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Regulators Wrangle Over How to Protect Crowdfunding Investors

Regulators Wrangle Over How to Protect Crowdfunding Investors

At the heart of the debate over how to write the rules for the next generation of crowdfunding is how much regulators should seek to protect small investors.

Under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, known as the JOBS Act, small investors would be able to invest only a portion of their net worth. What rulemakers can’t agree on is how to determine an investor’s net worth.

One option is to have investors report their own net worth, a route known as “self attestation.”

Another alternative is having crowdfunding portals or a third-party, such as a broker or accounting firm, verify the net worth of potential investors and have an independent database track all equity-crowdfunding investments. The Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment.

Either option has its shortcomings. Self-attestation would effectively render the small-investor protection clause of the law toothless. “The debate comes down to this: Do we care about the part of the law that says you are limited to how much you can give?” says David Marlett, founder and executive director of the National Crowdfunding Association, an industry advocacy group.

The alternative, which require determining an individual’s net worth, would be a complex process that could potentially derail the immediacy of equity crowdfunding, says Marlett, who has been involved in rulemaking discussions with lawmakers, regulators and industry advocates. Many investors would likely object to having an agency examine their assets and debts to assign a net worth, he says.

“You would kill everything, grind it to a stop, you might as well not even let any unaccredited investors [crowdfund],” says Marlett. “Crowdfunding is an instantaneous, ‘Hey, I want to go help this,’ kind of deal, not, ‘Hey, I want you to help me crowdfund, but here are these six forms you got to fill out and you’ve got to show your tax returns.’ For what? $500. ‘Sorry, no, thanks. See ya!’ ” says Marlett.

However, if everyone is eligible to declare their own net worth without documentation, small investors may be able to effectively circumvent any investing limits. “If the SEC goes with a system based on self-certification, they will have abandoned their responsibility,” says Barbara Roper, director of investor protections at the Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Federation of America. Congress was clear, she says, that it wanted to include rules protecting small investors from losing their life’s savings.

“If they can’t offer crowdfunding in a way that is responsible and limits potential harm to investors, then it shouldn’t exist,” says Roper. “In crowdfunding, we say that anybody can invest in these most speculative of companies, most of which, through no fraud or ill-will, will fail. And we are going to let average Americans risk their retirement savings on these kinds of investments, and the least we should do is put some restrictions around that to minimize potential losses,” she says. She supports a system with an independent net worth verification and a database to track all crowdfunding pledges.

Currently, equity crowdfunding is limited to accredited investors, typically wealthy individuals and institutions. Opening online equity crowdfunding to anyone with cash and willingness is one of most popular provisions of the JOBS Act. The SEC has already missed rulemaking deadlines established when the bill was passed in April last year.

Marlett also supports having an independent third party maintain a database. In his plan, net worth would be self-reported to a central database, which would also track investor pledges on all crowdfunding portals. The database would ping regulators when small investors try to invest more than permitted under the still-to-be written rules. The portals would be required to register with the database. He says that this system could still, admittedly, be gamed, but it would serve as a “speed bump” in slowing down fraudsters, who Marlett calls “smile-and-dial” guys, seeking to persuade small investors to part with their money.

In the end, Marlett expects the SEC to opt for self-attestation, but he says he will continue to push for a third-party pinging system. “We do have a choice. I have been in those rooms, those bullpens with the smile-and-dial guys. I know how they are. And if you can slow them down, it can make a difference, a significant difference,” Marlett says.

 

What Small Businesses Care About This Election Year

What Small Businesses Care About This Election Year

With just about six months left before the presidential election, healthcare and tax policy are small business owners two most pressing political issues, according to a nationwide survey released today.

About one in five small business owners (19 percent) feel that healthcare will hurt them more than any other political issue, according to a survey of 1,593 business owners conducted in early May by Manta, an online community dedicated to small business. Meanwhile,17 percent of small business owners say tax policy will impact them the most, followed closely by government regulation with 14 percent of respondents.

Small business owners’ focus on taxes has certainly not escaped politicians. Just last week, President Obama went to a small business near Washington where, among other things, he called on Congress to pass two tax cuts for small businesses. He touted a 10 percent income-tax credit for businesses that create new jobs or increase wages in 2012 and a tax break that would allow businesses to write-off 100 percent of selected expenses this year. The set of proposals Obama championed was outlined by Senate Democrats earlier this year.

The White House Administration pitted the President’s proposal for small business tax reform against the proposal made by House Republicans, which offers a 20 percent tax cut for all businesses with fewer than 500 employees for one single year. The same day that President Obama touted the Democratic tax proposals last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) issued a statement criticizing President Obama’s efforts to help small business and calling his proposals a “Washington-knows-best approach.”

Meanwhile, nearly one in three business owners (31 percent) say they don’t even understand the current health care tax credit that was passed as part of the health care reform in 2010, according to a separate survey by Manta, conducted earlier this year. That tax break is available to businesses with fewer than the equivalent of 25 full-time workers, pay at least half their workers’ health-care premiums and pay an average annual wage of $50,000. The percentage of health-care premiums that a business can claim increases the smaller a business is and the fewer employees it has. Maxed out, the credit is 35 percent of what the business pays on premiums this year and next – and increases to 50 percent in 2014.

In February, the President proposed to expand the health-care tax credit to more businesses as part of his budget plan.

Readers, what is the most pressing issue you want to see addressed ahead of the presidential election? 

What Is Content Decay and How It Affects Your SEO

What Is Content Decay and How It Affects Your SEO

There’s one semi-tragic experience that every online blog will inevitably experience at some point.

Has this ever happened to you:

You’ve worked tirelessly to create a strong, best-in-the-industry blog post. It’s chock-full of case studies, examples, rich media and statistics, and it was carefully written and edited to be both entertaining and actionable. It’s an enormous thrill to see that blog post rank in the number one spot in the SERPs – and then it’s heartbreaking to watch it suddenly start to fall in ranking.

If you search for almost any keyword, there’s a solid chance that today’s number one ranking result won’t hold that position after a few months.

With more than 4.4 million blog posts published every day, it’s easy to get discouraged about ever keeping a top position in the SERPs – and it can be if you’re not combatting content decay.

What Exactly Is Content Decay & What Causes It?

Content decay is, simply put, content that’s been declining in traffic over the past twelve months.

In many cases, this can be directly tied to a decreased ranking in the SERPs, which unfortunately happens naturally over time.

There are a number of reasons why content decay happens, including the following:

  • Brands are typically focused on moving forward, not looking back. They prioritize new content, and as a result stop promoting past content on social media, in email newsletters, and in ad campaigns. This results in a direct loss of incoming traffic.
  • Google prioritizes newer content. Google loves relevant, fresh content that is up to date with the most recent information. Google monitors three types of searches when it comes to “fresh content”: regularly occurring events, frequent updates, and hot topics and recent events. If you’re not publishing new content, this can result in even the best resources potentially falling in the SERPs over time.
  • New competitors may emerge and snag your top SERP spot. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for competing blogs to use the “skyscraper method” in which another writer essentially takes your top-performing content, adds to it to make it much better, and tries to usurp your ranking.

How Content Decay Impacts Your SEO

Content decay naturally takes a negative hit on your SEO efforts, which in turn results in less traffic coming to your site.

This can result in a downward spiral if you don’t take steps to correct it soon. As fewer people click on to your article because of a lack of visibility, your ranking will fall more and more, and at some point it becomes harder to rank well again.

All else being equal, Google prioritizes fresher content.

This is frustrating, because after all the time and effort you put into carefully creating and optimizing your blog post, it can eventually have a diminishing value of return. If you don’t take efforts to refresh your content (which we’ll show you how to do in just a minute!), content decay and its negative effect on your SEO strategy are almost inevitable.

Take a look at this example that demonstrates that Google prioritizes recency. You can see that the first three results are from last year:

Screen Shot 2020 03 02 at 1.55.40 AM

Your ranking will fall as content decay sets in, no matter where you are in the SERPs and even if your brand consistently ranks well in the search engines.

Keep in mind that even a drop from the second spot down to the ninth can be devastating for potential clicks and conversions on your site. This is particularly true considering that 57% of B2B marketers have named SEO as their most powerful lead generator, and 72% have named content marketing as their most effective SEO tactic.

How to Spot Content Decay on Your Site

There are a few tools and strategies that you can use to spot content decay on your website.

Content Decay by ClickFlow

Content Decay is a feature designed specifically to identify content decay in our SEO experimentation tool ClickFlow (full disclosure: this is our tool). It connects to your Google Search Console account and automatically finds and flags posts that have been declining in traffic over the past year:

Content Decay - ClickFlow

With this tool, you’re able to see exactly how traffic has fluctuated for each post affected by decay. For each page, it shows you the three months before and three months after a decay was detected so you can discover any patterns.

 

 

Knowing exactly which posts have been getting less click-throughs will help you increase your organic CTR opportunities.

Although we’re obviously biased towards our own tool, there are other tools that you can use, though they may have some downsides.

Google Analytics

Use Google Analytics to carefully watch your blog posts and keep an eye out for changes in the overall traffic coming to them. If there’s a consistent decline in traffic (as shown in the below image), you’re experiencing content decay:

Screen Shot 2020 03 02 at 2.00.40 AM

The downside to this approach is that it’s a very manual approach and it can take a lot of time on a regular basis. You need to track each post year-over-year, and that’s not always easy or efficient.

SEMrush

Another approach is to use a position-tracking tool, like the one available through SEMrush. This will alert you when any of your tracked pages increase or decrease in ranking in the SERPs. This can be useful to detect SEO changes that could result in or be caused by content decay.

Screen Shot 2020 03 02 at 2.04.28 AM

It doesn’t tell the full story, but it’s useful for flagging decay so you can address it quickly.

How to Grow Your SEO Traffic by Fixing Your Content Decay

If you’re starting to wonder if content marketing is even worth it when you factor in content decay, don’t worry, it absolutely is!

There are plenty of case studies that prove this fact, including this one that details how the brand Capgemini used content marketing to attract:

  • more than one million new visitors to their site
  • and 1.8 million shares of their content

While blog posts can’t just be written, optimized and put out into the world with full finality, there is some great news here: With the right strategy, you can refresh your posts and re-optimize them so that they can gain that “fresh” perspective, outrank your competition, and get you the results they were delivering before.

At a minimum, we recommend refreshing (and expanding on) the pages that have shown content decay.

Here are some quick, actionable ideas to guide your refreshes which, in many cases, is enough to win back SEO traffic:

  • Expand the word count and add more depth and examples
  • Replace outdated stats and references that “date” the post
  • Re-promote this updated content to your email list and on social
  • Add internal links from other posts to these pages

Now, let’s take a deeper look at how you can fix your content decay and get back that SEO juice:

What Type of Side Hustle Should You Try? (Infographic)

What Type of Side Hustle Should You Try? (Infographic)

Need some extra cash? Try pursuing a side gig. Side businesses are not only great for the extra income, but they can also be a way to pursue your passions or share your expertise. Of course, figuring out which type of side business to pursue can be a challenge.

For starters, brainstorm all of your hobbies and passions and figure out if there’s a way to make some money off them. Do you like to make crafts? Try selling them on Etsy. If you’re into photography, try selling your images on Shutterstock. If you’re not sure that your passion can bring you some extra dough, think about your skills. If you have expertise on a certain subject, you can become a freelancer and accept projects on a case-by-case basis.

If you have a lot of time to dedicate to a side hustle, think about joining the gig economy and taking up a job such as driving for Uber or Lyft or walking dogs in your neighborhood. From renting out your room on Airbnb to doing others’ errands through TaskRabbit, there are endless options for side hustles you can try.

To learn more, check out QuidCorner’s infographic below.

Courtesy of: Quid Corner

How can I achieve a high click-through rate with a successful banner placement?

How can I achieve a high click-through rate with a successful banner placement?

It’s unlikely that many people, even the very first to advertise, realized what the online advertising world would become in such a short period of time. Then again, most of us didn’t even know what emails were then, broadband wasn’t even a thing, and Mark Zuckerberg was still a little kid… kind of makes advertising show its wrinkles a little doesn’t it?

Website Banners For High Click-Through Rates
One marker of a successful website banner is a high click-through rate — and 5 easy guidelines will help achieve this.

Along with online advertising came website banners. If you used the internet regularly in the 1990s and early 2000s you might associate the web banner with bright, flashy and obnoxious designs that invaded your browsing experience.

To this day you can still view the first ever banner ad, which was released by Wired on their first website, hotwired.com, on October 27, 1994. While we tried our best to avoid them, web banner ads just wouldn’t go away, and it’s safe to say that they developed quite the negative reputation in the online world.

To this day, there are still organizations not doing website banners justice. Some people just never learn.

Let’s look at some display and banner ad statistics to see where ads went wrong, and what we can do going forward to bring them back in style.

When done poorly, 33 percent of people think that display ads are completely intolerable.

Even worse,64 percent of peoplesay that ads are annoying and intrusive.

Is Banner Blindness Real?

The short answer — very much so.

The reason behind this is very simple – internet users are getting better at just that – using the internet. When they land on any page, their eyes and brains are already wired to go to the most logical places where they can find the information they need.

We’ve learned to use selective attention so that we can accomplish our goal and tune out the noise – in this case, website banners.

According to research conducted by Marketing Experiments, moving a banner ad from the right to the left results in a 74 percent engagement rate increase.

Of course, you should always bear in mind that what works in general, might not work for your brand.

That is why testing banner placement is a key to helping you increase your CTR.

 

Are Web Banners Doomed?

People fail to realize that if done the right way, web banner ads are, in reality, a great way to spread a message to your desired audience. They are far from being obsolete, and you shouldn’t throw them out the window without careful consideration.

The revenue from banner ads is expected to grow 7 percent annually.

And it’s estimated that in 2019, this revenue will reach $25.

Over time, and thanks to increasing expertise in the world of online design, web banner ads went from the arch-enemy of the internet user to an engaging and impressive way for brands to reach users who might be interested to learn more.

Even though the banner display on desktop computers is on the decline, mobile banner use is increasing. So at the end of the day, companies easily earn $39 per internet user.

That’s huge considering this number used to be $29.

Banners are an acceptable medium for driving traffic and increasing click-through rates, which has quickly become a major marker for success.

So no, banners are still here to stay and they are only doomed if you don’t do them right.

The Purpose Of A Website Banner And How To Use Them

When you create a web banner you typically have an overall intention of driving traffic to your website via a link that you’ve attached to the banner. However, that’s not the only way that web banners can be used. We’ve split the roles that web banner ads can take into four helpful sections.

1. Increasing Website Traffic

As mentioned, this is the most obvious way that web banners are used — purely to get more targeted traffic to your website where users can browse through your content and learn about your product or service.

You need to focus on banner design if you want to capture the user’s attention and intrigue them to click on it.

2. Selling A Product Or Service

Banner ads can be used to encourage users to show interest in, or buy, certain products or services. This is where the context and placement of web banners come into play. If you’re selling a camping tent, you might want to place a banner ad on a camping holiday website next to their latest offers for the coming summer.

For a prime example of how effective web banner ads can be, you only need to check out Airbnb’s case study.

Using targeted banner ads, Airbnb was able to reach an international audience, target new customers and change prevailing assumptions about budget travel. The results were increased awareness and more than 80,000 new home listings on their site.

3. Grabbing A User’s Attention

With dwindling attention spans, and an increased exposure to ads (5,000 per day roughly), our poor little brains are put under immense strain and as a consequence, companies have to be very selective over what they place in their banner ads and why.

To grab a user’s attention you don’t just need to have a web banner that is contextual and placed effectively. It also has to be creative enough to trigger a user’s mind like 4,999 of the other ads they’ll see today don’t.

4. Announcing Discounts Or Sales

Web banner ads are a great way to promote special offers or limited discount codes for your products. Think about Black Friday. If you were a retailer or had recently launched your first product you could create a web banner promoting an x% discount if the user clicks on the banner.

CTAs like “claim his offer,” “get it now,” “shop now” and more will only work if the offer (and the discount percentage) is attractive enough to the website visitor.

Website Banners
Website banners come in all shapes, sizes and designs.  

5. Retargeting

Banner ads play an important role in retargeting. The buyer’s journey from recognizing a problem to the consideration phase where customers actively seek solutions is hectic, to say the least. Consumer attention spans are horrible, especially since we know that opinions are formed in less than a second.

Good CTR rates for banners are around 0.05 percent – 0.07 percent.

However, theaverage CTR for retargeted bannersis 0.7 percent which makes it 10 times larger!

And it’s known that retargeted visitors are more likely to achieve conversion on your website – a staggering 70 percent of them.

Measuring The Success Of Your Web Banner Ads Using Click-Through Rates (CTR)

The widely accepted way to measure how successful a web banner has been to assess the click-through rate (CTR) that it achieved.

The CTR is the number of times a user clicks on the web banner against the number of times it’s viewed.

For example, if your web banner was viewed 100 times and five users clicked on it you would have a CTR of 5 percent. That’s a pretty good CTR by the way!

Google Rich Media Gallery Tool CTR

Google actually states that the average CTR of all display ads across their network is 0.05 percent. That’s a pretty good starting point from which you can set your expectations when you’re measuring web banners. You can actually refine the criteria to pinpoint ads and placements that match your intended ads using this free tool from Google.

What Are The Benefits Of Measuring Click-Through Rate (CTR)?

CTR isn’t just helpful, it’s important. It can tell you a lot about the crucial aspects of your web banner. In order to have a successful banner that will serve its purpose, which we described above, you need to have a measurement process in place that will tell you when you need to change certain features and elements.

A CTR is perfect for that — and measuring it can help you uncover crucial things about your banner, like:

1Does your messaging resonate with your targeted audience?

This one is fairly simple. Having a well-placed banner for an audience of poor choice can break your entire banner strategy. You might be serving your ad to the wrong people and a low CTR can indicate this. Check your buyer personas and use analytics to uncover who your real customers.

With this information, you can design a banner that appeals to the right people. And if you don’t keep track, you’ll put yourself on the path to misplaced and off-topic ads.

2. Is the design aesthetically appealing, or are people irritated by it?

You might have to face the fact that your banner just isn’t appealing enough. The thing about banners is that designers have to walk a fine line between beautiful and noticeable. Just because a banner is aesthetically pleasing doesn’t mean it’ll get noticed. So you have to make sure you’re understanding your audience and the design as a whole.

3. Which placement worked best?

This is a trial and error process, as many things in marketing and design are. You can’t know what will 100 percent work for your brand until you test it. Sometimes even the smallest changes to your banner like the format, font, color, time of placement and more can affect the banner’s CTR and overall success.

4. Is it better to have a banner before a particular piece of content?

The right question is whether to put the banner above or below the fold and where. It all depends on your brand, products, sales copy and how the conversation is going so far between you and your consumers. 

Don’t confuse people and bombard them with off-topic information. And make sure the ad flows with everything else on the page.

5. Does having the banner above the fold actually make that much difference?

Like we’ve said, the right banner placement is all about testing. You won’t know the best spot until you find it.

6. Are people more likely to click on the web banner on some websites compared to others?

Yes, but again, this is where multiple factors come in. Banners have to be well designed, attractive and attention-grabbing, but they also have to stand out from the website’s background. The same banner can perform better on certain sites compared to others, depending on the topic, placement and even the website’s design.

But this is still up for testing. And the more you test, the better your banners will perform.

7.  Is the timing right?

There’s also a lot at stake when it comes to timing and banner placement. Some things can work all the time, and some can’t. For example, offering a restaurant coupon makes sense to do before lunch, but when people get back from stuffing their faces, the last thing they will notice on a full stomach is that banner.

You might be thinking, but how can I tell all of this from just a few web banners? Well, you can’t, that’s why you run a series of web banners testing messaging, graphics, design, placement, CTA’s and audience variables. You can read more about testing in the tips below.

How Much Do Website Banner Ads Cost?

If you’re unsure about the cost of web banner ads don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as you might think. You’ve put all that work into designing these beautiful banners now you need to put some financial investment behind them to make sure they target the right people and in a significant enough quantity.

In general, there are two forms of payment for advertising online. Firstly, you can pay everytime someone clicks on your ad, known as Cost-per-click (CPC) or Pay-per-click (PPC). For example, you’ll pay an agreed amount for every user who clicks on the web banner.

So, say you want to drive 100 users onto your website, you can agree to a set amount per click, say $5, and you’ll then know that once the campaign is complete you’ll have spent $500.

Secondly, you can opt for pay-per-impression (PPI), or cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM). This means that you’re leaving it to chance how my clicks you get through to your website, but if successful you’ll get more value for your investment if the ad performs well. For example, if you set a limit $500 for CPM, and your website is visited 150 times, then it’s in theory cheaper than the above CPC example.

Of course, it might be the case that you don’t get very many clicks per thousand visits, and your cost per click is actually higher through the CPM approach than it would have been via the initial CPC method. Again, like the web banner itself, it’s often the case that you’ll test out both to see which performs best and why.

10 Tips For Creating Website Banners With A High Click-Through-Rate

Regardless of what type of web banner you opt for, you need to make sure that you actually design something that encourages users to take time to view, acknowledge and ideally click on it. We’ve compiled our 10 top tips for how you can achieve a contextual, compelling web banner ad.

1. Get Your Banner Sizing Correct

It’s important to get your sizes right and understand what dimensions mean for how you’re going to design the graphics and copy. Check out Google AdSense for the full lowdown on sizing but for quick reference, the following are commonly used banner ad sizes:

  • 728×90px — Leaderboard
  • 300×600px — Half Page
  • 300×250px — Medium Rectangle
  • 336×280px — Large Rectangle

The website banner that Wired launched in 1994 took the form of an original leaderboard ad and that is what most people imagine when you say “website banner.”

In fact, every third ad is a leaderboard ad.

Here’s an example of a captivating leaderboard ad.

But leaderboard ads aren’t the only stellar ads driving conversions.

Medium rectangle banner ads, even though they’re not the most popular, are proven to have a higher CTR rate – 0.06 percent.

2. Placement Is Crucial!

Rather than guessing where your users are looking and placing ads sporadically throughout websites, you can use analytical data to take the guesswork out of your banner placement. Try using CrazyEgg or other user tracking software and you might be surprised at the trends you spot.

For example, although your banner might be “above the fold” that doesn’t necessarily mean people will click on it if their attention is drawn towards a different section of the page. THAT is where you’d preferably want your banner ad.

Look for unsuspecting areas to place your banner ads that don’t interrupt the UX but still manage to gain attention and drive higher engagement.

For example, a good test is to onto one or two of your favorite online news sites or publications. Here we can see an example of a banner ad from WordPress that’s placed just at the bottom of the featured news section on the Entrepreneur.com homepage.

Entrepreneur Website Banner
This website banner placement is smooth andaesthetically pleasing without blending in too much.

3. Understand The Importance Of Hierarchy

For a web banner to make sense you have to structure your hierarchy appropriately. The design relies heavily on achieving a balance, and the three basic components of any banner ad:

  • Company Logo: Should be visually dominant to build brand awareness.
  • Value Proposition: Showcasing the product/offer and typically takes up the bulk of the ad.
  • CTA (Call-to-action): A clear, simple action that you’d like the user to take, placed at the end of the ad so it’s the next obvious step a user takes once they digest the visuals and copy.

Some great examples of web banners that make use of strong hierarchical structure are these from Adobe.

Adobe Website Banner
These website banners from Adobe utilize a smart hierarchical structure.

You’ll immediately notice that the layout of each advertisement allows you to quickly point out the company logo and brand, the value proposition (the offer/discount) and the CTA (in a different color to the rest of the copy).

Want more design and marketing tips? Sign up for the DesignRush Daily Dose!

4. Keep Your Web Banner Consistent

Your web banner is going to be linking to a page on your website so you want to start telling your “story” from the moment the user sees the web banner. With that in mind, it’s not wise to use completely different branding and design in your web banners from what you have on your website.

Why? Well, there’s a chance that your customer will land on your website with different design features and a different logo and think “I must be on the wrong website, this isn’t the same as the ad!”

When you see a web banner design that is consistent with the company’s branding it can be incredibly powerful and compelling. Take a look at Microsoft’s banner ads here.

Microsoft Website Banner
These Microsoft banner ads are consistent with company branding.

These do a great job of resonating with their audience based on the fact that the ads use a similar design to what the Microsoft’s operating system had at the time. Similar icons, font and colors add a familiar feeling to the ads. Not only does this make people recognize the ad, but it also reduces any potential friction between the ad and the website.

5. Make Sure Your CTA Is Simple, Clear And Effective

We’ve already mentioned the importance of a clear and simple CTA in your web banner, but we can’t help but reinforce that importance again. This is your chance to concisely tell the user what to do next.

Without this element in your ad, even if it’s the best design ever, it will be difficult for users to figure out what to do next. Even if they do click on the banner ad they may very well land on a page they weren’t expecting based on what your copy suggested on the banner.

However, here’s a great example of how to use a CTA to its optimal capacity.

Skype Website Banner
Skype’s website banner uses clear calls to action to grab attention.

Skype used their own brand colors to ensure that the CTA on their banner ads stood out above all else. What’s more, it’s a clear, simple instruction. Just watch the video. That’s all — no requests to buy now, or learn more, just a good old video.

6. Keep Your Fonts And Styles Appropriate

This also ties into point four in relation to keeping your web banners consistent with your brand, but it also takes into consideration the importance of using fonts that are appropriate based on the type of ad you’re running.

For example, let’s look at the font that Starbucks used here in this banner ad. The font alone literally does the talking.

Starbucks Website Banner
This Starbucks website banner uses a bold font that jumps out at you.

Normally you might associate energy with colors or vibrant graphics, but Starbucks has carefully selected a font that allows them to align the banner with their brand colors and still evoke a sense of urgency, energy and power.

7. Consider Animating Your Graphics

You should always try and use any skills you have at your disposal to your advantage. In relation to banners, this includes animated graphics. If used in sequence with effective copy and clean imagery, the result can be an eye-catching, powerful web banner that the user will at least take a glance at.

A really useful tip is to use the animation to direct the user on what to do next, e.g., ‘watch video now’.

Or you can even do what the 7 pm Project (now known as the Project) did and opt for a web banner that builds their brand awareness. Rather than asking a user to ‘click’ or ‘watch’ they simply let you play with the webpage using a colored pen.

Gamification works well on banners as well. For example, Volkswagen presented an amazing expandable banner that lets you build the road for their car in under 30 seconds.

VW Website Banner Ad
Adding interactivity to ads can increase engagement.

 

8. Instill A Sense Of Urgency — Act Now, Not Later

There’s no better way to encourage someone than to click on your banner ad right now than to suggest they won’t ever have a chance to do so at another time. By using a sale or a promotion, you can drive more traffic to your website, for example, by saying “limited time only”, or “24-hour sale.” What’s more, these short phrases don’t take up much space but are still effective.

Presenting users with a short window of opportunity is exactly what you see in Cyber Monday or Black Friday banner ads. For example, this banner ad uses the “once a year” phrase – you’ll only have one opportunity this year to cash in on whatever deals this might relate to.

Black Friday Website Banner
This bold website banner creates an immediate sense of urgency.

9. Weigh Up The Colors And How They Impact The User

Colors have more of an impact on your web banner than you might suspect. Color is nonverbal communication, but it can also improve (or damage!) reading and understanding. As a visual element the brain can perceive and understand color a lot faster than text, so it’s typically the first thing that people notice about your banner.

There’s no right or wrong answer for what colors to use, but rather, it’s helpful to think which colors suit the context you want to build and which colors ensure you create enough contrast so that the rest of the banner stands out.

In this example, DELL uses a bright, distinctive color to grab your attention and also to highlight the copy of the banner, while also separating it from the other visuals.

Dell Website Banner
Dell uses bright colors in this website banner to pull users in.

Plus, learn how to use color to your advantage with the help of this color psychology study!

10. Test, Test, Test Your Banner Ads

Last, but certainly not least, make sure you test your web banner ads to make sure they actually work.

1. Are the colors displaying correctly?

Make sure you test your banner ad on several monitors.

2. Can you see all of the copy?

This is one of the most common mistakes made. People sometimes use too much copy on a small banner or design it in such a manner that the final banner version doesn’t display the copy properly.

3. Is the font size right?

Play around with several font sizes and types. Choosing the right font can set the mood of the entire banner.

4. Are the visuals offensive/unappealing?

If the banner simply isn’t working, maybe the visuals are wrong. Or maybe they’re on topic but too boring to notice. Change up the visual and play around with imagery to see what works best.

5.Does the CTA make sense?

Maybe it would be better to use different words or phrasing if your CTAs aren’t getting any clicks. The difference between “buy now,” “learn more” and “claim offer” can all yield wildly different results.

6. Does the link to the website actually work? Does it track the user?

You can have the best web banner design in history but if the link is broken or it doesn’t display correctly you’re doomed. These elements make for a failed ad and no brand can afford that.

7. Are the headings bigger than normal copy?

Even banner copy has to follow the right hierarchy. Make sure to check whether the heading size corresponds to the heading and that it is, in fact, larger than the normal text.

How To Perform Split Tests For Website Banners

Basically, a split test is kind of like an A/B test. You test two banners keeping everything the same but changing one element. That one element is the crucial difference between the two banners so that you can monitor which one fares better.

Never make personal decisions based on a hunch – people will tell you through metrics what works best.

This is how Volvo does it.

Volvo Website Banner Testing
Volvo performs website banner testing often to find the perfect, best-performing ad.

As you can see here, Volvo performs a number of split tests in its banner ads. And it only makes subtle changes to ad copy and CTA buttons in order to see what resonates more with consumers.

What It Takes To Create A Stunning Website Banner With A High CTR

Web banners, even despite ad-blocking software, aren’t going anywhere so it’s important that you understand how your design will impact the performance of the banner. Put into practice at least a few of these tips that will help you create compelling, effective web banners:

  • Get your sizing right for your type of banner.
  • Placement is crucial!
  • Understand the importance of hierarchy.
  • Is your web banner consistent with your wider brand?
  • Make sure your CTA is simple, clear and effective.
  • Keep your fonts and styles appropriate.
  • Consider animating your graphics.
  • Instill a sense of urgency — act now, not later.
  • Weigh up the colors and how they impact the user.
  • Test, test, and test your banner ads.

Once you’ve tested out these tips, you’ll probably want to learn how to know if your web banner is successful. If your web banner is successful, you should notice a correlation through higher click-through rates. And these click-through rates should be able to help you better understand:

  • Your audience.
  • If your messaging is correct.
  • If this website banner design is visually appealing.
  • If the placement of the banner was effective.
  • If this was the right choice of website to advertise on.

Gaining these insights is vital for a successful banner. You don’t want to waste all that time creating it for your results to flop. So let’s get creating, and before you know it, you’ll have so much website traffic you won’t know what to do with it!

How to Use Goals in Google Analytics to Grow Your Business

How to Use Goals in Google Analytics to Grow Your Business

As a freelancer you’ve no doubt heard of Google Analytics.  You probably even have it installed on your website.  Or maybe you’re a freelance web designer/developer and you have been setting it up for your clients.

Most freelancers get to this stage, but with the best will in the world they don’t really use it to it’s full potential.  Some are too busy, while others have tried logging in and got overwhelmed by all of the options, reports, graphs and data.  If that’s you, then know that it’s ok.  Out of the box, it isn’t the most intuitive application to use.

Thankfully, Leah made a great video that serves as an overview of the interface and explains what kind of data you can get from it.

As you saw in the video, Google Analytics is great for giving you information about how many people are visiting your site, how they got to your site and what pages they viewed when they got there.

However, Google Analytics is actually a lot more powerful than that.  It has an incredible array of reports and analyses that are quite frankly terrifying unless you’re a statistics nerd. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into those!

What I would like to go through in this post is one of the more advanced features that is definitely worth exploring: the ability to set goals.

What are Google Analytics goals?

A goal is simply an action that you would like a visitor to take when they visit your site.  It might be to watch a video, view your sales page or subscribe to your email list.  Think about the key actions you want your visitors to take and those are your goals.

Once you have goals set up in Google Analytics you can start to track how successful you are at getting visitors to take those actions.  That is when this data starts to become powerful because you can start making informed decisions about how to improve your website and your business.

For instance, imagine you had a snazzy video on your home page explaining your services.  You create a goal in Google Analytics to see how many people actually watch it and discover it’s only around 5%.  You’re disappointed because you’ve been getting lots of page views and you assumed they were all watching it.

At least now you know where you really are and can do something about it.  Maybe you move the video higher up the page, above the fold?  Or maybe you change the thumbnail to make it stand out more?  Whatever you decide, once you’ve made a change you can compare the goal conversions before and after to see if it’s working.

Ultimately, creating goals, analysing your progress with data and taking action to improve is how you grow your business.

What types of goals are available in Google Analytics?

Analytics lets you create four different types of goals that users can achieve during a visit:

DESTINATION BASED GOALS

A destination goal is met when a user visits a specific page on your site.  This is probably the most relevant and certainly the type of goal I would encourage you to experiment with to start.

Examples of destination goals are:

  • Visitor reaches a custom thank you page for email subscribers
  • Visitor reaches a thank you page after buying a product or service
  • Visitor views your services / work with me page

DURATION BASED GOALS

A duration goal is triggered when a user spends a minimum amount of time on your site.  This is good for measuring your engagement if you’re worried that people are visiting your site and not sticking around.

Examples of duration goals are:

  • Number of visitors that spend more than 3 minutes on your site
  • Number of customers that have to wait more than 5 minutes to get help on a support site

PAGES/SCREENS PER SESSION GOALS

A pages per session goal tracks how many people viewed more than a specified number of pages before leaving the site.  So it can be used in a similar manner to duration to track engagement.

Examples include:

  • Number of visitors that viewed 5 pages before leaving

EVENT BASED GOALS

Finally, an event goal is triggered when a specific action occurs.  This can be more flexible than the other options, but it also more difficult to set up.  It does require the placement of some code into the element of your website you want to track.  So if you want to know how many people watch a video, you (or your developer) needs to add a small snippet of code to the play button.  Then when a user clicks play, that snippet sends a message to Google Analytics to record that the event happened.

Examples of event goals include:

  • Number of times a video is played
  • Number of times an external link is clicked
  • Number of times a file is downloaded

All that sounds great, but it only works if you put it into action.

So let’s walk through an example to see how you could implement this today.

Creating a goal to track email subscribers in MailChimp

I’m going to use the example of tracking opt-ins to my email list because it’s one that most of you should be able to relate to.  If you aren’t growing an email list then I highly recommend that you check Leah’s post on why every freelancer needs one.

In order to track how many people sign up to an email list, we need a way that Google Analytics can measure that.  The best way is to use the thank you page that a new subscriber gets redirected to when they sign up.  We can use the url of that page to create a destination goal in Google Analytics.

The process looks likes this:

Email subscriber goal flow for google analytics

 

Note: You do need to use a destination url that is on your domain.  Google Analytics will not track destinations that are somewhere else on the internet because your tracking code is not on those other pages.  So if you’re using the default thank you page in MailChimp,  Google Analytics will not measure it.  However, I highly recommend that you set up a custom page and once again, Leah has a handy video explaining exactly how to set that up:

Once your email list software is sending your subscribers to a custom url we are ready to create a goal in analytics.

HOW TO CREATE A NEW GOAL STEP BY STEP

  1. Log in to your Google Analytics account.
  2. Click Admin at the top.
  3. In the right-hand View column, click on the option for Goals.
  4. Click the +New Goal button.
  5. Under 1. Goal Setup click the radio button for Custom.
  6. Click the Next Step button.
  7. Enter a Name for your goal (something descriptive so you remember what it is!) e.g. MailChimp Sign Ups.
  8. Under Type click the radio button for Destination.
  9. Click the Next Step button.
  10. Under 3. Goal Details enter the Destination url that the user will visit to complete the goal.
    • You don’t need to enter the full url, just the part that comes after the root domain e.g. /subscription-confirmed.
  11. If your goal has a monetary value associated with it’s completion (i.e. you get paid) then switch Value to on and enter the amount.
    • This is great for tracking sales, but we don’t need it in our example.
  12. If you wish to track goals through a Funnel, toggle that option to on and enter the urls of the preceding steps.
    • In this example the email opt-in form is on the home page so we’ll add that.
    • There is also an “almost there” page to remind users to confirm their subscription by clicking the link in the email MailChimp sends so we’ll add that too.
  13. Click the Verify this Goal link.  Google Analytics will try to calculate how many conversions you would have had in the last 7 days.
    • Sometimes it doesn’t have enough data, so don’t panic if this doesn’t work.
  14. Click the Create Goal button.

Congratulations!  You’ve just created your first goal in Google Analytics.

All you need to do now is sit back and let people visit your site to give analytics a chance to capture some data.  Obviously you could sign up to your own list as a test, or get a friend to help.  I recommend that you check back after a few days or even a week to see if you have any conversions.

HOW TO CHECK FOR GOAL CONVERSIONS

Now that you have a goal set up and you’ve given it time to convert some visitors, you’ll want to see how you’re doing.  Simply login to Google Analytics and choose the Conversion section in the left hand menu:

  1. Click on Conversions to expand it.
  2. Click on Goals to expand it.
  3. Click on Overview.  A report will load showing how many conversions you’ve had along with some other goal related metrics.
  4. If you setup a funnel, then choosing Funnel Visualization in the left hand menu will show you how it performed.

Here is an example from one of my MailChimp sign up goals:

Google Analytics Goal Funnel

 

From the data in this funnel I can see that 5% of people who visit my home page fill out the opt-in form and get sent to the almost there page.

About half of those, confirm the subscription and complete the funnel.  You can also see a few people entering at the side which means they signed up from somewhere other than the home page.

Based on this data I might decide to tweak the copy on my “Almost There” page to convince more people to confirm their subscription.  I can also see which pages people viewed before signing up as well as which they exit to.  This gives me an indication about how to streamline the funnel and remove any distractions.

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