Google's Big Brand Shakedown

Inorganic SERPs

A few weeks back Google introduced literally organic-free search results on mobile devices in the travel vertical. Google is now deepening that organic-free offering, announcing their new mobile travel guides would launch in 201 cities.

If you live outside of the United States it can be hard to appreciate just how ad heavy some of Google’s search results have become in key ad categories.

Plenty of Room in Hotel California

When Google rolled out the 4 AdWords ads above the organic results layout they mentioned it would mostly appear on highly commercial search terms like New York Hotels. Hotels are one of the most profitable keyword themes, because:

  • the searches tend to be fairly late funnel
  • the transactions are for hundreds of dollars
  • OTAs and other intermediaries often get somewhere between 10% to 30% of the transaction

Google search results for hotels not only contain 4 AdWords ads, but they also have price ads on the “organic” local listings. That gives Google a second bite at the apple on monetizing the user.

Click on any of those prices and you get sent to a beautiful(ly ugly) ad heavy click circus page like the following.

As Google has displaced those sorts of markets, portals like Yahoo! have announced the shutdown of some of their vertical offerings:

today we will begin phasing out the following Digital Magazines: Yahoo Food, Yahoo Health, Yahoo Parenting, Yahoo Makers, Yahoo Travel, Yahoo Autos and Yahoo Real Estate.

Direct Marketing Budgets vs Brand Ad Budgets

Google recently had another vertical search program which paralleled their hotel offering which focused on finance. It allowed users to compare things like credit cards, home loans, auto insurance policies, and other financial offers. They acquired BeatThatQuote, hard coded aggressive placements for themselves near the top of the search results, increased the size of these custom ad units – and then killed them off.

Why would Google invest hundreds of millions of Dollars in vertical search only to kill the offering?

It turns out the offering was too efficient from an advertiser perspective, so it didn’t drive enough yield for Google.

If it is a lead-based product the ad rates are set by rational lead values. There is no brand manager insisting on paying $120 a click because “we HAVE TO be #1 in Google for auto insurance.”

If Google does lead generation and sells the lead off exclusively they get paid precisely once for the consumer. Whereas if Google scrubs many aggregators from the market & allows searchers to click on one brand at a time they get to monetize the user many times over and take advantage of any irrational bidders in the ecosystem.

As long as Google is monetizing brand advertising budgets they can insert many layers of fat into the ad stack.

(Really broad broad match, enhanced campaigns, fat-thumb mobile clicks, mobile app clicks, re-targeted ads for products which were already purchased, endless auto-play YouTube video streams with ads in them, etc.)

Riding the Google Waves

Google’s vertical ad offerings may come and go, the biases behind the relevancy algorithms may shift, and the ecosystem constantly has some number false positives. As search engines test out various features & shift their editorial policies some companies get disrupted and are forced to change their business models, while other companies get disrupted and outright disappear.

Google’s move into auto insurance might have been part of the reason Bankrate decided to exit the business. But Google exiting the Google Compare business and adding a 4th text AdWords ad slot above the organic search results a few days before Bankrate reported results caused BankRate’s stock to slide by as much as 47%.

Brand Building to Lower Risk

Part of the SEO value of building a brand is the strength of the brand awareness helps you rank better across whatever portion of the search ecosystem Google has not yet eaten, while lowering your risk of becoming a false positive statistic. Branded-related searches should (in theory) also provide some baseline level of demand which insulates against ranking shifts on other keywords. And having a brand name rather than a generic business name allows one to go from one market to the next.

Just be Apple… won’t magically morph into then then then, but Apple was able to move from one market to the next with ease due to consumer familiarity and loyalty toward their brand.

Investing in building brand awareness is often quite expensive & typically requires many years of losses to eventually see positive returns. Trends come and go, and with them so do associated brands.

Heavily invest in the wrong trend & die.

Wait too long to invest in an important trend & die.

Few companies are able to succeed in field after field after field.

For every Apple-like example, there are dozens of losers. Look at how many computer companies shifted to an emphasis on higher margin laptops, then sold off their laptop divisions for almost nothing and chased cell phones for growth. While they outsourced everything and relied on a faux open source software provider they guaranteed their own death. Look at how some of the mobile companies are valued at almost nothing, or those that have been bought & gutted like Motorola or Nokia. There are only 3 somewhat strong mobile manufacturers:

  • Apple – the source of the original iPhone which Google worked so hard to copy
  • Samsung – the company which has remained profitable enough that Google publishes opposition research against them in spite of being a Google partner
  • Xiaomi – a priced-to-perfection startup in the Chinese market where Google has been prohibited from competing in

Adding Apple management to another company does not guarantee success.

The Financial Crisis & Brand

When the financial crisis happened about 8 years ago Google saw both their revenue growth rate and their stock price crash. Direct marketers receded with the consumer, but many pre-approved brand ad campaigns continued to run. Google’s preferred custom shifted away from direct marketers toward large global brands.

When the economy started to recover, Google was quick to ban 30,000 affiliates from the AdWords auction.

When Trends Take Off

As trends become obvious & companies succeed wildly, competitors chase them.

The tricky part is the perception of success & lasting success are not one and the same.

Remember when Demand Media was allegedly profitable as hell? That was sales material for the pump-n-dump IPO & their stock has only corrected about 99% since then.

Since dumping that profitable as hell company on the public they’ve only had to invest in removing about 2.4 million articles from eHow.

The site is still torched by the Panda algorithm.

And they are still losing money. 😉

Companies like Mahalo which chased eHow also washed up on the rocks. They’ve since pivoted to YouTube, to mobile apps, to email & perhaps should re-brand to Pivot, Inc.

Groupon was another surefire trend. They’re off about 84% from their peak & most the Groupon clones have went under, while Groupon has divested of most of their acquisition-driven international expansion. Numerous other coupon & flash sale sites which haven’t yet went under laid off many people and are off significantly from their peaks or were sold for a song.

Trends come and go. Baseball cards are largely a thing of the past. So are Pet Rocks, Cabbage Patch Kids, and Beanie Babies.

Perhaps soon independent single author blogs and SEO-driven publishing business models will be added to the list. 😉

Copycats & Trademark Infringement

Some brands have a strong staying power. But even if those brands are highly valued, they still face competition from knock offs.

If you shop at big box stores in the United States you may have no awareness of the following product.

Look a bit closer at that image & you’ll see it wasn’t LEGO, but rather LEBQ.

Sales for Le Bao Quan are not sales for the core LEGO brand, the consumer gets acclimated to an artificially low price point, and imagine what sort of a traumatic impact it might have for a child if their first LEGO-like toy looks like a pig fresh from the butcher’s shop.

The key difference between that sort of stuff and gray areas monetized by the big online platforms is you may have to go to third world to find the sketchy physical products in the real world; whereas the big online platforms all have some number of sketchy globally accessible offers at any point in time. Here are just a few examples:

Monetizing Brand (Retailer)

At the core, all these platform plays are both brands unto themselves & places where third party brands get monetized.

The start up costs to have leverage to work with brands in an official partnership can be quite significant. Just look at how much has raised and how much hustle they’ve used to get in the game, even with their massive burn rate.

Part of why Apple has such strong margins is their brand is so strong they can dictate terms and control the supply chain. Others are willing to give them the majority of the profits because carrying them completes the catalog and helps the retailers sell other, weaker goods where the retailers have higher profit margins.

And even then, when you get outside their core products, there are listings for fake OEM Apple stuff all over the web.

Luckily when fake products use spammy titles on Amazon the reviewers will quickly highlight if they are of inferior quality. But if they look authentic & work, it can be hard for the brands to know unless they proactively track everything. And as that demand gets filled, if there is a negative experience it may lead to customer complaints about the brand, whereas if there are no complaints & the product works it still leaves less money for the brand which is being arbitraged.

“The Internet doesn’t change everything. It doesn’t change supply and demand.” – Andy Grove

Other players with weaker brands and a roll reversal on who needs who can quickly find themselves in a pickle.

Monetizing Brand (Financeer)

Some companies die slowly, as accountants drive strategy & they outsource their key points of differentiation and become unremarkable. When Yahoo! turned their verticals into thin “me too” outsourced plays they made it easy for Google to offer something of a similar quality, which in turn left the Yahoo! vertical properties without much distribution.

As Yahoo! struggles, some investors want to buy the core Yahoo! business so Yahoo! can exit the web business while being a holding company for Alibaba and Yahoo! Japan stock.

In an age of declining interest rates, zero interest rates (or even negative rate) policies some investors look to buy brands, streamline operations (mass firings & outsourcing), lever them up on debt & then sell them back off. Some companies like Burger King have cycled through public and private ownership multiple times.

Brands can be purchased just like links. Everything has a price and a value which shifts with the market.

Good to great to gone.

Monetizing Brand (Affiliate)

Some retailers have symbiotic relations with brands they sell, while other platforms may compete more aggressively with those whose products they sell. The same is true with affiliates. Affiliates can genuinely add value & drive new distribution for brands, or they can engage in lower value arbitrage, where they push the brand to pay for what was already owned by it through shady techniques like cookie stuffing.

One of the most one-sided and biased hate-filled perspectives I’ve ever seen about affiliates is Lori Weiman’s guest columns at Search Engine Land.

Just the same, some merchants treat affiliates honestly and fairly, while other merchants have a pattern of scamming their affiliates through lead shaving, adjusting revenue share without telling the affiliates, and a host of other sketchy behaviors.

Monetizing Brand (Search Engine)

Search engines allow competitors or resellers to bid on branded keywords, which creates an auction bidding environment for many branded terms. Typically Google offers the official site / brand clicks at a significant discount for these terms in order to encourage them to compete in the ad marketplace & to help shift some of the organic click mix over to paid clicks.

Google has also tried a number of other initiatives to boost their monetization of branded keywords. A partial list of such efforts includes:

Sophisticated vs Unsophisticated SEM

Many poorly managed AdWords accounts managed by large ad agency ultimately end up far more damaging to brands than the efforts from “shady” affiliates. The set up (which is far more common than most would care to believe) revolves around the ad agency arbitraging the client’s existing brand, falsely claiming the revenue generated by that spend to be completely incremental & then get a percent of spend management fee on that spend. The phantom profits which are generated from those efforts are further applied to bidding irrationally high on other terms, to once again pick up more percent of spend management fees.

Savvy search marketers separate the value of traffic from branded and unbranded terms to take a more accurate view of the interaction between investments in paid search and organic search.

Both eBay and Google have done studies on the incrementality of paid search clicks.

eBay being a large brand found they didn’t see much incrementality [PDF]. Search Google for eBay and they won’t run AdWords ads. eBay still participates in product listing ads / shopping search for other products they carry.

Google (of course) found much more incrementality with paid search ads. While they conducted their internal study and suggested it would be too hard or expensive for most advertisers to conduct such a study, they also failed to mention that the reason it would be expensive for an advertiser to perform such a test is because Google intentionally & explicitly decided against offering those features inside the AdWords platform. It is the same reason Google shut down Google Advisor / Google Compare – offering it doesn’t provide Google a guaranteed positive yield when compared against not offering it.

One thing Google did note about seeing higher rates of incremental clicks in their study was when there was increased space between the listings there tended to be a higher rate of incremental ad clicks. This is part of why we see AdWords ads getting larger with more extensions & there being so many features in mobile which push the organic results below the fold.

The same Lori Weiman who hates affiliates is currently running (literally) an 8-part series on why you should bid on your brand keywords.

If anyone other than a search engine monetizes brand that might be bad, but if the search engines do it then going along with the game is always the right call.

Owning the Supply Chain

“The true victory (the true ‘negation of the negation’) occurs when the enemy talks your language.” – Slavoj Zizek

The opposite is also true. If you are a brand who is being dictionary attacked by an ad network, the brand quickly shifts from an asset to a liability.

“The only thing that I’d rather own than Windows is English, because then I could charge you two hundred and forty-nine dollars for the right to speak it.” – Scott McNealy

Google owns English and Spanish and German and …

Is your control over the supply chain strong enough that you can afford to be below the fold for your own brand?

While you think about that, other pieces of the supply chain are merging in key verticals to better combat the strength of search ad networks.

  • Expedia, Travelocity & Orbitz
  • Zillow & Trulia
  • Staples, OfficeMax & OfficeDepot

How much are you willing to pay Google for each click for a brand you already own?

When does that stop being worth it?

During the next recession many advertisers will find out.

Added: Within days of writing the above post Google was once again found running ads promoting phishing campaigns, even though the ads arbitrage Google’s branded keyword terms.

Apparently that issue isn’t something new either.



Review: Remington RM380


Remington jumped headfirst into the pocket pistol market with the new RM380 DAO.

Sales of pocket pistols continue to be healthy because the concealed carry movement is getting stronger as more and more Americans are taking responsibility for their own safety, and more and more states are recognizing our inherent right to self defense. Now Remington has jumped into that already deep pool with its new pistol, the Remington RM380.

The Remington RM380 is a 6+1 capacity .380 Auto, and at first glance it may appear familiar. This is because the Remington Outdoor Co. bought Rohrbaugh Firearms and has tweaked the design of Rohrbaugh’s popular R380 to give us the Remington RM380.

When Remington showed its new gun to the media last year, it was quick to point out the Remington RM380 wasn’t the same pistol as the Rohrbaugh R380 with a new logo on the grips but rather a completely new pistol based on the Rohrbaugh. The first thing the Remington engineers discovered when examining the Rohrbaugh was that the pistols coming out of the small company were all hand-assembled and hand-fit. That’s fine if you’re a small semicustom shop, but when you’re Remington and looking to produce thousands of guns, the dimensions had to be firmed up and the manufacturing process streamlined. Also, designers changed a few things they felt improved the design, and I agree.


As a double-action-only gun, the RM380 has no external safety, and the only controls are the slide stop lever and the magazine release. Simple is good.

With a barrel 2.9 inches long, the Remington RM380 has one of the longest barrels in its class, and this length will wring the most out of the .380. This is an all-metal gun, sporting an anodized 7075 aluminum frame, but even though there’s no polymer in the construction, it still weighs just 12.2 ounces unloaded. The pistol has an overall length of 5.27 inches and a height of 3.86 inches. And it is thin. The slide is but 0.85 inch wide, and the grips at their base are only .95 inch wide.

The Remington RM380 has snag-free metal sights machined into the slide. They are flat black, as is the slide, and they’re so small I wouldn’t want to have to find them in dim light, but the pistol points naturally to help aiming. The full-length recoil spring guide rod is steel.

The 410 stainless steel barrel is finished black and features an integral ramp. The end of the barrel is flared to mate with the slide. There is a cutout in the barrel hood that ostensibly serves as a loaded chamber viewing port. I’ve found these barrel hood cutouts are nearly impossible to use to spot cartridge cases except in direct sunlight. However, they are another safety feature that allows the gun to be sold in states with strict handgun regulations.


Tarr’s main complaint was how far the trigger had to be pulled before the gun fired. This could prove a problem if you’re wearing gloves.

Many .380 autos are straight-blowback designs, which means the recoil spring is the only thing fighting the recoil forces of the cartridge. As a result, the recoil springs of a lot of .380 autos are quite stiff. I own a Beretta 84 .380, which is a straight-blowback pistol, and between the stiff recoil spring and reduced profile slide it can be a bear simply to chamber a round. My ex-wife could hardly retract the slide, and she wasn’t exactly dainty.

The Remington RM380, on the other hand, is a locked-breech design with a tilting barrel, and as a result the slide is easy to cycle. If you’re strong enough to pull the trigger, you’ll be strong enough to work the slide—which features nicely aggressive, flat-bottomed serrations for a sure grip. The Remington RM380 actually has dual recoil springs, but even so the force needed to chamber a round is perhaps only a third of what is needed to chamber a round in my straight blowback Beretta .380.

This is a double-action-only, hammer-fired gun. The trigger is steel with a smooth and slightly rounded face. The trigger pull is long and the same every time, and you’ll need to let the trigger go all the way out before you can pull it again for a follow-up shot. Yes, I know the long trigger pulls of pocket guns are their safeties, but I don’t have to like it. A shorter trigger pull would be welcome.

The spur-less hammer is flush with the rear of the slide and comes into view as the trigger is pulled back. The trigger pulls of every Remington RM380 I’ve tried, whether preproduction models or the current production-run test gun, have been smooth.


The flat hammer won’t protrude to catch clothing. The sights are minimal, which is fairly common on pocket pistols. Luckily, lasers are already available for it.

The only real complaint I had with my test gun was the trigger. Yes, the trigger pull was smooth, but there was significant stacking (weight increase) right at the end. The trigger pull weight up until the final stacking measured 7.5 pounds, but it took an additional 1.5 pounds of pressure (total trigger pull nine pounds) to make the gun fire. During the media rollout last year, Remington was advertising the trigger pull as 7.9 pounds, but now I see the company has increased the spec to 10 pounds—probably the result of a stronger hammer spring to ensure reliability across a wide range of ammunition.

However, while the stacking was unfortunate, the thing I liked least about the trigger wasn’t the pull weight or the length but rather how close to the frame it broke. The back of the trigger was nearly touching the frame. I think someone wearing gloves would have a hard time getting the gun to go off.

The Remington RM380 is supplied with two six-round magazines, which are long enough for 9mm cartridges with welded spacers in the back to position the nose of the rounds properly in relation to the feed ramp. One has a flat base plate, the other an extended polymer base pad, which allowed me to get all my fingers on the gun. However, I don’t have very big hands, and I would highly recommend to anyone interested in purchasing any gun to put hands on a sample at their local gun store to see if it’s a fit.

The grip panels are glass-filled nylon with minor texturing and the Remington “R” on both sides. They are replaceable through removal of a Torx-head screw, and Remington has plans to offer various color options. The rear of the frame is smooth, but the frontstrap has nice texturing.


There’s not much to grab onto with the RM380, but between the checkered frontstrap and the slightly undercut trigger guard, it feels secure in the hand.

I can get only two fingers on the frame, but because of the shape of the grip and the frontstrap checkering it feels secure in my hand. This is also due in part to the undercut below the trigger guard that gets the shooter’s hand higher up on the gun. The pistol has a small beavertail hump to prevent hammer bite.

So how is the Remington RM380 different from the pistol that inspired it, the Rohrbaugh R380? First, the trigger guard and trigger itself have been recontoured to be more ergonomic. I mentioned the frontstrap checkering, which was not found on the Rohrbaugh. The Remington features an ambidextrous American-style magazine release instead of the European-style heel mag release on the Rohrbaugh. The RM380’s slide also locks back on an empty magazine, unlike the Rohrbaugh. And the Remington  RM380 is also 1.1 ounces lighter.

Remington has had a few problems recently getting new designs from prototype to production stage—the R51 being the biggest offender—but at 200 years old the company isn’t exactly a new and untested firearms manufacturer or unaware of how business should be done. While it took six months longer to get the Remington RM380 into full production than Remington had expected, my test gun is not a prototype or preproduction sample but rather was manufactured at Remington’s new Huntsville, Alabama, facility as part of a regular production run. In fact, it is the first new pistol being produced at the Huntsville facility.

At the media event in December 2014 where the Remington RM380 made its debut, I was one of a number of writers who put a lot of rounds through the preproduction samples. I didn’t have any problems with the guns I shot, but I know a few writers who did. So when I received a production sample Remington RM380 I felt I had a responsibility to see if Remington had all the bugs worked out.


Remington got ahead of the game and teamed with a number of accessory manufacture to ensure holsters—such as the Crossbreed (top) and Recluse—and other goodies would be available when the gun went on sale.

As .380s go, I found the Remington RM380 pleasant to shoot, even one-handed. The long trigger pull made it challenging to shoot fast, and the gun isn’t exactly built for long-distance accuracy, but shooting offhand at 15 yards I could hit a pie plate-size target as fast as I could find the sights and pull the trigger, and my hand wasn’t sore when I was done.

The only problem I experienced with the pistol was with the SIG Elite FMJ ammo. The profile of the bullet was such that when there was one round left in the magazine as it came up it ticked the slide stop just hard enough to lock the slide back. I had this problem with only one of the magazines, and then only in the first 50 rounds. After that I didn’t have any problems; the pistol ate everything I fed it.

Remington Outdoors also owns Barnes Bullets, and the company sent me some of the new Barnes TAC-XPD .380 ammo featuring an 80-grain copper solid bullet. This bullet is lighter than standard .380 projectiles and posted slightly faster velocities while being soft shooting. It has a copper solid JHP projectile, and if you are somewhat recoil sensitive, perhaps this is a load you should consider.

Remington’s maintenance schedule for the pistol is lubrication after 250 rounds, cleaning after 500 rounds, and recoil spring replacement after 2,500 rounds. With the rounds I’ve put through the pistol I’m somewhere between lubing and cleaning without any problems other than the one mentioned.


Gen 4 guns like the G41 come with four replaceable backstraps (including two with beavertails) in a convenient clip that also includes a spare frame pin and pin pusher. It can be shot without a backstrap in place.

Smart modern gun companies have been teaming with accessory manufacturers so by the time their guns come out there are holsters and other goodies available for them. One of the silver linings of the delay Remington experienced in bringing the RM380 to market is that by the time you see guns at your dealer, holsters and lasers for the pistol will be easy to find.

Remington has partnered with a number of companies to produce holsters for the RM380, including Galco International, Crossbreed, Recluse, Gould & Goodrich, Viper, Flashbang and Talon Holsters. Viridian and Crimson Trace are offering lasers for the Remington RM380.

In addition to the test pistol, Remington supplied a sample Recluse Perfect Pocket Holster, Crossbreed IWB holster and Crimson Trace laser, and I test drove all three. The Recluse is a leather holster with a square front designed to conceal the shape of the pistol in your pocket. I discovered the combination of two layers of leather with a gun in-between does a good job of retaining body heat, and the pistol isn’t as quite as quick to draw, but the Recluse does completely mask the shape of the pistol in your pocket, making it look like a wallet at any distance.

The Crossbreed IWB is a molded Kydex open-muzzle holster body mounted on a thick piece of leather with two angle-adjustable metal belt clips to either side. The leather curves around the wearer’s hip and the belt clips are placed perfectly to keep the holster snugged into the body.


It does a good job of hiding the pistol, but I’m not a fan of this type of IWB rig. While a lot of people like the Crossbreed designs, it is a perfect example of what I’ve taken to calling amoeba holsters—a giant blob which unnecessarily takes up a lot of belt space. An 8×6-inch piece of thick leather stuffed in my pants seems more than a bit much for such a tiny gun.

The Crimson Trace laser unit mounts on the trigger guard of the pistol and has an activation button underneath the trigger guard against the frame. I think lasers are best suited to guns like the Remington RM380, which are small in size and have sights that are difficult to see. The only problem is the gun wouldn’t fit into either of the provided holsters with the Crimson Trace mounted, but it will still fit into a pocket just fine.

The Remington RM380 has a suggested retail of only $436, which means it will have a street price close to $350, not bad at all for a reliable, easy to shoot, made in America .380.

The post Review: Remington RM380 appeared first on Handguns.

Source: handgunsmag

A Simplified Guide To Writing A Market Analysis

When formulating a startup strategy, a market analysis is one of those key components that shouldn’t be overlooked. This is the tool that helps you lure investors as well as customers while also guiding you to avoid various pitfalls that are common with startups. However, it’s important to assess your business needs and consumer knowledge to understand where a market analysis lies on your priority list. For example, if your business is small and thus know most of your customers personally, then a market analysis might not be essential at the time. Conversely, if you’re seeking investor funding, a market analysis might just be one of the must-haves.

So… the big question. 

How do you write a market analysis? If you need help, we’ve put together a simplified breakdown of the process below.

First Things First – What is Market Analysis?

To be fair, marketing analysis is as exactly as it sounds i.e. it’s quite straightforward in its definition. As such, all you need is to determine various unique features of a particular market and analyze the resultant information to help you make better business decisions. With the information you’ve collected, you’ll be better placed to understand your competitors and their frailties, your customer needs, as well as the pricing to set for your goods and services.

A Market Analysis Should Complement Your Business Plan!  

Here’s Why and How:

We’re all aware of the importance of having a sound business plan when launching any new business venture. One of the key elements of a good business plan should be market analysis. This analysis is particularly more significant if you’re looking to welcome investors on board, now or in future. This is because it adds to the appeal of your plan to these investors or lenders thereby making the hassles involved in research worth it in the long run.

6 Crucial Things to Include In Your Market Analysis

1. Industry Description

In this section, try to offer a comprehensive overview of the current state of your industry by relying on relevant metrics such as size, life cycle, current trends, projected growth, etc. This displays your keenness to details and industry knowledge to lenders and investors.

2. Competitive Analysis

This is where you get to examine your competition as you seek to understand aspects such as their offerings as well as their weaknesses. To help you come up with a comprehensive competitive analysis, here are some of the key components to evaluate;

3. Market

Your focus here should be on determining the size of the market you expect to consume the products or services you’re offering. Besides, evaluate the projected growth rate, general trends, main competitors, etc.

Competitor Strengths and Weaknesses: There’s a need to be a bit more creative here as you try to spot where you can take advantage of your competition’s weaknesses. Besides, be keen to understand what customers are getting from your competition and whether you can better their offer.

Window of Opportunity: Is there an emerging market that offers more prospects? Is there a time-sensitive technology that might have an impact on your entry?

Barriers of Entry: Here, you’ll need to determine the possible pitfalls that might hamper your entry into the market, e.g. high cost of entry, market being too open for everyone, etc.

4. Target Market

The primary objective here is to try and narrow down your market while only targeting the most suitable customer base. This way, you can make your marketing and overall service to your customers more fulfilling. Here are some of the considerations to make when drafting your market analysis’s target market section.

Market Size: Try to be realistic while making various calculations such as the number of customers you expect to consume your products or services annually. Besides, research extensively to understand more about your competition and the potential market for your business.

Key User Characteristics: Here, you’ll need to factor in demographics such as user income, age, location, etc. Besides, take time to learn various consumer psychographics such as their buying habits, interests, etc.

5. Projections

Market Share: For this section, you’ll need to research about how much money (on average) your potential consumer is willing to spend on your service/product. Understanding this will assist you approximate your chances of succeeding in your market. Avoid selling yourself short, though, and ensure that you’re in a position to explain your calculations when needed.

Pricing and Gross Margin: Here, you’re required to formulate a realistic pricing structure that takes into account various price aspects including the discounts you aim to offer your consumers. Also, be sure to present a well-calculated gross margin which represents the difference between your overall costs and the sales price.

6. Regulations

In this section, you’ll show your readers how you plan to comply with any existing governmental regulations or restrictions in your market. Besides, you will also be required to take into account any additional costs involved in complying with these regulations.

Showing how you plan to observe these regulations is particularly crucial if you’re looking for investors or lenders who are often keen to ensure that everything is legally squared before getting into a deal with you.

Valuable Sources of Market Analysis Data

i. Your Current Customers: This is a hugely valuable data source segment although only feasible if you already have a running business. As such, try to convince your clients to offer information you need by requesting for their feedback, or for their response to your online surveys. Besides, try to be keen to learn aspects such as buying patterns and habits, needs, etc.

ii. Here, you’ll find virtually all kinds of information regarding any national industry and links to various states and local resources.

iii. U.S. Census Bureau: This bureau offers an excellent source of the demographics that you might need for your market share analysis.

iv. U.S. Small Business Administration: With SBA, you’ll get valuable resources such as industry guides, local resources, development programs, and even loan guarantees when needed.

v. Depending on your industry, the Department of Commerce is another excellent source of information that you may find useful in your market analysis.

vi. Bureau of Labor Statistics: This portal helps you learn more about your industry, its current situation, as well as its prospects.

vii. Internet: Using the internet is a no-brainer really. A simple internet search will offer you tons of information about virtually anything you want to know for your market research. A caveat though is that you only need to use the trusted sources of information. Otherwise, you may end up gathering irrelevant, baseless information that might land you into trouble.

In the end, it boils down to a compelling document that supports your investors needs!

Market analysis varies significantly from one industry to another and from one organization to another. However, the basics remain the same, and that’s exactly what we’ve outlined for you in this post. There are numerous ways you can get the information you need as seen here. Unfortunately, you may not always find all the information you want since some are not readily available to the public. In such situations, try making approximations, but again, be modest when doing this.

If you need help with the creation of your marketing analysis, creative brief, technology brief or a request for qualifications document / request for proposal please contact us here at 92 West and we’ll be able to generate the documents that you’ll need moving forward.

Troy Kadavy
Creative Director
92 West

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Many years ago we created an infographic about how search works, from the perspective of a content creator, starting with their content & following it through the indexing & ranking process.

As users have shifted to mobile devices, the limited screen size of the devices have pushed search engines to squeeze out & displace publishers with their own self-hosted information in an effort to offset the poor usability offered by tiny devices, while ensuring the search habit does not decline.

The philosophy of modern search has thus moved away from starting with information and connecting it to an audience, to starting with the user and customizing the result page to them.

“The biggest three challenges for us still will be mobile, mobile, mobile” – Google’s Amit Singhal

How Do Search Engines Work?



Incorporating Directional Cues in Your Web Design to Maximize UX and Boost Conversions

One of the top concerns for any web designer is whether their designs will appeal to their users and what they do to enhance user experience. Indeed, user experience means everything as far as web design is concerned. Let’s face it, no sound designer would continue pursuing an online business if no one turned up to read their web content, click their call to action, or fill sign-up forms they provide. Simply put, we all need users for our websites to fulfill their purposes.

For this reason, every designer strives hard to ensure their users get the best possible UX. As such, they employ various tricks and techniques, with one of the most effective being the use of directional cues. And just as the name suggests, directional cues are elements used with an aim to direct users to key sections of a site’s page, most notably the call to actions buttons and the sign-up/subscription forms. In fact, we would be fair to compare these cues to billboards that help to guide users to key points on the website’s page that you wouldn’t want them to miss.

The key purpose of adding directional cues, therefore, is to boost crucial conversions. Let’s, therefore, move straight to learning how including directional cues can help to boost your website’s success!

What Are Directional Cues?

These are pointers added by designers with an aim to direct/guide visitors to a website’s section that’s of importance towards meeting the website’s goal. Directional cues take different shapes and sizes and can be placed in two broad categories;

1. Explicit

These cues are a little more straightforward in their directions, meaning they point out exactly what the user ought to do. Some of the common examples of explicit directional cues include;

  • Arrows
  • Lines
  • Pointing fingers
  • Eyes aligned in the direction of a call to action
  • Curves, etc.

A practical example that best indicates how explicit directional cues are used can be seen on Salesforce’s landing page. Here, you can see how the arrow is used to direct the user to fill the short web form on the page.

2. Implicit Directional Cues

Unlike their explicit counterparts, implicit directional cues are a little subtle and thus easier to go unnoticed. Some of the most commonly used implicit directional cues include;

  • Color
  • Hierarchy
  • Repetition of color, shape and size

An ideal example of the use of implicit directional cue can be seen on Quick Sprout’s homepage ( The entire page has a green background only leaving the box where users are required to enter their site’s URL colored white. The obvious contrast helps draw the user’s attention thereby prompting them to take action as specified.

How To Clarify Page Goals

Every page needs to have a purpose. This might range from prompting users to subscribe to something, sign up, or even make a purchase. As such, when that purpose isn’t clear to the user due to factors such as a jumbled navigation, then the user experience suffers.

In such a scenario, having an evident directional cue might be the ideal solution. As such, introducing cues to such a page helps boost users’ confidence and efficiency thereby eliminating any confusion that might have earlier been caused by poor page design or organization.

How Can You Empower Users With Directional Cues?

Just to give you a clearer picture of how influential directional cues can be, let’s look at this quite interesting study. In a research conducted by Visual Website Optimizer on a page displaying an ad for a product known as Sunsilk Shampoo, it was found out that the number of people that viewed the product was higher when the eyes of the featured model looked in the direction of the bottle than when she was looking straight ahead. Statistically, this translated to a conversion of 84% when the model was looking at the shampoo compared to a measly 6% when she looked straight ahead.

This study is a true indication of what directional cues are capable of enhancing both the user experience as well as boosting conversions. It’s, therefore, easy to conclude that user experience is directly proportional to conversion whereby more conversions are recorded when a site improves its user experience. This is largely be attributed to the fact that users can better understand what they’re supposed to do while navigating the site.

For the sake of return visitors that are more likely to convert as compared to new ones, offering an excellent user experience should be top on your priority list. This is because you do not want to lose these type of visitors just because they can’t find the information/product/service they had used on your site the last time they visited. As such, ensure that you’ve provided them easy-to-spot directional cues that enhance their experience while also simplifying their work. By doing this, you increase your chances of getting even more clicks and conversions.

Do not underrate the power of directional cues in web design

So, from now henceforth, try to give more attention to the use of arrows, lines, or any other form of directional cues whenever you’re designing your website or that of your client. Research shows that these elements significantly enhance user experience and consequently page conversion. As such, they not only issue instructions but also offer crucial hints on what the user need to do next. Of course, not all web visitors will observe them, but the fact remains that they all understand their purpose anyway.

In a nutshell, directional cues are some of the essential tools that every designer need to incorporate in their web design projects as part of enhancing user experience. With a great user experience, it becomes easier to increase conversions and consequently make more money with your site.

So, are you having challenges figuring out what to do to improve your website’s user experience? Well, worry no more. 92 West is here to help you solve all your design issues. We are a strategically creative branding, design, and development agency that’s perfectly positioned to guide you in creating landing pages that convert. Need help? A consultation? Great! Give us a call today at 402.620.CODE (2633).


Training Videos for American Games, Incorporated

92 West was asked to assist in the video production of online training videos for American Games, Incorporated.  The process of video production is quite simple; script, needed equipment, location and editing.  

We’re happy that we were able to take the overview presented and collaborate with their staff to create these informative videos for their clients.

PTVM Training Videos

Part 1 of 3: Initial machine set-up.  Unpacking and machine set-up (machine placement and mounting machine to cabinet).

  •  Tools Needed for Set-up:  Razor Knife to remove wrapping, #2 Phillips screw driver, T-25 torx driver and 3/8” nut driver or box wrench


Part 2 of 3: Machine Basics.  Overview, loading tickets, programming ticket sizes and price points.  Removing money from bill acceptor and generating reports.


Part 3 of 3: Basic maintenance to include cleaning BV and bins / Printer.


Web Design Tips: How to Increase The Speed of Your WordPress Site

Similar to other systems, a brand new WordPress functions seamlessly and is super-fast in its operations at the beginning. However, as the days go by, and the site’s usage increases, you’ll reckon that it becomes slower. These slow-downs are often as a result of your site gathering clutters that make WordPress heavier and subsequently slower. The good thing about it though is that you can get your site back to its best (both in terms of speed and performance) with only a few simple fixes and tweaks.

Here are 10 simple things to do to speed up your WP site.

1. Optimize Your Site’s Images for the Web

Generally, humans are visual beings which mean adding images helps make your site more attractive to users while also enhancing their engagement. However, images can also consume much of your web resources thereby resulting in slow load times. We all know how this can negatively impact user experience, right?

So, what should you do? Well, you can use various image editing programs such as Photoshop or Gimp to size down and optimize your images for the web. Alternatively, consider adding the EWWW Image Optimizer plugin that automatically optimizes any images added to your WordPress.

2. Add a Caching Plugin

If your website is hosted on shared hosting, chances are high that it’s competing for various resources with a lot others. As such, every time a user requests a page on your website, your server slows down as it initiates the resource-intensive PHP process. However, you can use a caching plugin to cut down most of these requests, instead showing a cached page. To make your website even faster, combine your cached pages with a gzip compression.

Alternatively, you can use a caching plugin such as the W3 Total Cache or Super Cache plugin to cache your WordPress pages.

3. Use a CDN

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) helps you connect to various servers across the world. The network allows you to serve various WP static files such as style sheets, images and JavaScript from these servers. Some of the most popular CDN service providers include Amazon Cloud Front, CloudFlare, and MaxCDN. All these providers are easy to configure and work seamlessly with a majority of available caching plugins.

4. Optimize your WordPress Database Tables

WordPress uses a powerful MySQL database to store all your site’s data. As such, your site’s database is bound to gather tons of data that may not be of any use to you. Some of the common useless data your database might be storing include spam comments, posts revisions, non-usable tables left behind by plugins, etc.

While it is not very clear whether having these data in your database affects the load speed of your site, we recommend that you clean up your database just for the purpose of decreasing your backup size. You can use the highly-effective WP-Optimizer plugin to optimize and decongest your WP database.

5. Minimize Your Page Load Requests

Adding plugins to your site can immensely enhance your WP site’s performance. However, most of these plugins load additional style sheets and scripts that consequently increase your site’s load time. To avoid this, try to minimize the number of requests by staying clear of plugins that add too many scripts to your website’s header and footer. To point out such plugins, check your site’s source code to locate requests to the .js or .css files. For advanced WP users, try to combine all scripts loaded by your plugin in one script.

6. Use Excerpts on Your Homepage and Archives

By default, WordPress displays full articles (complete with images) on several key pages of your site such as the homepage, author page, and the archives. Of course, this can be detrimental to your site load speeds considering that each of these pages possibly have multiple posts on them.

A better approach to this issue is to only show summaries of these articles in place of the full articles which enhances not only your site’s speed but also increases your individual page views. Besides, using excerpts also offers an excellent way to avoid Google’s duplicate content penalty.

7. Adopt a Third-party Commenting System

Let’s admit it, we all love seeing our audience contribute to our blog posts as this translates to more user engagement that’s crucial in building improved relationships with them. Unfortunately, users are likely to experience a lag whenever they try to load pages that contain posts piled with comments. This is mainly attributed to the intense congestion experienced by your shared hosting server whenever users comment simultaneously on that post. To avoid this problem, consider adopting a 3rd party commenting system such as Disqus, LiveFyre, or even Facebook comments. These type of systems load asynchronously and only do it when users scroll down to the comment area.

8. Use Cloudflare to Shun DDOS Attacks

With DDOS attacks (Denial of Service) increasingly becoming more prevalent by the day, it’s only imperative that you devise a method you can use to stop them. This becomes even more urgent if your site is hosted on a shared hosting server. As such, get a CDN and a firewall from CloudFlare to protect your WP site from both DDOS attacks and MySQL injections that could pose an enormous threat to your site’s operations. CloudFlare is also capable of showing a cached version of your site to your visitors whenever your site is down following an attack.

9. Use Lazy Load for Videos Plugin

You’ll hardly get any content that’s more engaging than videos. Luckily, WordPress allows easy embedment of videos from numerous video hosting sites such as YouTube and Vimeo. But there’s one problem – most video players used today are likely to load slower than your site. The good news though is that a WP plugin by the name Lazy Load for Videos can solve this issue quite easily. The plugin helps to replace your site’s video player with a thumbnail and a clickable play button. This means that your video player only loads when a visitor clicks the play button. If your site curates videos, then this might be another must-have plugin for you.

10. Add Lazy Load Social Media Buttons

Having social sharing buttons for your posts can be vital especially if your aim is to create viral content. However, these buttons can slow down your site since they come with additional loadable images and JavaScript.

To minimize this effect, ensure that your social sharing plugins asynchronously load your social buttons. You’ll, however, find out that a majority of these plugins enable the same by default. If not, you’ll need to enable them manually. Some of the best plugins to use here include Share This and Add to Any WordPress.

Web Design / Development / WordPress Speed Overview

Looking at the list of the to-do things outlined above, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of work needed to optimize you WP site for speed and performance. However, the sacrifice is worth it and pays handsomely in the end. You’ll surely reap more benefits compared to the cost of all efforts placed in carrying out the outlined tweaks and fixes.

Need Help?  No Problem!

Contact 92 West at 402.620.2633 or contact us by filling out a request for proposal form and we’ll send you a flat rate quote.  


SEO Changes to Watch and Plan for in 2016

2015 went down as the year when Google introduced the “mobile-friendly websites” concept. 

2015 SEO Recap: 2 Main Changes that Impact Your SEO, Content Strategy and Web Design Efforts

Early 2015, Google introduced a new algorithm that brought about several key changes including a call for websites to enhance their mobile friendliness (Responsive Web Design or RWD for short) to accommodate the rapidly growing mobile user segment. Later in October, Google released yet another algorithm that’s based on artificial intelligence. In this latest release, Google showed its determination to improve search results for its users (displaying information based on perceived user intent).

2016 SEO Overview

So, what do these changes by Google mean for your business come 2016? Well, it’s time to get a better understanding of your audience thus offering only what matters most to them. Besides, it’s also critical that you become more available to your audience when it matters the most. You should also focus on delivering content that’s more contextual and useful; consider getting an app and a mobile-responsive site — mobile is the way to go. With all eyes now set to see what 2016 unveils, here are our seven key trends we expect to take center stage this year.

1) Mobile optimization will finally overtake desktop optimization in terms of importance

In early 2015, mobile searches surpassed desktop for the very first time. Announcing these findings, Google acknowledged that mobile and desktop traffic had finally tied, with this trend expected to continue into 2016. It’s predicted that desktop usage will continue coming down which, therefore, means mobile traffic will become more important in the next few years. And now with Google’s latest change to a local three-pack and claims that desktop-specific sites are no longer needed, it’s clear that Google intends to create better mobile experiences on all types of consumer devices.

2) Video content will offer more ROI than written content for B2C industries and brands

Written content is still considered to be the standard type of content for many businesses today. This is despite calls for incorporation of other formats of content that’s regarded to be a good idea for SEO and consumer satisfaction. A vast majority of brands and businesses sparingly use other formats of content such as videos, infographics, and images. As such, they only use them as peripheral additions to their written content. In this year, though, that trend is set to change as several new technologies will be introduced while video will outdo written content in various aspects such as effectiveness, reach, engagement and overall ROI. Video apps such as Periscope, Vine, and Snapchat are some of the tools that have enhanced the exposure and expectations of users towards more visual content. And now with Google’s supposed introduction of video ads, a lot more is expected as far as video content usage is concerned. As such, B2C brands that do not adopt this video content strategy might lose big to competition. Of course, B2B brands will be warming up to follow suit although their intake of video content might not be as urgent.

3) Aggregated content will lower reliance on news and event coverage

Twitter has for some time now been experimenting with a new innovative feature known as Moments. Through this feature, users can access aggregated videos, posts, and images of unfolding news stories and live events from a single channel. Simply put, users will now be able to compile whatever content they have for others to see firsthand as it unfolds. While this is a new feature on Twitter, the concept is not completely new as advanced algorithms are already doing the same, albeit involving a compilation of news stories from various sources that already have related pre-existing information. As a result, 2016 seems to become a year when content marketing will become open for everyone. This means that tutorial and opinion-editorial content will become more important for search visibility.

4) Digital assistants will have more influence on search queries

With digital assistants sending more and more queries to modern search engines, the common searches continue to grow more complex (think of Siri, Google Now and Cortana). Long-tail keyword queries especially those that mimic spoken dialogue are expected to replace the existing typed queries. As a result, sites that contain colloquial, conversation content might benefit more from these changes.

5) Google (and other SERPs) will give more recognition to social content

Google has already began indexing Facebook and Twitter content which means you’re likely to bump on a tweet or a Facebook post in your mobile search result. This shows that social content is increasingly gaining recognition and could soon be regarded just as important as any other content such as those from independent web pages.

6) Deep links in apps will become more significant

For quite a while now, Google has been indexing apps. This is part of their long-term plan as they consider apps to occupy the position of traditional websites as the future most popular and functional platforms. In 2016, deep links to apps (links that direct users to a particular section of an app or page) will become more important, just like their counterparts on the web. For this reason, having an app for your business (or simply listing your business on several apps) may mean a boost in your SEO.

7) Local searches are set to become even more specific

Looking at some of the developments that occurred in 2015 such as the introduction of wearable devices (such as Apple Watch) and a more sophisticated local indexing by Google, it’s certain that local searches are set to get even more local (specific). This means that business rankings could soon rely on more specific identifications such as neighborhoods or street corners.

2016 Search Engine Optimization Conclusion

With the landscape of SEO changing daily and the 7 trends listed above thought to cause the biggest impact, it’s time to look at your current SEO strategy and make changes accordingly.  Google, like Facebook, have changed the results to skew towards the “pay to play” game for businesses and are furthering their algorithms to incorporate “user intent” vs. who has the most backlinks for any given keyword.  A change in your SEO strategy to incorporate relevant content on a regular basis will be key toward your ranking success; among other factors (the 7 identified above).

Nonetheless, 2016 promises to be an exciting year for search marketers and thus worth looking forward to. If you need help or want to look into Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing as a service for you or your company please contact us at 402.620.2633 or at today!


Create a Winning Brand in 5 Steps

A brand is without doubt one of the most prized assets any organization, regardless of its size, can boast of. It’s, therefore, unfortunate to see some businesses overlooking the strategic and systematic position of their brand when formulating their business strategy. As such, a large number of organizations today fail to leverage the influence a brand can have on their business success.

Why should you invest in developing a solid brand?

  • It boosts your authority in your market. This way, your customers can rely more on you when making their purchasing decisions. This gives you an edge over your competition.
  • Having a strong brand makes you indispensable to your customers making it easy for them to always turn to your business whenever they need a product/service you offer. As such, it promotes customer loyalty which is important in hastening business growth while also shortening sales cycles.
  • With a strong brand, your organization will easily lure and retain the best talents the market has to offer.

While a branding and brand management takes quite some time to develop, strong brands tend to be sustainable once stable. For you to create a brand that realizes your company’s utmost potential, you’ll need to conduct a thorough research on what works best for your business.

Here are five essential steps to follow when creating a brand that benefits your organization.

Step 1: Begin with a clear strategy

Brand Strategy

As mentioned earlier, your brand defines your organizational success which, therefore, means any brand strategy you formulate should complement the overall business strategy. This way, you’ll realize that creating a brand and all that appertains it becomes a natural process for you.

Stakeholders’ Tasks:

What are your strengths? It’s a no-brainer that being a jack of all trades doesn’t pay in the end and thus trying to focus on a position that appeals to the right people will be your surest best if you’re to succeed in creating your brand. Understand your key competencies and subsequently create your brand and marketing strategy around them.

Step 2: Focus on only the relevant audience

Brand Strategy

Narrow down your audience and only work to build stronger connections and more meaningful conversations with only the relevant audiences. Be keen to understand their particular needs and motivations.

Stakeholders’ Tasks:

Is your brand reaching the right audience and does it appeal to them? Is your message too broad for your targeted audience? This way, you can understand your audience’s ideal solutions and subsequently convince them that your product/service offers the perfect solution to their needs. You can then build your message around the same.

Step 3: Create a solid brand platform

Brand Strategy

An ideal brand platform should clearly describe your brand’s personality, what it represents, its unique position as well as how you’d want your audience to perceive it. As such, it should include;

  • Brand Promise
    This is the pledge you make to your customers on what they should expect when doing business with you.
  • Brand value
    These entails the codes of conduct your brand observes each day. As such, all decisions in your business need to align to these values.
  • Brand personality
    These are the unique characteristics that audiences use to define your brand. Brand personality is, therefore, vital to building lasting relationship between your organization and its audiences.
  • Brand positioning
    For your audience to develop an attachment to your brand, you first need to understand what motivates them to take action. With brand positioning, therefore, you have to communicate and convince your targeted audience that your brand is superior to all others and that it can satisfy their needs perfectly.

Stakeholders’ Tasks:

Are you making the right promises to your audiences? Are your positioning your brand in that it stands out from the competition? Are your values and personality contributing positively towards growing customer loyalty and lasting relationships?

Step 4: Develop a compelling brand story

Brand Strategy

Everyone fancies good stories. This is because good stories tend to be inspiring, entertaining and most importantly human. In business, good stories are vital in connecting people to others as well as organization to customers.

Stakeholders’ Tasks:

Every organization has its own distinctive story that describes what it is, what it does, and why it matters. So, what’s your culture? What compels your customers and employees alike to come to you and stay? What’s your story?

Step 5: Create a matchless brand experience

Brand Strategy

Your brand offers your audiences an opportunity to experience your business. This, therefore, means that with a strong brand, your business can quickly leave a positive impression that lasts. This helps to create a particular positive perception of your brand by your audiences that enhances your organization’s reputation.

Stakeholders’ Tasks:

Have you tried experiencing your brand firsthand? Well, get a users’ end experience of your website, your reception area, your marketing collateral and even your outgoing mail message. What’s your experience? Impressive? Motivating? Disappointing?

Ready to create a brand?

As you can see, creating a brand involves a considerable amount of time and effort, which is something you, just like most others, may find overwhelming. Fortunately, you have the professionals at 92 West to guide you through the whole process and ensure that you build a truly relevant and compelling brand in your niche. We’ll make all the necessary connections and leverage your customers’ insights to help you identify various unmet needs. This way, we’ll help you define a unique brand that transforms your organization. Contact us today for more assistance.


Omaha’s Best Web Design Company is Moving Downtown

We have had an amazing time in our Millard office this past five years (and we will miss everyone at 13504), but it’s time to evolve to the next step in 92 West’s growth.

New Office Features

  1. Most notably, the new office features a full photo / video studio which will allow us to completely service our client’s onsite!
  2. We’ll also have a much larger conference room
  3. Cool commons area if you just want to stop in and “kick it”
  4. A wonderful kitchenette for networking and of course an open house (coming soon).
  5. Additionally, we’ll now have an internet connection which allows us to upload files at a whopping 500 MBS! So… our 2 Gig trade show and video files will move lighting quick!.

Office Location

Moving is always an undertaking and we’ll be gradually moving into our new spot with our first day scheduled for the start of the year! Please feel free to drop in and see our new digs in January at 2626 Harney Street, Suite D, Omaha, NE 68131.

92 West
We’re in the Ideas Business!

2626 Harney Street
Suite D
Omaha, NE 68131


Digital Marketing

Web Design

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


The 4 Fundamental Steps of Conversion Optimization

Once upon a time, I was sitting in my office looking over data for one our new clients and reviewing the conversion project roadmap. The phone rang and on the other end was the VP of marketing for a multi-billion-dollar company. It is very unusual to get an unannounced call from someone at his level, but he had an urgent problem to solve. A good number of his website visitors were not converting.

His problem did not surprise me. We deal with conversion rates optimization every day.

He invited me to meet with his team to discuss the problem further. The account would be a huge win for Invesp, so we agreed on a time that worked for both us. When the day came, our team went to the company’s location.

We started the discussion, and things did NOT go as I expected. The VP, who led the meeting, said, “we have a conversion problem.”

“First-time visitors to our website convert at a rate of 48%. Repeat visitors convert at 80%!”

I was puzzled.

Not sure what exactly puzzled me. Was it the high conversion numbers or was it the fact that the VP was not happy with them. He wanted more.

I thought he had his conversion numbers wrong. But nope. We looked at his analytics, and he was correct. The numbers were simply amazing by all standards. The VP, however, had a different mindset. The company runs thousands of stores around the US. When someone picks up the phone and calls them, they convert callers at a 90% rate. He was expecting the same conversion rate for his online store.

Let’s face it. A typical e-commerce store converts at an average of 3%. Few websites are able to get to anywhere from 10 to 18%. These are considered the stars of the world of conversion rates.

The sad truth about a website with 15% conversion rate is that 85% of the visitors simply leave without converting. Money left on the table, cash the store will not be able to capture. Whatever way you think about it, we can agree that there is a huge opportunity, but it is also a very difficult one to conquer.

The Problem with Conversion Optimization

Most companies jump into conversion optimization with a lot of excitement. As you talk to teams conducting conversion optimization, you notice a common thread. They take different pages of the website and run tests on them. Some tests produce results; others do not. After a while, the teams run out of ideas. The managers run out of excitement.

The approach of randomly running tests on different pages sees conversion rate optimization in a linear fashion. The real problem is that no one shops online in a linear fashion. We do not follow a linear path when we navigate from one area of the website to the next. Humans most of the time are random, or, at least, they appear random.

What does that mean?

The right approach to increase conversion rates needs to be systematical, because it deals with irrational and random human behavior.

So, how do you do this?

The Four Steps to Breaking to Double Digits Conversion Rates

After ten years of doing conversion optimization at Invesp, I can claim that we have a process that works for many online businesses. The truth is that it continues to be a work in progress.

These are the four steps you should follow to achieve your desired conversion rate:

Create Personas for Your Website

I could never stop talking about personas and the impact they have on your website. While most companies talk about their target market, personas help you translate your generalized and somewhat abstract target market data into a personalized experience that impacts your website design, copy and layout.

Let’s take the example of a consulting company that targets “e-commerce companies with a revenue of 10 million dollars or more.” There are two problems with this statement:

  • The statement is too general about the target market (no verticals and no geography, for example)
  • I am not sure how to translate this statement into actionable items on my website or marketing activity

You should first think about the actual person who would hire the services of this consulting company. Most likely, the sales take place to:

  • A business owner for a company with annual revenue from 10 to 20 million dollars.
  • A marketing director for a company with annual revenue from 20 to 50 million dollars.
  • A VP of marketing for a company with annual revenue over 50 million dollars.

Now, translate each of these three different cases into a persona.

So, instead of talking about a business owner for a company that is generating annual revenue from 10 to 20 million dollars, we will talk about:

John Riley, 43 years old, completed his B.A. in physics from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He is a happy father of three. He started the company in 2007 and financed it from his own pocket. His company generated 13.5 million dollars of revenue in 2014 and expects to see a modest 7% increase in sales in 2015. John is highly competitive, but he also cares about his customers and thinks of them as an extended family. He would like to find a way to increase this year’s revenue by 18%, but he is not sure how to do so. He is conservative when it comes to using new marketing techniques. In general, John does not trust consultants and thinks of them as overpaid.

This is an oversimplification of the persona creation process and its final product. But you get the picture. If you are the consulting company that targets John, then what type of website design, copy and visitor flow would you use to persuade him to do business with you?

What data points do you use to create personas for your website? I would start with this:

  • Market research
  • Demographical studies
  • Usability studies
  • Zip code analysis
  • Existing customer surveys
  • Competitive landscape
  • AB and Multivariate testing data

A website or a business should typically target four to seven personas.

Add Traffic Sources

So, you have the personas. These personas should impact your design, copy and visitor flow.

But how?

Let’s start by looking at analytics data. Look for a period of six months to one year and see the top traffic sources/mediums. If your website has been online for a while, then you will probably have hundreds of different sources. Start with your top 10 traffic sources/medium and create a matrix for each of the personas/traffic source/landing pages:

Now, your job is to evaluate each top landing page for each traffic source through the eyes of your website personas. For each page, you will answer eight questions.

The persona questions: Eight questions to ask

  • What type of information would persona “x” need to see to click on to the next page on the website?
  • What would be the top concerns persona “x” have looking at the page?
  • What kind of copy does persona “x” need to see?
  • What type of trigger words are important to include on the page for persona “x”?
  • What words should I avoid for persona “x”?
  • What kind of headline should I use to persuade persona “x” to stay on my website?
  • What kind of images should I use to capture persona “x” attention?
  • What elements on the page could distract persona “x”?

As you answer these questions for each of the personas, you will end up with a large set of answers and actions. The challenge and the art will be to combine all these and make the same landing page work for all different personas. This is not a small task, but this is where the fun begins.

Consider the Buying Stages 

You thought the previous work was complex? Well, you haven’t seen anything just yet!

Not every visitor who lands on your website is ready to buy. Visitors come to your website in different buying stages, and only 15-20% are in the action stage. The sequential buying stages of a visitor are:

  • Awareness stage (top of the sales funnel)
  • Research stage
  • Evaluating alternatives
  • Action stage
  • Post action

A typical buying funnel looks like this:

How does that translate into actionable items on your website?

In the previous exercise, we created a list of changes on different screens or sections of your website based on the different personas. Now, we are going to think about each persona landing on the website in one of the first four buying stages.

Instead of thinking of how to adjust a particular screen for John Riley, now you think of a new scenario:
Persona “x” is in the “evaluating alternatives” stage of the buying funnel. He lands on a particular landing page. What do I need to adjust in the website design and copy to persuade persona “x” to convert?

Our previous table looks like this now:

Next, answer all eight persona-questions again, based on the different buying stages.

Test your different scenarios

This goes without saying; you should NEVER introduce changes to your website without actually testing them. You can find plenty of blogs and books out there on how to conduct testing correctly if you are interested in learning more about AB testing and multivariate testing.

For a start, keep the five No’s of AB testing in mind:

1. No to “Large and complex tests”

Your goal is NOT to conduct large AB or multivariate tests. Your goal is to discover what elements on the page cause visitors to act a specific way. Break complex tests into smaller ones. The more you can isolate the changes to one or two elements, the easier it will be to understand the impact of different design and copy elements on visitors’ actions.

2. No to “Tests without a hypothesis”

I can never say it enough. A test without a good hypothesis is a gambling exercise. A hypothesis is a predictive statement about a problem or set of problems on your page and the impact of solving these problems on visitor behavior.

3. No to “Polluted data”

Do not run tests for less than seven days or longer than four weeks. In both scenarios, you are leaving yourself open to the chance of inconsistent and polluted data. When you run a test for less than seven days, website data inconsistencies you are not aware of may affect your results. So, give the test results a chance to stabilize. If you run a test for more than four weeks, you are allowing external factors to have a larger impact on your results.

4. No to “Quick fixes”

Human psychology is complex. Conversion optimization is about understanding visitor behavior and adjusting website design, copy and process to persuade these visitors to convert. Conversion optimization is not a light switch you turn on and off. It is a long-term commitment. Some tests will produce results and some will not. Increases in conversion rates are great but what you are looking for is a window to visitor behavior.

5. No to “Tests without marketing insights”

Call it whatever you like: forensic analysis, posttest analysis, test results assessment. You should learn actionable marketing insights from the test to deploy across channels and verticals. The real power of any testing program lays beyond the results.

If you follow the steps outlined in this blog, you will have a lot to do.

So, happy testing!

About the author: This guide was written by Khalid Saleh. He is the CEO of Invesp, a conversion optimization software and services firm with clients in 11 different countries.



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