How to spring clean your small business website with 7 top tips to optimise your online presence

website spring cleanTime to spring clean your website?

When was the last time you put specific time aside to review and improve your website?  When first setting up a website a huge amount of time and effort goes into its design and function. However, once up and running smoothly we tend to breathe a sigh of relief and get on with all the other demands associated with a small business. It’s all too easy to get complacent and before you realise a significant amount of time has lapsed without any proper review taking place.

In the world of business nothing stands still for long so it is essential your website evolves and develops to accurately reflect the current environment.  It is essential you put proper time aside to take a fresh, objective look at your website, rid yourself of out-of-date content and implement any necessary improvements.

Revisit the core principles of a successful website

Creating a positive and engaging online experience for your customer is at the heart of a successful website. So when you are giving your site an overview it is a good idea to revisit some of the key elements of good website design. You probably considered most of these when you initially set up your website however they provide a solid base from which to start your review.  As it currently stands does your website tick all of the following boxes?

Navigation. Is it easy for visitors to navigate your website?  Are they able to find the information they are looking for within a few simple clicks?

Design and layout. Does your website make a good first impression? Are your pages simple, clear and visually appealing?

Usability.  How quickly does your website load? Can a customer to complete a specific action easily?

Credibility. Does your website have enough trust signposts to make a visitor feel secure about completing a transaction or imparting personal information?

Accessibility. Can your website be viewed equally well from a mobile, tablet or desktop? Is your website accessible to everyone irrespective of any disabilities they may have?

Content. Is you content up-to-date, relevant and engaging to your target audience and does it accurately reflect your business?

 7 topID-10031660 tips to make the most of your online presence

75% of users admit to making judgments about a company’s credibility based on their website’s design

1. Out with the old. Nothing is more off-putting to a visitor than information that is out-of-date. It shrieks unprofessional and does little to enhance the credibility of your site. Have a thorough read through of all your content and check everything is current and correct. For example check for:

  • Broken links
  • Pricing
  • Policies – such as terms and conditions or delivery and returns
  • Expired discount codes and vouchers

Update or get rid of any information that is out of date or no longer relevant.

2. Focus on content. As we’ve said many-a-time content is central to the success of your website and critical to how you are viewed by search engines. So it is important to objectively review yContent Imageour existing content:

  • Is your content still relevant to your target audience and will it engage them?
  • Have you included a good mix of relevant and natural keywords and key-phrases (absolutely do not keyword or key phrase stuff – neither visitors or search engines will appreciate it)
  • Is it concise, clear and to the point?
  • Does it accurately reflect your business?
  • What needs updating and what could be improved?
  • Look for any gaps in content. For example do you have enough visual content such as images and videos? 

3. Is your website search engine optimised? Make sure you are doing all you can to make your website inviting to search engines. If you have lots of pages it can be easy to forget to add-in search engine friendly information on each page. So it’s worth going through and checking any pages you’ve missed or that could be improved.  Part of Search Engine Optimisation involves making lots of small adjustments to individual pages to make it easier for search engines to understand the content of your website. We mentioned keywords and key phrases earlier, but also look at:

Page Titles. These usually appears in the first line of  a search engine’s results page. Ensure your title tags accurately reflect the content of each individual page. Try to keep them short, relevant and to the point.

Description Meta Tags. These give the search engines and users an overview of your page. They are usually a short paragraph containing one or two sentences. Have a unique description for each page and try to make them informative and interesting.

URL’s. Your URL’s should be relevant to the content of each page and should be simple for search engines and users to understand.

For further reading on SEO checkout these two excellent free resources:

4. What are your analytics telling you? Web analytics are there to help you so use them. For example you may notice some pages may have a significantly higher bounce rate than expected. This may indicate a problem so it needs to be investigated. It could be that the content may not be relevant, the page may be confusing or there is no obvious call to action. You can then address the problem and implement the necessary changes.

visual content on social media5. Is your website multi-device friendly? You may have a fantastic website but does it view equally well on any device? Remember 80% of internet users now own a smartphone. A successful online presence includes being able to offer a positive user experience so ensure your small business website is accessible to everyone no matter the device they are using.

If you’re not already set up consider responsive design. This essentially adapts your website to fit the device on which it is being viewed without having to create a numerous device specific websites.

6. Curb appeal.  Make your website as visually appealing as possible to users. Go through each page and check that the layout is straightforward and the page looks clean and clutter free. Research indicates that white space is good and relevant supporting visuals are essential.

7. In with the new. Having reviewed your online offering and implemented any of the necessary changes, have a think about what else you can add to further enhance your small business’ online presence. Are there any obvious gaps in content?  For example try:

  • Setting up a blog
  • Adding in customer reviews and testimonials
  • Growing your visual content such as including more video’s and infographics

Check out other successful websites, both competitors and non-competitors, it’s a great way to get ideas and inspiration.

These are just a few ways to help ensure your small business website remains successful in terms of both user experience and search engine optimisation. Do try to put specific time aside for giving your website a review and remember regular checking really will help you keep on top of things.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on reviewing your online presence, so do please leave a comment.

Success image courtesy of scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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How small online businesses can create top visual content on Facebook and increase engagement

twitter-292994_640Social media platforms and visual content are now so intrinsically linked that if you are not optimising your Facebook posts then chances are your small business isn’t going to be getting the degree of engagement it could.

This article takes a look at how, with a good mix of visual content and some clever tools, you can create a more successful Facebook presence.

The rise of the visual

With 1.4 billion users Facebook maintains its position as the market leading social network. Therefore as a small businesses owner Facebook is still going to be a key platform from which to market your business. However in order to fully engage an audience you need to make sure you are using the best tactics.

Visuals have the huge benefit of conveying an idea almost immediately, helping break through the masses of online content people have to wade through on a daily basis. I believe this contributes to the phenomenal growth in visual content over the last few years. Research has shows that the use of visual content in social media increased by 70% in 2014.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the key to growing your Facebook audience is to engage them. Visual content makes a considerable impact on increasing engagement.

Posts with visuals receive 94% more page visits and engagement than those without.

How to create a top-notch visual presence on Facebook

An impressive 2,460,000 pieces of content are shared every minute on Facebook. So, what will help your business stand out amongst this vast ocean of content? Using visuals to support your activity, here are 5 key tips that I recommend to help your small business create enriched posts.

1. Inspiring photos and images

According to research, images and photos are the most important tactic you can use to optimise your social media posts. But just adding any old run of the mill stock image isn’t really going to cut it. You need to source photos and images that are interesting and relevant to your audience and the subject in hand. It is worth spending some time getting the right image for your post.

Sourcing images 

Try to be creative when you are sourcing visuals and avoid using bland stock photos that everyone has seen before (you know the ones I mean – smiling business people in suits shaking hands) and try for something more interesting to support the content you are posting. Look for bright, eye-catching images that will still stand out even when they’re viewed at a smaller size.

There are number of online sites where you can source some great, reasonably priced images. Try Dreamstime, iStockphoto and Shutterstock. Alternatively sites like freedigitalphotos.net provide free images as long as you include an attribution wherever you use the image. You are also allowed to use images that are in the public domain and cleared for commercial use for free and without an attribution. Pixabay has a good selection of just such images.

visual contentOriginal photography

If you can commission your own photos then all the better. Particularly if you are showcasing your own products and services. ‘Lifestyle’ images of your products in use can have a stronger impact than just standard product shots. Try taking some ‘behind the scenes’ photos of your business. These are great way of giving your audience the opportunity to see the personality and ideas behind what makes your business unique.

2. Be creative with content

There are some really effective ways to be creative with your text-based content. And all the more importantly you don’t need a big budget or to be proficient in Photoshop to implement them. There are some excellent create image creation tools available. A number of which offer some great free options. For example, try Recite.com if you want to visualise a quote or interesting fact. It’s free and simple to use. Here is one I created in just a few moments.

image creation tools

 

Other great tools I’ve come across include PicMonkey and Canva which lets you add text to images. Skitch is also well worth a look as it enables you to draw over images using annotation, shapes and sketches – a great way to emphasise a particular point.

3. Include Infographics

Infographics are a fantastic way to convey numerical information like statistics and research. It makes text-based content far more digestible and visually appealing to an audience. Don’t just take my word for it, research shows that:

Cutting costs for business infographic

Creating great infographics  doesn’t automatically require special knowledge or a huge budget.  There are some good point and click online tools available with an assortment of ready-made templates that make it simple for you to DIY.  Check out Piktochart and Easel.ly.

share videos on social media4. Upload videos directly to Facebook

Video enhances your visual offerings on Facebook. Video continues to grow in popularity right across the globe with 8333 videos shared every minute. This is reflected in the impressive rise in video content on Facebook specifically. Since June 2014 Facebook has averaged more than 1 billion video views every day.

There are some great ways you can use video to your advantage. Try posting video tutorials, behind the scenes peeks of your business, how to guides, showcase your product or service in real life situations and scenarios or show how a product is crafted.

Try iMovie or Movie Maker for DIY video editing software or WeVideo and Animoto for online creation platforms.

 

These are just a few tips on how to incorporate visual content into Facebook. However it is worth looking at how you can improve your visual content across all your social media platforms. Visual content is a key trend for 2015 and I suspect it will remain that way for a good while yet.

I’d really love to hear how you’ve implemented more visual content into  your posts and what’s proved successful and not so successful. So please do leave a comment below or tweet me @ShopIntegrator.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Ways to Increase Conversion Rates with Product Photography

Product Photography

Who does not like looking at pretty pictures? Now what if I told you that those pretty pictures are responsible for convincing users to buy a product or a service many times more than lame taglines could ever hope for. Seriously, which gets you first – those gorgeous pictures of picturesque destinations or their standard cheesy marketing line about the country?

If there is any part of e-commerce that needs a shot in the arm from an aesthetic perspective it is the boring and done to death product photos. Typically these come from the manufacturers or brand owners themselves and e-commerce sites put them up with little or no changes. What results is the anti-thesis of a shopper’s dream destination.

If images hold scientifically proven sway over our minds, why not apply this logic to your own e-commerce site by turning every product image into a mini salesman for your site? This is how the best in the business do it.

1. Know your audience

Humans are very visual creatures. We process visual signals faster than sound and respond to them at a more visceral level. However, what type of visual signals gets each one of us going can vary from person to person. Before you decide on an image style for your site, understand whom you are addressing and design from there on.

Use the right image for the right audience. An image of an attractive woman may work with male as well as female audiences but in very different contexts. On the other hand, the image of a church may evoke very different responses from conservative audiences as compared to liberal ones. The bottom line? Understand your target audience – their likes and dislikes, and then proceed to pick the right imagery for your website.

2. Invest in image libraries

You must have heard it a million times before, but for good reason. Avoid stock shots that litter every other website. This is important to prevent user fatigue and instead guide the user’s eye towards new and interesting products on the basis of images alone. Spend some time over this and pick out unique imagery that complements your site and its personality.

Granted that unique images can be hard to come by and even when they are available, they are normally astronomically priced. Premium image libraries are a cost-effective compromise for unique images which do not cost an arm and a leg.

3. Photo shoots with a twist

Zulily – the billion dollar e-commerce phenomenon – shows the rest of us the way things ought to be done in the world of product photography. Zulily shoots 99% of all its product images in-house in its 35 studios that litter the entire office building. Their in-house photographers take artistic pictures for each item that goes up on the site. The site falls back on its regular employees to pose as models for their pictures. Baby models (it’s a mom and baby site after all!) are brought in by moms and dads who are aspiring actors themselves who get to build a portfolio for Junior via Zulily’s product shoots.

The result? A product catalogue that is as colorful as it is unique. Even if Zulily might sell a product that might be available on some other retailer’s site, it sure as hell will look completely different on Zulily. A smart, simple and highly effective workaround to expensive photoshoots, don’t you agree!

4. Build a story with your images

Your problem does not end with sourcing great pictures. What you do with them is more important.

Images are a great tool to build a story around your products. Use multiple images of a product to weave a use case scenario or present a solution to a problem that the user may have. Your creative presentation will show the user exactly how the item will fit into their lives. Another alternative is to showcase real users actually using the products in their everyday life settings. You could accessorize these images with quotes from these real users too. The contrast between the clinical austerity of most websites and the realism of slice of life type images will make your products stand out and help your conversions.

5. Use images to convey emotion

Just as images can convey stories and draw the user in, they can also tug at users’ heartstrings to loosen those purse strings on your site.

A tactic that is widely used by non-profits and welfare organizations, show me one such website that you can tear yourself away from without donating some cash or leaving with a guilt trip the size of Guatemala. If non-profits can use images to evoke emotions, so can you. Tap into the power of emotions with images that speak to the user. The right combination of photographer, model and setting contribute to emotional ammo over and over again.

6. Convey information with images

Emotional connections are great, but an image that tells a user exactly what she needs to know without even needing to read through the accompanying product description is what we are aiming at.

Wherever possible, use large images that offer users a high resolution and undistorted viewing experience. Never miss out on the zoom function on your product image. Users can only see images of your product and not the real deal before putting down large sums of cash on your website. It is your job to make this leap of faith that they repose in your site worthwhile by letting them get as close to the real item as possible.

Offer multiple product views with tiny product details visible clearly to make up for the lack of real touch and feel. Showcasing the product from different angles offers users a better idea of the real product. A 360 degree view option for your product image is a good idea, especially in terms of letting the users get up, close and personal with the item. Many top sites including Amazon and others have already started letting users savor each product with a 360 perspective.

A good way to convince a user about an item is by showing a picture of the item they are looking for being actually used by a model. Sell tractors? Put a model or a real farmer on a tractor and plow a field. Sunglasses is your thing? Get a few attractive models to lounge around the beach in your sunglasses and go clickety click on them.

7. Make your images fancy

Nothing kills a product image as effectively as putting a jarring background against a pleasant and soothing image.

Pick a background that goes well with the rest of your brand personality and issue orders to your designers stick to those colors and styles for the rest of the images as well. Marketplaces like Amazon that get product images from thousands of sellers listed on the site, on white backgrounds for nearly all their product shots. This not just makes life easier it also creates a clean feel look for your site – something that will go a long way in convincing the best sellers to list with you, and the most fanatical shoppers to buy from you.

Instead of offering flat two dimensional images, DueMaternity.com offered rotating images to its users. On hovering the mouse over the item image, the image would automatically rotate a complete 360 degrees, showcasing its complete potential without users having to click and open a page for the same experience in the past. The site actually saw a 27% lift in conversions since they implemented the snazzy new image format.

Use product videos wherever you showcase the item and allow users to arrive at their purchase decisions based on a more intimate view of the product than just two dimensional images. Offer at least one image for every product variant you’ll be listing online. This could be different color or a different use case or even a different size. Showcase these efficiently and there’s no reason for why anyone would fall back on boring manufacturer images ever again.

8. Virtual reality / augmented reality

If images let a user see how an item would look on someone else, virtual reality allows users to imagine how it would look on themselves.

Virtual reality devices are fast going mainstream and users can now get a VR headset for as low as $135. Virtual reality can be employed to let users model an item for themselves in the comfort of their own homes. Glasses retailer Warby Parker offers users a virtual tryout session by feeding a self-photo clicked by the user and allowing the user to experiment with different glasses that truly suit their face.

Chinese grocery and home goods retailer Yihaodian took virtual reality to the next level when they ‘built’ 100 virtual stores across the entire city in virtually no time at all. The company allowed users to scan items and add them to their virtual cart in these virtual stores. These items are then delivered to users’ doorsteps without them even having to leave their doorstep for a minute.

9. Accessorize the product

Never miss a chance to upsell or cross-sell a product with another item.

Add an interesting accessory or two to your models’ outfits does not just add drama to the images themselves, the overall look reminds users of the possibilities that lie in wait and help push the billing amount up ever so slightly.

Most apparel retail sites do a good job of using the right accessories to set off an outfit, thus tempting the user to splurge on the extras as well in the same transaction. I particularly love the way ModCloth and Net-a-Porter pull this off without it coming across as a crass attempt at upselling.

10. Allow sharing

We all know how social media is a huge contributor to site traffic both from a last touch perspective as well as higher in the lead funnel. One of the most shared elements on social media today are images, which is clear from the runaway popularity of entirely image driven social apps like Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. This popularity of images has even forced the text only Twitter to embrace images and showcase them prominently on users’ Twitter feeds.

Feed into this cultural obsession with sharing aesthetically pleasing images by offering social sharing for your product images. Putting sharing buttons alongside your product image or allowing users to create self-avatars wearing your product is a great way of driving social conversations which eventually lead to conversions.

In conclusion

Your product images are pages in your album not standalone works of art that all speak a different language. They need to have a consistent flow and overall ‘look’ to work with your site’s aesthetics. Invest some much deserved time into a neglected area like your product images to see the difference that they make to your site and its conversions. Let me know in the comments below how these experiments work out for you!

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