Tag Archive | "Turning"

There’s Treasure Everywhere: Turning waste into profit

Throughout history, curious business people have launched entirely new companies off their company’s waste. Read on to learn how you can you find similar waste-to-winning opportunities.
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Is Your Camera the New Search Box? How Visual Intelligence is Turning Search Keyword-less

Posted by purna_v

My neighbor has the most beautiful garden ever.

Season after season, she grows the most exotic, gorgeous plants that I could never find in any local nursery. Slightly green with envy over her green thumb, I discovered a glimmer of hope.

There are apps that will identify any plant you take a photo of. Problem solved. Now the rest of the neighborhood is getting prettied up as several houses, including mine, have sprouted exotic new blooms easily ordered online.

Take a photo, get an answer. The most basic form of visual search.

Visual search addresses both convenience and curiosity. If we wanted to learn something more about what we’re looking at, we could simply upload a photo instead of trying to come up with words to describe it.

This isn’t new. Google Visual Search was demoed back in 2009. CamFind rolled out its visual search app in 2013, following similar technology that powered Google Glass.

What’s new is that a storm of visual-centric technologies are coming together to point to a future of search that makes the keyword less…key.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are the critical new components in the visual game. Let’s focus on what this means and how it’s going to impact your marketing game.

How many kinds of reality do we actually need?

The first thing we think about with the future of visual is virtual reality or augmented reality.

There’s also a third one: mixed reality. So what’s the difference between them and how many kinds of reality can we handle?

Virtual reality (VR) is full immersion in another universe – when you have the VR headset on, you cannot see your actual reality. Virtual reality is a closed environment, meaning that you can only experience what’s been programmed into it. Oculus Rift is an example of virtual reality.

Augmented reality (AR) uses your real environment, but enhances it with the addition of a computer-generated element, like sound or graphics. Pokémon Go is a great example of this, where you still see the world around you but the Pokémon-related graphics – as well as sounds – are added to what you see.

Mixed reality (MR) is an offshoot of augmented reality, with the added element of augmented virtuality. Here, it merges your virtual world with your real world and allows you to interact with both through gestures and voice commands. HoloLens from Microsoft (my employer) is an example of mixed reality – this headset can be programmed to layer on and make interactive any kind of environment over your reality.

The difference is a big fat deal – because an open environment, like HoloLens, becomes a fantastic tool for marketers and consumers.

Let me show you what I mean.

Pretty cool, right? Just think of the commercial implications.

Retail reality

Virtual and augmented reality will reshape retail. This is because it solves a problem – for the consumer.

Online shopping has become a driving force, and we already know what its limitations are: not being able to try clothing on, feel the fabric on the couch or get a sense of the heft of a stool. All of these are obstacles to the online shopper.

According to the Harvard Business Review, augmented reality will eliminate pain points that are specific to every kind of retail shopping – not just trying on the right size, but think about envisioning how big a two-man tent actually is. With augmented reality, you can climb inside it!

If you have any doubt that augmented reality is coming, and coming fast, look no further than this recent conquering by Pokémon Go. We couldn’t get enough.

Some projections put investment in AR technology at close to $ 30 billion by 2020 – that’s in the next three years. HoloLens is already showing early signs for being a game-changer for advertisers.

For example, if I’m shopping for a kitchen stool I could not only look at the website, but I can see what it would look like in my home:

Holo_1.png

Holo2.png

It’s all about being able to get a better feel for how things will look.

Fashion is one industry that has tried to find ways to solve for this and is increasingly embracing augmented reality.

Rebecca Minkoff debuted the use of augmented reality in her New York Fashion Week show this September. Women could use AR app Zeekit – live during the show – to see how the clothes would look on their own body.

Zeekit.png

Image credit: Zeekit

Why did they do this? To fix a very real problem in retail.

According to Uri Minkoff, who is a partner in his sister’s clothing company, 20 to 40 percent of purchases in retail get returned – that’s the industry standard.

If a virtual try-on can eliminate the hassle of the wrong fit, the wrong size, the wrong everything, then they will have solved a business problem while also making their customers super happy.

This trend caught on and at London Fashion Week a few weeks later there were a host of other designers following suit.

Let’s get real about reality

Let’s bring our leap into the visual back down to earth just a bit – because very few of us will be augmenting our reality today.

What’s preventing AR and VR from taking over the world just yet is going to be slow market penetration. AR and VR are relatively expensive and require entirely new hardware.

On the other hand, something like voice search – another aspect of multi-sensory search – is becoming widely adopted because it relies on a piece of hardware most of us already carry with us at all times: our mobile phone.

The future of visual intelligence relies on tying it to a platform that is already commonly used.

Imagine this. You’re reading a magazine and you like something a model is wearing.

Your phone is never more than three feet from you, so you pick it up, snap a photo of the dress, and the artificial intelligence (AI) – via your digital personal assistant – uses image search to find out where to buy it, no keywords necessary at all.

Take a look at how it could work:

Talk about a multi-sensory search experience, right?

Voice search and conversation as a platform are combined with image search to transact right within the existing platform of your digital personal assistant – which is already used by 66% of 18- to 26-year-olds and 59% of 27- to 35-year-olds, according to Forrester Research.

graph_genzz.jpg

As personal digital assistants rise, so will the prevalence of visual intelligence.

Digital personal assistants, with their embedded artificial intelligence, are the key to the future of visual intelligence in everybody’s hands.

What’s already happening with visual intelligence?

Amazon

One of the most common uses exists right within the Amazon app. Here, the app gives you the option to find a product simply by taking a photo of something or of the bar code:

Amazon1.jpg or Amazon2.jpg

CamFind

The app CamFind can identify the content of pictures you’ve taken and offer links to places you could shop for it. Their website touts the fact that users can get “fast, accurate results with no typing necessary.”

For example, I took a photo of my (very dusty) mouse and it not only recognized it, but also gave me links to places I could buy it or learn more about it.

Pinterest

Pinterest already has a handy visual search tool for “visually similar results,” which returns results from other pins that are a mix of commerce and community posts. This is a huge benefit for retailers to take advantage of.

For example, if you were looking for pumpkin soup recipe ideas and came across a kitchen towel you liked within the Pin, you could select the part of the image you wanted to find visually similar results for.

Pinterest.png

Image credit: Pinterest

Google

Google’s purchase of Moodstocks is also very interesting to watch. Moodstocks is a startup that has developed machine learning technology to boost image recognition for the cameras on smartphones.

For example, you see something you like. Maybe it’s a pair of shoes a stranger is wearing on the subway, and you take a picture of it. The image recognition software identifies the make and model of the shoe, tells you where you can buy it and how much it costs.

Mood.jpg

Image credit: Moodstocks

Captionbot.ai

Microsoft has developed an app that describes what it sees in images. It understands thousands of objects as well as the relationship between them. That last bit is key – and is the “AI” part.

Capbot.png

Captionbot.ai was created to showcase some of the intelligence capabilities of Microsoft Cognitive Services, such as Computer Vision, Emotion API, and Natural Language. It’s all built on machine learning, which means it will get smarter over time.

You know what else is going to make it smarter over time? It’s integrated into Skype now. This gives it a huge practice field – exactly what all machine learning technology craves.

As I said when we first started, where we are now with something like plant identification is leading us directly to the future with a way of getting your product into the hands of consumers who are dying to buy it.

What should I do?

Let’s make our marketing more visual.

We saw the signs with rich SERP results – we went from text only to images, videos and more. We’re seeing pictures everywhere in a land that used to be limited to plain text.

Images are the most important deciding factor when making a purchase, according to research by Pixel Road Designs. They also found that consumers are 80% more willing to engage with content that includes relevant images. Think about your own purchase behavior – we all do this.

This is also why all the virtual reality shenanigans are going to take root.

Up the visual appeal

Without the keyword, the image is now the star of the show. It’s almost as if the understudy suddenly got thrust into the spotlight. Are they ready? Will they succeed?

To get ready for keywordless searches, start by reviewing the images on your site. The goal here is to ensure they’re fully optimized and still recognizable without the surrounding text.

First and foremost, we want to look at the quality of the image and answer yes to as many of the following questions as possible:

  • Does it clearly showcase the product?
  • Is it high-resolution?
  • Is the lighting natural with no distortive filters applied?
  • Is it easily recognizable as being that product?

Next, we want to tell the search engines as much about the image as we can, so they can best understand it. For the same reasons that SEOs can benefit by using Schema mark-up, we want to ensure the images tell as much of a story as they can.

The wonderfully brilliant Ronell Smith touched upon this subject in his recent Moz post, and the Yoast blog offers some in-depth image SEO tips as well. To summarize a few of their key points:

  • Make sure file names are descriptive
  • Provide all the information: titles, captions, alt attribute, description
  • Create an image XML sitemap
  • Optimize file size for loading speed

Fairly simple to do, right? This primes us for the next step.

Take action now by taking advantage of existing technology:

1. Pinterest:

On Pinterest, optimize your product images for clean matches from lifestyle photos. You can reverse-engineer searches to your products via the “visually similar results” tool by posting pins of lifestyle shots (always more compelling than a white background product shot) that feature your products, in various relevant categories.

visual-search-results-blog.gif

In August, Pinterest added video to its visual search machine learning functionality. This tool is still working out the kinks, but keep your eye on it so you can create relevant content with a commerce view.

For example, a crafting video about jewelry might be tagged with places to buy the tools and materials in it.

2. Slyce:

Integrate Slyce’s astounding tool, which gives your customer’s camera a “buy” button. Using image recognition technology, the Slyce tool activates visual product recognition.

slyce.png

Image credit: Slyce.it

Does it work? There are certainly several compelling case studies from the likes of Urban Outfitters and Neiman Marcus on their site.

3. Snapchat:

Snap your way to your customer, using Snapchat’s soon-to-come object recognition ad platform. This lets you deliver an ad to a Snapchatter by recognizing objects in the pictures they’ve just taken.

The Verge shared images from the patent Snapchat had applied for, such as:

snapchat.png

For example, someone who snaps a pic of a woman in a cocktail dress could get an ad for cocktail dresses. Mind-blowing.

4. Blippar:

The Blippar app is practically a two-for-one in the world of visual intelligence, offering both AR as well as visual discovery options.

They’ve helped brands pave the way to AR by turning their static content into AR interactive content. A past example is Domino’s Pizza in the UK, which allowed users of the Blippar app to interact with their static posters to take actions such as download deals for their local store.

Blippar.jpg

Now the company has expanded into visual discovery. When a user “Blipps” an item, the app will show a series of interrelated bubbles, each related to the original item. For example, “Blipping” a can of soda could result in information about the manufacturer, latest news, offers, and more.

blippars.jpg

Image credit: Blippar.com

Empowerment via inclusivity

Just in case you imagine all the developments are here to serve commerce, I wanted to share two examples of how visual intelligence can help with accessibility for the seeing impaired.

TapTapSee

taptapsee logo.PNG

From the creators of CamFind, TapTapSee is an app specifically designed for the blind and visually impaired.

It recognizes objects photographed and identifies them out loud for the user. All the user needs to do to take a photo is to double tap on the devices’ screen.

The Seeing AI

Created by a Microsoft engineer, the Seeing AI project combines artificial intelligence and image recognition with a pair of smart glasses to help a visually-impaired person better understand who and what is going on around them.

Take a look at them in action:

While wearing the glasses, the user simply swipes the touch panel on the eyewear to take a photo. The AI will then interpret the scene and describe it back out loud, using natural language.

It can describe what people are doing, how old they are, what emotion they’re expressing, and it can even read out text (such as a restaurant menu or newspaper) to the user.

Innovations like this are what makes search even more inclusive.

Keep Calm and Visualize On

We are visual creatures. We eat first with our eyes, we love with our eyes, we become curious with our eyes.

Cameras as the new search box is brilliant. It removes obstacles to search and helps us get answers in a more intuitive way. Our technology is adapting to us, to our very human drive to see everything.

And that is why the future of search is visual.

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Here’s the Key to Turning Your Failures into Opportunities

he-nellie-akalp

Today’s guest on Hack the Entrepreneur has a passion for assisting small business owners and entrepreneurs start and protect their businesses.

Alongside her husband, she pioneered the business filings industry with MyCorporation.com in 1997, while they were both in law school. A Fortune 500 company acquired MyCorporation.com in 2005, which allowed her to retire at the young age of 30.

She hated being retired and soon grew restless, so she and Phil founded Corpnet.com. Corpnet prepares and files the documents necessary to start a new business in any state or county in the U.S., and sends alerts to up-and-running businesses when annual reports and other business filings are due.

Her companies combined have helped more than 100,000 corporations and LLCs get started.

Now, let’s hack …

Nellie Akalp.

In this 33-minute episode of Hack the Entrepreneur, host Jon Nastor and Nellie Akalp discuss:

  • How and why being nice goes a long way in life and business
  • Why you can’t fake authenticity
  • Going after your dreams and making your mark in the world
  • How being an entrepreneur can allow you to be a better parent
  • Learning to politely decline offers (and stay focused)

Click Here to Listen to

Hack the Entrepreneur on iTunes

Click Here to Listen on Rainmaker.FM

About the author

Rainmaker.FM

Rainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing and sales podcast network. Get on-demand business advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.

The post Here’s the Key to Turning Your Failures into Opportunities appeared first on Copyblogger.


Copyblogger

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The (Not-So-Secret) Secret to Turning Your 
Website Traffic into Paying Customers

Image of MyCopyblogger Landing Pages Icon

We all do it … daydream about our website finally breaking through … getting the attention it deserves … and actually allowing us to earn a living on our terms.

Sometimes we see a glimmer of this dream coming true with a steady rise of subscribers, a flood of comments with each article, or a rush of traffic from a successful guest blog post.

When this happens we hold our breath and wonder: “Maybe this could happen to me. Maybe my ship is finally coming in and I could earn an honest living from my website.”

And I don’t care who you are. Writer. Podcaster. Business coach. Web designer. Real estate agent. Handbag designer. In one way or another, you are a content creator interested in online marketing … and dreaming of turning your hard work into cash.

But there’s just one problem.

People don’t naturally volunteer to hand you money. Especially online, where the prevailing paradigm is “Everything Is Free,” and people are smothered with information.

To convert traffic to customers you have to start with a compelling and trustworthy offer. But just throwing up a button on your home page won’t get the job done.

See, successful online content marketers have known for quite some time (this is the not-so-secret part) that it’s ridiculous to spend the blood, sweat, and tears creating an amazing product and then just drop it on their home page for promotion …

Instead, they use the proven landing page.

Why landing pages work so well

The single and solitary goal of a landing page is to overcome the “paradox of choice” dilemma that emerges when people are given multiple options … resulting in a decision NOT to choose at all (read: your sales are dead in the water).

And because of this single-minded focus on selling, landing pages convert infinitely higher, whether you are promoting an ebook, membership site, or any other product (digital or not).

Landing pages align the right message with the right audience at the right time …  with the cleanest page possible … and a headline that appeals to a narrow segment of your audience …

Overcoming the swift, brutal attention filters we’ve developed due to information overload and poorly matched promises. Even the fonts, colors, and visual graphics of a landing page are tailored to the exact audience and action you desire.

It’s really a powerful, essential tool if you want online success.

How to create killer landing pages

So, if you are ready to learn how to start creating killer landing pages right away  … and experience this type of success online … then here’s your chance. Grab our free 9-chapter ebook Landing Pages: Turn Traffic Into Money today.

In addition, to answer the tons of other questions that online publishers like you ask, we’ve built a training resource called MyCopyblogger.

When you register (at no charge) you’ll get instant access to nearly 100,000 words of proven marketing training in fourteen high-impact ebooks, plus our completely revamped 20-part Internet marketing course.

Take a quick look at what’s waiting for you in MyCopyblogger right now …

  • Copywriting 101: How to Craft Compelling Copy
  • How to Write Magnetic Headlines
  • How to Create Compelling Content that Ranks Well in Search Engines
  • Content Marketing: How to Build an Audience that Builds Your Business
  • The Business Case for Agile Content Marketing
  • A Content Marketing Strategy that Works
  • How to Create Content that Converts
  • How to Effectively Promote Your Content
  • Content Marketing Research: The Crucial First Step
  • How to Build Authority through Content and Google Authorship
  • Email Marketing: How to Push Send and Grow Your Business
  • Keyword Research for Web Writers and Content Producers
  • Landing Pages: How to Turn Traffic into Money

Inside these ebooks you’ll find the very same tactics, strategies, and processes that allowed us to build Copyblogger Media from a simple blog into a content-fueled software and training company with 100,000+ customers.

More than ever landing pages are essential for anyone interested in turning web traffic into customers and building that business you always dream about … so sign up for MyCopyblogger, and take advantage of months of valuable free marketing education on landing pages and so much more.

Free Registration

About the Author: Demian Farnworth is Chief Copywriter for Copyblogger Media. Follow him on Twitter or Google+. Then visit his blog to read his Education of a Writer series.

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10 Principles for Turning into a Killer (Copywriter)

Image of Quick Copy Tips Icon

In spite of being a literary snob, when I was first introduced to the world of direct-response copywriting … I fell in love.

I fell in love with the thought of using my writing to influence and persuade people.

I also fell in love with the idea of getting rich. (I wanted to be a wealthy snob).

But the road between loving it and actually writing with great skill (and making obscene amounts of money) is a long one. And I had one particular road block: I was the poet, but certainly not the killer

That would’ve been beneath me.

See, as a new copywriter I wanted what I wrote to sound so good that people would cock their heads, grin, and say, “Boy, you are so clever!” In other words, I wanted my ego to get stroked because of my creativity.

Unfortunately that desire held me back.

I didn’t write effective copy until I humbled myself and became that killer. And I didn’t become that killer until I understood the following ten principles behind effective sales copy …

1. The only purpose of advertising

Advertising is nothing more than a planned and purposeful neglect of everything except making the sale.

This means you need to include things in sales copy that support that plan — exalting benefits, building trust, overcoming objections.

Discard anything that doesn’t achieve those purposes. If you walk away from this post with only one lesson, let it be this: Good advertising is defined by actual revenue.

2. Treat sales copy like a salesman

Since your single goal is to make the sale, treat your copy like a salesperson and evaluate it on performance.

Does it sell or doesn’t it? If it sells, keep it and attempt to squeeze even more out of it. If it isn’t selling, fire it.

Here’s the thing. A salesman can only sell to one person at a time. Sales copy can sell to thousands at a time. The corollary to that truth is that a bad salesman can only harm your company a little. But bad advertising can harm your company a lot.

3. Sell in person first

When I was 14, I was offered a job as a canvasser for a home-improvement company. The guy who offered me the job was very friendly. I was going to work with a close friend, too. But I never showed up for my first day.

When I was 18, I took a job selling newspaper subscriptions. It was a trial run. I was supposed to call 100 people. I called two people. I was supposed to work eight hours. I took the offer to leave — without pay — after four.

It wasn’t until I was in my third or fourth year as a professional that I sold anything. Over the phone. And I spent two weeks as the customer service manager. It was difficult — but very rewarding. It’s being in the hot seat … thinking on your feet … that cuts a potent copywriter.

Before you try to sell your product online with sales copy … try to sell it in person first.

4. Use copy that would help a salesman

Now that you have had experience at selling … use what you learned to help you sell in print.

Would telling a joke help a salesman? Possibly. Would sharing the benefits of a product help? Absolutely. Would identifying with the customer’s pain point help a salesman? Yes. Would showing empathy help? Definitely. Would an example of social proof help? Yup. What about trotting out an authority? Indeed.

5. Clear, concise, and compelling conversation

Good salesman are not verbose. They do not use fancy words. They speak like an aged rural sheriff. Calm, confident, and kind.

They are patient, good listeners, and fantastic storytellers. Each word is pronounced properly. Each story is trimmed of excess. It’s a spell-binding time spent with a good salesman. In fact, you don’t even know you are being sold.

6. Literary writers are rarely good copywriters

William S. Burroughs. Lew Welch. Joseph Heller.

All writers who were once copywriters. They came from the educational ranks, did the responsible thing, and got a job. That job taught them the most important thing about writing: be clear, concise, and compelling.

It’s not the other way around. Literature doesn’t have much to teach copywriting. Tell a good story. Give your reader what she wants. Literary writers (like me) have to be broken to become good copywriters.

Interestingly, though, what you’ll  learn is that copywriting will make you a better literary writer, too.

7. Ignore the “Brief Copy” thumpers

There’s a pervasive thought (typically from non-writers) that sales copy should be brief … a paragraph or two … and the images should sell. This comes from the same person who has no problem reading a 3,000-word article in Sports Illustrated or a 70,000-word novel.

It’s not the length that matters. People will read forever if you make it about them.

If it’s interesting and solves a meaningful problem, it wil get read.

8. Avoid the strange and unusual

Imagine you walked into an auto dealership. You’re in the mood to buy a new car. It’s snowing outside, so the salesmen are idle, chatting behind the Volvo SUV in the showroom.

One walks toward you. He’s wearing a black vest, massive, billowing white scarf, white baseball pants, and a pair of pink Adidas running shoes. He doesn’t introduce himself, but asks you a riddle instead. It has something to do with caterpillars and pillows. You ask if he’s the mascot. No, he’s a salesman. Did he miss his morning medication? No, it’s who he is. You ask to see someone else.

Listen, I love me some dysfunctional. Some unusual. But when it comes to selling — be plain and simple. Black and white.

9. Don’t think of your audience — think of her

When it comes to selling online you are not in a conference room (with a chandelier) working a crowd of one hundred … or a crowd of ten thousand. When you sit down to write, picture yourself selling to one person.

You need to woo her and her alone.

A salesman does the same thing. He works on one customer at a time. Sure, he may be juggling a handful of prospects. But he never addresses these prospects as a group. He focuses on each prospect individually.

10. Study your customer

The best salesman and the best copywriter are both unapologetic students of the customer and product. Another way to put it: it’s not about you.

A good copywriter digs into the customer’s history, her likes, and dislikes. He studies her friends, her habits. He drills her with questions, bounces ideas off of her. He spends a great deal of time listening and good deal time of shutting his mouth. He never objects to what she says, but finds everything fascinating.

And then he studies the product. He looks for the angle — the hook — that will attract the attention of his customer, stir her desire, and build her interest in the product as if she feels that the product was made for her — and her alone, so not purchasing seems rather silly.

Your turn …

Great sales copy isn’t going to impress your writing professor. It probably isn’t going to win any awards.

What it will do, however, is persuade people to buy your product. And make you a good deal of money. That’s the “killer” way.

Become a killer today.

About the Author: Demian Farnworth is Chief Copywriter for Copyblogger Media. Follow him on Twitter or Google+. Then visit his blog to read his Education of a Writer series.

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Turning Traffic Into Customers

Why do we try to rank sites high in the search results?

Obviously, SEO is a traffic acquisition strategy. We seek to direct audiences who are interested in our products, services or ideas to our sites, rather than those of our competitors.

We expend time and energy getting a site to rank a few places higher, or for a wider range of keywords, but it also pays to focus our attention on what happens after visitors arrive. If visitors arrive, but click-back because a site isn’t what they expected to see, then the effort we’ve put into ranking is wasted.

PPC marketers tend to focus a lot of their energy on what happens after the click. Because they are paying per click, there is significant jeopardy involved if visitors do click back, but it’s also a discipline that can prove lucrative for SEOs. Many SEOs do this already, of course, however if you’re new to the field, then it is easy to get bogged down in ranking methodology without giving much thought to what happens next.

Let’s look at ways of making better use of the traffic we already have.

The State Of The Internet

In times past, producers could dictate to markets. You may recall Henry Ford’s maxim when he talked about the Model T Ford: “You can have any color, so long as it is black!”

Producers were able to dictate to consumers when there wasn’t much in the way of consumer choice. Markets weren’t deep with competition. This was also sometimes a result of market sectors enjoying regulatory protection against new competitors.

The internet is the opposite.

The internet is a deep amalgamation of markets. Anyone, anywhere, can set up a “store front” – web presence – in a few days, or even a few minutes. There are few barriers to entry, and there are many new sites launching each second. This environment shifts the power from producer to consumer, as the consumer can exercise choice. On the internet, exercising that choice is often little more than a click of a mouse.

In such an environment, user-centric marketing is primary. If we don’t satisfy visitors, it’s very easy for them to go elsewhere. There is little point positioning #1 if the visitor is dissatisfied with what she sees, clicks back, and clicks on your competitors result further down the search result page instead. It could also be argued Google are using user behavior as a metric, so if enough users don’t find what they were looking for on your site, this could, in turn, affect your ranking.

So what makes a visitor decide to leave or stay?

Typically, visitors will judge quickly. User testing has shown that visitors will first scan your page to see if it answers their query. If not, they go elsewhere. If you look at your stats, you might find this is the behavior of high proportion of your visitors. Visitors are also unlikely to wrestle with a site they don’t intuitively understand, unless they really want what you’ve got, and you don’t have any competitors.

Keep these points in mind:

  • users have choice
  • users will be quick to judge
  • users don’t want to think

Three aspects need to work in tandem in order to get visitors to engage – design, usability and utility

Visual Design

First impressions count, hence the reason for appropriate graphic design.

What is “appropriate”? Naturally, it will differ for every site and audience, and largely comes down to how well you understand your visitors. A high-end fashion designer, who focuses on desirability and image is going to use a different visual design approach to a webmaster running a site for the academic community. The latter site design is more likely to focus on function as opposed to glossy form as commercial gloss can be perceived by an academic audience as being frivolous.

What both approaches have in common is that the visitor will be shown something they expect to see. This underscores the need to understand visitors. We’ll look at ways you can approach this in the steps section below.

The next concept is…..

Usability

Once the visitor decides they are in the right place, the next step they need to take should be patently obvious. Usability is a practice that involves making sites easy to use. In terms of operation, sites should be made as simple as possible, and not indulge in complex navigation schemes.

Because users can easily go to another site, there is little incentive for them to wrestle with your site, so if you make it difficult for people to engage with you, many will not bother.

Utility

So, if we’ve got the visitor this far, they like the look of our site, and the visitor can find their way around easily.

But that isn’t enough.

The visitor also needs a good reason to engage with us. What are you offering them? What do you offer them that is better than what the other guy offers? This is where your business strategy is important, especially your unique selling proposition. Do you offer something they really want? If not, rethink your offer.

Not only does the visitor need to be provided with a good reason to engage with you, this reason must be stated clearly. It must be self-evident. If the user has to go hunting for it, because it is buried in dense text on page three, then the visitor is likely to click back. Make sure your offer is writ large.

So, those are the three areas that need to tie together if we are to keep users: visual design, usability and utility.

Let’s look at the practicalities.

Practical Tips

1. Create An Appropriate Design

Evaluate your competitors, especially your most successful competitors. Are there similarities in approach in terms of visual design? “Steal” ideas from the best, and twist them into something fresh, yet familiar.

Know your visitors. Who are they? What do they expect to see? You can often get demographic research reports from marketing companies that will help you profile your visitors. Surveys, polls and enabling comments are some other ways to get feedback.

Test. Use a/b testing to see how visitors react to different designs. There are free tools you can use, such as Google’s Optimizer

Intuition and experience. Design often comes down to intuition, and what has worked in the past. If you’re not a designer, employ someone who understands user-centric design and usability. Many web projects are blown by designers who focus on bells and whistles, as opposed to what is most appropriate.

2. Ensure Your Site Is Easy To Use

Read up on usability. Recommended resources include UseIt, Don’t Make Me Think, and A List Apart (Usability Section)

Test. Track your logs to monitor user behavior. If you can, stand behind test users as they navigate your site. Look for any common impediments to their progress, and redesign as necessary.

3. Have you Articulated A Convincing Reason For People To Engage

Go back to your business case. Do you have a competitive offer? What is special about your pitch that will appeal to visitors?

Once you have identified the key points that differentiate you, ensure that these points are obvious to visitor. One good way to test this is with a spoken elevator pitch. Make an elevator pitch to your friends, and see if they are clear about what your offer is. What parts of the offer are they most responsive to, and why? Once you have honed a compelling pitch, translate this into the written word – or video – or sound file – on your website.

Address their objections. Not only do you need to appeal to what visitors want, you must also anticipate any objections they may have. Spell these out, then answer them.

Want to see an example of how this stuff comes together? Check out the front page of SEO Book.

Test :) As any PPC-er will tell you – always test.

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