Archive For: March, 2014

How To Find A Great WordPress Theme (And What To Look For)

How To Find A Great WordPress Theme (And What To Look For)

If you have decided to take the leap and are moving to a self-hosted blog, congratulations! You are making the right decision. Sure, nothing beats free, but when it comes to hosting your own site, you get to be in the driver’s seat.

WordPress.com and Blogger are great if just want to test the waters with blogging, but for some it is just not an option. If you want to build a brand, you need brandability — and that means losing the restrictions that come with using a hosted blogging platform.

Why WordPress.com Is A Bad Idea

You are not in control. Bottom line, when it comes to your website that is unacceptable. Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com) reserves the right to display advertising on every site hosted on their platform. While this might not be a big deal to some, the reality is you are putting in all the hard work and the ads placed on your site don’t benefit you. In fact, these ads will probably be siphoning at least some of your visitors away. Not good.

Why You Should Choose A Self-Hosted WordPress Blog

You are in control. See the dynamic change? When you host your own site you are not bound by the terms and conditions of any free service. This means no ads, no limitations on the content. You can do as you wish and build the site you want.

Of course, there still is the whole website issue. You’re going to need one, and if a custom solution is not in the budget then you are going to want to pick out a theme for your new site.

How to Find the Perfect WordPress Theme

Fortunately, there are quite a few places to find the perfect theme, but the one you decide on depends on what your goals are for your site.

The most popular theme marketplaces are: (put screenshots of marketplaces here)

Themeforest

Themeforest

WooThemes

Woothemes

StudioPress

StudioPress

What to Watch Out for When Choosing A WordPress Theme

Just because a theme looks great doesn’t mean it will have the greatest functionality. You want a theme that not only looks good, but performs just as well. The code should be clean and well-organized. But above all, the theme you choose should follow best practices for SEO.

Here are a few quick pointers:

1. Choose the right developer.

The most important thing you can do is choose a theme from a developer that offers ongoing product support and updates. The last thing you want to do is invest your time in a theme that is not being actively updated.

2. Make sure you’ll have support.

Most developers will have some level of support for their themes. Look for a theme that has a strong development team behind it with plenty of resources and tutorials on getting started.

3. Read the reviews.

Nearly every theme marketplace has individual reviews for each product. A theme with little or no reviews has not been tested in a production environment. You want to choose a theme that has plenty of positive reviews.

4. Double check for SEO support.

SEO is obviously a biggie. While it does take some work, you should check the demo theme and make sure Title tags display correctly, and every page has an H1 tag. If possible, crawl your website with Moz or Raven Tools. Alternatively, you can use a free tool called Screaming Frog.

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Social Media: The Secret Sauce to Strategic Forum Marketing

Social Media: The Secret Sauce to Strategic Forum Marketing

Social media is something to leverage. Most people understand this. Bloggers do. Marketers do. For some reason, forum owners don’t seem to get it. Am I qualified to make that statement? Absolutely.

We host forums. That’s what we do.

I’ve been asked for tips on getting forum traffic more times than I can count, but what I’ve consistently seen across the board is a lack of participation in social media. Which, if you think about it, is ironic because the main focus of a forum is community.

This post is not going to cover how to boost participation on your forum. I’ll save that for another post, but if you have time you are welcome to look back on a few different posts we’ve done on starting a forum.

For this post, I want to focus on how to get people to your forum using social media.

Let’s start with Facebook.

Using Facebook for Forum Traffic

Don’t ignore the power of Facebook. With over a billion people on the site, there is a huge audience to tap into. The first thing you should do is start a fan page and post content that is relevant to your audience. Don’t skimp on design — a well designed fan page can significantly boost engagement and encourage people to interact with your page.

Posting links to threads on your forum is important, but remember to not overwhelm your fans. Also, don’t post links without adding an image that either expands on the topic, or is simply eye-catching. Posting a series of text posts or links with ugly images won’t help get people over to your forum.

Using Twitter for Forum Traffic

Twitter is a social network that you can afford to share all of the threads on your forum. In fact, it’s very easy to setup your Twitter account to automatically tweet new threads. We have created a step-by-step tutorial to guide you through the process.

Using Google+ for Forum Traffic

Depending on your niche, Google+ can be a good place to get started. Beyond the SEO value of sharing links on Google+, there are a variety of communities built around different topics. It might be a good idea to get involved and meet people in your niche. One thing to keep in mind is that, much like a forum, you are going to want to participate. Don’t just post a link and run.

Using Pinterest for Forum Traffic

If your forum has a resource section or some particularly popular threads you should consider adding them to Pinterest. All you need to do is create some catchy graphics that tie into the topic. Then, “pin” these on Pinterest and link back to the thread on your forum.

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10 Local Marketing Strategies

10 Local Marketing Strategies

Local marketing can have a huge impact on your business. If you have a brick-and-mortar location it is an absolute must. But, even if most of your business is done online you can still benefit from local marketing. The more exposure you have in your local market, the more word-of-mouth business will come your way.

We’ve outlined 10 local marketing strategies that can help get you there.

Add Schema.org markup to your site.

Schema.org is semantic markup of data that helps search engines make the internet more structured and intelligble. Schema.org helps search engines identify local businesses, events, reviews, products and more through a simple standard used by all major search engines. It requires that you add a snippet of html to your web pages so that search engines can display microdata in search engine results.

Raven Tools has a free tool that allows you to easily create the correct microdata for your site. You can also learn a great deal more about rich snippets by reading this post from Moz.

Create and verify your Google Places page.

Create and verify your Google Places page.

Google Places “7-pack” in local search results.

If you want any chance of showing up in the coveted 7 pack in Google, you want to make sure that you have verified your Google Places page. The first thing you should do is create a Google+ page for your business. Next, verify your company address by requesting verification. You can verify your business by phone or by having a postcard mailed to your location.

Add Authorship to your site.

More and more marketers are talking about Google Authorship. No doubt you’ve seen people’s picture search results. That picture adds clicks. Site’s that display author pictures in search results get higher click-throughs, which means more visitors. One of the most touted benefits of adding Authorship to your site though is the increased SEO value. Jon Morrow published an epic resource that will walk you through everything you need to know about Google Authorship.

Google Authorship

See how Google Authorship makes your site stand out in the SERPs?

Claim your listings.

Local SEO is all about NAP: Name, Address, Phone. Those three ingredients are very important if you want search engines to show your business in local search results. Start by claiming all of your local listings. You can use GetListed.org to search local listing sites for your business, see where you’re listed, and double-check that your information is correct. It’s very important that all of your listings reflect accurate information.

Advertise with print.

Don’t ignore the power of print, even if your business is mostly online. First things first: get yourself some business cards. Having a business card to hand prospective clients will help seal the deal. It invokes trust. It makes your website seem “real”. Plus, you don’t have to worry about them remembering your domain.

Join local business organizations.

Local business organizations are great hubs for networking and promoting your business. Not only will you be able to connect with local business owners, you’ll be able to get a link to your website from the members page. Links like these are usually valued highly by Google and will help push you closer to page 1. If you have the time to network and want a good local presence, you need to do this.

Encourage testimonials on Yelp and Google+.

BIA/Kelsey, along with ConStat conducted a study that found nearly all consumers (97%) use the internet to get information on local businesses. Google+ and Yelp are two sites that consistently rank high in local search results. People trust third-party review sites, especially Yelp. In order to get the most out of creating a presence on these sites you need to encourage your customers to leave testimonials. There is no secret science to getting reviews. When you have a happy customer, ask them to leave a testimonial. Be direct. Most people understand that reviews are good for business, and if they are happy with your service most will be glad to leave you a review.

Get active on social media.

When you are active on social media it builds trust with your target market. A website can be a very stale place. Other than your blog, things don’t tend to change much. And unless you are blogging everyday, there won’t be much activity for your visitors to check out (unless you have a forum). Social media helps bridge that gap and gives your visitors a peek behind the scenes, so to speak. It also encourages people to get in touch.

Join a local Meetup or host your own.

Meetup is a wildly popular site that helps people find people who share their interests. There are no shortage of groups online you can join, and you can search by topic or keyword. You shouldn’t have any problem finding a relevant group. Start by attending a few Meetups yourself so you know what to expect. Get used to networking and meeting new people, and if you’re really bold start your own.

Build links to your site.

Your website needs backlinks. When another site links to you it gives your website credibility. If you are building high quality links from relevant sites you can start increasing your organic search traffic from keywords that relate to your business. This will help you move up in the search results. There are many ways to do this: directory listings, guest blogging, and participating in forums are a few ways.

Have you used local marketing to boost your business? What was the hardest part?

10 Local Marketing Strategies (Infographic)

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Why Great Web Design Matters

Why Great Web Design Matters

You only get one chance to make a good impression.

Your website can either turn people into customers, or turn people away. There is no middle ground. Design plays a huge role in how people think about your brand. Your design should stand out. Your design should grab people’s attention. But above all, your website should be designed to get your visitors to take action.

Studies show that the average adult attention span is a mere 8 seconds. This means you only have seconds to capture your reader’s attention. Of course, there are a few tricks you can employ to improve your website and boost conversions.

Go Responsive

More and more people are accessing the internet through smartphones and tablets. If your website does not work on a mobile phone there is a good chance that you are missing out on visitors. A mobile website is not enough. Ideally, you want your website to be responsive. This will allow your website to scale to any size and display perfectly across any device.

Lose the Clutter

A noisy website offers too many distractions. More choices are not always a good thing, especially on your homepage. With little time to capture the interest of your visitors, you want to make sure your website is laser focused and directs visitors exactly where you want them to go.

If you have too many banners on your site — get rid of them.

Add Call-to-Actions

This is how HubSpot defines a call-to-action:

A call-to-action as an image or line of text that prompts your visitors, leads, and customers to take action. It is, quite literally, a “call” to take an “action.”

A good place to put your CTA is above the fold — make sure it’s immediately visible without having to scroll down. You can also put CTAs after your posts or along your sidebar.

Cross-browser Compatible

This is a biggie: Make sure that your website works correctly across all major browsers. The big three to pay attention to are Google, Bing, and Internet Explorer. You should also check compatibility with Opera. There are online tools you can use to quickly check your website, or you can simply download each browser and check yourself.

Publish Content

Google favors sites that publish unique content. Blogging for your business increases search traffic and gives you more things to share on social media. According to HubSpot, 57% of businesses that blog have acquired a customer directly from their blog.

Make Checkout Easy

Did you know that 67.89% of carts are abandoned during checkout? That is a HUGE number. Even trimming that percentage down a little bit can have a significant impact on sales. The more steps you have in your checkout, the more people are skipping out on making a purchase.

Want the cold hard numbers? Expedia increased profit by $12 million by eliminating a single field from their checkout process.

One field.

If that doesn’t show you that even the small things count, I don’t know what will.

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