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B2B Marketing: How to structure your B2B social media strategy

By Living Proof Creative

B2B (Business-to-business) marketing presents a whole world of possibilities with amazing rewards if planned and executed with care. If you’re looking to promote your product or service to other companies by means of social media marketing, this article is for you!

So, what is B2B marketing, and why might you need a strategy for it?

B2B digital marketing targets other businesses, rather than individuals. You’ll want to plan a B2B marketing strategy if you’re a product or service that caters and sells to other businesses rather than directly to the consumer.

Let’s imagine you are the proud owner of a brand-spanking-new scheduling and project management software that helps offices, companies, and all kinds of professional projects to run smoothly. Because other businesses like your own are likely going to need your product more than individuals, you’ll achieve better results and generate more sales if you target your marketing efforts to other businesses rather than employing direct-to-consumer strategies.

In case you haven’t guessed, there’s a whole art to really getting B2B digital marketing to pay off…but have no fear! In this article, we are going to take you through 8 steps that will provide you with the blueprint you need to get your B2B social media marketing strategies off the ground with optimum results.

Step 1: Define your ideal customer profile

Ideal customer profiles

In our experience, people tend to want to skip right over this step when they are ready to jump into their marketing shoes because frankly, it’s a bit tedious. That said…don’t! Defining your ideal customer profile is extremely important to ensure results on your marketing efforts, because a message that speaks to everyone, speaks to no one.

Figuring out your ideal customer entails having a brainstorming session with your team and pinpointing one company (since we’re talking B2B marketing) whose business would be sure to improve by using your product or service. Ask yourselves: “who needs us most, and why?” Maybe a company whose employees work remotely and don’t have a physical office space? Or whose services require great attention to detail and organization that is lacking in other products within your competition. Put a name and a face on at least one example of who you’d consider to be your ideal customer.

Bonus tip: defining your ideal customer is not about determining who is ideal for you, it’s about determining who your product is ideal for.

Step 2: Define your target audience

Defining your target audience

Once you’ve decided on that one ideal client whose life will never be the same after experiencing your product, the next step is defining your target audience. This is the step that will make or break your B2B strategy.

Here is why this step is so important: While your product or service “could” probably be useful and helpful to just about anyone, that’s too broad to base a B2B marketing plan on. You have to find a group of people to whom your communication style and marketing efforts will apply most to, this will help ensure that your advertising won’t fall on deaf ears.

So, take the hard work that you already invested in discovering your one ideal customer, and make a list of said customer’s defining characteristics that you can then apply on a broader scale to your overall target audience. Your list might include details such as: age, location, industry, interests, organization style, problems and challenges, workflow and style, etc.

No matter how witty and original your marketing tactics are, there is no one thing you can say or do that will convert everyone into a lead or sale. This is why any marketing plan must include a target audience, you need to know who you are speaking to in order to present them with content that they will find attractive, relatable, and engaging.

Step 3: Do your research on the competition

Business strategy as a game of chess

Now that you’ve determined who you want to target, it’s time to step back and take a look at who else is offering the same services or solutions that you are. Competitor research is priceless because it gives you a peek into what you’re up against, what your competition may be offering to your same target audience, how they are performing, what you might be able to do differently, and how you can stay ahead of the game.

You’ll want to start a tracking system with your top 10-15 competitors and keep tabs on info that can provide insight into what’s working for them, what’s not working, and where you can improve on their tactics.

You should dig deep in order to gain a clear understanding of what their SEO strategies are, what keywords they use and rank highest for, what they are posting on their social media, how many followers they have, calculate their engagement, what kind of content they get most attention on, how much they’re spending on advertising, etc.

Of course, competitor research can go a lot more in-depth too, you can do surveys, market research, attend their conferences, and much more. However, if you’re current focus is on a social media B2B strategy, you’ll want to start with the pertaining data first.

Step 4: Identify what social media channels your audience spends their time on

Social media channels on mobile device

Even if you have the best, cleverest marketing campaign on the planet, if you aren’t posting on the channels that your target audience is spending time on, they won’t know you exist. This takes us back to why step number 2 and defining your target audience is so important, you have to know who they are in order to understand their online behavior. Where are they likely to be browsing or looking into solutions for their business?

If your product or service is targeted to small business owners or startups, you might lean toward channels like Facebook and Instagram. As a matter of fact, business decision makers spend 74% more time on Facebook than any other social media channels.  If your focus is on catching big corporations and multi-tiered business models, you might focus more on getting seen and heard on LinkedIn to convert leads.

Don’t worry, this isn’t just guesswork…remember that one name that you came up with in step one — your ideal customer? Grab the name of that business and do some research on it: what channels do they post on more frequently, what is their online behavior like, what other pages and social media profiles do they interact most with, who do they follow? This will give you invaluable insight into how to get them in the bag with your social media marketing efforts.

Step 5: Set SMART goals and milestones

People working on smart goal settings

Implementing a marketing strategy without clear, set goals is like playing a basketball game without a hoop — you might get all sweaty dribbling the ball around, but you’ll never get to win.

SMART goal setting includes goals that are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Let’s take a deeper look into each of these.

Specific:Define exactly what do want to achieve and what it would mean to achieve your goal or milestone

Measureable:The success of your goals should be based on objective facts and stats, not opinions or gut feelings. What numbers do you need to reach in order to accurately measure that you reached your target?

Attainable:You’ll want to choose goals that are achievable at your stage of growth as a company, even if they are a challenge. This includes laying out, planning, and scheduling all the specific action steps you will need to take in order to reach the goal.

Relevant: Your goals and milestones need to be in line with what your business’ model, structure, message, and communication style is all about.

Timely: Define the deadline by which you need to reach your goal. This ties in with the specific steps you will take to accomplish it, each step should have a start and finish date to get your to your goal on time.

Step 6: Define your KPIs for social media channels

Defining KPIs

Once you’ve determined your SMART goals, you’re ready to start setting some KPIs (key performance indicators) that will serve as check-ins along the road and help you ensure you’re progressing in the right direction.

Here are a few examples of how to measure KPIs for your social media platforms: level of followers, link or profile clicks, brand mentions, reposts, shares, comments or other actions taken on your posts, and active followers.

Make sure you set KPIs that are attainable and measurable, not just a list of “would-be-nice” goals to reach at some point along your way. Rather, they should be carefully thought out stepping stones that you need to reach in order to take the next step along your strategic planning. If you don’t reach one of the stepping stones, you’ll know that something needs tweaking and you can adjust your B2B strategy accordingly.

Step 7: Identify what kind of content performs best

Content is king

Bill Gates wasn’t kidding when he wrote that “content is king”, and it rings true now more than even back in his day!

If you plan to use social media as a marketing tool, then what you choose to post is the prime factor that your target audience will use to decide whether or not they like what your offering and want to do business with you. Your posts should all be based on a consistent communication style and pattern that matches your brand, offer value to your followers, and give your followers and clients a positive impression of your company.

Need some help figuring out what to post or what your audience is interested in? You can use social listening tools to give you insight into what people are most interested in surrounding your industry. Also, performing hashtag and keyword research and keeping it updated at least twice a month is an important way to stay up to speed.

Also, pay attention to what platforms you’re posting on and at what times, keep track of which posts performed best so you can adapt your content and timing accordingly.

Step 8: Create a social media editorial calendar

Social media calendar development

Time invested in careful planning and preparation of your content is one of the best investments you can make to ensure your social media marketing campaigns are a success. We hate to be the ones to break this to you, but you simply can’t expect to achieve great results on posts that are thrown together at the last minute with no rhyme or reason. Laying out a content calendar for each month or so in advance will give you a bird’s eye perspective on what your followers will be taking away after a month of seeing your social media posts.

Loomly, Hootsuite, and Monday are just a few options of social media editorial calendars and scheduling software that we promise will change your life for the better.

Are your posts engaging enough to draw your customers in? Are you posting relevant content on relevant dates and times (such as posts that talk about specific days of the week, special celebrations, seasonal trends, or simply whatever is trending at the moment)? Planning out your posts will prepare the way for you to pump out content that is likely to speak to your ideal target customer at a specific date or time, and also give you a whole vision for what you want to communicate through your brand’s messaging over time.

As you can see, a lot of hard work goes into developing a bull’s eye B2B social media strategy, but investing the time to do it right will really pay off! We sincerely hope this article provided you with some clear insight that you can now implement so you’ll get the most out of your next B2B social media marketing campaign. If you ever need an expert team to step in and do the heavy lifting of the planning, research, and preparation for your B2B social media marketing efforts, give us a holler and we’ll be happy to help!

The Actual Cost of Cheap Website Solutions

By Living Proof Creative

Would you know a poorly designed website if it was right in front of you?

Most people these days believe they would. But, not everyone can tell the difference between a high-quality platform and a badly designed website.

Not all pretty websites are created equal.

You probably think bad web design means an outdated layout, with low quality images and bad fonts. After all, most people are quite attune to what they are visually attracted to.

However, many websites with low-quality design are not as obvious. Poor website design can seem brand new, tweaked-up and shiny on the surface, but underdeliver when it comes to performance. Website design isn’t just about the visuals, it covers everything including speed, navigation, interface design, and user experience.

In today’s world, the importance of an intelligently designed web-presence is understood, yet there’s no lack of outdated websites. Many business have trouble justifying the cost of a new or redesigned website.

But, in this technologically driven marketplace, a website’s usability and design directly affects a business’s bottom line. The consequences of neglecting your website are serious. It’s not just a missed opportunity. Not having an optimized eCommerce website can actually damage your customer relations, and significantly reduce your revenue.

With good website design, you get what you pay for. Bad website design ends up costing a whole lot more.

What Makes a Good Website?

Steve Jobs once said, ”Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Good website design incorporates visual aesthetic with functionality.

A car may look good, and drive well, but if it breaks down all the time, or is too confusing to handle, than the overall design of the machine is flawed. It’s the same with website design. There are are certain key-aspects that have to be considered when designing a good website, and they should never be ignored.

Some of the most important elements of good web design include:

Mobile Responsiveness

Now more than ever, mobile responsive websites matter. With Google’s Mobile First Indexing, the internet has officially shifted from desktop-driven searches to mobile-driven searches. That means if your website is not mobile responsive, its rankings are likely to suffer.

But, rankings aside, if you want to sell anything online, your website’s product pages, checkout process, and overall functionality has to not only work on mobile, but adapt seamlessly on all devices.

According to Adobe, 8 out of 10 users stop engaging with a website if it doesn’t display properly on their device. That’s 80% of your potential customers! It’s been well documented that the biggest hindrance to conversions is having a website that is not mobile responsive.

Engaging User Interface

The look and feel of your website comes down to the User Interface, or UI. Not only is it the main cosmetic aspect of a website’s design, it also incorporates usability into its overall structure. It’s the “interactive face” of your website.

A good website has an interface that is designed to engage users, and helps them easily navigate without having to backtrack. The formatting of a well designed website is intuitive with clear calls to action.

Visual appeal is paramount and best kept simple. From the color scheme to the font, all these elements should be designed to lead your visitors where they want to go.

Intuitive User Experience

Your customers have pretty high expectations when it comes to the usability of your website. If they are going to make any sort of purchase they need easy access to relevant information. In a recent survey by Hubspot, 75% of users said the most important aspect of a website is the user experience.

Basically that means, a well designed website, with a good UX, is going to have a huge competitive advantage. Always listen to the feedback of your users and design your website around their needs.

Bad UX is a road block between your customers and conversions, and it inevitably costs you money. Smart intuitive UX not only encourages conversions but reinforces your brand online.

Relevant Content

When it comes to boosting conversion rates, high quality content is one of the most useful tools for a website. Relevant blogs with actionable content not only reinforces you brand online, but can help in your search engine rankings as well.

Make sure to optimize your content for mobile, by dividing-up long paragraphs into smaller sections. Let the content breathe and give your reader a break from scrolling through large chunks of content.

Accurate and thorough product descriptions is the primary tool to boost sales. It’s highly improbable that a customer will spend money on something without researching it first.

Also, including detailed information in the “about” section creates trust with your audience and encourages them to do business with your company, rather than some other faceless, or mysterious brand.

Optimized for SEO

You could have a stellar website, but if it is not optimized for SEO, then it can quickly get buried by the competition in the search engine. From the get-go, you should design your website with an SEO strategy in mind.

The best websites utilize Onsite and Offsite White Hat SEO, PPC management, giveaways, email marketing, custom blog creation, and conversion rate optimization. These efforts, though they take time and money, are far more beneficial in the long run. The more costly choice is to ignore SEO and do it alone.

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Bad Website Design vs Good Website Design

Yale University School of Art

Considering it’s one of the top art schools in the country, you’d think the Yale Art School website would be on point. It looks more like a piece of conceptual art (which it probably is). But it makes a great case-study for how not to format your homepage.

Our brains crave simplicity and order. Your user shouldn’t have their senses assaulted at first glance. Too much content on the homepage will drive people away from your website and make you appear less credible.

A good homepage should present the user with your most valuable information, in a visually pleasing way. With Pop Austin’s homepage, a single image says it all, and allows the art to speak for itself.

Suzanne Collins Books

In contrast to the chaos of the Yale website, we have the website for Suzanne Collins, author of the wildly popular sci-fi series – The Hunger Games. It’s riddled with dead links and a baffling amount of white space. Clicking on the book covers does nothing and the navigation is miniscule. It’s a UX & UI nightmare. It’s simply bad website design start to finish.

Plus, there’s no engaging content. The landing pages for her books are just a list of quotes from various reviews. Using reviews can be useful to provide customers with some feedback from other users, but this is just not the way to do it.The website for a huge, pop-culture icon should be an avenue for fans to connect and gain understanding.

Camila Alves’s website, Women of Today, is designed to be an asset to the user. Her fans can come and get inspired by her many craft projects, health routines, recipes, and more. Anyone visiting her website will have no problem navigating, as everything is laid out in an intuitive, user friendly manner.

Alfred Sung

Upon first glance of the Alfred Sung website (a high-end eyewear, fragrance, accessories, and apparel brand) it seems well-designed enough. The layout is simple, and the images showcase the products well. However, once you try and navigate away from the initial homepage banner, you run into some serious problems, making this website a good example of not-so-obvious, bad website design.

In an attempt to keep it minimal, it seems they abandoned intuitive UX all together. It takes some detective work to simply find where the navigation is. Once you move past the mystery-meat navigation, the menu pops out from the side, and the sub-navigation plays out in a bizarre layering animation.

If you are finally able to reach your desired landing page, it barely gives any info on the products, or where you can purchase them.

A smart and simply designed eCommerce site doesn’t confuse the user, and leads them to the products or services they desire, without playing any guessing games. Like the Fortune Goods website, finding and purchasing products should be an easy, intuitive process.

How Important is Website Design to the User

(source: Southerly)

As shown in the infographic above, most user interaction with a website is influenced by design. It only takes milliseconds for them to form an opinion about your website. So, it’s important that your website has a good first impression.
Your website is the digital face of your business. It’s a 24-7 customer service representative. A badly designed website is like having a rude, unhelpful employee. Where a good website is like a model employee, who greets the customer with a smile, has the answer to all their inquiries and will stop at nothing to make them happy and satisfied.

Humans are visual creatures, and having a beautiful website is the best way to move potential customers down the sales funnel. No person in their right mind would enter a seedy, poorly cared for, back-alley establishment and trust it to be an upstanding business. It’s the same with your website. Users won’t trust you with their patronage if your website is not legitimate.

If, for some reason, you’re still in doubt of the importance of good website design, check out some further statistics.

  • Over 60% of users would rather read content on a beautifully designed website then a plain one. (Source: Adobe)
  • 39% of users disengage from a website if images fail to load or take too long to load. (Source: Adobe)
  • Over 50% of people say adequate contact info is the most important missing part of many websites today. (Source: KoMarketing)
  • 38% of users disengage from a website if the user interface is unattractive. (Source: Adobe)
  • One second of extra page loading can cause sales to suffer a 27% drop (Source: Soasta)

How Much Does a Good Website Cost?

So, how much does a website cost? This is actually a very broad question. It’s like asking how much building a house costs. The price depends on the size of the project, the speed with which you want it finished, the quality of workmanship, and many other mitigating factors. Every website project is unique and requires different approaches.

The best place to start is to decide if you want to use a “drag and drop” website builder, a freelancer, or an agency.

Online “Drag and Drop” Website Builders

With online website builders, it’s a do-it-yourself approach. It’s usually a monthly charge, depending on the package you choose. However, it’s entirely up to you to build the site. So, basically you’re paying to do more work. And if it’s your first time using a website builder, it takes extra time to learn the ins-and-outs of whatever platform you choose.

With these drag-and-drop sites you have a few templates to choose from. With a templated design, your individual marketing goals and planned strategy won’t be taken into consideration. Customization is incredibly limited with online website builders. They are not SEO friendly, and have limited reach on Google

Plus, you risk your website looking similar to many others out there, potentially even the competition.

Be sure to read the fine print, because certain ones have clauses stating that they own your domain name, and even your original content. If you try and cancel the contract, you may have to pay a large buy-out fee.

And remember, with these sites, it’s all up to you. You are the one responsible to build the site. It may be cheaper, but it will eat up your valuable time. And as a business owner, time is money.

Taking time into consideration, along with the limited functionality and lack of original design, the cost of this cheap website solution is much more than it seems. When it comes down to it, drag-and-drop website builders may be the cheapest option, but it will end up costing you more in the long run.

Freelancers

It’s rare that you find a freelancer who can do it all. Most of them are skilled in one or two areas of expertise. Often you can find a freelancer who knows how to develop but not design, or vice versa. And, if by some chance they can do both, you still need to find a person to write content, and another person who specializes in digital marketing, SEO and social media.

In the end, you’ll find yourself having to pay and keep tabs on a whole team of freelancers. Not to mention the added headache of communicating back-and-forth, ensuring their processes and technology are compatible.

In the end you’re putting the fate of your website into several different sets of hands, and if one drops the ball, the whole thing can come to a screeching halt. The project won’t be streamlined and the user experience could suffer.

And many freelancers work a full-time job, along with their freelance work. So, the hours they are available tend to be outside of the work week. Plus, when juggling several freelancers, it’s nearly impossible to coordinate everyone’s schedule. Projects get seriously delayed due to lack of communication, and the entire timeline can take much longer because of all the moving parts.

A freelancer may charge by the project, or per page, but most of the time they charge hourly. NJ Creatives Network estimates a less experienced designer charges around $40 an hour, while the more experienced designers cost about $75 (though it’s more likely a high-end designer will charge $100+ an hour). So, on average, a decent freelance web designer could cost you about $59 per hour.

The cost for freelancers may seem cheaper than a big agency, but inevitably ends up costing more time and money, because of the unpredictable price/nature of contracting and paying several individuals to build your website. You end up wasting your own time managing the website project rather than managing your own business.

An Agency

A third option is to pay an agency to build your website. Many agencies have a staff of many experienced people, each highly specialized in one area of expertise. From the discovery phase, all the way to the digital marketing phase, the process is efficient and streamlined.

This will cost you more, but the benefits of working with an agency surpass the two previous options. The agency acts as a single organism, working to achieve your specific goals.

A good agency will offer full-stack website design and keep everything in house, making the whole process far easier for you. All you have to do is be specific about your needs and give quick, detailed feedback.

Though some agencies offer basic pricing packages, often you need to reach out for a quote first. The prices vary depending on the size and scope of your website. Certain agencies will propose a one-time fee that covers a preset list of services. Others offer alla-cart service pricing, with the option to pick and choose exactly what you need.

For growing businesses and middle size enterprises, pricing can be anywhere from $1,500 to $50,000, depending on your website’s specific needs. B2B software solutions, sales tools & custom development certainly comes with the price, and you get what you paid for. Some advanced solutions utilized by large corporations can cost vast amounts both in development and maintenance, but for growing companies – flexibility in both growth and costs of development is usually the most favored option in general.

The main benefit with a professional agency at your disposal, is that you’re the one in charge. It’s like having your own personal team of trained professionals, who will follow your lead, educate you about the features and means to reach your online goals, and help you realize the full potential of your business model through collaboration.

A good agency also offers ongoing maintenance and Digital Marketing options. Though this drives up cost even more, it will keep your website at peak performance at all time, and having only one phone number to call when something is not right with your web presence is definitely a time-saver.

When it comes down to it, the cost of an agency built website is far more justifiable. With the right agency, the process is seamless and the results are the best you can get. Though the price tag is the highest, the cost is far less than opting for a cheap website solution.

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Real Cost of Cheap Website Solutions

Good websites are like a good meal. Most of the time you get what you pay for. Would you rather your website be a microwave dinner or a filet mignon? You just have to be willing to pay what it’s worth.

The right ingredients and preparation, in the hands of a skilled chef, is something worthy of a high price tag. The same goes for all the research and thought a skilled web developer goes through when building your website. And most of the time you won’t actually see how much work goes into it. Just like that perfect steak dinner, all the magic happens back in the kitchen.

But unlike a meal, your website is not an expense, it’s an investment. The majority of your customers are already online. Consumerism has shifted to the online market, and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon. If your business is going to survive in today’s world, you have to invest in a good website.

Finally, the real cost of cheap website solutions can be summed up in these few points:

  • A badly designed website will make it appear like you’re going out of business. In a technologically driven society, there’s no excuse to have a website that’s outdated. Most users will assume your business is suffering without a valid website, and opt to do business with a more legitimate competitor.
  • You lose trust when your website is poorly designed. With as much identity theft there is out there, people are more wary than ever about sharing their personal info, much less their credit card info. If your website seems poorly designed, you can be sure a customer will not feel safe making a purchase on your site.
  • Bad website design will cost you customers. If your user experience is filled with broken links, complex navigation and tedious forms, customers will leave due to frustration, and it’s doubtful they will return. You will lose them to a competitor who offers a more convenient process. This is the ultimate price you pay for having a cheaply made website.
mobile devices with google mobile first index

What Does Mobile First Index Mean & How Does It Impact Your Website

By Design, Living Proof Creative, SEO, Web Development

Have you ever whipped out your phone at a restaurant in search of a random fact about a movie, song or book, just to prove that know-it-all friend wrong? Have you ever needed local listings, directions or restaurant recommendations, and instinctively reached for that friendly, glowing rectangle in your pocket?

If you’re a human being in the modern world today, the answer to one, or most likely both questions is probably “yes”. Let’s face it, we are years-deep into the mobile revolution, and there’s no turning back now.

Desktop computers are great. But, of course people are going to use a device that’s by their side 24/7 far more often than a stationary computer screen, or more cumbersome laptop. In fact 3 out of every 5 searches occur on mobile devices now, far surpassing the number of desktop searches. In 2018, mobile has become the new normal.

If you’re in doubt, check out these stats:

infographic “6 mobile industry & site optimization stats”

How, what, and when people search online has changed with the rise of mobile. Images, art, videos & streaming are all impacted, and inevitably shaped by the way people now access the internet.

So, what does that mean for SEO and search engine rankings? How has the mobile-pocalypse affected what shows up on our screens when searching google?

The internet is big, and phones are small (I’m sure you’ve guessed that already). More and more information is added to the internet each day, as phones become more and more ubiquitous. History’s most massive resource of information (i.e. the internet) indexed for an object that fits in the palm of the hand (i.e. your phone) is the next big challenge search engines face.

A “good website” or a high-ranking link on a desktop is not necessarily considered such on mobile. So, Google has flipped the switch and is officially changing its platform to Mobile First Index. This changes the game for anyone who has a website online. It means mobile accessibility is king. It means your website better function on mobile or you’ll be left in the dust.

So, get with the times and meet the new mobile standards with gusto! With big change comes big questions, so here’s some helpful information about Google Mobile First Index.

a mobile devices with google mobile first index

Via: androidguys.com

1. What is Google Mobile First Indexing?

Google became the world’s #1 search engine because the relevance of search results in relation to the user. In the past, googlebots evaluated a website’s relevance based on the desktop version. But, now the majority of their users are searching via mobile, and thus they want the results to cater to this demographic.

Google Mobile First Indexing reflects user trends in hopes to make the web more mobile friendly. From now on, Google will rank the mobile version of your website rather than the desktop version. This applies when searching on both desktop and mobile.

Simply put, if your site is optimized for mobile you will rank well on any computer or mobile device. But if your site is not optimized for mobile your rankings will drop significantly. Google Mobile First Indexing puts well performing mobile sites above well performing desktop sites.

2. How Does a Mobile First Index Affect an Average Website Owner?

Not all websites will have to change due to Mobile First Indexing. There are three website scenarios out there right now. Depending on which one your website is, will determine how Google mobile indexing will affect your website, and what you will need to do to meet the new standards.

• Responsive Sites

There are plenty of mobile responsive sites out there right now. This means the website is designed to function on mobile and desktop. Mobile Responsiveness changes the design of the site to fit the size of the screen. The user experience is entirely different when using a mouse on a large horizontal screen, versus a small vertical touch screen, and good mobile responsive design responds to both.

Now, this is different from “mobile-friendly” design, which means the design is formatted for mobile but remains the same on desktop.

Google encourages mobile responsiveness because it’s the best of both worlds. People won’t stop using desktop computers anytime soon, so when building your website, it’s always best to design for both formats.

For example, Living Proof Creative helped create a full fledged, 360-degree shopping experience for YOLO Board that is completely mobile responsive, as shown below.

desktop computer with yoloboard.com by Living Proof Creative
2 Mobile devices with yoloboard.com optimized for mobile by Living Proof Creative

As you can see on the mobile version, the imagery and font size adjusts for a more visually pleasing experience, as well as a customized category menu. It’s a finely tuned mobile and desktop format.

If your site is mobile responsive, Mobile First Indexing will actually benefit your rankings.

• Separate Mobile and Desktop Sites

This is when a website that has separate URLs for mobile and desktop, also known as an M-DOT site. A good example of this is Facebook. When you search for Facebook on your mobile browser you will notice the URL of the Facebook is m.facebook.com. Before Mobile First Indexing, Google crawled the desktop version, and the website was ranked accordingly. However, with Mobile First Indexing, Google now crawls the mobile version.

For many sites, the mobile version is a stripped-down version of the desktop site. For Google, this can spawn poor search results, as the snippet in the search results may not exist on the the mobile site, resulting in an inaccurate search result.

The comparison below shows how the desktop version of a site contains valuable, rank-worthy content that isn’t included in the mobile version.

screenshots of a home furnishing m-dot desktop site, and mobile version with missing content

Via: Searchenginejournal.com

If your website is an m-dot site, Google recommends that your mobile and desktop versions contain the same content, including text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos. Structured data should be present on both versions of your site. Be sure all the titles and meta data are the same as well.

• No Mobile Site

If you don’t have a mobile version of your website, you’re not alone. There are still a ton of those out there, and Google knows this. Mobile First Indexing won’t write these sites off. The Googlebot will still crawl desktop URLs. However, you won’t receive priority and your rankings will suffer. Mobile First Indexing is just that – mobile first.

A non-mobile friendly sight is very apparent, the moment you see it. Like the example below:

2 Mobile devices, one with a non-mobile friendly site, and one with a mobile optimized site

Via: dentalcmo.com

In order to survive as a online business you must at least be mobile-friendly, preferably mobile responsive. With Mobile First Index, Google is prioritizing websites that look, feel, and function best on mobile.

3. Best Practices for Mobile First Index

Of course the best strategy for Google Mobile First Indexing is to implement mobile responsive design. Create a mobile-first strategy for your website following these best practices.

• Design for Ease of Use on a Mobile Device

Keep it simple! The number one thing to keep in mind when optimizing for mobile is to simplify everything. Remember that users are more likely to view your site using touch screen, so the UX needs to reflect that.

• Make It Fast

Site speed plays a vital role in mobile optimization. More so on mobile devices, users want their information fast. Because of this, Google has now made site speed a factor in Mobile First Indexing. But, we will address that more in depth in the next section of the blog.

• Avoid Interstitial Pop-ups.

No one likes being interrupted, and Google knows this. So, there’s been a crack-down on pop-ups on mobile, also known as intersitals. You want your websites user experience to be distraction-free. Avoid SEO penalties from Google by implementing the call-to-action in a more subtle creative way, in order to keep the leads coming. Like inserting the CTA into relevant content.

Our SEO Team Can Help You Build Leads The Smart Way Without Relying On Distracting POP-UPs.

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Like that.

• Optimize your content for mobile

Content will always be a driving force for your website, and quality meaningful content will have no problem ranking well with Mobile First Indexing. Simply rethink the layout of the articles.

Break up the content into smaller paragraphs, and use pictures and infographics to splice up large, wordy chunks. A balanced combination of written content and visual content will give your users a much better mobile experience.

• Build a Fluid Site Grid

Designing a site grid that is proportionate to whatever screen it’s on, rather than a fixed measurement, is crucial to mobile responsiveness. Phones and handheld devices are getting smaller and smaller, while desktops are getting wider, with increasingly better resolution. Responsive design is not only designing for a smaller screen, it encompasses all varieties of devices. Fluid design works with the strengths and faults of each and every screen dimension and size.

Illustration of a fluid site grid on a smartphone, tablet, laptop and desktop computer

• Implement Flexible Texts and Images

Your website’s fonts and images need to be fluid as well. Be sure your images scale accordingly to the screen size and dimensions. Verify that your images works in both landscape and portrait. Always provide the correct text size for each viewing device, so it is clear and readable.

• Create a User Friendly Mobile Menu

You want your mobile navigation to be short and sweet. Remember to list the important pages first and consider the search navigation as well. Font size and color contrast is key, especially for small screens, so always keep that in mind. And always design the menu for touch.

• Reduce the Need For Text Entry

Use every opportunity to reduce the need to input text. Typing on a mobile device is more difficult, so think of ways to replace the need for typing with a button or list. Mobile users don’t have use of a keyboard or mouse, so find creative alternatives to minimize the challenge of navigating your website.

Mobile device showing a website for Flats on 12, optimized for mobile by Living Proof Creative
Mobile device showing HarrysBoots.com optimized for mobile by Living Proof Creative
Mobile device showing University of Texas Title IX website optimized for mobile by Living Proof Creative

4. Importance of Mobile Speed

A fast website is an all-around useful thing. It reduces bounce rates and encourages conversions. There’s no doubt about it, speed matters.

As mentioned before, speed is another factor Google Mobile First Index will use to rank your website. These days users expect split-second results, and Google realizes this is a real element in making a site successful.

Although speed has been part of Google’s ranking for a while now, the switch to Mobile First Indexing means it will be focusing on mobile speed rather than desktop speed, starting in July 2018.

Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, helps your page load 4x faster and works seamlessly with WordPress to optimize your mobile website speed. AMP is an open-source website publishing tool and is basically a streamlined version of HTML. This “diet-HTML” is lightweight to increase loading speed.

If you’re not sure of your websites speed you can easily check it for free with Google’s PageSpeed Insights. And, if it turns out your website is more sluggish than it should be, Living Proof Creative can help you ramp up the speed.

GET IN TOUCH WITH US FOR A FAST, MOBILE RESPONSIVE WEBSITE.

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5. How to Prepare Your Website for Future Updates?

Google Mobile Indexing has been a long time coming. With the smartphone tech-boom over the last decade, many foresaw the inevitable turn to handheld-device-based searches. So, what’s next?

The web is constantly changing and morphing, shaped by user habits and the rapid rate of technological advancements. So, how do you plan for inevitable future updates?

Keep the users first. Understanding user trends is the safest way to ensure your website is relevant. That’s how Google operates. User demand is the largest determining force for Google Mobile Indexing, and it will be for the next update, and the next one after that.

Many predict a deviation from URLs and a higher emphasis on APIs. Though we are a ways off from a complete app take over, things seem to be trending towards web-app experiences. Apps are more difficult to build and maintain, but they are a customized, user friendly experience with faster load times.

The future of indexing for Google is pretty clear. In order to work between URL, API and all web based entities, artificial intelligence has to be utilized. CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, even said, “We will move from mobile first to an AI first world.”

For now, having a mobile responsive website filled with relevant content is all you need to have an impactful presence online. But, it’s always good to look ahead. Is your company ready to start planning for the future? Living Proof Creative can help you transition into the dynamic, user engaging world of API development.

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Making of the SXSW Brand: The Rise of Music & Media’s Most Influential Event

By Living Proof Creative

Every time March rolls around the city of Austin feels electric, like an impending thunderstorm, when you can sense lighting on your skin even from miles away.

Weeks before the festival the whole city starts to transform, and so begins the great migration of music lovers, tech nerds, and cinephiles to the music & media Mecca that is South By Southwest.

SXSW is the single most epic event of the year, bringing over 51,000 attendees barreling down on Texas’s relatively small capital, with more than 2,000 showcasing artists and 300+ panels, workshops and sessions across the entire city, in over 100 venues and stages.

Image Source: KUT Austin

But this was not always the case…

SXSW wasn’t recognized as an industry juggernaut at the start. This brand was brought to life with a vision of a handful of inspired Texans who loved music and community, with a desire to bring the world to Austin, and bring Austin to the world.

The festival is now going on 31 years. It’s list of influential industry leaders who have spoken, international and local musicians who have performed, and once-in-a-lifetime events that have occurred over the last three decades is far too expansive to adequately convey in one blog.

But these individual elements are all wrapped up in one thing – the SXSW brand itself.

So, in order to understand the mission, growth and future of South By Southwest, let’s dive-in and take a look at how the brand has evolved over the last thirty years.

SXSW Early Years: A Simpler Time

“The first event, held in March of 1987, saw an expected 150 registrants swell to 700 on the opening day. As hoped for, Austin’s charm won over the visitors, and SXSW took on a life of its own.” 

-Roland Swenson, SXSW Managing Director

When observing the early SXSW branding, you wonder if the founders had any idea how big the festival would get. It all started in 1987, behind the closed doors of the Austin Chronicle, where like-minded creatives brainstormed what would become the most lucrative source of culture and economy for Austin, TX.

During the first years, the branding was simple but direct. The main objective of the festival was music and entertainment, surrounded by an heir of intellectualism, bolstered by discourse about the future of media. They wanted to give the appearance of a symposium mixed with a rock concert.

Left to Right- South By Southwest Music Showcase Schedule from 1987, Brochure from the first SXSW Music Festival, SXSW 1988 Schedule of Events

Image Source: SXSW.com

They chose the name “South By Southwest” so as not to be restrictive. The name literally is a wide, general direction. The festival was never meant to be just one thing, confined to one space or idea. It was everywhere and for everyone.

The design was simple, with a straightforward font. All the collateral was designed to get people to their desired events and nothing more.

The earliest logo was a basic arrow pointing down towards the Southwest direction. This clever and understated icon symbolized the founder’s intentions to be a leading entity in the industry, pointing out current culture and where it was leading. The arrow has been used throughout the entire lifespan of SXSW and is a familiar icon today.

The simple branding allowed for Austin’s charm to shine and not distract from the diversity of the festival. This branding foundation helped SXSW grow into something totally unique and genuine, rather than being forced into some restrictive mold.

Header for SXSW 1993 announcement and schedule

Image Source: SXSW.com

3 For 1 Design: Music, Interactive & Film

“For the first time, the Internet was a major presence at the festival, promising to bridge geographical and temporal distances with easy, instant access to information, music and concert broadcasts from around the world.”

-New York Times, on SXSW 1996

Though founded with the intention to focus on Music and Media, the first 7 years of SXSW primarily revolved around the music industry. And, by 1994 the festival had grown with steady success, with Johnny Cash headlining that year.

But, as was intended at its conception, SXSW was never meant to be about one idea or medium. So, in 1994 the Film and Multimedia component was added to the festival. Echoing the format of the SXSW Music Event, the first Film Event offered panels, speakers and 2 world premieres, under the title of SXSW Film and Media Conference (SFMC).

South By Southwest Poster 1997

It was always intended that the festival constantly morph into something new, but the addition of two more separate aspects created new branding challenges. Anytime you add new elements to a brand, especially in the overall format and title, it can get confusing to the audience.

Perhaps that’s why in 1997, only 2 years later, the name changed from SXSW Music + Media Conference, to SXSW: Music, Film, Interactive. Whatever the reason, SXSW was marketing itself as a forward thinking, all-encompassing event.

The graphics over the next decade were more random, featuring unique designs each year. The challenge was distinguishing between the 3 events. Most of the time the iconography was rather didactic, with a guitar representing music, a movie reel for film and CD-Rom for interactive.

As the years progressed, the designs became more subtle with similar themes running across the entire SXSW gambit. The festival never ceased to grow. Interactive and Film came to be just as popular as the Music aspect, and every year the event took a new shape.

South By Southwest Film Festival Poster from 2001
South By Southwest Film Festival Poster from 2002
South By Southwest Film Festival Poster 2009

SXSW Brand: The Beast We Know Today

“In its 22 years, SXSW has grown from a tiny music festival in the Texas capital into a massive, unavoidable media beast that reflects, discusses and showcases trends in culture and media but also often creates them.”

-National Post, 2008

The early years of SXSW featured up-and-coming music acts, and speakers who were well versed in the industry, but lesser known. The first SXSW headliner was Reverend Horton Heat (Dallas TX), and the keynote speaker was Huey Meaux. In 2016, Barack and Michelle Obama both gave a keynote speeches.

Film week has expanded to last both weeks of the festival, and primers the most notable films of the year. 2018 marks the 25th year of the Film Festival and includes 44 films from first-time filmmakers, 86 World Premieres, 11 North American Premieres, and 5 U.S. Premieres. That’s a whole lot of red carpet.

Interactive now has its own full week of events with the most influential minds speaking round the clock at symposiums and conferences. The largest tech launches in history have gone down at SXSW, including Squarespace, AirBnB, and Uber.

Elon Musk being interviewed at SXSW Interactive 2013

Image Source: SXSW.com

For the entire two weeks of SXSW, all around the city the world’s most recognizable brands set up pop-up venues, like the Spotify House and the Fader Fort.

Energy drinks, every new kind of vape cigarette, startup apps and more have volunteers troll the streets with flyers, swag, and free samples. While HBO plasters the sides of buildings, billboards and even the pedicabs with advertisements (usually for the new season of Game of Thrones, but, alas, not this year).

Brands will stop at nothing to grab the attention of the crowds at SXSW. Last year Hulu even sent a large group of silent, choreographed Handmaidens from the Emmy Award winning series Handmaid’s Tale marching to the capitol building, in an immersive marketing stunt.

Tweet by Adweek about Handmaid’s Tale SXSW marketing stunt saying “ Hulu is doing a great job creeping everyone out at #SXSW with all these handmaids walking around in complete silence.”

With all that noise, SXSW branding needed to make sense of the chaos and act as a beacon for attendees to follow. For a few years they used 3 colors to signify each aspect of the festival.

The iconography for each year was used on every form of print and digital medium, from 8 story banners to online schedules. It’s photographed behind celebrities on the red carpet, backdrops during keynote addresses and even spray painted on the sidewalks.

Michelle Obama speaking at SXSW Interactive 2016

Image Source: SXSW.com

The Future of SXSW Branding

“For the last 4-5 years SXSW has become a global powerhouse event and it makes sense to establish a consistent, recognizable logo, instead of a visual moving target.”

-Brand New

SXSW is now collaborating with a design firm to create a basic standard to be used every year, at least for the next 7 years. This brand standard allows for full flexibility as the event expands. The basis for the branding is a return to simpler roots, focused around a basic san-serif font and the original Southwest-pointing arrow.

It also unifies the three separate aspects and accentuates the original founders’ vision that SXSW is all-encompassing. It reiterates that fact that Music, Media and Film all go hand-in-hand.

SXSW 2017 Brand Standards

Image Source: FoxTrot

SXSW 2018 Banner

Image Source: SXSW.com

18 Steps for a Stressless eCommerce Inventory Management System

By Living Proof Creative

The future is now folks!

Living Proof Creative has spent 40 years (collectively) in the digital realm, mainly in development and growth of eCommerce platforms and sales solutions. Over the years, we’ve translated entire business models for the online market, and helped quite a few companies to establish sustainable growth.

Every industry, and niche, comes with its own myriad of challenges and obstacles, and every market needs a custom tailored solution that will fit their needs.

However, some things never change.

The ease of your online business relies mainly on your ability to manage your inventory. Failing to set up a good inventory management system before you launch your business can result in a variety of complex (and sometimes very annoying) problems.

Regardless of the size of your business, the customer base you serve, the types of products you sell, or your expertise – understanding the ins-and-outs of inventory management is one of the first challenges you have to tackle, if you are looking to build a scalable, profitable, and sustainable business process.

It’s eCommerce 101, but that doesn’t mean it comes easy. Setting up a inventory management system can take a fair bit of planning, and it’s a definitely a slow learning process as you never know what the season and the competition on the open market will have in store for you.

In fact, let’s explain why the following 18 steps may prove to be vital for your online success.

The Importance Of Inventory Management In eCommerce

Today’s shopper expects online purchasing to be as seamless as buying an item in a brick-and-mortar store, if not more so. The younger they are – the more simple and smooth the whole experience has to be.

Thus, companies have to be efficient – ship products fast, ship cheap (or preferably free when possible) if they want to stay competitive in their industry.

Building a quality front-end website and integrating it with a back-end accounting and inventory solution is the best way to manage the online buying/selling processes efficiently.

This is where a good online inventory management system comes into play.

Let’s simplify it, shall we? Real-time inventory information has to be available before any online purchases occur. When you receive new inventory, you must update product quantities in your website’s inventory system. The data is then pushed online for all customers to see.

Once a customer places an order online, that order goes directly to your inventory system to be reviewed. If the order meets certain predefined criteria, the inventory management system marks it as “ready to ship”.

Living Proof Creative Inventory Management

When an employee receives the order, they use verification scanning or mobile picking devices to ensure the right item gets shipped. Of course some still choose to rock it old school using a pen and paper, which works too.

Then the product is prepared for shipping; the shipping documents are processed, printed and marked; and the customer is sent the information through the inventory system via email.

Without a properly set inventory management system, sales orders get missed, the wrong items get shipped, inventory quantities are incorrect, customers get frustrated, and ultimately you lose sales. Before you even launch an eCommerce business, your inventory management system must be in place.

So, we’ve compiled this checklist for improving your eCommerce inventory management system:

18 STEPS TO A PROPER INVENTORY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Living Proof Creative Inventory Management

1. Base It All on Data

Use data to plan ahead and calculate the right range and quantity of products to have on hand throughout the whole year. Look at your annual customer order numbers, or projections, and break down the numbers into volumes (daily, monthly and quarterly) to identify the highs and lows of customer demand.

Next, calculate the stock volume you’re likely to need in case customer demand happens to increase. To determine the right volume of products you’ll need in stock, review industry data, keep track of the latest consumer trends, and analyze your sales in previous years.

2. Keep It Stocked

In order to stay on top of your stock supply, estimate how quickly you can replace declining stock levels, and whether you have enough safety stock for a sudden spike in customer demand. Not having a product immediately in stock is a sure-fire way to lose a sale.

3. Make In-Demand Products Accessible

It’s functional feng-shui. Arrangement of your inventory makes a huge difference. Lay it out so your in-demand products are within easy reach. Set up your warehouse to make the best use of it. Store all the less popular products in farther or harder-to-reach areas.

4. Store Inventory Near the Shipping Point

Every second counts in the race to deliver products in this instant-gratification based society. Reduce shipping time and bring products closer to customers by storing some of your inventory off-site near your local postal service or shipping company. You can even consider setting up regional hubs.

5. Access Information in Real-Time

This is an important one. Your inventory software needs to process and display information in real-time. This will enable you to access accurate stock data at any time. Make sure the online inventory software of your choice identifies out of stock items, alerts your website immediately, updates your stock levels whenever an item is taken off the shelf, and tracks a product during shipping to provide an accurate delivery time.

6. Hire More Staff During Peak Sales Periods

It takes some time to recruit, hire and train new staff, so you need to start planning ahead of time. For example, most eCommerce websites do up to 40% of their annual sales during the Christmas holidays. This means that you should start planning everything in June.

7. Factor In Shipping Costs

How much does shipping and handling affect your revenue? A good inventory management system is should be able to accurately calculate and factor in all costs. In order to estimate your ROI, you should make sure that the cost of shipping and handling stock is tracked by your inventory system.

8. Set a Minimum Stock Levels

How low is too low? When setting minimum stock levels for every item you sell, you should determine the lowest possible inventory you can have in order to avoid fulfillment delays and meet demand.

Analyze your data and determine the exact amount of time it takes to replace the out-of-stock inventory. When it goes below a designated number, contact your wholesaler or manufacturer to place a new order. As your customer demand and experience grow, adjust this number over time.

9. Count Stock Weekly

In the chaos of shipping and handling, things can easily go missing. Designate 2-3 employees to manually count your stock and crosscheck it online weekly. Using the same employees every time will increase production, speeding up an otherwise tedious process.

10. Find Your Stock’s Sweet Spot

It’s important to find the right amount of stock needed at all times. You can’t afford to have too little or too much stock in hand. Not having enough stock volume will cause a break in the turnaround of products and money (not to mention dissatisfied customers and bad reputation), while extra stock costs you and takes up room in your storage space.

The longer your products sit there, the more their value decreases. Keep track of your product’s turnaround rate and use the information to adjust the volume accordingly. Make sure that you have 30 days of inventory in stock at all times.

11. Respond Quickly To Out Of Stock Items

Inventory keep you on your toes! Whenever an item goes out of stock, it becomes a lost sale, which means a lost customer. If you do run out of an item, respond as quickly as possible. And remember to inform customers about the out-of-stock product from your eCommerce store by posting a notification on the product page as to when it will be back in stock.

Take backorders and complete them when the product comes in. Always monitor your in-demand products closely to know when to replenish stock.You must have a good grasp on the shopping habits of your target audience and your inventory. Otherwise you risk overestimating how many items you really need in stock, or underestimate the demand.

12. Know When To Buy Inventory In Bulk

As you probably already know, buying inventory in bulk usually gets you a better price per item. However, if you already have stock sitting on your shelves, buying in bulk will just pile on more and you risk being overstocked. Buy in bulk only if your forecasting results prove that the profit margins can cover the storage fees and the needs for that amount of stock.

13. Choose the Right Inventory Software

Picking a software that’s right for you is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when it comes to your online inventory. There’s a variety of quality inventory software on the market. Choose one that is best tailored to your business. Determine your needs and choose one that meets them the best. Some good ones to consider are: Channeladvisor, Seller Cloud, nChannel, Stitch Labs, and 4PSite. Be sure to chose one that links your payroll and accounting software and other relevant systems. Ask your consultant or the software manufacturers for some advice if you need it.

14. Inform Customers In Real-Time

Today, customers value communication more than ever. Once they purchase a product online, they want to know what’s going on with their order from the moment they pay for it, to the time it’s delivered. You should opt for a system that acknowledges payment receipts, as well as shipping and delivery details. Make sure to give your customers the ability to track their orders.

15. Be Aware of Important Seasonal Events and Trends

If there are any events or trends that may influence your target audience’s purchase behavior, you need to be aware of them. For example, back-to-school and Christmas may cause spikes in buying. Around Valentine’s Day there’s an increase flowers and chocolate sales. And don’t forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Prepare to throw in some discounts and have enough products in stock to gear up for the seasonality.

16. Keep Your Records In Check

With accurate and up-to-date information, you will manage your inventory more effectively. It’s very ease to let record-keeping slip, even if it seems obvious. Check the status of your inventory daily, and even several times a day when it’s a busy one.

17. Consider Selling Through the Amazon Webstore

If you’re just starting your business, it may be a better and more viable option to use an eCommerce selling platform, such as Amazon. It is already established as a selling platform which allows you to reach customers through advertising or sell directly through its webstore. This can be a good way to get access to millions of their customers and see how the market responds to what you have to sell.

18. Implement Inventory Management Software

Investing in the right inventory management software is necessary if you want to build and scale a successful eCommerce business. Some of the tips mentioned above can be manually worked through, but it won’t work to your advantage when you will want to scale your business.

This kind of software can help ensure you’re never understocked or overstocked, keeps a pulse on your inventory, compiles real-time data, leverages valuable insights to grow your business, and syncs your inventory status across all your selling channels.

Inventory managements can often feel like a balancing act. On the one hand, you don’t want too much stock because it will cost you. But on the other hand, you want to have enough stock available to meet customer demand. It’s imperative you make data-driven and informed decisions, use historic sales figures, and industry trends to guide you. By following these 18 steps, you can establish an effective and secure inventory management practice, which will help your business boost sales and bottom line growth.

Are you running an eCommerce business? Let’s connect.

If you think your current solution is outdated, or would like to work on streamlining and increasing your sales, we have a team of experts who know exactly what you need.

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How To Tell Which Digital Marketing Services Best Fit Your Business

By Living Proof Creative

Welcome to the big,
bad world of Digital Marketing!

The future is now, ladies and gentleman, and the marketing game has changed dramatically.

The days of running traditional commercials and print campaigns are gone. Though romanticized in shows like Mad Men, the Don Draper approach to advertising hardly works in this day and age. Traditional forms of media marketing are broad, costly and the results are nearly impossible to gauge.

It almost seems clumsy compared to what you can accomplish using Digital Marketing.

With Digital Marketing the possibilities are endless. The internet is vast, with billions of users surfing daily for products, information, and relationships. If you’re a business owner, it’s utter folly not to utilize the digital realm to your advantage.

Here are some staggering statistics (in case you’re still living in the digital dark age):

  • Over 3.5 billion Google searches happen every day. (source: Internet Live Stats)
  • Digital leads have a 14.6% close rate. Where print leads only has 1.7%.
  • 70-80% of consumers do online research before going into business with a company or making a purchase.

So, we all can agree, Digital Marketing is here to stay. But, with it’s boundless possibilities, how do you know what strategy works best for your business?

Digital Marketing is a personalized game. It’s a “Choose Your Own Adventure” for both the company and the clientele. Identifying target audiences, results-driven strategies, & up-to-the-minute trend monitoring allows any online marketing effort to single-out its exact purpose and ultimately increase online sales.

So, here’s our handy guide to navigating the Digital Marketing waters, as deep as the Mariana Trench itself. Take a deep breath, cause here we go…

Diving into a Digital Marketing Strategy

#1 Don’t Ignore SEO

In the Digital Marketing “Choose Your Own Adventure” story, Google is like the omnipotent narrator. If you choose the wrong path the story can end abruptly. Making good decisions, and following the guidelines takes you further in the story, or in the Digital Marketing relm, higher up on the search engine results.

Google works for its users. It’s only a functional search engine if the results are deemed accurate by the users. So, Google is constantly ranking millions of websites by how relevant they are to specific keywords. Though some try to beat the system by relying on Black Hat SEO tactics, Google is constantly developing ways to see through such unscrupulous methods.

Creating an SEO strategy that works within Google Guidelines is the only way to go. Executing on-page SEO according to SEO best practices, creating quality content, targeting the proper keywords that directly relate to your specific business, as well as link building, lets Google know you’re an important and unique asset to whatever industry you operate within. Thus, when SEO is executed properly, it can grow your traffic gradually, and increase sales revenue.

And Search Engine Optimization is a long-term process, that takes constant vigilance and up-to-the minute awareness of digital trends. It requires a technical knowledge and is often best when outsourced to professionals. Just make sure whatever SEO company or Digital Marketing agency you decide to use is focused on an integrity driven approach.

#2 Pay For What Matters

It’s not all organic out there. Paid Advertisement, or Search Engine Marketing, is another way to grow a business online by directing funds to strategic paid campaigns. Running a Google Adwords campaign can be extremely beneficial if the keywords are intelligently researched and relevant to your industry, all directly targeted in the right direction.

The beauty of paid Digital Marketing is that you can determine the ROI (Return On Investment) down to the cost of each individual click. Running paid ads online allows you to monitor the performance in real time, gain a better understanding of your target audience’s behaviors, and tweek the details of the ad as you go.

Whether you are a small company or large conglomerate, working with outside professionals to create a Search Engine Marketing strategy relevant to your individual needs and goals is the best approach. Find a legitimate agency that specializes in ROI forecasting, Keyword research, CPC optimization, and Campaign Management.

#3 Always Think About Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion Rate Optimization is the calculation of the rate at which your online customers complete conversions, by closely monitoring the types of interactions they have with your emails, pages or ads. CRO is all about finding the best way to achieve your goals, through running tests and changing aspects of the sales journey, to see which process yields the most profitable results.

Disciplined research and constantly redefining better ways to reach and engage with customers is a vital element to Digital Marketing. Professional Digital Marketing Agencies are well versed in the CRO game. And, while you work on making your brand the best it can be, a good Digital Marketing agency will look for more ways to expand and optimize your brand’s revenue stream online.

#4 Write The Right Content

Any “Choose Your Own Adventure” book is trash if the story isn’t written well. Engaging content is what keeps the reader’s attention. And it’s the same with Digital Marketing. To connect with users, and retain them as clients, you have to have engaging, relevant content.

Today’s buyers have the entire internet at their fingertips, and before making a purchase, you can be sure they will do their research. Be the orchestrator of your own destiny by controlling the narrative. You get to decide how you come across, so make sure you are releasing the right content, in the right places, at the right time. Inundate the internet with valuable information, and direct conversions to your website.

A smart Digital Marketing agency not only delivers quality content, they can aim it, like a laser, to reach more users. From blogs to PR & Advertising Material, it’s important that all content be at the peak of optimization.

#5 Utilize Social Media & Email Marketing To Your Advantage

I guess you could say social media is the ultimate “Choose Your Own Adventure”. From what we choose to post, to what we choose to allow on our feeds, social media interactions are a highly tailored experience.

Reaching your target audience on Social Media can seem like a daunting task. Making an impact on these oversaturated, individualized platforms requires a specialized strategy. When executed properly, Digital Marketing on Social Media can be one of the most effective methods of driving sales.

An intimate knowledge of your target audience’s Social Media habits should dictate what platforms you decide to use, and how/when you post. If entrusting your Social Media Strategy to an outside agency, be sure they have a thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each major Social Media outlet, and how your brand works within those parameters.

Social Media is a living organism that’s always changing, trending, and growing. It can be difficult to grasp, and even harder to monetize. Approaching any social media endeavor with a genuine desire to reach and connect with users is the best place to start. Utilize Social Media Digital Marketing as a way to reach your customers on a personal basis.

The same could be said for Email Marketing. When done properly, newsletters and welcome emails can add a personal touch to your Digital Marketing strategy. But it’s a slippery slope. We all know too well the fineline between Email and Spam. Many consumers have little patience for junk emails or overzealous marketing ploys sent directly to their inbox.

You want to first make sure your email campaigns are optimized to avoid being sent directly to the spam folder, as well as send them out at the appropriate time. Using creative promotions, ads, and giveaways is a smart way to cultivate a genuine list of interested subscribers. And you always want to create quality content that encourages customers, not only to open the email, but to actively participate in whatever you’re trying to accomplish through the email.

So What Digital Marketing Services Work For Your Business?

The variations and nuances of each brand’s Digital Marketing strategy are completely dependant on their ultimate goals and vision for the growth of their business.

Lifestyle, Influencer, & Blog Based Website

These kinds of websites don’t directly rely on individual conversions as their main source of revenue. The general goal of many of these sites is to gain status as an authority on whatever industry they’re in. Thus, the Digital Marketing strategy would rely mostly on SEO, Social Media and Email marketing.

The lifeblood of a blog site is it’s presence online so a considered approach to Digital Marketing is vital. Putting out useful, well written content is paramount ,as well a cultivating a brand voice that is unique.

But, the best content is rendered useless if you don’t target the right demographic. If you want to make a splash online, you have to correctly utilize Digital Marketing so you don’t get lost amongst the millions of others out there.

Ecommerce B2C

The only way to stand out as an eCommerce website is through Digital Marketing.

All the services listed above are crucial to the expansion of your brand online. Any eCommerce website needs a well-rounded Digital Marketing Strategy in place. It’s an ongoing process that takes diligence, ingenuity and creative tactics.

White Hat SEO strategies expose your business to the correct group of users. Paid advertising drives instant traffic to your pages with promotions and products. Optimizing the Conversion Rate is a necessary process if you want to maximize the revenue that your website is generating. Creating quality content legitimizes your brand and allows users to engage on a deeper, more meaningful level. Social Media and Email Campaigns meets your users where they’re at.

So, as an eCommerce company, could you afford not to be present on one of these? Take a look at what your competition is doing, and let us know.

Local Businesses

Digital Marketing goals for Local businesses looks different than general eCommerce sites.

They require Local SEO efforts that connect people searching in their immediate surroundings. They may have online sales to consider, but they also want to encourage in-store sales as well. Their search engine ranking directly affects foot traffic and face-to-face interactions.

Digital Marketing for local businesses is targeted at the local community. Engaging Email and Social Media strategies that interact with the community helps draw in new customers and perpetuate their brand. Conversion Rate Optimization focused around in store and online transactions helps a small company grow from a simple storefront to a cohesive digital and physical presence for customers to engage with.

B2B industries

With B2B and B2B eCommerce, typically there is no physical storefront to draw in customers. It’s all up to Digital Marketing to gain attention online.

Generic Digital Marketing techniques aren’t exactly applicable to many B2B websites, as their target audience is much more specific. So, a highly-tailored Digital Marketing strategy is required, that moves the B2B website in front of the right buyers. This means utilizing Paid Advertising, SEO, and in some industries even heavy Link Building, but also direct email tactics, marketing automation and defining the right client profile is what’s needed for maximizing ROI.

Your B2B eCommerce website has to act as a resource and authority in whatever industry you hope to dominate, positioning you as the leader.

In Conclusion

For many companies, Digital Marketing isn’t at the top of their priorities, and it sadly takes a back seat to more essential aspects of the business.

Not optimizing your brand’s presence online is a more than a missed opportunity. The internet is a massive and integral part of billions of people’s lives, why not take advantage of all it has to offer…

Living Proof Creative wants to help you start your Digital Marketing Adventure!





B2B eCommerce Trends You Might Have Missed in 2017

By Living Proof Creative

Nowadays anyone can start a business online. The internet allows anyone, anywhere to set up shop and conduct transactions. With the abundance of individual businesses in 2017, being in the “business of businesses” has become far more lucrative.

In fact, it’s estimated by 2021 the B2B eCommerce market is estimated to hit $1.18 trillion in sales. With that amount, you could buy 100% of Apple, the entire NFL and still have $200 billion left.

So, obviously local markets are destined to become oversaturated. Among other challenges, this also means you can expect far more competition. Right now, there are more than 110,000 eCommerce websites online, and all of them are fighting to gain the audience of online users (well, with the humble exception of our clients).

If you are running an online eCommerce B2B business, we’ve outlined some of the most important strategies that Living Proof Creative has implemented over the course of the last 12 months.

2017 B2B eCommerce Trends You Might Have Missed

Mobile Optimization is STILL a Thing

Ironically, we’re going to start this list with a “trend” that you hopefully didn’t miss. Mobile optimization is something all websites owners, no matter the niche or the industry, have to utilize in order to make connections.

Back in 2015 Google announced that mobile searches surpassed desktop, and in 2017 the numbers have only grown. As the millennial generation gains more substantial positions in the workforce, you can expect that 9 out of 10 B2B prospects are going to access your business through a mobile device this year.

If your website doesn’t function properly on mobile or is the least bit outdated, it’s very likely users will immediately write you off. And still, a large percentage of B2B eCommerce websites isn’t optimized for mobile. Make sure your sight isn’t one of them.

Unleash Your Onsite Search Functionality

Precision is key to the successful conversion of a simple lead to an actual client. The necessity for precision spans all aspects of B2B, from targeting the right demographics and accounts, down to the Onsite Search Function. After all, the search function is the user’s main tool for accessing information about products.

Usually, B2B eCommerce platforms work with countless options for products, like a furniture manufacturer that sells products in a variety of colors, fabrics, and styles. Users want to access every variation before putting down their orders. It is fair to say, this type of a platform is far more demanding than a typical retail system – like a website that sells clothing, for example.

This is why it is very important to foresee your users behavior, learn from their frequently asked questions, and develop a system that will suit all of their needs.

Make Your Customer Service Omnipresent

With B2B, even if you are working with individuals on large accounts, it’s still not the same as retail. You have to be prepared, knowing your clients will expect a level of customer service like that of Amazon.

To put it down simple – they need you to be omnipresent.

On every step of your clients journey, they have to feel safe and able to contact you in any way they desire. Naturally, you don’t want or need to invest in all possible social media platforms, but a live chat has become almost a standard nowdays.

Determine which platforms your target audience uses, and focus your efforts on building a presence on those networks.

Pricing & Inventory Simplified in Real Time

Dynamic pricing and real time inventory updates are another standards you can’t afford to miss out on. Modern content management systems are easy to use, and fully capable of making every change you need, presented in the front end at the exact moment those changes are made.

This is a challenge that concerns both your clients, and your employees. If your client is unable to obtain information about a product because you haven’t updated your website, that is a hurdle that directly affects conversions.

And imagine an order coming through only to find out the item is out of stock. You want to make sure your employees are fully capable of accessing and changing product info at hand, in the shortest timeframe possible.

That’s a problem clients don’t tolerate anymore in 2017.

Enhance your customer experience and the functionality of your platform to ensure every sale goes off
without a hitch.

If you think your website could benefit from our estimate, feel free to get in touch! Living Proof Creative will conduct a free initial audit and give you a call.





eCommerce Website Checklist: 5 MUST-DO’S

By Living Proof Creative, SEO, Web Development
News flash: This “internet shopping” thing is here to stay

While it’s obvious that online shopping is an ever-growing juggernaut, that isn’t slowing down anytime soon, some B2C vendors are completely unaware of how competitive the eCommerce market is- in spite of the record breaking number of online transactions across the board, year after year.

Part of this growth is due to users getting more comfortable shopping from their mobile devices. Though not all users expect the same process. Some want to purchase the products as fast as possible, while others are looking for a more thoughtful and considered approach involving detailed, in-depth product descriptions.

If a website fails to enact a buyer’s preferred channel of communication, a great number of conversions can be lost, and the company will cease to exist to a large number of users.

But how do you know what is your audience looking for?

While we can’t read the minds of your buyers, in the following checklist you will find 5 fundamental elements that customers have come to expect from an online shopping experience.

As we move into 2018, the overall level of sophistication that the average online shopper will come to expect from eCommerce transactions will raise significantly. You better be sure your website is ready!

Checklist

#1Be prepared for an increase in the number of mobile users.

Even though your website looks “decent” on a mobile device, you should take a look at your competitor’s website. If their website is loading faster than yours, and provides a better overall user experience – there is a legitimate chance your next potential transaction will end up going with your competitor instead.

In fact, Google claims that 61% of users never return to a website they’ve had trouble accessing, and 40% of those users will reach out to a direct competitor.

But, how many of them actually use mobile devices? A great deal of them! 82% of internet users own a smartphone, and 6 out of 10 searches on Google come from a mobile device.

Prioritizing mobile-responsiveness and presenting a website that loads within 5 seconds or less won’t be a competitive advantage for too long. It is swiftly becoming a necessity.

#2 Make sure your checkout process user friendly.

In order to increase the conversion rate of your website, you will need to address a myriad of ongoing components essential to your online marketing strategy. But the best place to start improving conversions is at the checkout page.

For various reasons, 4 out of 5 shoppers will navigate away from your checkout page without completing their order.

In average, 1 out of 3 users don’t complete their purchases simply because they are having issues navigating through the checkout process. And 6 out of 10 will leave the website the moment they are faced with an unexpected cost. Customers will even abandon a transaction simply because a site uses a different payment system than they’re used too.

That’s quite a leaky funnel, right?

Learning how your users interact with your website, and intelligently guiding their decisions, should be your #1 priority if you want to build relationships and increase sales.

Also remember to follow up with the customers you’ve lost and never stop improving.

#3 SEO brings ROI.

Search Engine Optimization continues to play a vital role in online marketing, and with good reason…

93% of users start their internet journey through a search engine. Almost all of online interactions start on Google, Bing and Yahoo.

But mostly Google, of course.

Google’s advertising revenue accounts for 40% of the internet’s total digital ad spending, and that revenue is larger than the entire print industry in the US.

The most important and valuable thing that Google Analytics and online marketing efforts delivers over traditional marketing methods is transparency in ROI, and a much larger reach to a broader audience.

In average, leads gained through SEO efforts have a 14% closing rate. When compared to your average leads closure of 2%, it is evident why more and more companies are investing in SEO.

Although Google best practices and guidelines are always being updated, they are extremely transparent when those changes are made, and the data gained through following these closely is an indispensable asset for your company’s growth.

#4 Do your product pages actually sell? And how much do they cost you

If you are selling products on your website, there is a high probability users that are looking for your products won’t actually land on your website’s homepage.

Most searches will direct them to the page of the product they are interested in. At this point, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have a call to action on that page?
  • Are related products accessible from that same page?
  • Does your customer know that you have free shipping options?
  • How high quality are your images?
  • Are all item specifications correct?
  • Am I giving them an option to change quantities?
  • Is the description clear enough?
  • Is that description optimized for search engines?
  • How about the title?
  • Is there an add-to-cart button on each product page?

… this list could go on forever.

Optimizing user experience, and encouraging sales through each one of your assets becomes even more vital as you add more product SKUs to your website.

If efficiency equals profit, having a simple and easy to use content management system should be your priority. Do you know how many legitimate leads are left unattended due to a website’s own inefficiencies?

If you are able to have your content management organized to the point where all your offers are updated, optimized, and captivating in design – you will be able to close 50% more deals without a hitch!

You need a fast and up to date inventory management system, a fully customizable interface, and total control over your assets. Having all of these in place will help you to streamline your sales and nurture more leads to your business.

#5 Don’t Forget to Encourage Relationships.

Ask yourself these questions. All of them have simple answers, and what is even better- all of these answers can be automated!

  • Q: When a user lands on your website, is it clear on how to navigate to the items they are interested in?

A: Your website design should be intuitive, and support your user’s journey throughout.

  • Q: If they want to get in touch, how convenient is it to reach your support or sales team?

A: Your customers should be able to contact you with a simple click of the button. 50% of your buyers will do business with the vendor that responds first.

  • Q: When a legitimate lead decides to leave your website without making any action, do you have a follow up plan in place?

A: You should be tracking all leads that are leaving your website, and have a strategy in place to regain their attention.

On average, 72% of internet users will choose to do business with a vendor who kept the lines of communication open. Not just in terms of customer service, but also with your design, your marketing strategy, your brand image and more.

What makes Living Proof Creative different?

Living Proof Creative is a team of proficient web design, development, marketing and sales experts. We deliver your products and services to your buyers, so you don’t have to rely on multiple companies and solutions for each individual aspect of your web presence.

All the work is done at a single place. Your brand image design, your content needs, your marketing funnels – we take care of it all to ensure your business’s growth.

Plus, isn’t it way more convenient only having to dial one number when you have questions?

We have all the answers.

Contact us to get a free estimate





The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Project Management App or Software

By Living Proof Creative, Web Development

Managing a project can sometimes feel like you’re herding cats.

Project management software can create order out of chaos, and help keep all your ducks (or cats) in a row. It’s one of the most widely used business tools on the market today, and its users range from restaurants to programmers, and even large scale construction projects like renovating and modernizing London Underground.

So, how do you organize your team? Is it a time-suck just to assign menial tasks? Are you stuck exchanging emails with your workers all day? Is your workflow as effective as it possibly can be? At some point every business needs to streamline its process to achieve the highest potential. Use project management software is imperative to finishing projects on time and within budget.

As a matter of fact, according to a 2013 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 97% of high-ranking officials believe that project management is crucial to the performance and success of their business.

Though the same report found the use of commercially available project management applications increases performance and boosts growth- almost 45% of project managers today use no software whatsoever.

So, do you think you can successfully manage a project without an app?

Why is PM Software SO Important?

Managing teams and projects via email and Skype groups is challenging in the best case scenario. At times it’s nearly impossible.

If you’ve ever tried it, you know that team members that are not on key email chains are often left in the dark. What’s worse, important emails get buried in overstuffed Gmail inboxes on regular occasions.

So when your employees don’t have a clear idea about who’s working on a certain project or how close the project is to completion, and if your organization of tasks isn’t on point, your work, your deadlines, and ultimately your budget, will suffer.

This happens more often than you think.

According to research conducted by the Standish Group three years ago, less than 33% of all projects were completed on time and on budget. And while we don’t have any more up-to-date surveys, it’s doubtful the situation has improved much since then.

So, let’s say you want to start using PM software. Where do you begin? With so many PM systems out there, how is one to make a pick between all of them?

What Do YOU Need?

Team managers have a metric ton of responsibilities and face too many challenges to count on a daily basis, but what exactly leads one to use PM software?

Well, according to recent findings from The Access Group, some of the most common reasons to use Project Management software include capturing time and/or cost of projects, lack of integration, poor resource management and lack of visibility into work in progress- just to name a few.

Image Source: www.theaccessgroup.com

This leads us to your needs and as a team manager, you want an app that:

  • Is easy to set and use
  • Doesn’t involve any hidden costs
  • Lets you manage your team
  • Enables you to see the projects at-a-glance
  • Encourages team work for project success

To sum it all up – you should look for an app that has an abundance of team management features, plus an overview of everything, all rolled up into a dashboard that covers every single piece of data you’re interested in.

Of course, the app you chose also has to fulfill the needs of people who are using it as well…

What Does YOUR TEAM Need?

Let’s face it – your team members probably want to move from spreadsheets. And so should you, considering that various studies over the years have shown that almost 90% of them contain human errors (88% to be exact, but that still means almost 9 out of 10 have errors).

Managing your projects with spreadsheets is difficult, rather time-consuming and ultimately inefficient. As an alternative, team members should want an app that:

  • Doesn’t require too much training to use
  • Allows them to manage both small and large projects
  • Lets them choose different methodologies (waterfall, agile or anything in between)
  • Is accessible from both the office and their home (so they can work on the go)
  • Allows them to have real-time access to their projects and tasks

Three Crucial Features of PM Software

Crucial Feature no. 1: Accessibility

First, you need to pay special attention to the following two features:

  • Reports:Reports give you a quick snapshot of every project metric you desire. In most cases you have to manually build them out, however, you can also automate the process.
  • Dashboards:Your dashboard gives you a real-time insight into a number of metrics, and allows you to see the state of your project on a single screen. Also, a dashboard only needs to be set up once, and it’s there for the life of your project.

Since telecommuting has become so popular in recent years (some people also like to bring their work home), being able to access project data at any time and any place is crucial.

You can always get a product that is hosted on your own network, meaning it is only available when you and your team members are in the office. This provides some additional security, but cloud-based software has become the norm in the past couple of years.

Although the estimations vary drastically (Gartner, for instance, predicts that the cloud infrastructure will grow almost 37% this year), everyone agrees that cloud usage will definitely grow. And with more services available online, this is surely the way that your team expects to work.

Image Source: www.gartner.com

Crucial Feature no. 2: Workflow

If your company is relatively small, or you work for a small agency – a simple, free PM tool is all you need to manage everything, from your budget to your clients. But if you’re working as a part of a larger company, you’ll need to take a couple more things into consideration before making your pick.

You have to be sure the app fits into your overall workflow and is compatible with the other software you’re using. For example, if you need to have your customer profiles connected to your projects, your PM software needs to be compatible with your sales team’s CMR software.

But we’ll talk more about specific software integrations in the next section. At the moment, we need to stay on topic and talk a bit more about workflow.

Did you know that some apps allow you to deactivate other tools? This can gives you less tools to switch between, and presents a more clear view of your project performance.

If you working with a smaller team, you’re probably working on a tight budget, so you’ll be glad to know this also saves you money. Let’s say the PM you choose has budgeting and task management capabilities – there’s no reason to pay for different software with the same functions.

Crucial Feature no. 3: Integrations

So, what about integrations? Should you pay much attention to them? Simply put, the answers to these questions depend on the nature of your workflow.

For example, if you run an organization that works with multiple clients at any given time (like a digital or a PR agency), you’ll need an app that has time-tracking capabilities that allow you to bill your customers accordingly.

Every business has its own distinctive needs – a content marketing institute faces completely different challenges and naturally needs an app that integrates with SEO software. There are literally hundreds of different examples.

But you should be aware that not all PM tools allow you to sync data between multiple applications. Therefore, you should look for ones like Zoho and Asana that do.

And this brings us to the second part of our little guide, where we take a look at some actual project management apps…

Top Project Management Apps

Due to their importance and growing popularity over the years, different developers have designed hundreds and hundreds of different project management apps – and the number is steadily rising.

So if you want to get the most out of these apps, you naturally need to stay updated on the best on market at all times. In order to help you stay on top of things, here’s a quick look at some of the most popular project management apps listed alphabetically.

Pros

It doesn’t require any downloads and has a great mobile platform; reporting tools are fantastic for managing, estimating, and enabling you to track expenses and payments within the app.

Cons

Since ActiveCollab is a web-based platform, if things go down on their end you can lose access to your projects. Also, project searching and filtering isn’t great, and email alerts aren’t all that helpful.

Who is it for?

ActiveCollab 5.0 is a simple yet powerful project management app that allows both small businesses and large corporations to manage everything from task management to invoicing easily.

Pricing

Small Plan ($25 per month for 5 employees); Medium Plan ($49 per month for 15 employees); Large Plan ($99 per month for 30 employees); Extra Large Plan ($199 per month for 60 employees); Mega Plan ($299 per month for unlimited employees); Self-Hosted Plan ($999 per month for unlimited projects, clients and employees).

Pros

Asana is really flexible. It’s somewhat quick and responsive, and the free version allows you to add up to 15 team members. Their support is above-average. It is feature-rich and has a strong HTML5 design.

Cons

It doesn’t have a desktop app (which maybe a big turn off for some). It’s not ideal for graphic-intensive projects and its uptime and load times have room for improvement.

Who is it for?

The free version design, interactive elements, and member allotment works well for small teams, while the paid version provides additional features needed for more complex project management.

Pricing

Free Package (up to 15 people); Premium Package ($9.99 per employee, per month); Enterprise Package (you’ll need to contact the company for pricing details).

Pros

This app is really flexible and has a large selection of plug-ins; conversations are streamlined, so they are easy to follow. The desktop and mobile app both work great and it’s quick to start using.

Cons

Some 3rd-party apps like Dropbox and Google drive need additional services to connect; tasks cannot be divided into multiple projects (or teams), and it could use better reporting.

Who is it for?

Basecamp is probably the most well-known app on our list. Its recognition is well deserved, and it’s a great solution for medium and large companies, but the price-tag might be a problem for smaller ones.

Pricing

Free Trial (up to 60 days); Basic Package ($29 per month for internal teams – 100GB of storage); Advanced Package ($79 per month for use with clients – 100GB of storage); Enterprise Package ($3000 per year – 2TB storage).

Pros

Projects on Casual are presented like templates (which will save you so much time). It shows task dependencies on a visual workflow. It’s easy to integrate with multiple users and it’s inexpensive.

Cons

It lacks detailed reporting. It also lacks flexibility (it still can’t be integrated with Slack or other PM tools). When it comes to making sub-tasks, it isn’t perfect and it won’t work for big teams (size of 50+).

Who is it for?

Casual is incredibly intuitive, so it works great for personal projects and for managing projects for small teams. But if you’re managing a large team, lack of flexibility will probably make you look elsewhere.

Pricing

Free Trial (14 days); Personal Package ($9 per person, per month); Group Package ($29 per person, per month); Team Package ($49 per person, per month); Department Package ($99 per person, per month); Enterprise Package ($189 per person, per month).

Pros

The most obvious benefit of Freedcamp is that the app is free for an unlimited number of users. It supports SMS notifications that keeps everyone connected at all times and add-ons aren’t costly.

Cons

It isn’t actually built to handle agile methodologies; although it covers traditional project management, it doesn’t have gnat charts and it doesn’t allow you control who views and edits projects.

Who is it for?

Since there’s no limit to the number of users that can work on the platform, the free version is perfect for micro companies and small business that are working on a tight budget.

Pricing

Free Package (unlimited number of users); Lite Package ($3.99 per month – Google Drive integration, Subtasks Pro, etc.); Business Package ($8.99 per month per user per month – Tam Wikis, Issue Tracker, etc.); Enterprise Package (you need to contact the vendor for pricing details).

Pros

It includes a full list of task management features (from grouping tasks by project to setting priorities). It allows you to track burn rates to minimize any costly surprises and allows you to build custom reports.

Cons

Microsoft Projects doesn’t allow the management of a product backlog. The user-friendliness isn’t great and it takes some training to get used to the software. Plus the pricing can be an issue for some.

Who is it for?

It has plenty of features that are popular with project managers, but seeing how the app is quite costly and rather difficult to use, it’s recommended for larger teams and experienced professionals.

Pricing

Project Lite ($7 per employee per month); Project Pro for Office 365 ($25 per employee per month); Project Standard ($589.99 for unlimited users); Project Professional ($1,159.99 for unlimited users).

Pros

The level of customization with this app is great, which makes Podio a highly-customizable tool. The company updates software on a regular basis and the app scales easily for a growing business.

Cons

While there’s a free version of the app, it’s really limited; it doesn’t have any time-tracking capabilities. There are no image markup or PDF tools, and it has a lackluster permission structure.

Who is it for?

Features like social intranet and CRM (not to mention the price) make Podio a great choice for medium-sized and large-sized companies alike.

Pricing

Free Package (up to five employees); Basic Package ($9 per employee, per month); Plus Package ($14 per employee, per month); Premium Package ($24 per employee, per month).

Pros

Trello is primarily an app (not a site) and you can use it on any screen size. Real time updates are surprisingly fast. Creating tasks and assigning someone to them is simple and it’s completely free.

Cons

It doesn’t have a calendar or a gnat chart. It only allows you to write simple descriptions and not documents or wiki about boards and it needs a stronger integration with other tools.

Who is it for?

Unlike Microsoft Projects, Trello is completely free, and user-friendliness is one of its main attractions, so it’s great for smaller companies with little to no experience.

Pricing

Free Package (unlimited members, boards, lists, checklists and attachments); Business Class Package ($9.99 per employee per month – unlimited Power-Ups and more integration); Enterprise Package ($20.83 per user per month when paid annually – personalized onboarding assistance, better support, 2-factor authentication, etc.)

Pros

Wrike supports an unlimited number of projects (which is great for larger organizations). It includes time-tracking for all of your projects and it offers fully-customizable reports and dashboards.

Cons

The interface can be confusing for some; stronger integration with other tools is needed. Designing a long-term task calendar can be difficult and the mobile app is inferior to the desktop version.

Who is it for?

This cloud-based app is suitable for the needs of both small and medium businesses, but larger companies can easily find solutions in the same price-range that will satisfy their needs.

Pricing

Free Package (unlimited cards, lists, boards, members, etc.); Business Class Package ($9.99 per month – bigger file attachments, more integration); Enterprise Package (by quote – onboarding, file encryption, 2-factor authentication, etc.).

Pros

Zoho includes a number of integrations with other services. It’s extremely feature rich. It’s quite easy to setup and use (the interface is rather responsive) and it offers a good value.

Cons

If you want to have bug-tracking, you’ll have to spend a few additional dollars. The cloud support isn’t all that great and the program doesn’t even have a drag-and-drop function.

Who is it for?

Zoho is basically intended for SMBs with multiple departments that want to keep their documents segmented and well organized, but it also works fine for large businesses across every industry.

Pricing

Free Plan (one project); Express Package ($25 per month for 20 projects); Premium Package ($50 per month for 50 projects); Enterprise Package ($80 per month for unlimited projects).

Key Takeaways

First you need to consider all the features that the project management software should include.
You should also take the tools you currently use and your company’s framework into consideration.

remember to check for data integration and synchronization opportunities. The last element in your decision making process should be the app’s price, simply because a software’s features and capabilities are far more important than the price.

According to Information Week’s Enterprise Project Management Survey, roughly 87% of high-performing companies use some kind of PM software – and for a good reason.

So join the winning team and start using an efficient project management tool as soon as possible.

What is BLACK HAT SEO?

By Living Proof Creative, SEO

Digital marketing is not unlike the wild west. It can be a lawless place where bandits roam free, taking advantage of well meaning internet users. That’s why search engines put algorithms in place to penalize anyone who engages in subversive techniques.

In the current digital landscape the terms “black hat” and “white hat” have come to describe two approaches to SEO. Black Hat SEO refers to sneaky or unscrupulous methods used to trick search engines for better rankings. While White Hat SEO is on the side of truth, morals and justice, following the letter of the law when it comes to gaining organic traffic.

BAD BLACK HAT SEO TRICKS THAT WILL BURY YOUR WEBSITE

Here are a few Black Hat SEO tricks only rotten scoundrels use and all good marketers should avoid…

1) Keywords From Nowhere Land

This tactic is dying out for obvious reasons, but still a frequently seen spam strategy, with the main objective to get users to click on a link.

The easiest way to describe this is to share a simple example of a spam title, like:

“Kim Kardashian could really use our weight loss app”

Whether or not she actually needs to use the app, or lose weight at all, is a matter of one’s opinion, but in the digital word – this would be called a clickbait.

Adding irrelevant keywords in vague titles is a total taboo when it comes to user experience and SEO.

The exact same thing applies to social media. Websites and blogs gain traction from their titles, using them to promote certain content, products or services. If the linked title leads the user to irrelevant content, they lose interest almost immediately.

But, with black hat SEO, relevant content doesn’t matter. Click baiting is meant to gain traction for a website and push it higher in search engine results through dishonest means. Black Hat SEO builds shallow domain authority using popular keywords with no substance.

2) Empty & Hollow Link Farms

Have you ever encountered a page that’s just a pile of random links, sometimes with no context at all?

Upon encountering such a page, any normal human would wonder, “What kind of an insane person would build something like this?”. But, if you’re even remotely familiar with Search Engine Optimization, you know this is a tactic as old as SEO itself.

Google really likes backlinks.

When Google crawlers scrape a web page and finds links, they assume the links are relevant to the source material. Google then categorize these pages and websites through their shared connection. The more connections Google finds to a certain website, the better it will show it in results pages.

Of course, in a perfect world, this would work for the benefit of quality search results. But, in the real world, many Black Hat villains have discovered how to build link farms, in order to dominate the most expensive search terms.

Soon enough, Google found out about this practice, and now their algorithm is updated to recognize this type of behavior. Though some sneak through and we are still seeing this practice in place.

3) No Good, False Talkin’ Scoundrels

We all love seeing a new comment on our freshly published blog post. It’s always great to see someone interacting and giving feedback on the topics you actually care about.

So, when you click on that notification to check a new comment by your new favorite or most hated person in the world for the next five minutes, you may encounter something like this:

This is very valuable information, please check this link *URL*

The comment is always left by someone with a random name that sounds fake, with an obvious stock photo of a person bluntly staring with a banal a smile, almost as if saying, “I didn’t actually read this. lol.”

Google does not track links in comments. It used to, but due to item #2 in this list, Google had to sanction this practice. Still, many Black Hats are utilizing this tactic, simply because they are relying on you, and anyone else reading the blog, to click on that link.

So, how can you tell the difference?

It’s not unwarranted for your readers to promote their websites in the comments, but if they want to engage in any valid conversation, the links in the comments need to be relevant to the topic.

If they post a link to their blog on the same topic, they probably aren’t trying to lure people under false pretenses. But, for example: if they post a link to an article about Kim Kardashian’s weight on a post about knitting, you can assume it’s spam and definitely a Black Hat tactic.

Feel free to delete that comment and forget that fake persona. Let the good old sherif Google take care of them.

LIVNG PROOF CREATIVE