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February 2014

Why blog? 6 benefits of blogging for your business

 by wai on 25 Feb 2014 |
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Running an online business takes time, energy and resources. So when it comes to setting up and running a business blog (and making updates regularly), many business owners see it as a big drain on resources especially if they’re just starting out. With that being said, there are a number of really important reasons why your business should be blogging.   Boost traffic Blogs are another entry point for potential customers to find your business as they’re great for SEo. Google and other search engines view sites that regularly update their content and add new pages in a favorable light. Blog posts are an easy way to keep content fresh and search engines crawling your site as well as establish your company’s relevance to certain keywords and terms. Demonstrate thought leadership First and foremost, blogging is a great way for business owners to show their expertise in their field. Instead of just communicating benefits of your product or service, blogging is a bit of a ‘softer sell’. You can demonstrate your business know-how and methodology so that customers will get a better idea of who they’re doing business with and feel reassured that they’re working with real professionals that understand their needs. Provide helpful and useful information to customers Consumers are often looking for information or researching a product before they purchase. By providing the relevant information they need, you can help further along the decision-making process and closer to finalizing their purchase. Start a genuine dialogue with your audience Commenting enables users to start a conversation with a business – and because you can moderate them before they’re posted, it’s a gentle way for new businesses to dip their toes into social media. Stay top of mind By providing regular new content, you can stay relevant to your customers beyond their first purchase. Blog content can repurposed and redistributed in the form of newsletters, email marketing, social media and more. Showcase your work Blogs are a great platform to showcase some of your finest achievements. Has your company won an award or achieved an important milestone? You can let your customers know about them by updating your blog.   Create a cataloged content hub Blogs are also a great repository for any content that your business produces. From past event information to product manuals, it’s easy to direct readers to a time-stamped blog post on your site over an archived or out-of-date webpage. *Well, that’s all said and good – but what should I be writing about?!* Great question – and the good news we have some ideas/suggestions to get you started. Tune in a couple of weeks for more tips on business blogging.  **UPDATE: Read our 5 Tips for Business Blogging for ideas on what content to create**

3 Quick and Dirty Steps to Better Product Photos [INFOGRAPHIC]

 by wai on 18 Feb 2014 |
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In the world of ecommerce, imagery can truly make or break a sale. So having nice, clear and ‘professional looking’ product shots can really improve your website conversions. For someone starting up in ecommerce – this doesn’t mean you have to spend thousands of dollars on a professional photographer or costly equipment. You’d be amazed at what you can do with a simple (and outdated) smartphone camera! Embed this infographic on your website - copy and paste the code below:   Infographic provided by Shopping Cart Software Ashop.com.au Here are some of our tips for snapping your product shots. *A note on using Supplier photos.  Most manufacturers and suppliers will have product shots available for you to use for your ecommerce store. One thing to keep in mind is that these shots will often be used by multiple sites across the web. If you want your images to stand out amongst the riff-raff, it’s worth considering your own photo shoot.* Setting up your shoot 1. Head outside! Good lighting is really the key to good photos and unless you’re working with pro lighting equipment or your products are small enough to shoot with a desk lamp, outdoor lighting is going to be your best bet. Quick and dirty tip: choose a slightly overcast day over a bright sunny day for your photo shoot, it will reduce glare while still giving you strong ambient light. Taking the photos 1. Choose a plain background to shoot against so your product is front and centre. 2. Get on the level. The temptation is to just take the photo while standing but this probably not the best angle for your photos. So make sure you’re as eye level as possible with your product for at least one of your snaps. You can experiment with different angles to show off your product’s best side. 3. Try to leave plenty of space around the product to allow for scaling and cropping. Shoot in landscape, not portrait. For most web layouts, landscape photos are going to be much easier to work with than photos taken in portrait. (Because it’s easier to crop a landscape image down to a portrait than to add space around the sides.) 4. Steady hand. Make sure you check each and every shot for blurriness by zooming in. Sometimes, what looks clear in the preview is actually a little unsteady when you get close up. 5. Macro for super close up. Turn on your macro lens to shoot close up. This is a great idea to focus on certain features or for smaller items.     Photo Editing (no you don’t have to use Photoshop!) While it’s certainly a handy program to have, there’s plenty of editing you can do with a basic program like Microsoft Picture Manager or even a smart phone app. Here are some things to look for: 1. Lighten darker images. Have a little play with contrast and brightness. Make sure your colours are bright so they draw in the eye. 2. With the popularity of apps like Instagram, it’s tempting to play with photo filters. When it comes to professional product photos, use them at your own discretion. It’s more important that customers get a clear and crisp image of your product than moody, retro effects. 3. Resize and crop. It’s a good idea to crop and scale your photos to some of the most common web dimensions. Here are some common sizes you’re likely to see. Square. 60 x 60 | 128 x 128 | 300 x 300 Portrait. 128 x 160 | 240 x 320 | 320 x 480 Landscape. 640 x 360 | 640 x 480 | 800 x 480 (full screen) Remember that your exact image dimensions will depend on your website design and template, but it’s useful to have a few resized ones in your image bank, just in case. 

AdWords for Beginners: 4 Ways to Create Better Targeted Ads

 by wai on 14 Feb 2014 |
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Pay per click advertising using AdWords has become a powerful platform for online marketers. Its simple interface and the fact that it can be customised to fit any budget makes Adwords a popular strategy for small businesses and enterprises alike. Adwords is designed so that pretty much anyone can set up and run their own ad campaign. There are plenty of advanced features and optimisation strategies to make the most of the tool. If you’re keen to get into Adwords, setting up the basics is pretty easy. But with so many businesses out there trying to reach the same audience, you'll need some strategies and tactics to get the most out of your campaign. Here are 4 sure fire tips for improving your targeting to reach the best possible audience. 1. Add Your Competition in as Keywords – Add your competitors to your Campaigns! It’s totally legal and quite commonplace – provided your competitor hasn’t trademarked their name with Google. And don't think of it as poaching, but simply allowing the advertising platform to understand that your businesses are closely aligned so searchers will likely be interested in your offering. 2. Use Negative Keywords – Not every search that includes your keywords are going to be relevant to your business. For example, an eco-friendly store might want to target the term ‘green baby’, but they won’t be interested in clicks from mothesr researching ‘green baby poo’. (True story!) And because you’ll be charged for every click, you really only want clicks from genuine leads. One great way to filter your audience is to set up negative keywords. These are words that, if included in the search, will exclude your ad from eligibility. Popular negative keywords are ‘Free’or ‘Cheap’. (or in the above example, ‘poo’.) Just as you should be specific in your keywords, you should be scrupulous in your selection of negative keywords as well.  3. Practice Remarketing - Remarketing is a neat Google ads feature that essentially lets your ads ‘follow someone around the web’. The way it works is that your site will drop a supplied cookie when a visitor visits your site. This cookie puts them on a remarketing list so your display ads will be show up throughout their browsing journey. This helps to capture site ‘exits’, where a customer might have looked at a product but wasn’t quite ready to purchase. The ads serve as visual reminders of their visit. You can take remarketing even further by fine-tuning your messages to specific visitors on your remarketing list. So you can offer special discounts or incentives for the specific item they were looking at to help them convert. The best thing about remarketing is that you’re not charged for displaying the ad, only for the click through. It’s the ultimate example of ‘pester power’.  4. Establish Time Restrictions - You probably have some idea as to when people are most likely to visit your website, request more information or even make a purchase. You're able to restrict the visibility of your ads to specific timeframes and days. This lets you customise your messages even more - so you can promote Happy Hour at 4 PM or late night shopping specials on specific days. 

Email Marketing: 7 Ways to get Past the Spam Filters

 by ryan on 06 Feb 2014 |
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Email marketing is a great way for online retailers to get in front of their customers. It’s the easiest way to let advertise offers, new products or even just share information that they might find useful. Many retailers use third party email providers to maintain their email lists and create campaigns. Meanwhile, Ashop merchants can use their own built-in ‘Newsletter Management’ tool. Both of these let you manage detailed contact lists as well as gain valuable insights into your email campaigns including open rates and click throughs and more. How to Avoid the Dreaded Spam Folder Unfortunately, we’re all too familiar with email spam and most email hosts like Gmail, Yahoo have strict conditions set up to try and filter out as much of it as possible. Some of the ways they can do this include: Trigger words in subject lines and in the body of the email. Sender reputation. Repeat offenders are usually sent straight into the junk box User reports. Most email hosts allow users to flag spam from a particular sender. Of course, as a retailer, there’s nothing more disappointing than having your beautifully crafted email end up in some one’s junk folder! Never fear - here are 6 steps and stay in the good graces of email providers and recipients. Check your language Email hosts look for trigger words to determine if a message is likely to be spam. It doesn’t mean you should avoid these words completely, but be mindful of their use in your emails.   Send to Those You Know It’s tempting to buy mailing lists to get a foot in door, especially if you’re looking to reach specific niche audiences and communities. Meanwhile, some businesses will just dump email addresses given to them by other people and blast out unsolicited emails. However, the downside to these tactics is diminishing your sender reputation. Your company is more likely to be flagged as a spammer if the recipient doesn’t know about anything about your business. Instead, make sure you have a clear opt-in option for receiving email communications when you collect addresses. If you’re adding a large cluster of emails at once – say from a business card draw – it might be a good idea to add these gradually or create a separate list that you transfer over in order to maintain a clean contact list. It’s better in the long run.   Try to avoid generic email addresses An address such as webmaster@domain.com, editor@domain.com, and info@domain.com are often a red flag for spam. These are the types of addresses that spammers use to force their campaigns into people's inboxes. Always try and get personal email addresses when you can. Watch your links Third party email providers are on the lookout for an overload of links in newsletters, invitations, and announcement emails. A few links that connect your audience to useful information or products are okay. Too many links look bad and are a Spam trigger. Make sure you have a much higher ratio of regular text to links. Keep your lists up to date Regularly review and maintain your lists and contacts, purging them of any invalid emails and bounce backs. As a general rule, if a recipient hasn’t bought from you or opened one of your emails for over a year, you should consider taking them off of your lists. Include an Unsubscribe Button The unsubscribe button is the olive branch to ‘mark as spam’- it lets users who don’t want to receive communications remove themselves from the list. By offering them the ability to take themselves off of your mailing list, you'll lower your Spam count and allow your audience to maintain your lists for you. Many disgruntled recipients will unsubscribe instead of clicking Spam, lowering your Spam rate and keeping you in the clear. Rein in those exclamation points It might seem obvious, but it isn't a good idea to include four (or really even two) exclamation points in a row. Terms like ‘Amazing Sale!!!!!!’ won't endear you to readers and it sends up more flags to Spam monitors. Let your amazing sale speak for itself. One exclamation point does the job just fine! What are your experiences with email marketing? What would you include in your list of Dos and Don’ts?
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