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Use your Website to Boost your Business

Accessibility, usability and aesthetics can turn a good website into a great one, generating excellent returns for your business.

Monique Verduyn

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Website monitoring service Pingdom recently released some fascinating statistics on the Internet in 2011. By the end of last year, there were 555 million websites, 300 million of which were added in 2011. Of the 2,1 billion Internet users across the globe, 118,6 million are in Africa.

As a result, there’s an increasing focus on generating traffic in the online marketing world. The fight is on for clicks, and businesses are spending thousands of hours pushing their websites to the top of search pages.

Quantifying success

But what makes a website great instead of just good?  A great website is one that produces a sale, not necessarily directly on the site itself, but perhaps through the user contacting the owner of the website in order to do business.  Even the smallest businesses should have a web presence, even if it’s just a few pages in the design, to create the perception of business stability and experience in the field and to portray a professional image to its potential customers.

“People are visually orientated,” says Leigh-Ann O’Hagan, owner of website design company LIT Creations. “They don’t like to read too much content. Rather, they prefer seeing visual content pertaining to the products and services being offered.

A good website will guide a user from the home page to the pertinent information in the easiest, most visually appealing way. Sites that provide too much information, or endless links to pages which only have one or two lines of text, confuse users and create irritation, resulting in a user leaving the site before any conversion to sales.”

What does a website cost?

Great websites do not have to cost a lot to create and maintain. The technology industry is continuously reducing its pricing to accommodate the growing user base.

“In the past, business owners had to secure the services of graphic designers and software developers to create a website if they didn’t have the design or html coding skills themselves,” says Carolyn Holgate, GM, MWEB Connect.

“Website template services make it quick and easy to set up and maintain a website, and add databases and e-commerce functionality. Template services also give you more features and flexibility than a blogging platform. A number of Internet service providers offer website template services free as part of their hosting offerings, so ask around.”

To avoid making expensive mistakes, spend time planning your website project, says Athena Turner, marketing and communications manager of web hosting company Hetzner. “The more complex the website, the more extensive the planning process needs to be,” she says. “Planning will ensure that most of the potential errors are discussed and avoided. Set realistic expectations of what the website is going to achieve for you. Clearly define its purpose from the outset.”

It’s important to be specific from the outset of the project when briefing your web designer. “Recognise the skill involved in developing a site. If it were as easy as formatting a word document you would have asked your marketing department to handle it.

“Designing a website is far more complex, so don’t expect sudden changes on your part to be received with enthusiasm from the web designer. Make your decisions in the planning process and then let your web designer get to work. Agree on clear progress milestones and keep accountability.”

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Implementing 2 Advanced Google AdWords Strategies

Find out how Dynamic Search Ads and Call-Only Campaigns can give you that competitive edge you need on Google AdWords.

Perry Marshall

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Let’s explore two advanced Google AdWords campaign types: Dynamic Search Ads and Call-Only campaigns. Give these two campaign types a try. They’ll let you squeeze even more from your AdWords account.

Dynamic search ads (DSAS)

Dynamic search ads are magical keys to reaching your customers. And the best part? Using them is easy once you master the setup.

What Are DSAs?

Google knows it’s hard to keep your campaigns perfectly in sync with your website. If you have an e-commerce site with thousands of products changing regularly, it’s a chore to be constantly creating new keywords, new ad groups and new ads inside your AdWords account.

DSAs were created to fill this gap. They let you show ads to excellent prospects who might be searching for items you sell on your site even if you don’t have a corresponding keyword for them in your account.

Related: The Secret to Building A Profitable AdWords Campaign

Why should you set up a DSA?

As long as you set a low cost-per-click, dynamic search ads typically have a decent CPA and provide additional relevant traffic. They’re also great for research as you get to uncover new search terms that people are using to find your site. (You can use this intelligence after the fact to add new keywords to your account.)

Let’s say you’ve just started selling wrought-iron fire pits on your e-commerce site but you don’t have the keywords for them yet in your AdWords account. A new prospect – we’ll call her Kim – is currently online searching for this by name. Kim types it in verbatim: “wrought iron fire pits.”

If you have a DSA campaign set up, you’re in luck: Google instantly recognises that you sell these but don’t yet have keywords for the purpose. Thankfully, you don’t miss a beat with Kim – Google shows her your Dynamic ad, then she clicks, comes to your website and makes a purchase.

How do they work?

It starts with Google regularly scanning your website and keeping an index of all its pages. When you’re starting out, you can choose to point Google to your entire site – we recommend this for your first DSA campaign – although later on you can target specific categories within your site.

Google knows what keywords are in your account and, more importantly, what keywords are not there. This means they can make accurate judgments about when to step in and show your DSA ads.

When setting up DSAs, Google creates the headline and you write the description. They choose the final URL and you set the bid.

Related: 7 Questions To Ask Before Hiring An Adwords Agency

Here’s how to set up a DSA:

  • Create a new campaign. One of the options you’ll see is to create a DSA campaign. We suggest not using that as it would limit your options further along. Instead, create a new Search campaign with “all features.” Your plan will be to only use DSAs inside that campaign.
  • You’ll need at least one ad group to hold your DSAs, and one is typically enough if you’re just starting out.
  • You still want to be split-testing, even though Google chooses your headline for you. So, create two different DSA ads with different body copy in each.
  • Choose the target. Start with the “all webpages” default. Save the advanced target­ing for later.
  • Add in ad extensions just as you would for a regular campaign.

Ongoing management of your DSA

dynamic-search-ads

Review your data. Keep an eye on the search queries Google chooses, particularly in the first few days. This lets you add any new negative keywords that you don’t want your ads shown for. And it’s a good way to identify and add new keywords you hadn’t yet thought of for other functioning campaigns. (You can add these new keywords as negatives in your DSA campaign, which forces that keyword traffic over to new campaigns in your account. Your DSA campaigns won’t be affected.)

Call-only campaigns

These allow you to create search ads where Google shows your phone number rather than a headline. As such, they only show on mobile devices capable of making calls.

A person clicks on your ad, which starts the process of calling your business directly from their mobile, rather than taking them to your site.

Related: 3 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Google Adwords

Why use call-only?

Call-only campaigns force people to call your phone number rather than visit your site. If generating more phone calls is high priority for your business, call-only campaigns are worth testing.

How to set up call-only campaigns

Setup is simple. You can create a new campaign from scratch or just copy your existing search campaigns and change the ad type. Replace regular ads with call-only ads.

Tip: Google wants to see individual ad groups with a reasonable number of impressions at the ad group level. So a small number of ad groups with more keywords in each one – generating more impressions per ad group – will work better for call-only campaigns.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com

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The 5 Characteristics Of Social Media Websites That Go Viral

There is no formula for a site that goes viral but you can see what’s missing from those that don’t.

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With the advent of the web 2.0 comes a shift from simple and bland web pages to dynamic and interactive web platforms. It is now possible to create a social media site that does not only attract new businesses, but also foster relationships and create opportunities for other people.

The possibilities are endless and the barrier to entry is becoming ever thinner that one has no other choice than to key in to the new phase. Or rather, the new craze.

Every day, we see another social media site popup with the claim to become the new Facebook or the new Instagram. Even more, we are bombarded with jargon such as likes, comments, shares and viral content – words previously that never had any significance in the grand scheme of things.

But internet entrepreneurs are not giving up on the dream to create their own social networks using newer ideas and strategies. According to get2growth, there are about 472 million entrepreneurs worldwide running 305 million start-ups annually, out of which 1.35 million are internet based.

Some of these entrepreneurs, who run social media networks, have found that the proven path to success is to have an intuitive idea plugged into a quick go-to-market strategy. Nevertheless, most importantly, finding the sweet spot between what’s important for the customer and what intrigues them is an important trigger for virility.

Related: 4 Ways You Can Use Social Media As A Customer Engagement Tool

That is why the easiest way to create a social media website or forum today is to create a platform that is positioned to go viral. So, how do you go about that? This article provides some useful tips.

1Know what’s important to the users

What the user needs is the first consideration when you want to create a social media website that goes viral. Without fulfilling this need, there will be no need to create an online community in the first place.

That is why the first question to ask is, why should people use your site instead of the other available platforms? How do you create a unique social media site so that users will always have a reason to come back?

Think of it this way: Will a user become so excited about a feature or tool on your site that they encourage their friends to use it too? Or will your site help the user connect with their friends in a way other social networks do not?

If you can find the things that are important to the users and create your site around those things, then you would have a community that others will really want to be a part of.

2Integrate features that encourage interactions

Online interactions are the fuel on which online communities thrive. The desire to interact is why there will are forums and social networking sites, so it’s important that you integrate features that foster interactions and encourage users to create exciting content.

A good way to do this is to use a platform that provides powerful tools for creating beautiful social networks. Here you have two options: Use white-label social network creators; Ready-to-go solution like Ning; or build-it-yourself frameworks like Django (Python) or CakePHP (PHP).

The most important features to consider are the site layout, community building options (such as forums, pages and groups), call-to-actions, and the site navigation. The plan is to intuitively provide users the freedom to choose how they want to interact.

Related: A Guide to Optimising Your Business’ Social Media Usage

3Provide powerful visual and creative tools

social-media-marketing-visual-elements

Users make the rules when it comes to what is shared or recommended online, so it’s wise that social networking sites provide the tools to encourage required users’ behaviours.

For example, users tend to spend more time on sites that encourage some creative activity. If that activity produces a visual result and the option to share, the user will be more likely to share it with a friend.

A survey published on Adweek revealed that users are more engaged on Instagram than on Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. Instagram is cozy. This lends credence to the claim that visuals and creative tools can help keep social network users engaged and even more willing to recommend content.

As you may know, Instagram allows more visuals than all the other platforms, with users sharing full-size landscape and portrait photos that may fill the whole of a viewers screen. This gives more content visibility and increase in user engagement and sharing, which is no surprise seeing the immense growth recorded by the platform even before it was acquired by Facebook.

4Push notification is a must-have

Creating a social media site that goes viral requires keeping users updated on the activities happening in their network. You never know which notification about something a user cares about will trigger an engaging discussion with potential to go viral.

Push notification provides real-time access to content on devices, especially mobile, and encourages return visits and more on-site activity, which are useful metrics for the growth of social media sites and any other site type for that matter.

Not incidentally, users tend to value push notifications more when the content delivered is useful. According to this survey, 70 percent of users were happy to enable push notifications on their favorite apps. This reportedly doubled click through rates when compared to email notifications and a higher response rate compared to when notification was not deployed.

Activities such as these improve the chances of making a social network go viral and quickly increase user growth.

5Create the set-up with “shareability” in mind

Building a successful social network requires that the end is considered right from the beginning. All functionalities must be planned according to the user behaviors anticipated. A social network set up to go viral will therefore, have to consider shareability right from the beginning.

The site setup should include layouts that allow users to easily access, interact, and share content. Features such as sharing buttons, call-to-actions, tagging, image size, and site layout can encourage sharing among groups and help position content in places where they are more visible.

The better user-interface, the easier it is for users to navigate through the site and access more useful content, which increases user engagement and shareability. However, do not forget to analyse and measure your social activity – the Holy Grail of engagement.

So, what plans do you have?

Creating a social media site that goes viral is never an easy task, but if you know what you are doing from the beginning and have a workable plan, you should be able to find some success.

You just need to come up with a strong idea that your users believe in. Something like a unique selling proposition that actually feels a need for the majority of users.

A simple change in the way a user report a story, tag photos or share their passion can be enough to make your social network the rave of the moment. But you need to have a unique plan to take you from zero to hero.

So, what is your plan?

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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How To Talk Your Way To Success With Podcasts

Podcasting is taking the world by storm. Not only can it be extremely profitable, but it can be a great way to grow and market your business.

GG van Rooyen

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The rise of the average Joe

Some of the most successful podcasts in the world were created by relative unknowns.

Tim Ferriss’s 2007 book The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich was a phenomenon. The self-help/business book spent more than four years on the New York Time’s bestseller list and has been translated into

35 languages. To date, around 1,3 million copies have been sold. It’s fair to say that every author on the planet would be happy with this sort of success. When it comes to book publishing, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Now compare the success of The 4-Hour Workweek with that of Ferriss’s podcast, The Tim Ferris Show. At the end of 2016, the show reached 100-million downloads, meaning that since the creation of the show, individual episodes have been downloaded more than 100-million times through iTunes and other podcasting channels.

Ferriss hadn’t anticipated that level of success. In fact, he started podcasting on a whim, just to see what the response would be.

“I was burned out after The 4-Hour Chef, which was nearly 700 pages, and I wanted a casual but creative break from big projects,” says Ferriss on his blog. “Since I enjoyed being interviewed by Joe Rogan, Marc Maron, Nerdist, and other podcasting heavies who really move the needle, I decided to try long-form audio for six episodes. If I didn’t enjoy it, I would throw in the towel and walk.

Related: 7 Podcasts Every Entrepreneur Should Be Listening To

“My rationale: Worst-case scenario, the experience would help me improve my interviewing, which would help later book projects. This is a great example of what Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, would call ‘systems’ (win even if you lose) thinking.”

So, he saw it as a win-win. Even if the response wasn’t great, it would have been a worthwhile experience. Ferriss also applied one of his regular approaches to podcasting, asking himself: What would this look like if it was easy? Some popular podcasts, like Freakonomics Radio, for example, are highly produced and have a strong narrative structure.

Ferriss knew that he was most likely to stick with it if he made it as easy as possible to do. So, instead of a complex podcast that required a script and heavy editing, he opted for a freeform conversational structure. He simply turned on the microphone, and started talking to people.

Monetising a podcast

Monetising a podcast

Even though podcasts are generally free to download, they can create a nice revenue stream. But, as is often the case in the digital sphere, it’s a numbers game. You need some real traction before the money starts to roll in. Like banner ads, podcasts work on a CPM (cost per impression) model. Popular podcasts have sponsors who pay for a pre-roll message/ad at the start of the podcast. A typical figure is $18 (R234) per 1 000 downloads for a 15-second spot, or $25 (R325) for a 60-second message. Many podcasts have more than one sponsor, so you could make more per 1 000 downloads. Also, as the popularity of a podcast increases, the CPM rate also goes up.

“Premium podcasts tend to charge between $25 and $100 CPM. By ‘premium’, I mean high-converting, single-host, iTunes top-50 podcasts,” says Ferriss.

So, if your CPM is $50 and you’re getting 100 000 downloads, you multiply 50 with 100 to get an income of $5 000 (R65 000) per sponsor per episode.

Tim Ferriss could be making millions a year from his podcast alone, but he chooses not to monetise too aggressively.

“If I wanted to fully monetise the show at my current rates, I could make between $2 million and $4 million per year, depending on how many episodes and spots I offer. So why only ‘if I wanted to fully monetise?’ Because ‘fully monetising’ — bleeding the stone for all it’s worth — is nearly always a mistake, in my opinion,” says Ferriss.

“I want to convert casual listeners into die-hard, fervent listeners, and I want to convert casual sponsors into die-hard, fervent sponsors. This requires two things: Playing the long game, and strategically leaving some chips on the table. As a mentor once told me: ‘You can shear a sheep many times, but you can skin him only once.’”

Indeed, if you want to create a successful podcast, it’s important not to try and monetise too early.

“Novice podcasters (which I was) and bloggers get too distracted in nascent stages with monetisation,” says Ferriss. “In the first three to nine months, you should be honing your craft and putting out increasingly better work. Option A: You can waste 30% to 50% of your time to persuade a few small sponsors to commit early and stall at 30 000 downloads per episode because you’re neglecting creative. Option B: You can play the long game, wait six to twelve months until you have a critical mass, then you get to 300 000 downloads per episode and make 10x per episode with much larger brands. If you can afford it, don’t be in a rush. Haste makes waste. In this case, it can make the difference between $50 000 per year and $1 million per year. To reiterate a phrase more often used for blogging: Good content is the best SEO.”

Of course, you could argue that a self-help guru like Ferriss has a much easier time launching a podcast than your Average Joe, and he certainly has an existing audience, but he believes that anyone can start a great podcast. Being a ‘famous’ person doesn’t guarantee success, and some of the biggest podcasts around were created by relative unknowns.

“Coming to the party with a pre-existing audience isn’t enough. Celebrities, YouTube icons, and bestselling authors start podcasts every week that get abandoned three weeks later,” says Ferriss.

“Like everyone else, at one point, I had zero readers and zero listeners. We all start out naked and afraid. Then your mom starts checking out your stuff, or perhaps a few friends give a mercy-listen, and the fragile snowball grows from there.”

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Podcasting But Were Afraid To Ask

Creating your own podcast

Starting a podcast is relatively simple and cheap. All you really need is a microphone, a guest and an iTunes account. As mentioned earlier, it’s better to start small, gain momentum, and then think about monetisation down the line.

“Upload at least two or three pre-recorded episodes when you launch your podcast. This appears to help with iTunes ranking, which — like bestseller lists — can be self-propagating. The higher you rank, the more people see you, the higher you continue to rank,” says Ferriss.

He also recommends that you keep things simple. “Most would-be blockbuster podcasters quit because they get overwhelmed with gear and editing. I decided to record and publish entire conversations (minimising post-production), not solely highlights. I also use a tremendously simple gear set-up and favoured Skype interviews for the first 20 or so interviews, as the process is easier to handle when you can look at questions and prep notes in Evernote or a notebook.

“As Tony Robbins would say: Complexity is the enemy of execution. You do not need concert hall-quality audio. Most people will be listening in the subway or car anyway, and they’ll forgive you if recordings are rough around the edges. Audio engineers will never be fully satisfied with your audio, but 99,9% of listeners will be happy if you’re intelligible and loud enough.”

Other ways of making money

The CPM/sponsorship model is not the only way to make money with podcasting. You are, of course, also free to approach companies about sponsorship outside the CPM model. If you’ve got a podcast that will align well with a specific brand, you could approach the company about funding the show.

You could also ask your audience to sponsor the show. Neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris has a popular podcast called Waking Up, which is created entirely through audience contributions. Harris doesn’t believe in the CPM model, since he thinks it can sometimes seem a bit greedy and also forces listeners to sit through a lot of ads.

The popular Joe Rogan Experience podcast typically has around 12 minutes of ads, while The Tim Ferriss Show usually has about six minutes of ads. Harris has no ads, but does ask his listeners for donations. Of course, only a fraction of listeners will ever decide to pay for the content you create, but if you have enough listeners (Harris has around 800 000 every week), a relatively small number is enough to make it worthwhile.

You can ask for donations through your own website, or through a service like Patreon, which is an American Internet-based membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service.

You should also keep in mind that a podcast can be a smart investment, even if you make no money from it whatsoever. A podcast can be a great way to position yourself as an expert or thought leader in a particular industry. So, instead of trying to monetise your podcast directly, you can use it as a form of content marketing to promote your products and services. Importantly, though, you should not be too aggressive in your marketing. If the podcast feels like nothing more than an extended ad for your business, listeners will be put off. Instead, focus on creating great content that will drive people to your online channels.

A podcast can also be a great networking tool. You might not be able to get a meeting with a successful CEO, but you could invite him or her onto your popular podcast. Once that relationship has been created, talking business becomes easier. You could also offer your podcast to customers as a platform to discuss their own business successes and challenges. Regardless of how you choose to utilise the medium, podcasting provides an excellent opportunity to speak directly to an audience that no entrepreneur should ignore. EM

“Like everyone else, at one point, I had zero readers and zero listeners. We all start out naked and afraid. — Tim Ferriss

Related: 10 YouTube Channels Every Entrepreneur Should Follow


Did you know?

Podcasts are the single fastest growing medium in the world.


Lessons Learnt

The rise of Gimlet Media

Gimlet Media in the US was created a few years ago specifically as a podcasting company. Gimlet’s first season of its first podcast show, Startup, follows the launch of the company. It’s a warts-and-all look at how the company tried to secure funding, find offices and hire staff. If you want to get into podcasting, it’s definitely worth a listen.

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