Website Performance Tip: Check Your Speed
Have you clocked your website’s speed lately? If not, you might be missing out.
In the online universe, speed counts. The faster a web page loads, the better the user experience. And the better the user experience, the greater the likelihood you’ll convert visitors into customers. Research shows that 40% of shoppers won’t wait more than three seconds before abandoning a retail or travel site. Three seconds might seem like no time at all, but it’s an eternity to someone searching for something online.
Did you know you can check the page speed of any website for free? Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a free and easy-to-use tool that analyzes the content of a web page, then generates suggestions to make that page faster. Simply plug in a web page URL, and PageSpeed Insights will do the rest.
This easy-to-use tool analyzes performance of any web page on both mobile and desktop devices, and measures both the above-the-fold load—the part of the page that comes up first on your screen—and the full-page load. Best of all, it then gives you a detailed report with specific suggestions for improving performance. It even color-codes the results, where a green check-mark means “Good job!” and a yellow exclamation means “Fix this if it doesn’t take a lot of work” while a red exclamation means “Definitely fix this if at all possible.”
Give it a try. Even some simple improvements could have a big impact on your website’s performance, and PageSpeed Insights shows you which improvements matter most.
Are Your Video Ads Making an Impression?
As video is used more and more in online marketing and advertising, how do you make sure that labor of love (and money) pays off? Which factors affect the viewability of video online?
First, we need to define viewability. A “viewable impression” occurs when at least 50% of an ad’s pixels are visible on screen for at least two consecutive seconds, according to the Media Rating Council and the IAB standard. What determines whether both of those conditions are present? Google recently conducted a study to find out, analyzing tons of data from their Active View measurement technology.
First, they found that over three-fourths of the ads that were not seen were in a background tab or never on screen at all. The remaining one-fourth of non-viewable ads were either scrolled off-screen or abandoned in less than two seconds.
Of those that were viewable, here are some interesting findings:
- Device Matters—Video ads are significantly more viewable on mobile devices and tablets than on desktop screens. Surprised?
- Player Size Matters—The most popular video ad player size across the web happens to be the least viewable. The most popular player sizes are the smallest, but the most viewable ads were on large players, especially those on video-focused sites, like YouTube.
- Location Matters—Horizontal and vertical positioning both matter, as both correlate directly to viewability.
Want more? Google has summarized all the findings in this nifty infographic.
Are Your Video Ads Making an Impression?
When using video in online advertising, which factors affect the viewability of the ads? This infographic from Google summarizes key factors to keep in mind.
Top 5 Proofreading Tips
In William Safire’s delightful book Fumblerules: A Lighthearted Guide to Grammar and Good Usage, he illustrates each of his basic rules with a statement that clearly violates the rule—such as “Don’t use no double negatives” or “The passive voice should be avoided.” The section on the importance of proofreading begins with the obviously unproofed sentence above.
Proofreading is the final step in the writing process—first write, then edit, finally proof—but in today’s fast-paced work environment, it’s a step that’s often overlooked. Why work for two weeks on that quarterly report only to have it marred with errors when it hits the boss’s desk?
A good proofreading will catch any typos, misspellings or punctuation mistakes before anything ever gets that far. (Grammatical mistakes should have been caught during the editing stage.) Here are our top five tips and tricks for proofreading well.
- Put it away for at 24 hours. Although not always possible, putting some time between the writView Posting-and-editing phase and the final proofreading will allow you to check your writing with a clearer eye. The more you can approach it as if it’s new to you, the easier it will be to catch mistakes.
- Do something non-verbal. Check on those budget figures. Pick out a picture for the new brochure. Or run an errand you’ve been putting off. When your brain engages in something completely different—especially an activity that engages the visual or mathematical part of the brain—you’ll come back to words on the page with a fresher eye and more alert verbal acuity.
- Read backwards. As absurd as it sounds, reading backwards forces you to look at every single word and punctuation mark. Don’t worry: it’s easy. You’ll read the whole word, one word at a time, but you’ll take it in slowly instead of in a gulp as we tend to do when reading something familiar. When we read “normally,” we’re reading for meaning, and that often induces us to read what we intended to say instead of what’s actually on the page. The whole point of proofreading is to catch the mistakes we didn’t intend to make.
- Check for commonly misspelled words. Don’t rely on spell checkers! The syntax and grammar recognition capabilities built in to those things are limited at best, and at times they’re downright wrong. No office software available today comes close to a human paying attention to words in the context of real sentences. Check troublesome words carefully, and look up anything you’re unsure of. These are some of the most common trouble-makers:
- “it’s” for “its”
- “there” for “their” or “they’re”
- “your” for “you’re”
- “and” for “an”
- “effect” for “affect”
Are there words that often trip you up? Make a list of those and be sure to check them carefully in your writing.
- Rinse and repeat. That’s right: If it’s an important document, or if you’re signing off on a print job, proofread again. Better yet, have someone who has no connection to what you’ve written give it a careful reading—and then proofread again. It’s surprising how much we miss. This is the writer’s version of “Measure twice, cut once.” Proofread twice, and be much more confident in what goes out.
Once you start proofreading regularly, you’ll find it’s easy to make it a habit—one that’s guaranteed to make you look more professional (if not downright smarter).
Do you have other proofreading tips? Let us know what works for you.
Connecting the Dots
We had a great Google Partners Connect event here last week, when we hosted another Google livestream presentation on online marketing, featuring Google’s Matt Lawson and Fred Vallaeys. For those who missed it, here’s a recap.
The Consumer Is In Charge
Matt started out by reminding us that in today’s media environment, the consumer is in control, choosing what media to consume and—perhaps most importantly—when and how to consume it.
Media consumption has risen 500% in the past three years alone. On top of that, we all use multiple devices many times throughout the day. We even check our phones, he said, an average of 150 times a day. (Let that one sink in.) And according to a recent study from Accenture, up to 88% of consumers are now researching products online and then buying in a physical store.
So we know consumers are online and active. The key question is, Where are you? Is your business in front of them when they need it? And do they see it as relevant to what they want?
Micro Moments: The New Battleground for Brands
“The biggest opportunities sometimes come in the smallest moments.” Consider these some common scenarios:
- You’re in a new town and you want to find a good restaurant nearby.
- The coffee pot breaks and you want to find a replacement….right now.
- You’re buying a home and you want a mortgage calculator to use whenever you have a free moment.
All of these are moments when a business has an opportunity to shape people’s choices by putting the right info in front of the right people at the right time.
Where is your business when the individuals who matter to you are making a decision that matters? What are the points on their decision-making journey? And how do you connect the dots?
Three Steps To Successful Digital Marketing
- First, Matt pointed out, you need to identify the moments that really matter to your customers. Ask questions. Find out what they’re really looking for when they whip out their phones in the store…..or download that report…..or call in to customer service.
- Next, deliver on people’s needs in the moment. Get the content right, get the experience right, and get both of those aligned within the user interface and design. (A big challenge, but something an agency can help with.)
- Finally, measure each moment that matters. Because mobile has “fractured the customer journey,” it’s no longer enough to measure only the online conversion or lead. We now have to look at whether that customer called on the phone, came into the store, or started on a mobile device and completed a purchase in-store.
Identify, deliver on, and measure the moments that matter.
Google My Business: The Importance of Claiming Place Listings
Following Matt’s presentation on micro-moments, Fred Vallaeys gave a good review of the search engine results page (SERP). He emphasized the importance of understanding what the different components of the SERP actually are in order to focus on the ones that matter most to your business.
For those who don’t have a website, or those who need to drive traffic to a physical location more than to a website, claiming and optimizing your Google My Business listing is a great place to start. It puts your business on Search, Maps and Google+ so that customers can find you wherever they are, from any device. Best of all, it’s free—no ad spend required!
Of course, even businesses that invest heavily in driving traffic to their website should also claim and optimize their online listings.
A side note here: As a certified Yext Partner as well as a Google Partner, ClearPoint offers a streamlined and very affordable way to claim and update all your key online listings—including Yahoo!, Yelp, Bing, CityMaps, Merchant Circle, Yellow Pages, and many many more—in addition to your Google My Business citation. Give us a call or email for more on this valuable time-saver.
“Get in front of the trend for mobile growth,” Fred urged. A few interesting stats on the necessity of being mobile:
- Local Search Keeps Business Local—72% of people who searched for local info on a smartphone eventually visited a business within five miles
- Phone Search Pays Off—50% of consumers visit a store within a day of searching on a smart phone
- “Siri, Please Find…”—A recent study found that the most common thing adults do when talking on their phones is to ask directions
- Gimme My Phone!—Another recent study found that 45% of people would rather give up their vacation than give up their smartphone
Getting The Most Out Of AdWords
He also went over a couple of “extras” that can give a big boost to search ad campaigns:
- Show Extra Info In Your Ad—One way to increase the number of clicks you get is to add ad extensions, a feature that shows extra business information with your ad, such as an address, phone number, store rating, or links to additional pages on your website. Simply adding extensions can increase click-through-rate (CTR) up to 30%. There are now 12 different ad extensions available with AdWords.
- Advertise When You Need It Most—It’s now possible to connect your ads to the temperature, the stock market, things happening on social media, things happening in your business—just about any variable you can measure—to control when and under what circumstances your ads show. This allows you to show the right things to the right user at the right time. This is an advanced AdWords tool, though, he added, and should really be handled by a Partner Agency (such as ClearPoint).
Tracking Online Ads
The presentation wrapped up with a reminder of the importance of tracking everything. What’s great about search advertising is how easy it is to track and measure—with a great level of detail—and see exactly what’s working and what isn’t. You can always optimize for better results, and a couple of cool new measurement tools make it possible to optimize at a very sophisticated level:
- Get Specific With Dynamic Numbers—Using ad extensions in AdWords, you can show a dynamic phone number on ads and even on a landing page. This is a unique phone number that you can track back to a certain ad and even a certain keyword, to help measure exactly what’s performing best in terms of conversions, cost, and ROI.
- Track Cross-Device Conversions—Google now has technologies in place that can estimate cross-device conversions, and now they can even estimate offline conversions for those customers who complete the sale in the store.
Powerful tools for getting the most out of your online advertising.
Trying AdWords For Your Business
Have you ever tried search marketing and advertising for your business? How did it do? If you already have a pay-per-click account, check out our our complimentary AdWords Audit. This is an 8-point analysis we developed that examines the most crucial elements of any pay-per-click (PPC) campaign—account structure, targeting, bid strategy, and more—and includes a written report of our findings and recommendations. There’s no charge and no obligation. As a Google Partner Agency with a Certified Google Specialist on staff, we know how to optimize for best results. Click here to find out more.
We expect to host another Google Livestream later this year, so stay tuned. If you’re in Asheville or within driving distance, please join us!
Google Is Coming To Asheville?
That’s right! On Wednesday, May 13, Google will be in downtown Asheville via a special livestream event.
As a Google Partner, ClearPoint has been asked to host this special online marketing presentation, which offers marketing directors and business owners in Western North Carolina an opportunity to gain insights and tips from Google experts on some of the most effective ways to grow a business online.
We all know we need a strong online presence. The big question we usually hear from clients is how. Should you focus on search advertising? SEO? Social media? Content marketing? The challenge for most marketers these days is figuring out how to integrate all the pieces of the puzzle — and how to balance out the resources required.
The May 13 event gives you a chance to hear Google’s perspective on getting your business found online.
WHAT: Google Partners Connect: A Livestream Google Event
WHEN: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 | 12:00–1:00 p.m.
WHERE: 9 West Walnut Street, #3D, Asheville
The Google presenters include:
- Matt Lawson, Director of Search Ads Marketing for Google–Matt will examine the “micro-moments” that guide a customer’s decision-making journey and will look at how to reach potential customers during the moments that matter most, and
- Fred Vallaeys, Adwords Evangelist— Fred will address how small businesses can better navigate the web and expand their online presence through smarter customer insights
The event is free, but space is limited, so please let us know you’re coming. Give us a call if you have any questions — 828-253-7255 (toll-free 866-253-7255) — or you can register directly online at PartnersConnect.WithGoogle.com/event/clearpoint-marketing-communications.
If you’re in the greater Asheville area, please join us!
Content Marketing 101
Content marketing is one of the biggest marketing trends for 2015. How to master it? Isn’t all marketing really content marketing? Yes, but to use your content effectively, it’s best to establish some order and direction.
Follow these four basic guidelines and you’ll be off to good start in the new year:
- Use an array of tactics: Consider all the main content platforms—press releases, email, newsletters, blog posts, social media, and of course your website—and focus on the ones that matter most for your business.
- Create a publishing schedule you can stick to: The best ideas in the the world remain ideas unless they’re brought to fruition. After you select your main content platforms, decide who will write what and how often, then map it out in a realistic schedule.
- Develop an editorial calendar: What topics are important to your company and stakeholders? What information do your customers want? Figure out the content categories you need to cover, then make assignments. If your agency isn’t handling this for you, decide on who will write what. Finally, put all this into a calendar form that lists individual topics, authors, deadlines and publication dates.
- Publish regularly: It’s better to publish less often and be consistent than to start off with grand ambitions and fizzle out.
ClearPoint Hosts Google Livestream Presentation Oct. 15
As a Google Partner, ClearPoint has been asked to host a second Google Partners Connect livestream presentation for local businesses on Wednesday, October 15, 2014, from 2:00 to 3:00 pm. This is a great opportunity for marketing directors and business owners to gain insights and tips from Google experts on ways to grow a business online.
The livestream features Allan Thygesen, who will offer insights on how to thrive in a hyper-connected marketplace, and Fred Vallaeys, who will address ways businesses can expand their online presence through smarter insights and effective advertising. To register, visit https://partnersconnect.withgoogle.com/event/clearpoint-marketing-communications.
The event is free, but space is limited and advance registration is required. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 828-253-7255 (toll-free 866-253-7255).
We hope to see you there!
Making the Most of Your Website
With over 400 million websites to compete for your readers’ attention, what can you do to keep them around? Here are four simple tips that carry a lot of weight.
1. Focus on the main message. The reality is that your online audience is still only focusing on one thing at a time. So, even though you probably have a lot of great stuff on your site, stick to your main message—and make sure that it’s absolutely clear to your viewers.
2. Make that message count. Look at your main message. Does it address the needs and desires of your target audience? Remember, an effective website is one that tells a potential customer what your product or service can do for them. So make sure it does.
3. Involve your viewers. Today’s viewers generally respond better to sites that provide something for them to do. Use forums, blogs, or other ways to connect them to your company and to other consumers who share their interests.
4. Give them a reason to come back. Let your viewers know that you regularly update your site with interesting and helpful information and they’ll be more likely to return. The more visits—the more chances for you to sell.
Just remember, 10 seconds is all you have to hook your visitors and keep them online. So be sure you do everything possible to make that brief time interesting and on-message. And don’t forget to collect contact information at your site. Even 10 seconds is enough time to develop qualified leads that can turn into sales.
Ramp Up Your Social Strategy
Social media is changing faster than the weather this year. And while keeping up may just be impossible, there are a few simple strategies that will keep you fresh and moving forward. Take a look.
Be where they are.
With so many platforms and so little time, your customers are jumping around from niche blogs, to Twitter and then to video sharing. The trick is to not let this overwhelm you and to not let it make you lazy. Turn off your auto-scheduler once in a while and spend some time tailoring your message to that platform and that specific audience. After all, each one is very different and you may be surprised at what you find.
Create a message worth spreading.
There is only one reason social media exists and one thing that makes it special, and that’s content. So before you go posting another cat meme, really ask yourself what stories are happening around your brand that makes your company or products interesting to your audience. What will they want to share? Keep this at the heart of your social media strategy, and you will see results.
Know your role.
Remember, just as social media trends change, so do our roles. Some days you might be there to observe. At other points, to engage. Sometimes you need to start a conversation and the very next day you need to maintain a relationship. The key is, understanding that social media serves a breadth of purposes, it’s wise to take advantage of each and every one.
Social media is and will remain challenging. But don’t fret. Start small. Make lists. Set goals. And you’ll be on your way to a more productive social media strategy.
Why Copywriting Matters
Writing your own ad isn’t that difficult—right? Easy enough, a child could do it.
Besides, you know your products better than anyone. And it doesn’t take a genius to put some words on paper. Right? But if that’s true, then why aren’t your ads working?
It could be because you’re talking about the features of your products rather than the benefits. Prospects want to know “What’s in it for me?” If you don’t tell them, you won’t sell them. (And remember, Volvo ads have never told you that the frame is made of the highest quality metal, or that its engineering is light years ahead of the competition. They say that your family will be safe in the car.)
So, anytime you’re communicating with potential customers in ads, sales letters, or your website, focus on the following:
Their Needs—“Do You Want Your Lawn to Be Luxurious and Green?”
The Benefits Your Product Provides—“You Won’t Have to Break Your Back Feeding and Seeding.”
The Features That Allow You to Provide the Benefits—“Our lawn product uses a secret seed that gives you months of care-free enjoyment.”
The bottom line is that writing successful copy is all about your customers—how your product is going to benefit them. If you remember that, your ads will do what they are intended to do. Sell.