research phase - blog post

16 Tactics to Help Prospective Clients Find You in the Research Phase

When customers are in the research phase of the sales cycle, how will they find you? 

The research phase of the Buyer Journey is a stage that all customers will go through before making a purchase (we discuss this in greater detail in a previous blog post). It is a safe bet that many (if not all) of these customers are doing their research digitally. 
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Website Launch: Salt Spring Sea Salt

We have a new website launch for Salt Spring Sea Salt that we’re excited to share!

Owners Philippe Marill and Carolyn Kvajic, a husband and wife team, first introduced the gourmet finishing salt at the island’s popular Saturday market. In just a few years, online sales have grown exponentially. Salt Spring Sea Salt is now available in select retail shops in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and the United States. Salt Spring Sea Salt is getting noticed for many reasons, from the purity of the product and process, to the exceptional taste.

WordPress Website

Phillippe and Carolyn needed a website that suited the needs of their growing business. We created a custom web design with full ecommerce capabilities to draw customers in and reflect their west coast values. Sea salt is a niche market, so we wanted to create a site that conveys their natural approach to harvesting and the simplicity of island living. We started from scratch and figured out exactly what our clients needed, and worked our way out from there, creating a website with clean lines and beautiful images of Salt Spring Island.

It was the pairing of a French culinary tradition with a natural West Coast resource – along with a dash of ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit – that created Salt Spring Sea Salt. Established in 2014, the Canadian company is based on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia and is garnering international recognition for its pure, handcrafted fleur de sel.

Phillippe and Carolyn are passionate about producing a gourmet finishing salt that rivals the very best French sea salt, and providing their customers with exceptional service. This dedication to quality has garnered a lot of attention – from a Royal visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to being featured as a Pit Stop on The Amazing Race Canada.

SEO and Analytics

We worked with Salt Spring Sea Salt to make sure that they didn’t just have a beautiful website, but a search engine optimized one as well. We wanted to make sure that they had all the tools in place to boost their fleur de sel to the top of their niche in Google searches. Providing SEO services on all of our websites ensures that our clients get a increase in online visibility and can generate more business.

We are proud to work with clients like Phillippe and Carolyn to help them achieve websites that are not only beautiful to visit, but are intuitive to navigate and deliver results.


Website Not Secure – Here’s What You Need To Do

Imagine if people trying to visit your website got an alert saying that your website is not secure. Do you think it would deter them? Hell, yes it would! That’s what’s going to start happening in July on websites that have HTTP when people visit using the latest version of Chrome browser (Chrome 68) visit.

Chrome is the most popular browser used worldwide with about 50% penetration. So if your site doesn’t have encryption with an SSL/TLS certificate and HTTPS set up this affects you.Website Security Out-Smarts Marketing

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure and works as a layer of security between the client (visitor)  and the site when a connection is established. Data that usually moves from the site to the client and vice versa in plain text is encrypted securely by the browser when a TLS certificate is in place. That means eavesdroppers won’t be able to read important information from your users, like passwords and credit card numbers, in plain text.

Up until now this alert only appeared on form pages (i.e. contact forms) but moving forward it’s going to show up on all pages that aren’t secured.

What to expect for non HTTPS sites? In July you can expect to see a drop in traffic to your site, conversions will likely fall too. You may also see a drop in your page rank – where you show up in Google search. Google started lowering the rank of non encrypted sites three years ago.

What Should You Do

First check to make sure you don’t already have HTTPS set up.

Then decide on an SSL certificate. They vary in prices from free to the most expensive we’ve seen which was over one hundred dollars. There is a newer free way to get TLS certificates through an initiative called Let’s Encrypt. Certificates created this way expire every three months, but most hosts have an automated solution to renew the certificate before it expires, so you don’t have to do anything once it’s set up.

More expensive purchased certificates often come with additional insurance for online transactions, which might be desired if you are running an online store. Purchased certificates expire less frequently than free ones provided by Let’s Encrypt, lasting as long as 3 years.

Once you’ve made the switch, there’s still a little work to do if you use Google Analytics or AdWords. You can find out more about that on our previous post about website security.

WordPress websites also need to be updated to ensure your pages don’t show up with a “mixed content” warning, which means that some materials (often images) are being embedded on the page using an unencrypted connection (i.e. http:// instead of https://, note the s).

If you need us to do this for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.


Website Launch: Vital Plumbing + Heating

We are excited to announce the launch of the new Vital Plumbing + Heating website.

Vital Plumbing Website by Out-Smarts Marketing

Vital Plumbing + Heating is a locally-based and family owned company that has a long history with their clients in the Lower Mainland. They handle projects of all sizes, whether their clients are in the initial phases of a construction project or repairing the heating systems in an apartment building, they have a team of dedicated professionals ready to provide expert knowledge and service.   

WordPress Website

We worked with Vital Plumbing + Heating to create their vision of a WordPress website with a streamlined user interface that draws potential clients in with a fresh feel and easy to navigate design. Because dealing with the internal plumbing of a home can be stressful for homeowners and construction companies alike, we wanted to create a site that conveys a professional, simple solution to whatever issues they may have. To achieve this, we used a combination of clean lines and captivating imagery to attract their target audience.

Formerly known as Pacific Coast Ventures Inc., the foundation of what is now Vital Plumbing + Heating is a true Canadian immigrant success story. Arriving here with modest means, founder Ahmad Arang gained employment and Red Seal journeyman qualifications and went on to start his own business from scratch. Almost 20 years later, armed with a team of local experts, their company is well established with a proven track record of excellence.

SEO and Analytics

We worked with Vital Plumbing + Heating to make sure that they didn’t just have a beautiful website, but a search engine optimized one as well. Providing SEO services on all of our websites ensures that our clients get a boost in online visibility and can generate more business. As with all of our builds, we submitted the website to Google Analytics and Bing to gain more exposure.

We are proud to work with companies such as Vital Plumbing + Heating to help them achieve websites that are not only beautiful to visit, but are intuitive to navigate and deliver results.

 


How to Use Google Grants and AdWords for Non-Profits: Important Changes You Should Be Aware of in 2018

Did you know that Google offers ad grants for non-profit an charity organizations in Canada, allowing them to run their AdWords with a budget of $10,000 per month? If you run a charity or non-profit, this is something you have to take advantage of – it’s free advertising and drives targeted traffic to your site (if you set it up right!).  

  • First, you need a Tech Soup account  and registration – which verifies your non-profit status and eligibility
  • Once that is approved, you can then set up your new Google account and apply to manage your grants ads.

Google Ad Grant Changes for Non-Profits

Over the years, 35,000 non-profits have set up Ad Grant AdWords accounts, and it has been a popular offering, but recently though, Google has been rolling out a slew of changes that govern how ads are set up in the Grants program.

Out-Smarts: How to Use Google Grants and AdWords for Non-Profits: Important Changes You Should Be Aware of in 2018
How to Use Google Grants and AdWords for Non-Profits

I am guessing these changes are because many organizations were lax about maintaining their ads –  setting up accounts, campaigns and groups and then not maintaining their accounts well or keeping up with the new features Google has rolled out over the last couple of years like ad extensions. It could also be because some non-profits didn’t set up their accounts properly in the first place (for example not using geographical audience targeting).

As a result of these changes which were announced in December and went into effect earlier this month, non-profits are scrambling to review their ad campaigns and make them compliant – if they don’t, they risk having their ad account cancelled.

The good news is that there will no longer be the USD 2 ad bid cap which means that non-profits can bid more competitively and show up higher than ever before. There are some caveats though.

The New Google Grants AdWords Rules for 2018:

  • The two dollar bid cap has been removed
  • Advertisers must use maximum conversions bidding – this automatically sets your bidding so that you maximize the conversions of your campaign given your budget (for non-profits that about $333 per day). This means setting up conversions on Google and tracking them using two snippets of code that get added to your site and to the page you want to track.
  • Advertisers must use geographical targeting aka geo-targeting – this simply means that your ads must be targeted to your geographic area and not blanket targeted to broad geographical areas where you don’t operate.
  • Each campaign must have at least 2 Ad Groups that are live.
  • Each ad group must have at least 2 ad variations running.
  • Each ad must have a minimum of 2 site link extensions – site link extensions are links and titles that show up below your ads highlighting important aspects of your business and encouraging people to click through to specific web pages on your site.
  • Your account must show a CTR of at least 5% or your account could be cancelled. This is the rule is the one that everyone is panicking about, but if your campaigns are set up properly with keywords that are tight (specific to what your non-profit does), and you’re not bidding on words that don’t relate to your ad text, you should see your CTR increase.

Ten Tips to Help Non-Profits Comply with the Google Ad Grant Changes:

  1. Have specific campaigns for each component of your non-profit business using specific keywords, both in the keywords themselves and in your ad text and landing pages.
  2. Stop using keywords that are too generic – low-quality keywords.
  3. Conversely, don’t have ad groups that only have one keyword.
  4. Work to create better, target keyword centric ad copy.
  5. Make sure that your landing pages map back to your ad campaigns and groups and that everything works as it should on the page so that visitors convert once the land on your site.
  6. Set up conversion tracking and make sure that you are tracking conversions after people click through to your site.
  7. Use Google Analytics to understand campaign traffic, keywords that are driving visits from people who engage once they land on your site, and bid adjustments.
  8. Don’t use keywords that mention your competitors or other companies.
  9. Implement your changes now, if your CTR is less than 5% for two consecutive months your account could be suspended.
  10. If you don’t have the expertise in-house to make these changes, or the budget to hire experts then consider switching to AdWords Express.

Google Grants can be a great asset to a cash-strapped charity or non-profit organization. Done right, your campaigns can drive targeted traffic to your site, but your site has to deliver too. It is worth taking time to create great landing pages that convert once your visitor lands on them.

If you’re one of the non-profits that have neglected their campaigns over the years, this is the perfect time to restructure them and to take advantage of some of the great enhancements Google has been rolling out recently.

If you are concerned about your non-profit ads and don’t know where to start, we’d love to review them for you and make some recommendations. Get in touch with us here.

 


Marketing Predictions and Digital Trends for 2018

Ten years into the great social media experiment and 2017 was the year we saw Facebook hit the 2 billion user mark, the proliferation of real-time video across social platforms and the continuing email renaissance. With 2018 coming up fast upon us what better time to reflect on the past year, to dust off the crystal ball and to predict what 2018 will bring for marketers.

This post is divided into five sections to mirror the disciplines Out-Smarts focuses on websites trends, SEO – getting found when people search online, email marketing, social media and overall marketing strategy.

Website Design Trends

We know that Google is going to continue to emphasize the importance of mobile in 2018 so expect to see function taking precedence over form with a focus on usability and minimalist site navigation and content proliferating. It’s going to be interesting to see how the content is king crusaders balance their obsession with publishing content with minimalism and mobile. Expect to see more valuable content related to buyer intent rather than simply content for the sake of putting something out there.

Will 2018 be the year when small businesses finally catch up? 50% of small businesses still don’t have a website; we’re hoping this new year will be the one the laggards finally catch up. It is interesting that social media adoption for small business is much higher than website adoption. The popularity of social media is likely because of a low barrier to entry of social platforms. However, it is important to consider that you don’t own your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter pages (or any other social media presence you might have) the social media company owns it. What happens if they switch directions or go out of business? A website belongs to your business, not to a third party.

Watch out for more animation (logos in particular) and websites that incorporate GIFs in 2018 too – hopefully, they’re less cheesy than their Flash predecessors. Artificial Intelligence is going to be everywhere in 2018 too as enhancements make Chatbots get better and better at answering questions and simulating conversations with website visitors.

Search Engine Optimisation

Don’t let anyone tell you that keyword research is no longer important. It is and will continue to be, but there will be a shift in 2018 to focus more on semantic search, buyer intent and topics rather than specific keywords. SEOs will focus more on having their site show up at the right time when people are actually considering a purchase, rather than having the site show up to attract particular personas.

Another aspect that should be on your SEO radar in 2018 is voice search which means you need to hone your long tail keywords, i.e. keyword phrases that are hyper-specific to what you are selling.

Image search will continue to grow in 2018 so now might be the time to make sure all the images on your website have well thought out and optimized alt tags.

Email Campaigns

The email renaissance will continue in 2018. Get ready to watch videos embedded directly in email campaigns. Technological enhancements in email clients will continue to lead to more and more email apps that support embedded video. Right now less than half of all email clients can play embedded videos but thanks to Apple mail, iOS and Samsung this is changing. Up until now, most senders have opted to embed a fake play button in the email with a link to the video on a separate site or by GIF.

Including video in emails can lead to big increases in open rates – Campaign Monitor

Watch for more sophistication in list segmentation too. Segmenting campaigns so that specific audiences receive emails that contain content tailored to their unique perspective.

Social Media

2017 was the year of streaming video in social media; LinkedIn In and Twitter followed Facebook Live’s lead and began supporting live streaming video content. In 2018 watch out for growing adoption of these technologies and more creative live streams.

Over 8 billion videos or 100 million hours of videos are watched on Facebook every day (TechCrunch, 2016). – via Buffer

Not doing short video is not an option – Kat Hahn

In 2018 we will also see the increased adoption of short-lived content, content that’s only available for a short period of time before it disappears, – like Instagram stories and Snapchat. Marketers must start developing strategies to maximize the reach and impact of ephemeral content as well as considering tactics to get this content noticed.

On platforms like Instagram and Facebook, only a tiny percentage of followers actually see the content you share on your page. To get noticed in 2018, you will need to invest in ads on these platforms. Consider video ads to spice things up a little.

Social media analytics, measuring tools and management solutions will become more sophisticated in 2018 with an emphasis on enterprise social marketing integrating all platforms.

How Marketing Strategies will Evolve in 2018

2018

I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that 2018 will be the year that our obsession with all things digital and only digital will end. It’s also going to be the year we’re going to start calling our discipline marketing again (rather than digital). Marketing in 2018 will encompass all aspects of the marketing mix, both online and off and marketers will use the means most likely to help them attract their target audience.

Consider this, there are 65 million business pages on Facebook, 90% of businesses use social media. These are substantial numbers, but for marketers this means that it is becoming increasingly difficult, not to mention more expensive, to get noticed. If you want to attract your target audience’s attention in 2018, then widen your horizons and consider sending them a direct mail piece (depending on the audience) in a nice coloured envelope with handwritten wording. It will likely be the only physical mail the recipient gets that day (or maybe that week or month!), they’re going to open it, and if your copy is effective they will act on it!

Conclusion

2018 is going to be an interesting year; technological advancements will continue to speed up. To be effective as marketers, it’s going to be important not simply to jump on the bandwagon of the next big thing but to consider options strategically and with your target audience in mind (rather than from a product or service-centric perspective). That said, video popularity has been growing year over year and won’t stop. Cisco predicted that video would account for 80% of internet traffic by 2020. So if you do nothing else, consider how you might incorporate video into your digital approach in 2018.