Client Relationships — What to Do When Things Go Wrong (FS220)

If you work with clients directly there’s a very good chance you’re going to have to deal with some shitty situations.

  • Clients asking for late refunds
  • Clients delaying payment for waaaaaaay too long
  • Customers leaving bad reviews on Yelp, Etsy or something like it
  • Clients changing requirements in the middle of a project
  • Client taking forever to get back to you, stopping your progress, and preventing you from finishing and getting paid
  • Clients ending up completely unhappy with the work

On the podcast episode and article below we walk you through several steps to try to alleviate your client blowouts.

And we go one very necessary step further and help you understand steps you can take to keep blowouts like this from happening!

Enjoy!

It’s better to listen on the go!  
 Subscribe on iTunes 

Subscribe (how to)  
iTunes  
Overcast  
Pocket Casts  
Stitcher  
Soundcloud  
RSS  

“Client relationships — what to do when things go wrong ”


How to fix a client blowout:

1. Take a step back and go into “triage” mode. Be crystal clear in communication. Double and triple repeat what they're saying and what you're saying. Communication probably got you into this mess, maybe it can get you out. You want to prove that you're listening. Triage mode really means, just get your nerves up to go above and beyond for a little bit… as much as you’re able. We’re not gonna degrade ourselves, but if it’s worth it to try to work this out, then goddamit let’s try hard to do so.

Lots more on that one in the podcast conversation. Don’t miss it, FYI. These notes are just a few of the gems we land on.

2. Go above and beyond to truly empathize and show the customer you hear what they’re saying. start your sentiment with, “ugh, I would hate it if that happened to me." Empathy takes your guard down a little bit and helps you meet in the middle, but also this helps you hear your client much better. A bad client interaction can derail your whole quarter, so this is well worth it. Do not get defensive. It's easy for the defense wall to go up. Steph's #1 tool for that is not taking things personally. So easy to put your hands up and say "it wasn't me!" Don't get into this situation, it puts you on your heels, does your clients a disservice and will not lead you to an equitable agreement to solve this problem.

3. Some clients are just bad. How much do you want to fight back? Maybe you should just move on to the next. How much effort do you want to put in to save this relationship? At some point you might realize "I don't want to work with this client at all." Acknowledge and move on.

4. Leverage… do you have any? Deliverables? Sometimes you are the biggest "asset" to the customer because it's hard to find another great whatever-you-are. Sometimes you have to sell them again in the middle of the project, reselling the benefits, reselling the vision. This is where all that marketing and selling you learned in the Fizzle Roadmap comes into play — how well do you know their objectives, desires, fears, etc? Because now you need to remind them why you’re their Wonder Woman.

5. "If I do this will you be happy?" This is a simple trick you can use to get the conversation to a point where all their desires are turned into a statement like, “OK, I’m hearing you say X, Y and Z. I understand completely. If I do this [fill in the blank], will you be happy?” We’re trying to be crystal clear here, giving the client a concrete, literal expression of “here is what you’re going to get and you say you’re going to be happy with that.” (Only promise deliverables and dates, not results)

6. I've heard of people having success getting an attorney to send a threat letter. Requires money tho. But also, please know that at this point you’re likely going to be burning bridges; no repeat business, no great referrals. You want to get paid for something they withheld payment for? What's it gonna cost? What's the likelihood that you'll actually get paid. Check out this killer little tool from And.co for making your clients feel there’s a real law firm supporting you.

7. I don't even think going to court is an option for most of us.


Prevention is better! How to prevent client blowouts:

  1. Learning how to pick the right clients… Tons of insight in this in Book Yourself Solid. One thing you can do is take inventory of all your clients and give them grades. What do the great clients have in common? What do the dud clients have in common? Sometimes doing a consultation is such a helpful step to add to your process to be sure that this client is a fit BOTH WAYS.
  2. Doctor your process… Not necessarily how you use things but documenting the steps involved in delivering your project, or even documenting the steps to getting a customer to signup. There's a lot that can go wrong with a project that doesn't have a plan, a roadmap; you don't know what to expect and they don't know what to expect. And then you want to refine that process over time, massaging it as you take every client through it. This process is, in a very real sense, your business!
  3. Turn pro on your communication… You've got to be absolutely ON POINT with communication, namely, email. Be very clear about what action you want them to take at the beginning of the email and at the end; don't bury it somewhere in the middle! These kinds of things are more critical than ever. And it should be stated: the more comfortable you are with the phone, the better. The phone is for action, baby!
  4. Implement a killer client agreement… This one grows and changes with you over time. That’s how you know it’s killer. You've got to have crystal clear agreements… who's paying, how much, for what, when? There should also be specificity around how the client reviews the work, what happens when the client reviews the work, how long do they have to review the work, what number of revisions are allowed, etc.
  5. Have some rainy day contingency protection… You gotta keep some money in the bank for late payments, crazy clients, etc. You don't know what's gonna happen in freelance world.

Hope you enjoyed this episode and this conversation! Thanks for being here y’all. And if you haven’t SUBSCRIBE to the podcast because it’s the most real conversation in business going on right now!

from Fizzle https://fizzle.co/sparkline/client-relationships-things-go-wrong-fs220
via My Media Pal NYC

How to Create a Fail-proof Mastermind Group

How to Create a Fail-proof Mastermind Group

We know you’ve heard it before (um, even from us) — you should join a mastermind group, also known as a group of 4-6 people who meet about every two weeks to give each other advice and hold one another accountable to big goals.

It’s kind of a no brainer, isn’t it? We all know that trying to do it all alone as an entrepreneur is a recipe for eventually giving up when the going gets tough. So to join forces with people who get what you’re doing, who you can bounce ideas off of — it’s basically a way to build an informal board of advisors into your business.

We’ve already written all about masterminds, what they are and how to find them. So for today’s conversation, we’re approaching this from a new angle.

We’re focusing on the pitfalls: why groups fizzle out before they really get off the wrong, how even groups with the best of intentions might set themselves up to fail, and how to build yours strong from the start to avoid losing steam.

Listen to this podcast episode if you want deeper insights

We get to go deeper in our episodes of the Fizzle show, sharing personal stories and more to really get these ideas taking root in you. Enjoy!

It’s better to listen on the go!  
 Subscribe on iTunes 

Subscribe (how to)  
iTunes  
Overcast  
Pocket Casts  
Stitcher  
Soundcloud  
RSS  

Wrong mix of people

Having the wrong cast of characters in your group is one of the number one reasons masterminds fail.

You could be in a group of people who all like each other and would love to grab beers together, but aren’t really set up to be each other’s strategists and accountability partners.

So how can we insure we’ve got a mix of people who will gel? Coming up with a criteria for your group will set you up to select qualified members.

If you’re organizing a group, we recommend seeking people who are in a similar business stage. It’s totally cool if one of you is a food blogger, one is a personal finance podcaster, and yet another is a personal trainer.

The bigger questions is, are you roughly in the same inning of this whole thing? Is one person so far behind the rest of the group, he or she might feel too new? Or is there someone way ahead of the game who would really be more like a mentor than a peer?

Great markers for business stage are email list and revenue. If everyone in the group is in the same general neighborhood when it comes to audience size, that’s a good indication that you can help each other. There will always be some diversity in the group (which is great!) but the idea is to find peers who are just about even with you so far.

Wrong format

A mastermind group needs strong but balanced ground rules. If there’s no structure, an hour goes by really fast and you might just find yourselves “catching up” as friends. That sounds fun, but not exactly productive.

It also helps to have someone to keep the meeting on track and manage the time. This person isn’t a group dictator or even a leader as much as an *organizer* or secretary who is charged with making sure things stay mostly on track.

We’ve found that most successful groups seem to do some version of:

  • Highs & Lows: Each person in the group takes just a minute or two to share what’s gone well and what hasn’t gone as well in the time since the group last met.
  • Hot Seat: This is the real meat & potatoes of the meeting. A “hot seat” is basically a strategy session focused entirely on one person’s business. The person in the hot seat brings specific questions and roadblocks, while the rest of the group gives feedback.
  • Commitments: The meeting ends with each member committing to a very specific task he or she needs to make progress on before the group gets together again.
  • Staying connected between meetings: Most successful groups choose to say in touch between meetings so members can get quick feedback and cheer each other on. Use Facebook groups, Slack, email, etc.

No accountability

One of the primary reasons to join a mastermind group is for the accountability — aka, to help you actually make progress and do what you said you would. If weekly commitments aren’t spoken and then captured, they disappear (and you’ll likely forget.)

Mastermind Groups can accelerate your growth, but only if they fulfill their main purpose: keeping you on track.

One game-changing mastermind tip is to have the group secretary jot down a few keywords summarizing each person’s commitment. These notes should be posted to the group’s communication channel of choice for everyone to see (and therefore, making you much more likely to actually do it!)

Inconsistency

This may be the number one reason groups fail. When people start skipping meeting, or if they aren’t set up in advance, the group will quickly fizzle out.

We know there are real challenges here, such as time zone conflicts, family commitments, day jobs and more. But since inconsistency is such a mastermind killer, the group should commit to some amount of time to really go “all in”.

For example, when my podcasting mastermind group started meeting a few months ago, our organizer said, “Okay, if we’re doing this, we all have to fully commit for the next 6 months. No skipping meetings if you can help it, let’s give it our all for 6 months. Who’s in?”

As a result one of our founding members decided she needed to leave the group right at the beginning. We were sad to see her go, but it was critical that she recognize that she was not able to commit and cut ties early on. Otherwise, if this particular member had kept skipping meetings and holding up the group, it likely would have discouraged the rest of us.

So these are the big mistakes, pitfalls and missteps we see when it comes to Mastermind Groups. Have you been part of a group that didn’t quite get off the ground? What do you think went wrong? Or, if you’re in a group you love, how did you navigate these common obstacles? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

from Fizzle https://fizzle.co/sparkline/create-fail-proof-mastermind-group
via My Media Pal NYC

You Can Use 404s to Boost Your SEO. Here’s How.

The dreaded 404 error page.

We’ve all encountered it at some point.

And in my opinion, there’s no bigger buzzkill than getting hit with a 404 error when browsing a site.

You’re right in the middle of exploring interesting content, and all of a sudden, you’re thrown a curveball.

If you’re not sure what a 404 page is, let’s look at a formal definition.

According to Google,

A 404 page is what a user sees when they try to reach a non-existent page on your site (because they’ve clicked on a broken link, the page has been deleted or they’ve mistyped a URL).

Here’s what an ugly, generic 404 looks like:

image13

Not too flattering, huh?

But you can pretty them up, like I did on Quick Sprout:

image09

You’ve seen 404s. You’ve cursed 404s. And your site might even have 404s.

The problem with 404s

What’s the big deal with 404s?

Are they really that bad?

First off, let me make something clear.

Every site will get some 404s, and it’s okay! 404s happen when people—your potential site visitors— type in the wrong URL.

For example, if I type in “businessinsider.com” in my browser and continue typing gibberish, I’ll get a 404.

image00

It’s not Business Insider’s fault I got a 404. It’s my fault.

You’ll never be able to eliminate 404s completely.

But there are some 404s that are within your control and which you do need to pay attention to.

Here’s why.

If a user encounters a web server issue such as a 404 page, they’re highly likely to hit the back button and return to the search engine.

When your visitors do this en mass, it creates a phenomenon called “pogo sticking,” which looks like this:

image01

This is a problem because it tells Google that your content isn’t adding value for a particular keyword query.

If this happens enough, you’re likely to see a drop in rankings.

Not cool.

The inevitability of 404s

As I mentioned above, 404s are going to happen. It’s not if but when your visitors will encounter them.

Many 404s won’t be your fault. But some will be your fault, and it’s hard to control them. Even if you’re an amazing SEO or webmaster, some will slip through the cracks.

And the bigger your site is, the more 404s you’ll have.

One of the leading causes of 404s is broken links.

Websites change. Links point nowhere. And 404s happen.

In fact, some huge websites can acquire up to 10 new broken links every day.

Just look at the number of broken links found on some of the world’s top websites:

image06

If it happens to behemoths like Cisco and Apple, you can bet it’s going to happen to you.

And as I mentioned earlier, broken links are just one reason behind 404s. Other times, it’s simply due to a visitor mistyping a URL.

The bottom line is that 404s are inevitable, and you need an effective way to deal with them.

What’s the solution?

It’s actually pretty simple.

You need to create a customized, branded 404 page.

Here’s a good a example of one from MailChimp:

image11

Here’s another from Hootsuite:

image12

Think about it.

Would you rather get hit with an ugly, generic 404 or one that’s well-designed and cleverly branded?

I’d bet most people would opt for the latter.

But that’s just part of it.

Although these 404 pages are cute, they won’t do anything for your SEO.

Use 404s for good

What you want to do is not only stop 404s from hurting your SEO but use them to boost your SEO.

But doesn’t that seem a little counterintuitive? How in the world can 404s be beneficial to SEO?

Here’s what you do.

Create a custom 404 page with a branded design, like the ones from MailChimp and Hootsuite, and add several internal links to it.

I like to shoot for anywhere between 25 to 50 links.

Bam!

Instead of leaving your site in a hurry, visitors will be encouraged to check out more content and keep browsing.

Assuming the links you provide lead to engaging, helpful content, many visitors will stick around for awhile and work themselves deeper into your sales funnel.

In terms of SEO value, this reduces any pogo sticking from taking place and supplies your site with more SEO juice. Rather than 404s being a detriment to your SEO, they actually become an asset.

You’re basically turning a negative into a positive—pretty sweet.

And there are several other benefits as well:

  • You’re far less likely to annoy your visitors
  • It can increase your brand equity
  • You can increase the average amount of time spent on your site
  • You can reduce your bounce rate
  • Visitors are more likely to check out additional content
  • In the long run, this should have a positive impact on conversions and sales

In many ways, a customized 404 page with internal links is like an SEO magic bullet.

It can do much good without much effort on your part.

Specific strategies and examples

Now that we’ve established that adding internal links is the technique you want to implement, let’s get into the specifics of it.

One way to implement this strategy is to link to some of your most popular posts as well as your homepage.

Even Google suggests doing this:

image05

I recommend looking over your analytics to see which posts received the most engagement (clicks, shares, comments, and so on).

Then include these on your 404 page.

Doing so can increase the number of pages on your site that get indexed, boosting your SEO.

And it totally works.

In fact, I used this very strategy a few years back when I was working with TechCrunch.

Within 30 days, I was able to boost their search traffic considerably (9% to be exact).

Add a search bar

This is an incredibly simple feature, but it’s one that can have a tremendous impact.

According to Econsultancy,

…conversion rates through site search can be up to 50% higher than the average. Visitors converted at 4.63% versus the websites’ average of 2.77%, which is 1.8 times more effective. Consequently, visitors using search contributed 13.8% of the revenues.

In other words, “People who use search are more likely to purchase.”

Try to put yourself in a visitor’s shoes for a second.

They arrive on your site and are looking for information on a particular topic or product.

They stumble upon a roadblock with an unanticipated 404 page.

Rather than leaving annoyed, they can simply look up whatever interests them in the search box.

Voila! They instantly find other valuable content to quench their thirst.

Twitter pulls this off well on its 404 page:

image10

So does GitHub:

image04

Add links to products

Let’s say you run an e-commerce store.

One way you can improve the customer shopping experience is to link to other areas of your website.

More specifically, you can create links based around different product categories.

Here’s a really good example from ModCloth, a women’s fashion store:

image02

Not only does this improve SEO and keep visitors happy, it facilitates a smoother shopping experience and should improve conversions as well.

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade!

Include a link to your sitemap

I’m sure you’re at least somewhat familiar with sitemaps and how they affect SEO.

If you’re not, here’s a screenshot of some of the key benefits of SEO according to OnCrawl:

image08

Why not include a link to your sitemap?

That’s what Starbucks did:

image03

And its 404 page turned out looking great.

Here’s one last little tip

Be sure to explain what went wrong.

I’ve found this helps reduce user frustration.

I know I feel some sort of relief when I simply know what’s going on.

This 404 page from X-Cart does a great job of this:

image07

Notice there’s no crazy jargon.

In plain English, it explains some of the possible reasons for the 404 error you’ve encountered on their site.

How to create a customized 404 page

Now that we’ve established just how beneficial a personalized 404 page can be for SEO, this brings us to one important question.

How the heck do you create one?

As you well know, I’m a huge fan of WordPress.

It truly is a godsend for anyone who wants to create a beautiful, professional looking website but doesn’t know much about coding.

I suggest using the 404page plugin for WordPress.

It’s a one-stop-shop for creating a basic 404 page.

You can customize it and include whatever information you’d like to share with visitors who encounter your 404.

The best part is you don’t need to have any programming skills to use it.

However, if you want your 404 page to be super specialized and brand-centric, you may want to shell out the cash to hire a professional developer.

If you’ve got the budget and want it to look uber-professional, this is usually the best route to take.

You can find skilled developers through sites such as Guru and Upwork.

Many are more affordable than you might think.

Conclusion

The way I look at it, 404s are an unpleasnt yet unavoidable part of running a website.

Of course, you can use tools like the Online Broken Link Checker, but you’ll still have issues at some point.

And even if you somehow manage to catch all the broken links, visitors will still mistype URLs.

The best way to handle 404s is to customize them and incorporate relevant internal links.

A customized 404 page will not only protect your SEO from harm but also improve it.

Not to mention that it makes for a much more satisfying user experience.

To learn more about the broad spectrum of 404 pages, check out this post I wrote on NeilPatel.com.

Are you persuaded to keep exploring a site if it has a helpful 404 page?

from Quick Sprout https://www.quicksprout.com/2017/04/19/you-can-use-404s-to-boost-your-seo-heres-how/
via My Media Pal

Filed under: Digital Marketing Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Online Strategy, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, SEO Strategy, SEO Tips

from SEO NYC https://mymediapal.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/you-can-use-404s-to-boost-your-seo-heres-how-3/
via SEO NYC Blog

You Can Use 404s to Boost Your SEO. Here’s How.

The dreaded 404 error page.

We’ve all encountered it at some point.

And in my opinion, there’s no bigger buzzkill than getting hit with a 404 error when browsing a site.

You’re right in the middle of exploring interesting content, and all of a sudden, you’re thrown a curveball.

If you’re not sure what a 404 page is, let’s look at a formal definition.

According to Google,

A 404 page is what a user sees when they try to reach a non-existent page on your site (because they’ve clicked on a broken link, the page has been deleted or they’ve mistyped a URL).

Here’s what an ugly, generic 404 looks like:

image13

Not too flattering, huh?

But you can pretty them up, like I did on Quick Sprout:

image09

You’ve seen 404s. You’ve cursed 404s. And your site might even have 404s.

The problem with 404s

What’s the big deal with 404s?

Are they really that bad?

First off, let me make something clear.

Every site will get some 404s, and it’s okay! 404s happen when people—your potential site visitors— type in the wrong URL.

For example, if I type in “businessinsider.com” in my browser and continue typing gibberish, I’ll get a 404.

image00

It’s not Business Insider’s fault I got a 404. It’s my fault.

You’ll never be able to eliminate 404s completely.

But there are some 404s that are within your control and which you do need to pay attention to.

Here’s why.

If a user encounters a web server issue such as a 404 page, they’re highly likely to hit the back button and return to the search engine.

When your visitors do this en mass, it creates a phenomenon called “pogo sticking,” which looks like this:

image01

This is a problem because it tells Google that your content isn’t adding value for a particular keyword query.

If this happens enough, you’re likely to see a drop in rankings.

Not cool.

The inevitability of 404s

As I mentioned above, 404s are going to happen. It’s not if but when your visitors will encounter them.

Many 404s won’t be your fault. But some will be your fault, and it’s hard to control them. Even if you’re an amazing SEO or webmaster, some will slip through the cracks.

And the bigger your site is, the more 404s you’ll have.

One of the leading causes of 404s is broken links.

Websites change. Links point nowhere. And 404s happen.

In fact, some huge websites can acquire up to 10 new broken links every day.

Just look at the number of broken links found on some of the world’s top websites:

image06

If it happens to behemoths like Cisco and Apple, you can bet it’s going to happen to you.

And as I mentioned earlier, broken links are just one reason behind 404s. Other times, it’s simply due to a visitor mistyping a URL.

The bottom line is that 404s are inevitable, and you need an effective way to deal with them.

What’s the solution?

It’s actually pretty simple.

You need to create a customized, branded 404 page.

Here’s a good a example of one from MailChimp:

image11

Here’s another from Hootsuite:

image12

Think about it.

Would you rather get hit with an ugly, generic 404 or one that’s well-designed and cleverly branded?

I’d bet most people would opt for the latter.

But that’s just part of it.

Although these 404 pages are cute, they won’t do anything for your SEO.

Use 404s for good

What you want to do is not only stop 404s from hurting your SEO but use them to boost your SEO.

But doesn’t that seem a little counterintuitive? How in the world can 404s be beneficial to SEO?

Here’s what you do.

Create a custom 404 page with a branded design, like the ones from MailChimp and Hootsuite, and add several internal links to it.

I like to shoot for anywhere between 25 to 50 links.

Bam!

Instead of leaving your site in a hurry, visitors will be encouraged to check out more content and keep browsing.

Assuming the links you provide lead to engaging, helpful content, many visitors will stick around for awhile and work themselves deeper into your sales funnel.

In terms of SEO value, this reduces any pogo sticking from taking place and supplies your site with more SEO juice. Rather than 404s being a detriment to your SEO, they actually become an asset.

You’re basically turning a negative into a positive—pretty sweet.

And there are several other benefits as well:

  • You’re far less likely to annoy your visitors
  • It can increase your brand equity
  • You can increase the average amount of time spent on your site
  • You can reduce your bounce rate
  • Visitors are more likely to check out additional content
  • In the long run, this should have a positive impact on conversions and sales

In many ways, a customized 404 page with internal links is like an SEO magic bullet.

It can do much good without much effort on your part.

Specific strategies and examples

Now that we’ve established that adding internal links is the technique you want to implement, let’s get into the specifics of it.

One way to implement this strategy is to link to some of your most popular posts as well as your homepage.

Even Google suggests doing this:

image05

I recommend looking over your analytics to see which posts received the most engagement (clicks, shares, comments, and so on).

Then include these on your 404 page.

Doing so can increase the number of pages on your site that get indexed, boosting your SEO.

And it totally works.

In fact, I used this very strategy a few years back when I was working with TechCrunch.

Within 30 days, I was able to boost their search traffic considerably (9% to be exact).

Add a search bar

This is an incredibly simple feature, but it’s one that can have a tremendous impact.

According to Econsultancy,

…conversion rates through site search can be up to 50% higher than the average. Visitors converted at 4.63% versus the websites’ average of 2.77%, which is 1.8 times more effective. Consequently, visitors using search contributed 13.8% of the revenues.

In other words, “People who use search are more likely to purchase.”

Try to put yourself in a visitor’s shoes for a second.

They arrive on your site and are looking for information on a particular topic or product.

They stumble upon a roadblock with an unanticipated 404 page.

Rather than leaving annoyed, they can simply look up whatever interests them in the search box.

Voila! They instantly find other valuable content to quench their thirst.

Twitter pulls this off well on its 404 page:

image10

So does GitHub:

image04

Add links to products

Let’s say you run an e-commerce store.

One way you can improve the customer shopping experience is to link to other areas of your website.

More specifically, you can create links based around different product categories.

Here’s a really good example from ModCloth, a women’s fashion store:

image02

Not only does this improve SEO and keep visitors happy, it facilitates a smoother shopping experience and should improve conversions as well.

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade!

Include a link to your sitemap

I’m sure you’re at least somewhat familiar with sitemaps and how they affect SEO.

If you’re not, here’s a screenshot of some of the key benefits of SEO according to OnCrawl:

image08

Why not include a link to your sitemap?

That’s what Starbucks did:

image03

And its 404 page turned out looking great.

Here’s one last little tip

Be sure to explain what went wrong.

I’ve found this helps reduce user frustration.

I know I feel some sort of relief when I simply know what’s going on.

This 404 page from X-Cart does a great job of this:

image07

Notice there’s no crazy jargon.

In plain English, it explains some of the possible reasons for the 404 error you’ve encountered on their site.

How to create a customized 404 page

Now that we’ve established just how beneficial a personalized 404 page can be for SEO, this brings us to one important question.

How the heck do you create one?

As you well know, I’m a huge fan of WordPress.

It truly is a godsend for anyone who wants to create a beautiful, professional looking website but doesn’t know much about coding.

I suggest using the 404page plugin for WordPress.

It’s a one-stop-shop for creating a basic 404 page.

You can customize it and include whatever information you’d like to share with visitors who encounter your 404.

The best part is you don’t need to have any programming skills to use it.

However, if you want your 404 page to be super specialized and brand-centric, you may want to shell out the cash to hire a professional developer.

If you’ve got the budget and want it to look uber-professional, this is usually the best route to take.

You can find skilled developers through sites such as Guru and Upwork.

Many are more affordable than you might think.

Conclusion

The way I look at it, 404s are an unpleasnt yet unavoidable part of running a website.

Of course, you can use tools like the Online Broken Link Checker, but you’ll still have issues at some point.

And even if you somehow manage to catch all the broken links, visitors will still mistype URLs.

The best way to handle 404s is to customize them and incorporate relevant internal links.

A customized 404 page will not only protect your SEO from harm but also improve it.

Not to mention that it makes for a much more satisfying user experience.

To learn more about the broad spectrum of 404 pages, check out this post I wrote on NeilPatel.com.

Are you persuaded to keep exploring a site if it has a helpful 404 page?

from Quick Sprout https://www.quicksprout.com/2017/04/19/you-can-use-404s-to-boost-your-seo-heres-how/
via My Media Pal

Filed under: Digital Marketing Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Online Strategy, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, SEO Strategy, SEO Tips

from SEO NYC https://mymediapal.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/you-can-use-404s-to-boost-your-seo-heres-how-2/
via SEO NYC Blog

You Can Use 404s to Boost Your SEO. Here’s How.

The dreaded 404 error page.

We’ve all encountered it at some point.

And in my opinion, there’s no bigger buzzkill than getting hit with a 404 error when browsing a site.

You’re right in the middle of exploring interesting content, and all of a sudden, you’re thrown a curveball.

If you’re not sure what a 404 page is, let’s look at a formal definition.

According to Google,

A 404 page is what a user sees when they try to reach a non-existent page on your site (because they’ve clicked on a broken link, the page has been deleted or they’ve mistyped a URL).

Here’s what an ugly, generic 404 looks like:

image13

Not too flattering, huh?

But you can pretty them up, like I did on Quick Sprout:

image09

You’ve seen 404s. You’ve cursed 404s. And your site might even have 404s.

The problem with 404s

What’s the big deal with 404s?

Are they really that bad?

First off, let me make something clear.

Every site will get some 404s, and it’s okay! 404s happen when people—your potential site visitors— type in the wrong URL.

For example, if I type in “businessinsider.com” in my browser and continue typing gibberish, I’ll get a 404.

image00

It’s not Business Insider’s fault I got a 404. It’s my fault.

You’ll never be able to eliminate 404s completely.

But there are some 404s that are within your control and which you do need to pay attention to.

Here’s why.

If a user encounters a web server issue such as a 404 page, they’re highly likely to hit the back button and return to the search engine.

When your visitors do this en mass, it creates a phenomenon called “pogo sticking,” which looks like this:

image01

This is a problem because it tells Google that your content isn’t adding value for a particular keyword query.

If this happens enough, you’re likely to see a drop in rankings.

Not cool.

The inevitability of 404s

As I mentioned above, 404s are going to happen. It’s not if but when your visitors will encounter them.

Many 404s won’t be your fault. But some will be your fault, and it’s hard to control them. Even if you’re an amazing SEO or webmaster, some will slip through the cracks.

And the bigger your site is, the more 404s you’ll have.

One of the leading causes of 404s is broken links.

Websites change. Links point nowhere. And 404s happen.

In fact, some huge websites can acquire up to 10 new broken links every day.

Just look at the number of broken links found on some of the world’s top websites:

image06

If it happens to behemoths like Cisco and Apple, you can bet it’s going to happen to you.

And as I mentioned earlier, broken links are just one reason behind 404s. Other times, it’s simply due to a visitor mistyping a URL.

The bottom line is that 404s are inevitable, and you need an effective way to deal with them.

What’s the solution?

It’s actually pretty simple.

You need to create a customized, branded 404 page.

Here’s a good a example of one from MailChimp:

image11

Here’s another from Hootsuite:

image12

Think about it.

Would you rather get hit with an ugly, generic 404 or one that’s well-designed and cleverly branded?

I’d bet most people would opt for the latter.

But that’s just part of it.

Although these 404 pages are cute, they won’t do anything for your SEO.

Use 404s for good

What you want to do is not only stop 404s from hurting your SEO but use them to boost your SEO.

But doesn’t that seem a little counterintuitive? How in the world can 404s be beneficial to SEO?

Here’s what you do.

Create a custom 404 page with a branded design, like the ones from MailChimp and Hootsuite, and add several internal links to it.

I like to shoot for anywhere between 25 to 50 links.

Bam!

Instead of leaving your site in a hurry, visitors will be encouraged to check out more content and keep browsing.

Assuming the links you provide lead to engaging, helpful content, many visitors will stick around for awhile and work themselves deeper into your sales funnel.

In terms of SEO value, this reduces any pogo sticking from taking place and supplies your site with more SEO juice. Rather than 404s being a detriment to your SEO, they actually become an asset.

You’re basically turning a negative into a positive—pretty sweet.

And there are several other benefits as well:

  • You’re far less likely to annoy your visitors
  • It can increase your brand equity
  • You can increase the average amount of time spent on your site
  • You can reduce your bounce rate
  • Visitors are more likely to check out additional content
  • In the long run, this should have a positive impact on conversions and sales

In many ways, a customized 404 page with internal links is like an SEO magic bullet.

It can do much good without much effort on your part.

Specific strategies and examples

Now that we’ve established that adding internal links is the technique you want to implement, let’s get into the specifics of it.

One way to implement this strategy is to link to some of your most popular posts as well as your homepage.

Even Google suggests doing this:

image05

I recommend looking over your analytics to see which posts received the most engagement (clicks, shares, comments, and so on).

Then include these on your 404 page.

Doing so can increase the number of pages on your site that get indexed, boosting your SEO.

And it totally works.

In fact, I used this very strategy a few years back when I was working with TechCrunch.

Within 30 days, I was able to boost their search traffic considerably (9% to be exact).

Add a search bar

This is an incredibly simple feature, but it’s one that can have a tremendous impact.

According to Econsultancy,

…conversion rates through site search can be up to 50% higher than the average. Visitors converted at 4.63% versus the websites’ average of 2.77%, which is 1.8 times more effective. Consequently, visitors using search contributed 13.8% of the revenues.

In other words, “People who use search are more likely to purchase.”

Try to put yourself in a visitor’s shoes for a second.

They arrive on your site and are looking for information on a particular topic or product.

They stumble upon a roadblock with an unanticipated 404 page.

Rather than leaving annoyed, they can simply look up whatever interests them in the search box.

Voila! They instantly find other valuable content to quench their thirst.

Twitter pulls this off well on its 404 page:

image10

So does GitHub:

image04

Add links to products

Let’s say you run an e-commerce store.

One way you can improve the customer shopping experience is to link to other areas of your website.

More specifically, you can create links based around different product categories.

Here’s a really good example from ModCloth, a women’s fashion store:

image02

Not only does this improve SEO and keep visitors happy, it facilitates a smoother shopping experience and should improve conversions as well.

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade!

Include a link to your sitemap

I’m sure you’re at least somewhat familiar with sitemaps and how they affect SEO.

If you’re not, here’s a screenshot of some of the key benefits of SEO according to OnCrawl:

image08

Why not include a link to your sitemap?

That’s what Starbucks did:

image03

And its 404 page turned out looking great.

Here’s one last little tip

Be sure to explain what went wrong.

I’ve found this helps reduce user frustration.

I know I feel some sort of relief when I simply know what’s going on.

This 404 page from X-Cart does a great job of this:

image07

Notice there’s no crazy jargon.

In plain English, it explains some of the possible reasons for the 404 error you’ve encountered on their site.

How to create a customized 404 page

Now that we’ve established just how beneficial a personalized 404 page can be for SEO, this brings us to one important question.

How the heck do you create one?

As you well know, I’m a huge fan of WordPress.

It truly is a godsend for anyone who wants to create a beautiful, professional looking website but doesn’t know much about coding.

I suggest using the 404page plugin for WordPress.

It’s a one-stop-shop for creating a basic 404 page.

You can customize it and include whatever information you’d like to share with visitors who encounter your 404.

The best part is you don’t need to have any programming skills to use it.

However, if you want your 404 page to be super specialized and brand-centric, you may want to shell out the cash to hire a professional developer.

If you’ve got the budget and want it to look uber-professional, this is usually the best route to take.

You can find skilled developers through sites such as Guru and Upwork.

Many are more affordable than you might think.

Conclusion

The way I look at it, 404s are an unpleasnt yet unavoidable part of running a website.

Of course, you can use tools like the Online Broken Link Checker, but you’ll still have issues at some point.

And even if you somehow manage to catch all the broken links, visitors will still mistype URLs.

The best way to handle 404s is to customize them and incorporate relevant internal links.

A customized 404 page will not only protect your SEO from harm but also improve it.

Not to mention that it makes for a much more satisfying user experience.

To learn more about the broad spectrum of 404 pages, check out this post I wrote on NeilPatel.com.

Are you persuaded to keep exploring a site if it has a helpful 404 page?

from Quick Sprout https://www.quicksprout.com/2017/04/19/you-can-use-404s-to-boost-your-seo-heres-how/
via My Media Pal

Filed under: Digital Marketing Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Online Strategy, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, SEO Strategy, SEO Tips

from SEO NYC https://mymediapal.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/you-can-use-404s-to-boost-your-seo-heres-how/
via SEO NYC Blog

How to Create a Trust Seal on Your Checkout Page

Trust is everything.

If you can’t earn consumers’ trust, you’re fighting a losing battle.

And what’s a specific area that makes many consumers wary?

That’s simple. It’s the way in which businesses handle payment information.

In fact, a lack of trust in credit card processing is one of the top reasons for checkout abandonment.

Research from the Baymard Institute found that “18% of American shoppers abandon the checkout because they don’t trust the website with their credit card information.”

image10

This means you can kiss one out of every five shoppers goodbye.

And I totally get it.

I completely understand why some shoppers feel uncomfortable sharing their credit card information.

Identity theft and cyber crime are on the rise. This is people’s money and identity we’re talking about! I don’t blame people for being super cautious.

A study from Javelin Strategy & Research found that identity fraud hit a record high in 2016.

More specifically,

$16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier.

In the past six years, identity theft thieves have stolen over $107 billion.

Here’s what that looks like in graphs:

image16

It has become a serious problem.

If you haven’t been the victim of identity theft yourself, there’s a good chance you know someone who has.

Just look at the increase in the number of identity theft and fraud complaints between 2012 and 2015:

image20

This means one thing.

Most people don’t want to hand over their credit card information to just anyone.

They want to know for sure that the company they’re doing business with is taking every possible security precaution to ensure that their sensitive information doesn’t wind up in the wrong hands.

And I definitely understand where they’re coming from.

I know I avoid doing business with any website that looks sketchy and where security could be a potential issue.

In fact, I’ve found myself abandoning the checkout page several times on account of this.

It’s just not worth the risk.

How can you gain the trust of your online shoppers?

This puts modern business owners in a bit of a quandary.

You need to come up with an effective way to put shoppers’ minds at ease and let them know they’re in good hands when they do business with you.

What can you do?

There are several factors that shoppers take into consideration when determining whether or not they trust a particular website.

Some examples include:

  • How professional the site looks
  • How quickly it loads
  • Whether a trusted friend or colleague has used the site before
  • Whether the site contains well-known brands or products
  • Whether it has easy-to-find contact information

But there’s one factor that reassures shoppers above all else.

And that’s a trust seal.

In fact,

a survey conducted by Econsultancy/Toluna confirmed the power of trust seals when it asked participants which factors help them to decide whether or not to trust a website.

image19

Just think about it.

How many times have you had your fears or doubts quelled when you saw a trust seal when you’re checking out?

I know this puts me at ease.

And there’s evidence that shows just how big of an impact trust seals can have.

Research on trust seals

This great article from ConversionXL tackles the topic of checkout optimization and the way trust seals affect security perception.

The post includes data from a study that used eye tracking to determine the exact impact trust seals have.

Here’s a screenshot of what this study entailed:

image08

Participants then saw one of the following six trust seals:

image14

As you can see, there are trust seals from several notable companies such as McAfee, PayPal, the BBB, and so on.

And here are the observational patterns (the patterns respondents’ eyes followed):

image01

By examining these findings, it’s easy to see that trust seals are huge.

After shoppers initially look at the logo and “payment method” section, their eyes inevitably shift to the trust seal at the bottom.

This goes to show that it’s an integral factor in whether a shopper decides to go through with the checkout process and actually make a purchase.

It makes sense that displaying a trust seal on your checkout page will increase trust, thereby boosting your conversion rate.

Are some trust seals more trusted than others?

You may be wondering whether shoppers respond more favorably to certain trust seals than others.

This chart shows us the specifics:

image21

As you can see, the “PayPal Verified” seal was noticed the most, at 67%.

This was followed by the “Google Trusted Store” seal at 63% and “Norton Secured” seal at 59%.

It’s also important to note that survey respondents remembered certain trust seals more than others:

image11

However, ConversionXL reports that the differences were fairly minimal.

According to them,

it’s clear that there weren’t huge differences between trust seals. Using eye tracking, we confirmed that all trust seals are equally noticeable.

In other words, it doesn’t make a massive difference which specific trust seal you use.

As long as you have one from a fairly reputable company, it should have a positive impact in terms of gaining the trust of your shoppers.

If you haven’t yet installed a trust seal on your checkout page, I highly recommend that you do so immediately.

This can have a tremendous impact on your conversion rate and overall revenue.

Want proof?

Look no further than a split test performed by Blue Fountain Media.

Here’s what their original checkout page looked like before they added a trust seal:

image03

Here’s their checkout page with a Verisign seal:

image04

Guess what impact this had?

Sales increased by a whopping 42%!

Notice that nothing else on the page changed—except for the “Your Privacy” section, which got replaced by the Verisign seal.

This isn’t to say that your sales will instantly jump up by 42%, but I can pretty much guarantee some type of increase.

Just imagine what a trust seal could do for your long-term profits—it could be major.

How do you create a trust seal?

Here’s how the general process works.

  1. You choose a company, such as McAfee or Norton, and choose the plan you want (some basic plans are free, and more robust plans cost money).
  2. They perform testing on your site.
  3. Assuming everything looks good and your site passes the test, they will certify your site.
  4. You install the trust seal.
  5. It appears on your checkout page, and you’re good to go.

Of course, this is an oversimplification of things, so let me walk you through the process step by step.

I’ll just use McAfee as an example because I’m familiar with it.

The specific steps may vary slightly depending on the security company you choose, but the overall process should be basically the same.

Step #1 – Sign up

Visit McAfee SECURE to check out plans and pricing.

image13

In the case of McAfee, it’s very straightforward.

There are two plans to choose from: “Free” and “Pro.”

Here’s how the two plans break down:

image07

FYI, “Pro” costs $29 per month as I’m writing this.

Next, install the McAfee SECURE plugin on WordPress.

You can find it by searching the “Plugins” section of your WordPress dashboard:

image12

Click on “Add New:”

image05

Now type in “McAfee” in the “Search Plugins” search box:

image02

Here we go:

image09

Click on “Install Now:”

image15

Then “Activate:”

image00

Once you’ve activated the plugin, visit Settings > McAfee Secure to configure it.

You’ll see this screen:

image18

Fill out the information:

image17

At this point, McAfee will run some tests on your site:

image06

Because you’ve already installed the McAfee SECURE plugin, the trust seal will automatically appear on your site.

That’s it.

It’s really quite easy.

As long as your website passes, you’ll have a trust seal installed on your checkout page in no time.

If you would like to see a video tutorial on this process, check out this post from WPBeginner.

Conclusion

Online security has arguably never been more important than it is today.

And the fear and skepticism so many people have is by no means unfounded.

They have a very good reason to be concerned and even a little paranoid.

As a business owner, you must address these concerns and put your customers’ minds at ease.

People want to know they’re not putting themselves at unnecessary risk by completing a transaction on your website.

According to research, one of the best ways to do this is by installing a trust seal on your checkout page.

This lets shoppers know that your site has been thoroughly tested and meets today’s security standards.

As a result, they can complete a purchase with confidence, which should bring about a higher conversion rate and an overall increase in customer satisfaction.

Fortunately, installing a trust seal on your checkout page is fairly simple, and some basic plans can be set up for free.

Find the security company that’s the best fit for you and complete the necessary steps to have a trust seal installed.

How big of a factor is a trust seal when you’re deciding whether you want to complete a transaction?

from Quick Sprout https://www.quicksprout.com/2017/04/17/how-to-create-a-trust-seal-on-your-checkout-page/
via My Media Pal

Filed under: Digital Marketing Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Online Strategy, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, SEO Strategy, SEO Tips

from SEO NYC https://mymediapal.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/how-to-create-a-trust-seal-on-your-checkout-page-2/
via SEO NYC Blog

How to Create a Trust Seal on Your Checkout Page

Trust is everything.

If you can’t earn consumers’ trust, you’re fighting a losing battle.

And what’s a specific area that makes many consumers wary?

That’s simple. It’s the way in which businesses handle payment information.

In fact, a lack of trust in credit card processing is one of the top reasons for checkout abandonment.

Research from the Baymard Institute found that “18% of American shoppers abandon the checkout because they don’t trust the website with their credit card information.”

image10

This means you can kiss one out of every five shoppers goodbye.

And I totally get it.

I completely understand why some shoppers feel uncomfortable sharing their credit card information.

Identity theft and cyber crime are on the rise. This is people’s money and identity we’re talking about! I don’t blame people for being super cautious.

A study from Javelin Strategy & Research found that identity fraud hit a record high in 2016.

More specifically,

$16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier.

In the past six years, identity theft thieves have stolen over $107 billion.

Here’s what that looks like in graphs:

image16

It has become a serious problem.

If you haven’t been the victim of identity theft yourself, there’s a good chance you know someone who has.

Just look at the increase in the number of identity theft and fraud complaints between 2012 and 2015:

image20

This means one thing.

Most people don’t want to hand over their credit card information to just anyone.

They want to know for sure that the company they’re doing business with is taking every possible security precaution to ensure that their sensitive information doesn’t wind up in the wrong hands.

And I definitely understand where they’re coming from.

I know I avoid doing business with any website that looks sketchy and where security could be a potential issue.

In fact, I’ve found myself abandoning the checkout page several times on account of this.

It’s just not worth the risk.

How can you gain the trust of your online shoppers?

This puts modern business owners in a bit of a quandary.

You need to come up with an effective way to put shoppers’ minds at ease and let them know they’re in good hands when they do business with you.

What can you do?

There are several factors that shoppers take into consideration when determining whether or not they trust a particular website.

Some examples include:

  • How professional the site looks
  • How quickly it loads
  • Whether a trusted friend or colleague has used the site before
  • Whether the site contains well-known brands or products
  • Whether it has easy-to-find contact information

But there’s one factor that reassures shoppers above all else.

And that’s a trust seal.

In fact,

a survey conducted by Econsultancy/Toluna confirmed the power of trust seals when it asked participants which factors help them to decide whether or not to trust a website.

image19

Just think about it.

How many times have you had your fears or doubts quelled when you saw a trust seal when you’re checking out?

I know this puts me at ease.

And there’s evidence that shows just how big of an impact trust seals can have.

Research on trust seals

This great article from ConversionXL tackles the topic of checkout optimization and the way trust seals affect security perception.

The post includes data from a study that used eye tracking to determine the exact impact trust seals have.

Here’s a screenshot of what this study entailed:

image08

Participants then saw one of the following six trust seals:

image14

As you can see, there are trust seals from several notable companies such as McAfee, PayPal, the BBB, and so on.

And here are the observational patterns (the patterns respondents’ eyes followed):

image01

By examining these findings, it’s easy to see that trust seals are huge.

After shoppers initially look at the logo and “payment method” section, their eyes inevitably shift to the trust seal at the bottom.

This goes to show that it’s an integral factor in whether a shopper decides to go through with the checkout process and actually make a purchase.

It makes sense that displaying a trust seal on your checkout page will increase trust, thereby boosting your conversion rate.

Are some trust seals more trusted than others?

You may be wondering whether shoppers respond more favorably to certain trust seals than others.

This chart shows us the specifics:

image21

As you can see, the “PayPal Verified” seal was noticed the most, at 67%.

This was followed by the “Google Trusted Store” seal at 63% and “Norton Secured” seal at 59%.

It’s also important to note that survey respondents remembered certain trust seals more than others:

image11

However, ConversionXL reports that the differences were fairly minimal.

According to them,

it’s clear that there weren’t huge differences between trust seals. Using eye tracking, we confirmed that all trust seals are equally noticeable.

In other words, it doesn’t make a massive difference which specific trust seal you use.

As long as you have one from a fairly reputable company, it should have a positive impact in terms of gaining the trust of your shoppers.

If you haven’t yet installed a trust seal on your checkout page, I highly recommend that you do so immediately.

This can have a tremendous impact on your conversion rate and overall revenue.

Want proof?

Look no further than a split test performed by Blue Fountain Media.

Here’s what their original checkout page looked like before they added a trust seal:

image03

Here’s their checkout page with a Verisign seal:

image04

Guess what impact this had?

Sales increased by a whopping 42%!

Notice that nothing else on the page changed—except for the “Your Privacy” section, which got replaced by the Verisign seal.

This isn’t to say that your sales will instantly jump up by 42%, but I can pretty much guarantee some type of increase.

Just imagine what a trust seal could do for your long-term profits—it could be major.

How do you create a trust seal?

Here’s how the general process works.

  1. You choose a company, such as McAfee or Norton, and choose the plan you want (some basic plans are free, and more robust plans cost money).
  2. They perform testing on your site.
  3. Assuming everything looks good and your site passes the test, they will certify your site.
  4. You install the trust seal.
  5. It appears on your checkout page, and you’re good to go.

Of course, this is an oversimplification of things, so let me walk you through the process step by step.

I’ll just use McAfee as an example because I’m familiar with it.

The specific steps may vary slightly depending on the security company you choose, but the overall process should be basically the same.

Step #1 – Sign up

Visit McAfee SECURE to check out plans and pricing.

image13

In the case of McAfee, it’s very straightforward.

There are two plans to choose from: “Free” and “Pro.”

Here’s how the two plans break down:

image07

FYI, “Pro” costs $29 per month as I’m writing this.

Next, install the McAfee SECURE plugin on WordPress.

You can find it by searching the “Plugins” section of your WordPress dashboard:

image12

Click on “Add New:”

image05

Now type in “McAfee” in the “Search Plugins” search box:

image02

Here we go:

image09

Click on “Install Now:”

image15

Then “Activate:”

image00

Once you’ve activated the plugin, visit Settings > McAfee Secure to configure it.

You’ll see this screen:

image18

Fill out the information:

image17

At this point, McAfee will run some tests on your site:

image06

Because you’ve already installed the McAfee SECURE plugin, the trust seal will automatically appear on your site.

That’s it.

It’s really quite easy.

As long as your website passes, you’ll have a trust seal installed on your checkout page in no time.

If you would like to see a video tutorial on this process, check out this post from WPBeginner.

Conclusion

Online security has arguably never been more important than it is today.

And the fear and skepticism so many people have is by no means unfounded.

They have a very good reason to be concerned and even a little paranoid.

As a business owner, you must address these concerns and put your customers’ minds at ease.

People want to know they’re not putting themselves at unnecessary risk by completing a transaction on your website.

According to research, one of the best ways to do this is by installing a trust seal on your checkout page.

This lets shoppers know that your site has been thoroughly tested and meets today’s security standards.

As a result, they can complete a purchase with confidence, which should bring about a higher conversion rate and an overall increase in customer satisfaction.

Fortunately, installing a trust seal on your checkout page is fairly simple, and some basic plans can be set up for free.

Find the security company that’s the best fit for you and complete the necessary steps to have a trust seal installed.

How big of a factor is a trust seal when you’re deciding whether you want to complete a transaction?

from Quick Sprout https://www.quicksprout.com/2017/04/17/how-to-create-a-trust-seal-on-your-checkout-page/
via My Media Pal

Filed under: Digital Marketing Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Online Strategy, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, SEO Strategy, SEO Tips

from SEO NYC https://mymediapal.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/how-to-create-a-trust-seal-on-your-checkout-page/
via SEO NYC Blog