Are you setting goals for your website?

Website Goal Setting

Though technically we have 3 days of “summer” left, I believe it has been gone for some time here in South-Western Ontario. It has been busy all summer long, picking up new clients Julia Weddings, Optikon and Titan Automation amongst others. Building websites, SEO and maintaining customer hosting infrastructure has kept me busy at Think Shovels and it is only picking up speed going into the fall.

For me, the fall is kind of like New Years – a time for resolutions, routine setting. Building a loosely structured, but scheduled routine helps me stay focused on the long term goals because my routines are built to achieve those goals. Personally I am trying to incorporate some fitness goals into my daily routine, some dedicated time to business development and some financial goals – (because who doesn’t like sipping on fancy drinks in beautiful 30°+ weather pool side while back home your neighbours are shovelling 2 feet of February snow). 

This is also a great time to do some goal setting for your website. Here are a few ideas on the types of goals that you can set for your website.

1) Traffic Increase

The ultimate goal of any website is to capture an audience.
Example:

Set a SMART goal to:

S: Increase Traffic
M: By 30%
A: Be realistic – if you are currently getting 100 hits/ month, increasing to 600/month is probably realistic, expecting an increase up to 10,000 is probably not
R: Target the right traffic
T: Within 2 months

Sample Methods

  • Regular blog posts
  • Ad campaigns – Google AdWords, Facebook ads, Bing Ads
  • SEO Campaigns

2) Conversion Increase

If you have the traffic, but you want to see a higher percentage of that traffic become a customer, perform an action or make a purchase, you can set a goal to increase the conversions.

Example: 

Set a SMART goal to:

S: Increase contact form submissions
M: From 1% to 5%
A: Be realistic – it will be easier to make larger gains at the low end than the high end. 1%-5% is easier than 50%-55%
R: If your contact form generates leads then great, but if it is for general inquiries only you may want a more relevant conversion form to focus on such as a “Request a quote” feature or online purchase if applicable
T:  Within 2 months

Sample Methods

  • Improve “Call to Action” on your website – Contact forms, Download/Buy buttons
  • Tailored ad campaigns driving qualified traffic to the page of conversion
  • Make the “What’s In It For Me” (wiifm) clear

3) Increase Social Following

Social media marketing is great, but you need to make sure your efforts are visible. Social network growth is a constant goal and effort.

Example

Set a SMART goal to:

S: Increase followers on Facebook
M: from 150 to 1000
A: There are many methods for this, and the achievability and a wide range is attainable (see sample methods below)
R: Target the right social platform – ie; Facebook for consumer/hobbyists, LinkedIn for business to business
T:  Within 3 months

Sample Methods

  • Use an editorial calendar to start making more frequent posts to blogs and social platforms
  • Leverage advertising platforms on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
  • Create content people like to share

These are just a few ideas for goal setting for your websites. Do you have others you set for yourself? Are there any areas you would like explored at a greater depth?

Let me know in the comments.

Think Shovels
71 Hedgestone Cres KitchenerOntarioN2E3K5 Canada 
 • 1-888-976-0866

And the Winner Is…..

Congrats to Autom the Winner of our SEO Overhaul for a landing page, a draw that we held in conjunction with the Waterloo-Wellington Business Expo on April 10th.

Didn’t win? Don’t worry, we will still be sending you a complimentary SEO Review and you can always request one using the SEO Order Form here

Atum Financial Services | Winner of the SEO Review and Overhaul by Think Shovels

The One Thing every Business Website Needs to Have

I like to think of myself as a pretty web savvy shopper. I purchase products online, I choose service providers online, I run comparisons of products online, and statistics tell us I am not alone. See my post about my title of Online Business Specialist for more on that. The point is there is an overwhelmimg amount of data available to purchasers these days. Pictures, specifications, promos, pricing, availability and more. The processing of this information is great and done very rapid, but, and it’s a big but, if I don’t see any reviews the transaction is over before it even starts.

Here are some numbers to back this up

  • 61% of prospective purchasers read online reviews before they make a purchase decision
  • Consumer reviews are 12 times more trusted than descriptions from the actual company
  • Sites with 50 or more reviews can see a 4.6% conversion rate increase
  • 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews
  • Visitors who interact with reviews and customer questions are 105% more likely to purchase while visiting
  • Reviews produce an average of 18% uplift in sales
  • Conversion rates can be increased by nearly 67% by having bad reviews present

(Statistics provided by eConsultancy, Reevoo, Bazaarvoice, and eMarketer)

What Makes a Good Review

Businesses Need Customer Reviews on their Websites

 

 

There are certain elements we look for to make a good review. Just to qualify, by good we are speaking to the validity of the review more so than if it is a good or bad review.

1) What is being reviewed?

This needs to be clear. If it is a product, a service or a business, that -what- needs to be crystal clear.

2) Who Reviewed it?

It’s ok if you hide the contact information, but we need to see a name.

3) When was it Reviewed?

A date as to when the review was left is important. If you’ve ever booked a vacation online you know that the reviews can change drastically from year to year and so it is good to show a date to further provide validity.

4) Numbers

There is strength in numbers. Unfortunately unlike the previous elements, you can not enforce this but it is important to try and garnish reviews from your users in many forms  - follow up email, requesting them via phone, engaging on social media. Make it simple, and make sure they know you truly value the input

Adding Reviews to Your Site

If you are using a platform like WordPress, Joomla or Magento, you’re in luck. All of these platforms have readily available plugins that can add the functionality for you. One that we have used for customers on WordPress is WP Customer Reviews. If you are using a custom built application, or you can not find a plugin to suit your needs, you’ll have to point your developer to the Review Schema found at on Schema.org and/or check out this video from Google further talking about setting up Review Mark Up.

Conclusion

I will further elaborate on this topic, but for now make sure you are looking for ways to get customer reviews onto your site, and we are not referring to blips of text copied and pasted from Notepad, but real, properly formatted and marked up reviews that are recognized by both people and Search Engines. The benefit to you is going to be increased SEO effectiveness due to fresh, user provided content, higher levels of conversions and an overall improved customer experience.

 

Why I chose Online Business Specialist as my Title

[ googleplusauthor ]I’ve been meaning to start a column in the blog where I can just post thoughts, that although are on the topic of Web Development and Application Delivery, may stray into general business discussion, general life thoughts and or ideas. This is the first post, so welcome.

I was recently at a local business networking event where I was effectively charged with how is what you do worthy of being a company? The question was “how do you even make money?” and the undertone was “why are you here?”. Since Think Shovels is my digital agency that I am building, I took particular offence to this but still went about giving a well thought out response. I think that this impression may exist in the world beyond my local network and am going to share my thoughts on this here.

$18.9 Billion Industry

And the was just the value of Canadian’s online transactions in 2012. In Canada alone, 77% of internet users made some ecommerce based transaction with the average consumer spending approximately $1400. Not only is this a gigantic industry, only 50% of Canadian businesses are currently online, meaning this only has room to grow, and it will. Make no mistake, this is not going to be the dot com bust of the early 2000′s. Technology has come of age, and although security is ever increasingly a concern, consumer access to view content, make purchases and share their feelings and opinions is quite often within arms reach at any given moment. Computers, laptops, smart phones, tablets, smart accessories (watches, glasses), hand held gaming systems – all web enabled, always connected.

That in of itself should explain why we are here, but let’s go deeper.

The Online Business Specialist

Multi-facted – pulling it all together. Being effective online requires a strong marketing plan, a great web design, a well developed, robust platform and a highly available, stable hosting infrastructure. This is the discipline of being an Online Business Specialist.  Each part of the puzzle impacts the other in some way or another, and can not be mashed together without insight on each area. Understanding your goals, translating them into a marketing plan, understanding how the targeted demographic will react and engage with design elements that are supported by functions in the code and are secured and stable because of a hosting solution is an interconnected requirement to making your online business segment successful.

This is why I chose the title Online Business Specialist, this is what I do.

Conclusion and Why Am I here?

So what did I say when I was asked “How do you make money?” aka “why are you here” ? Just be professional. There are lots of people that claim to be able to build you a website, or do graphic design, or do social media marketing. Signing up for a WordPress account is not building a website, being a great artist in PhotoShop does not make you a web designer, and liking your friends photos and retweeting your favorite tweets does not count as social marketing. If you are not working with someone who is able to pull all of the elements together, you are not getting the most out of your online business and are greatly missing out on the giant opportunity that awaits businesses online.

 

 

 

 

Waterloo-Wellington Business Expo

We’re attending the 2014 Waterloo-Wellington Business Expo at Bingemans Conference Centre on April 10th from 1-8pm.

Event:
Waterloo-Wellington Business Expo 2014
When: 
April 10th 2014 1-8pm
Where: 
Bingemans Conference Centre,
425 Bingemans Centre Drive
Kitchener, Ontario
N2B 3X7

Show Exclusive SEO Savings

As an exclusive show special we are taking 20% off the first month when you sign up for any of our Search Engine Optimization Packages.
Swing by our booth to find out how our SEO Packages can help you increase traffic, search ranking and grow your online business! If you send us your website address using the form found on the SEO Proposal Request page, we will bring your review with us and you can come by to check it out.

We’ve team up with over 50 businesses to sponsor a number of impartial, informative and inspiring 30-45 minute seminars to increase sales, decrease costs or streamline your business.

 

Topics include:-

 

·         Advertising Strategies for Today’s Business

·         How to Delegate and Get Rich

·         Expand your Business through Franchising

·         Introduction to Effective Social Marketing

·         Professional Sales Techniques

·         Starting a Successful New Business

·         Introduction to the New Generation of Benefit Plans

·         Financing a New or Expanding Business

·         Buying the best Franchise for You

·         Tips to become a Wealthy Entrepreneur

 

For a detailed description of these seminars visit www.waterloo-wellington.ca and click on the yellow button at the top “Register for Seminars”.

We’re pleased to have this opportunity to support the local business community and hope to see you at our booth in the trade show portion and be sure to ask about our SEO Show Special!

cPanel & easyApache Configuration Management

If you manage 1 or more servers powered by cPanel, you undoubtedly have used their easyApache program to get the various Apache and php modules set up to suit your needs. If you needed to rebuild from scratch, or apply the same configuration on another machine, would you be able to quickly recall all the selected options and versions? Do you have a configuration management solution in place?

For most, the answer will likely be no. That’s ok, there are a lot of people answering no to that, but this is your chance to start to get it right. The road to proper configuration management can be a long one, and we get there taking baby steps, one after the other. While doing some configuration audits for a customer who needs to get his servers onto a consistent PHP/Apache build, we built this very simple spreadsheet that can be used as a template to gather your selected options in EasyApache. The time to fill it out is about 5 minutes per server on the first pass, and for any future change, you simply alter the values you selected or modified. Find the link below, but check out a few introductory thoughts on approaching configuration management, and helping the task seem less monumentous than it can initially.

Configuration Management, A Quick Introduction

Let’s take a step back. What exactly is configuration management. For the purposes of this article, configuration management is simply referring to managing the software and configurations that are applied to a server to make it do what you need it to do. It’s about helping you work in a known state, being able to repeat builds and get reproduceable results, cutting down on admin time and ultimately saving you money. This topic can be huge and is a major lead into full automation, but for now we are just dipping our toes in the water with some basic concepts around how to manage your configurations.

Don’t Manage Everything

This is probably where most start and fall off the configuration management bandwagon. When an administrator starts to think the various configurations on their system, the list quickly piles up. You have all the configuration files in /etc/, you have all the things in /usr/local/cpanel, and don’t even start on the bios settings. Stop and think this through.

1) You installed CentOS 6.5
2) You installed the pre-requisite cpanel software
3) You installed and set up cPanel
4)You ran easyApache to generate a custom Apache/PHP build
5) The end

From here we see that our configuration points we care about are:

1) The settings applied during the install – name, dns, ip, etc. Maybe you customized some of the software selections, but most likely you installed based on a static profile
2) Document the software that was installed and versions
3) Document the specific cPanel settings that were applied
4) Document the easyApache selections

The point is, if you have a known state of installing Cent OS 6.5 followed by cPanel version 11.40, you don’t need to document every single thing about the system for Configuration Management, only the changes you made to make the system capable of running your application.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

So what’s the point? Configuration Management has numerous, undeniable benefits, but the practical benefit is that things are repeatable. If you use the same software, same configurations then we can reasonably expect the same result. This will help ensure that your users have a consistent experience, and help keeps you as a system administrator sane by always knowing what the build looks like.

More Benefits ( a list, we all like lists)

  • Cut down troubleshooting time
  • Increase disaster recovery success
  • Consistent platforms
  • Makes planning upgrades easy
  • Lowers admin costs

Conclusion

If you’ve read through this and still feel you don’t need to manage your  configurations and would prefer to work in the wild wild west where every server is different and performance and results vary widely, by all means move along, but if you do see the benefits and want to learn more, sign up for our newsletter or grab our rss feed and stay tuned, we will expand on this toipic. For now, grab the audit template by filling out this form and give it a try on one of your servers.

 

cpanel Config Audit Template

Fill out this form to download the Audit Template.
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Web Development & Application Delivery Service Brochure

 

Think Shovels provides Web Development and Application Delivery

More promo materials have arrived!

 

Ever find yourself wondering “What exactly does Think Shovels do” ? Well now we have a nice printed brochure to help explain it.

 

Want to download and print one out? Simply fill out the form below and download it.

Be sure to share this page with anyone you know that might be able to take advantage of our services!

Brochure Download

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Banner Displays for the Waterloo-Wellington Business Expo

Think Shovels is attending the Waterloo-Wellington Business Expo at Bingemans on April 10th this year and we’ve been busy prepping for our first trade  show event! So far it has been exciting getting ready, but some of our promotional material and collateral is starting to arrive. Check out our new banner display stand!

 

Web Development& Application Delivery Specialists

 

Want more info on the event?

Check out the event site
D
ate: April 10th 2014
Time: 1-8pm
Location: Bingemans, Ballroom C & D -
425 Bingemans Centre Drive
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
N2B 3X7

Feeling Lucky?
Request an SEO Review and you could Win!

Request an SEO Review for a chance to win!

To celebrate St. Patricks’ day this year, Think Shovels will be entering all requests for an SEO Review into a draw for a chance to win 1 month of free webhosting.

How do you enter?

Simple. Just click this button and fill out the form!
Request a Free Analysis!

What’s Included in the SEO Review?

We review your site and give it a score from 0-100 on Search Engine Optimization that takes into consideration

  • Key Words
  • HTML Validity
  • Document Structure
  • Use of Meta tags
  • Speed optimizations

The output of this analysis is a ready to implement plan on how to improve your search engine rankings. 

Free Web Hosting Account!

By requesting an SEO Review between March 17th and March 31st, you are entered into a draw for a free Webhosting account for  1 month. Plan includes

 

Email Accounts 5
Bandwidth 5G
RAID Disk Space 200 MB
MySQL Databases 2
PHP 5.3.x+
Additional Domains 1

Get started today, request a free analysis!