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  • Web & Digital Marketing Trends for 2014

    by SF SF | Jan 02, 2014

    With so little time and so many tactics available, we must prioritize our marketing efforts to be successful. Depending on whether you are in a B2C or B2B environment, the tools you use should differ. It is vital that you choose your marketing strategies based on the type of industry you compete in.

    With this in mind, I have compiled a brief list of web and digital marketing trends to be aware of in 2014.These trends assume that you already have effective SEO, email and social media strategies in place.

    In order of importance, B2C web & digital marketing trends in 2014 will include:

    1. Mobile
    2. Customer experience
    3. Content marketing

    In order of importance, B2B web & digital marketing trends in 2014 will include:

    1. Content marketing
    2. Customer experience
    3. Mobile

    Mobile

    Combined mobile and tablet traffic will be higher than desktop traffic for many consumer-focused companies this year. For B2B companies we have seen 20-35% of visitors come from mobile or tablet traffic. The shift towards flat and responsive web design will make this transition even easier. If your website is not optimized for mobile now is the time to take care of this.

    Content Marketing

    Instead of strictly selling products and services, we will see more companies delivering information that educates buyers during the sales cycle. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.

    This is what Google also believes and that is why this strategy is so important for your organic positioning within Google and other search engines.

    Content typically found in this strategy includes:

    • Blog Posts
    • Newsletters
    • Press releases
    • Product announcements
    • Video
    • White papers
    • Presentations- slide sharing
    • Infographics
    • Photos
    • Industry news

    Customer Experience

    Marketers are increasingly looking at the customer experience from a holistic viewpoint. We will see further focus on the customer journey, customer personas, and touch-point mapping in 2014 so we can better understand how to improve and optimize the customer experience. Some of the many tactics are implementing the net promoter score (NPS) system, polls, focus groups and usability testing.

    Social Media

    Much has been written about social media tools and their marketing implementations. Social media has become an easily accessible platform that is available to anyone with internet access at a relatively low cost. Increased communication from organizations helps foster brand awareness and improve customer service. An area worth considering for the B2B marketer is LinkedIn as a prospecting tool.

    Reputation Management

    Although not listed above, an additional trend worth making note of is reputation management. We should all be actively engaged in ensuring we focus on this volatile new medium. We have numerous clients’, including ourselves, who are targeted by competitors in this channel, with little recourse. Now is the time to encourage your customers to post meaningful reviews in this important channel.

    Good luck in your digital marketing and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

  • Graphically Speaking’s 8 Exciting Websites of 2013: Part 2

    by SF SF | Dec 27, 2013

    We began our list of memorable websites from the past year in last week’s post. This week we continue with the top four Graphically Speaking website development from 2013.

    #4 Cobs Bread

    Cobs-Bread-Home

    This Cobs Bread website is a Sitefinity site with a lot of awesome features. These features include a news module with a dynamic feed on the home page, a powerful search function for their many products, and a store locator. The product images are beautifully incorporated into the site’s design and if that isn’t enough to make visitors hungry, the visually appealing recipe page surely will! We also created several web forms on their contact page, customer feedback page and their news sign-up page, which encourages users to engage and stay connected.

    #3 Leavitt Machinery

    Leavitt-Machinery-Home

    We’re especially proud of the fact that this content-heavy Sitefinity site was completed in a tight four-month timeline. Our designers created a visually compelling site, designing unique overview pages, banners and calls-to-action for each section. Our talented programmers custom designed a widget which allows users to easily find the used equipment they need, as well as a sticky menu on the desktop version and a collapsible menu on mobile.

    #2 Vancity

    Vancity-Home

    Our designers worked with Vancity to achieve a website that is not only visually appealing, but easy and friendly to navigate. We worked hard to incorporate Vancity’s well-known branding into the design, giving the site a clean, bright, modern feel while still keeping it down-to-earth and welcoming.

    #1 City of Campbell River

    City-of-Cambell-River-Home

    The positive client feedback in response to this Sitefinity site makes it one of our favorites! The City of Campbell River wanted a site for its residents and visitors, so many of its features were designed with usability in mind. An ‘I-Want-To’ slider function in the top utility menu allows users to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily while a text resizer and Google Translate function provides inclusive access for a wide variety of users. A dynamic news and events feed on the home page keeps content fresh and relevant while a poll function allows the city to better understand the community’s public opinion.

    Be sure to check back in January for Graphically Speaking’s top web trends of 2014.

  • Graphically Speaking’s 8 Exciting Websites of 2013: Part 1

    by SF SF | Dec 20, 2013

    We here at Graphically Speaking can’t believe another year has come and gone. 2013 has been an exciting year and we look forward to what 2014 will bring. As New Year’s approaches, we’d like to take some time to reflect on eight exciting projects from this past year. Every example showcases unique design and programming features as well as mobile and responsive design.

    #8 Culmina Family Estates Winery

    Culmina-Home

    From first glance you can tell this WordPress site is design-focused. We worked together with the client to achieve a bold and unique site, based around client-provided photography and the company’s three pillars: artistry, science and excellence. The sweeping landscapes are beautifully captured in unique, long scrolling pages on the Artistry, Science and Excellence overview pages. Working with third-party providers we helped to set up their ecommerce store and their wine tour and tasting bookings, making this site a comprehensive tool for their family business.

    #7 Ocean Brands

    Ocean-Brands-Home

    The Ocean Brands’ website is a Sitefinity site, designed to promote Ocean’s two product lines. The final outcome is a high-design site that feels like two websites expertly blended into one. The homepage showcases the two product lines and the internal pages are separated by tabs so that users can switch between the lines with ease. Each product overview page has hover animation which is visually stimulating as well as informational. And the individual product landing pages have custom built banners featuring gorgeous landscapes and product shots as well as a specially designed recipes’ section which promotes user engagement.

    #6 Credential

    Credential-Home

    The Credential website was done on Sitefinity and was designed to match their previously launched site, Credential Direct, also designed by Graphically Speaking. The three editable call-to-action buttons include a rotating “Our Partners” logo, a pop-up that plays a Credential YouTube video, and randomized client testimonials. For visual stimulation we programmed rotating banners on the home page, image mouse-overs on their mission page, and a carousel of partner logos.

    #5 Northern Tickets

    Northern-Tickets-Home

    One of the most important requirements for this WordPress site was to promote usability. It was important for users to be able to find the information about shows and venues as quickly as possible, which is why we incorporated a search function on the home page, as well as a more advanced search on the actual events page. Once you click on an event, the header provides dates, times and a Buy Tickets button. We also custom designed the List of Venues page and provided a click-through option that allows users to find out more about the particular venue in question, as well as other events being held there.

    Check back next week for our final four websites!

  • 7 Christmas Tune-Up Tips for Your Ecommerce Site

    by SF SF | Dec 11, 2013

    Holiday shoppers expect a lot from ecommerce businesses. Not only do they have higher-than-normal customer service expectations, but they need their items shipped quickly, and they expect a flexible after-Christmas return period.

    60% of Canadians will be doing some kind of online shopping this year which is good news for ecommerce, but bad news if your website fails to measure up to the competition. Although it’s too late to make any drastic changes to your site, you do still have time to make smaller adjustments that could strongly impact your site’s success. To help you get started, Graphically Speaking has assembled a list of last minute website tune-up tips to help your site stay competitive.

    Extend Your Return Policy

    Gift-giving is one of the most stressful parts of the holiday season. Help alleviate that pressure by advertising your company’s flexible post-Christmas return policy. Make sure to extend the date until at least mid-January, and advertise it clearly across your site as well as in the checkout section.

    Do Some Reconnaissance

    There’s no better way to keep an eye on your competition than by signing up for their holiday newsletter. It’s a simple way to see what kind of deals and strategies they are utilizing. Not only will you be able to offer similar or better deals, but you can keep an ideas’ list for next December.

    Create a Christmas Section

    Streamline your visitor’s attention by creating a Gift Ideas’ page and advertise it on your home page or through a call-to-action button in your navigation. You can categorize gift ideas for men, women and children, or group them by price. As Christmas approaches, increase the holiday focus by highlighting special deals and promotions. This is also a great opportunity to optimize those new pages for important seasonal keywords. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to research relevant and high volume phrases and consider targeting less competitive long tail keywords.

    Encourage Visitors to Revisit

    By promising promotions and sales on a daily or weekly basis, you can encourage visitors to revisit your site. Sales on certain products and offers of free shipping or gift wrapping could encourage repeat customers. Let visitors know about the ongoing deals on your website or in your email marketing campaigns.

    Step Up Your Email Marketing

    Stepping up your email marketing does not necessarily mean that you should send out more emails. Instead, strategize carefully and offer valuable information about your products. More people are willing to sign up for company emails during the holidays so make sure to advertise your newsletter prominently and give your visitors a compelling incentive to sign-up.

    Update Your About Us Page

    The About Us and Contact Us pages are two of the most important pages on any ecommerce site. First time visitors want to ensure they are buying from a reputable company that is easy to get a hold of should something go wrong. Make sure your information is up-to-date, spelled correctly, and easy to find in your navigation. Providing a physical address, staff profiles and a history of your company all help to inspire trust.

    Test Your Site for Speed

    40% of users will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load. Make sure to test how long it takes to load different sections of your site using desktop computers, tablets and mobile devices. If you find any loading irregularities, consult with your technical team to try and improve your site’s overall speed. Depending on the content management system you are using, you may be able to find useful speed-up tips online.

    Although this is not a comprehensive list by any means, these seven tips for your ecommerce site could help you attract more loyal shoppers and increase revenue. When the holidays are over, consider hiring an internet mearketing/SEO firm to help you prepare for next Christmas and the time in-between.

  • Uvu National Design and Print Excellence Award

    by SF SF | Nov 26, 2013

    Unisource has awarded Canfor with the Uvu National Design and Print Excellence Award for the best Annual Report at this year’s first annual event. Curated photos from Canfor’s 75-year history were combined with “bold, graphical typography,” and “subtle textures” to create a striking publication with a “vintage feel.” We are especially proud of the Graphically Speaking team and the fantastic job they did theming and designing the report.

    Congratulations to:
    Melody Shih |  CREATIVE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    Sheldon Rennie |  SENIOR DESIGNER
    Dale Slattery |  VICE PRESIDENT, CREATIVE

    You can view the Uvu catalogue here: http://www.unisourcedesign.ca/en/uvu

  • A Guide to Reputation Management on Yelp

    by SF SF | Nov 14, 2013

    Yelp is the number one review site on the web, attracting more than 100 million unique visitors a month. This popularity causes Yelp reviews to have a dominant presence in search results, spelling problems for businesses with negative reviews. Regardless of your review status, it’s always a good idea to have a proactive approach to your online reputation management. By learning more about Yelp’s operations, a business owner will be better equipped to handle negative reviews while simultaneously boosting their SEO.

    How do Yelp reviews affect business?

    It’s no secret that Yelp reviews affect a consumer’s opinion, but just how much can a negative or positive review impact your business? One study shows that 72% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations and a whopping 90% of Yelp users claim that positive reviews impact their choice as to which company they will patronize.

    The benefits to claiming your Yelp business page

    87% of small businesses do not claim their Yelp pages which is a missed SEO opportunity. Local listings affect your ranking, so the more your business name, address and phone number are listed, the more weight your website and company is given in search. Remember that when it comes to SEO, quality trumps quantity. Target trusted business listings like UrbanSpoon, Foursquare, TripAdvisor and YellowPages.

    Once you’ve verified yourself as the business owner, you can fill out all the information fields and utilize keywords relevant to your business. Photos have a big impact on internet users so remember to upload high quality and informational images of your business and its products or services.

    How does Yelp filter its reviews?

    A recent study by researchers from Harvard Business School and Boston University estimated that 20% of Yelp reviews written in 2013 were fake. Yelp has confessed that the algorithm they use to cut down on fake reviews suppresses about 25% of all reviews submitted to the site. In fact, Yelp openly admits that their algorithm is not perfect and that some real reviews will be buried by their filter.

    An account that posts fewer reviews will more likely be targeted by the filter than accounts that post frequently. According to the study, more than 70% of accounts with only one review were filtered from the results. Also, Yelp accounts that don’t post a profile image are 41% more likely to be filtered than those with profile pictures. So businesses that have asked customers who are non-regular Yelp-users to provide reviews will not likely see those reviews get through the filter.

    Bad reviews

    It can be tempting to try and stuff your company’s Yelp reviews either to build credibility or to counterbalance negative reviews, but companies that are caught purchasing reviews will get a Consumer Alert flag slapped on their profile.

    Yelp is even ready to take some violators to court. In late September, the New York Attorney General found 19 companies guilty of writing fake Yelp review on behalf of their clients. “Operation Clean Turf,” as it has been named, resulted in penalties of $350,000 for the offending companies, setting a notable precedent for behavior in the internet marketing field.

    So now that you know creating or purchasing reviews is not a good idea, what do you do when you have bad reviews?

    When to respond to reviews

    There are two different types of bad reviews: a review left by a real-life customer, disappointed by their experience with your business, and the review that is probably fake, left by someone aiming to defame you and your business.

    If you have a legitimate bad review, it’s probably in your best interest to address their grievances and apologize. You can either contact the user privately or publicly. Responding privately could create a helpful dialogue, which may have the user rewrite their review. If you address their comment publicly, then you are showing the Yelp community that you care about their opinions and are eager to improve your customer service.

    Fake bad reviews are usually easy to identify: The user oftentimes has left only one or two reviews, they have no profile picture, their claims seem exaggerated, and they give few specific details about the event described. When it comes to these types of reviews, it’s best to ignore them. Responding can heighten their search rank which will cause more and more people to find it in their search results.

    Contact Yelp

    If you think that a review violates the website’s content guidelines, then you can ask Yelp to remove it. There is no guarantee that they will remove the suspect review, but as some businesses have been successful with this approach, it’s well worth a try.

    1. Go to the Contact Yelp section on their website.
    2. Select the Questionable Content option in their drop down menu.
    3. Specify the business affected and the reviewer’s username.
    4. Provide your contact information and then explain in the comments why this review should be evaluated. This is the most important step so take your time to explain why you think this review violates Yelp’s content guidelines.

    Encourage Yelp Reviews

    The best way to counteract negative reviews is to get others to leave positive reviews. Yelp adamantly discourages business owners from openly asking customers to leave reviews, but there are more subtle methods by which to encourage them. Include a link to your Yelp page in your email signature or on your business card to remind clients that you have a Yelp presence. If your clients are active users, they may see your reminder and be inspired to leave a review. Yelp also has downloadable signage on their Flickr stream so that you can include a button on your website to further motivate customers to review.

  • Study Shows Small Businesses Waste 25% of Their Pay-Per-Click Budget

    by SF SF | Nov 08, 2013

    At a glance, Google’s AdWords is an appealing way to market your business. This pay-per-click (PPC) advertising model allows users the flexibility to set budgets, target specific audiences and quickly drive traffic to their sites. Without AdWords, a business might have to wait months before their organic web traffic turns into a steady stream of conversions.

    Due to the apparent ease of use, some small businesses fall into the trap of believing that they can monitor their own AdWords accounts just as efficiently as the pros. According to a new study by Wordstream, Inc., small businesses are unnecessarily wasting 25% of their PPC budget, largely due to strategic and managerial errors.

    After studying 500 small and medium-sized companies, WordStream found that many businesses failed to adhere to basic PPC best practices like improving ad relevancy and regularly managing their accounts. Failing to follow best practices can result in hundreds of lost leads and increased costs for small businesses. This 25% inefficiency is illustrated through actual examples of the client industries sampled: 367 lost bed and breakfast inquiries; 569 lost product sales for retailers; 126 lost insurance quotes; 157 lost B2B supplier leads.

    So how can a small business better manage their AdWords campaigns? Here are some suggestions from Graphically Speaking to help you get started.

    What is your end goal?

    The relative ease of setting up an AdWords account can cause some business owners to act before they’ve strategized. Start by considering your ads’ objectives. Are you trying to find leads? Sell a particular product online? Or drive traffic to your site? Clarifying your goals allows you to create more effective and targeted ads.

    Take the time to research

    In order to make the best use of your advertising budget, you will need to conduct some keyword research. Use Google’s Keyword Planner and explore which search terms will bring the most relevant traffic to your site. Generic keywords can come with pricier bids, so consider using more specific or long tail keywords and exact match or phrase match options.

    Limit your keywords…at least at first

    It can be tempting to bid on every keyword that might be relevant to your site, but remember that the quality of your keywords affects your costs. The more relevant a keyword is to your site, the less you pay per click. Aim to create a few focused ads with highly important and specific keywords. Once you’ve let your campaigns run for a few days, analyze the collected AdWords data. It should give you a good idea of which campaigns, ads and keywords are resulting in conversions and which will require edits.

    Track your conversions

    Wordstream found that less than half of the small businesses they surveyed used any conversion tracking on their landing pages. If you don’t know which ads are converting and how much each conversion costs, then you’re shooting in the dark. Unless you’re operating an e-commerce website, determining the value of a conversion can take some research. First determine how many leads it takes to produce a sale. The value of that sale then determines what you are willing to pay for those leads. Now your goal is to get as many leads as possible for less than your target cost per lead.

    Be ready to invest your time

    Just because AdWords is up and running doesn’t mean that you can “set it, and forget it.” AdWords requires planning and consistent weekly management so that it operates smoothly and efficiently. Be prepared to spend an hour a week going through your campaigns and pausing inefficient keywords, testing advertisements, and adding negative keywords.

  • BCAMA Annual Digital Agency Panel – The one thing you need to watch

    by SF SF | Apr 30, 2013

    Presented by the BCAMA

    What’s the one thing you need to know about digital marketing right now? The city’s brightest digital thinkers each have exactly 7 minutes to tell us what we need to keep our eyes on in the digital world throughout 2013. Their presentations will be followed by a panel Q&A where your digital marketing questions will take center-stage. Learn more.

    Speakers:

    Sean Tyson – Director of Strategy & Business Development, Invoke Media

    Katherine Adamkowski – Media Director, Noise Digital

    Josh Dunford – Founder/Janitor, Burnkit

    Kevan Gilbert – Content Strategist, Domain7

    Nikolas Badminton – National Digital Strategist, TAXI

    Dean Elissat – VP Client Engagement, Engine Digital

    Melody Chan – Creative & Operations Director, Graphically Speaking

    Moderator:

    Steven Cox – Founder & Creative Director, Cause+Affect

    Date:

    Wednesday May 8, 2013
    6 – 9 pm

    Location:

    The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
    900 West Georgia Street
    Vancouver, BC, V6C 2W6

  • Top Web Trends to Watch for 2013: Mobile & Responsive Design

    by SF SF | Apr 30, 2013

    With the rapidly evolving industry of web development it is essential to understand the ways in which the Web is advancing in order to ensure continued relevance for your website. With this in mind, here is the first of two important web trends for this year.

    WEB TREND ONE: Mobile & Responsive Design

    With the increased use of mobile devices in our society the importance of a mobile-specific web strategy is becoming highly amplified. Below are some considerations for an effective mobile website strategy.

    TIn Greater Vancouver mobile website traffic is approximately
    10% for business websites and 19% for consumer websites*

    Responsive Web Design enables websites to fit into virtually any device browser, including smartphones, tablets, computer monitors, televisions and other future devices. Responsive websites not only cater to various browser sizes but can also provide additional information to the page such as supporting text and images when the browser window is enlarged. Web industry experts currently recommend that you strongly consider a responsive website approach.

    WebTrendsOne_chart-1024x394

    Mobile Detect is an alternative to responsive design whereby your site will auto-detect the viewing device’s profile and resize the website accordingly. Typically programmed for Apple and Android smartphones, this less expensive alternative does not cover the complete range of potential screen sizes.

    Content Management Systems (CMS) will often deliver mobile capability through modules or plugins. WPTouch for WordPress is a common browser/device detect-style plugin option while responsive modules are common for Drupal and Sitefinity CMS solutions.

    Web Apps are effective for use with complex websites and applications such as Facebook and other Social Media platforms. The major challenge with web apps is the need to often develop separate versions for each operating system.


    *Source: Representative average of Graphically Speaking clients’ website traffic, January 2013.

  • Top Web Trends to Watch for 2013: Content Marketing

    by SF SF | Apr 30, 2013

    With the rapidly evolving industry of web development it is essential to understand the ways in which the Web is advancing in order to ensure continued relevance for your website. With this in mind, here is the second of two important web trends for this year.

    WEB TREND TWO: Content Marketing

    Content is still king. Available content delivery channels continue to increase via websites, blogs, email, and especially social media platforms. With so many disparate types of content such as podcasts, infographics, webinars, and whitepapers an integrated content strategy is paramount.

    In order to build trust with your audience you must provide content that is:

    • Valuable
    • Useful
    • Helpful
    • Timely
    • Share-worthy

    For maximum effectiveness, content needs to be tailored to the various delivery channels and target audience groups. When creating video content there are three good rules to follow.

    1. Keep videos under two minutes in length
    2. Focus on one topic per video
    3. Ensure high video and audio quality

    When information is submitted by multiple stakeholders it is recommended that a content guideline be developed and followed. Your content guideline should consider target audiences, identify consistent communication tone and avoid the use of industry jargon.

    In 2012, Google’s search algorithm introduced the Penguin and Panda updates, increasing restrictions on previously successful Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques. With these new algorithms, Google continues to reward websites with high-quality content while penalizing sites with poor content.

    Three great reference books on content marketing and strategy are recommended:

    1. Content Marketing by Rebecca Lieb
    2. Managing Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose
    3. Content Strategy for the Web, 2nd Edition by Kristina Halverson and Melissa Rach
  • Refresh the Marketplace: The Coca-Cola Story

    by SF SF | Apr 30, 2013

    Join The Vancouver Board of Trade on May 3 for a refreshing address by Nicola Kettlitz, President of Coca-Cola Limited — the Canadian arm of one of the most successful companies in the world —  in which Kettlitz will share his personal journey, along with insights into the daily operations and management of a global powerhouse. Learn more.

    Date:

    May 3, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Location:

    The Fairmont Pacific Rim – Star Sapphire Ballroom
    1038 Canada Place, Vancouver

  • The Art of Leadership Conference

    by SF SF | Mar 14, 2013

    Presented by the BCAIM

    An event offering cutting edge, easily applied tools and techniques that any leader can apply to their own life and integrate into any corporate culture

    Learn more and apply here.

    Speakers:

    • Marcus Buckingham — Strengths Based Leadership
    • Chester Elton — Creating a Culture of Buy-In and Belief
    • Susan Cain — Harness the Strengths of Introverts
    • John Mackey — Conscious Leadership
    • Dan Pontefract — Leading a Culture of Collaboration

    Date:
    April 11, 2013

    Location:
    The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts
    777 Homer Street Vancouver, BC V6B 2W1

  • Utilizing Big Data to Your Advantage

    by SF SF | Mar 13, 2013

    Presented by the BCAMA

    Utilizing Big Data to Your Advantage what Big Data is, the tools we can use to understand it, and how to utilize it when making business decisions.

    Speakers:
    Grant Stockwell – BCAA
    Jonathan Flander – Vice President, Global Data Strategy, Wunderman
    Jesse Gross – Vice President of Analytics, Semphonic

    Moderator:
    Richard Muller – President, Sum Things Ventured

    Date:
    Wednesday, April 17, 2013
    7:00 am to 9:00am

    Location:
    Coast Coal Harbour Hotel
    1180 W Hastings St
    Vancouver, BC V6E 4R5

    Price:
    BCAMA Members: $44 – Early Bird: $39*
    Non-Members: $54 – Early Bird: $49*
    Students: $37
    Collegiate: $32
    *Early Bird ends April 4, 2013

  • Organic Search Engine Optimization vs. Pay-Per Click Advertising

    by SF SF | Jan 11, 2013

    There has been an ongoing argument over which internet marketing strategy is superior; organic search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per click advertising (PPC), and we would like to weigh in. In the real world, there is no winner in this battle; both organic SEO and PPC have their benefits and their drawbacks, but in the end they should be be used together as part of a cohesive marketing strategy.

    Organic SEO and PPC advertising are both assets for search engines such as Google. PPC is a major revenue source, while providing organic SEO results for their users gives those search engines legitimacy and increases public trust in their results. It suffices to say that neither PPC nor organic SEO will be disappearing in the near future.

    There is some truth to the argument that PPC is overtaking organic SEO, as PPC ads are becoming increasingly common in regular Internet browsing. This is due to the fact that Google is becoming increasingly clever in the ways and the places in which they place ads.

    One striking example of this is a Google Adwords feature that tracks the cookies of people who visit their advertiser’s sites and follows them, displaying that advertiser’s graphic ads on other, seemingly unrelated sites. Adding this type of tool to your marketing strategy can be both powerful and cost-effective, as it targets users who have already shown interest in your website and shows them an purposefully designed ad. This tool is also more visually powerful than a standard PPC ad because it gives you the opportunity to use creative branding to keep your business in the forefront of your targeted audience’s mind.

    As a marketing strategy, organic search engine optimization is in no danger of dying out, as users would become frustrated and lose trust in any search engine that provided only paid results. It continues to make sense for organizations to put the necessary time and resources towards boosting their SEO ranking, as organic, or “free,” traffic is considered better than paid traffic. Even though raising and maintaining an organic SEO ranking takes time and resources, organic results are often trusted more than paid results.

    With that being said, it is also a good strategy to use pay-per click advertising for the following reasons:

    1. You get immediate, targeted traffic to your website.
    2. You can use the data collected from PPC for SEO intelligence, enabling you to develop a clear-cut keyword strategy for keywords you have already tested.

    In the end, to maximize your return on your investment dollars, one of the best things you can do is learn about SEO and internet marketing. While this can take time and money, it is helpful in understanding what you are paying for and what you are receiving in return. And learning something new is always a positive thing.

  • Buying into Ecommerce

    by SF SF | Jan 11, 2013

    BCAMA Marketline Article – September 21, 2012

    Over the last decade ecommerce has exploded from just a few success stories and a lot of failures to a vast opportunity for businesses to expand markets and drive new sales. This is increasingly true for the B2B marketplace as well as the consumer space.

    It’s interesting to see that the Top 100 etailers of the last few years feature a mix of what we think of as ‘traditional’ ecommerce companies (think Amazon, Apple and Netflix) and not-so-traditional online stores like Wal-Mart and Weightwatchers.

    What is ecommerce?

    We seem to talk a lot about ecommerce without defining the genre. Simply stated, ecommerce is any website where an online transaction can be completed that is directly tied to revenue. This can be as simple as offering one product via a ‘buy now’ PayPal link to a complex shopping cart system with the capability of selling thousands of products.

    How can ecommerce benefit your organization?

    Think in terms of how you can shift the sales process to an automated customer-driven experience. The transition to online sales can help you…

    • Increase sales while reducing costs
    • Expand your customer base in existing and new territories
    • Reduce time to market of new products
    • Improve the buying experience for your customers, and
    • Use customer buying behavior to create a better result for them and you.

    From a brand value and market-position perspective companies with ecommerce websites are also often seen as the most progressive and forward-thinking players in their fields.

    Would you like fries with that?

    Amazon.com is the king of upselling. When you purchase a book or other product on their website they immediately provide useful guidance to related product options and bundles. The upsell process can help increase per-transaction online sales dramatically and with ecommerce you can directly control what options you offer for each product and customer.

    Think Big

    Traditional bricks-and-mortar stores are often limited in their growth potential by capital costs and by factors beyond their control such as proximity to a large market. With effective search engine optimization and Internet marketing you can capture qualified web traffic to your online store. You also don’t need to limit your reach to customers in your local market – the world is one click away.

    Happy customers

    You can lose customers when they have to work too hard to find the suitable choice from your array of products. If a customer finds a product that is a perfect fit it then more often than not it will lead to a completed sale.

    With ecommerce each product can be tagged with attributes that allow the customer to quickly narrow the choice to a preferred short list of options. For example a customer can choose by category, then by brand and then by product attributes such as colours and price ranges. Getting the right product quickly will help lead to a happy customer, a quick sale and hopefully repeat business.

    With ecommerce your customers can shop at any time, from any location. What can be more convenient than that?

    Give and you shall receive (sales)

    By giving your customers a lot of information you will receive a reward: increased sales.

    • Provide product details and price comparisons
    • Share customer reviews
    • Showcase hot-selling products
    • Offer cost-saving product bundles

    Made to measure

    With ecommerce the resulting shopping and purchasing data can be mined for valuable insight into customer behavior patterns, thereby helping you to make business decisions that will increase sales.

    You can also test the market viability of new products by using the powerful analytics tools of ecommerce systems. That can help you understand the potential for product success.

    In February 2011 a strange yet intriguing situation took place whereby the retail chain Target discovered that a teenager was pregnant before her father did! Target sent a postcard to the teenager’s house with a direct advertisement for baby products. Target had deduced from the teenager’s online purchasing habits that she fit the profile of a pregnant mom-to-be.

    Build it and they will come

    Bottom line: build an effective shopping experience though ecommerce and you will attract new customers to your online store.

  • Tablet Usage: Where and How They’re Most Often Used

    by SF SF | May 25, 2012

    By the end of 2012, there will be an estimated 55 million tablet users in the United States, according to a study by eMarketer. Of those, 42 million (or 76 percent) will be using an iPad.

    The perfect marriage of power and portability, tablets are quickly becoming the personal computing device of choice. But surprisingly, a Viacom study found that 74% of US tablet usage occurs at home, with 96% using it in the living room and 94% in the bedroom. It’s also a solo affair: Daily tablet users spend an average of 2.4 hours per day on their devices, 77% of which is time is spent alone.

    Tablets aren’t all fun and games, however. Although 85% of tablet use is for pleasure, not business, three-quarters of respondents were at least somewhat likely to use their tablets in their home office.

    Outside of the home, tablets were most often used in airports/airplanes, coffee shops and outdoor public spaces. Only 36% of respondents used their devices in stores, suggesting that tablets haven’t quite caught up to smartphones in the mobile shopping arena. But research has shown that tablet users are taking advantage of larger screen sizes to research products before they visit a store in-person.

    Some other interesting findings:

    • 62% use their tablets daily
    • Most media activities on the tablet, such as playing games and watching TV shows, peak with the 18-24 demographic
    • More than 50% of respondents said their tablet makes them feel happier and more relaxed
    • 49% said tablets make them more effective at managing life
    • 39% said tablets boost creativity
    • 40% agree that “my tablet brings out the best in me”

    With video capabilities, endless instant information and social experiences galore, the tablet truly is a jack-of-all-trades. Marketers need to give serious consideration to how their strategies render on a tablet. Have you fine-tuned your efforts to meet the needs of this incredibly diverse (and rapidly growing) market?

  • Are Humans Ready to Become Digital?

    by SF SF | May 23, 2012

    Technology is bringing the virtual world and the real world closer together, but are humans ready to go digital?

    Part art, part tech, the Robots and Avatars exhibition is a collection of works exploring ways in which we might view others—and ourselves—as digital beings. From using your phone to control a robot’s voice box to meeting and interacting with real people in a virtual world, this exhibition is a fascinating peek at our colleagues and playmates of the future.

    Check out this BBC Click video feature for a preview of the event.

  • The Dangerous Pitfalls of A/B Testing

    by SF SF | May 22, 2012

    A/B testing can be a great way to gain insight into visitor behavior and increase conversion rates, but with all the button tweaking, colour scheming and text revising, are we forgetting to look at the bigger picture?

    If you own a business, there’s always the concern that your marketing efforts aren’t reaching their full potential. A great website design is a step in the right direction, but it’s also worth your time to have strategies and formulas in place to make sure your hard work is paying off. A/B testing, or split testing, is just one of the ways to understand what resonates best with your customers. You create two versions of your website, expose customers to both versions simultaneously, measure which version was more successful and then select that version for real-world use.

    It seems simple, but it’s easy to get sidetracked by individual elements and lose sight of your website’s primary goal.

    Let’s say you own an ecommerce site. You develop an A/B test that optimizes for conversion, and everyone is happy with the chosen design because it was a clear, obvious winner and sales are now higher than ever. But what the test didn’t show is what happened after the customer pressed the purchase button. Were they happy? Did the product arrive as expected? Was the shopping experience enjoyable? Was it difficult?

    Even if your A/B test was successful, there may be huge design deficiencies that prevent customers from returning time and time again. You need to be careful not to sacrifice user experience while optimizing for conversion. So how do you accomplish this tricky feat? By pairing your A/B testing with usability testing.

    Once you’ve found the best-performing design, usability test to find those glitches and errors that are likely to frustrate users and turn them away, like broken links, slow loading pages, search functions that don’t work properly, confusing checkout processes or incorrect shipping costs. In other words, simplify and tighten up the entire ecommerce process to make the customer experience as great as possible.

    A/B testing and usability testing each have their own strengths and limitations, but they do work effectively hand in hand. As complementary tools, they result in a more cohesive and effective website, working together towards the common business goal of attracting and retaining customers.

  • What You Need to Know About Facebook Timeline for Pages

    by SF SF | May 20, 2012

    Now that Facebook Timeline is finally available for brands, companies have access to powerful new marketing tools that will change the way they do business online.

    The new redesign features the same glossy cover photo and media-rich layout as personal Timelines, but has a functionality that goes well beyond anything we’ve seen before. Brands now have unprecedented control over their content and how they interact with customers online. It’s a complete overhaul of the Facebook pages we know and love, with messaging capabilities, Premium Ad products and an admin panel that’s actually user-friendly.

    Brands have until March 30, 2012 to make the switch, so you have plenty of time to get to know the new features. Here are some of the big changes to keep in mind:

    Premium Ad Products

    Facebook’s logout page will soon be transformed into an enormous digital billboard, ripe for advertisements. According to Facebook, 37 million people hit that logout page every day, making it the perfect space for a Sponsored Story. Logout Ads are part of a new suite of Premium Ad products, which also includes Sponsored Stories in both the news feed and mobile news feed.

    Because the new Premium Ad products are so content-focused, brands will need to work hard to make their page an engaging destination. And the more a brand is willing to spend on showcasing their best content, the more interactions that content will have, and the more engaging their page will be.

    Facebook rewards engaging pages by making it more likely for users to see all of the page’s content, whether it’s been boosted by paid placement or not. Brands with great content but no ad budget will have a hard time being seen in users’ newsfeeds.

    History

    Just like with personal Timelines, brands now have a visual history that people can engage with. It’s great for ‘telling the story,’ as Facebook would say, but no company’s past is 100% positive. Brands will need to sift through their past posts and hide (or deal with) anything that reflects poorly on them, like unresolved negative comments.

    Curation

    Once you’ve cleaned up the past, it’s time to focus on the present. Brand-generated stories are now aggregated, so the most popular content will rise to the top. That means you’ll need to keep PR-related issues in check. If you don’t deal with problems right away, you run the risk of having them snowball and land front and centre on your Timeline.

    Goodbye, Landing Pages

    Brands can no longer select a tab or app to be the default landing page for prospective fans. Now, everyone lands on the Timeline. Administrators do have the ability to ‘pin’ key posts or notices to the top of a page’s wall, or ‘highlight’ posts, stretching them across the whole width of the page, but it’s not quite as effective.

    Landing pages were often used to control the user’s first impression of the company, but they were also used to feature contests and giveaways. So not only will brands will have to keep close watch on the look and feel of their Timeline, they’ll also have to rely more on paid or earned media for special promotions.

    Direct Messaging

    Brands can now communicate with their fans through private messages and respond as the brand, which is something they couldn’t do before. This deepens customer engagement and takes detailed inquires and concerns off the Timeline and into a private message.

    Coupons

    Brands will soon be able to create coupons directly in Facebook. Known as ‘Offers,’ they can be posted to a brand’s Timeline, promoted within Sponsored Stories or reposted and shared on individual users’ Timelines.

    Admin Panel

    Timeline’s fancy new admin panel hides and expands on command, which means you don’t have to navigate away from the page to make changes. The panel includes page activity, chart-based performance data and even a help center. And in a few weeks, page administrators will have access to real-time results for People Talking About This and Page post metrics, including Reach and Engaged Users. For marketers, that means you’ll soon be able to see what’s going on in your pages and tweak your content and advertising for maximum results.

  • 10 Tips for Successful Mobile Commerce

    by SF SF | May 15, 2012

    Although mobile web has become mainstream, many small businesses still aren’t addressing the needs of mobile shoppers. While it may seem like a daunting task, transitioning to mobile commerce isn’t as tricky as you think. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to you get you on your way.

    Usability Test

    How does your website function on a smartphone? How about a tablet? Mobile devices are already outselling personal computers, so if your website doesn’t give a top-notch performance for on-the-go consumers, you’ll be losing big business.

    Embrace Responsive Web Design

    With a responsive web design, your website will automatically adapt to all web-enabled devices, creating a custom user experience for hundreds of million of mobile customers. Users will see different layouts depending on the screen size, eliminating the need for separate apps for each mobile device.

    Use High-Resolution Images

    Mobile displays are more advanced than ever, so now is not the time to skimp on image quality. If you want customers to stick around, go for high-resolution images that display beautifully on any mobile device.

    Kids Know Best

    Whether you admit it or not, the younger generation is more in tune with what’s going on in the technology world. They’re often the first to pick up new gadgets, so consider them a valuable resource. Ask some tech-savvy kids to check out your website and be brutally honest. Does your website feel current? Is it difficult to navigate? Is it cool?

    Analyze Your Customers

    Even if you’re tech-savvy and on top of market research, customers can still be unpredictable. So, to get a better idea of what mobile options you should be offering, check out your audience. Watch how they interact with their phones and use analytics to find out who they are, where they’re from, what mobile device they use and the pages they most frequently visit.

    Simplify Your Website

    Mobile users are after specific nuggets of information and don’t have the time (or patience) to click through a cluttered site. The harder it is for a customer to find what they’re looking for, the less likely they are to stick around.

    Simplify the Shopping Experience

    Is it hard to buy a product from your ecommerce site with a mobile device? Is it enjoyable? Is it frustrating? Responsive design is a step in the right direction, but you really need to pay attention to the overall buying experience. Do customers have to type in a lot of information? Do they have to zoom in to see important information? Is their data saved if a connection is dropped? How is the order confirmed?

    Ditch the Flash

    Flash is incompatible with most mobile operating systems, including Apple’s iOS. And even if you do find a device that supports it, Flash files are generally large and take forever to load on mobile networks. Avoid it at all costs.

    Choose a Mobile-Friendly Platform

    Go for an ecommerce platform with built-in mobile capabilities, such as Magento. Even if you don’t want to focus on mobile just yet, you’ll have the flexibility to hop on board as soon as you’re ready.

    Take Your Time

    Before you rush out and invest in technology that you have no idea how to use, update or fix, stop for a minute. Will you be able to understand the technology? Will it be outdated soon? Do you even need it? Contemplate your options, because new technology doesn’t always mean better business.

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