A Quick & Easy Way to Boost Conversions on Your Website
A Quick & Easy Way to Boost Conversions on Your Website
I’m sure you can agree, that it’s hard to convert website visitors into customers.
Or, is it?
Well, it turns out that you can significantly boost your sales and conversions by simply adding one feature to your website.
In this post I’m going to show you exactly what this feature is and how you can easily include it into your site.
Secured Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificates
Nowadays, savvy online consumers look for security when they browse. Increasingly, they search for an official identifier showing that the website is secured via a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).
If you are looking to incorporate e-commerce or asking for people to hand over sensitive information on your website, you need to secure your website via an appropriate SSL.
But what about the rest of us?
Everyone stands to benefit from an Extended Validation SSL
Anyone can benefit from an Extended Validation (EV) SSL.
An EV SSL both authenticates you and your website. It proves you are who you say you are and secures the connection between your website and a visitor. It also ensures that the connection between a browser and your site is secured (encrypted).
For e-commerce websites SSL certificates provide assurance of ~$500,000+. This is in addition to the credit card fraud insurance which the banks provide to their users at no additional cost to you. Like other forms of insurance this is something that most people never use, nor want to use, but it’s good to have.
For the rest of us, the primary purpose is that browsers know they are on an authentic and secure website.
What Form of Security do I Really Need for My Website?
SSLs have varying levels of validation/protection and thus price. Generally, the more you pay the more you get.
If you are serious about getting people to hand over their credit card details over your website, then you should get an Extended Validation (EV) SSL (if your budget allows it).
Whilst this is about security, it’s also about vanity. This is about how consumers view you and your site. An EV SSL will give your website the green bar in the top-left hand corner of the url bar.
Is the green bar necessary?
Short answer, no.
But… (and this is a big but)
Websites that use an EV SSL are the ones that you see with the green bar in the url (see image above). A good article explaining the pros-and cons of implementing these can be found here.
I’m mainly in favour of EV SSLs because it builds the trust that a lot of consumers are looking for when making an online purchase.
Typically, businesses that use EV SSLs see higher conversions and ultimately more sales. The same is true for lead generation websites.
An EV SSL Builds trust
The greatest benefit from an EV SSL can be seen when running campaigns to new customers that don’t know you all that well. An example here would be targeting new prospects through Facebook paid advertising campaign.
Most hosting providers will host any EV SSL. After looking around the most affordable EV SSL I could find was $270 year (22.50/month) here. (There were cheaper ones, but they had horrible reviews).
However, I recommend Panthur. They offer EV SSLs for $25 per month. For the extra $2.50 a month you’re going to ensure reliability and good customer service.
But an EV SSL is too much…
If an EV is too much, there are alternatives.
In their bid to make the internet a safer place, Certbot and Lets Encrypt have teamed up to provide free automated Rapid SSLs. This is the lower end of the security spectrum. It won’t give you the green bar, but it will give you the https and encrypt your site.
Lets Encrypt Rapid SSLs are free, for life. However, unless you are technically savvy, it is rather difficult to implement. That is unless your web host has an integrated app to install them.
Unfortunately, cPanel does not yet have an official Lets Encrypt app. When it comes to hosting interface, it’s number one being used by around 90% of web hosting companies.
Increasingly hosting companies are integrating Lets Encrypt into their hosting plans, but this is a case-by-case basis. cPanel says they will have Lets Encrypt integration within the next three months.
Rapid SSL Certificate
A Rapid SSL starts at around $30 per year. This is an entry-level certificate and would give you all that you needed in terms of basic security for conducting light e-commerce.
Being much cheaper (and potentially free) is an obvious benefit. However, you don’t get the consumer confidence of the green bar. Instead, it will most likely appear like the below:
Mid-Range SSL Certificates
There are mid-range ones as well, such as True Business ID SSL certificates. These cost around $150. In my opinion they currently don’t offer enough to make it worthwhile because they don’t give you the green bar.
These will make your site’s url appear with a simple padlock, like the image above. Being no different aesthetically from Rapid SSLs, there’s little to gain with this option.
Future Proof Your Website
An EV SSL also prepare you and your business for the future.
Increasingly the internet is moving toward https over http. Acknowledging this, Google explicitly states that they reward secure websites with higher rankings.
Soon the minimum standard for a website will be a Rapid SSL.
Summing Up: to Upgrade to SSL or Not?
I must admit I’m a bit of a hypocrite here, as I don’t currently use an SSL myself. I couldn’t justify the cost of an EV SSL when setting up my website because I wasn’t asking customers for particularly sensitive information like credit card details. And unfortunately, my hosting provider doesn’t have Lets Encrypt integration (it should by next month though!).
It’s something I’m definitely going to use moving forward.
Let me know what you think in the comments section below.
People like online advertising, a lot.
There’s long been a standing statement that “people hate advertising“. I (and many others in this industry) don’t believe that this is true. In actuality, “people hate bad advertising.”
Nobody loves being annoyed and interrupted. Everybody loves to be entertained and informed. It’s when advertising follows the latter, that the campaign is successful.
Digital advertising brings with it many sets of bigger and scarier issues: tracking, fraud, re-targeting, and more. It’s perhaps because of this, that we now have ad blocking.
When it comes to key topics in the advertising space, 2016 has been the year of ad blocking. What happens when consumers use technology to block ads? How big is the ad blocking market? If the browsers and platforms build ad blocking into their operating systems, what chance do brands, agencies and publishers have to make money in a world, where interruptive advertising is the main revenue source?
Just how healthy is digital advertising?
If you’re wondering just how healthy the state of digital advertising is, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released their 2015 Internet Advertising Revenue Report. The numbers are impressive.
Annual Revenue 2005-2015 (USD$ billions).
U.S. digital advertising revenue hit $60 billion USD ($82 billion AUD) last year. As expected, mobile was king. It grew 66%, from $13 billion USD ($18 billion AUD) in 2014 to $21 billion USD ($29 billion AUD) in 2015. So, as people and companies alike protest about the state of digital advertising, the industry just continues to soar.
Who’s getting what out of this $82+ billion?
When it comes to the $11 billion USD ($15 billion AUD) spent on mobile last year, the vast amount of the spend was on display-related mobile formats such as video. This is a massive swing away from tradition search-related spend, for example, Google AdWords.
Still, if you dig into the report a little deeper you’ll finds that with all of this money spent, mobile mostly gets its spend from other media, digital media and through experimental budgets. What does this mean? Mobile-first media is still not mainstream and being funded the same way that media agencies work with TV, print, etc…
Video is King.
In what was a Google Search digital advertising world, the emerging ad format online is now video. Google still wins here because of YouTube. Video ads are the fastest growing (and most important) segment in digital advertising.
According to the IAB Report, non-mobile digital video advertising reached $4 billion USD ($5.5 billion AUD) last year (30% increase). To put that into perspective, social ads reached $11 billion USD ($15 billion AUD) last year (55% increase), while non-mobile search advertising reached $21 billion USD ($29 billion AUD) (8% increase).
There is no doubt that the landscape is dominated by Google and Facebook. For digital advertising dollars spent, it is the digital marketing world.
Who spends the most on digital advertising?
Retail advertisers spend the most, and they are responsible for 22% of dollars spent. After the retailers, auto and financial services come in. Each accounts for 13% of total advertising revenue. Overall, the IAB’s Internet ad revenue report revealed ad spending grew by 20%, up from 16% in 2014. An additional $10 billion USD ($14 billion AUD) in revenue.
Online Advertising is a $60 billion USD ($82 billion AUD) digital advertising industry, in the US alone, with no sign of slowing down!
What are you doing to compete in this growing market? How will you stand out from your competitors?
You can read the full IAB report here: IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report Conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is not just a fancy party-trick. Its true immersion capability offers a platform unlike any other, and it’s here to stay. Increasingly simulations are rendered in four dimensions and we are invited to experience them using our senses of sight, touch and hearing (with smell and taste well on the way). For as little as $2-3, you too can see what all the fuss is about with a basic Google Cardboard variation sold on eBay.
The advent of affordable yet effective household augmented and virtual reality devices have sent companies and developers alike scrambling to seize their share of this growing marketplace. All want to get in on the action, a probable multi-billion-dollar industry.
Just last week, news was abuzz with Sony and Samsung patenting augmented reality contact lenses. Significant investments have been made too by the standard big players. Specifically, Google with Google Glasses and Google Cardboard, Facebook with Oculus Rift and 360 Video, and Microsoft with Hololens.
So what is all the fuss about anyway?
Fully Immersed Experiences
Virtual reality is immersion in a simulated environment whereas augmented reality overlays onto the real world.
Most notably, virtual and augmented reality have had immediate impact on entertainment such as video and gaming. It’s not too hard to understand why, because it offers a whole new perspective. We can now feel as though we are actually within a world.
Developers have been quick to realise this groundbreaking technology is suitable beyond these fields. Allure of being able to create immersive virtual worlds for the purpose of storytelling is extremely well suited to just about anything. Content producers of all industry now have a new means to effectively communicate, engage and listen.
New Opportunity to Engage
Virtual and augmented reality technology lends itself perfectly to education. Students can be anywhere at any time and learn through interactive simulation. This is useful for teachers too.
Unlike a textbook, video or lecture, teachers can track in real time if students are engaged and understand through motion senses integrated into virtual reality devices. For example, if a student stops nodding their head, or fails to look in the required direction, a subtle prompt can be sent to the teacher. They can then take the required action and provide the student with the resources that they need.
Similarly, brain injured patients have been able to benefit from virtual reality, used in their rehabilitation. Initial findings have been promising, with Immersive Virtual Reality Therapy found to significantly improve cognitive and motor skill function for brain-related injuries (Pietrzak, Pullman, McGuire, 2014).
Simulated Practical Experience
Whilst virtual reality is not the real thing, it’s getting incredibly close. Simulations allow students valuable practice through increasingly real-life simulated practical experience. Effective simulated training programs have been around for years, for example training new pilots. Increasingly people are less bound by geographical and financial constraints.
Real-Life Implications for Business
So what does this mean for business? The next form of the store or mall is no longer physical, but virtual. One where virtual reality and augmented reality will replace the physical mall or store experience.
E-commerce and online shopping have constantly faced one challenge: the deep-rooted desire to try before we buy. Not just seeing but holding, wearing and trying out are all crucial steps in the purchase process. This barrier has long been reflected in online conversion rates (browsers who become buyers), which hover around 1%- 4%, compared to rates of 20%-40% in physical offline stores.
But that may all be about to change. A host of improvements in user experience are making it easier than ever for buyers to find and even try products online.
Try Before You Buy
One exciting application of virtual and augmented reality is to showcase large purchases, like furniture, that consumers often have trouble visualising in their home (even when shopping in an actual showroom). The tech platform Cimagine has pioneered an augmented reality tool that lets shoppers arrange furniture and appliances in their own living space. By integrating users’ own photos of their home with product images, the app provides buyers a concrete visualisation of possible purchases. Importantly, retailers can tap into this technology by incorporating a single line of Cimagine code into their websites. Check out the video by following the link above.
Marketing Using Virtual Reality
In a sign of things to come, one of the most talked about virtual reality experience at the resent SXSW Conference was a clever marketing campaign. McDonald’s gave users headsets and transported them inside a Happy Meal box. Armed with a virtual paintbrush, they decorated the box in wild colours, while surrounded by all the trappings of a Happy Meal. Check out what else they’re up to in the video below!
Others are getting in on the action too. At Tommy Hilfiger and Dior, shoppers can put on virtual reality headsets to watch 360-degree runway shows and even go behind-the-scenes with models. AT&T used Samsung’s virtual reality technology to offer an experience across 133 stores, to send shoppers on a virtual Carnival Cruise.
The Takeaway: Virtual Reality is Here to Stay
Make the most of it!
Effectiveness of virtual reality is likely to increase with further research and technology advancements. Like all established technological advancements things look set to get bigger and better too. With more people set to uptake augmented and virtual reality it will become part of our everyday life.
From a digital marketing perspective, ultimately, virtual reality solves a fundamental challenge: integrating feeling, both physical and emotional, into experience.
Where Are You Situated in the Conversation?
If you don’t like social media, then you’re going to like irrelevance even less.
Social media is where your friends, employers and customers are hanging out. According to the Guardian (2015) Social Networking is now the most participated online activity.
Sensis (2015) revealed the current state of play in Australia. In regards to social media use, the following was found:
- About 50% of all Australian’s, and 79% of those aged 18-29 years access social media daily.
- Facebook dominates the social media space in Australia, capturing 93% of all social media users.
- On average people spend approximately 8.5 hours per week on Facebook. (That’s more than a full working day being spent on just Facebook by each Australian every week!)
The study also found that Australians were active on LinkedIn (28%), Instagram (26%) and Google+ (23%). Add to this the time people spend on popular blogging platforms such as Reddit, Stumble Upon, and social video platforms such as Snapchat and YouTube and you see how entrenched social media is with everyday life in Australia.
How Does Social Media Effect Your Bottom Line?
From a commercial perspective:
- 32% of Australian follow brands and businesses.
- 20% of these people access offers and promotions.
- 48% of consumers who used social outlets to research products and services made a purchase decision based on their experience over social media.
What do these statistics show?
People want to engage with you and your business over social media. They will buy from you if what they like what they see.
Here lies the opportunity for you and your business. Amazingly, only 31% of Australian businesses actively operate a social media engagement strategy. With social media participation forecast to grow year-on-year, you should be looking to move into these markets.
Let’s take a look at what a social media engagement strategy can do for you and your business.
What Can a Social Media Engagement Strategy do for Your Business?
Humanise your brand
There’s a saying that gets thrown around in business circles: “people like doing business with other people, not with companies”. Social media is the tool for you to increasingly humanise your brand online. This is through online social engagement.
Social media is where your customers are hanging out online. It’s the social space where ideas and opinions are exchanged and relationships forged. Why not use this to improve the way you do business through social learning?
Improve your offering through social learning
Grasp the social norms, rules and traditions of your target demographic first-hand through social engagement. This includes both social listening and social posting. Ultimately, through engaging in the online social space you’ll learn how to better engage your target audience.
Learn how your audience talks, what they share and how they share it. See what people are expressing about you and your competition. Understand both your fans AND detractors to better shape your business.
Keeping your ear to the ground will allow you to make more informed and strategic business decisions. Knowing what your audience is saying and how they are saying it will allow you to improve your business’ offering. You may even find a demand for something your competitors are missing that you can provide!
A specific example of how you can optimise your brand and market offering
For example, you can monitor user comments to see what people think of your business directly. You can segment your content based on topic and see which types generate the greatest interest. Then you can produce more of that type of content. You can measure conversions based on different promotions posted on various social media channels and eventually find the most effective combination to generate greatest revenue.
What are People Saying About You When You’re Not in the Room?
listen in on social media
For better or for worse, tracking people on the internet is a thing. Social media is no exception. Have you ever researched who is talking about you or your brand online?
Take a look!
The simplest way to do this is by exploring your social platform using its navigational features. For example, you can
- Search trending hash-tags in Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
- Check the profiles of salient influencers to your target demographic.
- Browse the profiles of people that have liked your page or competitors’ pages.
Social mention analytical software
There’s a suite of analytical software packages that allow you to track mentions of your brand or keywords of your choosing too. You can chart popular phrases, be alerted to questions that you can answer and also be alerted to new ideas and trends so that you can improve your product-market fit.
If your interested, I highly recommend checking out the tools below. All are publicly available or have free-trials.
I suggest that you create both brand related AND product related alerts. Geo-code them with the localities you provide your services in to better consolidate your efforts into manageable size.
Reaching Out and Responding to Your Audience
Customer service on display
According to Forbes (2013), 71% of consumers who experience a quick and effective response from a business on social media are more likely to recommend that business to others. If you pride yourself on your customer service, this is easy pickings for you. By answering customer queries and concerns you are both shaping and promoting your business and brand.
Your customer interaction on social media publicly demonstrates your service level. For example, if a customer complains about your product on Facebook you can immediately address the comment, apologise publicly, and take action to make it right. Or, if a customer compliments you, you can thank them and recommend additional products. Customer experience is enhanced and advertised.
Build your community, create your tribe
Your fans and followers opt into hearing your unique voice (at least in regard to organic posts). It is not disruptive like paid advertisement. Rather you are like a friend interacting with them.
You should respect this relationship if you want your audience to stick around. Instead of telling people you are a rockstar, show them you are a rockstar! With the rise of ad blocking, this is a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal.
Create brand advocates and ambassadors
Social Media can activate your audience to be your brand advocates. Social media has increased the speed content is published and consumed. You too can create viral word-of-mouth buzz and increase your exposure.
The content that you create and curate goes a long way to building your community of followers. But you can fast track this process by investing in paid advertisement and promotion. Similarly, you can reach out and network with salient influencers in your target demographic.
Don’t just collect a fans – activate them!
The most effective brands who use social media do far more than collect fans, connections and followers like baseball cards. They actively produce and ultimately drive purchasing decisions. Respecting the social environment, they build personable relationships and genuinely aim to enrich their audience’s lives.
An effective social strategy focusses on providing value to your audience. Examples of this can be assistance, curated content, or other news, tips and hacks. If you add value your community will grow to appreciate and trust you. Trust and authority are important elements of any purchase decision.
Boost Your Visitor Traffic Through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Why are so many people getting into blogging?
A solid social media strategy combines content marketing with search engine optimisation (SEO). The easiest way to do this is through your blog.
Syndicating your content across your social outlets will give you an initial increase in visitor traffic. But this will not last. Even the most viral content diminishes in generating traffic over time.
Publishing original high-value content on your website increases your long term gains. If your content is search engine optimised for the right keywords and is set up correctly on other SEO principals then you’ll see sustained organic visitor traffic. Core reasons for this are:
- Increased “freshness” (aka updated regularly).
- People link back to your content.
- Increases high-quality inbound traffic. People coming to read your content via social posted links spend more time on your site than other referral traffic, on average.
How will blogging affect your bottom line?
Some interesting facts about blogs.
- 34% of Fortune 500 companies now maintain active blogs, the largest since 2008. (Forbes, 2014)
- Every month, an average of 329 million people read blogs.
- 37% of marketers say blogs are the most valuable content type for marketing.
- Companies that publish new blog posts 15+ times per month (3-4 posts per week) generate 5x more traffic than companies that don’t blog at all. (NewsCred, 2013)
With statistics like these it’s no wonder that 17% of marketers actively sought to increase their blogging efforts last year. (Forbes, 2014)
Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket. There’s Some Potential Downsides of Social Media Marketing Too
You need to have a plan
Social media may not be suited to every business. Like with any form of marketing, if you are unprepared and launch your social media presence without proper planning, you could waste valuable time, effort and money.
For example, say you make your big launch and attract a following. Then, you suddenly stop engaging with the community without warning. You’ve just abandoned your friends! You’ve broken, or at very least damaged, the social relationships that you’ve spent your hard work and resources building.
Watch out for the rouge keyboard warriors
Unlike a blog, comments on most social platforms are published without your direct approval. Whilst you can influence what people say about you, ultimately what people say about you is their decision. This runs the risk of unwanted or inappropriate behaviour on your site, including bullying, trolling and harassment.
Regular monitoring of your profiles reduces this problem. Preparing a social media policy and emergency procedure beforehand helps mitigate your risk. Moreover, as I’ve discussed above, you can turn a “negative” into a “positive” by taking positive affirmative action to resolve issues which will both increase and advertise your customer service level.
Social Media is a Rented Platform
Unlike a website, your social media account is a rented platform. You do not own it and you must abide by the rules of platform administrators. If you’re particularly “naughty”, then your profile will be taken away form you.
Owners make rules, not tenants
LinkedIn and Facebook are an important part of my online marketing. But they aren’t integral. Social media platforms are too fickle for that. It’s an ever evolving landscape that can’t be predicted.
What thrives today might be gone tomorrow. Myspace once reigned supreme in the social media space. Now it’s all but gone. Twitter too now faces increased pressures to remain viable. (Because they only made $590 Million USD this quarter instead of Wall Street’s dream of $610 Million USD!).
I’m not saying that you should be ignoring social media. Far from it. I think its a great publication outlet and if used appropriately you can get a lot form it. Use of social media platforms should fall in-line with a larger marketing strategy. One that doesn’t rely heavily on uncontrollability and allows you to stay adaptive in an ever-changing landscape.
For example, Facebook consistently amends its algorithm. Recently they have reduced business’ organic reach in favour of paid advertising. People that had invested heavily in building a large followings went from having millions of people viewing their posts to thousands after Facebook changed the rules.
Building your email list should be a priority. Social media is a great resource for this as you can convert your followers to email subscribers. It might not be as hip or trendy as social media, but an email list is truly one of the strongest assets you have as a business owner because it’s yours.
Summing Up, How Important is Social Media for You and Your Business?
It’s definitely important, but don’t rely on it
Social media is a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. It’s the online domain where the vast majority of today’s population interact daily. It’s where you can both shape and advertise yourself and brand.
Social media is clearly here to stay, but unlikely how we currently see it because it’s a fluid ever-evolving landscape. Platforms are becoming increasingly ephemeral and this is something that you should be taking into consideration by including social media into an adaptive broader marketing strategy.
Whilst you cannot absolutely control what people say about you, you can influence. So, how are you situating yourself and your business in the conversation?
If you would like help with your social media and broader digital marketing strategy, feel free to get in contact with me. Discover how I can unpack your digital marketing so you can get more leads and sales coming through to your business. Leave a comment if you have any thoughts or questions!