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21 Essential (And Free) PPC Tools,

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MAY 2014

Bright Ideas for

Performance Marketing Inside This Issue...

>> Search Result Trends to Watch >> User-Experience Checklist >> QUIZ TIME! Tech Jargon in Focus Plus: 50 Top Web Customer Service Solutions


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Cover Story

Bright Ideas for

Performance Marketing

Despite many in the digital world's negative view of the affiliate industry, top-notch performance marketers — and the networks and advertisers that support them — are fueling a multi-billion dollar industry and leveraging sophisticated technologies and strategies to prove the critics wrong and make a few bucks doing so.

Explore Website Magazine’s

Departments

30

Spotlight: Rakuten LinkShare Get a closer look at one of the top affiliate networks in performance marketing.

32

So Long Big Data!

Learn how this global brand tackles social’s challenges and opportunities (and how you can too).

38

State of the New gTLDs

Frequent Buyer's Club

Follow these tips to generate more repeat, regular website conversions.

|

Discover 21 Web-based tools to improve your pay-per-click advertising campaigns.

Hard Rock Cafe's Social Story

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MAY 2014

Enterprise Ready: Website Accessibility 101

12

Small Business Lab: User-Experience Checklist

13

Quiz Time: Test Your Tech Vocabulary

14

50 Top: Web Customer Service Solutions

16

Mastering Search: SERP Trends in Focus

18

Design & Development Digest: Front-End Frameworks to Know

Free PPC Advertising Tools

34

Web and application analytics are becoming more meaningful to 'Net professionals.

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Find out which of the new domain extensions are burning up, and which are flaming out.

E-Commerce Express: 20 Managing Customer Reviews

40 Commentary: Quit Changing the World?

Get the Digital Scoop Check out Website Magazine’s email newsletters covering e-commerce, search, SoLoMo, design and more at wsm.co/webscoop.


Website Magazine

>>>Resource Center FINELY FOCUSED INFORMATION FROM INDUSTRY SPONSORS Website Magazine’s Resource Center presents white papers from our sponsors that provide information, specifics, and metrics to help you make decisions for website success. Download free at www.WebsiteMagazine.com/resources.

Account-Based Marketing

Intro to Email Marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach to lead generation in which you can target your campaigns to specific customers, from the moment they land on your website. Sponsored by Marketo

Email is one of the most powerful and effective tools in marketing. That’s because email is the preferred mode of communication for today’s buyer. According to Waldow Social, 77% of buyers prefer to receive marketing communications via email. Sponsored by Act-On

Sales Tax Tips for Small Businesses

How Owners can Rock the Google Results Page

It seems that sales tax compliance has never been more complicated. To help your small business achieve greater success and security, we offer you 12 sales tax tips. Each tip was selected by an Avalara sales tax expert, and is designed to help you stay on top of the ever-shifting sales tax landscape. Sponsored by Avalara

As a consumer, one of the first things you do when beginning to shop for an item is “Google it.” We all like the immediacy and are used to having information at our fingertips in the blink of an eye.

Responsive Design & The Mobile E-Commerce Revolution

A Buyer’s Guide to Social Media Management Software

Chances are that you have recently heard about Responsive Web Design and the fact that you’re reading this means you’re interested in learning more. At its core, Responsive design actively changes the layout of the website to adapt to the width of the viewport. Sponsored by Redstage

Trends & Strategies for the Commerce Marketer

How will you maximize sales this year? What new strategies and automation tactics should you implement? With the constant evolution of commerce marketing, online retailers need to find new ways to reach customers and keep them engaged. Sponsored by Bronto

Sponsored by Channel Advisor

In many ways social media has made a marketer’s life better. Unfortunately, better doesn’t always mean easier. Social media management could best be described as herding cats – there are so many channels to manage, and within each of them, a wealth of comments and data to monitor and react to. Sponsored by Rignite

Publisher’s Guide to Growing Online Ad Revenue

This paper explores the changes publishers should implement to grow revenue and maximize yield. Until publishers enable all of their demand channels to compete for their inventory at the same time, in the same place, they can’t maximize the yield from each impression. Sponsored by OpenX


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Toll Free:1.800.577.1165 | International: 1.773.283.0086 2

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JUNE 2014


F R O M T H E E D I TO R

With Peter Prestipino

Bright Ideas for Content Performance Like all forms of digital marketing, the affiliate channel has its challenges for both publishers and advertisers. Fortunately, the two groups are coming together, redefining the performance marketing industry thanks to more mature technologies and more evolved approaches to marketing and communication.

Visit Website Magazine at these Internet industry tradeshows. Learn more on these and other events at www.WebMag.co.

eTail Canada May 5-7 Toronto, ON IRCE June 10-14 Chicago, IL Conversion Conference June 17-19 Chicago, IL WebRTC IV June 17-19 Atlanta, GA Future Stores June 23-25 Seattle, WA DevCon 5/HTML5 July 9-10 New York City, NY

Associate Editor Allison Howen’s feature article in this May 2014 issue identifies several practical approaches to succeeding with affiliate/performance marketing for both advertisers and publishers, addressing the significant, seemingly omnipresent challenges and exposing some of the most lucrative opportunities in the market today. This issue also offers our reader community access to information on a range of topics important in the world of ’Net business today. Internet professionals will find articles on website accessibility, user experience, customer support solutions, design frameworks, digital advertising tools, analytics offerings and more. Website Magazine’s editors have even included a few new resources to help readers accelerate their digital success, such as “Quiz Time.” Enjoy the May 2014 issue of Website Magazine and be sure to visit us on the ‘Net for daily coverage of all the news that matters to your Web success. And finally, please follow us on popular social networks like Twitter (@websitemagazine), Facebook (facebook.com/websitemagazine), and Google+ (plus.google.com/+Websitemagazine) to share your thoughts about what you’ve read in these pages and how your bright ideas are making the digital world a better place. Best Web Wishes,

Peter Prestipino — Editor-in-Chief, Website Magazine Peter@WebsiteMagazine.com

The Magazine for Website Success Reaching the largest audience of Web professionals of any Internet industry publication 999 E. Touhy Ave., Des Plaines, IL 60018 Toll Free: 1.800.817.1518 International: 1-773-628-2779 Fax: 1-773-272-0920

PUBLISHER: Susan Whitehurst susan@websitemagazine.com EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Peter Prestipino peter@websitemagazine.com GENERAL MANAGER: David Ruiz druiz@websitemagazine.com MANAGING EDITOR: Amberly Dressler adressler@websitemagazine.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Allison Howen ahowen@websitemagazine.com *CONTRIBUTORS: Carin van Vuuren Michelle Wicmandy ART DIRECTOR: Janet Crouch www.grafikadesign.net GRAPHIC DESIGNERS: Jesse Erbach jesse@websitemagazine.com Shannon Rickson shannon@websitemagazine.com ADVERTISING: Kelly Springer kspringer@websitemagazine.com Brian Wallace brian@websitemagazine.com Bill Scothorn bscothorn@websitemagazine.com Barry Cohen bcohen@websitemagazine.com SUBSCRIPTIONS: Sandra Woods sandra@websitemagazine.com

Access the May 2014 issue at wsm.co/wmmay14 or by scanning the QR code below.

ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS: • Website Magazine editors share statistics about digital investment in “MarComm,” p. 9

Website Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 8, May 2014, (ISSN# 1942-0633) is published 12 times a year with monthly issues from January to 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

• Carin van Vuuren provides tips on how to make websites accessible, p. 10

Copyright 2014 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.

• Michelle Wicmandy defines a plan for managing user reviews, p. 20

*The opinions expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of Website Magazine.

www.WebsiteMagazine.com

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MAY 2014


JUNE 10-13, 2014

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THE GIFT OF

Pinterest wants consumers to visit its social network the next time they are in a gift-giving mood with the launch of its new

Gmail Gets Visual

Gifts Feed. The social pinboard's new feed

If Google gets its way, the email inbox of the future will be

showcases products that are available for

much more visual. The company is trying out a new version

purchase and displays important details like

of Gmail that lets users view emails, grouped in the Promo-

pricing, availability and where the products

tions tab, in a visual grid. While the layout is currently just a

can be purchased online. Advertisers look-

test, the feature has the potential to shake up the email marketing industry, as it will enable marketers to leverage visual content to entice users to open messages in addition to

ing to have their products show up in this feed must be using Rich Pins.

subject lines. For further reading, visit wsm.co/gmailgrid.

SOCIAL…REDESIGNED Both Facebook and Twitter got ready for spring by sprucing up the design of their social networks. The most significant updates to Facebook’s design include font changes and more prominent images. Twitter’s redesign, on the other hand, actually makes the social network look a lot more like Facebook (see image). For example, the redesign showcases larger profile and header images and offers new functionality, like “pinned” and “best” tweets that highlight certain tweets on a user’s profile.

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MAY 2014


Do you have an “Award Winning” Website? Prove it!

Best of Industry Your Name Here

18th Annual Call for Entries 5.30.14 Deadline W W W . W E B A W A R D . O R G


m o b i l e a p p wa tc h

Google+ users can now see exactly how popular they are on the social network, thanks to a new view count report. The feature provides the number of times that content has been seen by followers, including photos, posts and the page itself — going back all the way to Oct. 2012. Users who do not want to reveal their Google+ view count can opt to hide this metric from their page.

Search Gets Personal In an effort to bring richer, more interactive

The digital professionals of 2014 can connect with work at a moment’s notice — thanks in large part to mobile devices. Be prepared for any task that comes your way by equipping your device with some of these productivity apps:

Microsoft Office for iPad Microsoft has finally launched Office for iPad, enabling Office 365 subscribers to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote apps directly from their Apple tablets. Anyone will be able to view documents through the apps, but only subscribers will have the ability to create and edit documents.

search results to its users, Bing has added more than 150 million new “entities” to its Satori knowledge engine, the technology that powers the company’s Snap-

Klout

shot search results. As a result, when users search for a medical professional,

Klout introduced a new version of its iOS app that aims to unify the platform’s mobile and desktop experiences. The app offers users a personalized content stream which recommends articles based on the activity of the user’s friends and followers. This content can be shared, as well as supplemented with original images and location information.

for example, they will be provided with a Snapshot that includes information like the professional’s specialty, experience, education, address and phone number.

IFTTT for iPad

Listrak is expanding its digital marketing services beyond email with the launch of a new retailer-focused personalization engine dubbed Recommender. The solution allows e-commerce merchants to create and share personalized content across channels, including email, Web, mobile and social. Retailers using Listrak's Recommender are able to control the products that are promoted and how they are presented to consumers. Plus, the platform personalizes email campaigns at the time of open so that subscribers receive a personal experience with up-to-date content.

More ’Net News • Instagram’s user base is active, to say the least. Take a look at the social network’s stats by visiting wsm.co/gramstats • A significant portion of display ads aren’t being seen by consumers. See how many are “invisible” at wsm.co/notviewable • Turns out, consumers LOVE mobile apps. Find out how much time they spend in them at wsm.co/applove14

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Popular automation service IFTTT, which enables users to create "recipes," which connect different Web services for digital task automation (like posting a Twitter message with each published blog post), has arrived on the iPad. The redesigned iOS app, created to work on the larger screens of iPads (in addition to iPhones), now gives users the ability to add push notifications in their recipes and includes a new iOS Photos Trigger that works with photos taken within a specific area. Gneo Tidy up your to-do list with the Gneo app, which enables users to create tasks and organize them based on importance and urgency. Gneo features a Forecast view that combines a user’s calendar and to-do tasks for better planning, as well as leverages follow-ups and reminders to make sure tasks aren’t overlooked.


S TAT

W AT C H

Investing in “MarComm” 105%

Last year, brands spent 105 percent more on mobile ads, worldwide. This new figure from eMarketer is just one indication that investment in "MarComm" (marketing communication) is skyrocketing. What's more, mobile is on pace to rise another 75 percent to $31.45 billion in 2014 (up from $19.96 billion), accounting for nearly 25 percent of total digital ad spending globally. Facebook and Google can largely be credited with the growth in mobile ad spend; combined, the two companies saw net mobile ad revenues increase by $6.92 billion, claiming 75 percent of the additional ad spend that went toward mobile in 2013. eMarketer predicts, however, that Google’s mobile advertising market share will drop below 50 percent in 2014, as Facebook continues its rapid expansion. It likely doesn't come as a surprise to Internet professionals that their peers are investing so heavily in the social network's mobile offerings, as Facebook reports 945 million monthly active users have used its mobile products as of Dec. 31, 2013 (an increase of 39 percent year-over-year). Facebook also indicates that mobile advertising profits represented approximately 53 percent of advertising revenue in Q4 2013, up from approximately 23 percent from Q4 2012. “It was a great end to the year for Facebook,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO. “We’re looking forward to our next decade and to helping connect the rest of the world.” Find more useful data at WebsiteMagazine.com or by scanning the QR code below.

73%

Business to business marketers are buying into content in a big way. Seventy-three percent of B2B organizations have someone in place to oversee content marketing strategy and an equal amount of them are producing more content than they did one year ago.

>> Source: Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs

34%

This year, the top digital-related priorities for business-to-consumer brands are targeting and personalization (34 percent), followed by conversion rate optimization (33 percent), social media engagement (32 percent) and mobile optimization (31 percent). Conversely, B2B managers are putting a higher priority on content marketing (44 percent), social media engagement (26 percent) and content optimization (26 percent).

>> Source: Adobe and Econsultancy

3.1%

Worldwide IT spending is projected to total $3.8 trillion in 2014, a 3.1 percent increase from 2013 spending of $3.7 trillion. This may seem like a small growth, but in 2013, the market experienced just a 0.4 percent increase YOY. Investments in enterprise software keeps growing though, as it’s expected to enjoy a 6.8 percent boost in 2014. >> Source: Gartner

WebsiteMagazine.com Discover the keyword types that consistently drive conversions at wsm.co/moneywords.

M AY 2014

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ENTERPRISE

EQUAL ACCESS Everything You Need to Know About Making Your Enterprise Website Accessible By Carin van Vuuren, Chief Marketing Officer at Usablenet

2013 was a big year for digital accessibility — the practice of removing or minimizing the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from having equal access to information and functionality. Today, almost every business has an online presence, which means website accessibility is quickly proving to be an increasingly important issue to address. As the definition of an accessible website is becoming clearer, businesses need to take both legal factors and customer satisfaction into consideration when planning how to make systems (e.g. websites or applications) more functional for individuals with disabilities. The Necessity to Embrace Accessibility

There are a host of factors from legal, business and ethical perspectives that should motivate brands to create accessible websites. First, companies have a legal responsibility to provide services to everyone who uses the Web, regardless of ability. In the United States, there are key legal considerations that companies need to address. Primarily, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to all facets of public life and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities and telecommunications. ADA regulations extend to the Internet. The U.S. Depart-

WEB ACCESSIBILITY TOOLKIT To stay ahead of the curve, digitally focused businesses need greater understanding of the experiences of assistive users. Discover several techniques and technologies that progressive enterprises are using today to serve their audiences better at wsm.co/assistiveweb.

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ment of Transportation, for example, now requires airlines to make their travel sites more accessible to people with disabilities. Two other legal obligations that companies need to address when creating an online presence stem from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG2) and the Telecommunications Act. Published by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative in 2008, the WCAG2 offers recommendations for companies to make their websites accessible to people with poor vision, hearing loss, limited movement and other disabilities. If a site does not meet the guidelines set forth by the WCA, then the website owner could be sued for discrimination. Finally, Sections 255 and 251A2 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act require telecommunications equipment manufacturers, educational organizations and service providers to ensure that their products and services are accessible and usable by people with disabilities. While legal factors often require businesses to create an assistive website, companies should also be driven by a desire to deliver customer satisfaction, as the Association of Corporate Counsel reported an increase in 2013 regarding the instances of disabled individuals who complained that they couldn’t access certain company websites. How Does Assistive Work With the Original Website Code?

The most efficient way to create an assistive site is by building a dynamic text-only site. However, a big mistake that businesses make when implementing text-only sites is by simply taking a page and making it text-only, which does not imply accessibility. Text-only is also not just content related, but rather requires that all functionalities be available in “text-only” mode. Developers must also apply the guidelines set forth by ADA, WCAG2


and the Telecommunications Act to ensure that their pages are in compliance with Web accessibility standards. There are two main ways for Web developers to make sites fully accessible. The first option is to adjust the code on the original site. While this approach does make the original site accessible, it requires a lot of work for the developer, especially with large sites that were developed with JavaScript and Ajax. (Editor’s Note: Brands can use a free service like the WAVE Web Accessibility Tool to get suggestions on how to make their pages more accessible.) The second option is especially useful for large sites that have a wealth of content and pages. Rather than going back on every page to make each one accessible, developers generate dynamic text-only pages alongside the original ones. When a change on the original site is made, it will be reflected in the text-only version. It ensures that all of the features and functions on the assistive site are the same as on the original version. Why Service-Based Industries Need Assistive

While the factors listed above apply to all sectors, the most important industries to implement assistive sites are federal organizations, educational institutions and those that explicitly provide services to the public. In addition, businesses that offer consumers the ability to transact on a website, also need to make sure the website is accessible to all users. Amtrak (a publicly funded railway service), for example, makes it a priority for customers who are blind or have low vision to access online information and book reservations. Amtrak’s first step toward embracing accessibility began in Oct. 2012 when it announced the launch of a virtual online assistant, “Ask Julie.” Julie answers customer questions in her own voice and quickly directs customers to the appropriate Web page or customer service contact. Travelers turn to Julie first for help booking tickets, locating

baggage information, routes and train status. When Amtrak launched its assistive site in Dec. 2012 (in advance of government-mandated site regulations) one of the first things they did was extend Ask Julie to the assistive site. Amtrak sought to eliminate obstacles faced by visually impaired users by implementing a textonly site that provides a variety of reading options for clarity (such as color scheme). The company’s assistive plan also included outlining a comprehensive step-by-step browsing and booking process; building in readily available information and support lines; and offering the opportunity to tailor customizable resources for added assistance while traveling. Delta is another travel company that converted its Web pages into a friendly format for users with disabilities. The text-only pages it produces have the graphics and styling elements removed, fully accommodating individuals with visual impairments (see images). Embrace Assistive: It’s Your Responsibility

When considering website design and strategy, all businesses need to look at their current sites and ask the question: would this page create challenges for a disabled individual? If your site offers services or products that will require users to complete transactions, the answer is probably yes. Businesses have to take responsibility for customer welfare. Although implementing an assistive site may incur costs that do not have an immediate financial benefit for the company, it reflects a positive social message that will pay off over the long-term. Businesses that devote the time and resources to create fully accessible experiences will benefit their customers, themselves and the community at large.

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WEBSITE MAGAZINE’S

SMALL BUSINESS LAB

By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor

A TREND-FREE

USER EXPERIENCE CHECKLIST No one is safe from fads. If they were, nobody would have worn parachute pants in the 1980s. Over the years, Internet professionals have also been tempted to adhere to trends, but that isn't always the best course of action. “Today, we know Flash is bad for the user experience, but at the time, everyone had to use it,” said Chris Goward, founder of WiderFunnel. “It was the new sexy thing to put on your website and these trends continue today. We have social media icons everywhere. Is that really what you want the person to do or is it because everyone has them?” Providing Web visitors with a good user experience — one that is frictionless and purposeful from start to finish — is about doing what is most effective regardless of industry norms. Let this trend-free user experience checklist be your guide now and in the future.

Fast Website Internet professionals would be hard pressed to find a time when page speed didn’t matter — either to the users or the search engines. Small business owners should aim for their Web pages to load in three seconds or less (the widely accepted benchmark). To see where their websites stand, small business owners can use InternetSupervision.com, a free tool that shows how fast (or possibly how slow) a website loads around the world. Once a Web worker has determined their website's average page speed, consider using tools from Pingdom or Zoompf to identify other areas that could be slowing the website down. For further reading, check out “Don’t Be Late to the Loading Party” at wsm.co/loadingparty.

WebsiteMagazine.com Learn the secrets of testing your way to a better website experience with these tips from Chris Goward of WiderFunnel at wsm.co/redesigndos.

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Device Compatible Seventy-nine percent of U.S. shoppers use their smartphone for browsing and shopping on websites and apps, according to 2014 data from Usablenet. When a company fails to provide an experience that is optimized for the devices customers are using, they risk lost sales, a damaged reputation and, worse, risking never having the opportunity to win back shoppers who left because the site was too difficult to use on their devices. Smartphones and tablets won’t be the go-to devices forever, but providing the optimal experience regardless of a user’s device will serve businesses well for years. For additional reading, check out, “The Great Design Debate: Responsive or Optimized?” at wsm.co/optresp.

Clear Navigation Website users need virtual roadmaps — including navigation menus and calls-to-action — to know where they should go, where they are in the grander hierarchy of the site and what's important on a page. A variety of tools exist to help designers and marketers streamline a site’s navigation — most notably, heatmaps, which allow them to get a comprehensive, visual representation of what their website visitors are looking at and focusing on. This empowers decision-makers to make better navigation choices. Some popular solutions on the market (for a quick list, go to wsm.co/4hmaps) show every spot where visitors click on a page, whether it’s a link, image, text or dead space. “This data enables businesses to discover obstructions in their conversion funnels by showing what links aren’t getting enough clicks, and which calls-to-action are being ignored,” said David-Dror Davidoff, chief revenue officer, Click-Tale. “Other types of heatmaps show how far down the page visitors generally scroll and what content they care most about, allowing businesses to tailor their content to suit their visitors’ interests and reduce abandonment rates.” See four must-see navigation styles at wsm.co/4uxnav.

The majority of website visitors are unforgiving. They make harsh decisions (like the decision to leave a site) quickly. Anything that confuses them, distracts them or makes them feel uncomfortable gives them a reason not to convert. Although basic, there will always be a need for speed, device compatibility and showing users where to go and what’s important — regardless of what trends are lurking around the corner.


TRUE OR? FALSE

QUIZ TIME TRUE OR FALSE? TECHNOLOGY JARGON IN FOCUS Internet professionals encounter industry buzzwords frequently and while their usage might confuse or aggravate, they do reflect what’s of interest and importance in today’s digital landscape. In this month's Quiz Time, the focus is on buzzwords that represent something truly meaningful to the success of the modern digital enterprise. Find the answers to this month’s Quiz Time and access and discover more information on these important memes on the Web at wsm.co/qtjargon.

TRUE or

TRUE or

Find the answers to Website Magazine’s jargon quiz on the ’Net at wsm.co/qtjargon or by scanning the QR code.

FALSE:

Hybrid Clouds are primarily public cloud servers running multiple computing environments simultaneously using different operating systems. Learn more at wsm.co/hybridcloudguide TRUE or

FALSE:

Hyperdata refers to data objects linked to other data objects in other places, enabling the formation of a Web of data, evolving from the data on the Web that is not inter-related. Learn more at wsm.co/hyperdata2014 TRUE or

Check out Website Magazine’s new digital pinboard for viewing and sharing infographics, videos and more at www.WebMag.co.

FALSE:

Growth Hackers are those that effectively drive key performance metrics (e.g. exposure, conversions) by leveraging creativity, analytical thinking and social metrics through testable and scalable methods. Learn more at wsm.co/whatisgrowthhacking

FALSE:

Ephemeral Sharing is the active sharing of content assets (photos, files, etc.) in a digital format where the recipient (and only the recipient) can view it forever. Learn more at wsm.co/ephemeralsharing TRUE or

FALSE:

SMAC is an acronym for “Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud” and refers to the approach taken by many enterprises seeking to maximize efficiency by leveraging integrated technology stacks. Learn more at wsm.co/SMACtalk

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Digital Customer Service Solutions The more a business engages with its customers, the clearer certain issues become — from software glitches to reputation attacks, and every other conversion-related barrier between. Listening, however, is rarely enough. Enterprises must act on what they know. The good news is, once a brand is made aware of problems negatively impacting its business, the easier it is to determine the next step in making the necessary corrections. Digital customer service solutions provide every ’Net enterprise, large and small, a perfect opportunity to understand the customer experience better and reposition their brands, as well as their products and services, in a way that propels the company forward. There has never been a more important time to invest in these solutions, as today’s digital consumers are more demanding than ever. For example, new research from PayPro Global reveals that time is a key factor in the process of successful customer acquisition and retention. The results showed that however easy it is to buy a product on the Web, questions still arise on the path to conversion and an enterprise’s customer support team should be prepared to eliminate the psychological roadblocks in the purchasing process for their customers — and provide support when consumers are ready. The Connecting Customer Report also showed that 83 percent of online customers require assistance to complete a purchase — that data point alone should demonstrate that businesses must have strong, highly active customer service in place if the aim is, as it should be, greater and more valuable conversions. Web-based customer service solutions, from live chat tools to help desk software, should be much more than just a line item in a brand’s technology budget. These important offerings enable enterprises to manage their customer communication, build good will and drive users toward conversion. In this edition of Website Magazine’s Top 50, readers will find many of the digital world's top solutions for providing customer service on today’s Web. There are, of course, many others that warrant the attention of digital marketers, virtual salespeople and the ’Net community at large. To discover a few emerging companies in this highly competitive space and explore what makes them so unique, visit wsm.co/3cssolutions.

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1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50.

Zendesk.com Spiceworks.com Zoho.com Desk.com GetSatisfaction.com UserVoice.com ManageEngine.com LiveChatinc.com Freshdesk.com LivePerson.com BoldChat.com Kayako.com Parature.com Comm100.com LiveOps.com Olark.com Tenderapp.com Zopim.com PureChat.com Groovehq.com velaro.com WebsiteAlive.com Jitbit.com SysAid.com Live2Support.com HelpOnClick.com SnapeEngage.com Hesk.com mylivechat.com ProvideSupport.com LiveZilla.net osTicket.com Chatroll.com MoxieSoft.com CRMdesk.com nanoRep.com phplivesupport.com samanage.com LAdesk.com WhosOn.com happyfox.com CraftySyntax.com JivoSite.com WebHelpDesk.com IssueTrak.com SupportBee.com TeamSupport.com Userlike.com ZaZaChat.com HelpSpot.com


’’

The Authenticated Testimonials seal lets people know we can be trusted. And trust has its advantages such as increased website conversions & sales.

’’

-Alan J. www.SupplyHero.com

How AutHenticAted testimoniAls work: We contact your customers to verify each statement. Authenticated testimonials provides a verification seal to display on your website. Prospects are more inclined to trust and purchase your products or services!

Phone: 1.866.904.5414 InternAtIonAl: 1.773.272.0998 AuthentIcAtedtestImonIAls.com


mastering

search

By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief

SERP SHIFTS IN FOCUS Actionable SEO for the Modern World The results pages that Internet

Web searchers can find information, the “right” information, faster and, increasGoogle and Bing (or any search ingly, in a format that is distinctly more engine for that matter) are far visually appealing and richer with interactive possibilities. Make no mistake; these different – and more interesting aren’t the search results you likely first ensome would argue – than countered when search engines became a fundamental element of online marketing ever before. — so you shouldn’t treat them the same way either. Search result pages today present far more powerful opportunities to attract users. The digital brands that understand the ever-shifting state of the SERPs are those positioned for the greatest ’Net success. users encounter each day at

The Visual Design of SERPs The search results pages have changed in many ways over the years, but Google’s recent redesign confirms that its attention remains focused on the quality of the user experience — and your focus as a search marketer should be the same. The leading search engine, whose search market share remains constant at slightly higher than 60 percent, recently retooled not just the look, but also in many respects the function of its search results pages. Today’s Google searcher will encounter listings whose titles have a slightly larger font (18px Arial), no underline and more even line heights in general (which improves readability and creates an overall cleaner look). The changes aren’t related exclusively to searches conducted on the desko o h a top but mobile as well, which leads to Y , le oog See how G d long ago improved consistency and a unified expeoke rience across all platforms. These changes and Bing lo h rc a e o/olds extend to basic results, expanded siteat wsm.c links, image and news results, as well as the local pack results. So what does this

ck a B Way en Wh

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ultimately mean for the methods your enterprise uses to create listings? Search marketers will need to consider how Web page listings appear with the larger font as the space afforded to the actual container size of the title has not changed which means fewer characters available for use. That means it is probably best to avoid using capital letters and in general, being aware of the average title length currently being displayed on listings appearing under the queries for which a website is competing. In response to this new challenge, SEO software solution Screaming Frog’s announced their SEO Spider tool now calculates the actual pixel width of page titles and meta descriptions (with a SERP snippet emulator) that will reveal if you’re in jeopardy of exceeding the 512 pixels that Google allows.

Action-Oriented Search Results It’s not just the subtle and specific design elements on the search results pages that are changing, but the functionality and depth of information available in many respects as well. Google, for example, recently announced upgraded Schema support for additional phone types and detailed specific recommendations for using Schema.org on location pages. Websites will be able to include different phone numbers (customer service, billing support, etc.) and provide location-specific details through the Schema.org structured data markup. Google isn’t alone however; Bing is also taking great effort to improve its results pages. “Search” is about far more than just submitting a query and browsing the results; it’s also about obtaining information and acting upon it — quickly. Bing is well aware of consumer's shifting attitude toward search and their growing affinity for richer and more interactive results. The search engine recently announced it has added more than 150


Search is about far more than just submitting a query and browsing the results; it’s also about obtaining information and acting upon it — quickly. million new “entities” to its snapshot/Satori engine, incorporating data on doctors, lawyers, dentists and real estate properties. Today’s search engines are giving users access to information directly from the results page, changing the approach that many search marketers have long taken. When users of Bing search for a medical professional, for example, Bing now returns the snapshot of the professional that includes their specialty, experience, education as well as their address and phone number. Bing’s Snapshot feature also takes its entity search a few steps further, offering up opportunities for its users to delve more deeply into topics by connecting the intent of a user to specific actions. For example, say that your query is “Tom

Hanks.” Bing will provide information that it culls from several rich data sources and services across the Web, including Wikipedia, LinkedIn, IMDB and Netflix.

How Will Search Results Look Tomorrow? In many ways however, Bing is still playing catchup with Google, but one thing is for certain: Search engine optimization, as it has been practiced in the past, limits the possibility for exposure. Those that can make the necessary adjustments, using rich markup and being aware of how users experience listings on the results pages, are those positioned for the greatest amount of digital awareness.

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de s i g n & de v e l o pment

digest

By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief

EVERYONE’S A DESIGNER THANKS TO…

FRONT-END FRAMEWORKS Fortunately, today, everyone can be on the path to virtual greatness thanks to the world of digital design are faced popularity and outright usefulness of front-end frameworks. with complex problems, which A framework is simply a set of conlikely include limited resources cepts, practices and criteria for handling a problem. In the world of design, that (time or money) and some rather problem or challenge is producing a webabstract technical and artistic site, and there are several frameworks for concepts to address. making quick work of this often challenging task. The frameworks that Web designers deal with are essentially software packages consisting of a structure of files and folders of standardized code. The presence and availability of that code is appealing to designers both novice and experienced because it shortens the actual development time considerably, or in the case of those just getting started, levels the learning curve. Frameworks are categorized as either front-end or back-end, or the presentation layer and the application layer. Using both a front-end and back-end framework enables designer and developers to connect a database to site content and present the content with an attractive, responsive, usable design. Website Magazine has created a “QUICK GUIDE to Back-End Frameworks” available online at wsm.co/beframeworks, but let’s take a closer look Developers can use Bootstrap’s at what makes front-end frameworks so powerful one-page template to build simple and appealing to today’s Web design community. and attractive pages. By far the most popular of the front-end/user interface focused frameworks, Bootstrap boasts numerous features and possible customizations, as well as a well-documented library of support documents. The framework is intuitive (for the Those just getting started in the

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most part), lightweight and responsive, making it the near default framework of choice for today’s modern, front-end designer. The one drawback and complaint is that because of its ease of use, the Bootstrap design style has saturated the Web. It’s certainly not the only framework in use today however — there are others and they too afford designers and developers a powerful toolset to build websites. Foundation, for example, is an equally popular front-end framework with an incredibly loyal following of professional designers and developers. The framework provides a near unmatched level of flexibility and is relatively easy to master. Built by Zurb, with an initial release in 2011, its latest iteration of Foundation 5 has been well received thanks to its focus on speed. Foundation 5 introduces a technology called Interchange that allows designers and developers to specify different sections of a website for different devices or device classes – but that’s just the beginning. Keep in mind that there are far more front-end frameworks that designers and developers are using — and using every day. The right or “best” framework for you and your project specifically will vary from another’s, but take into consideration the installation simplicity/complexity, the ease of comprehension, available integrations with other systems and the breadth of configuration options. Support too is an important differentiator — choosing a framework that offers users access to educational materials, regular upgrades/updates and an active community should be given the highest priority. With a front-end framework, you’ll be designing faster, cleaner code in less time, and learning many best practices along the way. While frameworks aren’t the answer to every design challenge, they are useful and do warrant greater investigation and exploration for today’s Internet professional. Today, every Web worker is a digital designer — or at least they can be.


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express

By Michelle Wicmandy

THEY SAID WHAT?!

HOW TO MANAGE USER REVIEWS Customer reviews have

Previously, consumers would have sought company literature, called sales personnel directly or asked friends or family their way consumers obtain opinions face-to-face. Thanks to the Internet, customers can now read online product information and consumer reviews (OCRs) without actumake purchase decisions. ally talking to anyone — and 71 percent of U.S. consumers leverage this resource more than any other content, according to a Bazaarvoice and Newlio consumer survey. Peer reviews are a highly trusted and influential form of information when researching and making purchases online, but brands have to manage the process for increased effectiveness.

significantly changed the

Understanding the Weight of a Review According to an online survey from Weber Shandwick & KRC Research, “Buy It, Try It, Rate It,” consumers read approximately 11 user-generated reviews before deciding on a product. From that statistic, it’s safe to assume that buyers are being persuaded one way or the other (buy, don’t buy) 11 different times. Don’t panic. Consumers seek descriptive reviews that are not only viewed as being independent of the marketer, but also act as a proxy for the realworld experience. Whatever reviewers are saying about a brand’s product is important. Online shoppers don’t have the luxury of touching and feeling products or physically trying them, but they can read about products and the user experience from a variety of like-minded people, o which makes sensible shoppers t d spon view e out of Web users. And inr t ’ Don r bad re this formed and sensible shoppers e d h anot l you rea ecklist likely take less customer h i t un o/5ptc service resources (less ques.c wsm tions) and likely return fewer items.

t h g Fi ck! Ba

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Taking the Good with the Bad Conscientious consumers write reviews to help others make better purchase decisions. According to Yelp! and Bazaarvoice, 80 percent of all product reviews receive four or five-star ratings. Even the remaining 20 percent (the four-stars or lower ratings) can help increase conversion. Quality is relative to each user and a negative review may be trivial to one shopper but important to another. One consumer may give a laptop a two-star rating because the display produces a glare in the sunlight. However, this comment may be insignificant to an office worker, explains Matt Krebsbach, director of global public and analyst relations for Bazaarvoice. Negative reviews can even improve company operations. Analyzing the authentic feedback and using it to make improvements is important to deliver the products that customers demand. OCRs inform brands of their shortcomings, which helps the companies improve processes and product offerings. Customer reviews can also tip off the company to potential business opportunities. Companies that address negative reviews to customers' satisfaction send the message that they genuinely care about their customers, which often leads to increased sales and brand loyalty. In fact, Bazaarvoice reports that shoppers are 186 percent more likely to purchase from a brand that responded to a review where the product’s owner misused or provided deceptive information over a company that did nothing. In the word of online reviews, however, not all shopping experiences are treated equally. Customer reviews are less likely to influence a decision-making process when a consumer is adamant about obtaining a specific brand, such as a Rolex. However, the OCR would have more impact on conversions when the consumer's wish list includes multiple brands such as Rolex, Omega and Tag Heuer.


Businesses, like this one featured in the Huffington Post, are finding ways to use even bad reviews to their advantage.

Generating More Reviews Finally, the greater the perceived risk involved in a purchase decision (like buying from a smaller brand), the greater the need for information from trustworthy, reliable sources. “Placing customer reviews prominently on my website, brochures and menus have helped me compete against the large, commercial catering companies for over 25 years,” said Chef Beatrice Keller, owner of Bella Compagni. “When considering who to hire for a personal chef and/or catering company, I have learned that my customers place more emphasis on reviews and recommendations from trusted sources than anything else.” So, how do businesses generate more reviews? Some ways to encourage product reviews include giving samples to expert reviewers in exchange for commentary, creating brand communities where members try products and give feedback before launch and giving incentives for customer reviews. All reviews whether positive or negative add value to the consumer’s experience, as well as his or her perception of an organization. The idea is to drive both positive and negative reviews so the consumer can make the best possible purchase decision. Morgan Remmers, manager of local business outreach for Yelp! reminds business owners that they can’t please everyone all the time. They should expect some negative reviews as posting only good or excellent ratings may appear suspect. The merchant should evaluate their performance by listening to the customer and looking at the overall “big” picture. It should be noted, when offering users incentives in exchange for reviews and any form of usersubmitted, marketing-related content, companies must adhere to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations. Per the FTC, the statements must be clear and conspicuous. Disclosing information can be as simple as acknowledging partner-

ships, sponsored posts and affiliate links that generate revenue. Brands still struggling with obtaining authentic customer feedback, should check out, “10 Terrific Ways to Generate User Reviews” at wsm.co/10ureviews. Michelle Wicmandy is a regular contributor to Website Magazine, a lecturer at the University of Houston Downtown and an executive-level marketing and business development professional.

WebsiteMagazine.com

The Anatomy of a Good Testimonial Frank Spohr of Clicked Studios breaks down what brands can do to get more detailed reviews (the best kind) at wsm.co/reviewanatomy.

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Bright Ideas for

Performance Marketing By Allison Howen, Associate Editor

Incredible growth often comes with incredible challenges, and they can cripple or exhilarate those involved. Performance marketers are no different. The ones moving forward in this space are doing more than rolling with the industry’s unique set of punches — they are reinventing the practice of performance marketing altogether. They continue to defeat the rogue affiliates who stretch, bend and break the unspoken code of ethics just to gain a quick buck, and they stay one step ahead of the ever-changing digital landscape. It’s those performance marketing professionals who also keep the industry moving forward — contributing to Forrester Research’s forecast that the performance marketing space will reach $4 billion this year — a significant increase from the $1.9 billion it generated five years ago. It’s also those performance marketers who know that, despite the rest of the digital world still thumbing their virtual noses at the term ‘affiliate,’ the popular marketing tactic isn’t going anywhere and that, most recently, content marketing is to thank.

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Rising Above a Notorious Reputation Bad reputations are nearly impossible to overcome, and performance marketers know this better than anyone. Many Internet professionals associate affiliates with dishonesty, lack of transparency, and the use of black hat tactics and techniques, which strain the relationships between advertisers and publishers. “If you ask a CMO, ‘hey do you like affiliate marketing as part of your marketing mix?’ I think you’re going to get very different answers,” said Drew Thorne-Thomsen, vice president of business development and partnerships at Invoca. “But, in general, a CMO doesn’t love the word affiliate.” With a reputation that precedes them, performance marketers must work diligently to prove their value as advertising partners. According to Thorne-Thomsen, performance marketers can rise above the industry’s


Got Ethics? Sign the “Unofficial Code of Ethics for Performance Marketers� at wsm.co/gotethics

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Don’t Create Content Blindfolded

bad name by differentiating their breeds to narrow down the prospecpractice from advertisers’ other martive audience pool. This is a good keting initiatives. place to start because a dog owner Many performance marketers have who is passionate about his pet’s spefound that the best way to separate cific breed is more likely to search for their strategies from those of the adver(and purchase) products that will entisers they work with (and other affilihance his canine’s intelligence. From ates) is by targeting smaller, niche that research, the publisher can create Uncover content’s true markets (e.g. Californian moms, owncontent directly related to those potential with these ers of Siamese cats, hockey enthusiasts, breeds, such as an infographic titled etc.). Advertisers usually have strate“5 Toys that Work Your Border Colcontent optimization tools gies in place to reach the Net’s broader lie’s Brain” or a blog post about “7 Acat wsm.co/opt2014 audience but look to affiliates for help tivities to Keep Australian Shepherds infiltrating smaller, more topically foBusy.” Then, the puzzle can be procused communities. In order to have moted with banner ads on the Web success within a niche market, performance marketers must pages, as well as through affiliate or direct sponsored links first obtain authority, and content marketing can help. within the content. Essentially, the secret to success is to create enough Gaining Authority in the Niche quality content (what readers actually want to read) to beContent marketing has, in fact, already helped many profes- come an authoritative figure in the niche over time. In sionals build authority. By writing blog posts, creating videos doing so, publishers will gain trust from their audiences and or posting to social media with highly specific topics (to name will be more persuasive when it comes to influencing pura few methods), they are sending signals to their audiences chasing decisions. Moreover, becoming authoritative in (whether that’s customers, the search engines or prospective smaller communities will help performance marketers overadvertisers) that they are trusted information sources on cer- come another challenge in the industry — ranking in the tain topics. There are, however, full-time positions dedicated search results. to content marketing, meaning it can be time intensive and frustrating for those just getting involved. Appeasing Google, Too Luckily, there are numerous tools available that can Performance marketers have had a tumultuous relationship help performance marketers generate topic ideas and pro- with search engines over the years, particularly with duce better performing content. Content marketing soft- Google. This is because Google’s algorithm updates, like ware Scribe, for instance, helps content creators find Panda and Penguin, have had a major impact on many afsubjects that are relevant to their audiences, while a tool filiate site rankings. like InboundWriter guides writers to optimize their copy “Google Panda was aimed at penalizing the use of thin for better placement in the search results (consumers, after and duplicated content on a site,” said Matt Swan, client all, have to find the content). strategist for Affiliate Window. “Prior to Panda, a site could What performance marketers need to do when target- rank well using scraped content or the automation of pages ing niche markets, however, is to narrow down audience with only minor changes in the content. segments. Say, for example, a publisher within the pet in“The Panda release heavily impacted comparison sites dustry has decided to participate in a performance market- and other automated, content sites on the network due to ing campaign to promote a puzzle toy for dogs. Rather than their setup of having multiple similar pages. However, concreating a blog post that targets general dog owners, like tent rich, engaging, websites, such as detailed review sites “Top Toys for Dogs” or “Toys for Smart Dogs,” performance or blogs, have benefited from the Panda release.” marketers should focus on narrower, long-tail search Swan explains that the Google Penguin update also foqueries that are intent based and relevant to a particular cused on purging websites from the results that were using dog enthusiast community. illicit linking techniques. Following these updates, it has To begin, the publisher could research the smartest dog been more difficult for small-scale affiliate sites to rank on

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A Marketer’s Guide to LongTail Keywords

Another way to establish authority Google’s search engine result pages. on the Web is by participating in conWhat performance marketers need versations in a variety of social places, to keep in mind when it comes to such as Facebook pages and groups, Google, is that the search engine is Google+ Communities, forums and committed to delivering the most valuQ&A sites like Quora. These types of able content to its searchers, which interactions help publishers increase means that sites with thin content and visibility, improve relevance and estabunnatural links will continue to be Start your path to lish themselves as trustworthy within a pushed down in the rankings. The which is likely to lead to a better niche, only remaining plan of action is to crelong-tail domination at pay off when it comes to promoting afate unique, quality content on a consiswsm.co/longtail101 filiate offers. tent basis (always thinking of the Social strategies can be further amreader first, not the search engines). plified through advertising on platThat said, performance marketers can become less reliant on search by seeking other ways to con- forms like Facebook and Twitter, which offer robust nect with prospects, such as through email or, everyone’s new targeting options. Both social networks enable users to tarfavorite way to communicate, social (just yet another oppor- get prospects based on demographics, while Facebook also tunity to market content). enables targeting based on interests and behaviors, and Twitter offers audience filtering through keywords and negSpread the Word with Social ative keywords. That being said, performance marketers Social media networks can not only provide performance should be cautious when it comes to advertising offers on marketers with the tools needed to expand the reach of con- social networks, as promoted content that does not convert tent and affiliate offerings, but also to further establish their will be an ROI setback. authority within niche communities. At the very least, performance marketers need to equip Climbing Toward Commission all of their content pages with social sharing icons, which can easily be done with platforms like AddThis and When it comes to earning commission, one of the top chalShareThis. Another sharing tool worth checking out is lenges performance marketers face is attribution, which has Click to Tweet (or an alternative like Spredd.it). This sim- been a topic of conversation in the affiliate industry for ple and straightforward tool enables publishers to write years. Currently, the most common attribution model is and track the message that they want others to share, en- “last click,” where performance marketers earn commission abling site visitors to distribute pre-made messages with when they are the last touchpoint prior to conversion. just one click. To completely thrive with social, however, performance The Challenge with Influence marketers can’t rely on batch-and-blast methods; they must Last-click attribution leads many performance marketers to actually interact with their audiences on social networks. target the bottom of the conversion funnel, as time spent inFor example, instead of posting link after link about dog fluencing a sale alone doesn’t always earn them revenue. Adpuzzles, publishers can create a sense of community by vertisers, for the most part, have grievances when it comes posting other types of pet-related content (even if it’s not to affiliates hanging out at the bottom of the funnel, because from their own sites) and interacting with the content of they feel like the affiliate is earning commission for a sale that others. For help finding the right audience to interact with, other marketing initiatives had greater influence over. performance marketers can leverage tools like ManageFlitTo combat this problem, Rakuten LinkShare’s Adam ter, which offers filters to help users find relevant people Weiss thinks that advertisers should track influence to see to follow on Twitter, as well as the optimal times to post the value that performance marketers actually provide as based on follower activity. For a crash course on social — partners within the purchase funnel. basically everything you want to to ask but are afraid to, like “When you combine channels, they support each other,” how to get followers — head to wsm.co/101social. Weiss said. “So it’s not always all or nothing. You might find

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that there’s a click on display and then a click on affiliate. To- The Peak of Mobile gether the likelihood for conversion is higher than just one or Mobile is shaking up the digital world, and the affiliate industhe other. So I really feel like the channels support each other.” try is no exception. Publishers who want to capitalize on Affiliate Window’s Swan notes that affiliate network report- this trend, however, must have a mobile presence (e.g. a ing can show advertisers how many sales publishers in- mobile website, mobile app or responsive design) to reach fluence (discover 50 top performance marketing platforms at mobile consumers. Moreover, they must ensure cross-dewsm.co/50topaff). This can lead advertisers to consider dif- vice tracking technology is set in place if they want to profit ferent types of attribution models, such as value attribution. from promoting affiliate offers on this channel. “It is important to change the mindset that the channel Luckily, many of the larger affiliate networks, includis purely a conversion channel. There is also evidence to ing Affiliate Window and Rakuten LinkShare, have fosuggest the channel can initiate sales too,” said Swan. “The cused on tracking mobile sales so that publishers are challenge for affiliates is to showcase their worth beyond properly compensated. It is also important that both adsimply being the final interaction in the path to purchase. vertiser and publishers keep in mind that as mobile users Content sites can have a significant influence on consumers continue to consume content in multiple ways, more acin the research phase of their journey for example — as can tions can be counted as conversions on mobile devices, price comparison sites.” such as customer phone calls and app downloads. Value attribution takes elements beyond the click into Much of the mobile challenge, however, relies on adconsideration, such as lifetime customer value or churn vertisers alone. This is because the traffic that a publisher rate. This allows publishers to showcase their influence on sends to an advertiser’s site is unlikely to convert if the site sales outside of conversions, which can help them secure is not optimized for mobile. tenancy deals or higher commission rates to compensate “Mobile has really proven itself to be the new ‘it’ channel for the additional value they provided advertisers. There are that's harboring the most potential,” said Paige Coho, Medalso a variety of other attribution models that advertisers ical Guardian’s affiliate marketing coordinator. “I think that can consider, such as first click or multi-attribution. many of us are still trying to wrap our heads around the Although affiliates can’t necessarily change an adver- idea of mobile being used as one of the primary prospect tiser’s attribution model, they can create a content strategy touchpoints. In terms of leveraging its use within the affilthat addresses every stage within the customer lifecycle, iate space, both merchants and publishers alike will have which both proves their value and gives them a better to make program adjustments to things like site functionchance at earning the commission. For example, a blog post ality and product display strategy in an effort to optimize titled “What is a Doggie Puzzle?” addresses the awareness user experience and drive conversions.” stage, while a video that shows how dogs interact with the puzzle addresses the learning stage. Plus, by leveraging recPreparing for the Future ommendation technology like BrightWhile the future of affiliate marketInfo, affiliates can better guide ing looks bright, unforeseen chalprospects through the customer jourlenges are always lurking around the ney with content endorsements that digital corner. Whether the challenge are based on visitor behavior and incomes in the form of new Google altent. After the customer spends time gorithms or new technology like with the affiliate’s content types, they wearable devices, the performance are more likely to visit the publisher’s marketers who continue to prosper site when it is time to purchase, which and be of value to the industry are is when the publisher can close the sale See if your link-building those who carve out a niche for with a coupon or special promotion. techniques are themselves and meet the demands of While the attribution debate is those smaller advertisers by creating likely to continue for a long time, a Google approved at valuable content that addresses every topic that needs to be addressed sooner wsm.co/googapproved stage of the customer journey. rather than later is mobile.

Black Hat Link Building

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A F F I L I AT E

INSIDER

By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor

Network in Focus

Rakuten LinkShare

The top affiliate networks share many of the same qualities, but there is a handful that take their offerings to the next level with an uncompromised commitment to supporting advertisers and publishers. Rakuten LinkShare is one such network.

By the Numbers 2005 Rakuten expands overseas for the first time (from Japan) in 2005 by acquiring the U.S.-based LinkShare Corporation.

68% Rakuten LinkShare saw a 68 percent YOY increase in holiday sales (Nov. 1Dec. 31, 2013) on mobile devices, which it counts as smartphones and tablets.

25% Advertisers representing the gift and food industries enjoyed a 25 percent YOY increase in sales during the Valentine’s Day shopping season (Jan. 24-Feb. 13, 2014) on the Rakuten LinkShare program.

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Despite being part of a turbulent industry — with fraud, tracking issues and proposed tax laws threatening affiliate marketing — Rakuten LinkShare has done quite well for itself. Aside from counting large, global enterprises like AT&T, Macy’s, Starbucks and Walmart as clients, it was recently named the number one affiliate network for the third year in a row by an independent survey of online advertisers, publishers and agencies. Also adding to a successful 2013, were 500 U.S. brands joining the network and Rakuten LinkShare continuing its aggressive global expansion, especially in its Australian affiliate network (266 percent growth). So why do advertisers and publishers join Rakuten LinkShare over the thousands of other performance marketing networks? Rakuten Marketing Chief Marketing Officer Jessica Joines sounds off, crediting four primary reasons: experience, technology, integrity and network quality. “Rakuten LinkShare is one of the original affiliate marketing networks having been founded in 1996,” said Joines. “Through the years, we have grown into one of the largest networks servicing thousands of advertisers and publishers throughout the world. “Our account managers are experts in their field and have enabled our community of advertisers and publishers to thrive in the affiliate channel.” When it comes to integrity, Rakuten LinkShare fully vets

each potential member when they apply to join the network and regularly monitor and audit activities to ensure the highest levels of security and integrity for every member of its community, according to Joines. Lastly, Joines names network quality as one of four key differentiators of Rakuten LinkShare. Stakeholders are committed to testing their network regularly and rigorously to ensure all transactions are properly credited, including those conducted on mobile devices and tablets. The latter, is becoming increasingly important, as publishers need to be correctly rewarded for the sales they are driving, whatever device they are made on. The ability to track sales and traffic driven from mobile devices seems like a no-brainer, but it’s just one of the many ways networks must adapt to changes in consumer behavior. Networks must maintain a high level of transparency to credit the right parties and empower their clients with the information they need to make good decisions about who to promote — especially since the industry isn’t slowing down. In fact, as mentioned in this month’s feature, Forrester predicts the affiliate marketing industry will grow to $4.5 billion by 2016. As far as what to expect even sooner than 2016, Joines predicts: (1) luxury brands will invest more in the affiliate channel as they continue to thrive in this space; (2) affiliates will continue to drive global expansion as the low cost pay-for-performance model easily enables them to test new markets with low risk/low investment; and (3) there will continue to be more consolidation among the players in affiliate marketing, yet the industry will continue to grow.

Social Selling in Focus TumblrShop - The Tumblr bookmarklet empowers publishers to promote products they like on their Tumblr blogs and earn commission doing so (see image).

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INTERNET

A DV E RT I S I N G

21 Essential (and Free) PPC Tools

Sans Google & Bing By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor

Google and Bing are so vain; they probably think this article is about them. Of course, it is tough to talk about online advertising without mentioning these digital powerhouses, but plenty of free tools exist beyond their virtual walls that can help marketers improve their PPC campaigns. Here are 21 essential tools (not in any particular order) that are worth exploring today.

6. Ad Comparator

Use this ad optimization software to simultaneously test up to 15 different aspects of any advertisement, website or email campaign — free. 7. Übersuggest

1. Local Keyword Generator

This free tool from 5minutesite.com allows Internet advertisers to get keyword phrases combined with locations (city name, zip code and/or radius) to improve geographical-modified keyword lists.

Taking a step beyond providing keyword ideas, Übersuggest narrows down the focus of terms with filters for language, source and search vertical (e.g. Web, Images, News, Shopping, Video and Recipes). 8. ROI Calculator (CPC)

2. WordHippo

What’s another word for…? What’s the opposite of…? This easy-to-use tool from WordHippo generates synonyms or antonyms for keywords and negative keywords. 3. SEMRush Enter a competitor's website address and get AdWords ad copy and position, organic position for domains and landing URLs, search volume, CPC, competition, number of results and more. 4. SplitTester

Which ad will perform the best in the end? Enter each ad’s clicks and click-through rates and SplitTester will calculate long-term results to ensure the “winning ad” (from an A/B test, for example) is the best long-term choice. 5. AdWords Wrapper

Save time with this tool that wraps keywords in “quotation marks” (for phrase match) and [square brackets] (for exact match), as well as +Modified +Broad match, - “Negative Phrase” match and -[Negative Exact] match for use in Google AdWords campaigns.

Enter total monthly clicks, estimated average cost per click and more to calculate an ad’s return on investment. 9. BidCops

Run a free 30-second audit to find money-wasting keywords and the best keywords to increase traffic and conversions. 10. MergeWords

Type three keywords into separate boxes and hit merge to avoid manually creating repetitive keyword combinations. MergeWords has additional options to add or subtract space between words, wrap in quotation marks and brackets and more.

Get Access to These Tools & 9 More! Kristina Cutura, an AdWords consultant and former client education

11. Suggested Likes and Interests

Target Facebook ads by leveraging interests that are most common among specific audiences to increase ad relevancy (and likely click-throughs).

and optimization specialist at Google, shares her top free PPC tools (minus any offered from Google and

12. JUMBO Keyword

Aside from editing and cleaning up AdWords keywords with one click, this tool offers an Ad-Maker to test different copy and placements. Users can save the ads in a .txt file.

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Bing). Find list cleaners, free scripts, keyword generators and more at

wsm.co/cuturapicks.

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I N S I G H T S O N A N A LY T I C S

By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief

Who’s Who in Analytics & Digital Insights Today Forget the phrase “big data.” Remove it from your business vocabulary and don’t even think about including it in your next round of buzzword bingo. In the end, it is not about how much data is at your disposal but what you do with it and how it ultimately impacts your digital enterprise, the decisions it makes and the experience created for users.

The Quill Engage report from Narrative Science provides a natural-language report on key performance metrics and their drivers.

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Savvy Internet professionals know that the value analytics solutions provide are the insights gleaned from digging through all of that big data. Solutions like Google Analytics and Adobe’s suite of Web and data analysis tools are certainly the most popular offerings on the market today, but they aren’t always the easiest to use or the right solution in every scenario. There are, in fact, a wide variety of analytics-related product offerings (both for the Web and for data in general) available to help Web workers create better digital experiences and identify additional monetization opportunities. Let’s look at a handful of these Web and data analytics solutions that are changing the game for the modern Internet professional. Narrative Science recently launched a free application that automatically analyzes and transforms Google Analytics data into natural-language reports. The Quill Engage report, which leverages Narrative Science’s artificial intelligence engine, easily explains site performance in terminology anyone can understand, enabling a broader cross section of an organization to be equipped with information that supports better decision-making about user engagement and specific marketing efforts. Each Quill Engage report, run either weekly or monthly, includes performance drivers and recommendations and covers key metrics, including content engagement, Web traffic and sources, referrals, paid search and audience segmentation. Businesses, however, need more than just surface-level insights on their Web performance.


The Domo dashboard providers an opportunity for users to discover, mash up, visualize and present data.

Today’s most aggressive digital enterprises are looking to gain a competitive advantage by capturing and analyzing event data, including micro-level details about specific online habits of visitors to a website, in real-time. Business analytics software Looker recently announced a partnership with Snowplow Analytics (an event data collection platform for Web and business applications that stores data in the Amazon Redshift data warehouse) to provide an end-to-end solution for understanding this Web event data, drilling into the data and performing complex analytics that inform business strategy. “Organizations need access to high-resolution event information so they can better understand the journeys their users are taking, how they’re interacting with the site, how their marketing campaigns are performing and how engagement leads to sales,” said Frank Bien, CEO of Looker. “Businesses can now implement a joint solution from Looker and Snowplow to collect detailed information and then explore and share the data in innumerable ways. The result, of course, is truly actionable information that streamlines user experience and improves the productivity of websites and applications.” The clamor for real-time data is at times deafening, but the more you know about the past performance of digital marketing campaigns, the better positioned your enterprise is to make the right choices for future initiatives. Getting that information into other software solutions can be a challenge, however. A new reporting feature within Tickr, a product that enables its users to unify and visualize data (enterprise metrics, social media, news, Web traffic, sales) from within a single interface, hopes to eliminate the issue. Its new Open Reporting feature enables customers to aggregate Tickr-archived data into custom reports using their own preferred “offthe-shelf” reporting software including Tableau Software, Adobe PDF Excel, Oracle, SAP and others. “We believe that the future of enterprise software is openness and flexibility, both of which are key to enabling multi-vendor solutions,” said Tim Satterwhite, vice president of sales at Tickr. “Monolithic, single-vendor, enterprise software will soon be a thing of the past. Tickr is capitalizing on this trend to grow its enterprise customer base. “We believe this is a first in our industry — no other business intelligence product enables customers to consolidate all types of business intelligence data, archive it, and then report on it, using the reporting tool of their choice.”

The trend in the analytics software space has been to make it more universal, more meaningful, faster and deeper. Success with analytics, however, requires that everyone in your enterprise is using the same data — an issue that impacts enterprises small and large. Domo, which provides a platform that aggregates multiple sources of merchant data and provides insights for executive-level decision-making, recently announced that eBay and its employees have begun using its solution. eBay account managers need to understand how their retail/merchant clients are performing in terms of sales and how they can assist in optimization efforts. The problem in the past, however, was that the information eBay managers needed was often difficult to acquire as it resided in multiple systems (and in various formats). “Before Domo, we were sending out Excel files and links to different places, and we built out a few dashboards, but at the end of the day they weren't dynamic,” said Kevin Styers, manager of merchant sales operations at eBay. “It was very one dimensional.” After implementing Domo however, the digital life of eBay employees has been made a little easier. “It was much simpler to get disparate data sources into the system than I’d ever imagined,” continued Styers. “Now Domo is our one-stop shop when we’re looking for any kind of analytical trends. It’s been hugely beneficial to our decisionmaking process.” These are just some of the innovative companies making analytics and the acquisition of meaningful, data-driven insights accessible. There are more, lots more. To stay up to date on the maturation and evolution of the Web and data analytics side of the business, check out Website Magazine’s Analytics Insider channel at wsm.co/InsightsOnAnalytics.

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S O C I A L M E D I A M AV E N S

By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor

Social Strategies of a Top Brand Managing an enterprise's presence on social media networks is a Herculean task. Brands need to engage their audiences, but the conversations are happening away from their websites (where conversions are possible) and often at the whim of stakeholders and even the individual networks. Today, the social strategies of top brands like Hard Rock (owner of Hard Rock Cafes and Hard Rock Hotels), however, address these barriers.

A

Effective Empowerment

When discussing a global enterprise like Hard Rock, it’s easy to dismiss its social efforts because of the countless resources its marketers seemingly have at their disposal, but managing this worldwide initiative requires consistency, structure and trust. Rather than managing all social accounts from its corporate headquarters, Hard Rock empowers its worldwide locations to manage their own social presences. For example, Hard Rock Hotel Cancun has a separate handle (@HRHCancun) than Hard Rock Café in San Diego (@HardRockCafeSD) — and each are managed locally. Beyond Twitter, Hard Rock properties are also active on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+, as well as local listing sites like Yelp. To keep brand messaging consistent, Kim Matlock, the senior director of digital marketing and customer relationship management at Hard Rock, and her team share content (via internal communication) with all of its properties and the location managers customize it from there. Each location adheres to corporate’s content calendar, which includes both timely messaging and evergreen content (not time sensitive). An example of a deadline-driven promotion is “Imagine

B

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No Hunger,” an annual campaign that plays tribute to John Lennon’s iconic song, “Imagine.” Since there are so many moving parts to this campaign, which combats childhood hunger and poverty, Matlock’s team creates a digital guide for everything a Hard Rock location would need to stay on-brand and advertise the promotion effectively. The guide includes relevant hashtags, graphics, messaging and more to roll out during the campaign. Hard Rock even distributes this material to partners like, for example, Yoko Ono who follows the rules, tweeting pre-approved content as well. Branding guidelines are a key component in the social strategies of most top brands. Yoko Ono isn’t the only one following Hard Rock's corporate guidelines. For example, in image A, marketers for Hard Rock Florence promote “Imagine No Hunger” bracelets in their native tongue. By empowering local representatives, Hard Rock eliminates the chance of translating the messaging incorrectly. Smart Scheduling

On-location social media management also helps when it comes to time zone accuracy. Of course, social media management tools can assist, but after using a popular solution on the market, which it found ineffective, Hard Rock chose to leverage the scheduling capabilities of the platforms themselves, when possible. Recently, Matlock’s team started to schedule Facebook posts directly from the social network. While Hard Rock appreciates this capability on the popular social network, Matlock hasn’t been happy about Facebook’s algorithm change that dramatically reduces organic reach. This prompted Hard Rock to invest more resources into Instagram (also Facebook owned) and start using a platform called Olapic (see image B) to increase engagement on its own digital property by managing, curating and showcasing customers’ visual content on HardRock.com. Big Brand Takeaways

Top brands like Hard Rock are creating quality content that engages their audiences in meaningful ways and finding ways to bring back customers to their websites, where, from a conversion perspective, they really belong.


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To learn more, visit WebsiteMagazine.com/Web360


CONVERSION CORNER

By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor

The Golden Goose :

Getting Repeat, Regular Conversions Decision-makers are finally seeing the light. According to a recent survey from Manta and BIA/Kelsey, 62 percent of small business owners (SBOs) are now spending the majority of their annual marketing budgets on retaining existing customers rather than acquiring new ones. This is a huge departure from 2012, when they prioritized customer acquisition over retention at a whopping 7-1 ratio — likely wasting valuable resources (time and money) in doing so. Similarly, that same year, Adobe reported that online retailers were spending nearly 80 percent of their digital marketing budgets acquiring new visitors. At the time, Adobe suggested that if merchants converted just one percent of shoppers to returning purchasers they could generate as much as $39 million in additional revenue for each of the 180 retailers involved in the study — proving regular, repeat conversions are the Web’s golden goose. Chasing Subscriptions There are some products and services that naturally lend themselves to regularly timed purchases, but often, brands must be creative with how they can market their products/services in an ongoing manner. A subscription (when someone makes an agreement with a company to get a product or service that is usually paid for in advance) is the ultimate recurring conversion. In the case of software sales, Gartner has found that revenue streams from a subscription model are more predictable than a perpetual model (which allows customers to use licensed software in-

WebsiteMagazine.com Discover the science behind conversion rate optimization (CRO) at wsm.co/croscience.

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definitely after purchase) and investors tend to look favorably at businesses with them. Subscriptions aren’t limited to software sales, of course. Shutterfly presents a terrific example of a company who created a subscription-based service despite its products not being typically associated with that payment arrangement. For the unfamiliar, Shutterfly is an online image publishing service, which markets to a consumer group that routinely uploads, prints and shares photos of their kids. Knowing this, Shutterfly created “savings plans” to not only encourage repeat purchases throughout the year, but also to give their shoppers incentives to buy. For example, if a Shutterfly customer purchases an annual print plan, she will get a free custom photo book as well as 30 percent off of whatever she buys on Shutterfly.com that year, or she can pre-pay for a certain amount of prints annually. At the end of the cycle, Shutterfly will automatically bill her for another year (unless canceled by the user, of course). Despite subscriptions being the most obvious way to get repeat, regular conversions because of their ability to increase a customer’s average annual spend, they are not without headaches (think trial periods, credit card issues, refunds, etc.). A number of solutions exist to not only make the billing process simpler, but also to manage upgrades and downgrades, messaging and more. Some of the top players in the space are Chargify, ChargeBee, Digital River, OrderGroove and others. For a more in-depth look at subscription platforms, visit wsm.co/5recurringpay. OrderGroove, specifically, integrates with nearly every e-commerce platform on the market with standard integrations for eBay Enterprise, Demandware and Magento. Its marketing team also works with customers to promote the program on landing pages, product pages, banner ads and email campaigns. OrderGroove fuels Lancôme’s auto replenish program,


which enables customers to select the auto-replenish option when they add items to their carts, and provides the flexibility of selecting the desired delivery frequency of those items. With every auto-replenish order, shoppers get free shipping and a gift (building brand loyalty). Introduced in late 2013, Lancôme has successfully brought subscription billing to cosmetics — items often bought in cycles but not typically associated with this model. Loving Loyalty When managed and marketed correctly, subscriptions provide unique opportunities to create loyal shoppers, but loyalty programs are equally important to getting repeat, regular conversions. While, as previously stated, business owners are investing heavily in retaining existing customers, they are downright failing in making provisions for these programs. In fact, 66 percent of SBOs do not currently have a loyalty program. Moreover, of the companies that do have them (34 percent), 54 percent of the loyalty programs are paper-based and therefore do not leverage valuable consumer data that can be discovered through cross-channel programs. Even those that do, are usually, in this case, just an email list. Digital loyalty programs can be expensive but worth the investment. When looking at a loyalty program from a big brand like Starbucks, however, they seem out of reach. Since Starbucks just might present the industry’s loyalty standard though, we’ll start there. Here’s how it works. When a Starbucks buyer registers a gift card online and makes 30 purchases within a year, that card gets upgraded to a “gold card.” Starbucks sends them a physical card in the mail complete with their name on it (a.k.a. prestige). The member also has the option of accessing the gold card from the Starbucks app on his smartphone. After every 12 purchases (or 12 stars), the person gets a free beverage or food item, and he must earn

30 stars annually to maintain his gold-level status. This author can speak from experience, when she says, she’s witnessed someone buy multiple items at a Starbucks back-to-back (in separate transactions) to keep his gold status for another year. Starbucks is, of course, backed by vast resources to build a sophisticated, cross-channel loyalty program, but there are providers that bridge the gap between heavyweights like Starbucks and the rest of us. Take loyalty program solution, Belly, for example. Molly’s Cupcakes in Chicago used Belly to strengthen relationships with existing customers (and its bottom line). When signing up, it received a tablet running the app (for in-store use), loyalty cards for its customers, email and social media integration and more. Molly’s Cupcakes customers earn points every time they visit its location, which can be redeemed for rewards specific to the business like the ability to name a cupcake for the day, smash a cupcake (even in an employee’s face), free upgrades, etc. Not only are current customers being rewarded in unique ways (building repeat conversions), but they’re also becoming brand advocates. For example, Belly card holders are prompted to leave Yelp reviews after they’ve visited companies a few times. That way, Molly Cupcake’s most loyal customers are the ones leaving reviews. By taking care of existing customers, Belly enables this growing company to leverage them as marketing tools.

Loyalty for Online-Only Brands Discover which Webbased companies are mimicking real-world loyalty programs on the ‘Net (and how you can too) at wsm.co/netloyalty.

Investing in Conversions The proof for investing more resources in customer retention than customer acquisition is at the ready. Retention clearly costs less and provides a higher return on investment. Regardless, only time will tell whether brands continue to put more eggs in their customer retention baskets or go back to their old, ineffective ways. It is clear, however, that the more companies invest in current customers, the more those customers will invest in them.

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DOMAIN MASTERS

By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief

BURNING UP, FLAMING OUT Where the Web Stands on the New gTLDs The Web is full of speculation about what will ultimately happen when actual websites start appearing on the thousands of new generic top-level domain extensions that have been released. Will search engines treat these new extensions differently? Will it cause brands to start acquiring domain names haphazardly? Nobody knows for sure. What we do know, is that many of the new extensions have gotten out to a terrific start — with more than 430,000 new gTLDs added since early Feb. 2014. From geographic-focused extensions to those classified as industry specific, there will soon be a domain that appeals to everyone and it will benefit brands to know which are burning up and which are flaming out.

The Top Three Today

.PHOTOGRAPHY | Another domain extension that has already proven appealing is that of .photography. The extension has racked up a very respectable 29,000 registrations since its early Feb. 2014 release. GoDaddy’s reach is once again greatly responsible for its popularity, as the registrar has a 53 percent share of that extension’s registration.

Best of the Rest The long-term success of the three new gTLD extensions mentioned above will in great part reveal how the future of the domain market will shake out. Keep in mind, however, that the introduction of these new gTLDs is only beginning; there are many bright spots that your enterprise can leverage. The following complete the final top 10 of the most registered new gTLDs:

2) 1&1 Internet 44,000

There will be thousands of new extensions emerging on the ‘Net in 2014 and 2015, but many have stood out already and currently present some interesting opportunities for savvy marketers. The top five new gTLDs (as of late March 2014) are .guru (47,000 registrations), .berlin (43,000) and .photography (30,000). Let’s take a closer look at these domains (and others) and how they are being used on the Web today.

3) Enom 42,000

.GURU | Few expected .guru to become the clear

United Domains (17%) and Enom (11%)

leader among the newly released generic top-level domains, but that is just what it’s done. With the most registrations, the extension is adding hundreds of new domains into the namespace each day. GoDaddy is leading the charge, registering 25,000-plus extensions, which account for more than half of all .guru registrations.

.TODAY: 17,000 registrations, led by GoDaddy (33%), Enom (14%), and 1&1 Internet (10%)

Top 10 Registrars of the New gTLDs: 1) GoDaddy 134,000

4) United Domains 39,000 5) Cronon Ag 17,000 6) Name.com 15,000 7) Tucows Domains 14,000 8) Mesh Digital 13,000 9) PSI-USA 13,000 10) Key-Systems 11,000

Source: NTLDstats.com

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United Domains, account for roughly 60 percent of all .berlin registrations.

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.EMAIL: 19,900 registrations, led by GoDaddy

(22%), 1&1 Internet (11%) and Enom (11%) .TIPS: 17,000 registrations, led by GoDaddy (23%),

.BERLIN | Geographic domain names are those

that most industry watchers believe will be the biggest digital hit, and .Berlin is proving them right. While it has more than 40,000 registrations currently, the extension’s growth has been fueled dramatically by a promotion from German domain registrar 1&1, which gives a free year of .berlin registration to people in Germany and Austria. As of print, 1&1, and its sister service

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.COMPANY: 13,000 registrations, led by GoDaddy (30%), Network Solutions (6%) and 1&1 (6%) .TECHNOLOGY: 12,000 registrations, led by GoDaddy (33%), Enom (14%), and 1&1 Internet (8%) .DIRECTORY: 12,000 registrations, led by GoDaddy (47%), Enom (10%), and Name (9%) .CENTER: 11,000 registrations, led by United

Domains (19%), GoDaddy (19%), and 1&1 Internet (9%) Stay in the know about gTLD developments in Website Magazine’s online Domain Masters channel at wsm.co/WMdomains.


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W E B C O M M E N TA R Y

By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor

THE WORLD ISN’T CHANGING;

YOU ARE CHANGING THE WORLD In the same virtual breath, technology can be exciting and empowering, as well as scary and smothering. The more marketers are able to paint complete pictures about customers, either by simply asking for their information or collecting it through sophisticated data-gathering solutions, the more vulnerable consumers (Internet professionals included) are when it comes to digital security. Perhaps the recent “Heartbleed” Internet security bug brought this to your attention. This bug makes website users on countless digital destinations vulnerable through the SSL/TLS encryption which was supposed to make them safe. According to Heartbleed.com, which was set up by the security researchers who discovered the leak, “The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users, and to impersonate services and users.” Scary, right? Of course, and since Internet professionals spend more time on the Web than average consumers, they are likely more vulnerable than the typical website user. ExactTarget research indicates marketers, in particular, use their smartphones more often, make more online purchases as direct results of marketing messages and are more active on social networks. It’s safe to assume they use virtual communication (e.g. chat, video calls, etc.) more often too, which were/are all vulnerable to Heartbleed. In short, digital marketers are more digital, and that means

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more susceptible. They have more accounts, more passwords and likely more personal information stored across the Web. And, the way they interact with brands on the ‘Net, influences a lot of technology decisions within their own companies. They’ve changed the world simply by their online expectations and the technologies they implement as a result. This security bug is certainly not the fault of average Web workers, but the information that is stored during a consumer’s browsing session may be. Due to their decisions, they are storing credit card information, address books, security questions, purchase histories and much, much more. They store this information under the “user experience” umbrella. The more they know about a person, the more they can personalize their experience. Website Magazine readers are not going to stay offline (please don’t) and won’t stop collecting data to improve their brands’ bottom lines (please don’t), but bugs like these should certainly open everyone’s digital eyes to online security. The irony of it is, however, those who upgraded to the latest and best encryption will be affected most by Heartbleed. As someone responsible for a website, it’s important to not only take security seriously, but also to empower customers to protect themselves. Users need the ability to update passwords or preferred browsers, as well as delete credit card information, shopping history, address books and security questions. They should be in charge of this data. Even though twostep verification wouldn’t have helped in the case of Heartbleed, it’s also a good place to start. As someone shaping the modern Web, it’s your responsibility to give consumers the security tools they need. After all, you’re the one who changed their world (how they access brands and information), so it’s you’re responsible to keep them safe.


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Website Magazine May 2014  

Website Magazine is the one publication to focus exclusively on the business of running a website. Discover tips for successful websites, so...

Website Magazine May 2014  

Website Magazine is the one publication to focus exclusively on the business of running a website. Discover tips for successful websites, so...

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