Category Archives: research

9 Easy and Efficient Google Search Tips

google-76522_960_720I use Google to search for a lot of different things many times every day. You probably do, too. But, unless you are a super-techy geek, you probably use Google in its simplest form. You type in a few words and keep trying new words and phrases until you locate what you’re looking for.

I’ve often suspected that there is a better (easier and more efficient) way. With a little unsophisticated searching, I discovered that there is…and these tips are a cinch to learn. Continue reading

How to Communicate Your Vision With A Designer

woman-791874_640I love being a graphic and web designer! It allows me to dwell at the intersection of art and business in a way I find deeply satisfying. I get to flex my creative muscles and provide a service that many small businesses are desperately in need of, all at the same time.

For most businesses, I know that time is money, and that arriving at a brand that “feels right” is essential to the future success of that brand. However, the businesses I work with don’t necessarily spend a lot of time with creative types. Sometimes, even if they have a clear vision of what they want, they have trouble communicating that vision to the designer, often simply because they don’t know the right kind of information to provide, or the right questions to ask. Occasionally, they know they need “something better,” but their vision of what that means specifically for them is murky.

That “feels right” quality I mentioned earlier is a highly subjective thing. Even if you are communicating clearly, it can take time to hone in on what’s best, as your designer adjusts what “feels right” to them in order to meet what “feels right” to you. And if you aren’t sure what you want, then finding the right feel is difficult at best.

The good news is, whether you know what you want yet or not, you can cut down on how many revisions are necessary in order to achieve your desired result by carefully considering what you are looking for in advance, providing appropriate info when you begin working with a designer and remaining open to the iterative process that the back-and-forth nature of design entails. Continue reading

Exploring A/B Testing

hand-457335_640One of the biggest questions small business owners have about their online marketing is, “could we be doing this better?”

You want your website, landing pages, sales pages, and online ads to be as effective as possible. You might find yourself questioning the images, copy, layout, colors, fonts, buttons, the amount of text used, pricing strategies, and other elements on each page, wondering if more people would opt-in to your offer or buy your product if something about the page was different.

“Maybe the headline didn’t grab their attention….”

“Perhaps the photo we chose didn’t convey the right feeling…”

“Would a yellow button get more clicks?”

“Should we include the price?”

It’s common to second-guess your choices and wonder if a little tweak ‘here’ and a slight change ‘there’ might result in higher conversions. After all, your ultimate goal  is to ensure your marketing efforts are successful and profitable.

So how can you gain more clarity about what is performing well and what can be improved?

A/B testing, also known as split testing, is a way to get the best performance out of your web, landing, and sales pages. Put simply, A/B testing, starts with two test versions of a page – version A and version B – each with the same goal, which serves as a metric to measure success. Version A serves as your ‘control’ in the test, which might be your existing page that you are hoping to improve. Page B serves as the experimental version wherein you test variables.

For example, both site A and site B might invite your site’s visitors to sign up for a free consultation. To test which version gets better results — in this case, more requests for a free consultation — you would send some of your visitors to site A and some visitors to site B.

Assuming site A is your existing page, site B would include one or, at the most, two changes. You might add an arrow pointing to the submission form, change the term ‘consultation’ to ‘discovery session,’ add a photograph of yourself next to the form, or add a bright-colored submission button.

The next step is to run two versions simultaneously and measure the number of requests per page. Here are some examples of what could happen next:

If version A uses the term ‘consultation’ and version B uses the term ‘discovery session,’ and you notice fewer people opt for a ‘discovery session,’ stick with ‘consultation’ – that is not a change you should make.

If version A does not include your photograph and version B includes a friendly professional headshot, and you find that the headshot prompts more requests, you know your smiling face is a keeper. Now add your photo to the new version A.

Now that you are using your photograph in version A, version B will also include your photo. But now, try changing the color of the submission button from gray to a vibrant green. If the green button gets more clicks, keep the green button and add it to version A.

Now version A has evolved to include both your smiling face and a bright green button. Why not add a big green arrow to the experiment as well? Maybe that will capture the attention of more visitors. Run your A/B test with the green arrow on version B. Did more visitors sign up with version A — the one without a green arrow? The green arrow must have been too much — perhaps it cluttered the design or it turned off your visitors in some way. Ditch the arrow, and keep going.

This is just one simple example of how you can use A/B testing to optimize the performance of your website. You can use a similar process to test your bounce rate (time spent on a page), click throughs, sales, and more. You can also use split testing on advertisements, social media, and nearly every aspect of your online marketing.

If you want to use A/B testing to increase the success and profitability of your marketing efforts, be sure to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Always test two versions simultaneously. If you run version A one week, and version B the next week, you have already changed a variable (timing), which can muddle your results.
  • Keep your variables to a minimum. Only change one element at a time, or two at most. Otherwise, you are not going to know which tweak contributed to different results.
  • Let the test run long enough to gather sufficient data. Sometimes you might feel anxious about exposure while testing an element, but be sure not to abandon the experiment without giving it a chance to run its course.
  • Start with a plan. In advance, know exactly why you are split testing, what you are split testing, and what results you hope to gain.
  • If your goal is to optimize for conversions, let the testing serve as the ultimate guideline. Just because you like the way version A looks better doesn’t mean you should ignore the fact that version B converts better.
  • Try not to let it get out of hand. Sometimes you can go overboard with split testing everything, to the point that you are compromising your big picture goals. A/B testing is not a magic solution for everything, but just one tool.
  • Be careful. Sometimes A/B testing can go awry if not handled properly. You need to be in control of who sees what and when. Otherwise, visitors can see conflicting or confusing information.
  • Get help. Doing A/B testing effectively is going to take an investment of time and possibly money. Get familiar with the process and technologies or hire a team like Solamar to run the testing for you.

With the right approach, A/B testing can ensure that your marketing and promotions efforts are getting the best results possible. Small businesses often do not have the budget for A/B testing technology used by bigger companies with large marketing budgets. We suggest that you start by making smart decisions about how to plan and run your A/B testing effectively. Contact us to get started.

Market Research for a Niche Business

1389643_72008877You have a passion for a specific niche, one that is waiting to be tapped (or so you think). You quickly jump into opening your own online business to break into that niche. You spend a ton of money, time and sweat to open an office, have someone develop a professional-looking website for you, pay for web hosting the site, and hire an assistant.

But unfortunately, the customers are not knocking down your door, and your income is marginal, at best. Even after a year or two, it’s more of a hobby than a real business.

Is it worth saving? What could you be doing better? Continue reading

Research Like a Pro — 7 Handy Tips for Exploring a Subject on the Web

blogging-336376_640Back in the day, you had to go to the library to do any and all research (except for the stuff you could find in the family’s trusty, but seldom-used, household encyclopedia). When you got to the library, you had to thumb through card catalog and the periodical directories. Then, you had to go to the shelves to find your books (filed according to the Dewey Decimal System) or take your magazine list to the reference librarian. It could take hours and hours…maybe even several trips back and forth.

Sure, you can still do research that way. In fact, you can even find what you want at a library near you or anywhere in the world by looking it up on WorldCat.org (a catalog of library catalogs).

Now, you have another alternative that doesn’t require leaving your house (or even getting dressed, for that matter). Any time, day or night, if you want to find out all sorts of information, all you have to do is just sit down at your computer. If you’re on-the-go, you can even investigate topics of all shapes and sizes on your smartphone or pad. It couldn’t be easier or more convenient to research blog topics and website content. Right?

My answer is a resounding, “Maybe!”  With everything at your fingertips, the new problem is knowing where to start. And even more importantly, you have to determine what’s reliable and what’s total B.S. Just because it’s on the Internet, certainly doesn’t mean it’s true or even accurate.

Doing research the right way could be the key to your success. After all, people come to your blog for unique, high-quality content. And you certainly don’t want to disappoint.

  1. Start with a basic search engine
    Google, of course! Just type in your query and wait for the hits to roll in. That’s just a start.
    So, don’t stop there. Also try some of the other top search engines, like Bing, Yahoo! Search, Ask, and AOL Search, to conduct your research. And feel free to experiment with some of the others, as well, including WOW, Infospace, DuckDuckGo, and Contenko. If you’re looking for a different (and smarter) kind of Q & A site, I suggest you give Quora a try.

    These search tools will provide you with access to nearly all published websites made available to the public. They will also display and rank websites for you according to topic relevancy, based on the keywords you enter into the search engine.

  2. Don’t forget about Social Search engines
    Socially generated content, through Twitter, forums, and Facebook, is the fastest growing source for fresh information on the Internet. You need to make use of it and tap into its power. Get real-time results on social trending on Topsy. Plus, you can also search on SocialMention, BoardReader, Omgili, SimilarSites, and HARO—Help A Reporter.
  3. Use the right keywords…and be specific
    It’s important to use very specific keyword phrases to locate information. For example, if you are looking for information on bullying, enter specific keywords, such as “how to know when a child is being bullied,” instead of a generic phrase such as “bullying,” which may bring back thousands of results for unrelated websites for adult bullying, cyber bullying, and more.
  4. Review several pages of results for valid information
    Just because it’s at the top of your Google search doesn’t make it reliable. Consider that it’s at the top of the list, because entries are written with keywords that push it to the top…it’s part of a revenue-generating marketing pitch and not necessarily because it’s true.

    Look beyond the first page…and even beyond the first five pages. Not only will you reveal more sites to check out, but you will also be able to check the validity of your research in more places. Plus, you’ll get a more well-rounded search.

  5. Use current information for your Internet research
    Watch for time-sensitive data and out-dated or inaccurate information. For example, if you’re researching a specific type of computer software, use information from the last few weeks or months…not from several years ago.
  6. Cite or list all of your Internet resources
    You should copy the exact link you used (like https://solamaragency.com/2014/04/6-ways-to-use-youtube-to-bolster-your-local-seo/). You can also insert a hyperlink in MS Word to the cited resource (for example, “If you want to bolster your local SEO, you can…”)
  7. Make sure a source is reliable
    In her post for Hubspot, Cat Simmons delivers tips for being more sure that the information you find is true:

    • Consult sources that have a good reputation—Look for information through a well-established site that is affiliated with a recognized organization, preferably one that you have already heard of. This could be a well-known magazine or newspaper site, a familiar corporation, a university, or a government site Be wary of sites selling themselves as so-called experts or gurus, with no evidence or years of experience to back it up. Also, steer clear of sites that look unprofessional or disorganized.
    • Research more than one source for the information—Check out various sources on the subject or question, to see what the general consensus appears to be. If they generally agree, in broad terms, then it’s more likely to be the accepted truth. Beware of several sites showing exactly the same information or sites with it just slightly rearranged, because the information was probably copied…meaning that an original, unreliable source was propagated.
    • Look for feedback relating to the information—Often, reliable information will include fabricated feedback and/or testimonials. To determine if the feedback is true or fabricated, check up on the sources via websites mentioned in the posts, with links to other supporting sites.
    • Select information that has been “peer reviewed”—This means that other people with related experience have reviewed, screened and/or tested the material and the claims before they have been released to the public.
    • Trust your gut—From your own life experience, you’ll often get a gut-feeling if something is reliable or just doesn’t “make sense” or “add up.”

What’s the easiest and most dependable way of all to do the research for your website or blogs? Have Solamar do the research for you! (BTW, we’ll also write, design, and post your blogs and website!)