Getting started on YouTube

How Your Business Can Get Started on YouTube

YouTube, the Google-owned video network, boasts over a billion users — almost one-third of all people on the internet — and every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views. On mobile alone, YouTube reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.

What’s amazing, though, is that only 9% of small businesses in the U.S. are actively using YouTube, and my hunch is that figure would be pretty accurate worldwide, too.

So, why aren’t businesses investing in YouTube?
Also, how can your business get started on YouTube?

In short, because video is harder to produce than a blog post or an image. Or at least that’s the perception many of us have.

In reality, though, video is becoming much easier and cheaper to create. This means there’s a huge opportunity for your business on YouTube.

If you’ve been debating getting started on YouTube or have maybe experimented a little and not yet found your feet, this post is for you. Throughout this post we’ll dive into:

  • The basics of getting your account set up
  • How to create a YouTube channel
  • How to create the perfect channel art
  • Top tips for optimizing your channel

How to create a YouTube channel

Creating a YouTube channel using your Google account

If you have a Google account, you can watch, share and comment on YouTube content. However, Google accounts don’t automatically create YouTube channels. Getting a new channel set up is a simple and quick process, though.

1. Go to YouTube and sign in

Head over to YouTube.com and click ‘sign in’ in the top right corner of the page:

Then log in using the Google Account you’d like your channel to be associated with:

2. Head over to your YouTube settings

In the top right corner of the screen, click on your profile icon and then the ‘Settings’ cog icon.

3. Create your channel

Under your settings, you’ll see the option to “Create a channel,” click on this link:

Next, you’ll have the option to create a personal channel or a create a channel using a business or other name. For this example, we’ll choose the business option:

Now, it’s time to name your channel and select a category. The channel options available include:

  • Product or Brand
  • Company Institution or Organization
  • Arts, Entertainment or Sports
  • Other

Note: a new Google+ page will also be created for your brand.

Congratulations! You’ve just created a new YouTube channel.

Next, let’s fill out all the information and create some channel art to get your page looking awesome.

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Online Business Is Not Thriving

4 Easily Overlooked Reasons Your Online Business Is Not Thriving

Do you find yourself asking why your Online Business in not thriving? Internet businesses have come to stay. According to a Hosting Facts report, there were over 3.26 billion internet users as of December 2015. This amounted to more than 40 percent of the world’s population. In addition, the report showed that digital interactions influenced retail sales to the tune of $2.2 trillion in 2015. Another mind-blowing statistic: There are currently over 966 million websites in the world today.

I strongly believe that wherever internet traffic is, there are business opportunities there. But only business people who are properly informed about the workings of the internet business cycle will benefit from these opportunities.

In short, while we may be in the “internet age,” quite a number of businesses still aren’t taking full advantage of its opportunities and aren’t using the right strategies. Here are a few overlooked reasons businesses aren’t doing as well as they could.

1. You are not investing in online visibility.

When it comes to internet businesses, one major determining success factor which a lot of people take for granted is their online visibility.

In the words of Guy Sheetrit, CEO of Over The Top SEO, “To be visible online means that you are found when conversations that matter to your business or customers are taking place. It means you are doing your SEO right, and that your website pops up when people go online to search for solutions to their problems, whether it has to do with making purchases, doing research or getting entertained.”

Due to the competition, these goals are sometimes a herculean task considering the vast number sites competing for who gets seen and ranked on Google.

If you still have a new business, however, one extra way you can give your business that needed edge is by getting listed on web directories like DirJournal Local or Local Botw, depending on your niche and business needs. This will equally help put your business at the top of the list, and get you better visibility.

2. Your information is not as secure as you think.

With over 3.26 billion persons using the internet, attention to privacy and confidentiality becomes imperative. Running business transactions on a platform that lots of people have access to will do you little good in your fight against your competitors. If those competitors can access all the information you share with your customers, including the private kind, then you have a problem.

If you often work on your online business while in the office and have need of continuing when you get home, then you probably need to pay special attention to security. According to this VPN guide, using a VPN (virtual private network) isn’t just about privacy, it can help you prevent hacking, spamming, snooping by surveillance agencies and other cyber attacks.

3. You are not maximizing the social media in your marketing campaigns.

The internet space is competitive. But you stand a good chance if your product is unique, and you know how to swing the social media to your favor. You see, it is not enough to have a good product. You must get the right people to see it. And since most of your prospective customers use these social media apps, you should too.

For instance, while speaking on the inbound marketing of mobile apps, the CEO of Boon Infotech, Kelvin Boon, said, “It is very surprising to see a company that doesn’t have their apps on Facebook and Twitter. When you regularly place well-timed tweets, talk about the product’s progress, elaborate on capabilities and features and also shed the light on exciting uses of the app on social media, you grow interest and teach people what may be expected from your app.”

In other words, being active on social media helps keep your prospective customers interested and eager to check out your products.

What about taking an “in your face” approach to your business? Resources like Targeted Facebook ads are getting extremely popular and produce phenomenal results in the conversion to sales/patronage category and in demographic precision.

4. You are not sticking with what works.

Let’s say that you are making a lot of sales via your Facebook ad campaigns, but you are not quite pulling in a crowd on Instagram. Nor is the blog on your website getting serious traffic. What do you do? Run more ads! Diversify your targets and encroach into new territories.

For instance, if your ads have worked well for hoodie sales when you targeted young Canadian males, then you might expand to young American males as well. The idea is to optimize what works for you and make sure you milk it. There is really no need in having a variety of efforts if you can optimize what is working. Sometimes you have to put all your eggs in one basket.

So, invest in content creation, structure your website for SEO, utilize the opportunities presented by the social media, use contests and giveaways, invest in email marketing and do whatever else you can think of. If you keep these tips in mind, you can expect to watch your internet business scale up the ladder.

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Ecommerce in Arizona

How to Make Your Ecommerce in Arizona Site Happen

If you plan to sell anything online, having an ecommerce in Arizona plan is as important as your original business plan. Because you’re exploring new territory, making decisions about technology and marketing, and establishing a new set of vendor relationships, a well-thought-out plan will serve you well.

Your ecommerce plan starts with website goals. Who are your target customers? What do they need? Are they getting information only, or can they buy products at your site? These key questions, asked and answered early, will determine how much time and money you’ll need to develop and maintain an online presence.

Second, decide what products or services you’ll offer. How will you position and display them? Will you offer both online and offline purchasing? How will you handle shipping and returns?

As you explore the web for vendors to support your e-business, have a clear idea of how you want to handle the “back end” of the business. If you decide to sell online, you’ll need a shopping cart component, which is a means of handling credit card processing, and an organized order fulfillment process.

Finally, even if you build an amazing website, don’t assume people will find you on their own. If you want to develop a consistent flow of traffic to your site, it’s essential that you plan, execute and maintain an ongoing and multifaceted promotional strategy that’s carefully targeted to your audience. This is in addition to the promotions, advertising and marketing you already do for your brick-and-mortar business.

The Name Game

Once you’ve decided to have a website, one of your first “to-do” items is to make a list of possible website names or URLs. Then run, don’t walk, to the nearest computer, log on to the internet, go to your favorite search engine, and type in “domain registration.” You’ll find a list of companies, such as NetworkSolutions, GoDaddy and Register, that will guide you through the simple domain registration process. For a modest fee, you can register a domain name for one or more years.

If the name you decide on is taken, you’ll want to have at least two or three backup options. Many of the domain name registrars, like GoDaddy or Register, offer several alternatives that are still available. From the available names, choose one that’s easy to spell and remember, and describes what your company does. Make sure you’re not imposing on someone else’s trademark or copyrighted name. In many cases, the name of your company, with the addition of dot-com (www.[YourCompanyName].com) is a suitable domain name that you should definitely register. Once you’ve chosen a name, prompts on the domain registration site will guide you through a simple registration procedure.

With your ecommerce name established, start telling people your domain name and promoting it heavily. Print your web address on your business cards, brochures, letterhead, invoices and press releases as well as on your product packaging and within product user manuals and advertisements. Stick it on other items, too, such as mouse pads, T-shirts, promotional key chains, and even your company’s van.

Website Basics

Once you’ve registered your domain name and have a plan in place for what you want to offer prospective and existing customers online, the next major challenge is designing and building your actual website or online presence. A well-thought-out site outline includes:

Content. The key to a successful site is content. Give site visitors lots of interesting information, incentives to visit and buy, and ways to contact you. Once your site is up and running, continually update and add fresh content to keep people coming back.

Structure. Decide how many pages to have and how they’ll be linked to each other. Choose graphics and icons that enhance the content.

Design. With the content and structure in place, site design comes next. Whether you’re using an outside designer or doing it yourself, concentrate on simplicity, readability, and consistency. Remember to focus on what you want to accomplish.

Navigation. Make it easy and enjoyable for visitors to browse the site. For example, use no more than two or three links to major areas and never leave visitors at a dead end.

Credibility. This is an issue that shouldn’t be lost in the bells and whistles of establishing a website. Your site should reach out to every visitor, telling that person why they should buy your product or service. It should look professional, and give potential customers the same confidence they’d get with a phone call or face-to-face visit with you. Remind visitors that you don’t exist only in cyberspace. Your company’s full contact information—company name, complete address, telephone and email—should appear on all or most of your individual web pages and be displayed prominently on your site’s homepage.

At this point, you have two options: You can bring your detailed outline to a prospective web designer, or you could go the do-it-yourself route. Once a designer has your outline, the process will be more efficient, but creating a website from scratch can still be costly and time-consuming. Consider researching one of the many website or ecommerce turnkey solution services, which allow you to design, publish, and manage a website or ecommerce site by customizing website templates using online design and management tools. These services are inexpensive, powerful, and allow you to create highly professional websites with no programming skills.

Once you know what tools and resources you’ll use to create and manage the site, the next step is to organize your site’s potential content into a script. Your script is the numbered pages that outline the site’s content and how web pages will flow from one to the next. Writing a script also ensures your website is chock-full of appropriate content that’s well-organized. Page one is your homepage, the very first page that site visitors see when they type in your URL. Arrange all the icons depicting major content areas in the order you want them. Pages two through whatever correspond to each icon on your homepage.

To create a successful website, all the elements must work seamlessly. Sure, having top-notch content is essential, but it must be displayed in a manner that’s easy to understand, visually appealing, simple to navigate, and of interest to your target audience. It’s not just about what you have to say, but it’s also the manner in which you present that content that will either attract or repel your audience.

Finding the Host with the Most

Now that your site’s design and content creation are well underway, the next step is publishing your site on the internet. For this, you have three basic options. The first is to host it yourself on a computer that can be dedicated as a web server (or a computer that’s permanently connected to the internet) and has a broadband internet connection. This will prove costly to set up and maintain. For most online businesses, this isn’t the best option, at least in the beginning.

The second option is to use an established and reputable web hosting company, which stores and manages websites for businesses. There are several large, well-established web hosting companies that cater to a worldwide audience, including Yahoo!, Google, and GoDaddy. Or you might prefer a local, small-hosting provider, since they offer a direct contact—especially important if your site goes down. Most of these companies also offer domain name services, so you can sign up when you choose your name.

A third option—and the most popular (as well as least expensive)—is to use a website turnkey solution, a company that provides all the site development tools and hosting services in one easy-to-use, low-cost, bundled service, which is entirely online-based. In other words, to create, publish, and manage your website, you don’t need to install any specialized software, and no programming is required. Using an internet search engine, enter the phrase “website turnkey solution” or “ecommerce turnkey solution.” Also, check out what’s offered by Yahoo!, Google, GoDaddy and eBay.

Ecommerce Needs

Many ecommerce entrepreneurs turn to web hosting companies to solve all their ecommerce needs, such as handling credit card transactions, sending automatic email messages to customers thanking them for their orders, and forwarding the order to them for shipping and handling—and of course, domain registration and hosting.

Another option is to incorporate an electronic shopping cart module, which allows people to place their orders online and process their credit card payment transactions. A site using a shopping cart module should have these four components:

1. Catalog. Customers can view products, get information and compare prices.

2. Shopping cart. The icon works like the real thing. It tracks all the items in the basket and can add or delete items as the customer goes along. It’s like an online order form.

3. Checkout counter. The shopper reviews the items in their cart, makes changes and decides on shipping preferences, gift-wrapping and the like.

4. Order processing. The program processes the credit card (or payment option), verifies all information, and sends everything to the database.

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Beginner's Guide to Social-Media Marketing

3-Step Beginner’s Guide to Social-Media Marketing

Social media has become as much a daily part of our personal lives as it has our business lives. What once was cutting edge just a few short years ago is now just the norm. So how do you know which aspect of social-media marketing you need to have and which aspects are simply passing fads? Are you in need of a beginner’s guide to social-media marketing?

For entrepreneurs who are just starting their businesses, wrapping your arms around your social-media marketing plan can feel like a stretch. Do you need to be on all outlets? Which are best? How will you manage all those conversations? There’s a lot to think about when you’re getting started and some important questions you need to ask yourself.

1. Determine your MVPs.

When you first begin to formulate your social-media plan, you may be thinking about what outlets to get started on. However, sometimes a more important conversation to have when you’re starting out is which outlets to avoid.

There can be a general feeling that you should get your business on any and every outlet available to you. However, that can be a mistake. Not all outlets are relevant for every business and trying to force your business onto a platform that isn’t right can feel awkward and inauthentic.

Start with your social-media marketing MVP plan. The MVPs of social-media marketing means two things: your most valuable platforms and your minimum viable platforms. When it comes to social media, less can be a lot more. Why?

You are going to need to be active across every platform you’re on for the duration of your business. This means not just great conversations but valuable content and hawkeyed monitoring. Would you rather have sparse contact with tons of people across lots of platforms, or would you rather have valuable, intensely personal and relevant conversations with the right handful of people? Which do you think has the most value to your business in the long run?

2. Consistency isn’t key, it’s critical.

Once you determine your MVPs you need to come up with a reliable posting schedule that can’t be broken. If you aren’t going to be able or willing to post on a specific social-media outlet religiously, you shouldn’t be playing on that platform at all. It’s that important.

Who are you going to assign the challenging and time-consuming task of vigilantly attending to your social-media outlets? Get clear about who will take ownership of this space and come up with a plan for how and what will be said to stay consistent not just with posting but with your brand voice.

Understanding this step can put into perspective the importance once again of your MVP outlets because if you can’t post to an outlet, you shouldn’t be on it.

3. Take risks.

The risks you take will be commensurate with the type of industry your startup is in — but don’t be afraid to mix up the conversation and start taking risks in your social-media postings. These can be anything as simple as showing some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of your day-to-day business or sharing your personal struggles as an entrepreneur.

Make sure it’s honest and relevant, but sometimes taking risk and exposing more of yourself and your business can really help with making a splash. People like authenticity and transparency so let your audiences see what’s behind the curtain.

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hot trends in advertising

Hot Trends in Advertising

A few of this year’s hot trends in advertising include native advertising, mobile and video, and programmatic advertising in digital. Below, we’ve recapped some of the key discussions around each of these hot-button issues.

1. Programmatic

Programmatic ad buying took center stage at AdWeek this year, with more than 20 panels devoted to parsing out the intricacies of the subject. From maximizing profit margins to successfully combining native and programmatic buying, experts from agencies, networks and publishers alike were eager to get to the bottom of this evolving trend.

Although programmatic buying isn’t new, using it for television advertising is. Ad executives speaking on the panel “Programmatic TV, Advertising’s Next Great Frontier” predict that programmatic will account for up to 5% of TV buying in 2015, up from 1% today.

As publishers are diving into programmatic, we’ve seen some interesting acquisitions, such as Facebook buying LiveRail and AOL buying Adap.tv, presumably to boost video ad revenue. Additionally, other traditional publishers like NBC are rolling out their own initiatives to offer programmatic buying to advertisers.

The question of programmatic buying becoming commonplace for TV is uncertain — networks are reluctant to stray from a model that has worked for decades — but advertisers are eager to capitalize on the reduced cost and improved targeting that programmatic offers.

2. Native Advertising

IAB data indicates native advertising is a fast-growing part of the $43 billion U.S. digital advertising market. A study in September 2013 indicated that 66% of American agencies and 64% of marketers planned to spend on native over the next six months, and its rise warranted native getting its own category in IAB’s half-year report.

There’s perhaps no hotter buzzword in the advertising world right now, which explains why native advertising is one of the key conversation topics of Advertising Week. Native is firmly planted in the minds, conversations and budgets of advertisers around the world.

The practice, which integrates brand-sponsored material seamlessly into social platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, and news/media sites has raised quite a stir in the past few years, primarily due to its success in comparison to traditional online advertising methods such as banner ads. Now, the industry is struggling to define what makes a “quality” native campaign, how to properly distinguish (and label) native ads from organic content, and examining some of the native ad strategies that have proved the most — and least — successful to date.

It’s no surprise that panels such as “Brands and the Art of Content Creation,” “Content Marketing Success Stories,” “Branded.Content” and “Sports Journalism and Branded Content: A New Model” have been chock-full of phrases such as “seeds of content,” “online community” and, perhaps most ubiquitously, “storytelling.” Countless conversations among panelists and attendees center on this very concept: Brands as storytellers (or “storybuilders,” as Amy Pascal, director of digital marketing strategy at Johnson & Johnson, puts it).

While there are innumerable — and sometimes conflicting — opinions on the latest craze to hit the ad world, most marketers agree on at least one thing: It’s not going away anytime soon.

3. Video

Even though online video has received less attention than other emerging ad forms — like mobile and native — the topic continues to be well represented.

This is largely due to many marketers’ decision to shift ad dollars from TV to digital video, mirroring recent trends in consumer viewing habits — time spent watching digital video has more than doubled since 2012. Many panels have also discussed the shift toward buying video programmatically, a practice that has been previously associated most closely with display. Programmatic video startup Virool even announced a buzz-generating contest that will send a winner into space with a ticket on Virgin Galactic. Virool is one of the first companies to offer viral video publishing to advertisers that helps push their creative through the company’s ad network.

Additional conversations have focused on how the industry should approach video content. For example, is it better to show longer, interactive pre-roll ads, or chunk ads into “commercial breaks” throughout content? Interactive pre-roll videos empower viewers to participate in video at the beginning of a show, which then allows them to watch without interruptions. Streaming site DramaFever gave viewers exactly that option — and found that 63% of viewers chose the option to engage in the beginning and then skip commercials throughout the rest of the content.

4. Mobile

While “native” might be the belle of the ball at Ad Week this year, “mobile native” is another hot contender. As brands delve further into the possibilities of reaching an audience that’s increasingly connected to smartphones, tablets and even wearables, advertisers are thinking of outside-the-box ways to monetize on the trend.

Mobile was once an afterthought in the advertising world — but today, brands are perking up and paying attention, as mobile usage now comprises 60% of digital media consumption. With new smartphone releases and iPhone 6 sales skyrocketing, everybody’s developing a mobile strategy. And while advertisers agree the platform has a ways to go before they can develop a viable advertising strategy, more and more marketers want in on the mobile game.

The dilemma is that traditional methods of advertising often don’t translate well on mobile — and there’s far less screen space on mobile than desktop. It’s clear that brands and advertisers will need to get creative in order to develop successful mobile strategies.

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Hot Trends in Advertising

A few of this year’s hot trends in advertising include native advertising, mobile and video, and programmatic advertising in digital. Below, we’ve recapped some of the key discussions around each of these hot-button issues.

1. Programmatic

Programmatic ad buying took center stage at AdWeek this year, with more than 20 panels devoted to parsing out the intricacies of the subject. From maximizing profit margins to successfully combining native and programmatic buying, experts from agencies, networks and publishers alike were eager to get to the bottom of this evolving trend.

Although programmatic buying isn’t new, using it for television advertising is. Ad executives speaking on the panel “Programmatic TV, Advertising’s Next Great Frontier” predict that programmatic will account for up to 5% of TV buying in 2015, up from 1% today.

As publishers are diving into programmatic, we’ve seen some interesting acquisitions, such as Facebook buying LiveRail and AOL buying Adap.tv, presumably to boost video ad revenue. Additionally, other traditional publishers like NBC are rolling out their own initiatives to offer programmatic buying to advertisers.

The question of programmatic buying becoming commonplace for TV is uncertain — networks are reluctant to stray from a model that has worked for decades — but advertisers are eager to capitalize on the reduced cost and improved targeting that programmatic offers.

2. Native Advertising

IAB data indicates native advertising is a fast-growing part of the $43 billion U.S. digital advertising market. A study in September 2013 indicated that 66% of American agencies and 64% of marketers planned to spend on native over the next six months, and its rise warranted native getting its own category in IAB’s half-year report.

There’s perhaps no hotter buzzword in the advertising world right now, which explains why native advertising is one of the key conversation topics of Advertising Week. Native is firmly planted in the minds, conversations and budgets of advertisers around the world.

The practice, which integrates brand-sponsored material seamlessly into social platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, and news/media sites has raised quite a stir in the past few years, primarily due to its success in comparison to traditional online advertising methods such as banner ads. Now, the industry is struggling to define what makes a “quality” native campaign, how to properly distinguish (and label) native ads from organic content, and examining some of the native ad strategies that have proved the most — and least — successful to date.

It’s no surprise that panels such as “Brands and the Art of Content Creation,” “Content Marketing Success Stories,” “Branded.Content” and “Sports Journalism and Branded Content: A New Model” have been chock-full of phrases such as “seeds of content,” “online community” and, perhaps most ubiquitously, “storytelling.” Countless conversations among panelists and attendees center on this very concept: Brands as storytellers (or “storybuilders,” as Amy Pascal, director of digital marketing strategy at Johnson & Johnson, puts it).

While there are innumerable — and sometimes conflicting — opinions on the latest craze to hit the ad world, most marketers agree on at least one thing: It’s not going away anytime soon.

3. Video

Even though online video has received less attention than other emerging ad forms — like mobile and native — the topic continues to be well represented.

This is largely due to many marketers’ decision to shift ad dollars from TV to digital video, mirroring recent trends in consumer viewing habits — time spent watching digital video has more than doubled since 2012. Many panels have also discussed the shift toward buying video programmatically, a practice that has been previously associated most closely with display. Programmatic video startup Virool even announced a buzz-generating contest that will send a winner into space with a ticket on Virgin Galactic. Virool is one of the first companies to offer viral video publishing to advertisers that helps push their creative through the company’s ad network.

Additional conversations have focused on how the industry should approach video content. For example, is it better to show longer, interactive pre-roll ads, or chunk ads into “commercial breaks” throughout content? Interactive pre-roll videos empower viewers to participate in video at the beginning of a show, which then allows them to watch without interruptions. Streaming site DramaFever gave viewers exactly that option — and found that 63% of viewers chose the option to engage in the beginning and then skip commercials throughout the rest of the content.

4. Mobile

While “native” might be the belle of the ball at Ad Week this year, “mobile native” is another hot contender. As brands delve further into the possibilities of reaching an audience that’s increasingly connected to smartphones, tablets and even wearables, advertisers are thinking of outside-the-box ways to monetize on the trend.

Mobile was once an afterthought in the advertising world — but today, brands are perking up and paying attention, as mobile usage now comprises 60% of digital media consumption. With new smartphone releases and iPhone 6 sales skyrocketing, everybody’s developing a mobile strategy. And while advertisers agree the platform has a ways to go before they can develop a viable advertising strategy, more and more marketers want in on the mobile game.

The dilemma is that traditional methods of advertising often don’t translate well on mobile — and there’s far less screen space on mobile than desktop. It’s clear that brands and advertisers will need to get creative in order to develop successful mobile strategies.

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google adwords

Things Nobody Tells You About Google AdWords

While there are hundreds of Google how-to guides online, written both by savvy bloggers and Google itself, the advertising giant has a few skeletons in its closet that are rarely talked about. After all, Google AdWords is the ever popular advertising platform – or is it?

1. Google AdWords is no longer working as it did. Marketers from all over the world have been noticing that conversion tracking on AdWords is becoming increasingly more difficult. People need to look a the whole ROI picture.

You should be focusing on the overall business profitability as well as Google’s conversion tracking values. What happens most of the times is that users might be visiting your site while they are at work or on their phones while commuting and then eventually convert from home.

It could also happen that they will convert after clicking on an remarketing ad on social media. All of this can cause a problem attributing your conversion to a given marketing channel. The online market has become more complex and you need to consider all of that in the equation.

Customers no longer purchase right away but compare prices and providers for several days on different platforms and networks before taking a final decision. This is the number one reason cross-channel remarketing has become so popular so quickly. Cross-channel remarketing is advertising to users who have been on your website but did not convert on more than one channel, for instance Google, Twitter and Facebook.

2. Google manages your account free for three months. Official Google Partners have the possibility to offer their new clients three months of free management directly by the Google sales representatives. Naturally, this is free of charge and could save you the agonizing first couple of weeks to see whether your advertising campaign will be profitable. You still have to pay for the advertisement cost but save yourself a potentially substantial management fee and minimum six months commitment.

3. Not all new features are right for your business. Google continuously rolls out new features but what are the ones you should apply to your account? All of them is not the right answer. For instance, let’s assume that the main goal of your campaign is to generate calls via mobile traffic and that you do not care about desktop clicks. In that case, even though you might suffer from a quality score point of view, you would rather prefer not to have sitelinks extensions.

A good extension for you would be Callouts Extensions, which allow to have extra strings of texts but with no additional links to the site. Make sure to analyze your unique needs and make use of the extensions that make the most sense for you considering both advantages and disadvanteges.

4. Google offers customized Google+ solutions. Alicia Keys launched her recent album with a customized Google+ hangout solution that Google itself created in collaboration with her and her team. It was a success for both, as was a custom shoppable Google+ hangout for a major clothing store that was able to insert a personalized product feed in the hangout screen.

The bad news? You need a relatively large budget and an excellent Google Partner who can connect you to the right people in Google. The good news? Some of those customized solutions become private betas so if you know they exist, you can make a request to apply it to your campaigns.

5. You can use Google Hangouts as your own mini QVC. Did you know that you can sell the items of your ecommerce directly via a Google Hangout? This feature is a hidden gem not many advertisers know about. The reason is that you won’t set up the hangout directly from the adwords interface but you first need to create it and then use the URL of the hangout to promote it while you are on air (You can also promote it via your webiste through a custom landing page days before the hangout to create some fuzz).

6. Google helps you generate banners for the display network. On Google, you can run campaigns on the Search or on the Display Network. Just to quickly recap, search campaigns show your ads upon a search query, while display campaigns place your text ads or banner on designated advertising slots on websites. One of the reasons why many small budget startups do not start display advertising is because they would need to hirer a web designer to create banners unless they want to be limited to text ads.

In order to help you generate banners fast and cost effectively, Google provides a free tool within AdWords, that automatically generates banners based on one of your existing text ads. You can customize it after to make it look a little less android and a little more you which makes it a great tool for any advertiser or business owner.

7. Video remarketing works with more than just YouTube. Remarketing, as mentioned above, is a way to target visitors who did not convert. Since AdWords was integrated with YouTube, online video campaigns have become a popular tool for all types of businesses. Something that is often overlooked is that video remarketing campaigns not only exist but that they can also be run on the Google display network instead of Google.

In brief, your 30 second video might show up on a niche website that is closely related to your topic and increase your conversion rate by much more than by being placed on YouTube with the risk to be skipped or overlooked.

8. If you have a choice, pick volume over margins. Google advertises AdWords primarily as a tool that any business can use because there is no minimum budget. Even two dollars a day are enough to get started and as long as there is a return on investment, we can check it off the list as mission accomplished. Something that is a common mistake among first time advertisers and small businesses is the assumption that high margins beat high volume.

You have the budget and the right marketing infrastructure, generating more sales while sacrificing some margins is always more convenient until the extra revenue you will be making is higher than the total loss in margins.

9. Mobile campaigns can get you desktop clicks, anyway. Google AdWords used to offer differentiation by device. Much to the despair of marketers, AdWords is no longer offering this feature but offers so called mobile campaigns instead. The issue is that there is no possibility to target just mobile. Yes, you can increase the mobile bid but there is no way to exclude desktop. In the worst case, you are increasing the mobile bid and end up paying for desktop clicks that are not only overpriced but also useless.

10. All AdWords certifications are linked to your email address. At first sight, there is nothing wrong with that but couple of issues arising over time. If an individual passes the certifications while working at an agency, the email address used will most likely be the Gmail business apps address of the agency. As soon as the employee changes agency, the certificate is valid but useless, since the agency will delete the address. Google offers the option to link several email addresses to keep the certification in place, but let’s be honest, what company keeps email addresses of employees that have moved on to a competitor just to keep them certified for two years?

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Why Every Media Website Redesign Looks the Same

If web design is art, we may be entering its minimalist phase.

Website redesigns from some of the most-visited media destinations on the Internet may be leaving users with a bit of déjà vu since many are sporting the same visual elements.

“It’s sort of the same way that all cars look more or less the same. There’s only so many ways you can design a doorknob to where it’s going to be effective,” said Brad Frost, a web designer that has worked on the websites for TechCrunch and Entertainment Weekly.

Cars and doorknobs serve a purpose under certain constraints, just like websites. But unlike those everyday items, the demands on websites have changed drastically as audiences have taken to different devices.

Time.com is a prime example: Clean lines, big pictures and defined columns dominate.

Time.com is also “responsive,” a relatively new concept that combines development and design to allow websites to conform to a wide variety of screen sizes while still providing a useful experience. The rise of responsive design has been driven by steadily rising mobile traffic combined with the introduction of a wide range of devices.

Mobile was this crisis that woke us up from this shared delusion that the web was this fixed width,” said Josh Clark, a web designer and developer.

“To a certain degree, websites always look the same. Design is fashion and it follows trends. We’re in the middle of a trend of big and clunky, not just because of responsive design but also because of touch,” Clark added. “As touch has spread from small screens to laptops and desktops, all desktop designs have to be touch-friendly, and that has influenced the aesthetic, too.”

Numerous major media sites have shifted to responsive design with similar results — multi-column, boxy and flat designs that look almost strangely similar. NBC News has its main column on the left, but the similarities are apparent.

At first, it was tenable to create multiple sites: one for mobile, another for desktop. Now, more sites are moving to the responsive design as a one-size-fits-all solution. There are simply too many different screens and experiences to plan for.

“Your head is going to explode trying to support that stuff, let alone afford it,” Clark said.

It’s the ad economy, stupid

It’s challenging enough to try to build a site that looks good while also contorting to fit various screen sizes and resolutions. Adding in a static element adds a whole other dimension.

“Media sites have a specific limitation called an ad unit that really limits the flexibility of design, because unlike every other unit, this ad can’t change size,” Clark said.

Online advertising guidelines are set by the Internet Advertising Bureau so marketers and websites can have a common market. Rigid ad sizes may help sales, but end up being a pain for designers.

“You have these dinosaurs grasping at straws, that haven’t been able to move as fast as the rest of the industry, and it creates a real restraint,” Frost said.

Sports Illustrated, which rolled outs its redesign, has a similar three-column design. The site is pictured below incorporating Viagra ads.

Design and conquer

Responsive design is a crucial element of modern web design, but doesn’t necessarily explain the entire similarity in aesthetics.

The lack of shadows, gradients or really any elements that attempt to illustrate depth are gone, in favor of what is known as “flat” design.

Flat design arose in concert with mobile. In addition to having a modern look, the minimalist motif looked impressive on smaller screens while also minimizing page load, meaning that websites would come up faster on slower mobile networks. Flat design is also a hallmark of many of the new media sites.

Kelly Sutton, a web designer and software engineer, credited Microsoft’s Metro, a design language that helped usher in the era of geometric, boxy shapes with bold colors that was a hallmark of its ill-fated Windows 8 operating system that rolled out in 2012.

Since then, there has been a rapid adoption of that style, Sutton said, including by Apple in iOS 7 and Google.

“I think digital design for web and app design is moving into a peacetime of sorts. The last two years have been very much wartime,” Sutton said. “The great flattening has happened over the last two years, but things are kind of settling down.”

The Internet of tomorrow

Responsive design is still a new concept that is changing as designers and developers figure new ways to marry form and multi-function. Dan Mall, founder of web design firm SuperFriendly, noted that while responsive design is only about four years old, many of the programs being used to build new site are much older.

“I think there are really great tools that are coming out, but I think that we as an industry are still wrapping our heads around what it means to design for different context,” Mall said. “I think as the tools become more intuitive and the process becomes more intuitive, it will free us up to start thinking about these things in different ways.”

The designers that Mashable spoke with pointed to a variety of sites as examples of forward-thinking responsive websites, including blog publishing platform Medium, gaming site Polygon and digital magazine The Great Discontent.

Thinking differently might also include recognizing the limits of responsive design and planning accordingly.

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7 Deadly Digital Marketing Mistakes

The “Rule of Seven” is well known in marketing and advertising as the number of times a person must be exposed to a brand before the message “sticks.” But the rule only works if each touch point gives a consistent, positive impression of the brand. When those impressions happen online, white noise, tactical mistakes and basic operational errors keep you from breaking through to your customers.

Consumers are inundated with more frequent marketing messages across multiple channels. Every chance to create a lasting, positive impression is vital. Every part of the organization is responsible for making the most of those impressions, but particularly the executives who should be leading the effort.

Leaders must implement digital oversight to turn common mistakes into competitive advantage. That’s where a new “Digital Rule of Seven” comes in – seven critical website mistakes (and how to avoid them).

1. Missing the point. The web team is often not at the table when the big corporate decisions are made, so when the new strategy is unveiled, there’s no guidance on how the website should serve it.

Take the website out of its silo. Make the web team part of strategy discussions with all departments and teams, at all levels, from the very beginning.

2. Building on sand. Visitors expect to see consistent, accurate information. In a highly crowded landscape, companies that deliver a great user experience can seize competitive advantage.

To avoid a “wobbly” website, define and account from the very beginning the key “pillars” that form the foundation of a robust website – usability, SEO and accessibility.

3. The phantom standard. Managed effectively, website policies and standards can help you protect your brand, reduce your development and maintenance costs, and ensure an optimized user experience. For policies and standards to succeed, you need an end-to-end plan for defining, implementing and managing them throughout the website lifecycle.

4. “That ain’t my job.” Often, there are far too many cooks in the kitchen. Between web editors, designers, brand guardians, executives and third-party agencies, site management and governance can disintegrate into a sporadic activity. Without individual responsibility, even the best standards will fail to deliver. This responsibility must be clear and explicit.

5. The issue with stone tablets. Markets evolve. Threats and opportunities emerge. Business plans alter focus. Sadly, for many websites, things just go on as normal.

Effective management and governance processes are always evolving but your website is tied to your business objectives. If your objectives change, so must your site (and possibly the standards you use to manage it).

6. The people problem. People are difficult and brilliant, in equal measure. They are inherently creative. They want to improve things. They want to make their mark.

Unfortunately, sometimes they do so at the expense of your website’s effectiveness. Ultimately, getting your website right is not simply about assessing analytics data such as traffic, referrals and conversion rates. It’s far more effective to build a culture of best practice.

7. The Estonian microsite problem. Corporate sites in multiple languages. Local office sites. Campaign-specific microsites! Keeping track of all that information can be a nightmare.

Avoid drowning in content by making data your friend. Ongoing measurement is a must if you are to understand how your site is performing against your key performance indicators (KPIs) and your defined policies and standards. It’s only then that you can determine whether you are on track or need to take some remedial action.

Achieving all the above used to be much easier, but the amount of content that comes in and out of organizations has exploded. We’re producing more content and using many different tools across many different channels. It all affects the brand experience. As a result, maintaining brand consistency has become a very challenging problem.

Only when “digital governance” becomes a priority in the C-Suite will this be effectively addressed. That is, just as upper management provides processes and standards to govern offline communications, they should provide oversight for digital communications, as well. Top-down leadership is needed to set and enforce these vital rules across the organization. That is a responsibility executives simply cannot hand off or ignore.

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Is SEO a Necessary and Measurable Investment?

There’s a debate taking place in the marketing world about the nature of search engine optimization (SEO). Is it really a distinct marketing channel? More importantly, has it become such a business necessity that it’s unnecessary to measure its return on investment?

While the first question understandably interests marketers, it’s not of much interest to businesses, especially small businesses, looking to allocate precious marketing dollars. The return on SEO is where the rubber hits the road.

So is SEO a necessity? Or is it a marketing expenditure to be judged on the basis of ROI?

It’s both.

SEO is, in fact, necessary in today’s marketplace. Potential customers do not use the phone book. They use a computer, smartphone or tablet to find what they need. Any business with a website needs to be visible when a potential customer uses an electronic device to search for its product or service.

But it’s also necessary to have people to provide that product or service to a customer. Businesses are certainly interested in employee productivity, and use various means to measure it. Nearly every expenditure has an ROI, either in terms of reducing cost or increasing revenue. SEO is no different.

These are the methods we use to measure SEO ROI.

The first measure is organic website traffic, and whether it is increasing or decreasing over time.

The second is rankings, where a site comes up in a search. That’s actually a rather difficult measure to determine. But there are places to obtain it. Third-party companies such as Moz.com provide ranking data and can demonstrate how those rankings change over time. Even Google provides this information to webmasters.

The third measure is what we call “entrances.” This boils down to how many of a site’s pages are receiving organic referrals. Of course, the more pages, the higher the return.

Finally, the measure that means the most to most business owners is leads, prospective customers who have expressed interest in your product or service but not yet purchased. In most cases they express that interest by completing a web form or calling your business. How many web leads? How many phone calls? And, critically, what is the cost per lead?

If lead measurement is missing from the equation, the first three metrics do not matter. If the leads don’t meet expectations, and the price per lead is not competitive with other marketing channels, then the ROI is not sufficient.

Does that mean a business shouldn’t invest in SEO? No. But it will certainly influence the amount invested.

SEO is like Facebook and other social media — a must-have in today’s Internet-driven consumer experience. But it’s a must have that must show sufficient return to justify growing investment in it. A reputable SEO firm can measure that ROI.

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