’ Providing your customer with a time sensitive deal they cannot refuse (such as 24-hour 30% off coupon, or a free gift with purchase during a specific period of time) will play on their fear of missing out, and will allow you to serve non-committal shoppers more effectively.

    Be Clear

    In addition to a secure checkout page, your products should have very clear, accurate descriptions, as well as photos depicting the product from a number of angles. We recommend showcasing customer reviews and customer photos on your product pages.

    When other shoppers see reviews and photos from real people like themselves, they’ll feel more comfortable making their purchase, and feel less at risk of being scammed.

    Add Trust Factors

    Finally, you’ll want to convince skeptical shoppers that your store and your products are legitimate. Many online shoppers have trouble purchasing from a retailer they do not recognize because they have concern with regard to their payment information, as well as the quality of the product they will receive.

    Online scams are common, and there are thousands of websites on the internet trying to take advantage of unaware shoppers.

    Gain the trust of your shoppers by having a secure checkout page that offers many different types of secure payment. Include any badges that prove your legitimacy (such as the “Powered by Paypal” badge).

    Final Thoughts on Shopping Cart Abandonment

    Shopping cart abandonment rates are a problem for nearly every business in the industry of eCommerce. The best way to combat shopping cart abandonment is to understand why it happens, and that can only be done by getting feedback from your customers.

    Email surveys and social media surveys can be excellent tools for beating cart abandonment, as they give your customers a platform to be heard. By listening to your customers, you should be able to find a solution to shopping cart abandonment that gives you and your shoppers a great shopping experience.

    Talk to an ecommerce specialist today

    Need help finding the right strategy for dealing with shopping cart abandonment? Learn how Graphically Speaking can help you optimize your eCommerce website for higher conversion rates today! Book a free consultation.

  • How to Establish an Effective Sales Funnel

    by Moneca Looui | Jul 20, 2016

    What is a Sales Funnel?

    A sales funnel is a general outline that depicts each step of the selling process, from attracting initial audiences, to making the very first sale. The funnel is used to determine ways a company can attract new audiences, make sales, and ultimately increase their conversion rates.While particularly useful for new ecommerce stores, businesses of any size can take advantage of the sales funnel diagram.

    How to Create an Internet Marketing Sales Funnel

    Creating a sales funnel requires several key components. The sales funnel works from the top down, first outlining ways new shoppers can be reached. The sales funnel stages work to attract new audiences and convert them into loyal customers, and the stages of each sales funnel may differ between businesses. Generally speaking, the stages of the sales funnel include:

    • Exposure
    • Discovery
    • Consideration
    • Conversion
    • Retention

    Drawing an actual sales funnel diagram is one of the best ways to understand the cycle. Once you’ve drawn the diagram, write notes on how you can accomplish each step of the plan.

    Completing the Sales Funnel Stages

    Exposure

    Exposure is the first stage of the business funnel for nearly all businesses. During this stage, businesses are looking to attract new audiences to their store. Exposure involves the use of both inbound and outbound marketing methods, but recent trends show a rise in popularity for inbound marketing methods.

    While online advertising and social media marketing can be used for exposure, more and more businesses are turning to blogs to reach new potential customers.  A blog allows a business to reach audience based on their pre-existing interests. Other popular inbound marketing methods for increasing exposure include social media marketing and video marketing.

    Discovery

    If your exposure methods are effective, you will attract new audiences to your brand with time. This takes us to the next step of the sales funnel: discovery.

    Today’s online shoppers are savvy, and they take their time to familiarize themselves with a brand before making a purchase. They may visit your store several times before making their first purchase, as they learn more about who you are as a company and what your products have to offer.

    The discovery stage works hand in hand with branding. Shoppers don’t just want to buy a product, they want to buy an experience, and they want to support companies that share their same values.

    During the Discovery stage of the sales funnel, you’ll want to collect information about shoppers who have visited your site.

    Collect emails from shoppers by asking them to join your subscriber list. When asking visitors to sign up for your subscriber list, offer them something they will appreciate in return.

    Common incentives for subscribing include first-time buyer discounts, free shipping coupons, and free gifts. Once you’ve established a database of shopper emails (leads), you can send them information about your company, your products, and your upcoming sales.

    Consideration

    The third stage of the sales funnel comes into play after the shopper has learned the basics of your company and your products. Some shoppers will immediately leave your store if you are not offering something that fits their needs, but others will take the time to consider what you’re offering before making a final decision.

    This is known as the Consideration stage of the sales funnel. At this point, your store visitor may compare your products to those of a competitor.

    Your pricing, product quality, shipping time, and shipping costs will play a significant role in determining how the consideration stage plays out.

    Online shoppers take consideration very seriously when making a purchase. Most shoppers are aware that the product they want or need is available from more than one source online.

    Many customers experience shopper’s anxiety when browsing online, and it’s your duty as a company to ease this anxiety in any way possible. The third stage of the sales funnel can work your way if you eliminate any factors that may cause shoppers to hesitate from purchasing your product:

    • Keep shipping prices and shipping times reasonable
    • Show customer reviews on product pages
    • Offer coupons or discounts to first time customers
    • Offer a money-back guarantee if your customer is unsatisfied with their product

    Conversion

    If you’ve effectively diminished shopper’s anxiety, your store visitor should convert from a lead into a customer after a few visits to your store. Conversion is the fourth step of the sales funnel.

    After you’ve reached new audiences with your exposure methods, created a list of leads from first-time store visitors, and proven yourself as a business others can trust, you’ll begin to see sales and conversion rates soar. High conversion rates are important to any business, but they are not the end goal of the sales funnel.

    Retention

    The final step of the sales funnel is Retention. When customers are happy with their shopping experience, they will be more likely to return for a future transaction.

    Building a relationship with your customers is the best way to improve retention. Customers want to feel cared for by the companies from which they make purchases.

    If you offer 3-day shipping, your customer must receive their purchase in three days if you expect them to feel satisfied. If your customer has an issue with a product they received, they will expect fast and effective customer service to have the issue resolved.

    Ultimately, retention comes down to making your customer happy. If your customer feels they’ve had a phenomenal shopping experience, they’ll be more likely to return in the future, as well as recommend your brand to others.

    Even if a customer’s product arrived broken or several days late, excellent customer service and a money-back/replacement guarantee can be enough to convert them into a loyal, repeat buyer.

    One of the best ways to improve retention rates is to ask customers what you can do better. Ask your customers to fill out a survey, detailing what they liked about your service and what you can do better. Offer your customers something small in return, such as a coupon or an entrance into a sweepstakes.

    The more survey responses you get, the more feedback you will have about your products and services. Listen to customer feedback in order to foster excellent customer relationships and improve retention rates.

    Measuring the Success of Your Sales Funnel

    Your sales funnel diagram is an excellent tool for achieving growth, but you’ll need to measure that growth in some way. After you’ve implemented your sales funnel, you’ll want to see how your opt-ins and sales numbers have changed.

    Monitoring your opt-ins should be done using your email marketing program. Most programs that manage your email list will have a tool to measure your opt-in rates; this tool should be used to see how many site visitors were converted into leads, as well as how this number changes with time.

    If the number increases, you’ll know your sales funnel is working for you. If you see little to no improvement, you’ll want to figure out what can be changed to improve your rate of opt-ins.

    Finally, you’ll want to track the most important variable: sales. The sales funnel is about attracting leads and converting them into customers, and your sales numbers will dictate the effectiveness of your sales funnel. Note any changes in revenue from week to week or month to month. As time passes, make the necessary changes to continually improve your sales number day in and day out.

    Talk to an ecommerce specialist today

    Need help optimizing your eCommerce website? Book a free consultation and learn how an effective eCommerce website or digital marketing program will help convert shoppers into buyers today.

  • Proven Ways to Increase Your Ecommerce Conversion Rates

    by Moneca Looui | Jul 20, 2016

    What are Conversion Rates?

    When a visitor to your store completes a purchase, they are converted from a lead into a customer. The rate of visitors to your store that make a purchase make up your conversion rate.

    Visitors X Conversion Rates = Online Revenue

    If you have a high number of store visitors, but make relatively few sales, your conversion rate is low. Conversely, your conversion rate is high if you have an average number of store visitors, but a very high rate of completed purchases. Essentially, the higher your conversion rate, the more revenue in your pocket.

    What Causes Low Conversion Rates?

    Online businesses with low conversion rates face a real problem. There are many reasons for low conversion rates, but they must be resolved with time if a company is to succeed. In fact, low conversion rates are the biggest source of failure for most online businesses; in many cases, online store owners cannot figure out the reason behind their low conversion rates, and close up shop as a result.

    There are many low conversion rate reasons, and some of which likely apply to your business. According to research shared by Shane Barker, some of the most common low conversion rate reasons include:

    • Poor customer support.
    • Lack of product reviews.
    • High product or shipping cost.
    • Inaccurate product descriptions or photos.
    • Slowly loading pages.
    • Lower costs offered by competitors.
    • Unsecured payment gateways.
    • Out of stock products,
    • Inability to find products (poor site navigation).
    • Poor user interface.

    Online shoppers will commonly leave a store without making a purchase for any of the reasons above, leading to low conversion rates. Fortunately, you can combat low conversion rates on your ecommerce website, oftentimes by making small changes.

    What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

    Conversion rate optimization is the practice of optimizing your store to best suit online shoppers’ needs. In return, you’ll convert more store visitors into customers, giving you a larger customer base and a better bottom-line.

    How to Increase Conversion Rates

    The best place to start with conversion rate optimization is by improving the quality of your product page. When online shoppers view your products, do they see customer reviews and photos of the product? Are your descriptions of the product accurate? Do your photos clearly represent the product and its use?

    Be Clear

    It’s important to remember that you cannot make the final decision for a customer, they must make it themselves. Because of this, it’s important to incorporate calls to action.

    The customer must feel well-informed about the products listed on your site, and should feel confident and encouraged to make the purchase. This could also include special discounts, or gift codes that can be used as part of a first-time purchase.

    Your product descriptions will catch the interest of shoppers, but offering discounts is a tried and true way to increase conversion rates. Every shopper loves saving money, so offer savings whenever possible, as they encourage customers to follow through with their purchase.

    Customers want to know what they are getting when they make an online purchase, making product descriptions your most powerful tool against low conversion rates.

    Add Video

    In addition, product videos have been shown to increase conversion rates significantly, as products with a video are 174% more likely to convert their viewer than products with only images and descriptions. The idea is to reduce any anxieties your shoppers may have when they are faced with making a purchase, and the best place to start is with product pages.

    Keep the Checkout Process Short

    One of the most common reasons for low conversion rates comes from the checkout screen itself. If your checkout process is longer than one or two pages, or your checkout page takes more than a few seconds to load, you can expect shoppers to leave before completing their purchase. Avoid forced sign-ups, as these can quickly drive away otherwise convinced customers, and keep the checkout process as short as possible.

    Get a Secure Payment Gateway

    In addition to having a reasonable checkout process, you’ll want your checkout gateway to be secure. Many customers are wary of giving a new company their payment information, particularly if the company doesn’t have a secured payment gateway.

    According to Shane Barker, stores offering a secured payment gateway saw conversion rates increase by over 10 percent, and stores offering a guarantee of some kind saw increased sales of about 41 percent. Offering customers a money-back guarantee on their purchase will help ease any anxieties they may have prior to completing their purchase, increasing your conversion rates.

    Engage with Shoppers

    It’s important to connect with shoppers. Engage with your customers as often as possible, whether it be through email or social media. Send surveys asking for feedback on your customer’s shopping experience, and ask what could be done to improve their shopping experience.

    Be active on social media, as many of your customers will use these platforms to discuss your brand, and share it with others.  Be ready to respond to any criticism or feedback, whether it be positive or negative. By reading your feedback from social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you can begin to learn what your customers like and don’t like about your brand. You can then change what is disliked, and better market your customer favorites in order to increase your conversion rate.

    Final Thoughts on Conversion Rates

    Conversion rates are the lifeblood of your company, and you’ll constantly work to improve them. Low conversion rates can be discouraging, but many times you can increase your conversion rates with just a few changes to your online store.

    Talk to an ecommerce specialist today

    Learn how an effective eCommerce website or digital marketing program will help convert shoppers into buyers today. Book a free consultation.

  • Magento vs WooCommerce vs Shopify

    by SF SF | Jun 21, 2016

    If you are planning to start an online store, one of the biggest decisions you will need to make is which ecommerce platform to use. With so many options available, it can be difficult to figure out which option best meets your needs. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the “best ecommerce platform” – each company offers different features and pricing, and the best choice will be based on your requirements, resources and preferences.

    To help you make this decision, our web design and development team reviewed three favourite ecommerce platforms – Magento, WooCommerce, and Shopify – to see how they compare to each other.

    Platform Market Share

    Magento Community & Enterprise Magento logo

    Who is Magento best suited for?

    Magento is an enterprise level ecommerce platform designed for mid to large ecommerce initiatives. It is feature rich, highly customizable with powerful integration capabilities which makes it suitable for both B2C and B2B stores.

    Magento Strengths

    • Extensive professional feature set
    • Structured for productivity and high volumes
    • Tested and scrutinized 3rd party plugin and extensions
    • Highly customizable to meet most B2B and B2C requirements
    • Powerful integration capabilities with ERP, accounting, CRM, etc.
    • Advanced omni-channel capabilities

    Magento Weaknesses

    There is no perfect ecommerce platform. Here is a list of some Magento challenges:
    • Implementation is more complex requiring more highly trained personnel
    • Higher development cost due to product complexity
    • Magento Community is supported by your developer or the Magento Community, not by Magento itself

    Magento Pricing

    • Community license: free
    • Enterprise license: $22K+ USD yearly
    • Setup/Creation of ecommerce store commonly: 30K-200K
    • Dedicated hosting and management required: $300-$800/month
    • PCI Compliance: $750 yearly

    Magento Other

    • Multilingual, multi-currency & multi-store/brand
    • Multi pricing and extensive B2B pricing levels
    • Global availability zones, elastic scalability and redundancy

    Magento Enterprise Edition

    • Magento Enterprise Edition is geared towards merchants handling more products and volume
    • Improved on-site search and additional feature sets
    • Built-in visual merchandising and omni-channel
    • Dedicated Magento support is provided for Magento Enterprise

    WooCommerce with WordPress WooCommerce logo

    Who is WooCommerce best suited for?

    WooCommerce is an open source plugin for WordPress which is designed for B2B and B2C businesses who want to sell their products or services online. Its biggest benefit is that it is highly customizable allowing it to handle most requirements of a small to mid-size ecommerce store.

    WooCommerce Strengths

    • Large number of 3rd party plugins and extensions
    • Customizable to meet most companies needs
    • Highly effective for search engine optimization

    WooCommerce Weaknesses

    There is no perfect ecommerce platform. Here is a list of some WooCommerce restrictions:
    • Not ideal for handling complex products with large amount of variations
    • Security and maintenance updates are the business owners responsibility
    • Open source which means support is provided by your developer or the community

    WooCommerce Pricing

    • Open source license to WordPress + WooCommerce: free
    • Premium design themes $60+
    • Apps free or monthly cost
    • Setup/Creation of ecommerce store commonly: $5-10k+
    • Self-hosted, shared or dedicated servers $20+ monthly
    • SSL certificate $150+ yearly
    • PCI compliance $750+ yearly

    WooCommerce Other

    • Stable and secure with large installed base
    • If you use WordPress, you’ll find WooCommerce familiar
    • Highly customizable design, usability and functionality
    • Excellent for supporting a content strategy for developing an inbound marketing campaign
    • Support for advanced shipping options and cost effective payment processors

    Shopify Shopify logo

    Who is Shopify best suited for?

    Shopify is an entry-level solution for small to mid-size B2C (business to consumer) businesses that are entering into ecommerce. If you are looking for easy setup and to minimize your startup costs then Shopify is good choice.

    Shopify Strengths

    • Software as a Service (SAAS) application containing just about everything you would need to get started with a simple store, including ecommerce software, hosting, security, payment systems, POS, etc.
    • Theme designs allowing you to produce professional looking designs quickly and easily.
    • Extensive App library to further extend the functionality of Shopify and your online store.

    Shopify Weaknesses

    There is no ecommerce platform that does it all. Here is a list of some of Shopify’s restrictions:
    • Checkout process is not customizable
    • Website data not 100% controllable by the ecommerce business owner
    • Limited customizability due to SAAS
    • Limited content management system
    • Experienced developer required to modify and customize the store

    Shopify Pricing

    • Store pricing from $29 - $299/month
    • 2.4% - 2.9% +.30 cents per transaction for credit cards
    • Free or purchased premium themes
    • Apps free or monthly cost
    • No additional hosting costs

    Shopify Other

    • Dedicated support team
    • Mobile commerce ready
    • Unlimited bandwidth and daily backups included
    • Website, shopping cart, payments and inventory included
    • Large Shopify vetted App store for additional functionality
    • Security, SSL, PCI compliance and platform upgrades handled by Shopify

    Talk to an ecommerce specialist today

    Our experienced team of ecommerce specialists can help you achieve online sales and marketing objectives with custom-fitted ecommerce solutions. We’ll find the ecommerce package that’s right for you and provide the tools, training and support to take your online business to the next level. Click here to learn more.

    Here are 9 things to look for when choosing a web design company.

  • B2B Digital Marketing Trends for 2016

    by SF SF | Jun 20, 2016
    Email Marketing for Mobile

    1. Email Marketing for Mobile

    Mobile is the new email inbox and according to research 67% of all U.S. email opens occurred on a mobile device, 75% of those on smartphones. An increasing number of B2B companies will use email marketing more effectively by shifting their focus to the mobile experience.

    2. Content is Still King

    It’s simple: provide useful and relevant content that help visitors do their job and they will reward you. Content marketing budgets will grow by 59% according to recent reports released by PulsePoint and Digiday. Additionally search engines are rewarding high-quality and relevant content by giving far better ranking and search results.

    3. Search Engine Marketing

    Search Engine Marketing

    Search engine ranking will continue to be a primary tactic for generating qualified website traffic. Focus will be on making better use of both organic and paid search to maximize conversion of visitors to sales leads and ultimately, paying customers. With a custom mix of organic, pay-per-click, remarketing, banners and social media ads, smart marketers will be able to experiment with multiple campaign channels to maximize ROI.

    4. The Rise of Advocate Marketing

    An effective marketing tool for B2B firms is word-of-mouth endorsements from advocates through reviews, recommendations and social media sharing. The rise in advocate marketing will be accompanied by social media that is regaining prominence as a customer service and retention tool.

    5. Every Design Tells a Story

    Website design will focus on the user journey, rather than relying on a complex websites with in-depth navigation menu. The content will be presented in an engaging, visually interesting way that motivates users to complete specific goals which propel them into the sales funnel.

    This major shift in web design strategy starts during the initial brainstorming sessions: the brand message and main calls-to-action are integrated within the design and content strategy for effective communication. Look for more long scrolling pages and simplified navigation for mobile usability.

    6. Focus On Interactive Elements

    Website visitors now expect content and media to include interactivity to keep them engaged. With the proliferation of effective web tools it is easier and more cost effective than ever to add interactivity to web pages, whitepapers, e-books, webinars, podcasts, infographics, case studies, videos and blogs.

    7. Web Apps

    Web applications that are built into a website itself rather than download and installed onto a computer or mobile device are highly cost effective yet functional. Web Apps often include calculators, assessments, estimate builders, interactive white papers or other utilities that turns content into something users will interact with and find useful.

    8. Personalized Online Experiences

    Forrester Research predicts, “In 2016, leaders will understand and anticipate individual needs to deliver personalized experiences, sharply increasing their lead in the market.” Firms are recognizing how customer experiences can drive business differentiation, visitor engagement and company profitability. This will mean a much more systematic and intentional approach to the customer experience.

    9. Security Takes Center Stage

    A recent report by Hewlett Packard found 86% of web applications tested had serious issues with authentication, access control, and confidentiality. What’s worse, 52% of web applications suffered from commonly-known vulnerabilities.

    In other words, most business web applications suffer from widely known, preventable security vulnerabilities. This will lead to more data breaches over the next year, driving the need for security further into the spotlight.

    10. Less Code To Deliver More & Faster

    Users are becoming more keenly aware and impatient of slow or improperly functioning websites and will often leave the site as a result. The trend is to use less and more efficient code to achieve a balance of speed and functionality. It’s also important because more and more users are accessing websites through potentially slower mobile devices.

    Get a Free Consultation

    Our Vancouver Digital Marketing experts use powerful enterprise tools and an all-in-one SEO platform to track and manage keyword ranking, optimize content at the keyword/page level and build valuable backlinks by finding the leading influencers in your space. That’s how we can increase your website’s visibility. Contact Graphically Speaking – Vancouver’s SEM leader

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  • Top 10 SEO Trends in 2016

    by SF SF | May 03, 2016

    1. Rich Answers

    Google continues to grow its dominance as the go to provider for information about everything in our lives and Page one will soon be populated with even more Rich Answers in the SERP’s (search engine results page). Google now returns Rich Answers to 35% of queries; this is a 38% rise in just 6 months.

    The challenge is to provide unique content for common search queries where most content is based on public or licensed data. If you provide great quality, unique and relevant data for common search questions then this is an opportunity and can provide a massive traffic boost. Create your own content spun from public domain sources.

    New sites can really benefit from this tactic as URL history is not a big factor.

    • Conduct 'Long Tail Keyword Research' that applies to your site purpose and content.
    • Create unique content to specifically answer the most common questions and structure your content for search. (including Voice Search)

    2. Load Speed

    Many trend predictions are up for debate in 2016 but load speed is not one of them - it is a ranking factor. So not only will you likely lose hard won traffic because of user behavior (If a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load, approximately 40% of the traffic will exit) but Google will take note of such user behavior and site ranking will be impacted.

    3. Analytics Tracking Meets Dark Traffic

    This impacts SEO only because the ability to accurately track visits and campaign effectiveness is so important. Many visitors arrive on sites having searched and clicked on images. This traffic is recorded but is categorized with other Dark Traffic such as; Application Link Traffic i.e. Facebook and other social media sites, and/or traffic from secure to non-secure sites. One solution will be to create custom reports that filter out specific direct traffic sources.

    4. Keyword Research

    Key Word Research remains important but the pending Hummingbird update is predicted to shine a spotlight on Keyword Groupings, Synonyms and Phrase Themes. Content quality and purpose becomes hugely important when trying to create text around; search term variances, long tail terms including geo references and now Voice Search (Siri, Google etc.) The impact of Voice Search will depend on applied consideration of how Key Word phrases are most often spoken aloud. [Who delivers taco’s at 4am?]

    5. Site Design Meets User Behavior as a Ranking Factor

    Google has a greater ability than ever to determine if visitors to your site are getting what they came for. Click through rates, time on site, and engagement – are all analyzed to rank user behavior and your site quality. The CTA bone is connected to the Social Media bone and so on. Ensure that your site content is worth sharing and can be easily shared.

    6. Mobile Focus More Important Than Desktop

    This goes beyond design and navigation to Voice Search functionality. Use Key Word phrases that are likely to be spoken out loud vs. typed, e.g. “show me downtown dry cleaners.” 2015 saw a focus on Mobile Design and Navigation but new Voice Search technologies have already taken favour with younger demographics. This search format will become increasingly mainstream as such tools improve.

    7. Social Media Content Gains Mass

    This is reflected in SERP’s for many major brands with their Social Media pages climbing Page One results. Search engines are paying attention to Social Media links and increasingly weighting authority based on a better understanding of what topics sites should rank for. This also ties into user engagement factors and highlights the importance of providing practical, useful content worth sharing.

    8. Local SEO

    This is more of a continuing trend than a new trend. Include plenty of local Key Word’s and personalize your content around your local audience. Talk about topical events in a neighborhood, link to other local relevant associations, resources or businesses (or their blogs, events pages, social media pages).

    9. B2C Video Content to Outrank Written Content

    Google is expected to experiment with video ads in SERP’s very soon. The trend is not expected to impact B2B for a few more years though it’s better to be ahead of the curve with the speed that the B2B space adapts. Consumers are now expecting to find rich video content when conducting research to make purchases. Brands without such content available are perceived as being ‘behind’.

    10. SERPS Will Continue to Evolve

    Snack Packs will be more important than ever. Page one SERP’s will include; knowledge graphs, rich snippets (aka garnish for search engines) and as noted above, video ads. Competition for Page One will become far more intense which means it will be a great time to work in Digital Marketing.

    11. Hummingbird Update to be Real-Time

    This bonus item is not so much a trend, but worth noting. This is important for many reasons though for most in the SEO community the reason relates to how Google has dealt with penalties in the past. Previously when this algorithm slapped targeted black hat link tactics, time between updates was long and sites had to wait to see if they met the suspected criteria to be re-listed. Now corrections will be recorded in real time.

    If you would like more information on our top 10 SEO trends in 2016 from our author, please email Daniel Whalen at: daniel@graphicallyspeaking.ca.

  • Top 10 Digital Trends in 2016 for B2C Businesses

    by SF SF | Feb 23, 2016

    1. Search Engine Marketing

    Search engine ranking will continue to be a primary tactic for generating qualified website traffic. Focus will be on making better use of both organic and paid search to maximize conversion of visitors to sales leads and ultimately, paying customers. Understanding the entire user experience and path that customers take from query to purchase-point will help you tailor your digital marketing efforts. With a custom mix of pay-per-click services such as Google remarketing banners and Facebook ads, smart marketers will be able to take advantage of multiple campaign channels. Achieving high search ranking will always be important but getting the most value from qualified web traffic will be the greatest challenge and best opportunity for success.

    2. Social Media

    An increasing number of companies are relying on Social Media networks to create a consumer-driven approach to customer relations and product awareness. Popular channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are providing a forum for anyone interested in expressing their opinions. Consumer-generated content (especially video) provides valuable opportunities for community dialog around product-related topics. Facebook is especially important for developing community dialogue and driving customer conversions through paid ads; Twitter and Instagram are excellent for brief, timely messaging; Pinterest provides a place for consumer-generated catalogs. Whatever channels you choose to employ, your Social Media strategy should be informed by the behavior of your customers.

    3. Reputation Management

    What was once accomplished with traditional Public Relations strategies is now achievable through online initiatives such as Google+ and Yelp). These platforms enable you to respond rapidly to reviews and better manage the tone and volume of messaging to enhance positivity in content marketing. Reputation management can be executed through consistent messaging across Social Media channels and targeted web properties such as Blogs, news sites and directories. You can also enhance your audience reach with a combination of paid promoted posts and search advertising.

    4. Gamification of Non-Game Services

    What has previously been reserved primarily for gaming platforms is now moving into online search services (e.g. TripAdvisor). Consumers can be rewarded with status and recognition for sharing their views in a fun and responsive environment. Even with no monetary rewards, participants can collect badges, special privileges and overall status within communities devoted to specific or broad topics. This helps build brand loyalty while allowing for dialog between consumers and communications between organizations and their audiences.

    5. Location Based Interaction

    Mobile devices enable consumers to take advantage of location-specific information and offers (e.g. Foursquare, Yelp providing retailers with the opportunity to promote special offers at appropriate times and attractive prices. The opportunity exists to provide mobile customers with added value by creating dedicated apps with unique features (e.g. Starbucks). In addition to providing a better experience, you’ll also be able to acquire valuable customer-usage data in perpetuity.

    6. Digital-First Behavior

    Consumers often turn to their digital devices first when searching for information about products and services. The days of print directories and ads as the primary source is quickly disappearing. Online sources allow for up-to-date information, customer and expert reviews, price comparisons and immediate ordering. Customers may eventually visit a store to try-before-buy or may simply complete their purchase decision online. Online research may also be taking place while customers are in the physical store itself. Digital marketing solutions via ecommerce promote impulse buying. They’re excellent for up-selling, cross-selling and follow-up repeat sales and customer loyalty programs. Live chat can also expedite the buying process by removing barriers to decision making.

    7. Mobile-First Web Strategy

    Depending on your customers’ search habits and style of interaction, you can increase customer engagement by offering a compelling mobile experience. Take a mobile-first approach with your website to ensure that visitors get a great experience from any device - maybe even the best experience with a mobile device. Current best practices for web development allow for a flexible design approach that accommodates web browsers for desktop and mobile devices. If your website is more than two years old, you may need to make a fresh start in order to reap the benefits of a mobile-first web strategy.

    8. Video Content

    Whether instructional, news or event oriented, video is an effective vehicle for creating timely and compelling online content. YouTube can be utilized as a high-exposure vehicle for generating awareness and buzz around brands and products while other Social Media channels can leverage your video assets. This can be especially effective for promoting special events and customer interaction with your products.

    9. Event Marketing and Contests

    Special events, store openings, product launches and contests can be promoted quickly and effectively with digital marketing tactics. Along with leveraging Social Media you can coordinate all of your online and offline promotions for maximum impact. Digital tactics allow for easy-to-accomplish post-event marketing via Social Media and email marketing. This enables you to tell your story and engage your audience before, during and after a promotion.

    10. Measure and Manage

    More online tools to measure your digital marketing efforts are being offered than ever before. You will be able to get more detailed information and insights about your online communications success and use that data to improve your results within the same budget parameters. Measurement does not have to be limited to Google Analytics. Integrated platforms for content marketing can provide even greater depth and granularity for monitoring and measuring opportunities and success with your online communications. For new market segments or new geographic territories, this data will provide immense out-of-the-gate advantages by relying on proven metrics. The more you measure the more you can manage your digital marketing initiatives for positive results.

    If you would like more information on our top 10 digital trends for B2C businesses from our author, please email Lionel Matecha, lionel@graphicallyspeaking.ca.

  • CMS Security Best Practices

    by SF SF | Jun 24, 2015

    We Fix Over One Hacked Website Per Day.

    Research estimates that 30,000 websites are hacked each day with most of the sites belonging to small businesses. Visit our blog post: "Top 21 Best Practices for WordPress Security" to help minimize this ongoing problem we have developed a new list of security best practices which you can implement on your website, no matter what CMS you are using. We recommend you implement these solutions to minimize the chances of your website being compromised.

    Top 14 CMS Security Best Practices

    1. Use a strong password. It takes only 10 minutes to crack a lowercase password that is six characters long. If you add two extra letters and a few uppercase letters, that number jumps to three years. Add just one more character, some numbers and symbols, and it will take 44,530 years to crack.
    2. Use current software. When a new version of your CMS is released, installing the updates will reduce vulnerabilities and help keep your site secure.
    3. Use current plugins. We have seen a huge increase in attacks through out-of-date plugin software.
    4. Out-of-date themes. Check often for updates on the theme you are using. A hacker can sometimes access your website through outdated theme files.
    5. Remove disabled plugins and themes. It is best practice to remove any disabled plugins or themes. If they aren’t being used, there is no good reason to keep the code on the website.
    6. Do not use “admin” as your username. Most CMS’ will use “admin” as the default username. This is a common target for hackers because they already know the user name; they just need to figure out the password. A unique username and a strong password is the best combination to prevent brute force attacks.
    7. Remember to LOG OUT. It is important to log out when you are finished editing your site.
    8. Lack of security plugins or software. There are several good tools available which will help protect your website - some provide a summary of what you can do to protect your site even further. Make sure any third party plugins you add to your site are from a trusted source.
    9. Use two-step verification for admin user login. Some content management systems provide this and if not, look for a plugin.
    10. Login error messages. You should customize the error messages on your login screen because a hacker can tell if they have the user name or the password wrong - or if both are wrong.
    11. Login attempt security not in place. After a user fails to login a set number of times, they will be locked out.
    12. Insecure web hosting. Always ensure that the hosting company you are using is secure and reliable. Shared hosting plans host multiple websites on the same server space. Another website on the same server space could be the source of infection if a web hosting company is not monitoring their sites or servers properly.
    13. Dedicated servers need to be kept up to date. Be sure your servers are running the latest OS. Also ensure your servers are protected by a firewall and anti-virus software.
    14. Hacker code. Be wary of any code you place on your site. Hackers love providing code on online forums and instructional websites for the purpose of gaining access to your website.

    Why Are So Many Sites Getting Hacked?

    Next issue we will discuss why so many sites are getting hacked, what the hackers are trying to accomplish, the damage that might have been done and the best practices for recovering from an attack.

  • WordPress Security Best Practices

    by SF SF | Jun 15, 2015

    Is WordPress Under Attack?

    Some think so and research estimates that 30,000 websites are hacked each day with most of the sites belonging to small businesses. We are now fixing over one hacked website per day at Graphically Speaking.

    To help minimize this problem we have developed a new list of security best practices. We created it to ensure all websites we develop are highly secure. We recommend you implement these solutions to minimize the chances of your website being compromised.

    Top 21 Best Practices for WordPress Security

    1. Use a strong password. It takes only 10 minutes to crack a lowercase password that is at least six characters long. If you add two extra letters and a few uppercase letters, that number jumps to three years. Add just one more character, some numbers and symbols, and it will take 44,530 years to crack.
    2. Change the default “admin” username. WordPress creates a default administration user, titled “admin”. This is a common target for hackers because they already know the user name; they just need to figure out the password. A unique username and a strong password is the best combination to prevent brute force attacks.
    3. Out-of-date WordPress installation. When WordPress releases new versions and updates, installing these updates will reduce vulnerabilities and help keep your site secure.
    4. Out-of-date plugins. Same as above. We have seen a huge increase in attacks through out-of-date plugin files.
    5. Lack of email validation. If you allow people to sign up or create a member account on your WordPress site, make sure you require an email validation to complete registration.
    6. Failing to log out of the admin panel. It is important that you log out of your dashboard when you are finished editing your site.
    7. Lack of security plugins. There are several good security plugins available which will help protect your WordPress website - some provide a summary of what you can do to protect WordPress even further.
    8. Login error messages. You should customize the error messages on your login screen because a hacker can tell if they have the user name or the password wrong - or if both are wrong.
    9. Not using two-step verification for admin user login. Don’t just use the basic login step for your dashboard, add the two-step verification to take it a step further. This can typically be accomplished with a plugin. Click here to see an example of such a plugin.
    10. Login attempts not in place. Make sure you place a login attempt on your WordPress site. After a user fails to login a set number of times, they will be locked out.
    11. Stay up to speed. You or your web developer should always stay up to speed with what’s going on in the WordPress forums. The best way to prevent an attack is to be knowledgeable and proactive.
    12. Is your admin login wp-admin? Change the link for your WP login to something unique. Having the login as wp-admin is a hackers dream.
    13. WP Config file default location. It is a good idea to move your WP Config file to increase security.
    14. No CAPTCHA. Use CAPTCHA for logins, forums, and other areas. This helps keep out automated scripts and bots.
    15. Bad or insecure themes. Always get your themes from reputable sources because poorly developed themes can have code in it that makes it easy for hackers to access your site.
    16. Out-of-date themes. Check often for updates on the theme you are using. A hacker can access your website through outdated theme files.
    17. Multiple themes installed when you're only using one. If you have multiple themes installed but are only using one, it's best practice to delete or remove the themes that you are not using.
    18. Insecure web hosting. Always ensure that the hosting company you are using is secure and reliable. Shared hosting plans host multiple websites on the same server space. Another website on the same server space could be the source of infection if a web hosting company is not monitoring their sites or servers properly.
    19. Bad plugins. Always know what plugins you are installing on your site. Some plugins are created just to access your WordPress site. Do your research before installing a plugin by reading forums and reviews. If you happen to see a plugin you want to install that hasn’t been updated in years by its developers... it's safest not to use it.
    20. Remove disabled plugins. It is a good idea to remove any disabled plugins. If they aren’t being used, there isn’t a good reason to keep the code on the website.
    21. Hacker code. Be wary of any code you place on your site. Hackers love providing code on online forums and instructional websites for the purpose of gaining access to your website.

    Why Are So Many Sites Getting Hacked?

    Next issue we will discuss why so many sites are getting hacked and what the hackers are trying to accomplish, the damage that might have been done and best practices for recovering from an attack.
  • ‘Mobilegeddon’? Really?

    by SF SF | May 27, 2015

    In the weeks leading up to April 21, 2015, also known as ‘mobile doomsday’, there was a lot of speculation. Almost every SEO blog was talking about the ‘end-of-days’ for non-mobile-friendly websites.

    It was with good reason that the SEO and Internet marketing community sounded the alarms. Very seldom does Google come out with an official announcement when they update their algorithm. Not only did Google make it official, they gave us a precise date in time along with details about the update. So what happened?

    Here we are 4 weeks out from the dreaded day and has the sky fallen? We’ve been watching the rankings closely and we’ve found very little sign of significant impact. SEO authorities like moz.com and Search Engine Land have been reporting similar findings.

    We’re not saying that 'mobilegeddon' has been a bust. In the past Google has made updates that have had significant impact, but with this most recent update, it just doesn’t seem to have happened the way the industry thought it would. All that said we strongly urge you to keep an eye on your mobile rankings and if you don’t have a mobile-friendly site – start planning for it.

    If your customers can’t navigate your non-mobile website there’s a higher risk of losing that engagement with your brand. So, the reason you should consider a mobile website should be less about SEO ranking and more about user experience and conversion optimization.

    Contact us to make your site mobile-friendly today.

  • WordPress Security Concerns

    by SF SF | May 27, 2015

    WordPress has announced that there is a “critical security release” for all versions of WordPress older than 4.2.2. The latest release of version 4.2.2 fixes two security issues:

    1. The Genericons icon font package, used in many popular themes and plugins, contained an HTML file vulnerable to a cross-site scripting attack. The 4.2.2 version proactively scans the wp-content directory for the HTML file and removes it.
    2. In WordPress versions 4.2 and earlier, a critical cross-site scripting vulnerability could enable anonymous users to compromise a site. The 4.2.2 version includes a comprehensive fix for the issue.

    In addition to beefing up security against potential hacking of your website, 4.2.2 also address 13 bug fixes.

    Just in the past week we've seen 3 websites that have been hacked or compromised because of a security weakness. We are recommending that you not wait until something happens but that you update to the latest version now.

    As a guideline for best practices you should always upgrade to the latest version no matter what CMS you are using.

    If you are not sure what version your are operating with, call us today - 604-682-5500

  • Are You Ready for the Next Big Google Update?

    by SF SF | Mar 10, 2015

    In the past several months webmasters and owners of websites that are not mobile friendly have been receiving email notifications from Google. This caused much speculation around whether or not Google was going to update the algorithm again.

    Starting April 21st

    No further speculation is needed because it’s official. On Feb. 26th Google announced, “Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal”. You can read the full article on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: http://goo.gl/eW3Y7V.

    Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

    You can find out your mobile friendly score using Google’s Mobile Test tool (http://goo.gl/vSXl5S). If your website passes, it’s mobile friendly. If it’s doesn’t pass, you should start thinking about a strategy to add mobile to your website. This is also a great opportunity to look at your mobile SEO, your mobile ranking and the mobile search terms that can increase your websites traffic.

    Have us Test Your Website Page Speed

    In the announcement Google played down mobile page speed and won’t be considering it a really important factor, however you shouldn’t ignore the overall importance of page speed. For example, if everything is equal between you and your competitor’s page, but they’re faster, they will outrank you.

    Contact us today for your free mobile friendly and page speed consultation.

    Code Compliance

    The quality of the coding or programming on your website can have an impact on how Google ranks your website. It is important to ensure that your website is compliant with all current standards. The new Google test tool also evaluates your coding compliance.

    HTTPS

    The other change that has taken place is the HTTPS update. Back in August 2014 Google announced on the Webmaster Central Blog it was experimenting with taking into account whether a website had HTTPS or not. The test results were positive and so they started using it as a ranking signal.

    Google went on to say this, “For now it's only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries… over time, we may decide to strengthen it.” You can read the full article here: http://goo.gl/9vuWLw.

    For more information about how these changes might have an impact on your search visibility contact us for a free consultation.

     
  • Has Google Updated it’s Mobile Ranking Algorithm?

    by SF SF | Feb 23, 2015

    It’s no secret that Google is constantly evolving its search engine algorithms in order to maintain dominance. We have seen Google update their algorithms multiple times in the past few years with their Panda and Penguin updates. Most industry experts are seeing evidence that points toward a new mobile-specific Google algorithm update. Supposedly this update will seriously penalize your websites rankings if it is not mobile-friendly.

    Here is an example of the notices that have been sent:

    google-mobile-letter

    If your website is not mobile-friendly, we recommend keeping an eye on your traffic patterns over the past month or two.

    Have you been effected by this update? Let us know if we can help.

    Additionally, Google will be evaluating and penalizing specific types of CSS/HTML code and structure. The speed of your website and server will also be evaluated by Google. Quite worrisome is that certain coding standards used for compliance with older browsers such as IE8 are now considered defective by their testing system.

  • Top Tips for SEO in 2015

    by SF SF | Jan 01, 2015

    1. Own Your Keywords

    Marketing and industry consultants agree that this tactic is a must for any company wanting to be successful in their space. How do your customers find a product or service they are interested in? How do they search for information? Companies are having great success with long-tail keywords and optimizing for searches based on user intent and mobile habits.

    2. Your Keywords are Changing

    Google’s ability to interpret natural language is progressing faster than we might think, and their confidence in the results is very high. We think history will show this to be the most significant development in 2015 for SEO and Google. Now is the time to research your keywords and look for new opportunities. Once found, build content to answer these natural inquiries and get ahead of your competitors.

    3. Content is Still King

    Original, high quality and well-produced content is still a must for effective SEO.
    Visual content is becoming even more important; mainly videos, creative images, infographics, and also eBooks and white papers. Not only are the search engines putting more emphasis on this, but research has clearly proven that this type of content greatly increases customer engagement and conversions. If you are going to focus on SEO in 2015, you should have a strong content strategy in place.

    4. Google Will Have Successful Competitors

    Yahoo’s market share is growing and is now the default search in Firefox. Google’s deal with Apple is also expiring soon and it will likely not be the default search tool in Safari once this contract is up. For shopping and product searches, Amazon and Ebay are more popular than Google. For international searches, you need to consider search engines like Baidu and Yandex. For travel specific websites, Trip Advisor and Booking.com should be considered.

    5. Mobile Opportunities

    With 2015 geared up to be the year that mobile search overtakes desktop search, it’s definitely worth getting up to speed in this area. We know that Google and others penalize websites in their rankings if it is not mobile compatible or it loads slowly on mobile devices.

    6. Avoid Black Hat Techniques or Negative SEO

    We will continue to see Google aggressively changing their search algorithms to catch people and organizations employing these negative tactics. Two additional areas of concern are: malicious reviews and black hat linking tactics undertaken by your competitors to get your website penalized.

    7. Learn From Pay Per Click (PPC)

    SEO and PPC are complementary. It makes sense to use paid search to fill gaps, buying phrases for which you might not be ranking organically for yet. PPC also allows for copy testing on a small scale, potentially informing wider content efforts.

    8. What is Your Audience Trying to Do?

    This is probably the most important strategic point. You shouldn’t lose track of the customer journey and what it is they are trying to achieve. The journey from search phrase to appropriate landing page and product must be one that makes sense. Customers may well be searching around a problem they have encountered, rather than for your product or service specifically. Inhabiting the mind of the customer will help with key phrase research and optimizing the customer journey.

    9. Inbound Links

    Inbound links have long been, and still remain, the primary off-site indicator of value, authority, and trust to search engines. Focus on creating valuable content and promoting this content to specific audiences that will link back to your website.

  • Helpful Information on the SEO Industry

    by SF SF | Nov 06, 2014

    Why would you hire an SEO agency? When is it time to look at outsourcing your SEO? Where are the challenges and overlooked opportunities for improvement for an SEO agency? We share this very detailed infographic produced by www.linkbird.com because after researching and surveying hundreds of participants they have been able to compile a “big picture view” of the current state of the SEO industry…and because we think this is insightful and interesting information.

    The State of SEO Agencies 2014

    State of SEO Agencies 2014 is an infographic by www.linkbird.com



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