The 4 I’s of Instagram Stories
THE MAGAZINE FOR WEBSITE SUCCESS OCTOBER 2016
WEB CONVERSIONS INSIDE THIS ISSUE... Machine Learning’s Role in Customer Experience Getting Smarter About Business Intelligence Tools Meeting Visitor Expectations with Web Conventions
0 5 P O T
ization m i t p O ns Solutio
Practical Tips for Generating More
WEB CONVERSIONS The ability of a website to turn browsers into buyers is essential for enterprise success today – without it, there is simply no chance of survival. By leveraging best practices and powerful technology, it is within each company’s ability to influence users along their path to conversion.
THIS MONTH IN WEBSITE MAGAZINE Getting Smarter About BI Tools
The 4 I’s of Instagram Stories
The ability to extract insights from data is critical in decision making but companies must first choose among 100s of available business intelligence solutions to do so.
There are pros and cons to real-time marketing, but brands are pushing forward by finding new ways to influence, inform, inspire and interact.
Why Web Conventions Win
Master Plan: Writing for the Web
Website visitors rely on predictable patterns to complete tasks quickly, so brands should use these shortcuts so prospects can navigate their site and convert.
Consumer demand for content has made publishers out of all brands large and small, and across all industries, so marketers would be wise to have a plan.
Synthetic Monitoring’s Growing Importance
Scary Email Marketing Strategies
While hardly a new technology, there are five reasons that synthetic monitoring is more critical than ever particularly around user experience.
When tech advances, so do email marketing best practices, yet some marketers are reluctant to evolve – still using these outdated tactics.
EXPLORE WEBSITE MAGAZINE’S DEPARTMENTS Net Briefs: Ad Blocking, Best Days for Opens & More
Stat Watch: Social Media Hits and Misses
Small Business Lab: Hiring Seasonal Workers
E-Commerce Express: Problems for Marketplace Platforms
Design & Development:
The World of Social
Simplifying Website Development
Machine Learning’s Role in CX
Top 50: Conversion Optimization Toolbox
Costly Web Content Mistakes
Web Commentary: Winning Holiday Strategies
DIGITAL SCOOP Check out Website Magazine’s email newsletters covering search, e-commerce, social, design and more at wsm.co/webscoop.
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EDITOR Recapturing the Conversion Focus Web professionals can be easily distracted. The industry uses terms like “experience” and “engagement” far too loosely these days and it has resulted over time in a lack of attention on what’s really important to the success of ’Net enterprises – the number and quality of conversions. The ability of a website to turn browsers into buyers, prospects into loyal, repeat customers, is essential for enterprise success today – without it, there is simply no chance of survival, much less the capacity to thrive in the competitive digital landscape. The good news – it is within your power as a ’Net professional to influence users in a positive way along their path to conversion. Optimizing the digital experience for a consistent stream of conversions can be a tricky and complicated matter, of course, and the expectations will differ based on one’s role within the enterprise (as well as their experience). In this month’s feature article of Website Magazine, however, we’re encouraging every ’Net professionals to recapture their focus on maximizing conversions and optimizing the user’s journey in a way that drives greater revenue and performance for their digital properties. Website Magazine readers will discover what is at the foundation of all successful conversions, receive numerous practical tips for optimizing their digital presence for Web conversions, and discover several useful tools to help them along their way. This issue also includes a great deal more to help companies make the most of their digital experience. In addition to the insights shared in Website Magazine’s feature article of October 2016, readers will have access to helpful articles on business intelligence tools, machine learning, email marketing and more from some of digital media’s brightest minds. This issue also offers useful information and best practices on Web design, e-commerce marketing, content development and search engine optimization, as well as a list of 50 solutions for your very own conversion optimization toolbox. As always, we hope you enjoy this issue of Website Magazine and encourage you to join us on the ’Net where our editors and industry contributors share the technologies and insights that matter most to Web success.
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Making Social Work From creating content to fielding customer service inquiries, social media is a challenging channel to manage daily. With roughly a decade of trial and error, however, best practices have been established for engaging current and potential customers on popular networks. Even so, new channels and technologies are emerging and marketers must adapt. Join us next month as we address these developments and more to help make social work for you.
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Website Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 10, October 2016, (ISSN# 1942-0633) is published 12 times a year, January through December by Website Services, Inc., 999 E. Touhy Ave., Des Plaines, IL 60018. Periodicals Postage Paid at Des Plaines, IL and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Website Magazine, 999 E. Touhy Ave., Des Plaines, IL 60018. Canada Post: Please send undeliverable items to: 2835 Kew Drive, Windsor ON, N8T 3B7 Copyright 2016 by Website Magazine. All rights reserved. Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission. For reprints of any article, contact the editor. *The opinions expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of Website Magazine.
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MARKETING NEWS Twitter Shares Video Revenue Twitter is actively pursuing YouTube’s most popular video publishers, announcing it will begin sharing video advertising revenues with creators. Twitter is being very generous about terms of the revenue share as well, offering a 70-30 split (with the majority going to the creator). Twitter already offers this revenue share for some of its premium publisher partners including the NFL but this is the first time it is more broadly opening up the program.
1/3 of Ads Blocked in U.S. Ad blocking is disrupting the digital ecosystem in significant ways. According to Blockmetry’s new weather report, which explores the degree of ad and analytics blocking by region and country, worldwide ad blocking now stands at 32.4 percent – up from 28.5 percent as recently as May 2016 – and 31.5 percent in the U.S.
SMS Woefully Underused From interactions with peers to the receipt of personalized promotional offers, SMS is a familiar way to communicate, yet according to a new OpenMarket mobile messaging report, the large majority of retailers are not using the communication channel for business purposes. In fact, only 29 percent of retailers use SMS to engage with customers, yet 75 percent of millennials prefer SMS for realtime notifications of deliveries, payments, promotions and surveys.
Best Days for Opens, Conversions After analyzing 7 billion sent emails, Yesmail released Q2 2016 benchmark data that indicates the best days of the week for certain key performance indicators (KPIs). Yesmail found that open rates for Thursday emails were 14 percent higher than the Q2 average. Similarly, their unique click rates were 41 percent higher, and their click-toopen (CTO) rates were 24 percent above average. Even so, Thursday conversion rates were among the lowest whereas emails deployed on Saturdays and Sundays resulted in higher conversions rates.
$ WHO GOT PAID Acquired: Advertising technology solution Media.net has been acquired by a group of Chinese investors for a reported $900 million. Media.net provides the technology powering contextual ads offered by Yahoo! (now owned by Verizon) as well as Microsoft’s Bing search engine.
Acquired: Ebay has completed the acquisition of SalesPredict, a solution that leverages analytics to predict customer buying behavior and sales conversions. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Funded: Mobile investment app Stash secured $9.25 million in Series A funding, which it plans to use to help accelerate audience growth and build out its technology platform. Funded: “Smart” thermostat company ecobee announced a $35 million funding round from Amazon Alexa Fund, Thomvest and Relay Ventures.
TECH UPDATES Where Did All the C Programmers Go? The current TIOBE Index, a resource for ranking the popularity of programming languages, indicated in its most recent report that the C programming language (invented way back in 1972) has hit a 15-year low. The reason? It appears that mobile and Web-friendly languages like Google’s Go and Apple’s Swift are taking over.
IT Practitioners Make Bank DevOps platform Puppet released its 2016 DevOps Salary Report and found that most IT practitioners in the U.S. earn $100,000 in annual salary, and that 43 percent of IT managers earn $150,000 or more (in a very clear sign of where things are headed, that’s a 26 percent increase from the previous year). IT practitioners based in the U.S. are more likely to earn $100,000-plus if they work in the technology (65 percent), media/entertainment (65 percent), retail/consumer/e-commerce (65 percent) or finance (61 percent) industries.
The End of Mobile Ad Interstitials Google indicated that on Jan. 10, 2017 it will release a new search algorithm penalty that will demote mobile pages that have “intrusive” interstitials, those often bothersome windows that tend to get in the user’s way and negatively impact the experience (at least as Google sees it). The new algorithm penalty, which is replacing the app interstitials ad penalty launched back in Sept. 2015, will try to make these mobile pages “not rank as highly” as they once did.
POPULAR WITH WM READERS Freelance vs. Permanent Devs: Who Works Best? +
When a company is choosing between hiring freelancers and permanent developers, the top consideration is often budget but there are other critical factors as well.
Daily Social Posts for Everyone +
It can be difficult to come up with ideas about what to post daily for maximum engagement. Let’s look at some ideas on how to fill a social calendar each and every day.
5 Google Patents Foretelling SEO’s Future +
Google reveals some of its longterm strategies within the current patents it holds, which is useful for companies planning search engine optimization initiatives.
BRIEFS WEB TECH WATCH
Check out what has the digital community all abuzz with Website Magazineâ€™s #WebTechWatch series, a monthly roundup profiling emerging and established technologies and some of the most useful solutions for todayâ€™s Web workers. Submit your own recommendations by tweeting us at @WebsiteMagazine.
Write Android and iOS apps in JS
Host online meetings in a branded room
Shareable, shoppable photos
Collect analytics retroactively
PRIMER BY GOOGLE IN FOCUS Novices looking to learn a little more about how Google makes money and perhaps even discover some ideas that will shape the future of digital media should consider downloading Primer by Google. The Android application provides short, easy-to-understand lessons, interactive activities and more to help users learn often complicated concepts quickly. For more apps, go to ApplicationMagazine.com.
A CRM for selling from Gmail
Automatic time tracking for freelancers and teams
An AI-powered sales assistant
Click-and-type sticky notes for website feedback
Stocky Plottable.js Interactive, flexible charts for the Web
Free photo, video, graphics and music for commercial use
Have tips, stories, funding or acquisition news to share?
Tweet us @WebsiteMagazine
Social Media Hits & Misses 57.5%
It is difficult to know what and when to post on social media, which network to send it through and how to analyze its performance. And in their effort to engage through social, brands often overwhelm their audiences. Sprout Social, for instance, found that 57.5 percent of consumers get annoyed when brands post too many promotions; and that’s just the beginning of social media’s hits and misses. Brands have to walk a fine line between being too sales-focused and too casual as 38 percent of people find the use of slang to be irritating, for example, yet 34.7 percent are annoyed by brands not having any personality on their accounts. What’s worse than using slang and being boring? Being unresponsive. While just 1 in 4 people are annoyed when brands don’t respond, the number is expected to rise as more people turn to social as their first touchpoint to solve an issue. Brands will need to catch up as only 1 in 10 messages on social receive a reply. Responding to incoming messages is one way to improve social efforts and sharing relevant information is another (41 percent of people will unfollow a brand if it doesn’t share material that is relevant to them). Social audiences can certainly be finicky but brands will want to keep at it, as 75 percent of people have purchased something because they saw it on social media. Slicing that data even further, however, shows 60 percent of people need to see something 2-4 times on social media before they purchase and nearly 20 percent need to see it 5-8 times. The survey also found that 57 percent of people are more likely to buy from a brand they follow on social.
As the Social Media World Turns Despite its obvious appeal to consumers (who research and save everything from apparel to recipes), many in-
dustry insiders aren’t quite sure what to make of the $11 billion valuation Pinterest received in mid-2015. Skepticism surrounding this high value – which will likely be the basis of its rumored 2016/2017 IPO – isn’t in
Cheat sheet: wsm.co/storysocial
Pinterest’s impressive user base though, which includes 100 aged 34-55, and 35 percent have a household income over $100,000). These high-value shoppers aren’t just scrolling through the network looking for a bargain either. Pinterest users are often active in the discovery phase as the pinboard network reports 87 percent of “Pinners” have purchased a ners have higher average order values ($58.95) than Face-
Cheat sheet: wsm.co/livecta
Which technology did Snapchat acquire in Aug. 2016? a. A software solution that automates social, email and display marketing b. An e-commerce platform for high-growth startups focusing on mobile commerce c. A recommendation app that provides suggestions/ results on things to do and places to visit d. A small Web design agency based in Austin, Texas
book users ($55). Pinterest critics, however, are more concerned by how the network will monetize its audience and offerings rather than who is using it and how engaged they are. Pinterest has some ideas though, announcing support for sponsored videos and retargeting as well as releasing long-anticipated
Cheat sheet: wsm.co/snapbuy16
buyable pins for the Web and acquiring a few companies over the past 18-months (e.g., mobile startup Livestar, visual
What is one way Facebook currently supports calls-to-action within a Facebook Live post? a. Users can click on the video to be directed to a website b. Viewers can click on the “Follow” button on live videos to receive notifications next time the Page goes live c. Fans can download an app directly from the video’s description d. Viewers can enter their email address in the comments section to sign up for a newsletter
million-plus active users (54 percent of which are women
product because of Pinterest while Shopify reports that pin-
True or False: Instagram released a new “Stories” feature this summer, which is nearly identical to Snapchat’s popular offering.
search startup VisualGraph, save-for-later tool Instapaper).
User-generated content curator Olapic was acquired by Monotype for this amount:
their business and their end-users. The same is true of all social
a. $130 million b. $25 million c. $2 billion d. $1.2 million
media networks where a company’s audience spends its time.
Cheat sheet: wsm.co/olapicacq
Pinterest is still certainly on an upward trend, and enterprises would be wise to monitor the network’s value for both
To see what you know about well- and lesser-known social updates from 2016, take this month’s Quiz Time!
Get the results of Quiz Time at wsm.co/qtoct16 or by scanning the QR code on the left.
Which social network competed for and won the rights to live stream Thursday Night NFL games? a. Facebook b. Twitter c. Google/YouTube d. Vine
Cheat sheet: wsm.co/nflsocial
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Picking Up Cues & Clues:
Machine Learning’s Role in Customer Experience By Jeff Allen, Adobe
Big data is transforming the modern world, or so they say. Unless big data is leveraged to draw smart conclusions, however, all of this newly available information is just noise. Machine learning is helping humans make sense of big data. It can cut through the noise and pick up on cues and clues to offer interpretations, insights, connections and recommendations that businesses can quickly put to use. From smartphones to thermostats, machine learning is already changing the way technology benefits consumers and their customer experience (CX). Consider an example from PopSugar – a lifestyle publisher and marketer geared toward women millennials – that recently began using a new drag-and-drop datavisualization tool that applies machine-learning technology to analyze data from its more than 85 million readers. The program noticed two interesting facts last summer: (1) as early as June, searches for Halloween
costumes started to spike, and (2) around the same time, Taylor Swift searches began trending thanks to her latest hit album. 17 Ways to Be Taylor Swift For Halloween This Year October 11, 2015 by LAURA MARIE MEYERS
Using data and machine learning tools, publishers can tailor articles to current search trends.
PopSugar used these two observations to create an article called, “17 Ways to Be Taylor Swift This Halloween.” It was a wild marketing success, contributing to more than a billion Halloween-related page views. Or take the home-automation company Nest, which debuted in 2011. At $249, its thermostat wasn’t cheap. Even so, consumers who bought the thermostat found that because it analyzed their behaviors and preferences, it actually helped them save big on energy bills without sacrificing comfort.
Even those without a high-tech thermostat have some degree of familiarity with machine learning, because our smartphones and tablets have learned to predict our texting habits. They fill in the blanks when our thumbs skip letters and figure out what we meant to say. They even know whether we swear or not.
We don’t have to look beyond our tablets and smartphones to understand how machine learning can make tasks like typing easier when they learn our behaviors.
Just as machine learning has revolutionized the consumer experience, it is also changing marketing. Whereas once marketing analysts had to trudge through stacks of charts in pursuit of elusive data trends, computers now do the work for us. Machine learning helps identify and figure out the “why” behind new patterns and anomalies. Computers now make nuanced recommendations in a flash, drawing from a much broader dataset than a human could. That way, marketers can focus on the creative aspects of pitching their products. PopSugar’s Taylor Swift discovery is just one example among innumerable potential applications. Say 21 to 35 year olds in Williamsburg, Brooklyn begin developing a taste for craft moonshine. Machines can quickly alert marketers to that trend so they can begin a targeted ad campaign. Same goes if moms in Cheyenne, Wyoming suddenly start taking up yoga.
Using machine learning to understand behaviors and preferences, even thermostats can reduce costs, which can build customer loyalty.
Marketers can now identify dozens of new marketing scenarios that would previously have gone wholly unappreciated. Machine learning also provides instant feedback on whether marketing strategies are effective. Once, marketers had to turn to a series of time-consuming, expensive focus groups or surveys to determine what was working best. Something as basic as casting ads based on target viewers’ demographic characteristics was a major research project. Now, machine learning can look at Facebook likes and Twitter retweets, providing in-the-moment feedback on consumer responses. Marketers can adapt accordingly, becoming more nimble and effective than ever before. Already, the industry’s seeing the payoff. One Latin American bank, for example, capitalized on this new breed of marketing using data from Machine learning ATM transactions to guide the helps identify and offers service operators made to customers. Thanks to this figure out the ‘why’ innovative strategy, the bank rose from obscurity to interbehind new patterns national prominence at breakand anomalies. neck speed. Similarly, McKinsey saw a 20 percent return on investment among companies that used computers to interpret big data and draw conclusions for their sales and marketing teams. Workers’ productivity rates, alongside profits, also improved by 5-6 percent compared to those who gave machine learning the brush-off. The future of marketing is here. The question isn’t whether today’s marketers can afford to adopt machine learning – it’s whether they can afford to ignore it. Jeff Allen has spent his career working in tech marketing, sales and product management roles. He is currently the senior director of product marketing for Adobe Analytics.
Machine Learning & AI In Action Discover several solutions for using artificial intelligence and machine learning within your enterprise today at wsm.co/aiaction.
The 2016 Conversion Toolbox Ask 100 individuals responsible for conversion optimization what they do and you will receive 100 different answers. What makes the practice of conversion rate optimization (CRO) as a professional specialty so interesting and intriguing (not to mention meaningful) is that it encompasses such a variety of different disciplines, from digital design and business strategy to Web analytics and online marketing. It’s necessary to know just as much about the nuances of personalization as the science of development. Combined, that leads to complexities which are difficult for most enterprises to wrap their collective head around. Fortunately, there are a near infinite supply of software tools, platforms and solutions that address the primary challenges of increasing and improving the rate of conversion for the benefit of a business. What many are shocked to discover is not only how much overlap there is between many of the services, but just how different the myriad tools are that are used by CRO professionals; there are marketing automation systems, analytics platforms and pure-play A/B testing solutions, as well as personalization solutions and heat mapping products. In this month’s Website Magazine Top 50, readers will discover solutions that are actively being used today by those responsible for optimizing the conversion paths and processes of the digital experience. While many will be familiar with companies like Adobe and Google (and the offerings these digital powerhouses provide), there are many other solutions that don’t appear on the virtual radar of most ’Net professionals but remain incredibly useful and effective offerings. Enterprises can use established and emerging solutions to deepen engagement with users and, more importantly, increase revenues. Let this month’s Top 50 serve as your starting point as you begin optimizing your own brand’s digital experience.
#CROctober is Coming Join us on the Web to share the platforms and solutions your brand uses to make a positive ‘Net difference for your business – email Website Magazine at email@example.com or tweet us @WebsiteMagazine with the hashtag #CROctober!
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google.com adobe.com kissmetrics.com leadpages.net optimizely.com unbounce.com clicky.com usertesting.com hotjar.com mixpanel.com crazyegg.com instapage.com browserstack.com vwo.com mouseflow.com opentext.com woopra.com inspectlet.com browserling.com qubit.com abtasty.com monetate.com marketizator.com zarget.com evergage.com leanplum.com kameleoon.com ptengine.com hitsteps.com dynamicyield.com decibelinsight.com ioninteractive.com oracle.com persado.com convert.com invespcro.com sitespect.com usabilitytools.com formisimo.com fivesecondtest.com blueconic.com reactful.com commercesciences.com personyze.com optkit.com getsmartcontent.com userreplay.com maxymizely.com conductrics.com clickthroo.com
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3 Creative Ways to Hire Seasonal Workers By John Swanciger, Manta
Fall is underway and that means pumpkins, lattes and…seasonal hires? Fall can be incredibly busy for small shops prepping for the holiday sales period, which means the hunt for seasonal employees is on. Teens and college grads alike are looking for extra cash, and these members of the millennial generation are also interested in gaining experience that will help them stand out in future endeavors. With that in mind, small business owners (SBOs) might think they have some tough competition on the hiring front. By implementing a smart recruitment strategy (regardless of season), SBOs can attract capable workers without hurting their bottom lines. Here are three creative ways to attract millennial workers:
1. TAP INTO THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media platforms have become an important resource for employers to connect with potential applicants. A recent study of 800 human resource and talent acquisition professionals by Jobvite found that 89 percent of U.S. companies said they recruit through social media. Of these, two-thirds successfully hired a candidate through social networks. Some of the most popular social sites are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but small business owners should look to sites like YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram as well. These apps provide a platform to publicize company culture, for instance, which is becoming increasingly important to younger workers.
2. MAKE JOB POSTINGS STAND OUT
Details make all the difference in obtaining top talent. It’s important to differentiate a company’s job postings from competing enterprises by drafting something in line with a company’s personality; this will attract individuals that fit a company culture and are more suited for specific job positions, making the entire hiring process easier. A creative way to depict company culture is by including interesting content like infographics, photos and videos. Including unique content in job postings will give potential applicants a visual representation of what a brand is all about, and a behind-the-scenes look at current employees’ day-to-day activities, which is often more telling than human resource-created postings.
3. INVEST IN AND PUBLICIZE TRAINING INITIATIVES
Qualified seasonal candidates often start looking early and rarely apply for only one job. In order to win over these candidates, businesses should hurry to make holiday hiring decisions. Even so, there’s still time to bring on additional motivated individuals. It’s important to weed out prospects (in any event) who aren’t willing to learn, or are only looking for a quick buck. Companies can do so by touting their training initiatives early on in the interview processes and gauging candidates’ reactions to learning more. Seasonal employees are just that – seasonal – so small business owners will benefit from finding and training the right candidates who may want the position to turn into a more long-term option or return for the next busy season. Implementing e-learning is one way small businesses can further develop training programs while simultaneously decreasing costs and improving performance. Online tools standardize learning so a company is investing equally in all employees, which leads to a more collaborative work environment.
Better Hiring Year-Round
As long as there are busy seasons, seasonal workers will have a place in the workforce. And to save overhead costs the rest of the year, small business owners will continue relying on their presence. Creating a recruiting plan and keeping these creative tips in mind is all part of that process. By being prepared and following a strategy, small business owners can guarantee better hiring and business for any season. As CEO, John Swanciger leads Manta to strengthen current offerings, while expanding products/services for SBOs.
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Common Problems for Marketplace Platforms By Oren Levy, CEO of Zooz
In a perfect world, every online browsing experience would involve the customer finding exactly the type of product that he or she wants to buy, proceeding through the checkout seamlessly and becoming forever loyal to the merchant’s brand. More often than not, however, barriers arise that complicate the checkout process, prevent conversions and compromise long-term customer loyalty. While potential prospects usually experience online payments as a relatively easy, quick and painless process, marketplace professionals are aware of a hum of activity taking place behind the scenes in the few seconds of an online payment. Each transaction involves a journey through several processing stages and a variety of financial entities, including acquirers and gateways, customer and merchant banks (the issuing and merchant accounts, respectively), the credit card scheme and more. The process is made even more complicated by the structure of the marketplace platform and the multitude of channels over which transactions are conducted today, including e-commerce, native apps, and, more recently, wearable technologies and social media platforms. All of this makes encouraging end-users to convert more complicated. It is critical for marketplace platforms to demonstrate how they offer merchants concrete tools and tactics to facilitate a frictionless shopping experience and a streamlined checkout that leads to an approved transaction. What are the main problems that marketplace platforms face when it comes to attracting merchants looking for a platform to host their business? Are there strategies that can increase conversions and improve long-term retention with new merchant customers? Let’s take a close look to solve this puzzle.
PROVIDE A BRANDED, HOSTED CHECKOUT Problem: One of the main merchant requirements platforms must offer is the ability to accept payments from end-users. Merchant customers expect these platforms to provide a secure, frictionless and visually appealing checkout solution to increase conversions on their e-commerce sites and prevent shopping cart abandonment. Solution: A marketplace platform must be able to offer a streamlined checkout that ensures higher conversion rates for the merchants, as shopping cart abandonment is one of the biggest challenges they face. This problem can be resolved by creating a less demanding checkout that requires customers to fill out as few fields as possible to complete their purchase, but enough fields to ensure that the transaction isn’t fraudulent and to prevent chargebacks. To avoid situations that will reflect poorly on merchant branding and lead to costly chargeback liability battles, make sure that your marketplace payment solution offers hosted payment fields. This means that the payment fields of each merchant’s checkout are actually hosted by a payment platform, and any data submitted in these fields is securely stored on the platform’s payment card industry (PCI) compliant servers. If a platform does not offer merchants PCI compliance, it will need to be ensured that the payment mechanism provided to merchant customers offers the PCI coverage – minimizing merchants’ responsibility for securing the payment without taking the customer out of the branded checkout experience.
RECOGNIZE RETURNING CUSTOMERS WITH TOKENIZATION Problem: The goal of a marketplace platform is to enable merchants to collect and store buyer pay-
ment data so that returning customer details can be easily recalled to facilitate a faster checkout process and reduce frustration. PCI compliance, however, is a costly and complex undertaking, especially if multiple websites are involved. Solution: Platforms can enable merchants to provide a seamless checkout experience for returning customers by employing a payment platform that uses tokenization, a PCI compliant technology used by leading payment platforms, including Apple Pay. A “token” is a 16-digit number created to represent a credit card used or stored previously for payment purposes. When a return customer reaches the checkout and requests to pay, tokenization technology uses the token associated with the customer to recall the stored payment data from the secure servers. This is quickly becoming the industry standard for recalling previously used customer payment data.
ACCEPT MULTIPLE REGIONALLY PREFERRED PAYMENT METHODS Problem: Merchants want to encourage foreign shoppers to convert on their websites, but find that they don’t seem to have many cross-border conversions despite having a fair amount of cross-border checkouts initiated. How can a marketplace platform prevent foreign shoppers from abandoning their purchases (e.g., digital downloads, subscriptions, products) at the payment stage? Solution: Platforms can enable merchants to significantly boost cross-border conversions by accepting regionally preferred payment methods on their marketplace platform. Regardless of where they reside, foreign consumers always feel more comfortable paying in their local currencies, with familiar payment methods or regional credit cards. This type of familiarity generates trust and encourages conversions.
DETECT FRAUD TO PREVENT CHARGEBACKS Problem: Conversion rates on my merchants’ websites seem high, but then they are barraged by chargebacks. How can marketplaces provide fraud protection to ensure that merchant customers have a high number of transaction approvals and a low number of chargebacks, while reducing and blocking genuine fraud? Solution: Marketplaces should proactively implement risk assessment protocols to detect fraud and prevent chargeback impact. A smart payment system is able to adjust fraud detection levels at various locations on the basis of pre-set rules. In addition to data-driven fraud technologies, you might consider integrating solutions
that reassign chargeback liability. This means that merchants are not responsible for reimbursing consumers for legitimate fraud activity that the fraud detector has failed to identify.
ENSURE TRANSACTION ACCEPTANCE WITH REAL-TIME DATA Problem: Many customers convert on hosted sites, but their charges are sometimes declined by the acquirer or gateway of the marketplace. This makes it difficult to encourage brand loyalty. What are the reasons behind these declines and how can they be prevented? Solution: Today, there are many data-driven solutions that actively monitor and collect transaction information as payments are processed. With this intelligence, merchants can evaluate the efficiency of their payment options from the aspect of decline rates, among other criteria. By understanding why transactions are being declined, merchants can proactively make changes to ensure better processing performance.
OPTIMIZE PAYMENT ACCEPTANCE WITH MULTIPLE PROVIDERS Problem: Foreign customers have started taking an interest in the merchant’s marketplace websites, but transactions from specific localities are being routinely declined by my payment processor or gateway. Solution: Cross-border vendors need to work with local acquirers to optimize payment acceptance in problematic regions. Smart payment solutions can route payments in real-time to the most suitable regional service providers in order to reduce costs and increase acceptances.
ANALYZE BEHAVIOR TO MEET CUSTOMER PREFERENCES IN THE FUTURE Problem: Marketplace hosts enable merchants to utilize aggregated e-commerce data to improve end-user experiences (and hopefully conversions), but what are the regulatory requirements of accessing and storing customer data in these scenarios? Solution: It is becoming industry standard for payments solutions to offer compliance, enabling merchants to collect and store customer data through their gateway, acquirer or payment service provider (PSP). Vendors should integrate a payment technology that also analyzes this payment data, giving merchants insight into inefficiencies in their processing protocols as well as improved understanding of customer behavior on their website.
The PayPal Effect in E-Commerce The company continues to set expectations all retailers should be aware of. Read more at wsm.co/expectpay.
How to Simplify Site Development to Grow Customer Engagement By Mimi Young, Behavior Design
De-clutter your surroundings. Simplify your life. Don’t overcomplicate. Whether you’re cleaning your home, building your wardrobe or deciding what to have for lunch – there’s a recent trend toward streamlining to make life simple and easy. This message, however, hasn’t hit home for brands and marketers yet. In fact, most brands are churning out more content than ever before – in the form of landing pages, blog posts, whitepapers, infographics and interactive media (videos, photos, etc.). The content marketing boom of the past few years has had a negative impact on user experience (UX) – resulting in bloated, cluttered websites with lagging traffic, low engagement and decreased conversion. Brands have found themselves in a tricky situation. They know that their audience wants to consume and interact with content, but they don’t have a UX strategy in place to ensure that site visitors are able to access the content that they want, at their exact time of need. Many brands wrongly believe that the more content they produce and host, the higher return on investment (ROI) will be for their website. The directive is clear: UX must sit at the center of online content strategy. Taking a step back to create a UX strategy that supports a brand’s story and unique differentiators is critical to online customer engagement and retention. Here are four steps to help enterprises get started.
1. DEFINE YOUR BRAND’S DIFFERENTIATOR/S The first step in creating an impactful user experience is to define a brand’s key differentiators. This is not a list of 100 brand qualities that the marketing department believes are interesting to customers but rather 1-3 differentiators that make a brand unique, and sets them apart from the competition. All website content should support and prove these finalized, core differentiators.
These are The Royce Funds’ key differentiators.
2. CREATE THE STORY TO SUPPORT IT A website is like a storybook. Landing pages should be treated like a table of contents for what will live in the corresponding section of the site. This means quick indi-
cators that overview the subjects and themes that will be covered. In other words, each main page should give users an idea of what they can expect with short descriptions for each offering. All of this should highlight a brand’s core differentiators. Each page should have enough content to drive interest and engagement without overwhelming, confusing or driving away the end-user.
clude data and statistics, easy-to-interpret visuals or short narratives (like thoughtful testimonials). All content should be relevant to the brand story while providing insight and value back to its audience.
4. SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY Once a brand has defined the content it needs, an audit must be done to reduce it down to its essence. Every single page of website content should be important. This means that users should be able to quickly scan and understand headlines – and summary content should be no longer than 2-3 sentences. As a rule of thumb, every Web page should have one clear takeaway – and any content that doesn’t support it should be removed. It’s also important to have content tailored to all audiences – whether they are looking for a bite (e.g., quick visit), a snack (e.g., looking for more information) or a meal (e.g., doing deeper research, hoping to engage).
Example of brand storytelling on The Royce Funds website.
3. USE CONTENT AS A PROOF POINT TO THAT STORY The average customer doesn’t want to read what a brand has to say about itself – they want proof. Web content that serves as a proof point to key differentiators and supports a brand’s story is incredibly impactful and can provide a foundation for an overarching content strategy. Proof doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, with an increased reliance on mobile and shortening attention spans – time is not on a site’s side for engaging users. Strong proof points may in-
The Royce Funds website shows the most critical top-line fund information at a glance.
Telling a brand story through a website is ultimately an act of choreographing an experience that communicates offerings broadly, deeply and in the most relevant way possible to its audience. The best way to garner positive impressions is to think like the audience to ensure the website serves up the content, resources, knowledge and tools that they’re looking for.
The Royce Funds homepage showcases the firm’s unique insights as a brand proof point.
Mimi Young is the co-founder of Behavior Design, an awardwinning boutique interactive design studio whose roster of clients has included HBO, JPMorgan Chase and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Website Content Mistakes that Could Lead to Google Penalties By Dan Kern, Founder of Kern Media
Over the past five years, website owners have seen an onslaught of both announced and unannounced algorithm updates from Google. Whether it was the near-monthly Panda update, the devastating (and rare) Penguin update, or unannounced “quality” updates, website owners have been on their toes more than ever for half a decade. In fact, a quick glance at the Moz Google Algorithm Change History shows how updates from Google have really ramped up since 2011, and since they were first tracked in the year 2000. In response to these updates, the SEO industry has been forced to evolve, significantly. There has been a much larger shift from link building toward content marketing. While link building is still alive and well, it has also changed. Gone are the days of building lowquality links from directories and other spammy sites that few people will ever “click” on such links from. Good riddance, too, as there is now more true “marketing” happening in the SEO industry. Furthermore, content marketing is believed to be “safer” than link building, perhaps since the Panda algorithm has proven to be much less difficult to recover from in comparison to the Penguin algorithm. However, content can be risky if webmasters don’t ensure their indexation is meeting the quality standards of Google. This article will share insights about perceived causation of penalties (or perhaps more accurately: “de-rankings”) from Google’s Panda algorithm (now part of Google’s
core algorithm, source) and other content “quality” algorithm updates.
DUPLICATED EXTERNAL CONTENT Many sites struggled with the original Panda updates launched by Google during 2012 and 2013 due to content (from other websites) being duplicated on their site, or vice versa. While Google has often told the SEO industry that it does not penalize for duplicate content, many SEO professionals would beg to differ. Here are two examples showing how removing duplicate content (originally sourced from external websites) resulted in recovery of Google Panda de-rankings. Press Release Duplication During the summer of 2012, the editor for DBW (a digital publishing news website) had re-published nearly 500 press releases from external organizations (Apple, etc.). In late April of 2012, the website saw a significant decrease in organic traffic due to Google’s release of Panda 3.6. Once the editor set all of these press releases to “noindex,follow” (via page-level meta robots tags), the site recovered its organic traffic and rankings a few months later (in August), as indicated by the graph below.
The website has experienced much organic search traffic growth since this Panda difficulty (January - March spikes are caused by the company’s annual conference). This shows that recovery and further growth in Google’s good graces is possible. Curation of (Too Many) Duplicated “Snippets” of Content In early 2012, the Six String Soul guitar blog was heavily de-ranked for not only have some duplicated press releases, but also having its core directory pages of (guitar gear companies) loaded with content duplicated from the manufacturers’ websites.
and eventual deletion) also contributed to the recovery. Google was on a tear with penalizing affiliate sites from 2011-2013, particularly.
OVER-OPTIMIZED/LOWER QUALITY INTERNAL CONTENT In 2014, Costa Rica Escapes (a vacation itinerary agency) experienced a setback in Google when Panda 4.1 was launched. Shortly after, high-quality videos were added to the site along with revised copy that was less keyword-rich than previous copy. In a few months, the site got a familiar seasonal traffic boost and continued on a growth path again, until a subtle traffic hit in May 2015 when Google made a “quality” update to its core algorithm. The “Quality” Update was heavily covered by Glenn Gabe, who dubbed it the “Phantom 2” Update.
LACK OF UNIQUE CONTENT/LOW-QUALITY AFFILIATES Once this content was rewritten (and attractive imagery added to further enhance user engagement) a couple years after the de-ranking, the Six String Soul website recovered (in May and October of 2014) after a lengthy lull in Panda updates. This shows that curation of external content is still a risky endeavor (especially if enough unique content isn’t added to complement the duplicate content). The blog discussed above was also loaded with pages where the only content was eBay listings of musical equipment (sourced from eBay Partner Network’s affiliate program). This was likely frowned upon by Google as it didn’t provide unique value to its index and was probably deemed to be “deceptive” by its standards.
This website eventually recovered (at least partially) from the “Quality” update after experiencing another seasonal traffic boost in the first part of the year. While the seasonal somewhat clouded the recovery, it’s clear that organic search traffic was higher a year after the penalty (once the seasonality had subsided). It’s difficult to pinpoint which factors contributed to the recovery, however, it’s a good reminder that it’s worth continuously updating and improving website content. Google will notice! Continuous improvements were made to this website to improve grammar, internal linking, becoming mobile responsive and the addition of in-depth content about where to go in Costa Rica. Those improvements appear to have paid off.
AUDITS, REMOVALS & UPDATES
It’s believed that the removal of this content from Google’s index (via “noindex,follow” meta robots tags,
It’s critical for webmasters and business owners to realize that websites are never “done.” Website content should be seen as a living and breathing entity that deserves continuous attention. Sometimes website content needs to be removed. Sometimes it just needs to be updated. Regardless, website content should be revisited on a semi-regular basis by conducting an audit with an SEO Professional.
Earning Clicks Outside the Knowledge Graph Direct answers in the SERPs don’t signal the end for organic traffic, but SEOs would be wise to follow these five strategies at wsm.co/kgraph5.
Practical Tips for Generating More
WEB CONVERSIONS By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief
The ability of a website to turn browsers into buyers is essential for enterprise success today – without it, there is simply no chance of survival. The good news? It is within your power to influence users, in a positive way, along their path to conversion. Optimizing the digital experience for a consistent stream of conversions, be it the sales of a physical good or the subscription to a digital service, can be a tricky and complicated matter, and the expectations will differ based on one’s role within the enterprise (as well as their experience). In the Web realm and in the digital department of enterprises today, conversion optimization/conversion rate optimization (CRO) is essentially a system for increasing the percentage of visitors that become customers, or more specifically, take the desired action – be it the purchase of a product, the download of a whitepaper, or a sign-up for an email newsletter – that is directed by
the brand on a Web page. In reality, however, conversion optimization is so much more – influenced by analytics, testing, marketing and more. The practice emerged from the need of Web professionals to improve performance, particularly after the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s burst as well as the financial crisis of 2008. Enterprises were no longer willing to throw one good promotional (marketing or advertising) dollar after another into channels that didn’t result in new customers – regardless of how well it seemed to work for others over time (organic search) or how trendy and seemingly appealing it was (social media) to industry experts. Web professionals woke up to the realization that they, and they alone, were responsible for their own success and had ultimate control and power over the experiences they developed, the manner in which they positioned their brands, products and offers and, of course, the results. In many ways, optimizing for conversion demands emphasis on a range of professional digital practices, from
tracking and testing to ongoing development and in today’s incredible digital environs, there is no better way to make positive improvements and the reasons are many and diverse. More importantly, there is a major need for it. According to Econsultancy, just 22 percent of businesses are satisfied with their present conversion rates, but for every $92 dollars spent acquiring customers, only $1 is spent converting them. The reason may just be that the practice is not necessarily simple or straightforward – it’s more science than art in many ways and that can be a challenge for organizations that are more creative than technical. What’s more and again, the practice is the convergence of numerous initiatives – from user experience (UX) design to Web analytics. Fortunately, there is an immense amount of research and best practice guidance available (much of which is featured in our Conversion Corner article each month). There are also incredibly powerful technologies (many of which readers will discover here) that help professionals improve the methods and processes required and, of course, their actual approach – the elements of tests that influence users to take the action set forth or not. There are hundreds of ways that digital experiences can be optimized for conversion and in this month’s feature article readers will discover some of the most effective known in the virtual universe. First, however, it proves useful to establish a foundation for CRO success. And where do you begin?
A FOUNDATION FOR CRO SUCCESS Perhaps the most significant mistake made by those brands looking to optimize their conversion rate is that they simply ignore the foundational elements that are so crucial. Many jump right into testing, for example, when in reality, what they should be concentrating their attention on are all of the preceding steps – including analysis. For example, do you know how specific channels (e.g., organic, social, email) are performing? There’s a reason the phrase “garbage in, garbage out” is common in CRO circles. The customers that websites attract can make or break a brand’s conversion-related success and as a result the source of visits is something that should be continually monitored (if not obsessed about). There’s much more, of course, that should be analyzed, including visitors’ behavior. By engaging in an analysis of visitor behavior, enterprises can discover what is preventing more conversions from taking place. Identifying these pain points means finding the areas or elements of a Web page (or digital experience) that prevent users from completing a conversion – and there are often many (discover five of the most common design barriers to conversion at wsm.co/desprobs). Consider these two specific instances for identifying areas of Web pages that are being ignored or which are too distracting:
Observe how far users scroll on the page, comparing the activity and behavior of different audience segments Determine the form fields that are causing drop-offs and abandonment and driving conversion rate lower There is so much insight that can be gained from studying the user experience that it is not uncommon for most of it to be missed or ignored and that’s unfortunate. The more marketers know about why a user may or may not be converting, the better positioned their brand will be to concentrate its efforts on those elements that demand attention and optimization, avoiding those areas with minimal influence on conversion and conversion rate. Discover additional performance and experience metrics that may be influencing the success of your enterprise at wsm.co/expnos. Ultimately, all the data in the world is not going to mean anything if Web professionals don’t learn from it and put it into action. In the end, what is most important is making something positive happen and in order to do that, some ideas on what can move revenue and engagement metrics in the right direction can mean the virtual world to struggling (and even thriving) brands.
Optimizing for Conversion Only with a strong foundation in analysis is it possible to begin testing because there is no other way to know what can and should be optimized for conversion and the impact a test could potentially have on the success (e.g., revenue or engagement) or failure of an enterprise. Explore several possible testing options and scenarios below and determine (after analyzing your site’s existing performance) if they are right for your enterprise. Check Conversion Rates per Browser: Engage in browser-specific usability testing to identify any barriers to conversion, fixing issues that may prevent users from completing a purchase or taking the desired action.
Social Customer Engagement Efforts Need Work A new Boston Retail Partners report suggests that while social media produces near unlimited opportunities to “create” a memorable and personalized customer shopping experience, most retailers are not executing. In fact, 81 percent of retailers surveyed indicated that their processes need some work. Read more: wsm.co/socialeffort.
Test Content/Color/Placement of Call-to-Action Buttons: The call-to-action (CTA) buttons with two words convert significant higher than those with just one word. Color also plays a significant role in optimizing conversion rates so commit to regular testing of these vital elements. Examine Slow Load Times: Slow loading Web pages do not just reduce user satisfaction, they reduce clicks/engagement and increase lost revenue per user. If there is one effort every brand should make, it should be to speed up their digital presence in any way they can. Test Inclusion/Placement of Reviews: Many shoppers look at product reviews before making a purchase and a majority are likely to purchase from those sites if they feature product ratings and reviews from other users. Including reviews (both positive and negative) at critical conversion points help reinforce the perception that converting is the right choice and the buyer won’t regret their decision. Build Out Product Descriptions: Concentrate efforts on providing detailed descriptions on every product/item featured, addressing quality of the item and the service, pricing and security (reducing prospect/visitor anxiety has been shown repeatedly to increase conversion rates). Feature Shares/Likes as Social Proof: The most common form of social proof is the number of social shares and likes on a piece of content. Make this information viewable and provide the ability for users to share the page as well. Integrate Video on Landing Pages: Products that feature supplementary video content are far more likely to be purchased that those that do not. Recommendations: Test the presence of related products or information and emphasize those which are most popular and which are the best sellers. Prioritize Email on Forms: Collect users’ email addresses early in the form so that should they abandon, it will be possible to still communicate with them later. Also
Big List of Conversion Optimization Links Interested in learning more about each of the scenarios mentioned here? Website Magazine explores these topics regularly and has curated a list of articles explaining each at wsm.co/crolinks.
consider autofill (offered by many Web form management providers including FormStack) as they can increase conversion rates dramatically. Design Matters: Research reveals that websites with low visual complexity and high prototypicality (how representative a design looks for a certain category of websites) were perceived as highly appealing. Test First-Time Conversion Incentives: Offer a reason for users to convert (purchase/sign up) such as free shipping on the first purchase for e-commerce merchants or an information giveaway for publishers. Providing discounts and bonuses ensures the users they are making the right decision as humans tend to compare subsequent options against the one that came first (regular price, then discount price). Offer Payment Options: Offer a variety of payment options for customers and consider the inclusion of alternative payments like Bitcoin or payment models like payments offered by companies like Splitit. Emphasize/De-Emphasize Support: Being available for users when they have questions but aggressively pursuing all users sets a poor precedent as a brand that is overbearing and pushy. There are instances when support is important, but test the strategy your enterprise employs on when and how they offer/present support options. Some brands will benefit from engaging in proactive chat while others should only consider providing personal assistance upon request. Consider Social Login: Most users will simply avoid sites that require a registration process, but many will freely offer up their information if a social login option is presented. Capitalize on the familiarity of Facebook and Google and watch conversion rates skyrocket. The Color of Conversion: While it’s not easy to change a brand’s colors, there are some tests that can be run to ensure they are not negatively impacting conversion rates. For example, test the presence of landing pages’ color palettes depending on the gender of the majority of your audience, or whether items are in short supply or were recently discounted. Capitalize on Authority: People naturally trust authority figures and if a prospective buyer is confident you’re the leader (and the best possible option), they will defer to that person in the future. Consider forming partnerships and taking advantage of thought leadership opportunities (like guest posting) to establish authority and showcase that elevated status at every critical point in the conversion process.
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Personalization: Implementing personalization enables brands to better understand user preferences and develop products based on what interests the user.
ing content management or e-commerce system with ease. Ensuring that a CRO tool makes sense for an enterprise is a foundational element of success with these initiatives.
Rich Snippets Markup: The conversion process starts well before the landing page; considering marking up data such as reviews and ratings to help your listing stand out on the search results page. Another option, and a powerful motivator as it capitalizes on the fear of scarcity, is to showcase the remaining inventory (e.g., the number of items left in stock).
Features/Capabilities: Spend time exploring an enterprise-level CRO tool will make one thing clear – they’re far more powerful than many of the run-of-the-mill offerings. Understanding the need and expectations of CRO initiatives will ensure that companies are not buying more (or less) than they require. Those with a limited amount of traffic, for example, may only require a solution that provides A/B testing and not a multivariate testing offering.
Eliminate Popups: While there is something to be said for getting in front of users and making a direct call-toaction, popups (regardless of what they are presenting) distract, confuse and frustrate users so it’s best to eliminate them altogether from the digital experience (particularly as Google are likely innu- will soon begin penalizing sites which feature them in Jan. 2017).
Increasing the conversion of websites and mobile applications without the support of software is nearly impossible. Take a closer look at some of the best solutions available on the market today and their pros and cons at wsm.co/optionscro.
There merable changes that SHARE YOUR CONVERSION EXPERIENCE CRO TOOLS There are likely innumerable changes that could be could be made to the FOR DIGITAL SUCCESS made to the digital experience put forth by an enterprise digital experience put There’s really no expectation that that can change its fortunes – from shifts in budget to will be able to test (or eliminate poor performing channels, to modifications to forth by an enterprise enterprises implement any of the strategies the online experience. And there are thousands (if not that can change its above) without the help of soft- millions) of instances when putting these changes into ware. In many ways it would be effect has resulted in a positive impact for businesses. fortunes – from shifts impossible without technology, In many ways, it is unfair to profile only a handful of in budget to eliminate and fortunately, there are many instances where conversion optimization has provided powerful solutions available that performance improvements. poor performing chan- are suitable for every size enterAs a result, Website Magazine would like to encourage prise and budget, which make you to share your stories with our editors and the broader nels, to modifications to CRO a viable initiative. Knowing ’Net community and reveal what – the specific tests, the the online experience. what to look for in these offerings, change in process, etc. – made a difference in the Web exhowever, will position a company for success in the future. Brands will want to consider the following when making their selection of these important solutions:
Total Cost of Ownership: From the cost of setting up these systems initially, to any ongoing costs that are required, knowing the total cost of ownership for CRO software solutions is essential. While they can provide an immense return in certain situations, knowing the outof-pocket expense each month will enable an enterprise to plan accordingly. Technology/Support Alignment: Not all systems are right for every enterprise; some solutions are highly sophisticated and require an extensive amount of training and customization, while others can be plugged in to an exist-
perience for your business. Submit your stories of success with Website Magazine and its community of ’Net professionals – email our editorial team at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us with the hashtag #CROctober – and we’ll profile the most interesting stories so we can all generate better results from the digital experience.
Start Converting Every Web professional, from the data scientists to the digital designer, should be concerned with helping their enterprise maximize conversion on the ’Net. While there is plenty of guidance on generating traffic to websites – just explore some of Website Magazine’s past issues – there is surprisingly little about optimizing the experience when they arrive, but we hope this month’s feature article has encouraged you to go beyond the psychology and explore the myriad opportunities available to drive more conversion from a ’Net presence.
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Getting Smarter About Business Intelligence Tools By Glenys Salas, Ai Media Group
Business intelligence (BI) and its mathematical cousin business analytics (BA) are the hottest words on the street these days. Along with the buzz, a veritable garden of self-service business intelligence software applications has blossomed overnight, promising to end our addiction to boring spreadsheets in favor of interactive canvases that “bring data to life.” Burning with report envy because Facebook keeps showing you ads with hipster business managers presenting Picasso-like visualizations? Vaguely suspicious that it’s all just hype from overfunded start-ups? Too busy to try out half a dozen different software applications? Here’s a helpful guide to three powerful and popular business intelligence software applications.
Although it’s never been particularly sexy software, Microsoft Office’s Excel application is the oldest business intelligence tool still in use today. The advantages of Excel include nearly universal adoption, flexibility, a rich portfolio of mathematical functions, and basic charts and graphs. Since Excel has been on the market for so many years, there is also a wealth of information available in online forums around the Web. In the majority of use
cases, Excel is the simplest and fastest tool to mine data and find answers. If most of a Web professional’s efforts involve one-off calculations or the odd chart for their boss, this article isn’t for them. Those still with me may be facing one or more of the following circumstances where Excel fails as an optimal business intelligence tool: Lots of data coming in from external sources or different databases Existing internal reporting tools are too broad to be efficient or helpful Complex budgets that have to be managed daily or weekly Massive Excel Spreadsheet with VLOOKUP/SUMIF/ COUNTIF/Reference Tabs/Multiple Pivot Tables Constant re-selection of the source data for charts in current reports Too much time spent on managing a spreadsheet and no time doing their job There are dozens of business intelligence options out there that can help professionals out with these issues,
but to save time we’ve selected our two favorites for more complex needs.
As the oldest BI tool in use today, Excel certainly still has its place in data-driven enterprises.
Watson analytics is by far the easiest and most enjoyable business intelligence software. It’s a “freemium” model that allows users to upload up to a maximum 500MB of data, 100K rows or 50K columns without paying a penny. The software works best for data with lots of columns containing qualitative information. Some examples include survey data, customer relationship management (CRM) databases or customer marketing lists. There is almost no set-up time and the software even makes recommendations for the best charts and graphs most companies need. Since Watson Analytics is powered by some of the same text-processing software that beat human beings at Jeopardy, make sure data points and column headers are in natural language with no abbreviations to get the best performance. The main drawback is the data that is uploaded has to be contained in a single table.
With little set-up time, Watson Analytics is a good choice for marketers looking for recommendations and great charts.
Power BI is Microsoft’s contribution to the business intelligence software game. A user’s online account is free for up to a gig of storage and the downloadable desktop application is completely free for unlimited amounts of data, although marketers do lose some of the handy sharing and community features of the online application. Power BI is best described as a combination of Excel and Access (or any other structured database software). Data is loaded in as tables, which can be linked in a re-
lationship view, just like any other structured database. Users can look at the physical tables in the tables view to vet the data and set up their source data in whatever structured format makes them the happiest. A fully normalized structured database gets users the best bang for interactivity in the visualizations, but may cost enterprises something in performance. Charts and graphs are as easy as simply dragging the columns of info needed from the Table menu onto the canvas view and clicking around in options. Users can utilize their keys or dimensions for filters and every chart on the canvas adjusts at a click of the mouse. For visualizations beyond the ones that come with the tool, Power BI has made its software open source so any programmer can build a custom visualization. Updates are rolled out every couple of months, but they are not fully debugged, so save often. For light users, the drag-and-drop interface and popups will be more than sufficient to get them something useful and fun to use. If they want to go deeper, they’ll have to get ready to learn not one, but two programming languages. The tables and formulas in the data model are written in DAX (very similar to the formula language in Excel) while the queries are written in M Power Query. Users will want to take their time to work their way through the video and content in the “Learn” section of the Power BI site. If they have some extra time, we also recommend taking the edx.org online Intro to Power BI class.
Power BI works for both light and heavy users to build visualizations.
Finding the right business intelligence tool is not a simple process and there are literally hundreds of solutions available with varying degrees of complexity. The right solution for your enterprise depends on what criteria are most important (e.g., exploration or analysis) and the learning curve tolerance. Spend some time determining what is most important for your needs and you will be headed in the right direction.
Glenys Salas serves as senior media analyst at Ai Media Group where she interprets and translates large quantities of data into information people can understand.
CORNER Why Web Conventions Win:
3 Things Every Marketer Needs to Think About By Marty Greif, SiteTuners
There are some website owners that just don’t care about conventions. Take 10 seconds to look at the Warren Buffett-led Berkshire Hathaway site, a website for one of the largest companies in the world, and it becomes clear this isn’t a mistake only small companies make. Outright dismissal of Web conventions is something that is seen in organizations of all sizes.
Ignoring website conventions is not a mistake that only small companies make.
Half of the brain is devoted to processing visual information. This means that before a visitor reads one word on the website, they’ve already formed an opinion. The brain can only take so much cognitive load. The structure of the brain hasn’t changed very much in the past 50,000 years, but life has gotten much, much more complex. The brain’s solution? It uses shortcuts to process information. All human brains work that way. Now, what does that mean for marketers? If brains are highly dependent on visuals, and they rely on shortcuts to get the job done, then Web conventions allow brains to process websites efficiently. The backbone behind all this is predictability. Once users have observed certain patterns enough – element positions on websites, navigation bar behaviors and the like – they can generalize that’s how things usually work. It’s a short leap from “predictable” to “easy to use.” Conversely, something as simple as moving the logo to the center can throw people off and get them to make mistakes.
1. Logo Positioning It’s an easy mistake to make. Whether aiming to stand out or just plain doubt the value of conventions in Web design, brands wouldn’t be alone if they broke a best practice or two. To understand why the conventions are important, and to ensure that those that matter most are followed, it is important to understand a few things about the way brains process information.
The Human Brain and Predictability Web marketers need to understand these main components about the brain:
As more and more websites need to deal with the rising number of mobile visitors, an interesting trend is taking shape: sites are starting to reserve the top-left section of the website for the hamburger menu, and putting their logos at the center, even for the desktop site. That’s a mistake. It’s important to remember that the brain likes to take shortcuts, and people spend a vast majority of their time on other websites, not just the one they’re currently visiting. In one study by the Nielsen Norman Group, the company found that people trying to get back to the homepage are six times more likely to make mistakes
when the logo isn’t at the top-left, as is the convention. Website owners like to think that people will adapt to changes like this, but the competition is a click away. Removing unnecessary friction between a user and the conversion is job number one. Mistakes like these just get in the way of smooth navigation, and in some cases, can cost the company actual sales conversions.
3. Product Page Elements above the Fold Some companies mix up the product detail page because they’ve been pretty much the same since the early Amazon days, especially above the fold: Big hero shot of the product on the left side Pricing and discounts right next to the image Large call-to-action (CTA) on the right
2. Exposed Navigation Bar on Desktops Speaking of mistakes people make when responding to the rise of smartphones, a lot of companies have started to hide the primary navigation behind a hamburger menu on their desktop presence. The idea is that it’s a mobile-first world, and people who don’t use hamburger menus are behind the curve. This is a mistake. An exposed navigation bar on the desktop site serves multiple purposes: It allows people who take mental shortcuts to easily consume and process information (remember, the brain likes to take shortcuts)
Putting It All Together It takes marketers who know psychology to run great websites. Stakeholders can usually spot these traits in good online marketers:
It makes the website easier to scan It reduces the time and effort for visitors to get from one place to another The hamburger menu is a fantastic tool on small screens, where there’s not enough space to display the primary navigation elements. The space used for website controls (the chrome) should be used for the actual page text and images (the content). This is a balance that should be carefully controlled: the chrome to content ratio. On mobile, marketers can sacrifice the user’s ability to scan, the ability to take mental shortcuts and the overall effort to navigate pages to gain the space brands need to display the content. On desktops, where there’s enough space to display more of the navigation elements, the primary navigation bar provides immense value. Exposed navigation bars are valuable conventions, even in 2016. Marketers shouldn’t get rid of them despite the pull of looking trendy.
They are at least a little bit obsessed with the user’s cognitive load. If an element on the page needs to get moved to an unconventional area, the mental tax the user will have to endure is always part of the conversation. They control visual elements on a page pretty tightly, and they stray from existing conventions only when the gains are incredibly compelling (like hamburger menus for mobile screens, which is in turn becoming its own convention). Keep in mind that users are highly visual, and that they need mental shortcuts to process a website efficiently. If design arguments typically account for those two things, marketers, and the brands that employ them, usually end up with a pretty usable site. Martin Greif brings 25-plus years of sales and marketing experience to SiteTuners, where he is responsible for driving revenue growth, establishing and nurturing partner relationships and creating value for SiteTuners’ broad customer base.
Once users have observed certain patterns enough – element positions on websites, navigation bar behaviors and the like – they can generalize that’s how things usually work.
It’s a mistake to center website logos as visitors make shortcuts in their brains, looking for the logos in the upper left-hand corner.
Marketers should resist the urge to mess with those elements, especially the ones seen without scrolling. For starters, the product detail page is the wrong pace for bells and whistles. By the time visitors get that deep into a site, they have displayed some measure of intent. The last thing marketers want is to distract them from reviewing an offering by showing unconventional features or mix-and-match design. Marketers should get them focused on their task, and the best way to do that is to follow conventions. Secondly, when users navigate familiar-looking pages, they can go on auto-pilot. If they are not on auto-pilot when reviewing the page that actually makes a company money, the website is straining their cognitive load. Perhaps as importantly, marketers are jeopardizing conversions.
5 Reasons Synthetic Monitoring is More Important than Ever By Dennis Callaghan, Director of Industry Innovation at Catchpoint Systems
Synthetic monitoring, also known as active or proactive monitoring, is hardly new. It’s been around almost as long as the commercial World Wide Web, but the importance of monitoring the performance and availability of a Web app by automating user interactions with that application, from around the globe, has never been more important. Let’s look at some of the reasons this technology, more than 20 years old now, is not only more relevant than ever but also vital to the success of digital businesses:
IT’S PREDICTIVE Predictive analytics – that is, analyzing business or IT operations data to predict future performance – has gotten a lot of hype over the last decade. These tools, however, have mostly failed to live up to that hype, either because they’re difficult to use, easy to misinterpret, require costly computing power or are not very accurate. Their power is limited by the amount of false positives they tend to generate. Synthetic monitoring doesn’t rely on complex predictive algorithms, it doesn’t take a data scientist with a Ph.D to interpret the results and it doesn’t require additional spending on IT infrastructure. What it does is predict, to a fair degree of accuracy, how an application will perform in which geographies and isolate the root cause of any detected bottlenecks.
IT CAN GO ANYWHERE YOUR APPLICATIONS GO When most people think about synthetic monitoring, they think about monitoring customer-facing websites. While this remains the most prominent use case, the reality today is that synthetic monitoring can go wherever applications go. Any
network-connected, online application (be it a pointof-sale system in a brick-and-mortar retail store, an inventory control application in a warehouse, a customer service application in a call center or a SaaS application in a data center) can benefit from synthetic monitoring.
IT’S ABOUT MORE THAN AVAILABILITY The earliest use cases showed how fast pages were loading, but today’s synthetic monitoring technologies can do that and so much more. They test every object on the page including third-party content and tags. Every Web host supporting synthetic monitoring in the 1990s didn’t tell companies much more than whether the site was up or down. Then they evolved to the pages, every API the Web application uses, every level of Internet infrastructure delivering the experience to the end-user, including internal and external DNS services and content delivery networks.
IT’S ABOUT RELIABILITY When a site is unavailable, timing out or so slow that customers go elsewhere, then the site is unreliable. If this happens at a business-critical moment such as Cyber Monday or during a major news event, this could negatively impact an entire year for a company. Synthetic monitoring and the continuous testing capabilities it offers is the best way to ensure Web applications are reliable. No applications are immune from performance issues. This is especially true today with all of the complex infrastructure and integrations that support Web application delivery. By peeling back the onion and having visibility into how an application is performing and all of the factors that affect that performance, businesses can get ahead of any problems and preserve their customer experience. Their customers will see them as a trusted, reliable brand with whom they will continue to engage.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE END-USER Last June, Gartner announced the results of its survey on how important application performance monitoring (APM) was and what was the most important part of APM. Of the 61 percent of respondents who found APM either “important” or “critical,” a plurality (46 percent) chose end-user experience monitoring as the most critical dimension of APM. A similar plurality (49 percent) cited “enhance customer experience quality” as the most important reason for deploying APM. There are of course multiple ways to monitor and manage the end-user experience, but only synthetic can truly test the end-user experience and help brands catch errors before their customers, the lifeblood of a business, are impacted.
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The 4 I’s of Instagram Stories By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor
When social media first emerged, it allowed current and potential customers to get a glimpse into a company’s personality, staff, office space and more from behind-the-scenes. That transparency has increased ten-fold with brands taking to Facebook Live, Snapchat and, most recently, Instagram Stories where brands can present raw versions of themselves. Real-time content has its advantages in that audiences get a more authentic experience than almost any other social format. Can things go wrong? Of course, but brands are already finding some engaging ways to influence, inform, inspire and interact on Instagram, while staying on-brand.
Brands will need to remember Instagram Stories are not a one-way channel. Fans can send messages directly from the story.
The goal of content marketing is to engage audiences over time to build relationships. Often the messages subtly influence readers to buy, sign-up, subscribe (whatever a conversion looks like for that company). Customers will be turned off by overly promotional messaging, of course, but they understand the premise of their relationship with a brand. Including some text that influences them to stop by a real estate agent’s open house, for instance, like LA-based brokerage The Agency does in one of its “stories” is smart considering the breathtaking images it includes of the property in question. The next time the viewer needs a luxury realtor, The Agency will likely be top of mind. Another way to influence Instagram followers is to occasionally include testimonials in a brand’s story. An on-the-spot 10-second
review (or more if clips are taken consecutively) could be extremely persuasive for social media followers who have yet to convert. Since it takes most people seeing a product or service 2-4 times on social before they convert (Sprout Social, 2016), bite-size videos can aid in product discovery.
INFORM Instagram Stories may only be collections of clips up to 10 seconds in length, but there’s no reason tutorials can’t be presented back to back in order to inform audiences in various ways. The FabFitFun box company, for instance, offers do-it-yourself beauty tutorials, which are on-brand, casual and fun. The number of possibilities for quick informational posts is endless. Brands will want to look to existing content that is already popular and repurpose it in an Instagram clip. The beauty of stories is that the end product is not biased to larger brands. Stories don’t need to be professionally shot, as everyone is using a smartphone to capture in-the-moment experiences.
INSPIRE Pictures of a hackathon? Clips of a workout regimen? There are so many ways to inspire audiences to take action and understand a brand’s message. Orange County-based Cut Fitness, for instance, posts clips of its members working out and quick photos of some of its daily challenges (see image).
INTERACT The hope that stories would help boost organic reach for brands struggling to have their messages seen quickly vanished with Instagram confirming it is using an algorithm to decide which order the stories appear – relying on engagement signals from its news feed. Brands will want to consistently post to Instagram, not neglecting the more traditional news feed even with the appeal that the stories feature offers. What’s more, Instagram direct messages can be sent from within stories, so companies will want to make sure they monitor those interactions and respond accordingly.
SHARE YOUR STORY While it’s important to respect the authentic, real-time nature of stories, brands can leverage them to influence, inform, inspire and interact whether that’s with quick tutorials using back-to-back clips or calling audiences to an event. Companies will want to remember that stories are better imperfect, so include those raw pictures, innocent video mess-ups, etc., as engagement will likely be better off for a less-formal look at a brand.
MARKETING Master Plan:
WRITING FOR THE WEB By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief
The secret to content marketing success? Know the reader. Writing about a topic that you’re completely unfamiliar with is a recipe for digital disaster.
ones. What potential Web visitors are looking for is information and specific education on a particular topic. For this reason, marketers will want to commit to providing at least one paragraph (regardless of the topic) to explain why the topic is important, or how the situation evolved. This provides much needed context to the reader and builds the writer’s (and the outlet’s) authority. Another way to provide context is to connect the content to the needs of the reader; this can be done by answering questions they might have. For example, why is this important to me?
Be Critical (or Outrageous): Up to this point, most
Let’s look at other factors in a master plan for writing Web content:
content developers can say they are pretty responsible; they care about the reader; they share what’s happening with those readers; and they’re working hard to publish first. Now that they understand those fundamentals, they must realize this: brands need to be memorable to make an impression. It’s not enough just to provide information. People’s attention needs to be captured so marketers should be critical of things, make outrageous suggestions and provide outlandish alternatives. Whatever they can do to make someone sit up and take notice will benefit the success of content initiatives.
Monitor Topics Closely: The amount of information
Remain Sensitive: It is, of course, easier to make en-
published on the Web each day is overwhelming. While the audience members (customer base) are really those who should drive content development, the media gatekeepers (and they exist for every vertical) have their own opinions, which is why it is so important to keep track of what specific outlets, and, more so, specific authors and influencers are writing about. Content marketers will likely find hundreds of information sources so in order to manage and maintain, they should consider using a feedreader like Feedly.
emies than friends, so companies should be very careful about the words they use, what they are being critical about and the tone they take. It is a best practice to avoid sensitive subject matter (religion, politics) of course as it only calls unnecessary attention. Unless a marketer likes hate mail and managing comment spam, they should try to be sensitive to the plights and preferences of others, and just avoid some topics.
There’s simply no way to make a connection with an audience if the writer doesn’t know what they are talking about because readers can actually sense it. By knowing the needs, wants and problems of a prospective visitor, content developers are able to create articles, whitepapers, landing page copy, ebooks and more that make a difference and compel action.
Move Quickly: Information is not only published in great quantity, but it is also being published very rapidly. When news breaks, someone, somewhere is already typing away at their keyboard. In order to compete these days, content developers have two options (1) focus on the timeless or (2) the timely. If choosing the latter, being first obviously matters most. Keep in mind that this is not an endeavor suited to perfectionists. Publish quickly and go back repeatedly as more ideas or content emerges that further supplement the content.
Provide Context: Selecting topics that resonate with an audience and being first are two important parts of Web content writing, but they are far from the only
Push The Brand: The most common failure in most content development initiatives is not finding a way to connect the content to the brand (the one ultimately paying for its development and promotion). Marketers need to consider how each content item they create compels readers to take action and develop creative ways to include next steps. This might include linking to a related page (great for increasing time on site and pageview metrics) or suggesting a resource (ideally directing users to a lead form of some sort).
Connect, Compel & Create The rise of content marketing has made publishers out of all brands large and small, and across all industries, so marketers would be wise to know their readers and develop content accordingly.
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The 5 Scariest Strategies That Email Marketers Are Still Using By EJ McGowan, Campaigner
As autumn creeps on, so begins the season for ghosts and goblins, but for marketers gearing up for holiday campaigns, poor email strategies can be the scariest thought of all. When technology advances, so do email marketing best practices, yet some marketers are reluctant to innovate their strategies. While getting an email campaign up and running in the first place can be rather simple – finding a provider, creating a list and sending messages – the frightening part is continuously putting in work to manage, refine and improve campaigns moving forward. If marketers are slow to adopt new email strategies, the trick is on them; antiquated emails run the risk of degrading brand recognition and reducing email marketing return on investment (ROI). Read on to discover how outdated email marketing strategies could be scaring your contacts.
1. Ghastly Graphics
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Emails that contain only images can be a red flag for the spam filter. While this strategy may have creative intentions, it can, in actuality, lower a campaign’s deliverability rate. When creating emails, aim for a good balance of text and images as this will help ensure more emails reach their intended targets and also boost interaction rates.
2. Startling CTAs
When email marketing was in its infancy, the school of thought was that it was best to maximize the messaging that recipients see every time they open an email. Eventually, this strategy led to emails that included numerous calls-to-action (CTAs), which was overwhelming for readers.
To prevent recipient distraction, each message should contain a clear, singular CTA (e.g., taking advantage of a sale, signing up for a newsletter, completing a survey or following the brand on social media).
3. Morbid Amounts of Messages
Similarly, early email marketers were under a spell that led them to believe the more emails, the better. Because email is the most effective form of marketing in terms of ROI, many professionals today are still sending emails at a frequency that is too high for their recipients’ liking. To avoid this pitfall, brands will want to use segmentation to send just the right message at the right time to the right audience (see sidebar).
4. Petrifying Purchased Lists
As terrifying as it is to think that marketers are still buying lists of contacts who have never chosen to receive emails from their brands, this strategy is still in place at many companies. This approach is not only ineffective, but it also comes with the risk of getting banned by email service providers (ESPs). Large ESPs have sophisticated technology that can detect honeypots – decoy email addresses set up just to catch habitual spammers – which are often included in purchased lists. This sticky situation should be avoided by utilizing lists comprised only of contacts who originally opted in to receive emails from the brand.
5. Other Worldly Open-Rate Obsessions
Since opens are the first interaction between brands and contacts, many marketers use open rates as their only indication of a campaign’s success. While open rates are certainly helpful to monitor, other key performance indicators (KPIs) should not be ignored. When measuring email success, a superior indicator to monitor is click-through rate (CTR). This data will not only indicate how many people opened the email, but, more importantly, how many people were intrigued by the content on the inside.
Skip the Tricks
If you are currently implementing any of the strategies outlined above, abandon them immediately and adopt newer strategies that will help campaigns reap greater rewards. EJ McGowan, general manager of Campaigner, has more than 25 years of experience in the software industry with expertise in building highly available, scalable SaaSbased solutions.
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How Will Retailers Win This Holiday Season? By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor
There is little doubt that the e-commerce industry will enjoy the success of holidays past and likely set new records for digital (desktop and mobile) sales. Just because the potential is there, however, doesn’t mean all retailers will benefit. There are critical elements, processes and strategies that need to be implemented in order to “win” this holiday season, and those that listen to the experts and put their guidance in place will be those positioned for success. Website Magazine caught up with several industry thought leaders to get their take on how retailers will win this holiday season. What is their advice and guidance for the busiest shopping season of the year? “Listening to customers before sending a first promotional communication and using insights from various channels to inform their strategy.” ~Bonnie Malone, senior director, professional services North America at Return Path “Catering to unmet needs with flexible delivery options, curated experiences and giving consumers’ greater choice, control and convenience.”
“This season, target Millennials on mobile: 28% of Gen Y purchase for holidays on smartphones and top eretailers make 50+% sales on mobile.” ~ Harris Bernstein, vice president of account strategy at Criteo “For true omnichannel experiences this holiday season, retailers need to bridge the gap for customers between physical and digital shopping.” ~ Jamie Anderson, senior vice president, marketing for SAP Hybris “Over 90% of mobile time spent is in apps. Apps are a key way retailers can reach customers directly on their device during the holidays.” ~Fabien-Pierre Nicolas, vice president, marketing & communications at App Annie “Retailers that anticipate, adapt and align to shifting customer expectations throughout the order and fulfillment lifecycle will be victors this holiday season.” ~Shane Desrochers, vice president, digital commerce and retail analytics for Aptos, Inc. “You don’t have to focus on acquiring new customers. Use customer data to segment email lists w/personalized offers based on past purchases.” ~Elan Sherbill, industry blogger @ElanSherbill
~Stefan Weitz, chief product and strategy officer for Radial “Retailers win with on-site, real-time tools that enable shoppers to discover items that they, and their friends, really want at POS.” ~Berkley Bowen, CEO and founder of Berkley Bowen
“Back-end databases must be able to handle millions of concurrent checkouts or retailers risk repeating the high-profile “add to cart” #primedayfail story.” ~Jose Santa Ana, senior director of product marketing at Clustrix.
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The ability of a website to turn browsers into buyers is essential for enterprise success today – without it, there is simply no chance of s...