Why Your Website Needs to be Up-to-Speed


Why Your Website Needs to be Up-to-Speed

Assuming that a critical mass of viewers of the 2018 Winter Olympics had only a passing knowledge of the sports and how they’re judged, the super giant slalom – or “super-G” – may have surprised many with the literally split-second timing by which victory or defeat was determined. But did you know that the same holds true for the speed of your website?

A too-slow site can cost you business in ways both overt (frustrated would-be customers giving up and visiting a competitor’s website) and subtle (negative indexation by Google – speaking of “super-G”). Here is what to keep front-of-mind when determining whether your website (which should be optimized for mobile – more about that later) has the speed it needs to give your enterprise the competitive edge.

Speed is Important to Everyone Even if your business doesn’t involve ecommerce, your website still exists to drive sales. Consumers looking for a pest control service expect fast-loading pages as much as those shopping for shoes. Pages with a longer load time have higher bounce rates (the percentage of visitors who leave the site after viewing only one page), as well as a lower average time spent on the page. Need we mention that visitors using a mobile device have even greater expectations of instantaneous results?

Also, Google has indicated that site speed is one of the signals its algorithm uses to rank pages. For those with just a passing acquaintance of tech-speak, site speed refers to the page speed for a sample of page views on a website. It is different from page speed – also known as page load time (the time it takes to fully display the content of a page) – or time to first byte (how long it takes a browser to receive the first byte of information from the web server).  Why is this important? Because Google may be measuring time to first byte when it considers page speed – and, in turn, your website’s page rankings.

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To test the speed of your website and diagnose errors that are slowing it down, try GT Metrix, and Google's PageSpeed Insights, we use them here at Virtual Stacks and they are trusted in our industry as go-to sources for accurate page speed testing.

Speed Improves the User Experience Back to the world of real-life consumers, website speed is vital to providing a good user experience – just as important as user-friendliness and site reliability. To owners of ecommerce websites, speed continues to increase as a factor in conversion rates. All of the most advanced conversion rate optimization (CRO) analytics won’t help your business if the website loads too slowly.

So what’s considered “slow” by the standards of online visitors? Returning to our opening super-G analogy, the average visitor will only tolerate a load time of up to two seconds. Google’s engineers have found that potential customers will visit a site less often if it’s slower than that of a close competitor’s by more than 250 milliseconds. Yes, you read that right – milliseconds. Among their other discoveries: even 400 milliseconds – literally the blink of an eye – is too long for website visitors to wait for a page to load.

Speed Moves Mobile ForwardWebsite visitors expect the same type of experience on their mobile device as they do on their computer. Yet according to Google, a web page can take nine seconds to load on a mobile phone. Even utilizing responsive web design – which automatically adjusts the display of the website according to the type of device accessing it – doesn’t guarantee faster load times.

Google appears to recognize the emergence of mobile as the predominate means of accessing the web as it continues to roll out its mobile-first indexing, using mobile content for all search rankings. Although called an “experiment,” it’s actually the first move in Google's planned shift to looking primarily at mobile content, rather than desktop, when deciding how to rank results. Search Engine Land recently reported that Google will move more sites to the mobile-first index in the coming weeks.

The Take-home Message An ecommerce website that provides a user-friendly experience – beginning with a fast load time – is better positioned to sustain a competitive advantage. From making customers happy to improving search engine rankings, website speed is now an even greater priority than ever. To be sure your organization is up-to-speed, our web development team at Virtual Stacks Systems can create a website/ecommerce site that will help your organization achieve its goals. Contact us today to learn more.

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Working Remotely? Try THE BEST APPS for Remote Work & Freelancing!


Top 10 (Plus One) Apps for Remote Work

Congratulations! Your business is growing and you’re adding employees! However, not all of your new hires need to report to the office – and some kind of jobs, such as regional sales – pretty much require field work. Telecommuting is becoming more desirable for employers as well as employees for such reasons as greatly reduced overhead.

According to The 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce Report, companies see an average of $11,000 annual savings per telecommuting employee. The report was produced by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, focusing on full-time employees who work from home at least half of the time.

As one of the major findings from the report is that the number of people telecommuting in the United States increased a whopping 115 percent in the last 10 years, you may be taking a serious look at which of the vast array of apps for remote work are best suited for your business and the way you want your team members to collaborate.

Whether your remote team consists of full-time, part-time or freelancers – or any mix thereof – Virtual Stacks Systems has rounded up the apps for remote work that consistently top the experts’ lists, so you don’t have to! Thanks to HubSpot, Inc., Skillcrush and eServe.

We also reached out to owners of home-based businesses, who provided their valuable input.

The Best Apps for Remote Work & Freelancing!

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools1 -  Asana Project management app that allows you to create and delegate tasks; organize tasks into shared projects, chat with team members within each task; and add attachments from Box, Dropbox and Google Drive. It also includes calendar features, project dashboards and to-do lists.

 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 2 - Box Enterprise-friendly tool provides secure file sharing, storage and collaboration, while offering solutions for a wide variety of business needs.

 
 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 3 - Dropbox Ideal for exchanging files that are too large to send via email; collaborative work and backups; allows easy access and sharing of folders. Especially useful for organizing freelancer work.

 
 

 4 - Evernote Popular notebook and productivity program that functions as a paperless office; integrates very well with many other productivity apps.

 
 
“I recently started using Evernote for saving various formats of work in one place,” says Jinal Shah, founder of If I Were Marketing, a branding and marketing strategy consultancy. Along with Dropbox, she finds it useful for organizing her business and its diverse client base. “They are among my favorite go-to tools for my work.” 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 5- GoToMeeting Easy, intuitive connectivity for video conferencing.

 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 6 - GitHub Powerful tool for web developers to build software with remote teams. Features include code review and management for open source and private projects. GitHub Wiki allows you to share your work with the rest of the GitHub community. Employers can also use it as a company resource for employee onboarding that organizes information for new hires.

 
 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 7 - iDoneThis Team progress tracking software that provides easy daily check-ins and powerful progress reports to run more effective and productive teams. Compiles individual responses into a digest and distributes it to all team members.

 
 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 8 - Signal – Open-source, free encryption software that allows you to communicate instantly while avoiding SMS and MMS fees; create groups so that you can chat in real time with all team members at once; and share media or attachments – all with complete privacy. The server never has access to any of your communication and never stores any of your data.

 
 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 9 - Slack Allows real-time, on-on-one communication with everyone on your team. Chats can be organized by subject, and integrates activity from GitHub, Trello and other applications. Allows communication to be defined by client or team, so that only those in a specific group will be included in conversations.

 
 
“Think of Slack like the professional version of WhatsApp,” says by Monica Mizzi, Content Director at Compose.ly, a freelance content platform that helps businesses tell their brand story. “Slack makes communication easy by pooling essential tasks like messaging, video chat and file sharing in one. You can even integrate your Trello board to it, so you get updates directly to Slack.”

Another fan of Slack is John Jonas, owner of Onlinejobs.ph, a website that helps business owners who want to outsource to Philipino virtual assistants.

 

“The thing we like about Slack is how organized it is,” Jonas says. “Different departments are placed in different rooms. Topics are easy to search, and attaching documents is a breeze.”

 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 10 - Trello Elegant in its simplicity, this project management tool is based on a system of cards and project boards for making notes on what needs to be done and who should be assigned to the task. Has been described as a team post-it-note board on steroids.

 

“My favorite tool for staying organized is Trello,” says Mizzi. “It is a practical visual organizer that allows you to segment all of your different projects into different cards and boards. It is truly a lifesaver for any freelancer who wants to stay on top of all of their tasks!”

 

Best Tools for Remote Working, Freelancing Tools, Tools for Remote Work, Collaboration Software, Business Team Collaboration Tools 11 - Wunderlist A tracking and scheduling program for personal to-do lists and client work. Allows task management from a smartphone, tablet, computer or smartwatch.

Conclusion

One parting thought: According to The 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce Report, telecommuting exceeds public transportation as the commute option of choice in more than half of the top U.S. metro areas – growing far faster than any other commute mode. Finding the tools that deliver the best results for your remote workforce is now more essential than ever to achieving success!

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The State of B2B Content Marketing in 2018 – Long Live the King!


The State of B2B Content Marketing in 2018 – Long Live the King!

The adage “Content is King” has just been proven more true than ever. A newly released survey report, B2B Content Marketing 2018: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America, reveals the effectiveness of content marketing in building audiences and businesses. The results are worth noting if your business is on the fence about launching a content marketing strategy, or committing more resources to your existing program.

The eighth annual survey was produced by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs, and sponsored by online video platform Brightcove.

  

It was mailed to a sample of marketers using lists from CMI, MarketingProfs, Association for Data-driven Marketing & Advertising (ADMA), WTWH Media, and Technology for Marketing (TFM).

Content Marketing By The Numbers

First significant finding: Content marketing is no longer a nice-to-have extra. The survey revealed an 18% year-over-year increase in respondents who said they’re focused on using content marketing to build their audience. Why? Because content marketing is a proven strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. In addition, nearly 65% of respondents said their overall content marketing success has increased compared with one year ago.

First eye-opening finding: 91% of B2B survey respondents said they use content marketing. Of the nonusers, 54% said they plan to launch a content marketing effort within 12 months.

Behind the numbers: Unlike the early days of content marketing, high-quality content that adds value to your business or brand makes a big difference. According to the survey, the major factor contributing to B2B marketers’ increased content marketing success over the last year was content creation (higher quality, more efficient) at 78%. Coming in second at 72% was strategy (development or adjustment).

Following the emphasis on quality, 74% of respondents agreed with the statement, “Our organization values creativity and craft in content creation and production.” The most agreed-with statement at 80% was, “Our organization is focused on building audiences (building one or more subscriber bases).” Also revealing were responses to how often B2B marketers consider various concepts while creating content. Ensuring that content is fact-based and/or credible was cited by 94% of respondents. Following in second and third place, respectively, was “Consider how our content impacts the overall experience a person has with our organization” at 72%, and “Prioritize delivering content quality over content quantity” at 70%.

Most Popular Content Marketing Types

What types of content did the survey respondents use for content marketing purposes? Social media posts – excluding videos – topped the list at 94%. However, long-form content, such as e-books and white papers (50%) and case studies (47%) placed ahead of social media posts (41%) when it came to the top three most effective types of content for helping their organization achieve specific objectives.

So how do organizations measure success? Analytics tools were identified by 87% of respondents for managing the effectiveness of content marketing efforts. Email marketing technology (email-focused) followed at 70%.

As further testimony to the power of content marketing, 38% of survey respondents expect their content marketing budget to increase in the next 12 months.

On the other side of B2B enthusiasm for content marketing was the group of respondents that did not plan to develop a content marketing strategy within 12 months. The major reasons? A small team (67%) and lack of time (44%).

Although the survey did not explore this aspect, organizations that feel shut out of the great potential content marketing offers can work with a full-service digital marketing company to provide a complete content marketing strategy, and handle all aspects of content creation, posting, management and analytics. Even B2B organizations that are considering expanding their content marketing reach or want to free up internal resources can benefit from outsourcing.

Add Content To Your Marketing Strategy

Our experienced content marketing team at Virtual Stacks Systems knows the importance of producing high-quality content that’s relevant to your target audience and adds value to your business or brand at every step. Contact us today if you want to be among next year’s top performers!

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Seven Ways to Increase E-Commerce Conversions in 2018


Seven Ways to Increase E-commerce Conversions in 2018

According to the eMarketer, total e-commerce sales worldwide are expected to reach $2.77 trillion in the year 2018.

The e-commerce market has shown a steady increase in the last five years  ̶  a trend that is likely to continue. From $1.34 trillion in 2014, the e-commerce industry is projected to reach a whopping $4.48 trillion in the year 2021.  

E-commerce is a growing, yet complex market in which to succeed. It is a growing market because more and more people are turning to the internet for shopping. After all, online shopping isn’t just convenient, it spoils consumers with a variety of choices that aren’t as readily available in a brick-and-mortar retail store. And it is a complex market because not every e-commerce business owner is enjoying great profits.

If you are in the highly competitive e-commerce industry, conversion rates should be the greatest area of concern. Your e-commerce website may receive numerous visitors, but if they leave without becoming customers, it isn’t generating sales.

However, you don’t necessarily have to spend a great amount of money to improve your conversion rates. A website makeover may be in order, but there are many conversion rate optimization techniques that can improve your figures.

Understanding E-Commerce Conversion Rates:

The percentage of people who visit your website and complete the desired action is known as the conversion rate. This is the percentage of people who visit your site and buy from your online store. Nevertheless, this is not the only parameter for gauging success.

Any of the following actions can qualify as a conversion: a online sale, a buyer adding an item to their cart, someone adding an item to their wish list, social media shares, email signups and any other key performance indicator (KPI) you think is valuable for your e-commerce business.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the method of finding ways to help the shopping experience of visitors to drive sales. On average, e-commerce conversion rates vary from 1% to 2%  ̶  but this is when you are doing most of the right things. For example, if 10,000 people visit your online store and 100 conversions are taking place for a particular period, your conversion rate is one percent.

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7 Ways to Increase E-Commerce Conversions in 2018

1- Use more product images and visuals – Attractive product photos make a big difference. People want to look at what they’re planning to buy, making product images one of the major factors in improving conversion rates. Because visitors can’t pick up and touch the items, providing as much visual information as possible is essential to enhance the shopping experience. Use high-quality, high-resolution images, with enough white space around them to prevent a cluttered appearance. Also include photos that show the product from different angles. And don’t skimp on size: Large images can increase your sales by as much as 9.4%.

2- Use high-quality product videosAdd videos to your marketing strategy! Videos now appear in 70% of the top 100 search results listings, with viewers being anywhere from 64-85% more likely to buy after watching a product video.

Businesses that use product videos generate revenue faster than those that don’t. However, low-quality product videos don’t help in increasing the conversions – 62% of customers form a negative opinion about the brand if the product video is poor quality.

3- Product descriptions are important, so improve them – Well-written product descriptions help your visitors convert to customers if they find all the relevant information alongside the product. Text should be in an easy-to-read font and point size, and in high contrast to the background. Add a summary of features and benefits for those who are currently just browsing.

Writing original product descriptions – rather than just pasting the manufacturer’s – can also boost your website’s search engine rankings. Hiring a professional copywriter on a freelance basis may be worth the investment.

4- Improve your checkout process and resolve cart abandonment issues – Cart abandonment is a common problem. According to a study by Forrester, 89% of customers have at some time left the website without completing the sale.

There are many reasons customers abandon a cart, including: mandatory registration, shipping costs, site speeds, comparison shopping (visitor not yet ready to buy), doubts and/or distractions.

Improving your checkout process by making it simple, easy and user-friendly may remedy the situation. For example, provide guest checkout so that customers aren’t required to register before buying. About 80% of U.S. online retailers offer guest checkout. Or, when a registered customer abandons their shopping cart, send a follow-up email asking if the reason was an issue you can help resolve.

5- Encourage your customers to post a review – Online shopping is about trust. Customers who give good reviews are bound to increase your conversion rates. More than 60% of online buyers read the reviews before purchasing the product. About 88% of individuals say that they have faith in the online reviews, and that they carry the same weight as personal recommendations.

Encourage your customers to post a review. Offer incentives, such as a discount, reward points or even a gift. The positive reviews can increase conversion rates, while negative reviews can provide a valuable opportunity to address the issue and ensure an improved shopping experience. If you’ve taken action to solve the problem, reply to the complaint. Removing negative comments or reviews can harm the reputation of your business.

6- Offer free shipping – About 28% of online shoppers will abandon their purchase because of shipping costs that weren’t revealed until checkout, and 74% will do so if they consider the shipping cost too high.

Offering free shipping to all customers is an ideal way to increase conversion rates. It attracts new customers and acts as an incentive for repeat business. If you do add shipping costs, be sure they are clearly stated.

7- Offer choices, but within reason – Too many product choices can overwhelm visitors. According to HubSpot, Columbia University questioned the widely accepted belief that choice is good through the “jam study.” Customers were offered the choice of six different jams in one location and 24 flavors in another. Of those with six choices, 40% were more likely buy, as compared to 3% faced with 24 choices. The result is clear evidence that too many choices discourage buying.

Product filters – which display a specific number of products on each product category page – also can lower conversion rates.

If you’re ready to increase the conversion rates of your e-commerce store, Virtual Stacks Systems can put our industry best practices to work for you. From product images and engaging videos to other conversion optimization techniques for connecting with your target audience, Virtual Stacks Systems will help you improve conversions, drive sales and increase your overall revenues.

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Is Freelancing Right For You? The State of Remote Working in 2018


Remote Work in 2018

In 2018, cloud computing continues to grow and businesses across the world are shifting their operations to the cloud. This shift offers several advantages, including cost efficiency, flexibility, and increased productivity and the tools to make all of this a reality. For business owners a primary concern was the overhead and technical infrastructure it takes to set up an office but this is now no longer the case. According to a recent study from Staples, this year, only 32% of employees spent all their time working in or at their office, and 43% of employees say remote work is a must-have.

Richard Heby of Liquid Space provides an interesting tidbit:

"94%  of American workers want to work remotely, at least at the same rate they are now, or more. Another relevant fact – people love remote work because it provides a better work-life balance. In fact, work-life balance is the second most commonly cited positive reason for telecommuting."

Digital nomads use telecommunication technologies to earn a living thus giving them the opportunity to life their life in a nomadic manner. These remote workers often work from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, or co-working spaces and utilize cloud computing to complete their work. Facilitated by the advent of applications like Slack, Asana, and Trello teams can be connected across the world and no longer have the need to work in a share office space.

According to a study by Deloitte, millennials will constitute 50 percent of the workforce by 2020 and there has been a shift where values mean more than the bottom line. "Those likely to remain longest share their organization’s values, and are more satisfied with its

sense of purpose and support of professional development."

In another report by American Express, 1,363 Millennials were surveyed, those born between 1980 and 1996—in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany. As for the 343 U.S. Millennials who were surveyed, they want to make a positive difference in the world (68%) and said a successful business needs to have a genuine purpose (81%) and the values of their employer should match their own (78%). More than one-third define success as doing work that has a positive impact on society.

Millennials are seeking work with meaning beyond just making money and working remotely as a digital nomad is a way to accomplish these lifestyle and work goals.

How to Find Remote Work

There are many avenues to find remote work however, one in particular stands out, called Remote Year.

Millennial entrepreneurs Greg Caplan and Sam Pessin founded Remote Year and the first program occured in 2015. Remote Year helps facilitate a  community of people who want to live and work remotely as a part of a vibrant community.

“Giving your workforce the opportunity to work remotely can result in productivity that exceeds what your employees may have achieved by spending the same number of hours in an office”, says Greg Caplan.

Is Remote Working Right for Your Business

However, working remotely isn’t for everyone. And companies hiring should keep an eye out for certain workforce management traits that can ensure that an employee is best suited for the telecommuting lifestyle. These include things like prior telecommuting experience and autonomy are just a few of the skills. The right kinds of top talent can flourish when they're permitted to work with fewer restrictions.

While there are many advantages, working remotely isn’t without its disadvantages. Many of them stem from the fact that if you are telecommuting then you aren't getting to know your coworkers as well as you would if you were in an office. Some people also lack the discipline it takes to work remotely.

However the only way to see if it is right for you is to try it and give it enough time to see if it works for you.  

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Yelp Updates Are Coming: Get Your Business Pages Ready!




Yelp Changes: Get Your Business Ready

A robust presence on Yelp is essential for your business for a number of reasons. Good reviews from Yelp users can help your SEO strategy by driving more local traffic to your website and business. Yelp users like to see a business that is quick to respond to costumer concerns and broadcasts that they care about fixing any aspect of a negative experience. Yelp will soon be rolling out more changes to their platform, and businesses will need to be ready to have even more of a social presence on the site.

No more review requests

Yelp will be strictly enforcing its policies against soliciting positive reviews from customers in exchange for goods or compensation. The Yelp terms and services prohibit getting reviews in a way that is not organic (similar to Youtube’s rules against telling visitors directly to click on ads). Instead of trying to bribe costumers for good reviews, businesses need to curate positive responses on Yelp through a standard of high-quality customer service.

Yelp Followers will be available for all to see...

Currently on Yelp “followers” of a particular brand are invisible and anonymous. Users can see updates on businesses they follow, but no one can see what businesses they are following. Yelp has recently announced this will be changing. On November 28th Yelp follower lists will be visible to all. This is the perfect opportunities for businesses use their follows as a way to grow their brand.

Updates to Facebook Local Will Rival Yelp

Facebook already always had a review presence, but they have recently moved to compete directly with Yelp. The newest Facebook product launch is actually a relaunch of Facebook Local. The original Facebook Local app acted as a curator of events in your area. The relaunch still curates events, but it will instead give a greater focus on Yelp-style reviews and recommendations. If the app takes off Yelp will have a healthy competitor, and businesses will need to strategize for yet another platform. Just like with Yelp and with the current system of Facebook page reviews on their main website, be responsive and attentive to review responses.

Having a landing page ready to go

Yelp traffic will likely bring people to your website. You will need a landing page that clearly expresses your product or service’s mission statement, with a call to action that drives people to purchase products, sign up for a newsletter, download files, and so on. This will be the first thing customers see when they click your website from Yelp so make it pop! Yelp Changes: Get Your Business Ready, Local SEO, Yelp marketing, Digital marketing, SEO Company

Virtual Stacks Systems can build you a winning landing page. Virtual Stacks Systems can also assist you with gaining organic web traffic through SEO services, and assist you in all of your digital marketing needs.

While we're on the subject, if we helped you launch a new website or digital marketing campaign... head on over to our Yelp page and leave a review 🙂

 

 

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