X Marks the Spot: Where to Put Contact Forms

Conversions, customers and contact forms go hand in hand (in hand). The worst thing you can do is to not show any contact information all. The next worst thing is to put your contact form in a bad spot that hinders user experience.

When it comes to contact forms, you have plenty of options and can even choose a combination:

Pop-ups: These can either be really effective or really annoying. Barging in on a visitor who has just landed is extremely distracting. It might even encourage them to leave. On the other hand, there are different options to choose from… such as, contact forms (or third party live chat windows) that slowly fade into the screen after a visitor has been on the page for X amount of time.

The advantage of this is that you can even review Analytics for time spent on page and adjust when the contact form pops up to retain more visitors.

Header: Having a contact form at the top of the page is helpful because it’s the most logical place people will look. At the same time, it is also taking up space for something else that could be more important. Make sure to keep in mind what language you use, as it’s one of the first things visitors will see if it’s at the top. (“Contact Us”, “Submit”, “Send” etc.)

Sidebar: Contact forms in this space are often smaller than in the header or on a page of its own. This is perfect for a simple, short contact form that requires minimal information. Perhaps, it’s just a small form for a Newsletter Signup or to request a free download. Even though these aren’t technically contact forms, they’re still helpful ways to provide useful information to relevant visitors.

Footer: Contact forms at the bottom of the page often serve as a reminder to visitors to make contact before leaving. It can be helpful or overly aggressive and cluttered, depending on your design. Like the sidebar contact form, make sure to keep it short and sweet if you’re just trying to capture some of those straying visitors.

Dropdown menus: Sometimes, contact (or evaluation) forms are rather lengthy or require space for open ended questions. In this case, you’ll want to to keep the form on a page of its own. It’s still important to have this information in an easy-to-find place in your drop down menu. You can also use a short footer or sidebar contact form if you still include something that’s visible on every single page.

There’s no one “best” place to put your contact form. You can test different forms on similar pages, use eye tracking studies, or even ask for feedback to find out what your customers like. What’s your personal preference on contact pages? Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about forms, conversions or SEO friendly web design.

Online Marketing Lessons to Learn from 3 Scary Movies

Halloween season is finally upon us! And even though the weather is in the upper 80’s here in Los Angeles, it’s always fun to get into the fall spirit by conjuring up some scary movies and see what we can learn from them. Scaredy-cats, be warned!

1) The Exorcist
In horror movies, it’s particular disturbing to see things that are distorted from things we see in everyday life. What might seem normal in an advanced yoga class isn’t so cool when it’s in the form of a possessed, 12-year old girl spider walking downstairs! That’s why certain angles and even slight changes to regular features are so scary.

Keep this in mind when designing your website – even with the most basic things such as having a Home button towards the left-hand navigation and Contact Us to the right. It’s not smart to tweak traditional design elements that can confuse customers and cause them to leave. In some cases, it can be downright spoOooOoky.

spider walk

2) Killer Klowns from Outer Space
If you haven’t seen this cult-classic, you’re really missing out. Evil alien clowns terrorize a small town with popcorn and cotton candy guns. Did I mention that they drink their victims through a silly straw?

Much like SEO, clowns get a bad wrap. Clowns can be creepy (Pennywise from IT and clown doll from Poltergeist) and SEOs can be deceptive (hidden text and content scraping). The origins of clowns come from a  happy, positive place… which so happened to fall down a deep, dark place over the years. The same thing goes for search marketing. There are ethical ways to go about online marketing and then there are methods that are 100% designed to manipulate search engines.

So the choice is yours… are you going to be a good (whitehat) SEO or dabble in blackhat methods that could get your site penalized?

3) Twilight Zone Episode: “Button, Button”

Ok, so this isn’t a movie but it’s too good to be left out. The storyline is as follows: a couple receive an offer from a strange man – a box with a button. If they press the button, they’ll receive $200,000 but a person who they don’t know will die. They end up pressing the button, receiving the money WITH the ominous warning that the box will be reset and give to someone else who they don’t know!

As always, the lesson learned here is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of any internet marketing firm who promises you X amount of #1 rankings. Or “social media gurus” who promise you business from thousands of “fans”. When it comes to marketing your business, it’s best to use your common sense and not to be greedy. Online marketing is slow, persistent work that pays off in the long run. There are no shortcuts and those who choose them will face consequences sooner than later.

Make sure to stay tuned for 3 more scary movies and their takeaways!

Thinking Out of the Box: 6 Link Building Strategies

Link building is increasingly becoming more important but at the same time, more complex. Nowadays, it’s about more than just tweaking your on-page SEO and submitting articles to to directories. It’s easy to give broad advice like “network with local colleges and ask for a link” or “call a related local business and ask for a link” … Here are some easy to implement ideas that can help with your link building campaign:

1) Create a free stock photo gallery – Whether you’re an avid photographer or Instagram fan, offering free use of your pictures can be a great way to get a link. It’s easy to set up a dedicated page on your site with stock photos that people can freely use. Even better, if you’re a web designer, you can offer free social networking icons, fonts, or even stylesheets – all while asking for a link back to your site.

2) Broken/dead link building – This can be a tedious process. One way to do this is to search the top terms you want to rank for and check out the top competitors. You can run a broken link check on them (like Xenu) and see if they have any broken links. It’s more than likely that they’ll have a broken or outdated link on their resources/links page. At this point, you can send a friendly email informing them of the dead link and asking (but not pressuring them) to add your link in place of this broken link.

3) Build a definition/glossary page – This strategy is great way to show that you are an expert in your field. At the same time, you’ll get to cover your most important targeted keywords and then some! Think of something like this, that will be helpful for years to come and something that can always be updated – so that people keep it in their references.

4) Wikipedia and wikis
– Although links on Wikipedia are nofollow, it’s a great addition to your backlink profile and it can bring relevant traffic your way. The key here isn’t to spam but to find relevant articles and to make citations or add to helpful “External links” at the bottom of the page. Remember, Wikipedia is not the only one out there. It’s a matter of digging around to find some more relevant ones to your business like wikidoc, AboutUs and so on.

5) Give away badges
– Post Penguin/Panda, it might not be such a good idea to get or ask for links with the same block of anchor text. Images are a great and safe way to diversify your link profile and it doesn’t take much. Many niche bloggers (tech, moms, gamers) appreciate well-made badges that they can add to their site. Think of something fun and simple, like Foursquare badges.

6) Live blogging at industry events
– Microblogging platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Posterous combined with smartphones make it easy to live blog before, during and after events. An important part of having your posts re-shared is offering interesting insight not just mundane updates like “So excited for the seminar to begin!”. Take creative pictures, add your opinions and provide non-attendees with info that just might make them wish they were there with you!

7 Signs That Your Company Blog Sucks

Judging by analytics, social engagement and other metrics, there are plenty of ways to tell if your blog sucks. If you’re indifferent or oblivious, it’s time for a wake up call! Take a look at some ways that your blog content strategy isn’t up to par:

1) You never link to others – ME, ME, ME… is this all you ever talk about? This is definitely not a good sign. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to link to your direct competitors but spread your links out to give readers credible resources or recent news stories that are interesting and relevant. Not only are you being helpful but it shows that you’re keeping up with reliable sites in order to provide them with the best information.

2) Write solely for search engines – If your blog topics seem to be repeating themselves it might be a sign that you should start writing for people instead of robots. Thin content is not a way to win readers. Another tell-tale sign is always using exact match anchor text, scheduling several posts at once and not updating consistently.

3) Your topics are not focused - If your blog is bouncing from topic to topic without a relevant connection, it’s time to stop. There’s a place for that… your personal blog, Tumblr or social media accounts. For niche industries, it’s easier to stay on track but for others, it can be easy to stray away from your main industry if you’re suffering from writer’s fatigue. The cure? Rest, read and write more!

4) You don’t deliver on what you promise – Nowadays, there are many ways to come up with well-written headlines that are destined for link bait fame. But make sure not to skimp out on the content. If you’re going to promise readers something grandiose (like effective li

5) You’re lacking in the spelling and grammar department – Skipping spell check isn’t a good idea and there’s always a chance that a competitor or client will catch it and question your qualifications. Remember, the grammar police do exist! I’ve seen one message recently from a site visitor (pointing out a slight misspelling) with a note that it “takes away from the professional feel of the site.” Yikes.

6) You’re dishonest – Examples include rating a product that you’ve received for free or for compensation without disclosing it. Another example might be a marketing company writing about top marketing campaigns and including one of their clients, also without disclosing it. Also, spewing out facts and statements without proper citations. Trust me, readers aren’t stupid and all it takes is one sentence disclosing your association so that it doesn’t look like your company has something to hide.

7) There’s no clear call to action – Your blog posts must have a point for existing. Are you providing free information, entertainment, resources or offering to help solve a problem? Don’t forget to encourage some action either in the beginning or at the end of your posts.

Do you have any other pet peeves that you’ve seen company blogs succumb to? Comment and let us know or join us on Facebook to continue the conversation!

A Balanced Link Building Plan

link building balanceLinks, links, links. The more, the better… right? WRONG. This misconception started long ago and sadly, the myth still continues to this day. Your link building or keyword advertising campaign should consist of much more than just a one-dimensional view of obtaining links.

When it comes to link building, many people take a look at it from 2 main ways: internal links or external links. Whereas some people overload their web pages by interlinking, others go crazy by buying/submitting hundreds of links at once. In order to diversify and build quality links, you’ll consider a good mix of the following:

Comments, directory submissions, social networking, social bookmarks, infographics, widgets, videos, article submission sites, .edu/.gov links, blogs, press releases, and even paid links (in some rare cases).

That’s just some of many places where you can build links. What about how you link? Different types of anchor text include:

URL, company/brand name, exact match anchor text, partial match anchor text, and even your name.

Search engines love to see a variety of different links coming from a variety of different (and reputable sites). If your link building campaign consists of utilizing one or two method (multiplied by hundreds), this not only look unnatural, but it can also devalue those links that are pointing to your website.

Here’s a good example. If you’re selling handmade crafts, it would look unnatural to link a keyword like beautiful handmade gemstone jewelry hundreds of times. I mean really, who would use those exact words except for your own company? Instead, you should also use your brand name, variations of the keyword and even images. This is why many experts in the industry prefer to use partially matched anchor text because it’s more safe and stable in the long run.

Although there is no right way to build links, I sure think there is a wrong way – and that is utilizing too much of the same anchor text from a handful of domains. Diversify your anchor text, types of links and even look at no follow links as your friend (in moderation). All these techniques add up to a more natural link building profile that search engines definitely favor.