How To Optimize Your Website Forms For Improved Conversion Rates

Forms are a great way to obtain much needed data from your users but they don’t work if people take one look and back away from them without ever typing a single keystroke. Time and again we’ve seen website form conversion rates that are in the single digits on an otherwise fabulous website. Website conversions can be highly successful if you keep some basic things in mind when creating your forms.

website conversions1. Keep it Short and Sweet — On the initial form, don’t overwhelm people with too many questions. Save those for follow up emails.

2. Use Fewer Form Elements — There are plenty of bells and whistles you could use on a form. Don’t. When you’re after website conversions less is more.

3. Add a Privacy Line — It will reassure your readers to see “We respect your privacy.” so add it or something similar at the bottom of your form to increase your website form conversion rates.

4. Use Optional Form Fields — It’s proven that website conversions are greater on forms with less required fields. Keeps things optional when possible.

5. Include a Lead Form Above the Fold — Lead forms convert best when located above the fold, preferably in the upper right hand corner of the page.

6. How You Write Matters — Sentence casing is better than phrase casing. This is why headlines work so well.

7. Design Buttons That Convert — Design call-to-action buttons that get results. Make them stand out with vivid colors and a size that gets noticed.

8. Use Action Words on Submit Buttons — Punch up your website form conversion rates with something as simple as the wording on your buttons. For instance, “Act now!” is better than “Submit” but “Act now for awesome free stuff!” is even better.

9. Two-Page Lead Form — You will get better results with your form when you use a two-page lead form. Keep the first page of your form simple and ask additional “required” questions on the second page, traditionally known as the “thank you” page.

10. Don’t Use Captcha on Forms — Remember, your objective is to improve your conversion rates. There are plenty of other methods available to authenticate humans are filling out your forms, so use one of them.
 

This Just In – Google Chrome Extension includes Google +1

Now you don't have to wait for a website to put the Google +1 on the site  (though it's our expert opinion that you should).  Google just announced "+1 a web page, anywhere you go on the web."

Right now the button is only available for Google’s Chrome browser and there have been no indications as to when it may show up on other browsers as well.

Have a mobile version of your website

Having a mobile version of your website is an ICND suggestion for the Best Web Changes for Vacation Rental Websites to Gear up for 2012.  It’s incredible to look at the analytics across many vacation rental companies’ websites and look at how the mobile traffic has increased in as little as this past year against last year.

According to Human Factors International, 68% of consumers said, “if they knew a business had a made-for-mobile version they would prefer to use it over the standard website on a mobile phone. Mobile websites are fairly easy to build and you don’t have to completely redesign your site for it or recreate your functionality.
Seaside Mobile Site

It just needs to be taken to a simpler platform. If you are going to redesign your website, ask your web developer (or ICND) about responsive CSS. It’s a new CSS technology through HTML and CSS where your website is responsive according to the size of the monitor (or mobile device). We’ll be featuring a new site soon with it! Stay tuned.

Social Media Marketing – How to get your ROI

We live in a world where people want immediate gratification and MUST see their revenue directly related to social media or their not buying in to the fact that there IS a strong return coming from a social media investment. I'm going to take you through a few reasons why social media has never been so important to your business.

•    25% of ALL US traffic is Facebook
•    More time is spent on Facebook than: Google, Yahoo, MSN, Bing & YouTube; COMBINED
•    YouTube receives over 2 billion viewers per day and is the 2nd most popular search engine
•    Over 750 MILLION users are now on Facebook!

Now that you know your brand MUST be involved in social media, let me show you 5 other ways to effectively measure the success of your efforts and the return on your investment.

Customer feedback and sentiment

Whether you like it or not, customers will have both good and bad experiences throughout the life of your company (hopefully more good), and they need a way to share it. Before anyone thinks about going to an actual review site, many of them choose to post at a place where over 750 Million other people are and where over 25% of all time spent online is; Facebook. Good experiences shared here are automatically shared with all of their connections on Facebook and bad experiences give you a chance to publicly make them better.
→ If you could identify all of the bad experiences from customers and make them better before they will inevitably share that experience with 100+ friends, would you?
→ If you could take every person that had a good experience and turn it into a personal endorsement to all of their friends, would you? (avg. facebook user has 130 “friends” on Facebook)

Social media customers are more valuable
A case study from CareOne <http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/social-media-marketing/social-media-customer-value/> shows you just how much more valuable your social media clients are likely to be over your clients that aren't involved with your social media.

Top of mind advertising
As people engage with your social media channels and “Like”/ “Follow” your brand, they will be noticing your posts and looking at your logo.  This keeps your business on the top of their mind next time they go to purchase a product or service that you offer.

How much are impressions and traffic worth?
I manage a brand that receives roughly 200,000 page views a month, but yields over 1 million impressions on Facebook alone each month.  Facebook and Twitter are consistently 2 of the top 10 referrers of traffic.

Control the search engine

When you Google your business name, what comes up?  Likely, many of your potential customer will perform this action, what will they see?  If you have anything negative or potentially negative, possibly a competitor comes up, you can control this by allowing social networks to dominate this placement.

I too am a bottom-line, metric driven individual that needs to tie every marketing effort to the bottom-line.  I encourage you to be a little more open minded about what you are measuring and where you find the value in your social media efforts.  It's not all about immediate sales, or even traffic; you could be measuring brand mentions within social media, impressions within social media, overall targeted fan/follower acquisition (which is truly more than just a number), number of messages sent to your social media followers, and more!  Let us help you understand what your social media objectives are and how we can accomplish them!

Social Media with ICND

Jumping into Social Media is all about cultivating and building new and existing relationships.  Is it important?  -Some experts say that Social Media will be more valuable and widely used than search engines within the next 3 years!  With Intercoastal Net Designs, you WILL see increased traffic to your website, search engine placement, new relationships, sales and MUCH MORE…
 
Building Relationships
Social Media is all about building new relationships and cultivating existing ones.  By encouraging interaction, facilitating a platform for questions and activity, and networking with individuals on a more personal level; we will build these relationships, develop your connections and gain trust from clients and partners.

Managing the Conversation
Whether you like it or not, people are going to talk about your company and brand.  We are providing a platform for people to speak so that you can control the conversations and leverage them to your advantage.

Maintaining a platform for questions
Potential clients often need a place to ask their questions, whether they are intended for you or other clients.  We will encourage this activity and facilitate the questions that are asked.  A relatively quick response time can be very important to retain an active page.  With questions that require specific knowledge, we will notify you to either answer the questions or direct Intercoastal Net Designs how to correctly answer these questions.

Brand Recognition
The number of users that will see your brand, your logo, and your name on a daily basis will increase drastically.  Because of the nature of how Facebook was created with News feeds, viral marketing tactics to increase brand recognition is a great advantage of using Facebook for business.  Every time that there is an update given on one of your Facebook pages, all of your friends see this on their “News Feed” when they log in.  Further, every time one of your friends interact on your page by leaving a comment or doing a number of other interactions, a message is posted on all of their friends news feeds!  This puts a great deal of value attached to each additional fan.

More Interaction by Fans = Greater Brand Recognition

Creating Brand Loyalty
This increased brand recognition will develop into brand loyalty.  You don’t want to just sell a product or service; you sell an experience that brings them back time and time again.  Further, this experience makes them want to refer you to their friends and family.  By building relationships and increasing brand recognition, you will be cultivating this brand loyalty through-out Facebook and encourage users to come back to company again and again.

Top of Mind Advertising

The Facebook News feed is a powerful tool that keeps your brand and name in front of users on a daily basis.  Like any advertisement, you want your name to stick in a client’s head.  As we post more content within the fan pages and users interact as well, News Feeds will be filled with content to keep your name on the top of a clients mind for the next time they are looking for a home or asked for advice on home buying from a friend.

Create referrals through personal connections
A personal referral is much stronger than a random advertisement that you see online or on television.  By having a Facebook presence, you are giving users the opportunity to “Suggest to Friends” the pages and brands they enjoy.  Additionally, the interaction on a page suggests to their friends satisfaction with a company and entices them to come and look at a page as well.

Utilize viral marketing

Viral Marketing is all about encouraging clients and brand supporters to share content with their sphere of influence.  Both Facebook and Twitter are two of the most widely used forms of viral marketing as it is easy to do and many of their connections are already on these social networks.  On Twitter, you can simply “Retweet” a comment to all of your followers to share content that you thing they will enjoy or find interest in.  Further, you can give credit to someone on Twitter by “Mentioning” them which will link back to their profile. 

On Facebook, viral marketing is done through a news feed with every action you take place.  Although there are security settings that you can use to restrict the content that is shared, most users do not restrict this content.  Fans can “Like” posts as well as comment on each post, both of which are generally shared in all of their connections news feeds.  Further, they can leave a new post on your pages which will also be shared in the news feeds of their connections.
We want to turn “Fans” into fanatics that enjoy sharing content and news from your company to fully take advantage of this very powerful viral marketing strategy.

The Human Side
Advertising with Social Media has turned the old way of marketing from a “1 to many broadcast” (Television Commercial) to a “1 to 1 conversation”.  Users don’t want to think of themselves as 1 in a crowd that is bunched in your target market.  They want to feel noticed and have more of a connection with companies that they deal with.  By putting a face and a name to a business, you are showing off the human side to your company.  You are creating relationships and showing the average user that you care about each individual.  Through social networks, we are going to show off the human side of your business.

Gather Feedback & Listen

It is great to think that every little effort is going toward bringing in new clients, but sometimes you need to stop and ask about the customer’s needs.  This is why you often research with surveys and questionnaires.  Through Facebook, you can retrieve immediate feedback from the “Fans” that care the most.  By asking the users on Facebook and Twitter what they think, you get real feedback on ideas while showing them that you genuinely care.

Give advice and become an industry resource
By giving advice on industry news, giving tips, and sharing your industry thoughts; you are opening up to the type of people that will come to your fan pages and share your brand.  Becoming a resource in the industry lets people know your stance and that you are here to help them.
Joining industry groups

Again, opening up your target market and bringing more users into your social circle to share your name is a major point of emphasis.  As you join industry groups and connect with big industry players, you will find that they have a larger network to share your content with.  We want to build strong relationships with these influential socialites and encourage them to spread your company’s brand.

Becoming friends with industry professionals
Industry professionals can be very influential and have a strong following on both Facebook and Twitter.  We want to connect with their existing fan pages to reach out to a larger crowd.  Also, these industry professionals have a strong network of personal connections that we would like to tap into.  Leveraging these partners and taping into the connections through a personal referral will be a key strategy to build a fan base and following.

Hosting fun competitions with giveaways

Once we are able to build strong social networks, we want to keep them active and coming back.  We would like to host competitions and have giveaways enticing them to share your company with their networks.  This will grow your social networks in numbers and in loyalty.  The bigger the giveaway, the more effective this competition will be.

Follow like-minded users on Twitter

As we tap into the industry professionals on Facebook, we will be doing the same on Twitter.  Sharing their content and building relationships with existing influential Twitter users will aid in the growth of this network so that when we have a message to get out, we will have more targeted followers to receive this message.

Making the Connection
Creating links between all of the social networks and cross connecting them with your corporate website and blog are vitally important.  This is where we turn your typical interactive fans to closed sales.  Don’t worry about how to set these up, where they go or how to implement the process; we take care of it all.
Utilize the highly targeted “Facebook Ads”

Facebook ads are some of the most effective online advertising as they allow you to target a very specific group based on information provided in a users profile.  We can leverage this information that is provided by Facebook users to find potential clients and bring them to your company’s Facebook Fan Page.

Cultivate Targeted Followers

We will be using “Tweet Adder” to find targeted Twitter users.  This is software that allows you to search for users who might be interested in your service based on things that they mention and people they follow.  This will allow us to grow a following base of users on Twitter and bring your company potential clients.

Staying Current
In an industry that is evolving so quickly like Social Media, it takes many hours a week to stay up to date with the newest trends, strategies, and techniques to become successful.  If you look at the evolution and impact of Social Media in the last:  1 year, 3 years, 6 years (Facebook Launched); it’s mind-blowing the ongoing change that has occurred.  Many predict that Social Media Optimization will be more important and valuable to a company than Search Engine Optimization in less than 3 years!

CONTACT US TODAY TO LEARN MORE!

Take advantage of Google+ NOW

Google+ is the next big social network released by Google and poised to be a major threat to its’ much larger rivaled competitor, Facebook.  While Facebook has accumulated an incredible 750 Million users in the last 7 ½ years and Twitter has reached over 200 Million registered users in 5 years, in just 2 weeks Google+ has jumped to over 25 Million users.  Further, it’s not even open to non-Gmail users or to brands yet!  So why should your business jump on the Google+ bandwagon? …because it’s not a trend, it’s major shift that will affect where your customers and potential customers spend time online.

Let's face it, Google is an internet powerhouse and they create the best platforms.  The term “Google it” has become a commonly used house-hold phrase for “Google.com”.  As the #1 most popular search engine (by far), can you guess what #2 is?  It's YouTube, also owned by Google.  Blogger is one of the worlds most popular blogging platforms and Android is the most widespread mobile operating system… all owned by Google.  The most popular rss reader is “Google Reader”; and I can go on and on!  Gmail, Maps, Chrome browser, Analytics, Docs, News, Calendar, Buzz, Talk, Adwords, Translator, etc… all extremely successful tools owned by Google.  So why all of the Google Talk? (no pun intended) Google's new social network Google+ will be the future of Social Networking.

Let me compare the 3 big game players in social media right now.  This graph describes a few common features and how they relate to each other.  Privacy is one of the biggest concerns with Facebook users and this graphic also touches on that as well.

As you can see, Google+ might be a little more tricky to understand right now, but it certainly makes things better in the long run with privacy.

With its' 25 million users so far in just a few weeks, they are making huge strides in functionality and features every week.  They recently reported the introduction of gaming, which is a huge part of Facebook, and Google just announced this week that it will be re-introducing their real-time search feature with Google+.  If you're a brand that wants to stay ahead of the curve in social media and leverage it for your business, here are just a few reasons why you need to jump in NOW:

Search
Google owns search and that plays a huge role in how people find you online.  If Google owns search, don't you think it'd be crazy for this search giant to not have benefits for Google+ brand pages?  It's specualtion at this point, but they will definitely be searchable and integrated with real-time searching.  Possibly a call-out in search results like a colored box or a simple priority placement.  Regardless, there are sure to be major benefits for brand pages when it comes to search results on Google.

Advertising

Google is fully prepared to support this platform with its Google Display Network, AdWords and DoubleClick advertising products.  There are tons of optimal ad placement for brands.  Also, with all of the video capabilities, rich media ads are sure to be a key enhancement over Facebook ads to give brands better opportunities and deliver a strong message.

Statistical Information

It seems inevitable that Google will integrate its analytics tool into Google+ brand pages for the valuable insights into who their fans are, what content they're consuming and where they're coming from.

What can you do NOW to be prepared?
First, you could jump in with our other social media packages to become fully immersed into the social atmosphere.  We have some incredible packages that are helping other clients engage with fans and build this online presence.  As a current social media client with us, you will get priority rights to a new Google+ brand page when it becomes available.

Also, getting involved with our social media team, you will get all of the updates about this platform including assistance in setting up a personal profile and a white paper on how to enhance your personal Google+ page.  If you have a personal Gmail account, contact our team to see how we can help you get into this new platform now so that you are prepared to get your brand page started right away.

Q & A – Can I moderate Facebook Wall Posts

Question:

How is our Facebook monitored?  I do not use now for myself… on a business Facebook, can we view before allowing comments to show?  As you know, there are a few ugly people in the world who like to put themselves out there…

Answer:

While there is no way to "moderate" comments on Facebook, there are a few tricks so that you can keep watch.  When you make a post, go in and like that post that way anytime someone would make a comment you will be notified.  If you are finding you are having more negative reviews and comments then positive, the most important thing is how you handle those negative posts.  Many times your followers will stick up for you before even having to respond, but if you do, make sure you are proactive and using the customer service skills to turn that customer around.

If you want to go a super conservative approach, you can turn off wall posting in your "wall settings" area of your page.  I don’t recommend this because you want to have all the positive feedback from your followers.  ICND also offers a Social Media plan for a monthly amount.  We help monitor all your posts, get you set up with feeds so everything is posting on FB, Twitter, your blog, etc., help you out with setting up Facebook Tabs, Sweepstakes, Follower generation and incorporating the benefits of social media into your SEO plan.  Plans start at 3 hours per month and go up depending on how many projects we get into.  We do require that you have someone on your end who can be quick to respond to negative postings should they happen.
 

Please contact me if you should have some more questions or like to know more about our Social Media Plan.

Vanessa Humes

Sales & Marketing Director

InterCoastal Net Designs
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PO Box 7633
Ocean Isle Beach, NC 28469
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Phone: 910-575-6095 x2
Fax: 910-575-1095

 

Marketing Trends inTravel Industry 2011

What to expect and what to see in 2011…

Hotels

In the first quarter of 2010, RevPAR increased around the world with the America's being up 5.3% according to Smith Travel Research (STR).  In 2011, the growth is on trend to continue across the globe. It's obvious that, although today’s bookings aren't quite where they were at during the pre-recession days, the industry is slowly managing to crawl out of its slump.  Which is good news for all of us!

Travel Industry:

With so much inventory on the market for rentals, competition remains strong and customers are becoming increasingly selective as they can.  In order to take advantage of the upward trend, travel operators will need to be increasingly flexible in not only marketing their rooms, but determining what price their customers are willing to pay.  Vacationers have a wealth of comparative pricing information at their fingertips with portal sites, ensuring that they won’t book if a hotel or vacation rental's pricing is too high. More and more, even a few dollars can make the difference between a customer booking and not booking with a property or company.

This year it will be more important to stay on top of your game in the online marketing arena and companies who do so and put their budgets into online marketing will reap the rewards in 2011 more so than any other year we've seen thus far.  Gone are the days we'll be able to rely on direct mailings and a few postcards and we'll need to take every avenue to stay on top of the trends in online marketing.

Think about how Google's $700 million takeover of ITA Software, which will not only make the internet powerhouse a serious operator in the travel business, it will also rewrite the rules for bookings. As Google keeps its hooks in every inch of the internet, it will seed its travel offerings throughout the online space. It's very possible that starting as early as this year, web surfers logged into Gmail will be able to plan and book their entire vacation with a few mouse clicks inside the Google web ecosystem, making it much easier to do from anywhere, while on the go.

Mobile will also take a bigger role in 2011 than in 2010.  Check your Google Analytics and pull last years data with mobile users compared to 2010.  2011 will be even stronger.  Customers, particularly, business travelers, will make even more booking while on the road or in the air and as close as while sitting on the boardwalk outside of the hotel while sipping on a tropical cocktail.  They have the chance to wait until the very last opportunity to grab the last minute deals in an arena where there's tons of inventory left and we're fighting for every dollar.

To top it all off, vacationers will be using more and better smartphone apps to sniff out available rooms and, crucially, the best prices on those rooms and rentals. According to Priceline, 58% of customers with mobile devices made their booking within 20 miles of their hotel where they ended up staying. More impressively, 35% of those polled were within one mile when they clicked on the “reserve this room” button.

Consumers have the power

We've been preaching it for years, but the recent boom in rooms and houses available to rent, along with the advanced OTA's and their ability to dominate the search engines, topped with the technology of smart phones and on-the-go research sets up an interesting arena for 2011.  Driving your customer loyalty with programs and customer relationship marketing strategies will play a crucial role in this years marketing.  A huge development just taking place has been American Airlines pulling form Orbitz and subsequently being dropped by Travelocity.  American Airlines now relies on their own website to deliver the marketing message that they will find the best deals with AA.  Even though they are driving down prices, they avoid the costs of placement and fees with the OTA's.  Travel leaders will need to find their own solution to optimizing their bookings OTA's as well as their own websites.   Increase customer loyalty through programs and interacting with social media.


Social Media

With Facebook taking the lead over Google and other powerhouse websites at the end of 2010, we'll see a huge shift in the involvement of Social Media in your overall marketing mix.  Sooner rather than later,  the travel industry will find a way to book within Facebook and need to plan accordingly, before they lose out on valuable social media bookings.

Google: Internal Pages being Indexed

Over the week we have noticed that Google has had another algorithm change where you may notices that on some searches, your internal pages are ranking over your homepage.  This has been on of the many algorithm changes noticed in the past month. 

As the search engines rank content they are looking to find the top sites that have the best content and deserve to rank well and base the ranking on their popularity and content.  However, rather than ranking the homepage that may give an overview of the company, they are ranking internal pages based on what page is the most relevant to the performed search.  Over the next few months, there will be a lot of testing going on to see how searches respond to these changes. 

Brandon Sauls Nominated Brunswick County Chamber Marketing Chairman of the Board




Brandon Sauls met with the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce in mid December.  At the meeting, Sauls was asked by the board to chair the Marketing Development Committee for the chamber. 

 

Working under the President, Cathy Altman, Sauls hopes to be able to increase the traffic to the chamber website and therefore increase awareness for the area which in turn will boost over all leads.  Brandon will be working not only on the online marketing and branding but the overall marketing and branding for the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce.