If the digital age has taught us anything, it’s that those who innovate come out on top. ¬†Google innovates its algorithm twice per day. ¬†Zappos is a leading online apparel retailer because it has free shipping both ways.
Are you going to come up with an instantly huge innovation that changes the world? ¬†Think about Facebook and Amazon and how they once were just another idea.
Most likely, you won’t come up with that type of innovation.
In most cases, it takes hard work and dedication. ¬†So how do you develop an innovation and become a market leader?
Here are some steps you can take:
1. ¬†Remove all limits in your mind – If you think something’s not possible, then it definitely won’t happen. ¬†The very first step to innovation is opening your mind to the possibility that you could become the market leader.
Could you allow your customers to name their price and still expect to make a profit? ¬†You could – it’s been done in the restaurant industry.
You don’t have to take that particular step, but it demonstrates a point – limits are not necessarily as they appear.
2. ¬†Dedicate a part of your budget to testing – 5%, 10%, whatever you think works best with your current business model. ¬†Dedicate part of your budget to trying new things.
One thing is guaranteed: ¬†most new tries will fail.
Nothing works like you’d expect, but with enough hard work, dedication, and patience, you will stumble across a new idea or business method that increases your profits.
3. ¬†Allow employees to take risks and fail – In its heyday, during the 1980s, Walmart owner Sam Walton allowed department managers to essentially function as entrepreneurs. ¬†They could run their department the way they felt best.
It led to a ton of innovation, which eventually spread company-wide. ¬†You know where Walmart stands in the marketplace today – 50 years ago it was a single store.
Though you might be a very smart person, you certainly don’t know everything. ¬†That’s okay – join the human race. ¬†Instead, admit it, move on, and allow your employees to bring ideas to the table.
4. ¬†Pay attention to customer behavior, not their words – Customers will always tell you what they want, but how often does it really happen that they actually want what they say? ¬†For instance, Debra Kaye recounts a story where a washing machine company’s Chinese customers were using washing machines to was their vegetables, which ruined them and voided their warranty.
Instead of correcting the behavior, the company built in the functionality for the washing machines to wash vegetables…and Chinese sales skyrocketed 40%!
Washing machines that wash vegetables? ¬†Sounds crazy, but that’s what customers wanted. ¬†Watch and listen to what your customers do, not what they say.
What is the Process for Innovating?
There is none! ¬†It’s not something you plan. ¬†All you can do is commit yourself to the idea of innovation and let go of what happens. ¬†Eventually…it comes, and often in the most unexpected ways.
A recent comScore report shows mobile commerce could account for $25 billion in spending by the end of this year, which means it may account for more than 10% of all online e-commerce spending. ¬†Andrew Lipsman, VP of Analysis at the company, also notes that mobile e-commerce is growing at a faster rate than its traditional counterpart.
You can clearly expect this trend to continue to grow in the future – how far do you think it will go?
Regardless of what you think, it’s important to keep all customer transactions safe. ¬†Hackers and scammers of all types and varieties have proven throughout history they’re willing to do whatever is necessary to get their hands on someone else’s private information or money.
What can you do now to ensure their private information stays safe?
Here are a few steps you can take to ensure that happens when they use your site:
1. ¬†Don’t ask for any more information than necessary – Not only is this a good practice for optimizing your conversion rate on your order page, but it’s a good idea from a security perspective too. ¬†”Less is more” is a saying that holds true when it comes to mobile commerce. ¬†Get the bare minimum information you need and let go of the rest.
2. ¬†Recommend a mobile antivirus app – This is good for your customers in general and also especially for ¬†their online transactions. ¬†Hackers abound and often send very realistic-looking URLs from spoofed e-mail addresses that could convince your customers to give them their personal information. ¬†You don’t have any control over this, but you can alert them to the issue and recommend antivirus as a safeguard to counteract the threat.
3. ¬†Use encryption – HTTPS protection authenticates the web site and server your customers are communicating with. ¬†However, make sure your entire site is hosted over HTTPS. ¬†If even just some small portions are loaded over HTTP, then your users will be vulnerable to some surveillance and attacks.
4. ¬†Remind your users to never use public networks – If they stop in at Starbucks, browsing the general web is okay. ¬†However, remind them to refrain from purchasing on such networks. ¬†They’re much easier to hack into than a private one at home.
5. ¬†Keep your branding consistent – Because hackers try to imitate your site, make sure you keep all your branding/images/payment processes 100% consistent across your entire site. ¬†Do the same when e-mailing. ¬†This lets your users know they are somewhere familiar and trustworthy.
Safety and Trust Sell
The more you can sell safety and trust, the better off you will be in the long run. ¬†Attacks from cyber criminals will only continue, and much like those who develop new security solutions, they engage in developing innovative techniques of their own.
SEO isn’t cheap anymore. ¬†Well it is, but if someone’s doing it cheaply, you can expect poor results or even Google penalties. ¬†In most cases, you’ll have to pay $1000 per month or more just to get started.
And in many other cases, it costs much more to be competitive.
If you’re the DIY type, or you simply cannot get access to the money that you need to get started, you can still do your own SEO. ¬†But, it becomes so complicated so fast that you can easily con yourself into working 80+ hours on your SEO just for the week.
So, how do you create a plan that can help you rank for your target keywords that doesn’t force you to spend you’re whole time doing SEO instead of running your business?
Here’s a simple strategy you can use:
Start with your keyword research. ¬†Go to Google Adwords and choose keywords with less than 1,000 local searches per month, and ideally a couple hundred or less. ¬†You can rank for those the fastest and start growing revenues right away. ¬†Then, you can use those resources to outsource your SEO so someone else can do it. ¬†If you use 2-3 word phrases, target those on your home and category pages. ¬†Make sure your product page uses very long-tail phrases 4-6 words in length. ¬†It’s easier to compete for those terms and you’ll make more sales off them initially.
It is essential you do keyword research for every page on your website. ¬†That optimizes the whole thing the best, making you the most visible in the search engines. ¬†If you have WordPress, the SEO by Yoast plugin is great for measuring on-page optimization.
Check out your competitor’s link profiles. ¬†See who’s ranking highly and check out their link profiles. ¬†Free tools like BackLinkWatch.com¬†will explore their profiles so you can find quick and easy ways to score white-hat links. ¬†Open Site Explorer by Moz also gives you a limited view for free.
Guest post like a madman. ¬†Identify the top blogs in your niche and offer them a guest post. ¬†Make sure you research methods for getting a response rate. ¬†These are the most natural links you can possibly get because you have no control over them. ¬†Plus, you could earn more customers and subscribers. ¬†You can never guest post enough.
Check your rankings once per week. ¬†But, don’t obsess about them. ¬†You literally only need to check them once per week. ¬†Large fluctuations will happen, but remember that’s normal in the early years of a website. ¬†Once ¬†you hit the top 10 for any keyword, be happy. ¬†It’s almost impossible to guess what to do to push your website up the top 10, so just enjoy the fact that you’re there and start focusing on more keywords once you arrive there.
Ultimately, Hire a Firm, and Don’t Be Cheap
Yes, there are firms charging $300 per month for SEO, but the reality is that it’s so complex you just can’t do good work at that rate anymore, even if you do hire someone from overseas. Fortune3′s managed SEO plans start as low as $575 per month.
Once you get revenues going well enough to the point where you can afford $1000 – $2000 per month for SEO help, hire the process out. ¬†Long-term, you’ll either have to be a business owner or a SEO expert. ¬†And since you started your own business, we’re guessing you’d rather run that.
You did research your market before building your e-commerce store, didn’t you?
Okay, so you did, but how in-depth is that research?
What can you tell other people about your customer?
Do you know how old your ideal customer is, their gender, interests, income, and different places they hang out online?¬† What are their pain points?¬† What problem are they really trying to¬†solve?¬† Ideally, you’ll know your customer as well as you know your spouse or best friend.¬† The better you know your ideal customer, the more effective you can be when marketing to them.
If you know their true need, you can build a stronger case for them to buy from you instead of your competitors.¬† But how do you go about finding that information?
It’s easier than you think, and sometimes you just need a little information to get you going in the right direction.¬† Check out these tips to help ensure that you get to know your market as well as you know the people you love most in your personal life:
Conduct a survey.¬† You can easily conduct¬†a survey online at very little cost to get a basic understanding of your market.¬† SurveyMonkey allows you to do free surveys.¬† You can ask for basic demographic information if you don’t have it.¬† Make sure to keep the survey short, though, just a few questions.¬† You might ask an open-ended question at the end¬†to get highly valuable feedback.¬† There is some question as to whether or not you should incentivize the survey (offering a gift card¬†for completing it).¬† It’s up to your discretion whether or not you do that.
The downside is that you can get biased results, although you could get more participation.¬† If you offer no incentive, you may get fewer responses, but more objective feedback.¬† One thing is for sure:¬† make sure you communicate the reason you’re doing the survey is to improve the customer experience.¬† Don’t talk about how it’s going to help you and your company – that turns¬†people off.
Get involved in niche forums and ask questions.¬† Forums are a great way to directly access any market.¬† At forums, you get mostly highly¬†knowledgeable people¬†with a great passion for the topic.¬† When you ask questions at forums, pay very careful attention to the responses you receive.¬† You can also access otherwise difficult-to-reach markets.¬† CEOs and other powerful individuals do lurk around forums.
LinkedIn Groups.¬† They’re similar to forums, but this time they come with a professional twist.¬† If you have a B2B market, LinkedIn¬†groups are an especially powerful place¬†to learn about your market.
All social media sites – Twitter (B2B), Google+ (men 35+), Pinterest (younger women), and¬†Facebook (everyone), are great places to research your market.¬†¬†Find the pages of your competitors and¬†see what people are talking about and what attracts their attention.¬† If you have your own established¬†social media profiles, these can be a great way to ask questions and get feedback.¬† You can learn the exact words people use to find your products and services, too.
If It’s Market Research on a Budget that You Need, This is the Way to do It
The great thing about the¬†internet is that you can directly access your market wherever they are in just the snap of a finger.¬† You can conduct your research and get a¬†basic¬†understanding of your customer right away.
Once you¬†identify who it is that you are selling to, then your business will take off because you will completely understand how to sell to them.
The brand – your company’s identity in the minds of your market – is becoming more important than ever before. ¬†You see, the Information Age and the availability of technology allow marketing companies to provide more personal advertising experiences than television and radio.
The modern consumer’s preference is quickly becoming for a more personal experience.
That means it’s important for your business to have a stable, consistent brand present in the mind of your target market. ¬†Be careful for these mistakes so you don’t damage your brand identity or minimize the potential impact it could have on your target market:
1. ¬†Avoid buzzwords - “Big data” “content is king” and “take your company to the next level” are all buzzwords your company should avoid using. ¬†Because everyone uses them, they carry little, if any impact. ¬†You can try inventing your own buzzwords, but don’t use them too much because you want to capture the interest of your market, not confuse them.
2. ¬†Inconsistent messaging - If you sell a particular benefit or solution to your market, make sure that remains present on all the channels where you interact with your market. ¬†It’s not easy to maintain the same identity on your website and 5 different social media profiles, but it is very important.
3. ¬†Not speaking to what your customer really wants – Sure, you’re solving a need you know your customers have, but is it really the biggest one? ¬†And, are you solving it in the best way? ¬†Keep an ongoing dialogue with your market and always be performing that research, and eventually you will discover their true need.
4. ¬†Not having a strong web presence. ¬†Are you outsourcing your internet marketing services to a company? ¬†Are you trying to do it yourself? ¬†Do you have a partner or someone ¬†in your network helping you grow your web presence?
If you don’t, you’re missing out on your best opportunity to compete with big businesses. ¬†Formstack recently performed research and found 55% of small businesses don’t have a website! ¬†As a web-savvy e-commerce company, you at least have this, but it goes to show that many businesses aren’t taking advantage of their best opportunity to compete.
5. ¬†A logo that doesn’t fit. ¬†Make sure your logo is brandable and that it fits your company’s identity. ¬†If your business is fun and casual, make sure your logo is fun and casual. ¬†If you’re more serious and results-driven, use a logo that communicates that message.
Make sure you check for these 5 branding mistakes, and watch your marketing campaign take off when you have them all in check!
Use the wrong keywords for your website, and you’re screwed right from the start.
What are the “wrong” keywords?
They’re keywords that are too short and general (“cameras” or “boots”), or that have too much competition (more than 40,000 local monthly searches). ¬†Competition is tough because its more relative. ¬†If you have a small company, you go for keywords with a low number of searches. ¬†If you’re a bigger company and have more dollars and website authority, you can target more competitive keywords.
Keywords are your foundation to digital marketing success, so how do you do research the right way? ¬†Here are some tips:
1. ¬†Do a PPC campaign to gauge conversion rate – Will the keywords you’re choosing convert? ¬†Hard to say until you actually use them. ¬†But, you can test this out by running a PPC campaign on the keywords you’re considering. ¬†Then, you can gather data about which keywords convert the best before committing to them in your online SEO campaign. ¬†You don’t need a ton of money -$500 or so can save and earn you thousands more in the long run.
2. ¬† Target general 2-word phrases on your home and category pages. ¬†People typing in these phrases are likely just researching the product or service available. ¬†To help them out, target these phrases on your home and category pages. ¬†They probably won’t convert well in the short-term, but if you give people the information they’re looking for early on, they’ll come back to you later on when they’re ready to purchase.
3. ¬†Product pages should target long-tail phrases. ¬†Google got rid of its keyword tool, but you can still do the same research within Adwords. ¬†For those long-tail phrases, you’re ideally looking for keywords with 3,000 or less searches and “medium” competition or lower. ¬†Target 2-3 phrases per page or so. ¬†Those are the ones you have the best chances of competing for.
If those keywords are 5-7 words long or longer and they have less than 100 searches per month, you might have found a keyword you can easily rank for that also converts well! ¬†For the small guys, this is how you compete with the big dogs.
4. ¬†Do keyword research for every page! ¬†You read this tip right – you need to do it for every page. ¬†If your website has hundreds or thousands of pages, you still need to do it for each page. ¬†Start with what you think are going to be your best sellers first and move down the list till you’re done.
5. ¬†Potpourri. ¬†Free tools like SEMrush and Ubersuggest¬†¬†can help you discover new keyword opportunities as they happen. ¬†You can also use Google Autosuggest for new ideas. ¬†If you’re the first to get in on the game with a new keyword, then you may have established a strong competitive advantage. ¬†Also, watch your competitor’s sites to see the new products they’re offering – those could be great ideas for the future.
It’s Hard Work, But It’s Worth It
Don’t skimp on your keyword research. ¬†Ideally, you’ll do it before you’ve purchase your domain name, but you can do it at any time. ¬† If you haven’t researched your keywords or audited their performance recently, do it. ¬†Simply by changing your keywords, you can dramatically improve your website’s rankings and sales.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Google’s Penguin 2.0 update, as well as Panda and Penguin 1.0. ¬†These updates, as well as the many other 500 or so Google makes each year force web writers to develop valuable content instead of just stuffing the web page with keywords.
But, if you write product descriptions, product reviews, and a bunch of blog articles, how do you properly optimize them so that they please both the search engines and humans?
Fortunately, it’s not all that hard, and if it is hard for you, there’s about a million freelance writers out there who can do the job for you. ¬†If you, or someone on your staff is going to handle the writing for your e-commerce website, here’s what to do to ensure that your web page is fully optimized for Google, while at the same time remaining interesting and valuable to your readers:
1. ¬†Use an SEO plugin. ¬†WordPress SEO by Yoast is by far the most popular and for good reason – it works well. ¬†It assigns every page and post on your website a SEO writing by color, with green being the best. ¬†In addition, it takes into account off-page factors like the title and META description for SEO value. ¬†Much like Google it gives more weight to keywords found in the <H1> and <H2> tags on your web page.
2. ¬†Read it out loud. ¬†But, that plugin can’t check to make sure the language and grammar on your web page flow well. ¬†It can check the keywords based on density, position, and the element in which they are located, but the plugin doesn’t make you a good writer. ¬†To check to make sure the keywords sound natural, and not forced, read your copy out loud. ¬†If the keywords sound awkward, some editing is necessary.
3. ¬†Write for your readers first. ¬†That means creating valuable content before anything else. ¬†When I write, I put the keywords in right away, but not everyone does this. ¬†Some create the content and then go back in later and add in the keywords. ¬†Do whatever works for you, but always make sure whatever content you create offers genuine value for your readers.
4. ¬†Place keywords in the title, URL, H1, H2, H3 and body content. ¬†Google gives more weight to your keywords if they appear in the <H> tags. ¬†Also, a nice flow that includes the keyword in the title, URL, and <H> tags gives your page the most relevance for a certain term. ¬†What this means is that you simply don’t need to put the keyword in the body content as much, helping you avoid keyword stuffing and awkward reading.
That’s All There is To It!
People love to create guides and perfectly optimized web pages, but the truth is that it’s not really all that heard. ¬†Follow these simple principles, and you’ll create a perfectly optimized web page that also pleases your readers.
So, there’s legions of tips on SEO out there. ¬†People will tell you how to do your own campaign, giving you endless tips for success.
But, what if your site isn’t generating the traffic or revenues you want right now?
One reason that could be is because of weak overall SEO. ¬†If you haven’t done an SEO audit recently, then now might be the time.
SEO always changes though, so how do you do it? ¬†Here’s a process to follow to perform your own SEO audit:
Keyword strategy – Keywords are the foundation of the success of your website. ¬†Choose the wrong ones, and it’ll be difficult to grow right from the start. ¬†Choose the right ones and you’ll be okay. ¬†Generally, you want to focus on general, research-based keywords on your home page and category pages. ¬†Those keyphrases will be around 2 words long and will have higher searches, ranging from a few thousand to tens of thousands of searches per month. ¬†Long-tail keyphrases (3 words and longer) should be targeted on your product pages. ¬†Anything that doesn’t fit into those categories goes into your blog. ¬†You can also attempt to double-up your exposure by reviewing long-tail keyphrase products in your blog. ¬†All you need to get started with keyword research is Google Adwords.
HTTP error codes – This is the place to start, and it’s not as bad as you think. ¬†A free tool, Screaming Frog SEO Spider, is actually used by many leading pros and does the job quite well. ¬†What you look for is an HTTP status code of 200 for every page on your site, which means all is well. ¬†Fix anything that causes any error codes.
Canonical URLs – This is a huge mistake many beginning site owners make. ¬†You want only one version of your URLs indexed. ¬†Very often, you’ll end up with a www version of your site and a non-www version. ¬†If you have 2 versions of the same URL, the authority in Google’s eyes gets split between both.
To check for this, type the following command in Google: ¬†site:yourdomain.com -www ¬†If no results show up, you’re good to go. ¬†If you do have results, then you have to 301 redirect each non-www URL to the www version in your .htacess file. ¬†It’s not as hard as you think. ¬†Here’s a guide for doing it
Internal linking – You shouldn’t have any broken links. ¬†In addition, you should link to every page on your website, and the pages that are most important should have the most links pointing to them. ¬†Again, not too difficult to do, and you can do it with XENO Link Sleuth.
Site load speed – This factor is huge in Google’s algorithm. ¬†Additionally, it’s huge for your conversions. ¬†One study found that Amazon increased its revenues 1% for every 100 milliseconds it reduced the downloading speed of their web pages.
There are 2 good tools to help you discover and eliminate problems that slow down the load speed of your website: ¬†Yslow and Google PageSpeed. ¬†You will be able to fix some of these issues on your own, but some of them will get so complicated that it makes more sense to hire someone else to fix the problems.
Now that your SEO is optimized, you can focus on providing products your customers want! ¬†And, you can enjoy better search rankings.
It’s not easy to stand out these days. ¬†There’s billions of websites and web pages online, and less than half of the earth’s population has internet access. ¬†There’s a ton of more competition coming down the road.
So, how do you stand out?
The answer: ¬†by creating a unique selling proposition (USP).
But in order to find one, you have to research your market and have a very thorough knowledge of how it works. ¬†That in itself is a huge undertaking, so here’s some steps to take to create your USP:
Find your customer’s pain points and sell to them – Other businesses are doing things wrong, so figure out what people don’t like about other businesses and make that the focus of your business. ¬†Does their customer service suck? ¬†Do they offer free shipping both ways on clothing? ¬†Is their product quality below average? ¬†Figure out what it is and make a strong point of selling that on your website.
Learn who your ideal customer is – You want to know everything about them, right down to their shoe size. ¬†You should be able to describe your ideal customer like you would a family member.
Identify the benefits you offer – These are your “overarching benefits.” ¬†There should be around 3-6 of them or so, and they should speak to other areas where your competition is weak and to what your customer really wants.
Write down your promise – Remember, this is what makes or breaks your business – your ability to deliver on your promise. ¬†Follow the idea of “underpromise and overdeliver.” ¬†You don’t have to state it clearly on your website until you’re sure you can make it happen – it can be implied to begin. ¬†Make sure you work towards it, however.
Create the USP – By now, you should have a ton of information. ¬†Now, you have to condense it into a single, succinct sentence that specifically describes what you do better than anyone else. ¬†”We offer the best customer service around” is too vague. ¬†Revise that to something along the lines of “We offer free shipping and returns at any time and for any reason.”
Spread the message – Now that you’ve got your USP, spread it everywhere throughout your website and e-mail newsletter. ¬†Make it abundantly clear that is what you do for your customers better than anyone else.
Do You have a USP?
If you don’t have one and you’ve been in business for several years, that’s okay. ¬†However, now is the time to create one! ¬†If your business has been bouncing around from side-to-side for months or years on end, this might just be the big breakthrough you’ve been needing.
With PPC, you can generate instant revenues, but if you don‚Äôt watch it, your costs can quickly skyrocket out of control.¬† Fortunately, with these 9 tips, you can increase the number of sales and decrease the costs of your add almost just as quickly:
1. ¬†Capitalize every word ‚Äď The first letter of every word should be capitalized.¬† Google doesn‚Äôt all the entire word to be capitalized, but your ad does stand out and get more clicks and sales if you capitalize the first letter of each word.
2. ¬†Use emotive words ‚Äď Appeal to people‚Äôs emotions ‚Äď that‚Äôs what gets them buying.¬† In particular, appeal to their greed, fee, altruism, envy, pride, or shame.
3. ¬†Use the language of your market ‚Äď You can be clear and direct, but your conversions will increase further if you use the words your customers use to discuss their needs.
4. ¬†Solve a problem ‚Äď You don‚Äôt have much room to work with in terms of character count, but focus on the problems your customers have and solve them in your headline.
5. ¬†Test everything ‚Äď Do you really know which of your customers‚Äô problems is the biggest?¬† You might be surprised.¬† Create ads targeted around several of their known problems and you‚Äôll figure out which one hurts the most.
6. ¬†Conversion rate maximizes at position three to four ‚Äď You‚Äôd think it would be the top, wouldn‚Äôt you?¬† The reality is the top PPC ads get people who are just browsing, harming your conversion rate.¬† People scrolling further down the page are really interested and know what they want.¬† You might get more sales at the top, but you‚Äôll get a better conversion rate in positions three and four.
7. ¬†Don‚Äôt forget to use PPC data to drive organic strategy ‚Äď Ultimately, PPC shows what your market really wants and whether you have the right keywords. ¬†Make sure you carry this over to your organic SEO efforts.
8. ¬†Copy your competitors ‚Äď It‚Äôs very difficult to come up with something completely original that any market really wants.¬† You might discover new ideas and opportunities, but odds are your competitors, especially if they‚Äôre bigger companies, have already discovered this.¬† See what they‚Äôre doing with their PPC ads and use the same idea around less competitive keywords.
9. ¬†Use plural forms or synonyms of competitive keywords ‚Äď Sometimes, the competition is too stiff, and you‚Äôre better off accepting defeat and taking a new direction.¬† Use a plural version of a keyword or a synonym which might be less competitive, instead.
You can implement these slick PPC tips today ‚Äď which do you think will help most?