Webinar Notes – Blogging – 12/17/2009

admin wrote this on Dec 18 |

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blog

I hope everyone enjoyed the webinar last night on blogging. I’ve included some notes from the session below.

Getting Started with Blogging

3 Step process:

  1. Install
  2. Configure
  3. Design

Installing your blog

If you don’t have a host like BlueHost that has a simple WordPress installation feature, then you’ll have to follow WordPress’s Famous 5-minute Installation

Configuring your blog

The most important things to remember here is that you want to make your blog “Public” by making the neccessary selection under the Privacy settings. After you’ve done that you’ll want to make sure your Permalinks are set up properly so that the links to your blog posts are keyword rich. To do this, set the “Common Settings” to use a custom structure of “/%category%/%postname%”.

One of the last steps in configuring your blog is to install plug ins. Here is a list of plug-ins that you’ll want to install:

  1. Akismet – blocks spam comments
  2. All in one SEO Pack – helps your posts be keyword rich
  3. Google XML Sitemaps – builds a “map” of your site ans submits to Google and other search engines routinely.
  4. Subscription Options – or something like it that allows people to subscribe to your blog.
  5. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – Shows a list of related posts at the bottom of each post. Great for keywords
  6. Sociable – or something like it that allows people to book mark your site on social sites.

Designing Your Blog

When it comes to making your blog look pretty you have a few options.

  1. Free Themes – search within WordPress to find and install free themes
  2. Premium Theme – use a site like Templatic to find some really nice premium themes
  3. Custom Theme – use a site like Elance.com to find a WordPress freelancer who can make a theme that matches your website

I’m looking forward to the next webinar where we’ll look at how you can measure website conversion rates using Google Analytics.

Automated Bridal Shop Marketing: Part #1 – Your Lead Machine

admin wrote this on Nov 8 |

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gears

This is the first article in a series entitled “A Systematic Approach to Bridal Shop Marketing“. In this topic we’ll provide an action plan for effective web site design, optimizing your site for Google, and how to increase your web site search rankings. The latest issues of Vows Magazine has an article on understanding what brides are searching for online. In this post, I’ll add some action steps that you can perform to achieve more search engine traffic.

When companies explore the idea of creating a web site, many simply have a web designer convert their paper-based brochures into a “web site”. The end result is beautiful, but the content is static and void of interactivity. Visitors to these sites typically click around for a few minutes and leave. If the site owner is lucky, they’ll convince the visitor to pick up the phone and call. However, in reality most visitors leave, never to return. These “Brochure-ware” web sites have low visitor loyalty and typically have a low conversion ratio. Why? Because these sites are full of the same old marketing speak and void of any content that engages the visitor.

In this article, we’ll outline an action plan for turning your website into a lead generation machine. If you have a website like the one mentioned above, using the techniques outlined in this article will result in more traffic and more leads.

Getting Found

Before you can begin converting visitors into prospects, you must have visitors. The most effective way to drive traffic to your website is through search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO).

At the core, there are 2 approaches to SEM: paid, and non-paid. Paid SEM involves placing advertisements on search result pages. These ads appear at the top and right hand side of the search result page. With non-paid SEM, your website’s link appears in the actual search results. This is commonly referred to as organic or natural search placement. Paid search will have quicker results with less traffic, but may carry high costs for competitive keywords/key phrases. The organic approach has the potential to drive far more traffic to your site at a much lower cost.

Consider the following heat map for Google’s result page:

google heat map

Some interesting points here are:

  • Organic listings capture 75% of the traffic
  • The first page captures 89% of the traffic
  • The #1 result captures 42% of the traffic

So you want to be in the “HOT” area of that heat map, huh? Well, first things first. Google must be “taught” about the content of your website before you can achieve a high ranking. To do this, you’ll want to make sure you’ve perform the following steps. These steps should be followed in order.

Step #1: Identify your keywords

Select keywords based on search volume, relevance, and competition. Use Google’s Keyword tool or WordTracker to figure out which keywords your website should be optimizing with. The key to selecting the right keywords is balancing search volume with relevance and competition. One trick I’ve used is to setup an Adwords campaign with as many relevant keywords as I can gather. Each Adwords campaign will show you the actual number of impressions per key phrase. This trick allows you to use actual data to properly select keywords.

Step #2: On-Page SEO

There is a lot that goes into On Page SEO. I’ll touch on some of the most important items and provide some resources at the end for those looking for more detail. Ultimately, the goal of On-Page SEO is placing your keywords where Google looks for them. I recommend that your website does not use a Flash intro as this usually makes it difficult for Google to navigate to your content. Any text on your website should be “readable” by Google (i.e. no images containing text).

Follow these guidelines for on page SEO:

  • Page Title – The title of your web page helps search engines understand what your web page is about. The page title appears as the main text of your search result link as well as in the top left corner of the browser window. This should be no more than 60 characters (including spaces) and should include your key phrase. Separate multiple key words/key phrases with a pipe character (“|”). Here is example of a title tag: <title>Bridal Shop in Arizona |Arizona Bridal Shops</title>
  • Page Description – This tag provides a description for your web page. Use your key phrases in this section twice. Rumor is that Google doesn’t weigh the description as much as you may think. The goal here is to use word that contains your keywords as well as encourages the reader to click you link. An example of a page description is: <meta content=”Anita’s Bridal was voted the best bridal shop in Arizona in a contest that included all bridal shops in Arizona.” />
  • H1, H2, H3 tags – These are the heading tags that emphasize text on your web page. Use 1-3 heading tags per page that contain your keywords. The goal is to break up your text in to sections and include an H1, H2, or H3 as a heading. An example would be: <H1>Arizona Bridal Shop celebrates 25th Anniversary</H1>
  • First and last 25 words of the page – Place you keywords in the first (heading) and last (footer) 25 words of your page.
  • Bold your keywords – This should happen at least once.
  • Italicize or underline your keywords – This should happen at least once.

As mentioned earlier, this is by no means an exhaustive list of On Page SEO techniques, but these steps are a good first step if you haven’t spent time doing this. For those interested in more information on SEO, I recommend the following resources:

Once your website has been optimized for your keywords and key phrases, you can now begin your Off Page SEO. As a general rule of thumb, 75% of your time should be spent working off of your site and 25% on your site. This means you should be working to build links to your site from others once it’s been established and optimized.

Step #3: Off-Page SEO

Many SEO experts agree that Off Page SEO is the single most important step for achieving a high ranking. Google determines your site’s relevance to a search term using a complex voting system known as PageRank. The more websites that link to yours, the higher your website’s PageRank. Links from larger sites like Microsoft.com carry more weight than links from less important sites. Off Page SEO involves getting as many credible sites linking to your site as possible.

Follow these recommendations for Off Page SEO:

  • Create and distribute content – Create articles that relate to and include your keywords, then distribute them to the following 3 websites: ezinearticles.com, goarticles.com, and buzzle.com. If this is too much work, use a service like isnare.com to distribute your articles to hundreds of directories.
  • Create and Distribute Press Releases – Follow the same technique in the above recommendation to distribute press releases. If you aren’t familiar with writing press releases, use a service like elance.com and someone will gladly do it for $50.
  • Submit your website to directoriesdmoz.org, business.com, aboutus.org, and others that allow for free links.
  • Link Exchange – Find others that blog about your favorite topics and ask if they’d place a link on their site to yours.
  • Create a blog – Google loves fresh and original content. A blog is also a good way to build trust among your customers. What better want to get inbound links than having someone linking to your original and thought provoking content!

As your website climbs the list for your key phrases, you will begin receiving more traffic. The next 2 posts in this series will center around converting your visitors into prospects and measuring your conversion results.

Follow the links below for the rest of this series:

  1. Part 1: Your Lead Machine
  2. Part 2: Conversion Principles
  3. Part 3: Measuring Conversion

Stay tuned via Email, RSS, or Twitter. You are not going to want to miss this series.

Automated Bridal Shop Marketing: Intro

admin wrote this on Nov 4 |

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bridal-pos-software

This post begins a series on how bridal retailers can establish a ‘system’ to manage their marketing and customer relationship efforts. Before we begin outlining the system, let’s discuss how marketing has evolved.

I (and many others) believe that we are in the middle of a dramatic change in the way businesses effectively promote their products and services. A decade ago, our basket of marketing tactics might have looked something like this:

  1. Billboards
  2. TV/Radio commercials
  3. Print Ads
  4. Leads lists

These techniques, based on interrupting the consumer, have become less effective as our society established tools to block “outbound” messages. Caller ID, TIVO, iPod/MP3 players, and SPAM filters have all contributed to the decreased effectiveness of these marketing channels.

Brides have begun shopping (and learning) in a whole new way and it is our job to adapt. Brides seek out their information using search engines (Google). The average bride performs dozens of searches per day and will sit behind her desk gathering information for hours before she visits a bridal shop. She’ll spend time compiling a list of shops to visit. Will you be found?

With this premise established, I plan to outline a system for managing “inbound” marketing efforts over the next few blog posts. Here are some questions to think about while waiting for the first installment:

  1. Is your bridal store positioned to leverage advances in technology to effectively spread the word about your products and services?
  2. If a bride searches Google for “bridal shops in <your city>” what page do you show up on?
  3. What are you doing to convert every bride that visits your website into a lead?
  4. What is remarkable about your bridal shop’s brand?
  5. What are you doing to nurture your leads after you’ve established a rapport?
  6. Does your bridal shop software allow you to communicate with your customers and leads on their terms?
  7. What are you doing to turn your brides into evangelists for your shop?

Stay tuned via Email, RSS, or Twitter. You are not going to want to miss this series.

Follow the links below for the rest of this series:

  1. Part 1: Your Lead Machine
  2. Part 2: Conversion Principles
  3. Part 3: Measuring Conversion

Automated Bridal Shop Marketing: Part #2 – Conversion Principles

admin wrote this on |

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image courtesy of Roadside Guitars

This is the second article in a series entitled “A Systematic Approach to Bridal Shop Marketing“. In the last article, I showed you how to build your bridal shop lead machine. If you’ve completed that step you are now driving tons of traffic to your web site and it’s time to start thinking about what you want all those visitors to do. Whenever I consult with folks about the design of their website, I always start off with the same question. “What is the purpose of your website?” So, what’s the purpose of your site? If you answered that by saying “to impress brides or help brides learn more about my shop”, then I challenge you to rethink that.

For non-e-commerce sites, I have yet to find a better purpose than converting website visitors into in-store traffic. Studies have shown that the most effective way to convert a site visitor in to a lead is with a clear call to action that can be performed immediately.

The days of web users randomly surfing the web is coming to an end. The Web is a selfish place. People don’t have time to read the same old sales messaging about beautiful and exquisite gowns. Besides, they’ve already visited a hundred other sites with essentially the exact same wording. Web surfers today scan pages looking for something specific. Most have no interest in links such as “What We Do” and “Who We Are”. They only care about what you can do for them. Keep this in mind when you are creating your web content.

Great web content is active. It lets you buy, subscribe, donate, apply, submit, contact, discuss, get help, or get involved. Every time you write a piece of web content you should also write at least one call to action at the end of that content.

A link is a call to action. Think carefully about your calls to action. Are they clear and precise? Are they making the right statements? And, most importantly, will they result in more foot traffic in your bridal store.

You have to tell your users what they can do on your site. Avoid rhetorical questions and get to the point. “Request an Appointment”, “Watch a video”, “Sign Up”, “Join Us”, are all effective call to action statements.

So what are the top 3 call’s to action on your website? If you’d like to share your calls to action, add a comment to this post!

I’ll close this post with a case study of our shop’s website (Bel Fiore Bridal an Atlanta Bridal Shop) as an example. Take a look at this excerpt from from our home page and then read the reasoning behind and the placement of these calls to action.

Atlanta Bridal Shops

If you look closely you’ll see 3 calls to action on the home page. Each targets brides in various stages of the buying cycle. The main call to action is “Request an Appointment”. This is aimed at brides who are ready to start visiting bridal shops. The next call to action is “Sign up for a free bride tank”. This is aimed at the bride who is still surfing the web and assembling a list of atlanta bridal shops that she’d like to visit. We want to be one of those shops, so we encourage her to engage with us by giving her something tangible to leave our site with. The final call to action is to connect with us via social media.

One important thing to note here is the placement of these calls-to-action. User studies show that people digest web page content in the shape of an “F”. So you’ll see our primary call to action is right in the middle of the page with a BIG BUTTON, followed by the sign up form and social media to the right.

As an exercise in examining your calls to action take a look at these sites and try to locate their calls to action:

Project Management Software – http://basecamphq.com/

FreshBooks for Blackberry – http://www.bookkeeperapp.com/

The Knot – http://www.theknot.com/

Follow the links below for the rest of this series:

  1. Part 1: Your Lead Machine
  2. Part 2: Conversion Principles
  3. Part 3: Measuring Conversion
  4. Pre-Appointment trust building and differentiation
  5. Fostering post-sale word of mouth

Stay tuned via Email, RSS, or Twitter. You are not going to want to miss the continuation of this series.

BridalLive (Bridal Shop Software) – Version 1.0 SHIPPED!

admin wrote this on Oct 25 |

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bridal point of sale software - shipped!

We’re pleased to announce BridalLive version 1.0 has SHIPPED! Thank you to all the bridal shop owners that have helped shape BridalLive’s version 1.0 release. We couldn’t have done it without you. You’ve helped us stay true to our mission of making BridalLive the easier way to manage your bridal shop.

Mike from Ella Park Bridal was critical to the early creation of many of the features you see today. Rachel and staff from Bel Fiore Bridal have all helped stress test the system and identify bugs before they made their way to the rest of the BridalLive shops.

While version 1.0 marks a huge milestone for our bridal shop software, we are forging ahead on many new and excited features. Keep your eyes open for our release notification emails as these features will be coming soon. Here is a sneak peak of some of features you can expect to see shortly:

  • Credit Card Processing – you’ll be able to process credit cards right from within your bridal pos software.
  • Prom Functions – you’ll be able to track prom dresses sold by school.
  • Tuxedos – version 1.0 handles tuxedos, but upcoming versions will support “rentals” a bit better.
  • Internationalization – Due to the interest we’ve received from our overseas bridal shop owners, we’ll be opening BridalLive up to the rest of the world. Now international bridal shops will be able to enjoy the latest bridal shop software from BridalLive.

As a BridalLive user, you are always entitled to the latest releases for FREE. The latest release always takes less than 1 minute to install for each computer.

So if you like what you see today with BridalLive, rest assured that we’ll continue to make running your bridal shop easier with our bridal shop software. Contact us today to purchase your license.

BridalLive is easy, smart, and powerful bridal shop software!

How to use our Bridal Shop POS Software to measure website conversion

admin wrote this on Oct 15 |

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using bridal shop pos software to measure conversion

In this post we’ll look at one way BridalLive helps you measure the effectiveness of your website. BridalLive is more than an excellent bridal shop POS software package; it helps you extend your brand online by providing widgets that can integrate with your bridal shop’s website.

Knowing what we know now about the importance of business websites, it’s hard to imagine that just 5 years ago many businesses needed to be convinced of the importance of having an online presence. Today, businesses without websites are having a harder time competing in their respective market. The internet is the new yellow pages and the first place brides go when they get engaged is online.

In this post we’ll talk about how our bridal shop software is helping bridal shop owners measure the effectiveness of their website. We’ll leave generating traffic and effectively converting that traffic into leads for another blog post. This blog post will focus only on how you can use BridalLive’s Online Marketing Tools to measure your website’s conversion rate.

Let’s start by explaining what BridalLive’s Online Marketing Tools are. These “tools” give the bridal shop owner everything they need to be able to capture information from brides online. The marketing tools consist of 5 widgets that can be seamlessly embedded into your website with very little effort. The individual widgets are Appointment Requests, Lead Forms, Bride Interview, Feedback Forms, and Testimonials. For more information on this, take a look at the Marketing Bundle. Now that you’ve got the concept, continue reading to learn how to measure conversion…

The rest of this article is going to be somewhat technical. But the important thing to know is that the Online Marketing Tools can be linked with your Google Analytics (it’s free!) account. Once linked, you can view reports within Google Analytics that show the number of times visitors to your site submitted one of your Online Marketing Tools.

Next, we’ll break down the steps that are needed to begin measuring your website conversion. WARNING: This is technical. If you need help setting this up, let us know and we’ll help you set it up.

Step 1: Locate your Google Analytics Site ID

This can be found by logging in to your Google Analytics Account (click here to login). Your site ID is formatting like this UA-1234567-1. Once you’ve located your Site ID, copy it and proceed to step 2.

Step 2: Add your Site ID to your Marketing Tools URL

If you’ve already embedded the marketing tools with your website, you’ll want to change the URL being used. Let’s take a look at the URL for the Appointment Request Form.

http://blog.bridallive.com:8080/bl/marketingtools/wrapper.jsp?remoteCompanyId=ABC123&&moduleId=AppointmentRequestForm&googleAnalyticsSiteId=UA-12345678-1

Once you’ve made the change, you will be able to determine your website’s conversion rate.

Step 3: Determine your website’s conversion rate

Go to your Google Analytics account and click “Content” from the left navigation menu. Then click “Top Content” and filter the report for all the Online Marketing Tools pages that were viewed/submitted. This can be done by typing “bridallive” in the filter at the bottom of the report. Take a look at the image below to see how we accomplished this with our test account.

Bridal Shop POS Software

In this example if we wanted to measure the effectiveness of our Appointment Request targeting, we can simply measure the number of Appointment Request submissions by the number of visit to your website. So if we had 50 visitors to our site that day and 4 submitted an Appointment Request, then we’d have a 8% conversion rate. However, the best way to do this is to create a “Goal” in Google Analytics for any of the pages you see in the graphic above. Here is an image of the Google Analytics goal screen.

bridal shop software conversion

Then once you’ve created the goal it will appear beneath the “Goals” section in Google Analytics. To view your conversion rate, simply click the goal and you’ll see something like the image below:

bridal shop website conversion

Once you know how to measure conversion rate, you can start making changes to your site to increase it. You should be monitoring this number regularly and making changes when needed. Eventually you’ll develop a website that’s exceeding your conversion expectations.