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6 ways your blog design might be turning off customers

(Business Marketing) In the arena of content marketing, fewer titans loom larger than the company blog. With engaging, informative, and timely blogs, businesses can establish themselves as thought leaders and provide a valuable resource.

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blog design

Don’t lose biz because of your blog design

In the arena of content marketing, fewer titans loom larger than the company blog. With engaging, informative, and timely blogs, businesses can establish themselves as thought leaders and provide a valuable resource to their customers and attract significant traffic to their websites.

While quality writing is crucial, another component of an effective blog is its visual content. According to GetResponse blogger Sara-Ruth Wolkiewicz, any company should be able to create a visually compelling blog with the use of one or more free tools.

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Whether your firm invests in an elite designer and development team to construct the best blog money can buy, or a few savvy inside personnel team up to create something clean and navigable, visual appeal is vital.

Unfortunately, many companies make grave errors when it comes to visual design. Their sites are not just irritating to the customer’s eye, but bad enough to turn readers away completely.

Take a look at some of the primary mistakes companies have made while blogging, if you want to preserve your readership.

Common design pitfalls of company blogs are outlined below:

1. Generic stock photography.

Customers perceive stock photography as a cheap trick. When a business does not take the time or have the means to create honest and real images for its website blog, it gives the impression that the company is careless.

Perhaps visitors wonder whether the company is worried about how proprietary images would look. Would the business seem less professional and savvy if you saw it in its real light?

Stock photography also does not necessarily convey the purpose or meaning of the blog content. It can make the content seem thrown together or unnecessarily misleading.

2. A lack of images.

In addition to the gaffe above, some companies publish all their blog communications without any images. Websites that lack visual richness often suffer the worst bounce ratings.

To combat this problem, hire a professional photographer to take fabulous photos of your facility, products, services in action, or anything else that represents what you do well. Release them gradually, with new posts, to get the most out of your investment.

If this is not workable, take your own photos! Customers forgive an amateur photo as long as it is appropriate, clear, the right size, and loads quickly.

3. Inconsistent or unattractive color schemes.

This can be serious. Inconsistency causes customers to recall a valuable tidbit they read in your blog and wonder where they read it.

If the answer doesn’t come to them, they may scour your competitor’s website in search of this useful information. If you keep your look consistent, customers are better able to remember your stellar content from its familiar, trusted source.

An unattractive color scheme can drive potential customers away from your website. While attractiveness is somewhat subjective, some color combinations are almost universally repellent, including those that are scathingly bright or conversely dim and overcast, or those which are unreadable.

4. Inappropriate or difficult-to-read fonts.

Color is not the only cause of accelerating bounce rates. Illegible fonts account for a great deal of customer exits.

As web users evolve, there has been a greater upsurge of interest in clean, thin-yet-wide fonts such as Century Gothic and Arial. Serif fonts such as Times New Roman are still acceptable for more traditional content.

Promotional images and headlines can have a curlier, bold, or script-like font, but readability is still paramount. Customers can often be put off by fonts that do not seem appropriate, such as overly curly, feminine fonts for a truck rally or bulky, jagged fonts for a wedding expo.

Stereotypes aside, Google doesn’t play well with unacceptable fonts either, and SEO rankings defer to websites with cleaner blogs.

5. Lack of responsive design.

Look around you. Everyone at the coffee shop, in the store, on the sidewalk, and even in their cars is operating a mobile device.

Gone are the days when people spent more of their hours — as much as 16 hours a day — sitting at a laptop. Desktop computers with their separate tower and monitor are even more antiquated.

So it should be intuitive that company blogs and websites as a whole should be designed to be responsive to mobile browsers, right? Unfortunately that does not appear to be the case: Many companies’ sites are still inaccessible, mangled, or partial in mobile view.

Customers who come across your blog on mobile and find that it doesn’t automatically suit their screen will simply not take the time to minimize, maximize, or otherwise bend to your layout. Responsive design is important for all aspects of web content in 2014.

6. Slow loading.

This is absolutely unacceptable to customers. If your images and videos — or worse, your entire content panel — load slowly or partially as a result of a poorly optimized website structure, customers will flee. Guaranteed.

The current generation of web users, which now includes your grandmother and mine, doesn’t have the time or patience of the dialup generation. We will not wait to see your carefully chosen image, and we will not stream your embedded video and wait for it to load the remainder halfway through. A great developer can handle optimization to make everything run faster and more efficiently.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Business Marketing

Video is necessary for your marketing strategy

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As technology and social media move forward, so do marketing opportunities. Now is the time for video content social media marketing!

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As an entrepreneur, you’ve surely heard the phrase “pivot to video” countless times over the last few years. It’s the path a lot of media companies are on, but even brands that aren’t directly talking about this pivot have increased their video production. This shift stems in part from studies showing users spend more time on pages featuring video content. Social media has also played a significant role, and recently, new social platforms have made the pivot to video even more important.

Snapchat and TikTok are leading the social video sector as emerging social media platforms, but the audiences for these platforms skew especially young. The content on these platforms also tends toward the meme-worthy and entertaining, raising the question: are these platforms a good use of your time and resources? The answer depends on your industry, but whatever your field, you can certainly learn from the pros dominating these new platforms.

The promotional angle

One of the primary ways that businesses use video content across platforms is by creating promotional content, which range widely in style, cost, and content, but there are a few strategies that can really help a promotional video succeed.

First, a great promotional video hooks the viewer within the first few seconds. Social media has shrunk everyone’s attention span, so even if your video is on a longer form platform, the beginning has to be powerful. Having a strong start also means that your video will be more flexible, allowing it to gain traction across different platforms.

Audience matters

What you’re promoting – what your business does and who it serves – plays a critical role in what kinds of video content you make and what platforms you use. TikTok is a lot of fun, and it’s playing a growing role in business, but if your entire audience is age 30 and up, there’s not much point in trying to master the form and build a viewership there. You need a sufficient youth-heavy market to make TikTok a worthwhile investment, but Snapchat, which also serves a youth-heavy market, might be a different story.

Even if you don’t intend to make heavy use of Snapchat, the platform recently made a big splash in the video sector by opening up its story tools to other platforms. That means businesses will be able to use Snapchat’s tools on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where they may already have an audience. It will also make crossover content easier, allowing you to maintain consistent branding across all platforms. You may never download Snapchat proper, but you may soon be using their tools.

It’s all about strategy

However you choose to approach video content, the fact is that today video is a necessary part of your content marketing strategy. In part this is because, while blogs aren’t going anywhere, and short-form social media is definitely ascendant, both make use of video, but that’s not the only reason. Video is so powerful because it’s deeply personal. It makes your audience feel that much more closely connected with you and your brand, and that alone is enough to change buying patterns.

Another key advantage of video is that, consumers genuinely enjoy well-made videos. Unlike blogs, which most users will typically only seek out if they need information, there are brands out there who are known for their video content. They’ve found a way to hook viewers and make them feel like they have two products: entertainment and whatever it is they actually sell. You, too, can do this with enough creativity and today’s social media tools.

It’s critical that you don’t let your brand fall behind on video right now, because if you even stop for breath, you will be left behind. As TikTok and Snapchat have made clear, video doesn’t stop for anyone. At this point, video isn’t the future of social media or ecommerce – it’s the present.

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Business Marketing

Marketing amidst uncertainty: 3 considerations

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As the end of the COVID tunnel begins to brighten, marketing strategies may shift yet again – here are three thoughts to ponder going into the future.

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Open business sign being held by business owner for marketing purposes.

The past year has been challenging for businesses, as operations of all sizes and types and around the country have had to modify their marketing practices in order to address the sales barriers created by the pandemic. That being said, things are beginning to look up again and cities are reopening to business as usual.

As a result, companies are looking ahead to Q3 with the awareness they need to pivot their marketing practices yet again. The only question is, how?

Pandemic Pivot 1.0: Q3 2020

When the pandemic disrupted global markets a year ago, companies looked for new ways to reach their clients where they were: At home, even in the case of B2B sales. This was the first major pivot, back when store shelves were empty care of panic shopping, and everyone still thought they would only be home for a few weeks.

How did this transition work? By building out more extensive websites, taking phone orders, and crafting targeted advertising, most companies actually survived the crisis. Some even came out ahead. With this second pivot, however, these companies will have to use what they knew before the pandemic, while making savvy predictions about how a year-long crisis may have changed customer behavior.

Think Brick And Mortar

As much as online businesses played a key role in the pandemic sales landscape, as the months wore on, people became increasingly loyal to local, brick and mortar businesses. As people return to their neighborhood for longer in-person adventures, brands should work on marketing strategies to further increase foot traffic. That may mean continuing to promote in-store safety measures, building a welcoming online presence, and developing community partnerships to benefit from other stores’ customer engagement efforts.

Reach Customers With PPC

Obviously brick and mortar marketing campaigns won’t go far for all-online businesses, but with people staying at home less, online shops may have a harder time driving sales. Luckily, they have other tools at their disposal. That includes PPC marketing, one of the most effective, trackable advertising strategies.

While almost every business already uses some degree of PPC marketing because of its overall value, but one reason it’s such a valuable tool for businesses trying to navigate the changing marketplace is how easy it is to modify. In fact, best practice is to adjust your PPC campaign weekly based on various indicators, which is what made it a powerful tool during the pandemic as well. Now, instead of using a COVID dashboard to track the impact of regulations on ad-driven sales, however, companies can use PPC marketing to see how their advertising efforts are holding up to customers’ rapidly changing shopping habits.

It’s All About The Platforms

When planning an ad campaign, what you say is often not as important as where you say it – a modern twist on “the medium is the message.” Right now, that means paying attention to the many newer platforms carrying innovative ad content, so experiment with placing ads on platforms like TikTok, Reddit, and NextDoor and see what happens.

One advantage of marketing via smaller platforms is that they tend to be less expensive than hubs like Facebook. That being said, they are all seeing substantial traffic, and most saw significant growth during the pandemic. If they don’t yield much in the way of results, losses will be minimal, but given the topical and local targeting various platforms allow for, above and beyond standard PPC targeting, they could be just what your brand needs as it navigates the next set of marketplace transitions.

The last year has been unpredictable for businesses, but Q3 2021 may be the most uncertain yet as everyone attempts to make sense of what normal means now. The phrase “new normal,” overused and awkward as it is, gets to the heart of it: we can pretend we’re returning to our pre-pandemic lives, but very little about the world before us is familiar, so marketing needs a “new normal,” too.

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Business Marketing

Advertising overload: Let’s break it down

(BUSINESS MARKETING) A new study finds that frequent ads are actually more detrimental to a brand’s image than that same brand advertising near offensive content.

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Advertising spread across many billboards in a city square.

If you haven’t noticed, ads are becoming extremely common in places that are extremely hard to ignore—your Instagram feed, for example. Advertising has certainly undergone some scrutiny for things like inappropriate placement and messaging over the years, but it turns out that sheer ad exhaustion is actually more likely to turn people off of associated brands than the aforementioned offensive content.

Marketing Dive published a report on the phenomenon last Tuesday. The report claims that, of all people surveyed, 32% of consumers said that they viewed current social media advertising to be “excessive”; only 10% said that they found advertisements to be “memorable”.

In that same group, 52% of consumers said that excessive ads were likely to affect negatively their perception of a brand, while only 32% said the same of ads appearing next to offensive or inappropriate content.

“Brand safety has become a hot item for many companies as they look to avoid associations with harmful content, but that’s not as significant a concern for consumers, who show an aversion to ad overload in larger numbers,” writes Peter Adams, author of the Marketing Dive report.

This reaction speaks to the sheer pervasiveness of ads in the current market. Certainly, many people are spending more time on their phones—specifically on social media—as a result of the pandemic. However, with 31% and 27% of surveyed people saying they found website ads either “distracting” or “intrusive”, respectively, the “why” doesn’t matter as much as the reaction itself.

It’s worth pointing out that solid ad blockers do exist for desktop website traffic, and most major browsers offer a “reader mode” feature (or add-on) that allows users to read through things like articles and the like without having to worry about dynamic ads distracting them or slowing down their page. This becomes a much more significant issue on mobile devices, especially when ads are so persistent that they impact one’s ability to read content.

Like most industries, advertisers have faced unique challenges during the pandemic. If there’s one major takeaway from the report, it’s this: Ads have to change—largely in terms of their frequency—if brands want to maintain customer retention and loyalty.

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