Author: Neil Patel

How to Manage and Avoid Ecommerce Chargebacks

Chargebacks have become a growing problem for ecommerce companies. In fact, credit card chargebacks are rising at a rate of 20% each year.

Statistics show 40% of consumers who file chargebacks will do so again within 60 days. And 50% of those people will file another one within 90 days.

Banks and credit card companies make it easy for their customers to dispute charges on their accounts. Ecommerce companies are paying the price for this behavior.

Those of you who have an ecommerce shop know what I’m talking about. I’m willing to bet you’ve had to deal with these situations in the past.

They are a real pain, to say the least. On your end, you thought you did everything right.

A customer placed an order online. You fulfilled the order and got paid.

Only later, you see that the transaction was nullified. You probably weren’t even notified of this chargeback until after the fact.

What happens now? Why are you being punished for fulfilling an order? How far do you need to go to optimize the customer experience?

Chargebacks have become a hot topic lately in my consulting work. And nobody seems to know how to handle them.

That was my inspiration for writing this guide.

First, I’ll explain what you need to do once a chargeback has been filed. Then, I’ll show how you can prevent this from happening again in the future. At the very least, you’ll be able to minimize your chargeback rates moving forward.

Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t waste time disputing chargebacks

Everyone I’ve talked to has the same first instinct when it comes to chargebacks.

Dispute it.

They feel their ecommerce business was not in the wrong, so if they file a dispute, the situation will be rectified.

Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case.

Sure, in theory, it sounds like a good plan. But banks and credit card companies design the chargeback process to protect the consumer, even if the retailer isn’t at fault.

I know you don’t want to hear this, but disputing chargebacks will be a waste of your time. You don’t want to deal with this headache.

As you can see, the overwhelming majority of merchants are disputing chargebacks they feel are illegitimate.

What is considered illegitimate?

Well, research shows that 80% of consumers have filed a chargeback simply because they didn’t have time to communicate with a merchant to receive a refund.

This is an example of friendly fraud. The customer commits fraud without realizing what they’re doing is wrong. Or maybe they knew this was an illegitimate reason but didn’t care.

Regardless of the reason, just 18% of merchants say they win the majority of their disputes against friendly-fraud chargebacks.

Banks and credit card companies are still siding with the consumers.

What is the takeaway here? Don’t waste your time.

Sadly, in the long run, this will be a losing battle for you. You’re much better off putting more effort into avoiding chargebacks in the first place.

In certain instances, it’s worth disputing a chargeback, but I’ll discuss that later.

Ship orders on time

It’s possible your customers are filing chargebacks if their orders weren’t received when promised. There are a couple of different reasons for this.

First of all, if the package hasn’t arrived, they might think they got ripped off by the merchant. This is especially true if you’re a new, relatively unknown business.

That’s why you need to understand the top elements that add credibility to your website to make your company appear more trustworthy.

It’s also possible the customer thinks the package was stolen from their door or potentially misdelivered. Either way, if there’s no delivery, the customer won’t want to pay for the order.

But what if it’s none of these reasons?

Maybe the order is still on the way and hasn’t been delivered yet.

In this case, the customer could start the chargeback process and then receive their package a few days later. By then, the damage is already done.

Do not promise a shipping deadline you can’t meet.

With Amazon offering two-day free shipping on many orders, it makes anything longer than that seem unacceptable. That’s why customers with Amazon Prime memberships have higher expectations for free shipping timelines.

Furthermore, in 2017, 35% of consumers said they expect businesses to have much faster delivery times.

And in 2018, that number has increased. Now, 43% of people say they expect faster deliveries. I’m expecting that number to continue rising each year.

If you can ship orders fast and make sure they get delivered on time, you will reduce the chances of getting chargebacks filed for this reason.

But sometimes delays happen for reasons that are out of your control.

Winter storms, other acts of nature, or truck breakdowns could cause delays in the shipping process.

In this case, you need to let your customers know their orders will be late ASAP.

Let them track the shipping. This should be a standard part of your ecommerce process.

Once an order has shipped, you should immediately send the customer an email with the tracking number so they have access to this information.

Monitor transactions for fraudulent activity

Don’t assume every purchase on your ecommerce platform is legitimate.

You need to check each transaction and look for red flags of fraud.

I recommend setting up a fraud metric system to help you with this process. This system would set parameters to flag orders that appear to be suspicious.

For example, if you have an abnormally large purchase shipped to an address different from the billing address, you may need to require further verification to complete the order.

In addition to credit card numbers, your ecommerce shop should also require billing addresses. This is called an AVS, short for address verification system.

You’re probably familiar with this since I’m sure you’ve had to do it in your personal life to complete some transactions.

With an AVS, a criminal with an access to a stolen credit card can’t make a purchase without knowing a zip code associated with the card. If you don’t have this added security measure in place, you’ll be out of luck when a cardholder files a chargeback for a purchase made by a credit card thief.

According to Experian, businesses are experiencing an increase in fraud losses in 2018:

Only 40% of business owners say they are very confident in their abilities to detect fraudulent activity.

Furthermore, 45% of business executives say they are significantly more concerned about the risk of fraud becoming a growing problem.

This is no surprise. That’s because the cost of fraud is adding up quickly.

On average, fraud is costing retailers 2.1% of their annual revenues.

I know this may not seem very high at first glance, but this adds up faster than you might think.

If you’re doing $2 million in sales, that means you’re losing $42,000 each year to fraud.

That’s assuming you’re within the average. If you’re not taking steps to prevent fraud and chargebacks, these numbers can be even higher.

And 2.1% doesn’t sound small when you put it in terms of dollars.

As you can see from the graph above, only 27% of businesses say they’ve experienced fewer fraud losses over the last 12 months. You need to take steps to put your ecommerce business in this category.

Provide exceptional customer service

As I said earlier, sometimes customers file chargebacks for the wrong reasons, such as wanting a refund.

While this is not an appropriate reason to take that action, the customer can still win. Plus, you probably won’t win a dispute.

To avoid this scenario, you need to make sure you have easily accessible customer service options.

Take a step back, and analyze in what ways your customers can reach you if they have problems.

If a general call center is the only option, chances are your customers are frustrated and dissatisfied.

As you can see, 43% of consumers think it’s difficult to reach customer support agents.

People are busy. They have better things to do than waste time being on hold, waiting for someone to address their concerns.

It’s likely very easy for them to dispute charges by opening their credit card mobile apps. This can probably be done in a couple of clicks.

That’s why you need to improve your customer service by implementing live chat.

Now if someone has a problem with their order or product, or has a general question, they can reach a customer service representative as fast as possible.

This gives you the ability to offer a solution much quicker. You want to give your customers complete peace of mind.

You’re there to help them. Be available for assistance on as many channels as possible.

Monitor your social media comments. Shockingly, 79% of customer complaints online are ignored by businesses.

It’s unacceptable if your ecommerce business is part of the majority in this case. That’s terrible customer service.

When someone complains, look at it as a chance to make things right. If you ignore them, it could be the reason why they file a chargeback.

It’s also important to make sure that everything you’re selling meets a quality standard and is not falsely advertised. High-quality products that match the online description won’t have as many chargebacks.

Send post checkout notifications and follow-up emails

Once someone completes a purchase online, you want to let them know how the order will be billed.

Explain how the charge will read on their credit card statement if the name of your ecommerce shop does not match your billing statement name.

If your customers don’t recognize a description on their credit card statement, they could file chargebacks without realizing they purchased from your company.

It’s easy to avoid confusion by being transparent. Take a look at this confirmation email from Tropicfeel:

The company highlighted how the charge will read on credit card statements. Because it’s a startup still building its reputation, it’s important it makes its name clear for the customer.

Take your email strategy one step further. Send a follow-up message once the order is delivered.

This email will be a great opportunity for you to ask for customer feedback.

If something is wrong, invite the customer to share their problems with you. Remind them of your fast and easy return policy.

Now you can stay ahead of any issues and rectify the situation before the customer has a chance to file a chargeback.

Choose a processor with great merchant support

How are you currently processing payments for your ecommerce shop?

If you’re not happy with your current situation, you should consider switching to a payment processor that offers friendly merchant services.

The cheapest option isn’t always the best. You won’t get good support that way.

Earlier I said you shouldn’t dispute chargebacks, but depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary at certain times.

If you have a couple of chargebacks for $100 or $200, it’s best to just let them go. But if you have illegitimate chargebacks totaling tens of thousands of dollars from just a few transactions, you’ll likely want to follow up with a dispute.

Under these circumstances, you’ll want to make sure this process is as smooth as possible for you. That’s why I recommend using a processor such as PayPal or Stripe.

As you can see, it’s easy to manage your merchant support options through the Stripe dashboard.

All you need to do is upload evidence to the platform, and it’ll submit everything to the bank.

For this added service, you’ll be charged a dispute fee. But I think it’s worth it.

Good payment processors will make your life much easier in difficult circumstances.

Again, you shouldn’t expect to have a high success rate with your disputes. But if you’d like to deal with this process, it’s best to have a processor do the heavy lifting for you instead of dealing with the banks directly.

This will save you time and minimize your stress.

Conclusion

Chargebacks are starting to become a wide-spread problem for ecommerce businesses.

Your company needs to know how to deal with them and prevent them from happening in the future. Otherwise, it’ll cost you a lot of money in the long run.

For the most part, it’s not in your best interest to dispute chargebacks. Most merchants aren’t winning these disputes, so choose your battles wisely.

In the event that you want to go through this process, it helps to have a good relationship with your payment processor.

To avoid chargebacks, you need to provide excellent customer service.

Ship your orders on time. Make sure customers have easy access to representatives through as many channels as possible, including live chat.

Monitor transactions for fraudulent activity. Implement an address verification system to curb criminal activity.

Send post checkout emails to customers, explaining how their purchases will be billed. Then, send another message asking for feedback once the order has been delivered.

If you follow the advice in this guide, your ecommerce business will have an easier time managing and avoiding chargebacks in the future.

What steps is your ecommerce company taking to avoid chargebacks?

12 Tips for Creating Signup Forms That Convert

Every website can benefit from signup forms.

Depending on your business, these forms may vary greatly in their design and purpose.

Some of you are using signup forms to simply collect email addresses for your subscriber lists. Opt-in forms are great for your lead generation strategy.

Other companies rely on signup forms to acquire new customers. Subscription-based businesses need signup forms to generate revenue.

Signup forms improve communication between you and your current or prospective customers. They also allow you to share more information about your company while gaining insight into people who sign up.

Regardless of what you’re using signup forms for on your website, they are useless if your website traffic isn’t converting.

Unlike other customer acquisition strategies you’re probably using, creating a signup form isn’t expensive.

All you need to do is implement some minor changes to your website. Typically, these forms can be updated and embedded in just minutes.

You already spent much time, effort, and money getting visitors to land on your website. Don’t let those efforts go to waste by not improving your conversion efficiency.

This guide is perfect for anyone using signup forms with underperforming conversion rates. It will also help those building new signup forms.

After you review the tips I’ve outlined on this list, you’ll be able to generate more leads, improve conversions, and ultimately increase revenue.

1. Reduce the number of form fields

People are busy. They have better things to do than spend all day on your website.

To get them to convert, you need to make your signup forms as short as possible.

If these forms are long and require too much information to complete, people won’t take the time to fill them out. In fact, studies show that fewer form fields have the highest conversion rates:

Forms with fewer than five fields convert at a rate of nearly 20%.

If you currently have signup forms with six or seven fields, you can increase conversions by 4.5% just by eliminating a couple of these.

Shorter forms are not just faster to fill out but also less intrusive to the visitor. Here’s what I mean.

Obviously, longer forms require more information. But the website visitor may be hesitant to provide you with certain details about themselves.

They may wonder why a business needs their postal code if they just want to sign up for an email newsletter.

Depending on the circumstances, do you really need their last name? Why do you need billing information for a free trial?

These are the types of fields that can be eliminated to make your signup forms as short as possible.

2. Know when to use one or two columns

For the most part, I recommend using one column for your signup forms.

These are easy to read and fill out, and they won’t be confusing. People are more likely to skip a line or complete lines out of order if they have to deal with two-column signup forms.

If someone skips a required field, it slows down the whole process. But I’ll talk more about this concept later.

When you have one column, it’s obvious in which order the lines should be completed.

However, different website visitors may not view a two-column form the same way. Take a look at some examples of how people could progress through a form with two columns:

Lots of these will require extra steps and clicks that will slow down the progress.

If someone gets confused or frustrated, they won’t finish filling out the information.

If you’re currently using a two-column signup form, I suggest changing it to one.

That said, a multi-column form might be necessary at certain times.

You can use two columns if your signup forms are longer. I know I said short forms have the highest conversion rates, but some of you will have longer ones, just by the nature of your business.

Let’s say you have 20 form fields.

If you stack these in one column, the form will look long and intimidating to a website visitor. Forms this long may even require some scrolling to complete.

It will look more appealing if you create two columns with ten fields in each one. Then, the entire signup form can fit on one page without any scrolling required.

HubSpot tested one of its lead capture forms with 13 fields, which is long. However, the team liked using this method because it helps it qualify its leads better.

In this case, the variation of its signup form with two columns had 22% more conversions than the version with just one.

Depending on the form, you need to know when it’s in your best interest to use one column or two.

3. Offer an incentive to sign up

Why should someone complete your signup form?

No, this is not a rhetorical question. Sure, you want them to sign up so you can turn a profit, but how does this benefit visitors on your website?

Realistically, it doesn’t. You need to do more than just ask them to sign up.

Research shows that offering an incentive, such as a chance of winning something, increases your chances of getting a conversion by 15 times:

Sometimes, running a contest for your signup form isn’t practical. But that’s not the only type of incentive you can provide.

Other offers can increase your conversion rates five-fold compared to a straight ask.

Monetary offers usually work well. If you’re collecting email addresses, you can give new subscribers a discount off their next purchases for signing up.

If you are using signup forms to generate profits through subscriptions, for example, make sure your offer is attractive.

You need to learn how to create a highly effective value proposition. Then, you need to make sure that value proposition is clearly displayed on the landing page where you have the signup form.

4. Enable autocomplete

An autocomplete option simplifies the signup process for users on your website.

Chances are, you’re not the first person to ask them for the information you’re collecting in the signup form.

Depending on the visitor’s browser settings, this information can be stored. Once they start typing, the browser will recognize the required fields and automatically fill them out for the user.

However, this will work only if you enable the autofill feature when you’re programming the form fields on your site.

According to Google, users fill out forms 30% faster with autocomplete than without.

Speed is one of the reasons why you’d want to keep form fields as short as possible. If you have longer forms, the autocomplete feature will help improve your conversions.

Just make sure it’s easy to make changes in case the information provided by autofill needs to be corrected.

For example, a user may have multiple email addresses. They won’t want to use their work email address on your website if it’s for personal purposes. If the autofill adds the wrong email address, they should be able to correct it without the changes affecting the other form fields.

5. Allow social signups

Another way to speed up the signup process is by allowing social signups.

If you can integrate your website with social media platforms, users will be able to sign up with just a click or two.

Currently, 34% of retailers have this feature on their websites:

As you can see from this data, Facebook is the most popular social media site for signup form integration.

If you want to implement this on your website, follow the Facebook developer instructions.

Once you set this up, here’s an example of what your signup form will look like:

This is a relatively short signup form. It has only four form fields, which should make this form highly converting, given the information I shared with you earlier.

However, the process can be simplified even more for the user.

By clicking on one of the social icons I highlighted, they will sign up with just one click if they are already logged into one of those profiles.

If they’re not logged in, they’ll be redirected to a page that requires their username and password for the corresponding account.

Either way, this is still faster than filling out a signup form, no matter how short.

6. Avoid CAPTCHAs

CAPTCHA is short for “completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart.”

In short, this technology is used to distinguish between an action completed on a website by an actual person and a computer.

I’m sure you’ve seen these before. It’s one of those steps you have to take to verify you’re not a robot.

Here’s an example of what a CAPTCHA function looks like on a signup form:

Businesses implement this feature to detect bots and avoid spam.

However, it ends up being an extra step for users.

I’m willing to bet you have had to complete similar CAPTCHA forms multiple times in order to proceed with something. It’s annoying, especially since you’re obviously not a robot.

In addition to this being an extra step for people to complete, it’s also very frustrating if they get it wrong.

After a couple of attempts, they may decide to just abandon the signup process completely, which will obviously hurt your conversions.

You’re better off running the risk of some bots or spam on your website than turning prospective customers away with a CAPTCHA form.

7. Focus on opt-in placement

Where is your signup form located on your website?

In some instances, the form will appear on multiple locations on different landing pages.

Depending on your business, a signup form won’t always be your priority. For example, if you have an ecommerce shop, you’d rather prioritize sales than email signups.

The most common place for an email signup opt-in is in the footer of a website:

But it doesn’t mean it’s the ideal location.

If you rely on this signup form to drive revenue, you’ll want to make this the focal point of your landing pages.

Try including a signup form in the sidebar of your blog posts. You can even have them appear as popup windows when someone clicks a specific CTA on your website.

The point is, there isn’t an exact winning placement that’s the same for every business and all of their landing pages.

It’s up to you to determine your priorities and then choose the location of your signup form accordingly.

8. A/B test your CTA

If you’ve never run an A/B test before, I highly recommend reading my guide on everything you need to know before you start A/B testing.

Signup form CTAs are the perfect candidate for these types of experiments.

You can test many different elements of a CTA, such as its:

  • size
  • placement
  • color
  • font
  • wording

Making subtle changes can have a major impact on your conversions. Just make sure you’re testing only one element at a time.

Once you complete your A/B tests, you can be confident that your signup form CTA is optimized for high conversions.

9. Highlight incomplete information

I briefly talked about this earlier when comparing forms with one column or two.

A user may leave a required field incomplete. If this happens, you want to make sure it’s corrected as fast and as efficiently as possible.

This user obviously wants to convert. They filled out some information and clicked your CTA.

Don’t let them get away without completing the process.

If they click on your CTA and nothing happens, they may just assume there is a problem with your website. That’s why you need to clearly highlight incomplete fields.

Here’s an example from the ClassPass website:

As you can see, I only filled out my first and last name on this form. I didn’t enter an email address or password.

Once I clicked the “Sign up” button, the email address and password boxes both turned red with an alert saying “This information is required.”

Without this type of alert, someone who made an honest mistake may not understand why they can’t submit their form.

The example above is very simple. It’s pretty obvious which fields were left blank.

However, that’s not always the case with longer signup forms. Don’t make users go back and hunt for what’s wrong. Highlight the error for them so it’s clear.

10. Showcase social proof

Your business should be looking for unique ways to effectively use social proof to increase conversions.

Signup forms are a great opportunity for you to do this.

The whole idea behind the concept of social proof is that people are influenced by others. If you can show your website visitors that other people have benefited from what you’re offering, they will be more likely to convert.

Integrating your social proof strategy with your signup forms is ideal because it’s going to be visible when people are making their decisions.

Here’s an example of how Single Grain used this strategy on its signup form:

The company is showcasing some of its top clients.

If major corporations such as Uber, Amazon, and Salesforce have benefited from its services, it must be good, right? That’s what people think when they see this type of social proof.

That’s not the only way to approach it.

You can use statistics that highlight an expert’s opinion. Say something like, “95% of doctors recommend XYZ.”

Just make sure it’s accurate.

You can also use a celebrity endorsement to create social proof.

Create proof in numbers as well. If 750,000 other people signed up, it will encourage others to do the same. Have a running tally of the number of customers or email addresses you’ve collected next to your signup form.

It’s also just as effective to include customer testimonials on these landing pages.

11. Use sentence case

It may not seem like a big deal, but typography can impact conversions.

You need to make sure your signup forms are easy to read. I see this often in my consulting work.

All too often, I see companies misuse capital letters. They do this to emphasize some information, but it doesn’t come off that way.

Just look at the difference between sentence case and all caps:

Today, people associate all capital letters with yelling. You don’t want to come across as if you’re yelling at your website visitors.

Sentence case looks cleaner, and it’s more conversational.

If you scroll back up and look at the examples above, you’ll notice the majority of the content is sentence case.

In some instances, you can get away with using title case. But I would always avoid using all capital letters. This looks too unprofessional.

12. Eliminate distractions

I briefly talked about this earlier. Each page of your website should have a priority.

Once that priority has been established, it should be the focal point of your landing page.

Don’t try to encourage people to sign up for something while simultaneously promoting your newest product and playing an embedded video about your company culture at the same time.

It’s too complex, and the website visitor won’t know where to focus their attention.

By eliminating distractions, you will focus the user’s attention on converting. Here’s a great example of a simple landing page from the Free Conference Call website:

Nothing else is happening on the screen except for the invitation to sign up and create an account.

Yes, the page has a background image. But that’s fine.

This type of image is much more appealing than just a plain black or white background.

Plus, the image is positioned perfectly. Both of the subjects in the background are looking in the direction of the signup form.

It’s only natural for you to follow their eyes toward the form.

By limiting text and prioritizing the form on the screen, you will increase conversions.

Conclusion

Adding signup forms to your website doesn’t guarantee your traffic will convert.

Whether you’re creating a new signup form or trying to improve an existing one, you can make changes that will increase conversions.

Use this list as a reference to help you through this process.

If you apply the tips I’ve outlined above, your signup forms will turn into conversion machines.

What tips is your website using to increase conversion rates on your signup forms?

11 Outdated SEO Tactics You Need to Retire

Just like most aspects of marketing and technology, search engine optimization has evolved over time.

Marketing strategies that were effective for your company five or ten years ago may not be as effective today. The same applies to SEO.

Search engines have changed the way they rank websites.

If your company hasn’t been staying up to date with the latest trends, your SEO strategy is outdated.

I see this problem all too often in my consulting work. Many companies still employ old strategies that no longer work.

That’s what inspired me to write this guide.

The outdated tactics on this list vary in terms of how they will affect your business.

Some of these are ineffective but harmless, while others could potentially hurt your SEO ranking.

Every business with a website needs to read this guide. Use it as a reference to see if you’re still using outdated SEO tactics and possibly hurting your SEO game.

1. Exact match domain names

Exact match domains were popular for a while.

With this strategy, websites were able to move up their search rankings very quickly. In some instances, rankings climbed in just weeks or even a few days.

As the name implies, the whole idea behind an exact match domain is that your website matches the keywords you’re targeting. For example:

  • detroitplumber
  • garagedoorpartsmiami
  • bestpizzanewyork

But Google adjusted its algorithm to make exact match domains obsolete. When it made this update back in 2012, the influence of exact match domains dropped nearly immediately:

Now, an exact match domain has the same chances of ranking as high or as low as any other domain name.

In fact, some of these exact match domains have a greater chance of being flagged by algorithms or manual reviews. Low-quality sites won’t be ranked high just because their domains are exact matches to the targeted keywords.

Furthermore, it’s difficult to brand a company with an exact match domain.

For example, think about Amazon. Imagine if it started with a domain like

“buyandsellbooksonline.”

That’s just not brandable. This strategy is less trustworthy, and it will make it increasingly difficult for you to build links.

Instead, you want to make it as easy as possible to increase your brand exposure by having a domain that’s brandable.

Don’t use exact match domains.

2. Link directories

For the most part, link directories are useless. There are some exceptions for niche-specific high quality directories.

This strategy worked before search engines become powerful.

People could find what they were looking for by using sites with directories.

These were easy for site owners to install and manage, and they increased in popularity. However, a link directory doesn’t provide actual value to website visitors.

That’s when search algorithms got adjusted to ignore link directories.

Now, having a link directory on your site can get you penalized if you have low-quality links. The same goes for article directories.

Marketers started to use software to submit articles to thousands of directories. But this low-quality content didn’t provide any value to people. It was a quick and simple way to build links.

Today, link and article directories are usually perceived as poor content, and they won’t help increase your search ranking.

3. Flat URL architecture

By default, WordPress will set up your pages with URLs like this:

http://yourdomain.com/page1

It may look simple and clean for your visitors, but it’s not helping your SEO.

If you don’t change these defaults, it will be challenging for search engines to understand the hierarchy of your website. SEO crawlers and bots will rate all your pages with the same level of importance, but that’s not what you want.

You need search engines to recognize the importance of each page compared to its relationship within other pages.

You can manually change your defaults to something like this instead:

http://yourdomain.com/category1/page1

Then, the hierarchy of your site architecture will make more sense.

Removing the flat URL structure will make it easier for crawlers to index your site, which ultimately will improve your SEO ranking.

Search engines will be able to learn the value of each page within your site.

I recommend making these adjustments sooner rather than later. If you change your architecture, you’ll also have to change all of the redirects which can potentially hurt your ranking.

4. Automated link building

Links clearly play an important role in SEO.

Once this was discovered, many marketers tried to take advantage of link-building software to maximize their domain exposure on as many other sites as possible. They did this so their sites would be recognized by search engine algorithms.

As a result, their links got randomly posted on forums, blog comments, link directories, and guestbooks.

While I’m an advocate of using automation to improve your operational efficiency, this isn’t where you should be using that strategy.

Link building is only effective if it’s high quality. You can’t automate this process.

You have to build strong relationships and create valuable content.

For alternative methods that work, check out my post on the process of consistently building backlinks every week.

5. Keyword stuffing

When search engines weren’t as complex as they are today, keyword stuffing worked.

Sites would just put dozens and dozens of keywords throughout new content. The problem with such keywording is it’s unnatural because it was only being done to improve the search relevance of the page.

This doesn’t work anymore.

As algorithms became more advanced, keyword stuffing lost its power. Now it just looks like you have low-quality content.

You can potentially be penalized for keyword stuffing as well.

A recent study from SEMrush showed the most important ranking factors:

While keywords make the list, they’re not nearly as important as the other aspects of SEO are.

In fact, 18% of domains that ranked for high-volume keywords didn’t have any keywords in the body. Only 3% of backlinks had anchor text with keywords.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t include keywords in your content. But you need to make sure that you’re using them sparingly and that your content is written to read naturally.

You’re much better off publishing valuable content without lots of keywords than low-quality content with too many keywords.

6. Keyword variation pages

Do not create a separate page for each variation of a keyword you’re trying to rank for. This strategy won’t work.

Search engine crawlers are smarter, so you don’t have to do this in order to target these variations.

Google’s AI system, RankBrain, can even detect and rank sites for keywords not displayed within the content.

For example, let’s say you create a landing page dedicated to your B2B audiences about boiler services. RankBrain will understand that this page will also be relevant to users who search for things like:

  • boiler cleaning
  • boiler maintenance
  • boiler inspection
  • boiler repair

You don’t need to have a separate page for each one of these keyword phrases. Having too many pages on your site will make your site navigation more difficult than it needs to be.

For this example, you’d just need to have one page. Then, you’d include a subheader for each one of these variations.

This strategy will make your content more relevant and improve your site navigation.

7. Paid links

The last thing you want to do is violate Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Buying links can improve your ranking, but not if you get caught. For this reason alone, I don’t think paid links are worth it.

Some of you may have bought a few links without getting penalized in the past, but don’t think that means you’re invincible.

Sure, you might be careful with the way you’re conducting your operation, but what about the seller?

According to Google, both the buyers and sellers are guilty. It describes such practice as a link scheme:

If someone is selling to you, they’re probably selling to other sites as well.

All Google needs to do is catch one person, then follow the trail of links.

If an unnatural pattern of inbound links is identified and leads to another buyer, it can get traced back to the same seller you’re using. It’s very easy for you to get caught.

Build quality links the right way, and don’t try to take any shortcuts.

8. Building several interlinked sites

Some of you may own multiple businesses and websites. This seems like a good way to build links among them, right?

Not necessarily.

Interlinking sites need to be relevant to each other.

If you have a website selling camping equipment, it wouldn’t make sense to link to your other business offering credit loans.

You’re not rewarded for the total number of links you build. Relevant links hold more weight.

You might not be penalized for this, but it limits your opportunity and resources you can use for promoting your primary site.

However, there are certain times when this can be done properly.

For example, let’s say you have a commercial contracting company and a plumbing company. These are relevant to each other, so interlinking them would be fine.

I’ve seen some instances when people create multiple websites just for their link building strategy. This won’t work.

It’ll be difficult for you to manage this many sites for this purpose alone, so each one won’t have a high authority ranking.

Google will recognize this pattern, and your SEO ranking will suffer.

9. Prioritizing quantity over quality

Publishing ten pieces of new content a day is useless if they are all low-quality.

You’re much better off sticking to a publishing frequency you can handle without letting the quality suffer.

Write for people, not for bots. Writing for bots is unnatural.

As I said before, these new algorithms and site crawlers are becoming so advanced that they can distinguish between poor quality and high quality content.

Look at your blog for example. How long are your posts?

These are the average lengths of blog posts published over the last four years:

As you can see, the majority of these posts have 500-1,000 words.

But that doesn’t mean that’s your sweet spot. Longer blog posts are slowly trending upward each year.

For the most part, I would recommend going longer over shorter.

But don’t force a long blog post for the sake of increasing your word length. By nature, some topics will be longer or shorter than others.

But it’s definitely better to publish five 1,000-word posts a week as opposed to 50 100-word posts a week.

Those 100-word posts won’t be high quality. You can’t possibly address a topic properly in that length.

10. Irrelevant guest posts

Guest-blogging is another great way to build links, but you need to make sure you’re doing it properly.

Irrelevant posts won’t help you.

Instead, you should only be guest-blogging on sites that will increase exposure for your brand. You want to reach a new audience that falls within your target market.

The only way to do this is by publishing relevant content.

For example, I’m a content marketing expert. I have no business submitting my posts to cooking magazines.

It’s irrelevant to my personal brand, website, and target audience.

As I discussed earlier, Google will identify irrelevant links and potentially punish both parties.

Take this into consideration when managing guest posts on your site as well. You won’t want to publish irrelevant guest submissions for the same reasons.

11. Ignoring local SEO

It’s a misconception that you always need to focus on the big picture.

Many companies are just trying to get traffic and ranking by targeting mass audiences as opposed to their actual target market.

This is especially important to local business owners. If you have a local business, you should be prioritizing traffic from people in the area.

Don’t put too much emphasis on generating traffic from people out of your market.

Sure, traffic can improve your site ranking, but local SEO will be much more beneficial to your overall strategy.

Here’s a recent study from Search Engine Land looking at the factors of local SEO:

Use this graph as a reference.

Are you making the right effort to improve your local SEO strategy?

If you’re ignoring these areas, it’s a big mistake.

Conclusion

SEO has changed. It’ll continue changing in the future.

If you are still using the outdated tactics on this list, it’s time for you to put those behind you.

You need to start implementing new tactics.

I’m referring to things such as voice search and mobile-first indexing. I’ll be coming up with more in-depth guides on those topics in the near future.

But for now, just worry about retiring the strategies on this list. They’re a waste of your time and could potentially be hurting your ranking.

What are some new SEO strategies your website has had success with?

How Blockchain Is Changing the Digital Marketing Industry

Cryptocurrencies have been a hot topic lately to say the least.

You probably heard about Bitcoin years ago—the most popular cryptocurrency with the most media coverage. In the early days, it was primarily used for transactions on the dark web.

But today, cryptocurrencies have evolved and are starting to gain traction.

Everyone knows someone with a cryptocurrency story. Either a friend, family member, or a friend of a friend invested in Bitcoin years ago and made a fortune off it.

Or maybe you’ve talked to someone who regrets selling too early before some of the most recent surges took place.

That said, I didn’t create this guide to spark a cryptocurrency debate. Everyone has an opinion on this method of payment, and I don’t want to get into all the pros and cons.

Instead, I want to focus on one specific area that makes this technology work.

Blockchain.

On the surface level, people associate blockchain with buying and selling cryptocurrencies, but it’s much more than that.

As a marketer, you need to recognize the latest trends and understand how blockchain technology works.

It will potentially impact your business today and in the future. It’s in your best interest to start educating yourself now.

Even if you’re not planning to implement cryptocurrency as a payment method just yet, knowing the concepts of blockchain is still important because it’s changing the digital marketing industry.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is blockchain?

Let’s start with the basics.

Blockchain technology can be compared to a shared ledger or an open record system.

These records are used to keep track of different transactions. There are multiple uses for the records on file.

As I said before, cryptocurrency is what comes to mind first. But blockchain can also be used to keep track of data such as home records, voting records, and medical information.

Each transaction is segmented by blocks, hence the name.

These blocks get verified by other users within the system. Blocks cannot be changed once they are verified.

The permanent blocks become added to a chain of other blocks that have already been validated as well.

It may sound a bit confusing, but here’s a great visual representation of the way blockchain works:

Right now, people are constantly buying and selling goods on the web. You might be one of those people.

But let’s look at third-party marketplace websites such as eBay.

Marketplaces turn a profit by charging buyers and sellers fees to use their platforms. If you buy something on eBay, the platform will use your bank and the seller’s bank to verify the transaction.

They will also confirm that the buyer and product actually exist.

Blockchain technology allows buyers and sellers to cut out these middlemen. This makes it possible to process transactions without the need of a third-party marketplace.

There won’t be any banks involved or transaction fees associated with the purchase either. Neither party will have to worry about exchange rates, even for international purchases.

It’s supposed to be a safe and fast way to make transactions. Blockchain is the backbone behind peer-to-peer electronic payments.

The first blockchain was created when the first cryptocurrency was created.

The software is open-source, allowing anyone to see the coding and make modifications to it. Next, different people and companies came out with different versions of blockchain without using the original coding.

Any user can see transactions made with blockchain.

They are visible to everyone, even when completed between two people. While the blockchains are visible to anyone, the identities of the users can remain anonymous:

Instead of having a name, each user in the system has a public address.

Algorithms can be written to automate the transactions. This is similar to the way you pay a Spotify subscription each month with your credit card.

Now that you understand the basics of how blockchain works, I’ll show you how this technology is being used to revolutionize the digital marketing industry.

Middlemen in digital marketing can be eliminated

Blockchain technology makes it possible for advertisers to avoid middlemen.

Right now, marketers go through third parties to handle their advertisements.

Let’s go through an example.

Let’s say a company wants to offer banner advertisements on its website. But it doesn’t want to sell its ad space to just anyone.

Ads linking to low authority or sketchy businesses won’t add credibility to your website.

How does this company proceed? It goes through a platform such as Google. In this case, Google will act as the middleman.

By participating in Google Adsense, the company is assured that it will be connected only with credible businesses that want to buy advertising space.

This process makes both parties feel secure about the ads.

The site selling the space knows it won’t have any malicious content from unreputable brands being displayed on its pages. Furthermore, the company buying the advertisement knows that its ads will be run on legitimate sites.

Google processes the transaction and charges a fee for its part in the deal.

That’s the current system that marketers are using without blockchain technology:

Now, let’s apply the blockchain concepts to this example.

Companies won’t have the need to go through a third-party platform such as Google with the blockchain structure.

That’s because blockchain users can be verified through its networks. People would know they’re getting what they’re paying for as opposed to potentially paying for clicks that aren’t genuine.

It’s still a safe and secure way to process each transaction.

Blockchain, ultimately, eliminates the need for intermediaries in the procedure:

Don’t get me wrong.

Google and its advertising platform aren’t going anywhere just yet. That’s not what I’m saying. It’s still arguably the biggest powerhouse in the marketing industry.

I’m not telling you to ditch your Google AdSense strategy either.

All I’m saying is the concepts behind blockchain technology will make it possible for companies to avoid these types of third-party platforms.

Ditching the middleman will make advertisements more profitable since marketers won’t have to pay additional fees for the transactions.

Consumers can control content

As a marketer, you don’t want to hear this, but consumers don’t want to see ads all the time.

That’s why ad blocking penetration continues to rise each year in the United States:

People have different reasons for using ad blockers.

According to a recent study, 51% of people justify their use of ad blockers because it’s their Internet experience and they want to be in complete control of it.

Other top results from the survey include convenience and wanting on-demand content without waiting for an ad to load.

In some instances, it seems ads have grown out of control. But that’s the nature of the modern digital world.

Ad targeting has become much better with new technology. The ability, for example, to use lifetime value to create Facebook audiences that convert makes it much easier for businesses to reach their target markets.

Sometimes when a customer makes a transaction or gives out their information to one party, they receive advertisements even when they never opted in to it.

Blockchain technology can give consumers the right to charge companies for their contact information.

If a company wants a consumer to subscribe to their newsletter, the customer can reply with their price to receive that content.

For example, each consumer who reads an email could cost brands fractions of a cent. Transactions would be processed through cryptocurrencies automatically.

This concept gives consumers complete control over who has their information.

It will also make it more challenging for marketers to showcase their relevance and level of importance to the consumer. Brands will need to learn how to create a highly effective value proposition in these instances.

Transparency and accountability will build trust

It’s not always easy for brands to gain the trust of their consumers. This is especially true for smaller, less-known businesses.

With so much information out there, people have become skeptical about what they’re being told and which brands are telling the truth.

People want answers.

They want to know where their food is coming from.

They want to make sure their clothes are coming from factories with appropriate working conditions for the employees.

Trust has a major impact on purchasing decisions:

Blockchain will force businesses to become more transparent about their operations.

That’s because every step and record can be verified and documented for everyone to see on these open source networks.

Consumers can have complete access to the supply chain of a retailer or distributor.

This type of information will show everyone exactly how and where their products are being manufactured. Each step of the process is tracked with blockchain.

Since this information will become public record, companies will be held more accountable for their actions.

They can’t claim their goods were manufactured in a factory with good health conditions if that’s not true. Otherwise, it won’t be verified in the blockchain.

Do you think this sounds crazy? Too good to be true?

Think again. Companies have already started doing this.

I recently read a case study on this subject conducted with IBM and Walmart. It covers the supply chain process with blockchain technology:

Technology was used to track where the products were coming from.

In this case, it was tracking food. The idea was to trace the source and supply chain of pork products through each step of the supply chain.

It started all the way back in China—the world’s largest pork producer.

Blockchain holds companies accountable and builds trust between the brand and their customers. This is a brand’s way of showing everyone it has nothing to hide.

With blockchain technology, the public can see digital contracts between two parties.

This forces everyone involved to keep up their end of the deal.

Security must be a priority

With this technology becoming part of our lives fast, businesses need to prioritize security more than ever.

Don’t get me wrong, businesses always needed to emphasize website security and protecting customer information.

However, since blockchain can be used to process transactions, malicious advertisements could potentially become an issue.

People are already concerned about malicious malware and viruses when it comes to their privacy and ads:

As a result of these concerns, we should see a growth in the fraud verification industry.

They will implement blockchain technology.

The verifications required to add blocks in this system can prevent criminals and bots from stealing precious information.

Businesses will accept more alternative payment methods

Right now, you probably can’t walk into your local coffee shop and buy something with Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency.

But we may not be too far from those days.

Some companies are already preparing to adapt to alternative payment types:

Only about 9% of businesses plan to accept Bitcoin within the next three years.

We’re still not at the point where it has penetrated the mass consumer market. But this could be approaching us faster than you might think.

Blockchain technology is making this possible.

As a business owner, you need to recognize this and at least prepare yourself to adapt when these types of payments gain more traction at the mass consumer level.

Conclusion

Blockchain is almost always associated with processing cryptocurrency payments.

However, this technology can be used for much more than that. Its applications have the ability to change the digital marketing world as we know it.

Blockchain gives marketers the ability to cut out middlemen when buying or selling advertisements, such as a PPC campaign.

Consumers will have more control over which companies can send them information.

Since blockchain transactions are an open ledger for anyone to see, businesses will be held accountable for their actions and forced to be more transparent.

Your business might not be ready to accept cryptocurrency just yet, and I’m not saying it should be. But it should keep an eye on this emerging trend in the coming years.

How is your company preparing for digital marketing changes associated with blockchain technology?

How to Increase Your Sales ?ith Instagram Stories

No social media marketing strategy is complete without Instagram. But there is much more to Instagram than just uploading pictures and videos to your profile.

With a standard post, you’re somewhat limited to how much content you can upload in a given day or a week.

Let me clarify. Technically, you can post as much as you want. But that strategy won’t work.

On average, most brands post about 10 times per week. Uploading content more than once or twice per day to your Instagram profile will have a negative impact.

According to a recent study from Sprout Social, 58% of consumers say it’s annoying when brands post too much on social media. And 46% of users will unfollow a brand for doing this.

But you want to share your content with your audience. Sometimes, posting once or twice per day isn’t enough to get your point across.

That’s when you should be leveraging your Instagram story.

Unlike a traditional post, your Instagram story won’t flood the timelines of your followers. You can upload more than ten pictures or videos to your story, and it won’t hinder anyone’s experience. This isn’t the case with posts posted directly to your profile.

Instagram has more than 400 million daily active users. One-third of the stories with the most views are uploaded by businesses.

Taking advantage of this feature is a great opportunity for your brand to generate sales on Instagram.

It’s worth mentioning that the longer your Instagram story is, the less of a chance it has of being watched in its entirety:

That said, nearly 60% of people will watch your entire story that has 20 frames.

That’s more content than you would upload with traditional posts to your profile in an entire week.

You can create a new Instagram story every day since the old stories disappear after 24 hours. This means you get to start off each day with a clean slate.

There are many different approaches to Instagram stories that drive sales. That was my inspiration for writing this guide.

I’ve identified some of the best examples of Instagram stories from a wide range of brands. Using these approaches in your Instagram posting strategy will help you avoid stale content for upcoming posts.

This is the approach you need to take if you want to generate more sales on Instagram.

Set up a shoppable story

For years, in order for businesses to directly drive sales on Instagram, they had to rely on adding links to their bios to drive followers to  product landing pages.

That was ineffective since the user had to take too many additional steps.

But Instagram recently rolled out an update allowing brands to increase product sales with shoppable posts.

With a shoppable post, you can tag products in an image, the same way you would a person. When a user clicks on the tag, they are directed to a landing page that gives them the opportunity to buy what you’re selling.

Clicking on a shoppable tag has far less friction than having to navigate to your bio.

While many brands are taking advantage of shoppable posts, many don’t realize they can also use shoppable stories.

The same concept applies here.

On your story, just tag an item from your product catalog. Users who view the story will have an option to click on the tag and be directed to a page where they can complete the purchase.

If you want to directly drive sales, this is one of your best options.

You can add dozens of different products to your Instagram shoppable story. Or maybe you’ll take another approach and use your entire story to promote one product.

Whichever option you choose, you’ll be able to generate more sales with these strategies.

Run a poll

Polls on Instagram stories are a great way to drive engagement.

Unlike with a shoppable post, participating in a survey won’t directly drive sales, but it will still pique your followers’ interest.

Polls can triple your engagement metrics on a story.

That’s because they are easy. All a user has to do is click on one of the two options to participate. Plus, that’s the only way they’ll be able to see how other people have voted.

Here’s an example of how Microsoft Surface used this strategy in a sponsored story:

It’s a very simple question.

They’re asking what’s more important to users, power or portability?

Here’s the catch. When users swipe up, following the “learn more” CTA, they’ll discover this product has both power and portability.

You’ll see more of this swipe up style CTAs throughout this guide.

Take advantage of the swipe up feature.

According to a case study from Marketing Land, 15-25% of users who see these links on Instagram stories are swiping up.

MeUndies participated in this study.

On average, 20% of users who saw its story swiped up to learn more. And 90% of those people have never visited the website before.

Adding a poll to your story increases your chances of getting higher engagement rates and, hence, makes it more likely that users will click your CTA. You’ll be able to generate more sales as a result.

Showcase testimonials to increase brand credibility

Testimonials are one of the best ways to increase credibility of your brand, products, and services.

In fact, 92% of consumers refer to testimonials when making a purchase decision.

Further, 88% of consumers trust a testimonial as much as a recommendation from someone they know. And 72% of buyers say they trust a business more after reading a positive testimonial about it.

Adding a testimonial to your story will definitely increase your chances of driving sales.

Here’s a great example from Mack Weldon:

It used a testimonial from Men’s Health to add credibility to its product.

If a reputable magazine such as Men’s Health says this is the best underwear for the gym, then they must be, right? That’s the idea behind this testimonial.

As you can see, Mack Weldon is also taking advantage of the swipe up feature.

By clicking this CTA, users will have a chance to buy products directly from the landing page. This process limits friction, which improves conversion rates.

It’s much more effective than asking your followers to navigate to your website by opening a separate web browser. Conversion rates for that method would be much lower.

Partner with a social influencer

You can also use influencers to increase your product’s credibility.

This strategy works for the same reasons as testimonials do. Followers will see a promotion from someone whom they trust and follow their recommendation as a result.

With influencer marketing, you don’t even need to post any content on your story.

Instead, you can have the influencers with whom you’re working promote your brand with their own stories.

Take a look at how CALIA by Carrie uses this strategy:

CALIA by Carrie partnered with professional surfer and model Anastasia Ashley.

Anastasia shares this content on her own story, so it’s viewed by her followers. Now people who may have never heard of this brand are exposed to the promotion.

This strategy is a great opportunity for you to increase your reach.

With this widened exposure, you’ll have a better chance of getting more followers and increased website traffic. Both of these metrics can help you drive sales.

Encourage interactivity

This strategy is similar to that of the story polls, which I talked about earlier.

The whole idea behind encouraging interaction with your followers is they engage with your content. Keeping people engaged will help your brand, products, and services stay fresh in their minds.

Check out this example from Tropicfeel:

Tropicfeel is a startup company that makes the ultimate travel shoe. All of their promotions target people who like to travel.

Everyone travels for different reasons.

Adding this content to its story gave users a chance to share their answers about their travel preferences.

The level of engagement it takes to complete this survey is much higher than just clicking on a poll.

A user has to take a screenshot, then add the same image to their own story with their answers circled.

Then, Tropicfeel shared those responses back on its original story:

It’s a clever strategy.

If you plan on doing something like this, you can’t expect the participation rates to be extremely high. That’s because it takes extra effort.

But it’s still effective. Even if some followers aren’t participating, they’re watching the story to view responses from other people.

All of this makes the company’s target audience think about traveling and potentially planning their next trip.

Maybe its followers need new shoes before their next excursions, which would entice them to make a purchase from this brand.

Repurpose user-generated content (UGC)

In the last example, you also saw repurposed user-generated content.

The only difference is it was produced as part of a campaign. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

There will be instances when your customers tag you in their stories without any encouragement from you.

Maybe they put on a new pair of sunglasses they just ordered from your ecommerce shop and want to show them off to their followers. So they upload an image to their story and tag your brand.

You’ll be notified any time your brand is tagged in a story. From here, you’ll have the option to share that same content to your own story as well.

Look at how Patara Shoes uses this tactic:

Repurposing UGC accomplishes several things.

First, this type of content will have the same effect as a customer testimonial, which I previously discussed.

Sharing a story like this also shows your followers you’re willing to repost content your brand is tagged in. This gives them some encouragement to do the same for a chance to be featured.

With more of your followers posting about your brand on their personal profiles, you end up getting social influencers free.

These people may not have thousands of followers as the influencers whom you’re paying, but their content is still valuable and can lead to additional sales from anyone who sees their stories.

Follow a progression

Earlier I talked about how you can upload lots of frames to your story each day, which isn’t recommended for a traditional post.

But the frames shouldn’t be random.

If you refer to some of the examples you looked at so far today, you wouldn’t want to combine all of them into one story.

I see brands make this mistake all the time. They forget that their Instagram story should actually tell a story. This means it needs to follow a logical progression.

Here’s an example from Thule:

The story starts with a date.

This will grab the attention of anyone watching and make them curious as to what’s happening on this date.

As a result, they’ll continue watching to learn more information:

As the story continues, they’ll learn there will be some type of celebration.

Users will continue on:

Now things start to get more specific.

Thule shares the time of the celebration and hints at a product launch.

This story had seven frames. We looked at just three.

Imagine if all three of these frames were combined into one. That would be way too much text on the screen.

Now imagine if seven frames of text were crammed into just one.

It would be overwhelming and difficult for people to read. The message would be lost.

A progression like this makes it easier for people to consume it and more likely that they will do that.

If you’re trying to introduce a new product or event to drive sales, you can do it over several images or videos as opposed to just one.

I’ll show you another example of this type of progression below.

Introduce your team

I love the idea of showing your employees on your Instagram story.

This concept adds a human element to your brand, which goes a long way. It allows your followers to see you’re more than just a company. Real people they can relate to are the driving force behind your operation.

Let’s look at how Allbirds did this on its Instagram story:

As you can see, this story follows a progression as well.

Instead of showing its employees out of context, the company starts the story by saying it wants to share images of where the team has gone with the product.

Here’s one example from the dozen or so posted:

Maria, an employee from the supply chain team, wore the company’s product to the Great Wall of China.

This story shows that its employees stand behind their products. They own them and actually use them.

But if you don’t have this type of content to share on your story, it doesn’t mean you can’t introduce your team.

Another way to do this is by showing behind-the-scenes looks at your operation.

Any time an employee achieves something, you could share that accomplishment on your story.

Again, this strategy will humanize your brand and make you more relatable to your followers. These types of posts are perfect for your story.

Promote a new product launch

As I said earlier, you don’t want to flood the timelines of your followers with promotions all the time.

This is annoying and will eventually cause people to unfollow you.

But if you have a new product coming out soon, it’s a big deal. You want to start promoting it as soon as possible. That way, your customers are ready for it by the time it’s released.

Use your story to accomplish this.

Here’s a simple example from Vuori Clothing:

It’s a great way to use the 2018 holiday season to drive sales.

You can go into greater detail about your products in your story, depending on what you’re promoting.

For example, you could upload a video tutorial to your story showing how to use the new product.

Combine this strategy with some of the other tactics on this list and have a social influencer do the same thing for you.

Building hype for your products before they launch increases your chances of generating sales when they finally become available for purchase.

Conclusion

Instagram has become a powerful tool for brands. But that’s only the case if you’re taking advantage of all the features available.

Simply posting content to your profile isn’t enough. Plus, you should be uploading only one or two images or videos each day.

You have much more flexibility with the amount of content you post to your Instagram story.

Promote your products directly by using a shoppable story.

Run a poll and encourage interaction to drive engagement.

By showcasing testimonials, partnering with social influencers, reposting user-generated content, and introducing your employees, you’ll be able to add more credibility to your brand and products.

All of your stories should follow a logical progression.

If you follow the tips and examples I’ve outlined above, your Instagram story will help you generate additional profits.

How is your brand using Instagram stories to drive sales?

How to Nurture Your Leads with Thank You Pages

Saying “thank you” can go a long way.

For starters, it’s basic manners you learn at an early age. When someone does something for you, you thank them.

But it’s also a crucial inbound marketing strategy.

According to research, 68% of customers will leave a company if they don’t think it cares about them.

That’s why your website needs to have a thank-you page.

Website visitors will be redirected to your thank-you page after filling out a form on your site, e.g., opting into your email newsletter. Right now, if your thank-you page simply thanks the visitor and does nothing else, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

These landing pages can be used for much more, such as building brand awareness, getting customer feedback, or even increasing sales.

You just got a new lead. You’ve got to nurture that lead.

Converting leads into customers is a top priority for businesses in the coming year:

Sure, you’ll send them a confirmation email welcoming the lead to your email list, which will be the first of several messages in your drip campaign.

But for those to work, the person needs to check their email, open the message, consume the content, and then convert. You can’t assume it will always happen.

However, the thank-you page is right in front of their face, on the same screen, right after they performed an action.

If you design this page correctly, it will be extremely beneficial for your company.

If you have already recognized the importance of thanking your new leads, you’re on the right track. But this guide will elevate your thank-you pages and take your lead nurturing strategy to the next level. Here’s what you need to know.

Give your leads a reason to buy

Sometimes your new leads need a little bit more motivation to make a purchase.

Clearly, they’re already interested in your brand. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have navigated to your website and signed up to receive emails.

But when it comes to convincing them to buy something, you need to give them that added incentive to complete this process.

Think of your thank-you page as the checkout line at a retail store.

The consumer has already been sold on an action. They decided they’re ready to buy something or, in this instance, provide your company with their contact information.

In a retail store, certain items are strategically placed by the register to encourage people to buy. Likewise, you need to place something on your thank-you page that will encourage a sale.

Here’s an example from NatureBox:

As you can see, it offers new leads a 50% discount.

But the coupon code isn’t available to just anyone. To see this screen, the visitor had to provide the company with their contact information.

Giving these customers a chance to win a contest is how NatureBox is collecting email addresses in the first place. This is a great strategy for running a profitable giveaway.

Take a look at the top right corner of this page.

NatureBox also displays social sharing icons. The icons make it easy for people to share this content on social media, but I’ll talk more about this tactic in greater detail later.

Promote your top content

Another way to nurture your leads is by getting them more engaged with your brand.

Every website visitor is different. Some of these people might be more familiar with your company than others.

The best way for site visitors to learn more about your brand is by giving them access to your top performing content.

This could include:

  • blog posts
  • guides
  • ebooks
  • videos
  • podcasts

There are certain metrics every marketing manager needs to track. You’ll use this information to determine which type of content you should be promoting on your thank-you page.

Here’s a great example from Optimizely:

As you can see, the three links at the bottom of the screenshot differ from each other.

If you put three different posts on the page, but the person isn’t interested in reading, they won’t click. Offering different options increases the chances of them being interested in at least one of the links you’re suggesting.

The content can also be related to what they signed up for.

Use the information you received from their contact info to segment them accordingly. Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say someone signs up to receive your newest blog posts delivered to their inbox, but another person signs up strictly to receive product updates and promotions.

You can promote different content on your thank-you page to each of these people.

The first person could be shown links to your blog posts, while the second person could be prompted to click a video demonstration of one of your newest products.

Establish social proof

The thank-you page is a great opportunity for you to showcase that your products and services actually work.

The best way to do this is with real success stories from your customers.

Check out how Infusionsoft accomplishes this on its thank-you page:

Put yourself in the shoes of your new leads for a minute here.

They just signed up to receive emails from your business, but they haven’t bought anything yet. Maybe they’re waiting to see what kind of value you’ll offer them in your emails.

Or, they might not be sold on your business just yet.

You can sit there all day, explaining through your own posts and videos how great your products and services are. But consumers aren’t stupid—they know that content is biased.

If you can put case studies, success stories, reviews, or customer testimonials on your thank-you page, you’ll show social proof of your product.

Your leads will recognize your business is legitimate, and it will increase the chances of them converting.

Drive ebook downloads

This idea connects to the topic of promoting your top content.

Offering a free ebook download is a nice incentive for the new lead to receive, especially if normally they would have to pay for the content.

Plus, now you’re killing two birds with one stone. You’re nurturing your leads while driving downloads for your ebook.

The free download link is well worth it if you can turn that lead into a customer.

Greenhouse uses this strategy on its thank-you page:

It offers two free ebook downloads here.

Plus, by doing this, you show your customers you appreciate them. Here’s what I mean.

All of us have gotten an insincere thank-you from someone. They’re saying thanks because they feel obligated.

But when someone is actually thankful, they might do you a favor to show you their appreciation.

Offering a free ebook download is a nice gesture that can potentially drive conversions.

Encourage social sharing

Give your leads a reason to share your content on social media.

I mentioned this earlier when I pointed out the social sharing icons on the NatureBox thank-you page.

This strategy will expand your reach, create brand exposure, and potentially generate even more leads.

But people may not be willing to share the fact that they just signed up to receive emails from a business. That’s not very exciting.

To be successful with this strategy, you need to understand why people share content on social media.

Find a way to tie what you’re doing to one of these factors.

For example, are you associated with any causes or charities? That’s a great way to use people’s emotions to drive sales.

Here’s something else to keep in mind.

Look at the types of content getting shared the most on social media:

Combine the reasons why people share content with the type of content that gets shared the most, and you will increase the chances of this strategy working.

For example, you could donate $1 to a specific charity every time someone signs up for your email newsletter.

Put social sharing icons on your thank-you page that will post as a picture when added to a new lead’s social media profile.

By asking your leads to share, you might encourage their friends to sign up as well.

Embed a video

Your brand needs to be producing original video content.

I like the idea of uploading all your videos to YouTube and then repurposing them across your other distribution channels.

Add them to social media, blog posts, and your emails. The thank-you page is another place where you can embed a video.

Video content drives conversions:

Furthermore, 64% of people are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video about it.

And 50% of business executives look for more information after watching a video, while 39% make a phone call. This is a great way to nurture your B2B leads.

Qualify your leads

Not all leads are qualified leads.

This means that some of your leads are more likely to become customers than others. You need to identify who those people are.

Ask them to fill out a quick survey on the thank-you page.

This additional information will help you qualify them accordingly.

For example, let’s say you have a payroll company. To qualify new leads on your thank-you page, your survey can ask questions such as:

  • How many employees do you have?
  • How often do you pay?
  • Live checks or direct deposit?
  • How soon do you want to make a change?

Then, you can score your leads accordingly based on the results.

Lead generation isn’t cheap.

It varies according to industry, company size, and revenue.

Here’s a graph that shows the average cost per lead based on these factors:

By using the survey method to qualify your leads on your thank-you page, you’ll be able to generate a higher ROI and increase your chances of getting more people to convert.

You can send your leads content that’s related to their responses.

Ask your leads to follow you on social media

Earlier I talked about getting your leads to share your content on social media. But that doesn’t mean they’ll follow you.

You need to make this process as easy as possible for them.

Include a link to your social media profiles directly on your thank-you page. Then simply ask for a follow.

This will make it much easier for them to follow you than going to those platforms separately, searching for your company.

According to Sprout Social, these are the top reasons why people follow brands on social media:

Once a new lead follows you on social media, they’ll see more of your content and promotions than they would if they only received your emails.

Consumers are 57.5% more likely to buy from brands they follow on social media.

More than 60% of consumers need to see something two to four times before they buy it. Social media makes it possible.

Leads will be exposed to your content on different channels:

  • lead generation page
  • thank-you page
  • social media post
  • email

That’s four different times right there.

Social media is a great place for you to nurture your leads. But for this to work effectively, you need to make sure they’re following you.

Conclusion

Your leads should automatically be directed to your thank-you page after filling out forms on your website.

But you need to design your thank-you pages in a way that does more than just thank them.

Give your new leads a reason to become customers by offering them an incentive to buy.

Showcase your top content, such as free ebook downloads. Show social proof by featuring success stories, case studies, customer reviews, and testimonials.

Add a video to your thank-you page. Create a short survey to help improve lead scoring.

If you can get your leads to follow you on social media, they’ll be more likely to buy from you in the future.

Once you make these changes to your thank-you page, you’ll be able to effectively nurture your leads.

How is your business using thank-you pages to nurture new leads?

How to Know When to Use Chatbots vs Live Chat

How are you currently communicating with your customers?

If calling, emailing, or submitting a form on your website are the only means for your customers to reach you, you need to get with the times and make some changes.

Offering live chat on your website is a better way to provide customer service.

According to studies, 73% of consumers say live chat is their most preferred method of communication.

This ranked highest compared to other methods. In fact, 61% of consumers said they preferred email, 48% preferred social media and only 44% preferred phone.

Furthermore, live chat had a 92% satisfaction rating.

This was also the highest satisfaction rating compared to other forms of customer support.

It’s clear your company needs to have this feature on your website. But how do you implement it? You’ve got two choices: chatbots or live chat representatives.

Chatbots are computer-generated responses. They allow customers to receive answers to their questions via AI software.

Experts predict that by 2020, 85% of consumers will be able to manage their relationships with brands without human interaction.

And 80% of businesses are either currently using AI or planning to use AI for customer service in the next two years. Further, 45% of customers say they prefer chatbots for customer service inquiries.

With this technology on the rise, you need to have marketing skills to survive in the age of AI.

Grand View Research expects the global market size for chatbots to hit $1.25 billion by the year 2025, with a 24.3% compounded annual growth rate.

You need to decide whether you will use chatbots or an actual human to type responses to customers on your website.

People ask me which option is better all the time. The reality is each one has its pros and cons.

Chatbots and live chat representatives work well together. I’ll explain when it’s best to use one over the other in this guide.

I’ll go through some factors and scenarios to help you decide the best fit for your website.

Response time

You don’t want to make your customers wait. That’s a big problem when it comes to customer service.

We’ve all been there—sitting on hold on the phone for what feels like a lifetime waiting to talk to someone.

Live chat drastically reduces wait times. In fact, 79% of consumers say they prefer live chat because they get their questions answered immediately.

Just look at these average response times of live chat compared to social media and email:

Live chat blows these other methods out of the water in terms of speed.

But it’s still not perfect.

Believe it or not, 21% of live chat support requests are ignored by businesses.

While live chat has a fast response time, it can still be improved.

On the other hand, chatbots have an instant response. Upon a customer posting an inquiry, a chatbot can generate an answer within seconds. This gets the conversation going right away.

If you’re looking for the fastest response times, chatbots win. But live chat will still be faster than the other options you’re using.

My recommendation is to use a combination of the two options.

When a customer begins a chat session, start with a chatbot to give them an instant reply. This bot can gather preliminary information about the inquiry until a representative becomes available.

Chatbots can also make sure the customer gets transferred to the right representative who is qualified to answer their question.

I’ll talk more about how chatbots and live chat representatives can work together further in this guide.

Cost efficiency

Your business decisions need to be cost-effective. Live chat will help reduce costs compared to phone support.

In fact, studies show that it’s 17-33% less expensive to communicate with a customer via live chat than phone calls.

Live chat agents have the ability to multitask and help several customers at the same time. This can’t be done over the phone.

Implementing live chat will improve your operational efficiency.

You’ve got to determine how much this new technology will cost you. Here’s a look at some average prices to give you an idea of what to expect:

The pricing will depend on many factors, such as the number of agents you’re paying and the times they’re available.

It will also vary depending on whether you’re paying staff in-house to handle these inquiries or outsourcing this service to a general customer service agency.

If you’re paying more than $20 per month per user, I’d say that’s expensive.

Outsourcing support to a customer service agency will be cheaper, but you may lose some quality of the responses compared to those given by one of your own employees.

How many employees will you need to handle your live chat communication?

Research shows 51% of businesses have just one agent dedicated to live chat. And 39% of companies have between two and five agents.

That’s not surprising, considering 70% of brands that implement live chat have less than 5,000 unique website visitors each month.

And we know that 52% of companies say price is the most important factor influencing their decisions to use live chat.

Chatbots will lower these costs.

Sure, you’ll need to pay for the AI software. But this will definitely cost you less in the long run compared to paying employees in addition to the cost of the live chat software.

If you’re looking for the cheapest option, you’re better off with chatbots.

But using human reps to respond via live chat is still cheaper than phone support.

Human touch

Artificial intelligence is definitely advancing.

Responses by chatbots can mimic human answers. In some instances, customers won’t even notice they talk to a robot.

That said, chatbots can’t replace that human touch.

There is still some resistance from customers when it comes to using chatbots:

As you can see, people have their reservations about using this new technology.

There are times when customers would rather deal with an actual person. Consumers are also worried about chatbots making a mistake.

About 37% of consumers expect to use a chatbot for getting a quick answer in an emergency.

For example, a chatbot could help someone determine whether an item is in stock or help track the shipping of their package.

And 34% of people say they would use a chatbot to help them find a customer service associate. This echos my earlier point about the two options working well together.

Based on what the customer is looking for, the chatbot can appropriately direct them to an agent. For example, a sales inquiry may go to one department, and a question about technical support may go to a different department.

Start with a chatbot, then transfer the customer to a live chat session with an actual human.

Availability

If you’re going to use humans on your website to chat with customers, they’re probably not going to be available 24/7.

This is especially true if you’re planning to use your employees to handle these chats. Your costs will be significantly higher if you’re paying for human support 24/7, 365.

Giant global corporations such as Apple can afford this, but smaller businesses cannot.

That’s when you’ll need chatbots.

The number one potential benefit of using chatbots is 24-hour customer service.

Chatbots can respond to customers in the middle of the night as well as on weekends.

That’s because chatbots don’t need to eat, sleep, or take bathroom breaks.

To maximize your availability and provide 24-hour service without paying extreme labor costs, use chatbots.

Even if you use human representatives during business hours, you can switch to chatbots when your customer support agents are offline.

Resolving inquiries

Fast response times are important. Being able to get an answer at any time of the day or night is a great benefit as well.

But these are useless if the customer inquiry isn’t resolved.

That’s why they’re reaching out in the first place. The customer has a question or a problem that needs to be addressed.

Most people would assume a human representative is the only way to solve a customer problem. However, that’s not always the case.

Research shows that eight out of ten chat sessions can be resolved by a chatbot.

Chatbots aren’t perfect: 20% of these sessions don’t end in a resolution.

It’s nearly impossible to please 100% of your customers. However, you want that number to be as close to 100% as possible.

In some instances, a chatbot can transfer the conversation to a customer service representative.

Those agents will be able to do things that chatbots aren’t capable of yet, emphasizing the need for the human touch.

Chatbots can’t feel empathy or convey a specific tone the same way a human can.

A chatbot won’t give customers the right response if it doesn’t understand what they’re asking.

Here’s an example of that:

As you can see, the chatbot provides useful information. The first question gets answered appropriately.

But the second question doesn’t get answered properly.

Chatbots could also run into problems if the customer’s query has spelling and grammar issues.

If a customer is looking for help with something like custom pricing based on their unique situation, a chatbot may not be able to provide them with the assistance offered by an actual person.

Can a chatbot resolve inquiries? Absolutely.

However, at times you’ll need to transfer those inquiries to a human.

Again, this highlights the fact that chatbots and live chat work well when paired together.

Conversions

Ultimately, you want your customers to convert after reaching out to your customer support via whatever option they choose.

Live chat increases the chances that people will buy:

In fact, 38% of consumers will make purchases on ecommerce websites as a direct result of their live chat sessions.

Live chat is a great way to drive conversions. That said, live chat isn’t proactive.

Allow me to explain.

Once a site visitor determines they want to use live chat to solve their problem, they need to make an effort to reach out. As a result of the conversation, they’ll be more likely to convert.

But the visitor needs to make that initial step.

It’s obviously unreasonable for a human agent to reach out to every person who lands on your website.

That’s when you can use a chatbot to be proactive. Here’s an example from the Levi’s website:

When a customer lands on this website, an AI chatbot automatically starts a chat session.

This is proactive.

Now, if a customer has an inquiry, they’ll be more inclined to take advantage of this feature. If the chatbot is unable to resolve the problem, the chat can be transferred to a human representative.

Conclusion

Your business can provide better customer service by implementing live chat.

Now you just need to determine whether you’re going to use human representatives or chatbots to handle this communication.

Chatbots will provide an instant response, but live chat agents are still faster than your current methods of customer support.

Live chat representatives are less expensive than phone calls from customers, but chatbots will be cheaper in the long run.

However, chatbots don’t add a human touch to the conversation.

Chatbots are available 24/7, which won’t be the case for actual agents.

Surprisingly, bots are able to resolve the majority of customer inquiries. Both live chat agents and chatbots increase the chances of getting customers to convert.

Ultimately, live chat and chatbots work best when they’re implemented together.

I recommend you use both of these on your website to maximize efficiency and get the best results.

Are you planning to use chatbots, live chat agents, or a combination of both to improve customer communication on your website?

How to Use Predictive Analysis to Improve Your Marketing Strategy

The world of technology is constantly evolving.

As a marketer, you need to stay up to date on new advancements that could benefit your company.

You don’t want to be left behind while your competitors forge ahead by adapting to the new world.

In my consulting work, I often see marketers and business owners who don’t believe these advancements are relevant to their marketing strategies. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. New types of technology such as AI and machine learning are reshaping marketing.

While the technology is advancing rapidly, the basic concepts behind its applications remain unchanged. Everything is still focused on the customer.

Your marketing efforts need to reach your target audience. Your campaigns must find ways to speak to these people, and you can achieve that by personalizing and improving their experience.

Predictive analysis can make this possible.

Some of you may already be running campaigns and have strategies in place that focus on improving the customer experience and personalizing content.

However, predictive analysis technology will bring these ideas to the next level. You’ll see what I mean as I continue.

Surprisingly, only 23% of businesses are currently using advanced and predictive analysis tools:

That said, about 90% of businesses believe it’s at least somewhat important to implement predictive analysis tactics in their strategies.

What does this information tell you?

Well, it seems as though the vast majority of business owners and marketers recognize the need for predictive analysis, but they just haven’t proceeded.

Since you’ve navigated to this guide, I’m assuming you fall into this category. Or maybe you fall into the 16% of marketers currently evaluating advanced analytics software.

People want to use this technology, but they don’t know where to start or how to apply it. This was my inspiration for this guide.

You need to be able to adapt. In fact, adaptability is one of the top marketing skills you need to survive in the age of AI.

Making the decision to move forward with predictive analysis is the first step.

Now you need to figure out how this technology will improve your marketing strategy. If you apply the concepts I’ve outlined in this guide, you’ll have a huge competitive advantage.

Enhance your customer segmentation strategy

Your customers don’t fall into the same group.

Treating all people the same is not an effective marketing strategy. I hope you’ve already started segmenting your customers.

Marketers have been doing this well before the days of big data. But this can be drastically improved with predictive analysis.

Predictive analysis can make it easier for you to compile demographic data. I’m referring to parameters such as:

  • age
  • race
  • gender
  • location

Typically, it’s easy to learn this information about your customers. But segmenting them by those factors alone is not enough.

By using predictive analytics technology, you can identify trends for deeper segmentation.

You’ll ultimately pair demographic data with psychographics. This type of information can be obtained from social media, website analytics, surveys, and focus groups.

It doesn’t stop there. You can also collect behavioral data, such as how each customer uniquely uses your service or platform, e.g., your website or mobile app.

When you combine all the demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data about your customers, your predictive analysis model will create segmented groups with greater accuracy than it would if it used only one type of information at a time.

You can create customer personas once the data has been optimized from the predictive analysis formulas:

Once the segments have improved, your customer personas will be more precise and targeted accordingly.

Customer personas and customer segmentation are not quite the same although they’re often confused with each other. Ultimately, the two concepts work together.

With the information you get from your advanced segmentation strategy, you’ll be able to build a customer persona. These personas will be used for driving sales and conversions.

You can eventually use your predictive analysis software to improve lead scoring.

Once someone has been properly segmented, you can send them the right campaign, which will make it easier for them to convert. I’ll discuss lead scoring in greater detail later.

Improve automation

Customer personalization needs to be a key part of your marketing strategy.

But efficiency needs to be a priority as well.

It’s unrealistic for you to manually analyze every customer in your database. Most people leverage basic details with their automated platforms.

They use basic factors, such as the customer’s name, email address, location, and maybe their age.

For example, you could have an automated email go out to a customer on their birthday. This strategy is OK, but it can definitely be improved.

By using your customer segments and customer personas, you’ll be able to have a more advanced automation strategy.

With this type of data, you can create campaigns to show your customers you fully understand their wants and needs. Furthermore, you’ll know how to address those wants and needs.

Once your automation efforts improve, it will be much more profitable for your business.

That’s why such a large majority of marketing executives who have been using predictive analytics to improve their marketing strategies are seeing a high ROI.

If the initial cost of this type of software is holding you back from investing in it, know that you’ll ultimately see a return on your investment.

Reduce churn

When businesses focus only on customer acquisition, allowing their retention strategies to become an afterthought, they underperform.

If this sounds like you, you’re making a big mistake. It’s much easier to sell to your current customers than to new ones.

In fact, you can even increase revenue without acquiring new customers.

These tactics should be a priority for your marketing department.

But even customers who have been with you for a while may eventually churn. What are your current churn rates?

We know that 70% of SaaS companies have an annual churn rate of about 10%.

Don’t think that’s a problem? I think that’s way too high.

Those of you with a high churn rate are missing out on much potential income.

If you can reduce your churn, you’ll have more money in your company’s bank account.

Predictive analysis can help show you when a customer will churn based on their behavior. Then, you can have targeted and automated responses in place to prevent that from happening. This will give them an incentive to stay.

You may not realize it today, but your churn rates can be detrimental to your company over time. Just look at this graph:

Notice the difference between the churn rates of 1% and 5%. That’s huge.

Check out the difference between 1% and 2.5%. I’m sure that’s not what you expected, given the small percentage number.

As you can see, improving your churn rate even by a percentage point or two will be a huge advantage for your company. This is especially true as you continue to acquire new customers over time.

Make decisions in real time

With predictive analysis tools, your company can benefit from speeding up the decision-making process.

That’s because you’ll get predictive results in real time.

The longer it takes for you to make a decision based on the information you’re given, the less effective that decision becomes.

Here’s a great visual illustrating my point:

The graph shows the way the value of something changes over time.

Without predictive analysis software, the gap in the analysis latency section is much larger. The gap is the time between when the data is captured and the information is delivered.

Obviously, this delay will make it more difficult for you to act in a timely manner.

Let’s revisit the customer churn problem. If you don’t get that data delivered right away, by the time you attempt to prevent a customer from churning, you might be too late. They already switched to a competitor.

But that’s not the only application for real-time decision-making.

Predictive analysis algorithms could determine when one of your customers might need a specific product you’re selling.

Let’s say they are going on vacation in two weeks. They need that specific product before they go.

If you wait too long to take an action to try to get that sale, you’ll be too late even if you did everything else right.

You identified their need and sent them a personalized, highly targeted campaign. But if that was not done in a timely fashion, it’s useless.

Create advanced regression models

Some of you might be currently using regression models in your marketing strategy.

Predictive analysis will improve this strategy.

Even if you’re not doing this, you can start to do so once you implement predictive analysis software. Regressions can help you measure and compare different variables.

For example, you could try to determine how social engagement relates to your website traffic. Or you could compare email open rates to conversions. And you can relate your page authority to the source of your leads.

Improving the range of regression models was the most important feature according to a recent survey on the use of predictive analysis:

The information gathered from a regression model can help you validate your marketing campaigns.

You’ll have a much better understanding of what’s working and what needs improvement.

Predict lifetime value (LTV)

In addition to calculating when and if a customer would churn, predictive analysis software can estimate their lifetime value.

Although this value is often overlooked, it’s one of the most important metrics for marketers to track:

Simply put, lifetime value will show you how much a customer is worth over time.

From the very beginning stages of the customer journey, predictive analysis can help identify which customers will be the most profitable.

Segmenting those people accordingly will improve your targeting strategies. Now, you’ll be able to make even more money from your most profitable customers.

Furthermore, LTV will also help you calculate a more accurate ROI of your marketing campaigns.

I see companies make this mistake all the time. They stay away from certain acquisition strategies because they can’t justify the cost.

But that’s because they don’t measure LTV, or at least they’re not doing it accurately.

You need to look beyond the customer’s initial first purchase. Here’s a very simple example.

Let’s say it costs you $50 to acquire a customer based on the campaigns you’re running, but their average purchase is $20. It doesn’t mean you need to abandon those strategies—not if the lifetime value of that customer is $1,000.

Predictive analysis will make these figures much more accurate.

Prioritize qualified leads

You might be getting a ton of leads right now, but not all of them are qualified.

Qualified leads are more likely to convert, and you need to prioritize them.

But if you allow those leads to get lost in the shuffle, you won’t capitalize on them.

I mentioned lead scoring earlier. Based on your predictive analysis, you can improve your lead scoring system. If you don’t currently have a lead scoring system in place, this will be a great opportunity for you to create one.

Here’s a basic example of what a lead scoring system may look like:

Prospective customers with the highest lead scores get the most attention.

You can even target them with more expensive campaigns and acquisition strategies because they are more likely to convert.

Remember I said not all your customers are the same? Not all your prospects are the same either.

Predictive analysis will take this strategy to new heights.

You’ll get more insight into how to keep these people engaged. You can even learn predictions on their preferred price points and the types of products that will get new leads to convert.

This will help you generate more profits by focusing on your pricing strategy.

By applying predictive analysis to your lead scoring system and qualifying your leads, you will accelerate new leads through the conversion funnel. Ultimately, more conversions translate to more money.

Conclusion

Predictive analysis technology can drastically improve your marketing strategy.

Many businesses haven’t adapted to this yet even though they recognize its importance. This is a great opportunity for you to jump on board now to gain an advantage over your competition.

Your predictive analysis models will help with your customer segmentation strategy.

This software will improve your automation tactics and help you prevent customer churn by identifying it before it’s too late. You’ll also be able to make other important decisions in real time.

Predictive analysis is great for advanced regression models.

Use this technology to help you predict lifetime value of a customer and prioritize qualified leads.

Once you’re ready to start using predictive analysis to improve your marketing strategy, I suggest you apply the concepts I’ve outlined in this guide.

How is your business using predictive analysis to enhance your current marketing strategies?

How to Convert Free Trial and Free Plan Users into Paying Customers

If your business relies on subscriptions to generate revenue, you probably offer a free trial to test your product before you ask your subscribers to pay.

This is a great strategy. People may be hesitant to pay for your subscription initially, but if they can try it first, it gives you an opportunity to win them over and turn them into paying customers.

Some of you may even offer free plans for certain services. The idea behind this strategy is that these people will eventually upgrade to paid plans.

But you can’t assume every free trial or free plan user will become a paying customer.

I see this problem all the time in my consulting work.

Businesses don’t have a problem getting people to sign up for free plans and free trials, but when it comes to getting paid, their conversions are lower than expected.

Even you don’t use this business model yet but plan to generate recurring sales by implementing subscriptions, it’s important for you to get this strategy right from the start.

Certain tactics will help you increase the chances of getting these free trial and free plan users to convert.

I’ll explain what you need to know so you can apply these strategies in your business.

Make the transition as easy as possible

The first thing you need to do is analyze your current process. Go through the steps a user needs to take to become a paying customer.

If you’ve got too much friction, unnecessary form fields to fill out, and anything else that slows down the process, it’ll hurt your conversions.

Everything needs to be as smooth and easy as possible for the user.

For example, let’s say the free trial period is over. Now what? Do they need to pick up the phone and call a customer service representative to give their credit card information over the phone?

That’s way too complex.

If you run subscriptions through a mobile app, you can have the user scan their credit card with their camera. This is even easier than typing the numbers.

To make this transition easy for your users, don’t force them to commit to a long-term plan.

In fact, monthly subscriptions have higher conversion rates from free trials than annual plans do:

If you’re forcing someone to commit to a year, they’ll think much longer and harder about the decision. You don’t want that.

But if they need to pay only for one month at a time with the option to cancel at any moment, it will definitely be an easier decision for them.

I get your thinking behind trying to drive annual plans. But realistically, if your product is good enough, customers will stick with you for long periods even on a monthly plan.

Plus, you’ll likely make more money this way.

You can generate more profits by focusing on your pricing strategy. Customers who commit to a yearly membership or subscription will probably be paying less during that period than those who get billed monthly.

Give users a reason to end their free trials early

Here’s something else I see all too often with subscription businesses. They wait until the trial ends before trying to get users to convert.

By that point, it’s too late.

For example, let’s say you offer a 14-day free trial. Once the trial expires, you give the user some buffer time to decide whether they want to become a paying customer.

A week later, you send an email with a CTA to a paid subscription link.

If this sounds like a strategy you’re currently using, it’s probably why your conversions are so low. Waiting this long is not a good idea. By this point, your service is no longer on the minds of the consumers.

They’ve already gone a week without using it and realized it’s not something they need in their lives.

Instead of waiting until the trial is over, you can give the user an incentive to sign up while their trial is still going on.

But why would anyone want to end their free trial early? You need to make them an offer that’s worth it.

Discounts and other promotions will usually get the job done. Here’s a great example from 500px:

This email uses FOMO—the fear of missing out. You can guide people’s emotions to drive sales with this strategy.

500px is offering 15% off its membership, plus additional account upgrades. However, this promotion won’t last long. As you can see from the highlighted bit, this offer lasted for only 24 hours.

Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer for a minute here. Let’s say they are on day 22 of a 30-day trial.

They like the product and are thinking about upgrading when the trial expires.

But why would they wait and pay the full price when they can get 15% off today? This type of offer gives them a reason to end their trial early and convert.

You want to target these users while they’re still hooked and your brand is fresh in their minds. If you give them an incentive to end the trial early, you’ll increase the chances of them becoming a paying customer.

Offer trial extensions

What happens if a user doesn’t take the bait of the incentive to end their trial early?

Does that mean you should give up on trying to get them to convert? Absolutely not.

Some people may need a bit more time to determine whether they want to use your product. Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say someone signs up for a free trial. The process was simple and hassle-free, so they completed this action without thinking twice about it.

But because of their circumstances, they didn’t get a chance to explore your product in full.

There are a number of different reasons for this. It’s possible they were busy at work, had a medical issue, were traveling, or simply forgot about the trial.

The reason why they need more time isn’t important. What is important is giving them the option to extend their trial.

Here’s an example from Squarespace:

Squarespace offers a 14-day free trial to anyone. But the team is willing to work with people who need more time to try its software.

As you can see from the email above, it’s easy for users to add a seven-day extension to their two-week trial.

This is a great way to get users who are on the fence to convert.

I know what some of you are thinking. You don’t want to lower the value of your product by giving it away for longer than necessary.

That’s the wrong mentality. The cost of an extra free week or two is well worth it if you can have this customer for years to come.

It’s bad business to let a prospective customer walk away because you’re unwilling to go the extra mile to acquire them. In this case, these users are already interested in your brand.

They’ve taken the steps to sign up, download your app, or start the process. It’s easier to turn them into paying customers than trying to market to someone else from scratch.

Furthermore, take another look at the email above from Squarespace.

To extend the trial, all the user needs to do is click on the link sent to them, making it super easy—one of the factors to aid conversions I discussed above.

If the user had to send an email or call a customer service representative to extend the trial, they would be less inclined to do so.

Run personalized promotions for the lowest tier plan users

Depending on the type of business you have, you may offer a free version of your product.

This version is free for anyone to use for an unlimited amount of time. Obviously, this is different from a free trial, which has an expiration date.

You should be coming up with marketing campaigns specifically designed to get these freemium users to convert.

Again, as in my last point, these people are already familiar with your product and use it on a regular basis. You need to ease their transition from a free membership to a paid service.

The best way to do this is with personalized content:

Personalizing email messages is the most effective tactic used by marketers. Take that into consideration when targeting freemium users.

Send them a personalized email about the type of content they’re currently consuming free.

Then, give them an incentive to convert.

Just because someone is using your lowest tier membership free doesn’t mean you can’t offer them a free trial of a premium membership. Let them see what features and benefits your other options have.

Once they try these upgrades, it may be difficult for them to go back to the freemium version now that they know what they’re missing out on.

Encourage inactive users to use your product

If you haven’t realized it yet, there is a pattern here with these strategies.

It’s much easier for you to market your paid subscription to people already familiar with your brand, products, services, and software. That’s because there is no learning curve.

You don’t have to explain yourself to people who have used your services in the past.

This holds true for people who used a free trial that expired or had a free membership plan they haven’t been taking advantage of lately. Don’t let that user churn.

Send them an email giving them an incentive to use your service again.

If you have a mobile app, send a push notification to their device. Here’s a great example of how Pokemon Go used this strategy to bring an old user back to life:

As you can see, they are enticing this user with a gameplay incentive to come back to the app.

If the user opens the app within the next 30 minutes, they’ll have access to three active lures. Pokemon characters are drawn to these lures, making it easier to catch them.

If any inactive user stopped playing this game because they were struggling to catch more characters, this type of push notification can bring them back.

Contact customers with failed payments

Your business is likely on your mind 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But that’s not the case for your customers.

The reality is they have other things to worry about.

If their credit card gets lost or stolen or expires, they may not think to update their payment information for their membership with your company.

In some cases, that card may be tied to their utilities, health insurance, car payments, or other recurring charges that will take priority over whatever you’re offering.

That said, you don’t want to do nothing. The user may never update their payment information unless you contact them.

Rather than losing a customer, send automated emails whenever a payment gets declined. It’s easy!

Just look at this example from Netflix:

It’s as simple as that.

By providing a CTA in the email that directs the user to a landing page where they can update their payment information, you will reduce friction in the process.

Without contacting these customers, you run the risk of them going back to the free plan or stopping using your service altogether.

Nurture free trial users with email campaigns

Email marketing is an effective way to communicate with your customers.

If you learn how to create an actionable drip campaign, you can target free trial users and entice them to convert.

This smooth process will help move the customer through the conversion funnel. It all starts with a welcome email.

Research shows that 75% of users expect to receive a welcome email after signing up for something. Give your prospective customers what they expect.

Here’s an example of how Spotify uses this strategy:

As you can see from this message, Spotify is simply confirming that the user has signed up for the service.

There is no pitch for them to upgrade to a paid plan. The message explains the user can play their favorite music free and get personalized recommendations.

Start slow.

Remember, the user just signed up for a free trial or free plan. They’re probably not willing to upgrade their membership within the first hour.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t start to nurture them with an email drip campaign. The subsequent emails will encourage them to upgrade down the road.

Conclusion

Free trials and free plans are both great ways for subscription-based businesses to get as many users as possible to try their products.

But ultimately, those users are useless if they don’t become paying customers.

Rather than focusing your marketing efforts on a new audience, you should be coming up with ways to get the free trial and free plan users to convert.

Make sure the transition process is easy for the user. If they have to jump through hoops to become a paying customer, your conversion rates will be low.

Give them an incentive to end their trials early. On the flip side, if they need more time to test your product, offer a trial extension.

Target your lowest tier membership and inactive users with personalized campaigns.

Don’t forget to contact your current customers when their payment methods don’t work anymore.

Leverage your email marketing strategy to nurture leads and free trial users. If you follow the tips I’ve outlined in this guide, you’ll have a much easier time getting free trial and free plan users to convert.

How are you encouraging free trial and free plan users to upgrade to paid memberships?

15 Free Google Tools That Will Enhance Your Marketing Strategy

When it comes to anything done on the Internet, Google is king.

It’s the most popular search engine in the world, with a global market share of 89%.

Each day, 3.5 billion searches are performed on Google. That’s more than 1.2 trillion searches annually.

With so many people using Google to search for information online, it’s more important than ever for businesses to understand the Google algorithm. That knowledge will help them use SEO tactics to drive ecommerce sales.

But Google is much more than just a search engine. The Google Play Store is the official app store for all Android devices. It’s developed, owned, and operated by Google.

Understanding the app store and how it works will help you improve the ranking of your business mobile app.

While you may know how important Google is for searches, you might not be aware of everything else it has to offer.

Google has tons of free tools available for people to take advantage of. As a business owner, you can use these resources to improve your marketing efforts.

I’ve narrowed down the top 15 free Google tools your business can use for marketing. Here they are.

1. Google Drive

Some of you might already be familiar with Google Drive. Maybe you’re using it in your personal life.

But you can use Google Drive to help you with your business as well.

It’s a great way to safely store all your marketing content in the cloud.

You can stay organized and know you can access all your documents and pictures from anywhere. This is much more effective than storing important files directly on your device or an external hard drive.

Unlike hardware that can be lost or destroyed, Google Drive is immune to accidental damages, fires, floods, and theft.

One of my favorite parts about Google Drive is the ability to access my content from anywhere, as long as there is Internet.

You can download the mobile app to manage your files on the go as well.

In addition to using Google Drive for storage, I use Google Docs and Google Sheets to work on content directly.

In fact, I’m writing this blog post in Google Docs. That way, my progress gets saved and stored automatically.

I’m sure at one point or another, you’ve lost work you were doing in Microsoft Word or Excel. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking that software. I’m just saying I’ve never had an issue when working or saving content in Google Drive.

I use it to store photos as well.

If I come across an interesting or informative photo I plan to use on one of my websites, YouTube channel, or blog posts, I save it to the respective file in my drive.

If you are sharing content and collaborating with your team, you can share files with specific users. Set parameters giving them the ability to view, share, or edit the content.

The first 15GB of Google Drive storage are free.

You can upgrade to 100GB for just $1.99 per month. I can’t imagine you’ll need much more than that.

2. Google Alerts

Just as the name implies, Google Alerts will notify you about anything you create an alert for.

For example, let’s say you want to know anytime someone mentions your business online. Set up an alert, and you’ll be emailed as soon as something gets published.

Then, you can act if you see negative information posted about your brand on the web.

This is a great way for you to monitor and improve your online reputation.

But you can set up alerts for anything you want. It could be your name or the names of your top competitors.

Without these alerts, you’d have to manually search for this type of content on a daily basis, which is unreasonable and an inefficient use of your valuable time.

Google alerts even offers suggestions based on what’s trending, covering a variety of topics such as:

  • technology
  • health
  • business
  • entertainment
  • finance

You can monitor certain categories based on your industry.

3. YouTube

Back in 2006, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion.

There are more than 1.5 billion YouTube users across the world. It’s the most popular social media site in the world for teenagers.

In fact, 96% of teens in the US are active on YouTube, which is important if your business is targeting Generation Z.

But no matter what type of business you have, what industry you’re in, or whom you’re targeting, you need to be active on YouTube. Here’s a look at my YouTube channel:

There are seemingly endless opportunities for your video content on YouTube.

For starters, your content can be found organically by users searching directly from this platform.

But once you upload a video to YouTube, you can repurpose it across the rest of your distribution channels.

Embed videos on your website. Share them in your blog content. Email them to your subscriber lists.

You can even post these videos on your social media profiles. YouTube makes it easy for you to do this directly from the platform.

For those of you who don’t have a YouTube profile, I highly suggest making this a priority for your business and video content strategy.

4. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the ultimate tool for understanding your website traffic.

You can learn more about your website visitors. Google Analytics will show you the demographics of anyone who navigates to your site.

This will give you a much better understanding of your target audience and whether your marketing efforts are appealing to the right group of people.

Find out the locations of these users and what language they speak.

Discover what technology they’re using. Google Analytics will show you the operating systems and web browsers they use. This tool will even tell you what percentage of your traffic is coming from mobile devices.

You’ll also learn the source of your traffic.

You’ll be able to see whether people came from a website, social media network, or search engine. You’ll also see the keywords they searched for.

Google Analytics will give you a clear understanding of your top content and help you determine whether your traffic is converting.

If you’re not taking advantage of Google Analytics, your marketing efforts aren’t being fully optimized.

5. Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools will help you figure out how healthy your website is for search engine discovery.

By now, I’m assuming you know the importance of SEO and that optimizing your site accordingly will have a major impact on how you get ranked in search results.

There is always some sort of mystery behind the way Google ranks certain factors and rewards sites based on its algorithm.

But there’s no need to be left in the dark anymore. What’s a better way to find out whether your site is optimized for Google searches than with a Google tool?

With Google Webmaster Tools, you can set alerts for anything that prevents your website from being discovered in searches.

Analyze your search traffic to discover how people are finding you right now. This tool will help you fix what’s wrong with your site if you access the top issues list.

You’ll have access to testing tools and support documentation.

Google Webmaster Tools has guides and online courses that show you exactly what needs to be done to make an SEO-friendly website.

6. Google Translate

Have you ever received an email from a customer in a foreign language? You don’t need to hire a language expert or pay for expensive software to decipher what it says.

Google Translate makes it easy for you to understand them.

This works well for any blog comments, social media messages, or even customer reviews you see in another language.

Simply copy and paste the text into this tool to get it translated to English.

You don’t even have to know what language they’re speaking to get an accurate translation. Google will automatically detect the language and take care of that for you.

This tool makes it easy for you to reply to your customers as well.

Just type what you want to say in English, and copy the translation for your reply.

Google Translate isn’t just limited to short blocks of text. It can translate long documents or a website address.

Depending on your business and target market, you may not encounter foreign messages very often. But it’s nice to have this available whenever the situation arises.

7. Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is part of Google Ads, but it’s worth mentioning on its own.

This tool will help you find keywords and phrases related to your business.

Discover relevant keywords and get suggestions for bid estimates based on how competitive certain keywords are.

Figure out how often specific keywords get searched for, and set a budget based on any keywords you’re bidding on.

Google Keyword Planner will help you with long-tail keywords as well.

These types of keywords won’t have as high of a search volume, but they’re much less competitive. Plus, these leads will be more qualified and therefore more likely to convert.

8. Google My Business

You can set up a free Google listing through Google My Business.

When a customer searches for businesses on Google or Google Maps, your free listing will show up as a result.

When they click on your business, you want all the information to be as accurate as possible. All of this can be controlled with this tool.

The listing will have your phone number, website, address, and store hours.

Failure to claim your listing might result in having inaccurate information displayed about your business online. You obviously want to avoid this.

You can even promote your latest offers through this business listing as well.

Customers will be able to review your business on your Google listing. You can engage with those reviews by responding to the comments.

Thank each customer for leaving a review, and appropriately respond to anyone who may have had a negative experience.

You’ll also have access to information about how people found your business listing online: from a direct search or organic searches.

9. Google Calendar

Google Calendar is another great tool to keep you organized.

Times have changed. The days of relying on a giant calendar on your desk are over.

As business owners and marketers, we’re constantly on the go. With so many things to keep track of, it’s easy to overlook something important.

Google Calendar makes it easy for you to add events and manage your daily schedule.

Share your calendar with other Google accounts to make sure your team is on the same page with important marketing deadlines.

Set reminders and alerts to ensure you don’t forget about anything on your schedule.

10. Google Insights

For your marketing efforts to be successful, your website needs to operate and perform at a high level.

Google Insights will help you make sure that’s happening properly.

This tool analyzes the content of your web pages. You’ll get information about the page loading speed.

Other tools can also help you determine your page loading speed and whether it’s optimal or needs work.

But what separates Google Insights from the other tools is the report it generates.

Google will suggest how you can make your web pages load faster.

This is crucial from a marketing perspective. You just got someone to click on a link or navigate to your site as a result of one of your campaigns. Don’t lose them because your page loads too slowly.

11. Google Content Experiments

Google Content Experiments is part of Google Analytics.

As the name implies, it allows you to run experiments on different types of content.

This is a great tool for your marketing campaigns. You can run different variations of the same ad or promotion and get a report to see which one has the highest performance.

Then you can use the top ad for future campaigns and make adjustments to the ones that didn’t perform as well.

You start each experiment by selecting a goal. This helps the tool adjust the metrics accordingly based on what you want to accomplish.

The tool gives you the option to test up to ten variations of a specific landing page, so you’ll be certain that your final experiment results are as accurate as possible.

12. Google Trends

As a marketer, you need to keep your finger on the pulse. You’ve got to stay informed about what’s happening in the world around you.

Watch local and global news. Stay up to date on pop culture.

If you know what’s happening, you can come up with appropriate marketing strategies based on these trends.

But it can be difficult to do this when you’re busy at work every day. Google Trends will make this process much easier for you.

See the hottest searched topics locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Search for a specific topic, such as your industry, to see how popular it is over a certain time period.

If you know what people are searching for, it will be easier for your brand to stay relevant. You can use pop culture trends or global news to create a targeted ad or promotion on social media that will gain lots of attention.

13. Google AdSense

Google AdSense is free to use. In fact, you’ll get paid to participate.

Unlike the other advertising tools on this list, Google AdSense lets you run ads from other businesses on your own website.

Google makes sure that the ads meet a certain quality standard and that they’re relevant to your audience.

If you don’t like an ad displayed on your site, it’s no problem. Simply block any ads you don’t want to appear, and customize the type and location on your site that works best for your needs.

To get the most money for your ad space, Google AdSense will ensure that only the highest bids go live on your site so you can make as much money as possible.

It’s a nice way to make some extra cash while you focus on your other marketing strategies.

14. Google Blogger

You can use Google Blogger to build your personal or business blog.

If you’ve been reading my content for a while now, you know how much emphasis I put on the benefits of blogging.

Those of you who are not taking advantage of this effective marketing tactic need to start right away.

Google Blogger gives you a free domain to host your blog. While the majority of you will want your blog to be directly on your website, this is an option for newer businesses or for those trying to establish a personal brand that’s separate from your existing company.

You can use this new domain to promote your company website.

It’s easy to integrate your new blog with Google AdSense, which I just talked about.

Like I said, for the most part, you’ll want to have a blog on your company website. But Google Blogger shouldn’t be dismissed. It’s worth a spot on this list.

15. Google Voice

Google Voice gives you the option to stay in touch with your customers from any screen.

You can send and receive calls or texts from your phone, desktop, or tablet.

Unlike a cell phone number or landline for your business, Google Voice is free.

Google Voice also allows you to select a virtual number from nearly any area code, which is great if you’re targeting clients from a specific location.

Your leads will be more likely to trust a local number than just some random out of area caller.

The virtual number can be connected to any mobile device or landline. It’s easy to handle incoming calls from different locations. Anyone with access can answer the phone.

If you have team members in different areas, they all have the option to respond to an incoming call.

Ultimately, Google Voice is great for enhancing your customer service and communication. If you’re not satisfied with your current phone situation, it’s worth looking into this tool.

Conclusion

Google is more than just the global search engine king.

It has a wide range of free tools available to business owners who want to make improvements to their marketing efforts.

Not all of these tools are for everyone. Some of you may not need all 15 of these.

But regardless of your situation, I recommend referring to this list and checking out tools that fit your needs.

There is no risk in trying them out. After all, they’re free to use.

Which free Google tools is your company using to improve its marketing efforts?