There are certain social marketing best practices that should be observed in order to spur success, especially when brands are first starting out.Brand marketing requires a few essential skills for success. In addition to a creative eye and a knowledge of the company's audience, marketers must also effectively navigate social media in their pursuit of brand awareness.
According to a survey from Echo Managed Services, social media has become the preferred channel in many cases, including when customers need to voice a complaint, request information or make a booking. A company's social media presence could represent a first impression for potential clients, making it all the more vital to the brand.
Social media marketing is a different animal from email or commercials, and comes with its own set of best practices. Let's take a look at a few expert tips:

1) Getting started with Social Media: Know your audience

It's critical that a company has an in-depth understanding of its audience, while understanding that the audience changes in different media. Since millennials make up a large segment of the social media audience, it's essential that social media marketing be tailored appropriately.
"Identify who you should reach and what your aims are," Harvard Business Review contributors Laurence Minsky and Keith A. Quesenberry wrote. "[S]tart with social listening and optimizing monitoring capabilities. Find out where current and potential customers are talking and what subjects they are discussing before creating strategies to influence brand perceptions and identify sales leads."
Social listening allows you to leverage the insights gleaned from social networks to help marketers align campaigns with their audience's current preferences and interests.

Brands should focus their efforts on one or two social media networks for the best results.
Brands should focus their efforts on one or two social media networks for the best results.

2) Choose networks that will best support the brand and its customers

Codeless contributor Brad Smith noted the importance of prioritizing certain networks over others. Focusing on one or two platforms that best suit the brand's image – as well as clients' needs and preferences – will make efforts more impactful. Don't try to be everything to everyone.
"Each social network you manage will cost you exponentially more time, money and energy. And contrary to popular belief, social media isn't free," Smith wrote. "It takes tremendous resources to do it properly, and has enormous opportunity cost."
This truth isn't meant to scare businesses off. Social media marketing can be hugely valuable and impactful for an organization, but it's helpful to start small and maintain focus.

3) Follow others' examples, but don't get caught up

When first starting out, it can be helpful to take a look at what other brands are doing. After all, mimicking the successful strategies of other businesses could prove beneficial. However, it's important that this doesn't detract from the main focus: your brand.
Smith pointed out that certain companies excel at social media content. At the same time, though, he stressed that following the competition too closely could impact decision-making.
It's critical to strike the right balance. A brand's social media presence should consist of both established and new marketing approaches.
"The best tactical ideas and campaigns haven't happened in your industry yet. So use arbitrage marketing to find out what new, untapped opportunities you can seize and gain an early lead," Smith recommended. "Look at what people are doing in other industries and try to experiment with similar tactics."

"It's important that posts are aligned with the brand's voice."

4) Make sure posts and content reflect the brand's voice

When crafting the company's first few posts, it's important that these align with the established brand voice. For instance, if the business is more straight-laced and professional, posts should have this tone as well. However, if the company is known for its fun, laid-back personality, this should come through via the social media presence.
Experts have noted that users would rather connect with enterprises that appear less as an institution and more human online. Showcasing the brand voice and personality on social media can help establish trust and loyalty with customers.

5) Remember that social media can lead customers to your website

Finally, it's essential to keep in mind that while social media may be a first stop for users, the brand's website is the target destination. For this reason, it's critical that the main webpage has the necessary support to handle all customer activity with top performance. When you are posting to a social platform and link back to your website, try linking to different pages (not only the home page). This will give your audience more insight as to who you are.
A great way to add engagement and entice others to click through and visit your website is to; "Be Social". This is social media, not the board room. Comment on others posts, like new pages, respond to comments and answer questions. This is part of the human  interaction that makes social media so influential in building your business.
In order to ensure the company's website is at its best, work with an industry-leading hosting provider like Hostway. Hostway has a wide range of solutions and services, and represents a one-stop-shop for hosting. To find out more, contact us today.

Today's e-commerce industry is more competitive than ever, but when retailers have a few key elements in place, they can better position their brand for success. Hostway partner CurveCommerce is an eCommerce Online Marketing and Strategic Consulting Company focused on developing powerful Magento websites with superior selling techniques and consolidated email services. CurveCommerce Chief Marketing Officer Tom Ziter is sharing some of that expertise in a three-part blog series beginning today.
Various analytics packages, including Google Analytics, give you the opportunity to easily track visitor performance on your website – information that can help you grow your business if regularly monitored. Here are a few tips on what to watch and how to react:

Read & React

Once a month, analyze your results both from an overall perspective and dig deeper on the various traffic sources. Check the current month and compare it to the same month last year. Compare stats quarterly in the same manner. This will help you compare key trends.
Make sure your analytics package is properly set up so the information you get will be accurate. Among the items to use are analytics page tagging, remarketing tagging, eCommerce funnels and “Thank You” page tagging for conversion. Each checkout stage should also be tagged, as well as each item and category property.

Key Metrics to Track

Here are some high-priority items from an overall and source perspective:
Traffic – Look at the unique traffic by various sources (such as SEM, Direct, Email, Referral, and Social). Find your most productive sources based on orders and sales, and test ways to improve performance. Then invest resources in what’s working.
Orders & Sales – Among the first things you’ll check, view orders and sales also in terms of traffic source. Separate new and returning traffic to refine this metric.
Conversion – This is your most important metric – increasing it leads directly to growth. It’s displayed as a percent of unique traffic. Parsing this by various traffic sources may reveal variances based on the quality of traffic coming to the site. Improving conversion rates requires serious effort, relating to improving the top product pages on your website. Top product page views also indicate the products that visitors want most – which may not align with the top sales pages. Consider testing promotional incentives to get visitors to complete transactions immediately.
Cart Adoption – Getting visitors to put something in their shopping cart ups the game in terms of qualification. This calculation represents unique carts as a percent of unique traffic. To improve click action on the site, provide product details with compelling reasons for considering selecting an item.
Abandoned Cart Rate – Qualified visitors put items in the cart, then leave the site before finalizing the checkout process. Pursuing these abandons can capture more sales, and more repeat customers. Do this by testing ordering incentives on the view cart page, streamlining the checkout process and setting up an abandoned cart follow-up email program.
Checkout Conversion Funnel – Measure the abandon rate of each step of your checkout process, then fix whatever may prevent users from ordering. Simplify checkout pages that are creating abandons to combat buyer remorse and procrastination.
Channel Performance – Analyze all the major channels (report in Google Analytics) by traffic, order, sales and conversion to identify the most viable sources of traffic. Attack sources that combine to represent 80 percent of sales or orders by improving the offering and overall website conversion. Use the Source report for a further breakdown of top channels.
Source Performance – Identify the channels so you can learn more about the top performing sources. If a single channel represents most of your sales, identify the sources within that channel to improve by looking at key metrics.
While those are eight key metrics to monitor, here are a few more to also consider:
AOV – Average order will vary but it can make a big difference from a sales perspective. Ways to increase this measure include boosting the focus on top products, and improving cross-sells and upsells.
Time on Site/Pages per Visit – These indicate the stickiness of your site. The more time spent and pages viewed, the more they will buy – so generate more clicks and keep them involved.
Bounce Rate – How frequently do visitors leave your site from each entry page? To reduce your bounce rate, refine the most frequented entry pages with clearer calls to action. Announce what you’re selling and show why visitors should investigate. Give yourself a better chance to sell.
Mobile Performance – Having a mobile-optimized site has become very important. Monitor such traffic, orders and sales as a percentage of the total. To capitalize on this traffic, the most frequented entry pages must be mobile-friendly. Ensure the top items of each page are very clear and actionable.
Category and Sub-Category Page Views – Identify your top 25 pages in terms of views, and focus on improving these with top product orientation and strong click action.
Products Purchased – See what people are buying – again monitor and improve the top 25 initially.  Make sure these top products are in prime positions throughout your website.

More Sophisticated Stuff

Once you have ample data from consistently reporting on the items above, then you can move on to more sophisticated reports:

Top, Top, Top

If you report on and focus on improving the top areas of opportunity, you will definitely improve your online business. Your website is way too big to not have a strong focus.

Dig Deeper

Your overall metrics will change based on the type of traffic driven to your site. A focus on generating new customers may yield poor metrics initially, whereas driving returning customers can seem easier. But both are important to do. These details get you the real insight as to how you are doing.

When it comes time to go above and beyond baseline best practices for driving website traffic, it can be important to get a little creative.Social media and blogging have become staples of search engine optimization – but these efforts alone aren't necessarily enough to boost traffic to a company's website. To go above and beyond these baseline best practices, businesses need to get a little creative.

So how else can companies effectively drive traffic to their websites? Let's take a look at a few best-kept secrets for SEO and increasing visitors:

Press releases: Remember these?

In the past, press releases were much more popular – any time a company released a new product, launched a new service or welcomed a new staff member, it would issue a press release to share the news. However, these pieces have taken a back seat to blogs and other content in recent years.

"Press releases can be great ways to capture the attention of a brand's audience."

While press releases may seem outdated to some, Egg Marketing and Communications President and Marketo blog contributor Susan Payton noted that they can be great ways to capture the attention of a brand's audience and drive website traffic.

"A press release isn't only a way to announce information – it's also a great little ball of SEO," Payton wrote.

In her post, Payton provides several best practices for creating effective press releases and support SEO. Click here to find out more.

Linking strategy: Earning inbound links

Hubspot contributors Jessica Meher and Shannon Johnson underscored the importance of inbound links – links from other websites that lead to the company's site. Having a linking strategy that includes links to other pages on the company's site as well as other websites can do a lot for SEO and driving visitor traffic.

While inbound links are important, they can be somewhat difficult to cultivate. Meher and Johnson suggest including high-quality, educational content to encourage other organizations to link to the site. In addition, it can be helpful to submit the site to online directories and have the company's staff members write guest posts for external blogs.

Feature in-depth articles

As noted previously, blogging has become a mainstay for SEO and driving traffic. Even this tried-and-true strategy has room for improvement, however.

In the past, many companies observed a quantity-over-quality approach, where brief blogs and content pieces were published on a daily basis, if not more frequently. Now, however, search engines like Google appear to prefer quality.

According to statistics from Moz, 6 percent of Google search results are related to more in-depth articles – an impactful percentage when you consider the sheer number of Google queries taking place every day. In addition, Moz contributor Cyrus Shepard noted that websites featuring longer, more in-depth pieces see a considerable boost in visitors.

"While this doesn't seem like a huge number, the articles that qualify can see a significant increase in traffic," Shepard wrote. "Anecdotally, we've heard reports of traffic increasing up to 10 percent after inclusion."

Longer articles not only drive traffic, but can also help educate and inform readers, particularly those looking for more than brief blurbs on current news and industry trends.

Including video content is a great way to capture users' attention in search results.
Including video content is a great way to capture users' attention in search results.

Include video content

Video content can also be helpful for capturing potential visitors' attention – Shepard pointed out that when a video clip appears in search results, "our eyes go straight to them."

Videos also present the opportunity to showcase products, offer visual tours of company facilities or educate customers on the business's processes or strategies.

Offer a winning user experience

Finally, it's critical to ensure that once visitors reach the site, they have the best user experience possible. While design and functionality elements are important here, one of the top ways to guarantee a beneficial UX is with proper website support.

An industry-leading hosting provider like Hostway can offer the computing resources your company needs to keep its website performing at its best. To find out more, contact Hostway today.

simple_onlinemarketing3Search Engine Optimization: Three words that scare the pants off many online marketers and business owners. Why is SEO such a scary concept? Search Engine Optimization is daunting for many reasons.

The Perfect SEO Plan Doesn’t Exist

There is no step-by-step list provided by any of the leading search engines that tells you how to implement perfect SEO. No guide guarantees to increase your website traffic, get your webpage(s) to the top of search engine results pages, or increase your ROI. When dealing with SEO, the person responsible for implementing change understands Search Engines and their intent. This understanding requires your SEO professional to grasp not only how white-hat SEO works, but also black-hat tactics – so they can recognize those tactics and how to approach and correct them.

Getting Results Requires Patience

Good SEO takes time and is a paced process. It is not an overnight fireworks show that provides you with more leads, more visitors and more customers. If you are not willing to put in the time and effort to get a great and lasting benefit, then you will not see the success that you aim to achieve. Due to the delay in optimal results, you are forced to put a lot of trust in the person providing your SEO services.

Bad SEO Exists – and Does Damage

The not-so-knowledgeable Search Engine Optimization so-called expert is to be feared. How do you spot a bad SEO person? There are a few consistent red flags – including the word “expert” itself. While an expert may know everything about something and have no more left to learn, both the web and Google's algorithm are constantly changing. Most reputable Search Engine Optimization professionals will use the title ”specialist” instead of expert. If you come across an SEO “expert,” turn and run –you don’t need that kind of expert.

Stop Digging Your SEO Grave

If your Search Engine Optimization tactics are deemed shady or unethical, or your website is seen as attempting to manipulate the Search Engines – tricking them into giving a higher ranking without providing value and substance to viewers – you may find yourself here today, gone tomorrow. My advice for anyone who has dug themselves into a SEO grave with Google: STOP DIGGING! Reach out for help if you truly have no idea what happened. Make sure to provide as much information to your SEO professional as possible. The more they know about what led to your disappearance from search results, the better the chances that they can fix your ranking and make things good with Google.

Bad SEO Advice is Everywhere

When dealing with Search Engine Optimization, there is so much a person needs to know to utilize best practices properly to boost a company’s online presence. There is an overwhelming amount of information available to absorb. Unfortunately, a large amount of that information isn’t worth absorbing. Bad tactics and horrible advice are everywhere, ready to cause far more harm than benefit.

It can feel impossible to differentiate legitimate advice from garbage when it comes to SEO, so here’s one last set of tips:

These very basic techniques will get you going and keep you in Google’s good graces.

Let's take a look at a few of the top ways your business can optimize its website and gain a competitive edge in its respective marketplace.Once a retailer has established its online store, the job isn't done. Continual work goes into ensuring this essential resource is doing the most that it can. Not only the venue where customers to purchase items, an e-commerce site represents the online face of a company. It's critical to ensure that optimization on the site is an ongoing process.

So, how do you identify the weaknesses of a store's website?

 

"One of the most important lessons a retailer can learn is the significance of a first impression."

Load Time: First impressions are everything

One of the most important lessons a retailer can learn is the significance of a first impression. If a new customer has a bad experience with the brand or its online store, they are unlikely to become a loyal client. Therefore, it's critical to ensure that shoppers can appreciate the site from their very first visit.

The design and user experience of the site deserve special attention. Crazy Egg contributor Sharon Hurley Hall noted that one essential aspect is page load time. One study showed that retailers only have two seconds to capture a user's attention, and every second after this mark can result in a 10 percent loss of visitors.

"A slow loading site equals lost revenue: It's a simple equation," Hall wrote.

When optimizing website speed, work with an expert hosting provider to ensure that the site has the proper backend support. It may be necessary to increase the company's current resources to prevent performance issues.

Ensure easy navigation

When it comes to first impressions and overall UX, navigation is also key. Hall noted that customers can get frustrated when a site isn't easy to navigate, potentially costing them opportunities for conversion.

"If they can't find it, they can't buy it," noted Smashing Magazine contributor Christian Holst.

The website should have distinct categories shoppers can browse, as well as an accessible search bar for targeted queries.

Product catalog: Don't remove out-of-stock items

It's also imperative to showcase available inventory in a way that helps shoppers understand what they'll be getting. Larger photos can really make a difference, as increasing image size can boost sales.

In addition, brands shouldn't take items that are out of stock off the site. Shoppers may still be searching for these products in particular, and keeping them on the site can help capitalize on these searches, boosting the site's ranking. Retailers can offer alternatives to these out-of-stock items, which can extend a visitor's time on the site and prevent them from leaving empty-handed.

Hall pointed out that product descriptions can be enhanced as well. Copying and pasting generic product description information straight from the manufacturer won't do anything for the site's search rankings or visitor engagement.

"Avoid generic descriptions; instead, make sure the description identifies the problem the product solves for the reader," Hall advised.

Retailers shouldn't overlook the shopping cart when optimizing their site.
Retailers shouldn't overlook the shopping cart when optimizing their site.

Improve the shopping cart

For many customers, the shopping cart is the point in the transaction when stumbling blocks can creep up. Information from Radware shows that a staggering 70 percent of carts are abandoned before checkout, and a mere 2 second delay in the process can boost abandonment rates by as much as 87 percent, Hall reported.

"People abandon shopping carts because they run out of time, because they don't want to create an account or because the process is too complex," Hall wrote. "Sometimes they leave because they get a nasty surprise about shipping costs or they can't pay with their preferred payment provider or method."

Besides using industry-leading shopping cart software, there are other ways to improve the website's cart. Hall suggested providing a step-by-step map for customers so they better understand where they currently are in the transaction process. This can include simple cues like, "Shipping information," "Payment details" and "Confirm and submit order."

It can also be helpful to allow shoppers to checkout as guests as opposed to forcing them to register an account.

Finally, brands should ensure payment is simple. Displaying the total cost of the purchase – including any tax and shipping costs – can help prevent sticker shock. The company should also provide support for a range of different payment methods, including debit and credit cards as well as digital wallets.

Optimization efforts are never done

Finally, it's important to keep in mind that optimization is not a one-and-done project – it should be an ongoing process of continuously improving the site. New technologies and e-commerce strategies are emerging all the time, and this only scratches the surface of available optimization techniques.

Hostway has put together this informational graphic to help further guide these efforts. To find out more, contact Hostway today.

While many users don't give a second thought to a company's domain name, consumers and businesses alike might not realize the considerable impact this URL can carry.An online presence is an indispensable opportunity to connect with new customers and cement relationships with existing clients. But building a website from scratch can be quite an undertaking. What needs to be done, and where do you start?

At Hostway, we understand this struggle. We've helped countless small businesses get their online presence up and running. With this expertise, we created a helpful checklist of the items necessary to establish a site that will support the brand's overall success. Let's take a look:

1) Register your domain name
The first step is to register the company's domain name – the web address at which customers can find the website. The domain name should be short, concise and reflect the name or nature of the organization. Within our checklist, you'll find a special tool that enables you to see whether or not the domain name you want is already taken. With a little tweaking, you'll surely find a domain that will suit your business.

Building a website can be a difficult process, so we've created a checklist to help.
Building a website can be a difficult process, so we've created a checklist to help.

2) Select a hosting plan
Next, you'll need hosting services to support the website. The host can manage the servers and other necessary computing equipment while ensuring that you and your customers can access the website.

Hostway offers several different hosting plans perfect for every organization. Whether you have little experience with websites, or you're more technically savvy, we have a plan to fit your needs. This way, you can select one that makes it easy to configure support, or one that gives you more granular control over your computing resources.

3) Build your website
Once the domain and hosting are in place, it's finally time to build the actual website. Hostway includes an easy-to-use Website Builder with each of our hosting plans to help facilitate this process.

When it comes to building your site, there are a few best practices to keep in mind:

"There are several strategies you can to drive traffic, including email marketing and submitting the site to major search engines."

4) Drive traffic
Next, it's time to drive users to your website. Several strategies should be employed, including email marketing, submitting the site to major search engines and having it listed in local directories.

In addition, Web Savvy advised using keywords in content to better support search engine optimization and writing content headlines that will captivate the reader without being spammy. Headlines or titles should directly relate to content and include keywords, but only when it makes sense to do so. Forcing in keywords can do more harm than good when it comes to user engagement.

Social media is also a powerful tool. A well-timed post that is relatable to clients while still supporting the brand can make all the difference. Circle S Studio pointed out that solely promotional posts won't garner as much attention as sharing blogs, eBooks, webinars or other materials.

5) Add e-commerce
Finally, you can choose to add e-commerce capabilities to the site. This includes a shopping cart and other special features that enable users to make purchases directly from the website.

Hostway offers several industry-leading e-commerce solutions, including shopping cart, merchant account and SSL certificates.

To find out more about building a website, establishing an online presence or adding e-commerce capabilities, contact Hostway today.

If your brand doesn't have an optimized online presence that makes it easy for customers to find the business, you could be losing out on a wealth of opportunity and revenue.In today's technology-centered environment, a company's online presence is paramount. Studies have shown that the vast majority of consumers will do online research before making a purchase. If your brand doesn't have an optimized online presence that makes it easy for customers to find the business, you could be losing out on a wealth of opportunity and revenue.

This is true in both the consumer and enterprise sectors: Acquity Group's 2014 State of B2B Procurement study found that 94 percent of company purchasing administrators do some type of online research before completing a transaction. This includes 77 percent who use Google to search for specific items and brands, 83.4 percent who utilize a business's website for research and 34 percent who use third-party websites.

A separate study from Spire Research found that a robust online presence can have a direct effect on revenue generated by a business. Business Today reported that more than half of the companies surveyed — 54 percent — experienced increases of 20 percent or more in their profits after establishing an online presence.

But the question remains: How do you create an online presence that is most beneficial for your brand?

Let's examine some of the most successful strategies for establishing an online presence:

Don't skimp on the content
First and foremost, it is critical that a company delivers consistent, up-to-date content. A blog can go a long way toward keeping consumers informed on industry trends and organizational news. But, if this content isn't updated consistently, it's not as valuable for readers. An out-of-date blog can also communicate a negative message to viewers, suggesting that the brand is lazy or inconsistent.

"Don't let your blog fall to the wayside and go stagnant," advised Hubba contributor Sara Carvalho. "If you have an upcoming feature or product that you're excited about, talk about it!"

This can also fill content holes, and prevent the brand from including "Coming Soon" or similar pages. Instead of waiting for a product or feature to be available, provide customers with as much information as possible in the meantime.

Keep branding consistent across channels
These days, online presence includes a variety of social media and other channels. If your business has a presence or advertises in a range of locations, the branding should be consistent, using the same logo, tagline or other brand identifiers.

"It is common for a business to use several channels to reach out to customers," noted R. Kay Green, president and CEO of RKG Marketing Solutions. "It is very important to display a consistent branding strategy across all online channels. This creates brand recognition and helps to reinforce the brand."

Ensure ease of use 
Once customers have discovered your website, the brand should make it easy for them to find what they need. This means making the platform responsive and simple to navigate. Carvalho advised not only making general contact information easy to find, but including links to social media profiles too.

This extends to mobile as well. A consumer that has to work to navigate the website on their smartphone or tablet may seek out a competitor instead.

"Scrolling left and right to read a sentence on your phone or tablet is a nuisance," Carvalho wrote. "A good responsive site puts simple navigation at your fingertips. Your audience may not thank you outright for it, but they will give you a mental high five!"

Guarantee resources are available
Having a robust online presence also requires that these resources are always available to customers. What good is a company website that is constantly down?

For this reason, your brand should be sure to partner with a hosting expert that can guarantee support. To find out more about online presence, contact Hostway today.

Seeing how your business compares with today's industry benchmarks is a beneficial way to gauge where your brand stands in the market.The e-commerce industry always changing. Emerging technology, shifting customer demands and habits all make it difficult for brands to keep up. So how do you ensure you're addressing current needs and maintaining a favorable position in the marketplace?

What benchmarks can you use to compare your business with today's industry leaders? Let's examine the top gauges in e-commerce and gain insights on best practices and advantageous strategies:

Are customers able to help themselves?
Is your brand targeting the right kind of consumer? While some shoppers may appreciate the ability to reach out to the brand and receive assistance every step of their journey, others might be more independent. Your brand should be sure it offers self-service for this latter type of customer.

According to 17th Annual Mystery Shopping Study from E-Tailing Group, 83 percent of today's top 100 retailers have a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page on their site. In addition, 77 percent of those polled list the hours of operation for their brick-and-mortar locations. Small Business Trends contributor Rieva Lesonsky noted that this basic information should be included on every retailer's website.

Is the shopping cart easy to use?
A brand's shopping cart is heart of its e-commerce platform. Retailers should ensure that theirs allows for easy use and order editing, and that it includes all the information a customer will need before they finalize their purchase. For instance, shoppers should be able to see shipping costs, taxes and any other important details before they complete the transaction.

E-Tailing Group's study found that the vast majority of retailers — 98 percent — also enable the shopping cart to auto-populate with pertinent details from a customer's profile. Fifty percent have taken this one step further with one-click checkout, offering an even more streamlined buying experience.

It's also important to ensure that the shopping cart will perform optimally on any platform. Currently, 82 percent of top brands utilize a universal shopping cart that can be used on any device; this represents a 9 percent increase from the previous year.

Can top customers be identified?
It's also imperative that the brand be able to recognize and address the needs of its top customers. Top customers are defined by RJMetrics as meeting the following criteria:

Knowing who your top customers are can help you ensure that you're not only identifying these individuals internally, but that the brand is rewarding them for their patronage as well.

"Every month, pull a list of your top 1 percent of customers and do something special for them," suggested Janessa Lantz, Bigcommerce Blog contributor. "Write a note, send a gift, invite them to a special event. Try showing some love to your big spenders and just see what happens."

Does the brand have adequate online presence?
In addition to addressing the needs of loyal customers, your brand should also have the capacity to attract new clients. In the e-commerce industry in particular, much of these efforts will hinge upon a robust online presence that ensures your brand is where your customers are. A streamlined responsive website is imperative, as is social media interaction.

To find out more about the importance of online presence, contact the experts at Hostway today.

This year will bring considerable growth for the retail sector, particularly as brands work harder to offer a customized shopping experience based on consumers’ preferences.Each year brings new patterns to the retail industry that can be leveraged to drive business strategy for companies with the capability to track them. Examining these trends can help retail leaders decide where to allocate funding, what sections of their organization need improvement, and how they can provide the best experience for their customers.

Experts have predicted that the following trends will help shape the way consumers do their shopping this year and beyond. Recognizing these patterns can put your company in the best position for success.

Strong retail growth for dollar, big box and department stores
According to the Chicago Tribune, experts expect considerable growth in the retail industry this year, including expansion for dollar stores, big box retailers and department stores. Considering that the industry's sales typically reach $2.6 trillion annually and make up 70 percent of the U.S. GDP, this is good news for more than just retail vendors.

In particular, dollar stores, mass merchants and department stores will see significant growth. The Tribune noted that there is rising demand for these types of retailers, both online and at brick-and-mortar locations. Kantar chief economist Frank Badillo noted that the bulk of this market expansion will be driven by younger consumers who have experienced considerable employment gains recently.

"As a result, smaller stores, from neighborhood convenience stores to upscale specialty stores, will be a key growth category because they appeal to younger people who tend to live in urban environments, dine out and shop on an as-needed basis," Tribune reporter Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz wrote.

Social media will provide purchasing power
In the past, social media has always offered a beneficial branding and marketing platform for retailers. A further shift is under way, particularly as top websites like Facebook and Twitter include buy button options enabling customers to make purchases directly from the platform. Currently, retailers like Target and Nordstrom are testing out these abilities through Twitter.

"A customer who'd like to purchase an item she sees on the retailer's feed can tap on the Like2Buy link found on…[the] Instagram profile," Vend explained. "Clicking on the link will take her to the retailer's Like2Buy site, which looks similar to its Instagram page. When the shopper taps on an image, she'll be taken directly to its product page, where she can find more details and proceed to checkout."

Social media buying features provide a more unified shopping experience for customers, especially as social media becomes increasingly popular with consumers. Thus, retailers must ensure their online footprint supports their brand and their clients' preferences.

Personalization through beacon technology
In addition to boosting online efforts, technology is on the rise in brick-and-mortar locations as well. Beacon systems - sensors placed at digital touch points in retailer's stores with the capability to connect with shoppers' mobile devices through wireless standards like Bluetooth - are being increasingly deployed. These systems allow retailers to better engage customers through a personalized in-store shopping experience.

This is often a way for brick-and-mortar companies to compete with e-commerce giants. Just as online retailers offer customized recommendations for consumers based on the items they view and purchase, beacons will enable brands to do the same in their physical locations. Vend noted that several vendors have already seen success with the beacon system.

Mobile will continue to be an essential channel
The further rise of smartphone and tablet use has significantly changed the way consumers connect with brands and shop. Mobile will continue to play an important role in retail this year, particularly as brands offer more applications for mobile ordering, loyalty programs and mobile payment.

One of the biggest changes seen in mobile retail is the increase in mobile payment systems like Google Wallet and Apple Pay. These technologies utilize near field communication systems to enable customers to pay from their phone instead of using cash or payment cards. These require specialized consoles at in-store locations to allow the use of these mobile payment technologies. As more smartphones come equipped with NFC, it will be important for companies to support this new payment trend.

Overall, this year will continue to bring considerable growth for the retail sector, particularly as brands work harder to offer a customized shopping experience based on consumers' preferences.

google-youtubeSocial networking sites such as FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and YouTube provide inexpensive, effective marketing for products and services. One of the primary reasons businesses market through these channels is to gain higher page rankings for their websites. A higher ranking means the business site will appear higher in search engine results — increasing awareness of their products and services.

Are Google and YouTube Related?

Yes, indeed. Google owns YouTube, so YouTube videos rank highly in Google search results. Google’s secret algorithm to determine the ranking of YouTube videos is similar to that used for webpage rankings – based on determining the authority of a video channel or webpage. The higher your YouTube video is ranked, the higher its authority, and the higher it will appear in a keyword search.

Will My Popular Video Help My Website Rankings?

Only indirectly. Outgoing backlinks on YouTube contain “nofollow” code, so YouTube channels are useless for building backlinks that directly affect external page rankings. A popular video channel on YouTube may not directly affect your website rankings, but there will be an increase in traffic to your site.

This may result in more clicks, link-backs, and comments, which can then increase the ranking of the site in keyword searches. Because of this increased traffic, your popular YouTube video can indirectly have a very positive effect on your website rankings.

How Do I Increase My Video’s Popularity?

No matter how much you promote your video, viewers must find value and meaning in its content, or it won’t be popular enough to make a difference.

Using social networking platforms effectively to promote your business requires constant updating and promotional activities. It can create many hours of work outside of core business operations, but when done properly, the value added in the form of brand awareness and authority is worth the effort.

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