Best Practice

Why Landing Pages Are Awesome

“So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!” ― J.M. Barrie

Landing Pages focus on a particular offer, discount, product, webinar, newsletter or article. They are widely used in Pay Per Click Marketing. A highly focused PPC ad linking through to a landing page just promoting that offer will greatly increase its conversion rate. Why? because they offer only the one thing that has sparked your interest in the beginning. Most of the time they won’t have links back into the site it belongs to as that is a distraction.

Types of Landing Pages…

Local Content
A very popular way of raising your position in the SERPs is to create localised landing pages. So someone searching for ‘digital marketing keighley‘ might be sent to a landing page focusing only on a business in Keighley who does Digital Marketing.

Social Content
A social media landing page is a great way to introduce who you are, what you’ll be tweeting about etc. This could also include your feed and a follow button. A great example of this in action can be seen here from Dave Lalor at Keybury. Yes he’s a client, a very well clued up one too.

Smart Content
Just as you would segment an email data list. You can segment your business into the types of industries or clients who would be interested in that particular area. Using a tool like Survey Monkey would allow you to survey your existing customers or a batch of potential new customers to find out what area of your business they would be most interested in. You would then follow-up with the most appropriate landing page for them.

Lead Capture
Capturing leads is what owning a website is all about. If you have an eBook, white paper or a free workshop to promote. A landing page which has a bulleted list that details, sells and demonstrates what they will gain from downloading it, a video of you talking about the salient point with images and customer testimonials. Will see your sign ups soar.

Advertising Conversion
As mentioned at the beginning, landing pages are widely used to increase the conversion rates of a pay-per-click campaigns. This also affects your web analytics by reducing your ‘bounce rate’ as the content is highly targeted.

Tools
There’s quite a few tools out there which will quickly allow you to create great looking landing pages for your PPC, website, social channels etc. The ones I have experience of are Unbounce and LeadPages. My favourite is LeadPages as it allows you to easily deploy to your own WordPress website.

What tools do you use to create your landing pages? do you have any other types or tips for landing page creation?

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By Steven Burles

Tracking KPIs in Google Analytics

“You can’t measure what you’re not managing.” ― W. Edwards Deming

KPIs or ‘Key Performance Indicators’ are a set of measurements reflecting what you as a business need to track. These KPIs could track performance or success. In this example we relate KPIs to Google Analytics and how you should be using it to easily track the performance on your website.

If you’re redesigning your current site, tracking KPIs should be considered during the build to ensure you have the correct pages in place that your able to track. These can then be setup in Google Analytics as Goals. Below, you’ll see some of my Goals setup in Google Analytics.

Tracking KPIs in Google Analytics

Google recently updated the Dashboard in Analytics so it’s now much easier to find. Just select the account you want to work on, hit Admin and Goals sits under ‘Profile’.

Goals in Google Analytics

Google Analytics Goals

So to summarise KPIs can be…

  • Indicators of Success
  • They can be presented in numbers or rates
  • Compared over time
  • Differ on industry and type of website

So now let’s look at some KPIs that relate directly to your website…

Conversion Rate: Tracks the number of visitors who have performed an action.

Goals Conversion Rate: Will display a count for the number of times a visitor has reached a page on your site that you have defined.

Type of Users (user defined): The user defined variable allows you to “label” a visitor if they complete a certain action on your site, such as making a purchase or visiting a key page. These labels are useful because they last across multiple visits to your site.

Bounce Rate & Time on Site: Very important pieces of information. Are visitors finding your content relevant? and how long are they staying to read it?

Type of Sources: This includes traffic from various sources and mediums such as Search Engines, Referring sites, Direct, E-mail or custom campaigns.

What are your KPIs? do you use Google Analytics to track them or do you use alternative software?

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By Steven Burles

Reduce Bounce Rate by Reducing Your Page Load Speed

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

If you’re looking at your analytics and wondering why the bounce rate is so high but you know for a fact you have excellent content. Page load time could be causing the issue. Users accessing a page on your site, on average are only happy to wait for 3 seconds before they get fed up and find something else. You may the best answer to their query ever. But if they have to wait to get it, they’ll move on.

So how do you reduce bounce rate?

A common cause for this could be your page load speed. If your site is heavily image based then you may want to look at further compressing them. If your on the WordPress platform then I can recommend SmushIt. If you’re using a lot of third-party applications that need to load in ie ShareThis or Wufoo. This will cause the load time to increase but a decision needs to be made on losing the functionality or replacing it with something that sits on your server.

One of the best ways to test your page load times is to use something like the ‘Website Speed Test’ on Pingdom. It’s free to use and gives you a breakdown of everything which is loading over time so you can pinpoint what it is that’s taking a while to load. Optimizing your page and checking back on Pingdom will get you to where you want to be.

Pingdom

Pingdom also has a great tool that will alert you if your site goes down. There’s paid versions of this but they do offer a free version for single websites. You can take advantage of it here.

What other tools do you use to monitor your page load performance? do you have any other tips for decreasing page load times?

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By Steven Burles

Custom vs Open Source Content Management System

“Most of what I say is complete truth. My edit button is broken.” ― Myra McEntire

First of all let’s just define what the difference is between these 2 types of CMS (Content Management Systems).

Custom CMS: A Content Management System which has been created and developed by the agency/developer who is building your website.
Open Source: A Content Management System which has been created and developed by a community of developers. Basically the source code is available for editing. Example WordPress.

Now there’s benefits to each of these methods but in my opinion only one clear winner. We get contacted by a lot of clients that wish to do more with their website but the costs they have been quoted by their web developers has been prohibitive because its a ‘Custom CMS’. Worse that that though let’s say you decide because of ongoing costs you want to move the site generally with an ‘Custom CMS’ the source code that runs the site resides on the web developers server. So effectively your website isn’t going anywhere. You effectively have no site and must start again.

I highly recommend prior to starting work with a new agency or web developer you ask them what type of CMS they intend on using. If they say its a ‘Custom CMS’ ask them why they recommend that as oppose to an ‘Open Source’. Also run through some scenarios with them ie so if I wanted to move the site elsewhere in a year could I do that? what if I wanted to add this functionality to my site can I do that myself?

The benefits of an ‘Open Source CMS’ is that its ever-evolving. I’m a huge fan of WordPress. There isn’t much you can’t do with it. Currently there’s over 26k plugins available for it that will do anything from a twitter feed to a full eCommerce shop. Its updated on a monthly basis and you can get ‘under the hood’ if you need to.

I’d be interested to hear of any experiences you’ve had with a ‘Custom CMS’ or if you can recommend any other ‘Open Source’ systems that you feel are on a par or better than WordPress.

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By Steven Burles

What is wireframing?

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ― Albert Einstein

Wireframing, or prototyping is a form of getting the bare bones of a website, app or software together. Its usually pretty basic, using squares, sample text and buttons. But the beauty of it is that they are interactive. So you can create an entire website and take your client through the pages. You can perform usability studies on it. You can use it to modify an existing site to see how things should sit. I also use it to generate ‘architecture maps’ at the beginning of a project.

Its much easier to change things around in a wireframe that it is to modify code or photoshop files. Certainly at Puddle, every site we produce starts as a wireframe. Here’s an example of what one looks like…

Wireframe Example

My preferred choice of software for wireframing is Axure. This is widely used by a lot of other agencies and tech startups.

Axure

But there are many other solutions out there that you can take advantage of…

Just in Mind
Just in Mind

Mockups
Moqups

UXPin
UXPin

Can you recommend any other wireframing software tools that you use? are they better that the ones I have suggested? why?

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By Steven Burles

Working with the client on Photoshop

“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” ― Albert Einstein

Sometimes during the creative process things can’t be explained over email, phone or even GoToMeeting. Sometimes its good to get the client in front of photoshop to try things out. Some people really do struggle with visualisation so unless they see it you can go through round and round of amends without actually making any progress.

Now some designers hate this experience. Sitting in front of a client on Photoshop catering to every wim. It doesn’t have to be this way though. I find that its a great way to actually show the client why something they suggested doesn’t work. Usually when they see it they agree. I find it a particular good method to use when involved with large groups of stakeholders, but not too large. Too bigger group can end up turning it arguments amongst themselves and nothing is achieved.

These processes I find run better if you follow a few simple rules…

  • Time Limit – put a timescale on the meeting. Usually 1-2hrs is enough to get to where you want to be.
  • Final Say – someone in the room needs to have the final say. Everyone will have an opinion but ultimately someone must say ‘This is the way we are going’.
  • Respect – remember the designer does this day in and day out. Something he/she has done may not make sense to you but to them it will. Design is very personal and everyone likes different things.

What experiences as a designer or client have you had during this process? did it yield the results required or did it turn out to be a nightmare?

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By Steven Burles

Why buying a Kindle will make you smart

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” ― Groucho Marx

If your like me you read a lot, and if you don’t have a Kindle already you’ll have a lot of books in boxes in the loft, living room, bedroom and anywhere else you can find to store them. With a Kindle you can have all of those books on one device that takes up no more room than the palm of your hand. Guess what else happens? you’ll read more, a lot more, and quicker too. I’m finding myself going through 2-3 books in a weekend. It will also expand your vocabulary, improve your communication skills, develop your analytical skills, boost your memory and will enhance your ability to focus.

There’s also a great feature called ‘Personal Documents’ that allows you to send ebooks or pdfs you haven’t bought on Amazon directly to your Kindle.

I can also highly recommend you signup for ‘Goodreads’. A great place to track what your reading, rate and review a book and get recommendations on what to read next. You can check out my profile here http://www.goodreads.com/stevenburles.

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By Steven Burles

Why you should retain domain and hosting for your website

“Start with the end in mind.” ― Stephen R. Covey

Its something we come across a lot at Puddle. Covering various ways and means of managing or not managing your own domain name and hosting. It’s particularly difficult when a client has previously had a domain registered with another agency as generally and rightly so the agency won’t release the domain name to us to manage. We’ve even heard of some agencies withholding the domain name from the client and demanding a ridiculous amount of money to transfer it. It’s also an issue if you want to make amends to your website yourself. A lot of agencies won’t give you ftp access as they may have other sites on their or custom code that they don’t want you editing or copying. These are just some of the issues you may come across. But all of this can be avoided by following the below points.

Register the domain
Do this yourself, don’t give it to the office junior or a mate of a mate to do. As 6 months down the line when you want to amend something you’re looking at time wasted on email and phone to find out who has it. Most importantly ensure it is registered in yours and your company’s name not some agencies you got to do it. Visit UK Reg to buy and register a domain name. If your domain is already managed elsewhere and out of your control, I recommend transferring it to yourself immediately. All registrars will have detailed instructions on how to transfer a domain name into your account.

Setup Hosting
Most domain name registrars will now offer hosting as well. But you must ensure that whoever you buy hosting from has good support. Your after a response via email pretty much straight away and you need to know that you can call someone should you need to. Check out the customer reviews before committing. We actually manage our domains separately from our hosting. We can recommend Clook very highly.

Email
If possible, host your email elsewhere. This just saves time and your email when you come to a point that you’d like to change hosting providers. We use Google Apps for Business. Easy to set up via the MX Records on your domain, accessible from anywhere and has a huge capacity for storage.

That’s it follow these simple best practice’s for managing your domain and hosting and you won’t go far wrong.

I’d love to hear about your own experiences of managing your domain name and hosting. Can you share any points in addition to the ones above that would benefit others?

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By Steven Burles