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Every page you create has a purpose. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a sales page, a subscription page, an about page, a blog post, or any other kind of page. You publish it for a reason. You want something to happen. Maybe you want someone to share the page on social media. Or you want Read More…
Adding content to a process that leads to revenue for a company seems like a bad idea — particularly when that process is already five steps long. But for iReach (at the time, a division of PRNewswire) the decision to add content led to a 31% increase in conversion and a 38% increase in product revenue.
The Control Checkout Process
Here’s the control entry page:
Click on images to enlarge
Here’s an example of the following five cart pages in the control process:
In the data, it appeared that many people were exiting the process due to confusion and a lack of information. After studying customer service inquiries, it was clear that there were many questions potential customers had that were not being answered in the process.
The Treatment Checkout Process
Here’s the treatment entry page:
Below the call-to-action are links to additional content about the product for specific customer segments. Each piece of content was designed to answer further questions the PRN team hypothesized most customers were asking about the product in their minds.
These changes along with a clear product selection page (below) generated a significant result.
By adding steps in the process — particularly product information and a clear product matrix, iReach generated a 31% increase in conversion and 38% more revenue from its subscription/ecommerce offering
The client conversation around influencer marketing is changing. When agencies first began pitching influencers as part of a brand’s social strategy, they spent a lot of time answering “what?” and “why?” But as a recent study by Tomoson Research shows, influencer marketing is now “the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition channel—beating organic search, paid search and email marketing.” Not to mention, nearly 60% of marketers plan to increase their ad budgets to accommodate influencer marketing efforts in the year ahead.
With proof points like these, influencers are no longer a tough sell to clients:
92% of consumers are more likely to trust their peers over advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions.
On average, businesses are making $ 6.50 for every $ 1 spent.
Influencer marketing has 11 times the ROI of a banner advertising campaign.
Marketing-inspired word-of-mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.
While it’s easy to get swept up in the numbers, there’s still much to learn about what makes a successful influencer program. And while agencies may not have to spend as much time answering “why?”—there’s still the very important question of “how do we do it right?”
Here are five of the most common questions about influencers and the answers an agency needs in order to demonstrate expertise in the space and gain buy-in from clients.
1. What Is the Goal of the Program?
Make no mistake, this is the single most important question to consider when developing (and eventually pitching) an influencer program. Before even thinking about who the influencers will be or what they will create, marketers must identify specific, measurable goals. Should the program increase awareness? Generate new followers? Drive sales?
According to a recent survey evaluating the current state of influencer marketing:
89% of marketers used influencers to create authentic content for their brand
56% used them to drive traffic to their websites or landing pages
It should go without saying that the goal of the program should also align with the project brief. A successful influencer program is useless if its outcome does not address the ask of the client.
2. How Will We Measure Success?
For 2017, 78% of marketers have cited measuring the ROI of influencer marketing as a top challenge, making it important for agencies to identify which metrics they’ll monitor to measure the program’s success. Meanwhile, 81% of marketers cite engagement as their top metric for measuring influencer marketing success, meaning how many likes, shares and comments the various pieces of content received.
Marketers may also consider tracking traffic and conversions, especially if the program’s goal is an increase in sales. Using trackable links, promo codes and monitoring correlation are just a few ways an agency can propose tracking these markers.
3. Who Are the Right Influencers?
Marketers, repeat after us: fit over followers. One of the biggest mistakes we see marketers make when choosing potential influencers is focusing too much on the number of followers. What good is a million followers if they’re not the right audience for the brand? The personality, values and previous content of potential influencers have to be a good fit for the brand or the program will fail. And it may take a little research to find that information out.
When pitching potential influencers to clients, it’s helpful to include example posts that both demonstrate their fit with the brand and showcase the quality of their content. And even though it’s not the reason they were chosen, it may be smart to include their potential reach as well to strengthen the business case.
4. What Will They Create?
Once an agency has identified the influencer or influencers for the program, it’s time to decide what type of content they’ll create. Knowing the specific ask will help align client, agency and influencer expectations and will make reaching out to the influencer a much smoother process. It’s also easier to quote rates when the influencers have an idea about how much time and effort is expected of them.
Agencies should take into account the program goal, their desired measurement, as well as the influencers’ own content when deciding what to ask for. For example, don’t ask for a blog post if the influencer’s strength is photography.
Marketers also have to consider FTC regulations, which require influencers to disclose when content is part of a paid partnership. There are various ways to do this, but most often we see posts labeled with an #ad or #spon hashtag. It’s imperative that the branded content be just as compelling and entertaining as the rest of the influencer’s content—or else it will stick out like a sore thumb and the influencer’s audience won’t trust it.
5. Should We Pay Them?
To gift, or to pay: that is one of the most common client questions. And in order to answer it correctly, marketers must consider the pros and cons of both gifting and paying an influencer. The biggest pro of gifting is obvious—free marketing. But cons can include no guarantee of quality or positive sentiment, no control over the message and no ownership over the content that’s created. It also may be more difficult to find an influencer with good reach if they believe their value is worth more than just a free sample.
When you offer payment, those influencers with a strong, solid audience are more likely to be on board. Plus it gives marketers more creative, and legal, ownership of the content. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t matter whether an agency gifts or pays an influencer, a paid partnership must be disclosed to abide by FTC regulations.
Influencer rates vary and can depend on his or her follower count. According to a study done by Influence.co on Instagram influencer payment, the overall average cost per Instagram post was $ 271; an influencer with fewer than 1,000 followers (also called a micro-influencer) was $ 83 per post; and the average price for influencers with more than 100,000 followers was $ 763 per post.
When offering compensation to an influencer, agencies need to take into account the type of content they’re requesting, the influencer’s follower count, the project’s budget and FTC regulations.
Influencers aren’t just successful in attracting new business for brands; they also recruit more loyal customers. In fact, Forbes.com found that customers acquired through influencer marketing have a 37% higher retention rate. But without the right strategy in place, poorly planned influencer marketing can backfire—and both brands and influencers can run the risk of damaging their respective reputations, or even running into legal trouble. Agencies who take the time to ask and answer the right questions will not only gain the trust and confidence of their clients, but it will also set their influencer program up for success from the outset.
Clients rely on agencies for their expertise. It’s important to be a guiding light for the brands you work with in developing big initiatives, like the launch of an advocacy program. Having a tight circle of advocates is crucial in fortifying your client’s reputation and extending their reach to new and receptive audiences.
I’ve learned a lot about the do’s and don’t’s in leading brand advocacy and community initiatives here at Sprout Social, so I’m happy to walk you through some of the first steps and a few common hurdles involved in building a sustainable advocacy program from the ground up.
We initially started our All Stars program because I’d identified a handful of Sprout users who had established communities and were looked to for their social media expertise. So I wanted to create a program where we formalized our relationships with these customers, equipping them to be the best Sprout advocates they could be.
To give you a clear idea of what needs to be done in order to successfully launch a program like this, I’ve broken down my experience into a checklist:
Brand Advocacy Checklist
Foster an advocacy culture
Identify your advocates
Invite them to join
Provide value and make them feel important
1. Foster Customer Advocacy Culture First
The foundation to brand advocacy is ensuring the brand itself is valuing its customers. So before shaping your strategy, you need a strong foundation of customer advocacy.
You’re already listening to customers and internalizing feedback, but ensuring this type of proactive culture is established makes advancing to brand advocacy possible.
2. Identifying Advocates
It’s time to learn more about your customers. The customers you’re looking for have a certain longevity on social, are active and spend more on or with your brand than your average consumer.
Companies should work with their customer success and social marketing teams to kick off the process of identifying potential advocates. Twitter and Instagram are the most viable social options since these platforms are the most searchable.
You can put Sprout’s Twitter Report to good use here, easily highlighting users that frequently interact with the brand by sharing content or through relevant conversations.
3. Inviting Advocates Into the Community
Make it a big deal. Make it official. Have a dedicated landing page, badges and internal communication around your program so advocates feel important and valued.
Give your advocates a platform to define their personal brand so they feel valued in their collaboration with you.
4. Provide More Value Than You Ask for in Return
If you don’t know what your customers will find valuable, ask!
It’s commonly thought that word of mouth recommendations happen organically, but what I’ve learned is it often doesn’t happen unless you ask. Sometimes a simple request is all it takes to remind your most engaged customers that you value their advocacy and the power of their recommendations.
Some intrinsically valuable perks you can offer your advocates:
Better access to your brand or team
Access to other advocates
Advanced product insight
Social media recognition
Prioritized customer service support
Tickets to industry events
On the flip side, be upfront about expectations and ask for things they’d be glad to do in return, increasing the ask as time goes on from more consumption-centric asks to more contributive asks. How you collaborate with them helps them see the value in being a brand advocate.
You can ask your advocates to:
Promote the brand through their social channels
Attend brand-hosted events
Nominate or vote for the brand for industry awards
Test new features
Share job postings
Keep the communication consistent and keep it exciting with new initiatives and creative opportunities to collaborate.
5. Communicate Consistently
Keep in mind that your advocates probably have full-time jobs and this program is a small part of their day to day. Take the care to establish a cadence in communicating with them.
We use our own advocacy platform, Bambu, to curate content for advocates to share and to keep them looped in on program communications.
Lastly, have patience. It takes time to incorporate advocacy as an organic, recurring behavior.
6. Show Value by Proving ROI
Advocacy programs can prove more value in the long term. Many of the upfront benefits aren’t as apparent, but here are three key things you can incorporate and focus on from the get-go that lend directly to evaluating ROI:
Referrals: New customers who have discovered your brand through one of your advocates.
References: Tapping advocates to help your sales team close deals more quickly and at a higher monthly recurring revenue.
Reviews: According to Retailing Today, 81% of shoppers research online before buying. Reviews solidify proof of value amongst customers.
It’s crucial when evaluating ROI to assess which metrics are most valuable to track. Setting up the right reports from the start is the key to measurable, quantitative data to inform your program’s growth.
The Don’ts of Launching a Brand Advocacy Program
The culture of brand advocacy is a celebratory one—your most excited customers rallying around your brand and your brand rallying around its most excited customers—but the business of organizing this program certainly comes with its own set of things to avoid.
Don’t incentivize solely with money: this incentivizes the wrong mindset and doesn’t lend to a long term relationship that’s valuable to both parties.
Don’t ask advocates to do things that you would pay employees to do: there are legal repercussions to this.
Don’t set up a program that’s one-sided: it’s key to make sure that what you’ve set up is a mutual exchange. Whatever you’re doing for them you’d gladly do, vice versa.
There’s a lot you learn in taking on a program launch like this. It takes time to gain traction and recognition among a community, but the benefits far outweigh the effort.
At Sprout, we’re fortunate to have amazing subscribers who we can partner and collaborate with to help move the industry forward by providing value and insight on real challenges social marketing professionals face.
Are you a Sprout Social customer and brand champion? Are you looking for opportunities to connect with your industry peers and continue learning new and best practices in social media marketing? We’d love you to join our All Stars brand advocacy community. Click here to submit your info to join!
They do similar things, but this tool is geared much more towards business in the US.
If part of your market is in the US, you’ll want to use this tool.
It’s simple to use. Just type in a specific product (e.g., a competitor’s product) or a general type of product:
As an example, I put in “microwave ovens,” which gave me these results:
There are two main things you get from these results.
The first is that you learn whether there are any places that are much more interested in your type of product than others. In this example, it’s clear the the states on the East Coast buy many more microwaves than on the West Coast (who knew?).
In addition, if you look at the graph on the bottom, you can see the popularity of searches related to buying microwaves.
You don’t get absolute numbers—this is a relative scale. But you can see whether your product type is trending up or down in popularity.
A graph like the one above, where searches have more than doubled in about 2 years, is perfect to see. It shows that your market is still likely growing.
That leaves you with your standard public relations and paid advertising for the most part.
This ad spend calculator is great for two reasons:
It makes a complicated topic simple
Everything is based on real numbers
The tool guides you through a few questions where you input one or two numbers about your business to find what your target CPC (cost per click) should be.
To start with, you’re asked about your average revenue per month as well as your churn rate.
Obviously, you don’t have actual data to use, but you can make a good estimate on the revenue side.
You can also use industry standards for churn rate. I went with 5% as an example even though that’s not a good churn rate.
If you’re selling individual products and don’t have recurring income, just put 100% here.
That’s one big area down. Next up is your customer acquisition cost.
You need to answer how long you’re willing to wait until you recoup your initial cost. While patience is good, if you wait too long, you might run out of money.
The tool provides default values, which are good for most cases.
Finally, you’re asked to estimate a conversion rate of your traffic to the site.
This will allow the tool to calculate a CPC:
I left out one or two basic questions, but you get the point. In a quick example illustrated above, I found that my hypothetical business could pay up to $ 0.66 per click (visitor).
Use this tool to plan your initial advertising budget for the first few months.
3. SurveyMonkey: One thing that all good business launching guides will tell you to do is talk to your market.
The only feedback about your idea and product that you must listen to is from your potential customers.
If you know some of your potential customers in real life already, you might be able to interview them in person (or through Skype).
That’s the best option.
But when that’s not an option, consider using SurveyMonkey.
Originally, the tool was used to create surveys and collect answers, but now it can do much more.
Most importantly, you can pay a modest fee and get your survey sent to a panel of survey takers.
While you won’t get perfect targeting, it’ll be pretty accurate, and the results you get will help you design your product and know which features to focus on.
4. Buzzsumo: I’ve mentioned Buzzsumo in many previous lists but need to include it here for anyone who doesn’t know about it. I’ll keep it brief.
Buzzsumo allows you to search for a keyword and see the most popular articles that focus on it (based on social shares):
Immediately, you’ll be able to see which social network is most popular with your target audience.
On top of that, you can enter the URL of a competitor and find their most popular content.
Those results will help you plan your content marketing and learn about the main problems of your market (the more popular, the bigger the problem).
Putting together your first impression
The next area of a business launch is your product and website (which may be one and the same).
The tools in this section will help you with your branding and creating a favorable first impression.
5. NameMesh: Every business and website needs a name. You probably already know that it can be difficult to find a good one that’s actually available for registration (without paying thousands of dollars for it).
Even if you’re good at coming up with names, it might take you an hour or two to do so.
NameMesh is a free tool that may be able to help you with this.
To use it, type in 2-3 words that describe main features of your business.
For example, if I were starting a business that helped others bring their product ideas to life, I could enter:
Product idea creation
Think of as many combinations as you can to improve your chances of finding a good one.
The tool will automatically try hundreds of combinations and see whether the domains are available. You will get a final list of what you could register:
There are tons of other free tools like this. You can find them by searching for “domain name generator.”
6. Name Geniuses: Sometimes you can find a great name with those free generators, but most of the results aren’t very good. You get what you pay for.
Name Geniuses is not free; it’s a pay-what-you-want tool with a $ 20 minimum that allows you to crowdsource your domain name.
Basically, you pick the amount you want to pay. A large portion of this payment is offered as a prize to a few hundred users on the site.
These users come up with domain names (that are available) and submit them to you. Then, you pick a winner whenever you want.
The good part from your perspective is that only the winner gets paid. This incentivizes users to spend a lot of effort to come up with names that are much better than those created by a free generator.
To use the tool, answer a few questions about your business idea:
Then, your project goes on the job board once you pay for it.
Depending on what you pay, you’ll get anywhere from 50 suggestions to hundreds:
By all means, come up with your own name, but this can save you hours of time and potentially generate an even better name.
7. DesignMantic: After the name, comes the logo. While it’s sometimes optional, you’ll likely need some sort of logo.
DesignMantic is a tool that is very quick and simple to use.
All you do is type in your company name and then choose what industry it’s in:
It will quickly generate several logos you can use, complete with your business name:
They’re obviously going to be generic, but they’re fairly attractive and will work as temporary logos.
8. 99Designs: At some point, you’ll need a unique, professional logo. No free tool will do that for you.
You can cheap out on a designer from Fiverr, but that will cost you more in the long run and won’t get you a much better result than what you’ll get from the free tools.
99Designs is another crowdsourcing site/tool I really like.
You buy a package and then get tons of designs (30+) from different designers.
Again, you pick the winner, and they get paid.
Just about all the designs are of great quality, so you can’t go wrong.
Payroll and accounting
The tools in this final group have varying levels of importance.
They will help you manage incoming and outgoing payments, which just about all businesses need to do.
If you’re starting really small, you can probably handle it manually, but I recommend using tools to simplify things (and keep them accurate) once you have a decent cash flow.
On top of that, if you have employees right off the bat, you need to make sure they’re paid on time and that their taxes are taken care of. Hire an accountant, or use these tools.
9. Freshbooks: If you have a service-based business that requires you to send out invoices on a regular basis, Freshbooks is a great tool to help you stay organized.
The time it’ll save you on generating invoices alone is probably worth the cost. On top of that, it will also let you send payments if you work with any freelancers or buy products for your business.
You can then generate reports of all your invoices, expenses, and payments, which will make doing your taxes much easier.
How much does it cost? Not much.
Depending on whether you’re going to allow any employees to use the tool as well (you could have them handle invoicing and expensing, etc.), you’re looking at $ 30-40 a month:
10. ZenPayroll: This is a great tool that helps you handle employees as you grow. You may not need it right away, but keep it in mind because you might in the future.
The main purpose of ZenPayroll, as the name suggests, is to make your payroll simple.
It automatically takes care of setting up taxes for new employees and paying contractors (and taking care of their tax needs), and it can even be set up to do automatic tax filings for you.
Keep in mind that this tool is made for the US. As far as I know, it won’t work as well in other countries.
As far as the pricing, it’s very simple: you pay a base fee and then an extra $ 6 for each person you add (all per month):
You can then configure it so that you just have to add new employees, and it will get all their tax and payment information set up without you having to do anything:
For small- to medium-sized companies, it’s more or less HR and accounting departments in one simple tool.
You have a long road in front of you.
By all means, expect to put in a lot of work. However, if you have a problem that can be solved by the tools I’ve given you, take advantage of them.
To end off, I’ve got to ask you whether I’ve left any tools off this list that you love. I know that I haven’t included every tool in the world here. Please share any of your favorites in a comment below.
This photo is called “Split second before motorcycle crash” — no joke. Image via Skitterphoto.
The creative is stellar.
Headline and value prop impactful. Hero image delightful.
But peeps ain’t converting.
Because the single biggest conversion killer is lurking behind the scenes, completely untouched.
Which is a shame, because speed (or lack thereof) often has a bigger impact on campaign conversions than any of that other stuff.
The impact of speed
Google experienced a 20% traffic drop years ago as a result of a 0.5 second delay — 0.5!
Think that’s bad? If an ecommerce page fails to load in under 3 seconds, it stands to lose nearly half its traffic. As a result, some of the savviest online brands now load in under a second. Less than one second!
The impact of speed only becomes exacerbated on mobile, where limited processing power and spotty connections are the norm. According to Kinsta’s excellent page speed guide, 74% of people on mobile would abandon if the page doesn’t load in 5 seconds.
But if fast loading times aren’t happening, then landing page conversions aren’t either.
Here’s how to fix that.
(Please note that you’ll probably need some technical help to implement some of the following recommendations.)
Accelerate your page load time with these 11 tips and tricks
Grab the 300-word summary of Brad Smith’s actionable post.
By submitting your email you’ll receive more Unbounce conversion marketing content, like ebooks and webinars.
1. Clean up your code
Tidy code doesn’t just make your developer happy, it makes pages load quicker, too.
Reducing the size of site files, especially front-end ones, can have a big impact. Even small issues like excess spaces, indentations, line breaks and superfluous tags can hurt your page load time.
Instead, KISS. If you focus on simplicity, there’s (almost) no need for extra stuff.
But if you’re dead-set on keeping your precious scripts (read that in your best Gollum/Sméagol voice), at least load your above-the-fold content first, which is Google’s recommended method.
Whoa, someone’s touchy about their scripts. Image via GIPHY.
2. Minify HTML & CSS
Jumping on the reducing requests bandwagon, minifying HTML and CSS will help you to package and deliver page data in the most streamlined way possible.
Admittedly, we’re getting out of my comfort zone here. If you’re confident in your technical ability, check out this helpful article. Otherwise open up Google’s PageSpeed Insights, drop in your URL and then send the results to a trusted developer.
3. Utilize GZIP compression
GZIP compression deals with content encoding to again minimize server requests made by your browser. Ouch — that sentence made my brain hurt.
In non-technical terms, GZIP compression reduces your file sizes to enable faster load times. If a more detailed explanation piques your interest, here’s a helpful article.
Use GIDNetwork to see what the current compression on your site looks like now, as well as to get a few ideas of how it could be improved. (Insert helpful developer here.)
4. Minimize redirects
301 redirects are a standard SEO-friendly practice used to tell both search engines and visitors that a page has permanently moved to a new location. It’s a common best practice used when campaigns and sites evolve or change over time, and can help you cut down on broken links or 404 errors.
Trouble is, too many redirects can also negatively impact speed. So the question is: How many? In typical fashion, Google’s answer is vague — they simply suggest minimizing or trying to eliminate them all together, because they cause extra network trips to verify data (which can be a killer on mobile devices especially).
Screaming Frog can help by quickly identifying all of the redirects currently on your site. In the example below, we found a little over 14% of Runnersworld.com pages contain a redirect. Ouch.
How do you get a frog to scream? Toad-al up your redirects.
The key is to dig deeper. What types of redirects are you seeing and why? What are they trying to accomplish? Looking at the example above, there seems to be a lot of temporary 302 redirects from social sharing platforms that can probably be cleaned up to avoid slowing page speed. Here’s a detailed guide from Varvy for more.
5. Relocate scripts
Believe it or not, even script placement can affect load times.
For example, if your tracking scripts are located above the fold or in the <head> of your landing page, your browser will have to download and deal with those scripts before getting to the stuff people actually come to see (like the page content).
It should also go without saying that having duplicate scripts (which is pretty common when multiple people are working on the same page) will slow things down a bit.
And do you really need five analytics packages on that landing page? Probably not. Like most things you’ve read so far, simplify and minimize to reduce the back-and-forth between browsers and servers.
6. Limit WordPress plugins
“Easy.” you say. “Obvious!” you exclaim.
If it’s really so easy, then open up WordPress right now and look at how many plugins your team has installed for simple things like social sharing or tracking. Things that can — and should — be done by a professional so you can completely avoid having to install these plugins in the first place.
The problem is: taking a bunch of third-party tools built by different people and shoehorning them into a Frankenstein-esque page is a recipe for disaster.
If you’d like to diagnose which plugins are worth keeping and which need to be deactivated immediately, you’re not going to like the answer… add another plugin!
P3 (or the Plugin Performance Profiler) will measure your site’s plugin performance and measure their impact on load times. At least you can rest assured knowing that this one will serve some utility while it’s installed.
7. Upgrade hosting
If you have plans to someday make money from your website (so probably everyone reading this blog), paying $ 3 per month for Godaddy hosting is not going to cut it.
One big reason is that many cheap hosting solutions are shared, meaning you’re sharing server space with many other sites (whose own performance might drag down yours).
That might also mean limited control over what you’re able to affect or change to improve things like site speed. This is especially true for ecommerce sites, which can experience sudden traffic jumps and contain many large media files. Simply put, hosting can make or break your campaign.
If you’re less sure of what you’re doing or would simply like to not worry about it, a managed hosting option is preferable. This is especially true for WordPress websites — besides speed improvements you’re also getting extra security against external threats plus backups for internal mistakes. The aforementioned Kinsta, WP Engine and Pagely are some of the most popular choices.
8. Resize images
Death, taxes and people not resizing images before uploading them. These are universal truths you can always count on. Also, Mashable publishing terrible articles.
Tweet “Death, taxes & people not resizing images before uploading them. These are universal truths you can always count on.”
Asking browsers to automatically squeeze your original 1200px image down to 600px every time your landing page is loaded, multiplied across all visits for all pages and posts, creates a ton of unnecessary extra work. (Especially on mobile devices with limited processing power and relatively poor connectivity.)
Ideally, resize images before uploading them to the server. If that’s too much work (I ain’t judging, I’m lazy too), at least use WordPress’ built-in tool to resize images for you.
Taking this time-consuming, menial step helps you limit potential errors in mediocre browsers like Internet Explorer, because, well, everything causes errors in Internet Explorer (or whatever they’re calling it these days).
9. Compress images
After resizing your images, the next step should be to compress them to again reduce file size.
This is another often overlooked step, with an infographic from Radware claiming that 45%(!) of the top 100 ecommerce sites don’t compress images.
But optimizing your images can be a low-hanging-fruit approach to quickly speed up loading times, drastically reducing the amount of space — and work — they require.
There are a number of fast, free tools out there, like TinyJPG or Compressor.io, which can significantly reduce file size. The test seen below using Compressor.io resulted in a 73% reduction! Multiply that across all of your landing page images and we’re talking serious results.
10. Deliver Images with a CDN
See a pattern here yet?
Delivering images with a Content Delivery Network (or CDN) is like calling in reinforcements from servers located closer to your site’s visitors. That means it will try to use the closest ones first, using every trick in the book to cut down on the time and effort required to deliver content from server to a user’s browser.
Popular ones like CloudFlare and MaxCDN can drastically improve performance on highly visual sites.
Image via Cloudflare.
11. External Hosting
Another prudent option is to move large files, like images, audio or video, off of your servers entirely and use an external hosting platform like Imgur for images or Wistia for videos.
While we’ve beat the importance of image size to a metaphorical death already, bigger files like audio and video should almost always be hosted externally.
That’s critical, because rich media adoption is immense. It’s predicted that a whopping 74% of internet traffic in 2017 will be video.
Beyond the performance issues, external hosting providers also offer additional benefits like increased audience reach or features that increase interactions and conversions. Wistia founder Chris Savage lays out a few more reasons why external hosting is a good idea, if you’re interested.
74% of people would leave a site if it doesn’t load within 5 seconds. Which means that even if you’re leveraging all the best practices in the world to get those conversions, people won’t stick around long enough to actually see any of it.
Page speed improvements can range from the basic (upgrading your hosting and removing unnecessary plugins) to the more advanced (minifying files). But anything is certainly better than nothing. Even paying extra attention to how you’re uploading images can go a long way to improving performance.
Yes, implementing all of these changes will be a time-consuming process. No doubt. But it’s also the best way to give your landing pages a fighting chance to convert visitors.
Thousands of websites are launched daily and the majority of these are incomplete websites, either because the owners do not really mind imperfection or because they have simply forgotten. The problem is, this can affect the website’s credibility and authority.
If you are a web designer, developer, or someone whose business will soon rely on your website, be sure to keep in mind these fifteen items that you need to check before launching your website. By doing so, I assure you that you will have the smoothest launch ever, without a hitch!
Check These Things Before Launching Your Site
1. Website Copy
It is important to have everything written and proofread before launching. Quite often, mistakes in copy, no matter how minor, will take away the credibility of the entire website. This is particularly true if you are offering your services on your website.
Another thing you need to make sure of before launching is to avoid publishing pages without actual content, never write “coming soon” or something similar. Do not launch if you don’t have the content for important pages like About Us, FAQ, and the like.
2. Contact Details
If your website involves selling a product or your services, it is crucial to have your contact details visible on the site. Phone number, email address, and mailing address. Without this, your website’s credibility might take a dive.
If you are located outside of the US and you must use a 1-800 number, you can use VOIP services like Skype for a US number that you can use.
3. Meta Description
Meta descriptions do not play a significant role in SEO, but they are what people see on search results. And if people don’t like what they’re seeing on the search results, they most likely will not click. So, be sure to optimize your site to include a descriptive but brief title and description.
4. Site Security
Every day there are thousands of websites that are being hacked, and it doesn’t matter if the targeted website is a high-volume website or a new one. Personal and financial information can still be at risk. If you are not a web developer by trade, be sure to have an expert check your website’s source code for potential security flaws. If you are one, be sure to check the latest hacks, cracks, SQL injections, and XSS vulnerabilities.
If you are using a WordPress website, I highly recommend installing WordFence Security. It will notify you about the changes in your website, it will block unwarranted logins, notify you of the things you need to update, and other important security details.
5. Legal Pages
Your web host will most likely keep a backup of your website, but don’t put too much faith in them. Most web hosts are not good at keeping backups, unless you are paying them hundreds to thousands of dollars every month. Set a cron job for nightly or weekly backup, depending on your needs, and have the backups saved on a different location independent from your host.
If you are using WordPress, you can install a plugin called Dropbox Backup which will download all of your database and save it to your Dropbox account automatically at your own set intervals.
8. Cross-Platform Compatibility
A newbie mistake is to not check your website across several devices and different screens. It doesn’t mean your website looks good on your browser (however you resize it) it will look good on every device’s screen. For this, you can use BrowserShots to quickly see if your site looks good on every device.
9. CRM Integration
If the purpose of your website is to capture leads, be sure to choose a CRM that you can integrate well with your website. This is to make things smoother and automatic. For example, you can use Mailchimp and HubSpot CRM to automate your sending and labeling of your subscribers. When someone subscribes to your mailing list, your CRM’s automation will kick in and will email them. When someone replies, AKA a hot lead, your CRM will place that person on high priority and proceed with whatever automation you’ve set.
A lot of websites don’t do this. And they are missing out on a lot of leads.
10. Defensive Design
Once in a while a hiccup in your website will occur and people will land on non-existent pages. Sometimes they even land on pages that they shouldn’t have access to. Be sure to check every possible security risk in your website and block public access to those, and of course, when you block people on specific pages, you need to tell them why. In this case, a beautiful 404 page will do to tell rowdy visitors that they shouldn’t be there, or that the page does not actually exist.
Great content is good, but if you are aiming to rank your site higher on search engines, be sure to keep in mind SEO as well. Do your research on the keywords you will use on your website’s headlines and body, as well as your meta keywords and descriptions.
Your SEO will not matter much if your website fails on standard HTML and CSS validation. This is important because this is how web crawlers read your website. If it fails in that, search engines will most likely set your website to low priority and you can say goodbye to your dream of ranking your site high on search engines, especially Google.
13. Secure Certificate
If your website accepts payments or other vital information from your users, be sure to use SSL protection for your website. Even though regular users don’t understand the technicalities behind it, they still understand that SSL or https is more secure, and that your site can be trusted.
I’ve seen many developers and designers launch their and their clients’ websites without adding analytics to it. How can you measure the effectiveness of your website if you don’t have an idea how many people are visiting it? This is a very basic mistake, so basic that people just tend to not put much thought into it. So, yeah, be sure to install one!
Don’t let people think that your website is broken. While a favicon doesn’t serve any purpose at all, except for the fact that it identifies your tab on browsers, it still pays a lot to have one ready. A blank favicon on your tab (yes, it’s that tiny icon on your tab next to your site’s name) will make people think that your website is somewhat incomplete, which it actually is.
These are the best ways to make sure the launch of your or your client’s site goes smoothly. Of course you will find, even after following these steps, that tweaks will be needed along the way – that is a fact of life in the world of development!
Do you use a checklist of steps to ensure before launch, or do you simply commit these steps to memory? Please share your opinion with us in the comments section below.
It’s all too easy for web developers to fall into a rut where they focus on nothing beyond the assignment at hand. While you may be working on many interesting and worthwhile applications, it can also be good to broaden your horizons. This can even help you with your work. You never know how a new experience might inspire you to create something brilliant that everyone will be talking about. Previously, we talked about what are the places a web designer must visit before he die, with this in mind, here are ten things that every web developer should do before they die.
1. Create a Free Game App
While you naturally want to make a living and get paid for your work, creating a viral game app could be your best chance at fame and fortune. Of course, there is no guarantee that anyone will download your free app, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the attempt. The great thing about this type of project is you can have fun with it and create something that’s in line with your interests and talents. The thing about game apps is that they are often addictive, which is what makes them go viral. Even if it turns out to be a flop, you can always share it with your kids, nieces and nephews.
2. Climb Mount Everest
What does a Himalayan expedition have to do with your career as a web developer? Absolutely nothing, which is exactly why you should do it. This gives you a chance to show the world your versatility and free spirit. You aren’t just another dull web professional, but a world traveler who happens to make his living in a technical field in between adventures. If Mount Everest seems a little too ambitious, you can at least visit Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon and post plenty of pictures to prove you actually left your house and made the journey.
If you want to convince the world that you are brilliant, you must create things that are so complex and incomprehensible that only you can understand them. In this case, the application doesn’t even have to work. It’s enough to make a bold attempt. For example, you could create an app that measures the number of neutrinos in a room. Is this even possible? Probably not, but if you create an application for it you will still impress people with your originality and ambition. If someone calls you out on its limitations, you can always say that the bugs will be removed in the next version.
4. Attend a High Profile Conference
Attending a conference with the industry’s leading experts helps to position you as a leader in your field. If you can get your picture taken with someone famous, so much the better. Try to choose a conference in a glamorous location, such as a European capital or at least Las Vegas. It doesn’t matter too much if you actually learn anything at the conference. People mainly attend conferences to network and be seen, so all you really have to do is show up and take some pictures to prove you were there.
5. Run a Marathon
Doing something athletic, whether it’s running a marathon, competing in a triathlon or entering a bodybuilding contest helps you break the stereotype of the nerdy web developer. It allows you to develop a well-rounded persona. If you are lazy, you can simply devote a few months to training and competing in a high visibility event. Then even if you go back to being a couch potato, you will still have pictures and maybe a certificate that proves you participated in at least one endeavor requiring physical prowess.
6. Build a Website That Reaches the First Page of Google
Even though you are a web developer and not an SEO specialist, it helps your credibility if you can point to at least one website that comes up on the first page of the search engines. If you are having trouble with this, choose a topic that is sufficiently obscure that doesn’t have much competition. That way, the next time you’re at a party you can boast, “By the way, I designed the world’s leading website on aardvark racing.” If you need ideas, do some research on the topic of long tail keyword phrases and build a website around the most obscure keywords you can come up with.
7. Organize a Fundraiser
You may have noticed that people now talk more about Bill Gates’ foundation and charitable work than his software company. While you may not be in the position to start a billion dollar charity, you could do something similar on a smaller scale. Pick a worthy cause, and organize an event to raise money for it. As a web developer, it should be easy enough for you to create an impressive website for the cause. You could run a local event or perhaps raise money via crowdfunding online. Either way, this is a chance to establish your legacy as someone who has made a real difference in the world!
8. Teach A Class
Want to impress people with your brilliance and expertise? If you’re a web development professional, you are more than qualified to teach a course to beginners. This can be online, at your local community college or even in your garage. When you teach something, you immediately gain new status as an expert. Millions of people, from part time bloggers to owners of pizza parlors and dog grooming schools want to learn how to build websites or learn some basic programming or graphics skills, so why not be the one to teach them?
Learning at least one obscure or esoteric programming language helps set you apart from your more ordinary competitors. It shows you have a deep interest in your field and are willing to explore its more arcane levels. There is, for example, a language called Shakespeare Programming Language which actually uses lines from the great playwright’s work to form the code. Knowing such a language will impress both other web developers and the general public.
10. Pull Some Cool Pranks
As a web developer, you have the power to do evil things as well as being constructive. You have to be careful with this, as you don’t want to get fired or sued. However, as long as your employer, co-workers or clients have any sense of humor whatsoever, you can have a little fun once in a while. You can use your imagination here. You might make some subtle but disturbing changes to a website, such as turning some text and images upside down. Or perhaps you could randomly translate some of the text into an obscure foreign language such as Tibetan or Finnish. If you give it some thought, you can probably come up with lots of April Fool’s style pranks that can be even more fun on other days, when people won’t be expecting them.
These suggestions are meant to help web developers become more versatile and creative people. The real point here is that you don’t always have to conform to the public’s stereotype of a web professional. You can show the world that you can be creative and unpredictable.