How to Revive Your Amazon Sales
Startup companies face a long uphill battle to become successful businesses and in these tough economic times the climb is ever harder. However, many companies are surviving and even becoming thriving businesses. These successful entrepreneurs in charge have a firm grasp of the legal necessities and requirements of them needed to start and maintain a profitable business. Having knowledge of the business laws and regulations on a business is a necessity for creating and growing a startup company.
The Business Plan:
A company’s business plan should be both strategic and comprehensive. Since this is the blue print of the business, it needs to cover the overall encompassing concepts of the business as well as the layout for general day-to-day activities. The business will need to include the structure of the administration, sales strategies, marketing goals as well as other foreseeable goals and milestones. A comprehensive business plan will be a key tool for raising the capital needed to start the business.
A company has several legal entity choices when deciding how they would like to conduct business. These choices will have effects, both positive and negative on aspects like taxes, liability and employment structures.
The solo proprietorship is a popular choice for small startups because no further steps are needed to create a separate legal entity. The business pays taxes under the owners social security number and it treated like and extension of the owner. A major downside of a sole proprietorship is the lack of legal protection from obligations of the business.
Another popular entity is a Partnership, also described as “the association of two or more persons to carry on a business for profit as co-owners.” (Lambert, 2003) In a partnership, you get the benefits of expanded management but other the other hand; each partner is responsible for the liabilities of the other partners.
A Limited Liability Corporation, or LLC, is another very common type of business entity. In a LLC, business receives the benefits of pass-through tax treatment like an S corporation, but members are not personally liable for the obligations or debts of the other partners. A Limited Liability Partnership, or LLP is very similar and is usually favored by working professions such as a doctor’s office.
A Corporation, by definition is a separate entity, as in a separate person. Ownership of the corporation is made of shareholders, who are not directly liable for the actions of the company and can buy and sell their shares. The corporation is also made up of a team of people that are critical to the operations, the directors of corporations, officers of corporations and shareholders.
The directors of a corporation usually referred to as the boards of directors are elected to their positions by shareholders. At annual shareholders meeting, each shareholder is usually allowed one vote per share that they own. The board of directors has the authority to manage the corporation as they see fit. However, corporation’s board of directors usually opts to hire a staff that will handle the day-to-day operations. These board members are generally referred to as the executive committee or other smaller committees. These committees can be tasked with making management decision to keep operations running smoothly. Other day-to-day operations tasks maybe also assigned to individual board members and officers of the corporation. Directors of the corporation play the role of acting on behalf of the best interests of the shareholders, therefore the shareholders with, or without cause can remove directors. The board of directors is also responsible for appointing officers of the corporation.
Officers of the corporation are usually made up of a president, vice president, secretary, and a treasurer. These officers act as agents for the corporation are giving certain authority such as implied authority, which is needed to conduct daily business. The president of a corporation is not automatically given the authority make binding contracts; however, usually when a president is additionally a chief executive officer, CEO, he or she will then posses more authority. “A president with an additional title such as general manager or chief executive officer has broad implied authority to make contracts and to do other acts in the ordinary business of the corporation” (Mallor, 2010, p. 1054).
Naming the company is a very important aspect of how the company will be portrayed by the public. Many companies will use a separate trade name then their corporate name. A trade name, also know as a doing business as or DBA is a name the general public recognizes as your business. This name is often trademarked, giving the business legal ownership of the logo. A corporate name however is the name in which if filled with Secretary of State.
Before the business can choose a name, they must first conduct a name availability search with the Secretary of State in their state. Once an available name is determined, if will need to registered as wells as any DBA and trademark information. Additional trademark searches need to be conducted to ensure legal use.
Depending on the type of business, several avenues of funding can be used to raise the necessary capital to start and grown the business. Funding for startups usually comes from the owners, friends, family, banks, venture capitalists, angle investors, and shareholders.
Owners are usually on line for funding their own startups. It’s pretty hard to ask others to risk their money without the owner first taking a risk. However, often the owners will not have enough access to cash to fund their entire startups and need to ask for outside assistance.
Friends and family can be the easiest or hardest area to raise the necessary fund to start a business. Typically, your friends and family will not be as finically savvy as a bank or venture capitalist will be looking over the business plans and model. But at the same time, since there is a relationship with these people, it is very necessary to be overly carful with these funds.
Banks can offer loans to provide the capital necessary when starting a business. These loans are considered to be debt financing. Often they will require liens, such as a real estate or equipment liens, to offer secured loans. An alternative to getting a commercial bank loan is a Small Business Administration, or SBA loan from the federal government.
Venture capitalist and Angle investors will sometime step in on more risky ventures; in return they may want a more significant piece of the business or higher repayments. Angle investors, usually play a similar role to venture capitalists but they usually goes a step further by providing funding and guidance to the owners. Typically, angle investors have been successful in their own business and can offer great advice and an outside perspective.
Corporations have an advantage as they can raise funds by issuing stock options of their company. This is where multiple people can be owners of a company without being liability or debts of the company beyond their investment. “A corporation needs not only to be established in conjunction with the rules of incorporation under the laws of the individual state, but must also be maintained as such by following ongoing requirements and formalities.” (All Business, 2009)
It has been said time and time again that a company is only as talented as the people that work there. Choosing the right employees for a startup is trickier than for a regular business. Most startup businesses need employees that are capable of wearing many hats. That is to say it is necessary to have employees that are willing and able to perform many tasks over a wide range of areas as in a startup there may not be resources to hire every position needed. Employees may also need to work for less money than they would have to at an established business. Money is often tight in a startup until sales can really be established. To compensate for this, employees may be willing to accept stock in the company in lieu of higher salaries.
The best way to ensure you have quality employees is to perform a thorough interview and vetting process. During this process the qualifications of the interviewee should be checked and verified. Questions should be asked about previously work history and qualifications.
Employees of the business have certain rights such as child labor laws and minimum wages. The child labor laws are federal laws that restrict the working hours and conditions of children ages 14 to 18. Minimum wages have been standardized by the federal government and may also be higher individual states. These are a set minimum wage the employees must receive for work done on a per hour basis.
The use of consultants and independent contractors is an alternative to hiring employees for certain tasks of the business. These are people that do not officially work for the company, but are brought in to perform a specific task. Independent contractors have some advantages to the company “Generally, you must withhold income taxes, withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, and pay unemployment tax on wages paid to an employee. You do not generally have to withhold or pay any taxes on payments to independent contractors.” (IRS, 2010) However, the IRS has set strict guidelines on who is classified as an independent contractor.
Contracts between employee and employer called Employee Agreements can be beneficial to both parties. Employment Agreements can ensure that both parties know exactly what is expected of them, and how they will be compensated, for example wages, stock and fringe benefits, for these activates.
Another contract that is often overlooked, but can be critical for any startups is a Non Disclosure agreement, or NDA. This essentially a contract that is signed by employees stating that will not release any company secrets they learn while employed and even after they are employed. This is extremely important in today’s business world fore several reasons including the abuse of patients. A patient, while secure in the United States, does not always offer the same protection overseas.
Taxes and Regulations
“In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” (Benjamin Franklin) The same is true for companies. Taxes are different depending on the type of entity the companies is but in generally, taxes will have to be paid to both the sate in which the company operates and Federal Taxes. Generally, business will be obligated to pay, Federal Income Tax, State income tax, Unemployment tax, Disability Tax, Sales Tax, use Tax, Real Estate Property Tax, and a various amount of other taxes depending on the activates of the business such as Alcoholic Beverage Taxes.
With all these taxes and expenses to track, having a good accountant or accounting department is an essential aspect of a startup business. This will ensure that accurate bookkeeping and records are maintained and up to date. This will keep the business on track and out of trouble for with government for not paying the appropriate taxes, which could result in serious fines. Having an accountant prepare annual and semi annual finical report is an essential tool getting more investment in the business as well as well as stock holders.
For a startup business, an important decision is where is it going to be located. Depending on the type of business being conducted, different locations will serve different needs. If the business needs foot traffic coming in the door, then a popular retail location may be necessary. However if traffic is not needed, for example an ecommerce business, then more economical industrial locations will be better.
Different area will have different regulations on them called zoning laws. Zoning laws allow certain types of business activates in certain areas. The local ordinances can control the business hours of operations, exterior lighting, types of chemical that can be used, manufacturing limitations and so on. Therefore, it is vital that accurate research be conducted on the area in question before making an offer to lease or buy.
In addition to zoning laws, many states have laws that regulate the process of manufacturing that the business uses called Environmental Laws. These laws are in place to protect the environment and local residents from harmful air emissions, water pollution and storage of harmful substances
Any seasoned venture capitalists knows, the vast majority of startups companies fail in the first few years. This is why it is vital that entrepreneurs have a firm grasps of the legal necessities and requirements needed, as the business is bound to have numerous important legal aspects that need to be addressed, in order to help the company startup up, grow and thrive.
Being on the right platform is important for building up your site. Over the past 4 years, Vapage.com was on three different platforms before finally landing on a forth, which is magento.
CS-Cart was an ok starting part for Vapage. It was a self hosted, server run application that did all the basics ok. After the store grew, security became a serious issue. At the time, credit card numbers were exposed to all admins logged into the system. Growth was also very limited as it was not a mainstream platform.
Volusion came next, Volusion was useful for basic seo and ultimately growth. Volusion claims they do not punish for growth, but they do. They do not charge per sale, but they charge a ridiculous amount per MB each month. Therefore the bill ran in to the thousands of dollars per month, for a pretty limited system, so Magento was next.
While Magneto is a free, open system, CE version that is, it did cost Vapage in development costs. In magneto there is no limit on the expansion and development that can be accomplished. The downside is development is never done either. SEO in Magento is also a never ending story. There are literally hundreds of plugins that can or at least try to improve the SEO aspects of the magneto site.
Vapage.com has been on the magento platform for just over a year now, sales are up and the web presence is strong. More to come soon.
In the early days of Google, a back link was everything. A back link told Google search that you were important. After all the updates to Google’s world famous search algorithm, back links are still just as important with one major twist. No longer is it just quantity of backlinks, it’s also quality. Your website need quality, relevant back link to your site. A world of warning, buying black links from someone that specializes in “SEO” or the guys on ebay or anything like that will not only not help your site, it will actually do damage. You will be banned from search if Google even suspects suspicions links. The way I get around this is actually writing the anchor text and choosing specific website to host my links, then I “rent” the location of the back link on other peoples website by using They provide high ranked, sites with high PR, that are willing to rent a small portion of their site to host your link
May 4–8, 2015
Spark the future.
The best and brightest minds will be all in one place to talk cloud infrastructure and management, productivity, big data and the internet of things, unified communications, mobility and more. So welcome, thinkers. And get ready for a glimpse at what’s possible today and in the future.
IT moves at lightning speed. Change sparks more change. So to keep your business competitive, you’ve got to anticipate and innovate. Microsoft is here to help—with thousands of minds working together to deliver solutions to keep your business moving forward.
Whether you’re a senior decision maker, IT professional or enterprise developer, you’ll be inspired by our vision of where technology is headed. Tailor your learning experience in this one-of-a-kind conference designed to fuel your business and give you a glimpse into the future.
It won’t just be Microsoft there, either. Connect with other tech leaders, IT professionals and technology partners who’ll help you rise to the challenge and move your business forward. Thoughts will be sparked. Questions will be answered. And fun will be had.
Pricing and passes
From May 4-8, join the best and the brightest minds and see firsthand what’s possible today and in the future
Is this you?
•You’ve been putting out content for some time now but haven’t seen the explosive growth that you know you are capable of.
•You spend hours crafting an article, only to have it lose traction within a week.
•You want a better way to network and distribute your content that will reap recurring rewards for your efforts.
Pricing Guide for 3-Character .NET
You don’t even have to change much of what you’ve been doing to realize these goals and more; you’re already doing the hardest part: creating content.
But that’s the thing…
So many people are creating content that it’s difficult to separate your quality, original content from inferior posts and spam.
What am I getting at?
Content marketing is an increasingly important segment of an overall marketing strategy. With ever-improving search engine algorithms and millions of posts created daily, it is imperative that your business has quality, targeted content and a content distribution strategy to match.
The following 14 sites can help your SaaS, Ecommerce, or online business drive the inbound traffic that it needs to build up its reputation and get the most from your content marketing.
The sites are listed with the following information:
•Alexa Rank – A measure of site popularity based on average daily visitors and page views (the lower the better… example: Google is #1)
•Audience – What type of reader will frequent these sites?
•Goal(s) – What would define successful use of this site / some example tasks to accomplish.
•Why – The reason you should shoot for these goals.
•What to post – Some guidelines for the types of content that will result in the best ROI.
Numbering is for reference only; they are not ranked in any particular order, as the utility of each for your business is subjective.
1. Hacker News
How to Content Market with Hacker News – Moblized
Alexa Rank: 3,328
Audience: Tech Enthusiasts, Programmers, and Entrepreneurs
A production of seed accelerator YCombinator, Hacker News features content on a range of high-tech topics. The stream is reminiscent of Reddit and likewise, articles are voted up or down by the community. Tech enthusiasts are the typical guests on Hacker News and the community is brimming with knowledgeable individuals that have an inherent interest in conversing on Internet technology.
One notable feature of Hacker News is that they have such a conversant and tight-knit community. The comments on posts will add a unique perspective that will often result in a related link, topic, and direction. Hacker News is valuable for finding breaking tech news and stories that might not yet have hit mainstream media. Plus, it’s even more useful for expert dissections of those same stories once they do hit the mainstream channels.
•Make it on the Front Page of Hacker News (the top 30 posts)
•Regularly upload content links
Since it’s a feed, and one that’s imported via RSS, readers typically add it to their aggregated news apps. This means that often the posts are interspersed with other linked feeds, pushing even top 10 pieces down to potentially the 20 th or 30th spot in an app like Flipboard or Feedly. Even on the site itself rather than in a reader, it’s likely that users will take a quick glance at the top posts and then come back the next day for a refreshed leaderboard. If you are regularly posting, you have a far better chance of finding your way to the front page.
What to post on Hacker News
•Pieces relevant to current tech trends
•Hard news – breaking updates or analysis of current tech
•New technology or apps
How to Content Market with Inbound.org – Moblized
Alexa Rank: 8,719
Audience: Inbound and Content Marketers, Bloggers, and Industry Enthusiasts
Inbound.org is another link-based stream where you will find expert-level content from inbound marketing leaders. The website was developed by Rand Fishkin (CEO of Moz) and Dharmesh Shah (CTO of Hubspot) as a place for bloggers, marketers, and other marketing experts to connect and share content and ideas with one another. Inbound is focused primarily on organic, non-paid traffic so it’s a great place to find information on content marketing.
Inbound is unique in the sense that it focuses mainly on marketing techniques that do not involve a PPC campaign (while this isn’t a rule). This means that the community focus is on generating legitimate, high-quality, engaging, and informative content. Inbound is a solid place to find and post articles that appeal to or inform other aspiring marketers, business owners, and executives.
•Get your content included in their daily or weekly “Hot Submissions” digests
•Build your network and reputation by commenting on and posting quality content
While perhaps not the highest in organic traffic, the power of Inbound is in its network. This is a community of influencers who all strive to share the best and most informative content. When you are included in the daily and weekly digests, your content is deemed worthy to be shared with their thousands of members (most of whom are content publishers themselves) who are likely to read, re-share, and make reference to your work.
What to post on Inbound
•Use cases – how your company achieved X goal using Y technique or trick
•Marketing, SEO, and Conversion Optimization articles, tips, and software
•How to and strategy pieces
3. Growth Hackers
How to Content Market with GrowthHackers.com – Moblized
Alexa Rank: 8,498
Audience: Content Marketers, Startups, Entrepreneurs, and Business Owners
Growth Hackers, a production of Qualaroo, is a place to discuss sustainable customer acquisition and growth. If the term “Growth Hacking” is unfamiliar, it is because Sean Ellis (of Qualaroo) defined it in 2010 to reference the agile approach that startups have taken towards customer acquisition. It is this agile, ethical, and highly effective methodology used to drive the rapid, sustainable growth that you see so often with viral startups. Growth Hackers is full of entrepreneurs and marketing experts alike who are seeking advice on how to apply these tenets to their business strategies.
Growth Hackers is unique because it is the largest community of “growth hackers” on the Internet. The emphasis on ethical marketing and sustainable techniques, rather than spam and other short-sighted “black hat” methods, is what sets them apart from traditional marketers.
•Become a “Trending” topic
•Build your network and reputation by commenting on and posting quality content
As with other inbound marketing feeds, Growth Hackers’ strength is not in it’s organic traffic but rather it’s community of recurring visitors and sharers. Trending topics on Growth Hackers are those that generate up-votes based on their relevance, quality, and the interest. When your content is ranked higher, as with similar feeds, you will see more traffic to your site as a significant portion of the members are consumers, rather than producers.
What to post on Growth Hackers
•Actionable Content – anything that people can use to make SEO, social media, or marketing decisions
•Use cases, test results, How to, and strategy pieces
•Expert Advice (quotes, interviews with, or guest articles written by experts)
How to Content Market on Union Square Ventures – Moblized
Alexa Rank: Unavailable
Audience: Investors, Industry Experts
USV, or Union Square Ventures, is a group of venture capitalists primarily based in New York City. They frequently write about investments that are based on, as they describe it, the “Internet world”. The content on their website features some of the best new social media and internet-related investment opportunities. The community at Union Square Ventures is primarily those interested in investment and entrepreneurship.
One of the distinguishing features of Union Square Ventures is the sheer level of expertise on display. The writers are typically investors or industry experts, who are involved in numerous seed and Series A investment rounds on a regular basis. In addition to submitting your content, a great use of USV is for an expert-level investment perspective, and can be used to give you a more in-depth understanding of how to craft content that appeals to someone in that position.
•Spark conversation, respond to comments, and generate valuable back links
•Become a reputed source for information in your field
While traffic volume may not be USV’s main weapon, the caliber of the network’s traffic is higher than some other feeds. What’s more, you are putting your content in the line of sight of venture capital, strategic thinkers, and experts in Internet business operations. While you may not see huge traffic bumps immediately through this channel, you are playing the long game (building your brand and networking) with a chance for short-term payouts (high-profile publisher picking up and redistributing).
What to post on USV
•Informative and statistic-laden articles about disruptive technology trends
•Deep analysis of a tech topic
•Anything with an industry expert opinion tied to it
How to Content Market on BizSugar – Moblized
Alexa Rank: 7,667
Audience: SMB Owners, Managers, and Entrepreneurs
BizSugar is a place for business owners and entrepreneurs to share and comment on their own and others’ blog posts. Bolster your reputation as a thought leader in your industry or topic and build a network of like-minded business owners.
The content focuses on businesses of 0 – 100 employees, so you know that the advice and articles posted are likely relevant to your current situation. The community is generous and encourages its members to take the ideas that are shared and use them in their own businesses. Like similar sites, BizSugar has a voting system that allows the best content to rise to the top of the lists.
•Pick one or two categories and get on their front pages daily
•Become a valuable resource in your category
While the main page BizSugar has the “top” articles from the day, week, or month, you don’t see them running away with all of the up-votes in the same way that trending articles on Hacker News or Reddit do. The reason for this is that BizSugar allows for users to follow segmented RSS feeds, rather than one aggregated feed so people will follow only a few tags that appeal to them. The feeds are divided into 35 categories, with the majority of “sugars” coming from shares within their subsections. So as opposed to going for broad appeal, aim for your target market, produce high-quality content, and make sure that it resonates with the category you place it in.
What to post on BizSugar
•Marketing, Finance, Management, Technology, and Startup news for small businesses
•A piece that address the concerns of a SMB owner who manages, runs, or is looking to refine a business
•Actionable posts – these are do-ers, they are looking to take action.
6. Blog Engage
How to Content Market with Blog Engage – Moblized
Alexa Rank: 14,959
Audience: Bloggers, Content Creators, News Aggregators, and Marketers
Blog Engage (B.E) is a paid ($9.99 to $199 / month) distribution and syndication service for expanding your content marketing through other bloggers and B.E’s own marketing channels. Blog Engage is a community of content creators, curators, and syndicators that vote on community-submitted articles.
Only members can submit and vote on content, but if your piece generates enough votes, it is posted on the home page and, with higher paid plans, is distributed to other groups, pages, and channels as well. With monthly plans, your posts are automatically submitted via RSS feed, so you don’t actually have to promote or pay attention to it at all if you are confident in your titling and content quality.
The categories of content submitted to Blog Engage is all over the place, but seem to polarize towards the business and technology sections. One advantage to the numerous categories is that you have more flexibility in the genres of content that you can submit, though you should always target your niche. Regardless of category, articles that receive many up-votes, and the subsequent syndication of the Blog Engage community, can bring you a great deal of traffic and back links which will affect your SERP rankings and authority.
•Have your content syndicated and shared by other bloggers.
•Automate and simplify your content marketing campaigns
Your website’s authority is the sum of many parts. You won’t magically appear on the front page of SERPs without the help of back linking and 3rd-party distribution. With the aid of a back link checker, you may notice that your influence is comprised of tens or hundreds of differing sources.
Blog Engage allows your content to be exposed to individuals that are likely to share, link to, and syndicate your content; generating the link juice that you’re craving. With their higher-priced plans, they offer a full gambit of Twitter, Facebook, email digest, and other marketing services that will give your own efforts an extra push.
What to post on Blog Engage
•Sticky, shareable content – few are likely to share bland and uninteresting articles
•Trending topics that are likely to be picked up or submitted to news aggregation sites
How to Content Market on Triberr – Moblized
Alexa Rank: 3,910
Audience: Bloggers, Content Curators
Triberr is another place where bloggers can share their content with one another for exposure and back linking. The content posted on Triberr is varied, though they allow for narrowing through 25 different category tags. The community is founded on bringing bloggers success and the service is focused on distribution, content, and revenue.
Triberr is fairly unique in the way that it is laid out. The content itself is posted in a news feed similar to Facebook or Twitter, and there is a live conversation widget next to the news feed where the community can chat and comment in real time. If you are looking to boost certain products or content, you can also run campaigns where you bid to have influencers write content and endorse your product over a 30-day period. This option provides legitimate content that generates social proof and back links to your campaign assets on your site.
•Build a network of influencers and bloggers that will share your posts
•Generate shares automatically from relevant influencers
If you have missed the theme so far, networking and distribution are two of the key pieces to content marketing. Triberr makes it exceptionally easy for other bloggers and content creators to share your content.
What’s more, it places your feed automatically in front of the groups that you are a part of. When your network of tribes grows, your distribution channels multiply, leading to increased shares and back links.
What to post on Triberr
•Quality, quality, and quality – these are fellow bloggers with reputations to manage. If you want your content to be shared, it needs to make them look good as well
•Posts that reference or highlight your tribe members’ blogs and resources
How to Content Market on Quora – Moblized
Alexa Rank: 336
Audience: Everyone (Typically Looking to Learn)
Quora is a community-generated Q&A platform. Once users have created an account, they can answer or post questions on the website, which are then answered by others. Users can also create a customized feed on specific topics or based on users (typically experts) that they want to follow. Quora is written and read by industry experts and enthusiasts across a wide range of categories and the people who answer are often exemplary representatives of the field in question.
The best way to use Quora is to build a reputation by answering questions you are knowledgeable about, then asking questions (for example, about internet marketing) that you need help with. Quora is also a great place to build exposure for your business, so long as you create a positive reputation early on.
•Complete your profile
•Answer as many questions as you can within your industry with quality answers
•Build your reputation and a following dedicated to seeing your answers
With Quora’s open-ended model, credibility and sincerity play large rolls in whether your answer is up-voted. Having a full profile with relevant positions and experience will make your word carry far more than an anonymous response.
Additionally, the quality of your answers can build a reputation that will entice readers to check your profile, website, and other answers.
What to post on Quora
•Answers to questions in your industry
•Questions related to your industry that promote engagement from your audience (when you ask about their issues) and from experts (when asking about an issue that you have)
How to Content Market with StumbleUpon – Moblized
Alexa Rank: 160
Audience: Everyone (Typically Looking to Discover)
StumbleUpon is essentially random content linker and is one of the most heavily used services on this list. Users select their categories to “Stumble” and click to have a piece of random content shown. Users can up or down-vote each website so Stumble Upon learns what to show you next and what users of those categories find valuable. It’s a no-maintenance way for users who may not have known about your web content to find you and potentially bookmark your site.
StumbleUpon is one of the most unique services on the Internet and is an incredible way to get your images, blog posts, and services in front of viewers who are looking for your type of content specifically. With their paid campaigns, you can improve the chance that your content is shown to users stumbling your categories, garnering even more traffic.
•Share your homepage and all of your best consumable content through the service, within your most specific categories
•Create paid campaigns with your most compelling landing / product pages
Only those pages that are submitted are crawl-able by StumbleUpon, thus if your content isn’t on the service, you are missing out on all of that potential traffic. Do some research on the type of content that falls within the categories that you consider to reflect your content to see what types of sites get the most up-votes. This way, you can place your content marketing pieces within the areas that they have the best chance of success.
Paying for your pieces of content to be shown more often doesn’t hurt either and generates far more traffic compared with organic discovery.
What to post on StumbleUpon
•Eye-catching content (images, titles, animations, etc) – Your post will be seen amidst a flurry of stumbles, you have a limited window to catch and retain attention.
•Content relevant to the topic you place it within – If it’s irrelevant, the will “Stumble” along
How to Content Market with Delicious – Moblized
Alexa Rank: 1,386
Audience: Everyone (Typically Tech-Savvy)
Delicious is a website that is designed to help you find and save links. The community tends to be fairly tech-savvy, however, there are plenty of different types of users. Delicious is primarily read and used by people who have a lot of links they want to bookmark, remember, or share.
Delicious is unique because it makes it incredibly easy for users to save and organize a large number of links, which can then be searched to find exactly that piece of content they read once and forgot about. There are a few ways to use Delicious for content marketing but one that is particularly useful is to link your twitter accounts, which allows shared links and tags to be imported.
This gives you a categorized list of links that you have previously shared, which is then publicly available to Delicious users. You can also then re-post, buffer, or share them without having to dig through your previous posts to find them. See some great ways to use Delicious on Social Media Examiner.
•Upload, organize, and tag your content
•Save links that you want to reference in future content marketing
After uploading and tagging your content, you have it at your fingertips for future distribution through any channel. It’s also now searchable by the Delicious community, giving you hands-off exposure.
Do you run across content that you want to reference in the future? Saw a piece of content from an influencer in your target market that you want to reference? Save these links with appropriate tags to create your own wealth of resources to search through and call upon when looking to draw information and subsequent attention from others within your industry.
What to post on Delicious
•Your own content links with tags and descriptions
•Content that you want to reference in the future
•Resources that you find useful
How to Content Market with RebelMouse – Moblized
Alexa Rank: 7,384
Audience: Everyone (Defined by Your Audience)
RebelMouse is a social aggregator that unifies feeds into one custom platform. You can set it up so that when you upload content (on Facebook, Twitter, etc.) it will show up in your RebelMouse Pages based on each page’s settings and filters. You can use these pages as collections of specific tags, places to discover content to share, or standalone sites to supplement a campaign or product.
The target audience is really based on your readership and you won’t see much organic traffic to your page until you promote it and have it shared by others. You can drive traffic to your RebelMouse pages (as their own entity) or embed a RebelMouse widget so that you can show curated content that will add to or highlight the content on your website. There are also built-in analytics and other useful functionality that will make your content marketing easier.
Create 3 types of RebelMouse pages:
•Your content – for all content or create multiple for different tags
•Influencer content – to help you curate others’ content to share
•Specific tags – to keep a pulse on and draw from trending topics
If the idea of creating micro and macro pages of your content automatically isn’t appealing enough, consider that a social dashboard for your content may be easier to use by your users than your blog feed. Being able to see your content at a glance can also help you organize and gain a high-level overview of recent posts.
When you share influencers’ content, you are not only putting yourself on their radar, you are showing potential followers that you are knowledgeable but that others’ opinions are valuable.
In addition to following influencer content, you should add a page that focuses on tags within your industry as a way do discover what’s trending and to help supplement your original content with appropriated articles.
What to post on RebelMouse
•Usually nothing – it’s fairly automatic, but the feeds and tagging should be reflective of your business
•Posts that may not be ready for prime time on your main page but that still deserve exposure.
12. Warrior Forum
How to Content Market on Warrior Forum – Moblized
Alexa Rank: 268
Audience: Business Owners, Internet Marketers, and Entrepreneurs
Warrior Forum is a hub for business owners and Internet marketing professionals and is designed like a traditional forum, with sub-forums for specific categories and user profiles / reputations. The Warrior community tends to be fairly experienced and you will see threads gravitating around key users and subjects. It can be a little bit confusing for newcomers to learn the social structure and how to find answers to their questions, but you are able to dive incredibly deep and get very specific with just a few advanced searches.
In a similar approach to how you would use Quora, Warrior is about networking, reputation, and discovery. If you have expertise in one area, you can build a name for yourself and gain the attention of either professionals looking to collaborate or prospective customers. It’s also a valuable place to make connections with like-minded businesspeople and develop your brand identity within your communities.
•Complete your profile
•Find popular threads that you are knowledgeable on and follow them
•Ask a few questions that you want answered
As with any space where you interact directly with the community, credibility is king. You may be new, but posting with a full profile makes you seem far more legitimate and will increase the odds that people will respond to and post on your threads.
Build your reputation by answering questions and providing links to resources (your own if applicable) and engage on topics that are of interest to you but that correlate with your business. You will be surprised by how open, honest, and insightful people can be in a closed community such as this; if you ask decent questions, expect answers.
What to post on Warrior Forum
•Answers to questions in your industry
•Resources (content and links) on threads that ask for them
•Questions related to your industry that promote engagement from your audience (when you want to promote yourself) and from experts (when you want to know something)
How to Content Market with AllTop – Moblized
Alexa Rank: 4,301
Audience: Everyone (Specific Interests / Respond to Trending Articles)
AllTop is a news aggregator designed to function as a personal magazine for its users. They also aim to provide results of users’ search terms by gathering a representation of the top pieces of content from across the web.
What makes AllTop so useful for content marketing is that if your blog is accepted, you are then listed and available to be added to anyone’s custom AllTop magazine. While this is a huge step and a great source of touch-free traffic, until your posts are included in the “Most Popular Stories” section of your category, you won’t see many heavy influxes of traffic. Either way, it’s another distribution channel that is fairly heavily frequented and one that can drive extra readership.
•Submit your feed and have it approved
•Promote your feed’s presence on AllTop
Another theme here: Get your content out there! There’s everything to lose by not having your content distributed to as many outlets as possible, especially if you are in a niche market. If your feed is approved this is a sign that both your site is quality and your content has been deemed shareable to their users.
After it’s on AllTop, promote your feed’s availability so that readers who may want to subscribe through AllTop can easily save and access your posts.
What to post on AllTop
•Quality feeds – the AllTop staff handpicks what’s included
•Post to your main category – you can add to others after only if your feed is approved
How to Content Market with Slideshare – Moblized
Alexa Rank: 131
Audience: Everyone (Visually-Oriented / Wants Just the Key Points)
Slideshare is a place for amateurs, experts, and knowledgeable professionals alike to share basic through professional-grade, engaging content. Slideshare is the place to go for webinars, presentations, infographics, and more and is one of the best ways to repurpose your content and add some variety to your offerings.
Consider that sales deck you put together a while back: with some tweaking it could be a valuable asset to an aspiring business owner. Do you have a tutorial on how to use your product? Create a slideshow and link to it from the product page. The draw of Slideshare is its accessibility and engaging nature. It is a wonderful way to show your experience and expertise in a quick, visual manner.
•Repurpose and reuse old content by converting it to a slideshow
•Generate new types of content for your audience
That blog post you put out a few months ago is not getting the same attention it once was. If you grab the key points from your content marketing pieces and create a slideshow from them, you have doubled the value of that single piece.
In addition to creating value in the slideshow itself, you are also reinforcing the original article. You have now created 4 ways for people to engage that same content (direct to article, direct to Slideshare, from Slideshare to article, and from article to Slideshare). Plus, you are giving audiences who may have missed your articles another channel through which to consume your content marketing.
What to post on Slideshare
•Slideshows of your content’s key points
•Interactive, short bits of dynamic text content
•How-Tos and Tutorials
As a reward for reaching the bottom of this post, here’s a quick reference guide.
# Site Name Audience Why It’s Valuable
1 Hacker News Techies, Programmers, Enthusiasts Getting traction will mean a HUGE traffic spike
2 Inbound Inbound / Content Marketers, Bloggers, Industry Experts Large community of experts, quality content, mailer drives traffic
3 Growth Hackers Inbound / Content Marketers, Bloggers, Entrepreneurs, Business Owners Community of content marketers, better chance of being shared through their networks
4 USV Investors, Industry Experts Quality networking, potential shares by investors and industry experts.
5 BizSugar SMB Owners, Managers, Entrepreneurs User base is likely to fully engage with your post if it resonates with them
6 Blog Engage Bloggers, Content Creators, News Aggregators, Marketers Syndicate your content for expanded reach, automatic distribution
7 Triberr Bloggers, Content Curators Create a community of content producers to share your content and draw content from
8 Quora Everyone (Looking to Learn) Build reputation and brand awareness, promote engagement within your market and with your brand
9 StumbleUpon Everyone (Looking to Discover) No upkeep, allows traffic to find your pages organically, can pay for more exposure
10 Delicious Everyone (Tech-Savvy) Automatically retrieve old posts, tag links for easy distribution, allow links to be discovered organically
11 RebelMouse Everyone (Defined by Your Audience) Campaign-specific content dashboards, content tagging and aggregation, content curation
12 Warrior Forum Business Owners, Internet Marketers, Entrepreneurs Active community, build reputation and brand awareness, network for collaboration, learn
13 AllTop Everyone (Specific Interests / Respond to Trending Articles) Organic discovery, possibility to get in the trending section, no upkeep
14 Slideshare Everyone (Visually-Oriented / Wants Just the Key Points) Give life to old content, have more engaging content, create multiple ways to engage with information
Did you find this content valuable? Have you seen content marketing success with any of these sites? Share your thoughts and experience with the community in the comments section below!
Questions, comments, or corrections related to the content of this post should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ignite Your Market Weekly Challenge’s goal is to create simple but powerful action that we can do each week to:
- Identify our market and opportunities.
- Connect with our client and prospects.
- Ignite our markets and our businesses.
This Week’s Ignite Your Market Challenge:
Review How Your Website, Newsletters and Emails Look on Mobile Devices.
If you haven’t figured it out already, mobile devices are in! I can pretty much guarantee that your website or blog is being accessed using a mobile device. Your newsletters and emails are being read on mobile devices (smartphones or tablets). There are many different opinions on when the tipping point will occur where there are more smartphone and tablets being used then traditional computers. Everyone agrees it will happen and many expert believe it will occur in 2014.
Have you checked out how yours looks? How does your brand come across to your mobile users? Do emails/newsletters open easily and are they easy to read? Does your website’s navigation work on a mobile device?
Your challenge for this week is to verify how your “brand” look and works on a mobile device and then create a plan to make improvements as required.
Tip: Ask you friends for help and check out different types of devices and brands, both iPhone and Android models. There are emulators available for free on the web, however, I haven’t found one yet that is the same as using an actual device.
Suggestions to Make Improvements
I am surprised how many newsletters/emails I receive that I cannot view well on my mobile device. What is the result for the sender? If I’ve looked at it once on my smartphone and I can’t read it I’m not likely to read it at all.
If you have any issues with how your newsletters/emails appears on mobile devices review what your email/autoresponder/newsletter applications recommends for mobile readers. Generally it’d simply a matter of changing the template and/or setting for your newsletter. Some autoresponders/newsletter applications are further ahead here, so check out their recommendations; normally it is easy and fast to fix.
Note: If you are not using some form of email application now is the time to do so. Anti-spam legislation is getting stricter, one of the toughest one goes into effect in Canada on July 1, 2014.
Fixing mobile issues for your website or blogs is going to be a bigger piece of work. It will depend on how your site is designed. If it is a WordPress site you might be able to find a plug-in that works or you may need to change your theme. Some companies have reduced sites for mobile users. What is becoming more common is a Responsive Web Design (RWD), where the layout adapts to the device you are using.
I’m not an expert website designer, however, what I do suggest is the following:
- Review your site on different devices – how easy is it to read? Can you use the navigation bar?
- Make of list of the issues
- Speak to a website designer about your options
- Make a plan to fix these issues
If you’re just starting to design your online and email programs make sure you are investing in mobile ready options.
Take the 1st step this week, verify how your “brand” look and works on mobile devices and create a plan to make improvements as required. Share your plan, ideas and experience below. I’m currently developing my own to improve the appearances of my sites on mobile devices.
Usability and the utility, not the visual design, determine the success or failure of a web-site. Since the visitor of the page is the only person who clicks the mouse and therefore decides everything, user-centric design has become a standard approach for successful and profit-oriented web design. After all, if users can’t use a feature, it might as well not exist.
We aren’t going to discuss the implementation details (e.g. where the search box should be placed) as it has already been done in a number of articles; instead we focus on the main principles, heuristics and approaches for effective web design — approaches which, used properly, can lead to more sophisticated design decisions and simplify the process of perceiving presented information.
Please notice that
- you might be interested in the usability-related articles about 10 Usability Nightmares1 and 30 Usability Issues2 we’ve published before,
- we’ll cover more principles of effective design in our following posts. Therefore you might want to subscribe to our RSS-feed3.
Principles Of Effective Web Design
In order to use the principles properly we first need to understand how users interact with web-sites, how they think and what are the basic patterns of users’ behavior.
How do users think?
Basically, users’ habits on the Web aren’t that different from customers’ habits in a store. Visitors glance at each new page, scan some of the text, and click on the first link that catches their interest or vaguely resembles the thing they’re looking for. In fact, there are large parts of the page they don’t even look at.
Most users search for something interesting (or useful) and clickable; as soon as some promising candidates are found, users click. If the new page doesn’t meet users’ expectations, the Back button is clicked and the search process is continued.
- Users appreciate quality and credibility. If a page provides users with high-quality content, they are willing to compromise the content with advertisements and the design of the site. This is the reason why not-that-well-designed web-sites with high-quality content gain a lot of traffic over years. Content is more important than the design which supports it.
- Users don’t read, they scan. Analyzing a web-page, users search for some fixed points or anchors which would guide them through the content of the page.
Users don’t read, they scan. Notice how “hot” areas abrupt in the middle of sentences. This is typical for the scanning process.
- Web users are impatient and insist on instant gratification. Very simple principle: If a web-site isn’t able to meet users’ expectations, then designer failed to get his job done properly and the company loses money. The higher is the cognitive load and the less intuitive is the navigation, the more willing are users to leave the web-site and search for alternatives. [JN / DWU]
- Users don’t make optimal choices. Users don’t search for the quickest way to find the information they’re looking for. Neither do they scan web-page in a linear fashion, going sequentially from one site section to another one. Instead users satisfice; they choose the first reasonable option. As soon as they find a link that seems like it might lead to the goal, there is a very good chance that it will be immediately clicked. Optimizing is hard, and it takes a long time. Satisficing is more efficient. [video6]
Both pictures show: sequential reading flow doesn’t work in the Web. Right screenshot on the image at the bottom describes the scan path of a given page.
- Users follow their intuition. In most cases users muddle through instead of reading the information a designer has provided. According to Steve Krug, the basic reason for that is that users don’t care. “If we find something that works, we stick to it. It doesn’t matter to us if we understand how things work, as long as we can use them. If your audience is going to act like you’re designing billboard, then design great billboards.”
- Users want to have control. Users want to be able to control their browser and rely on the consistent data presentation throughout the site. E.g. they don’t want new windows popping up unexpectedly and they want to be able to get back with a “Back”-button to the site they’ve been before: therefore it’s a good practice to never open links in new browser windows.
1. Don’t make users think
According to Krug’s first law of usability, the web-page should be obvious and self-explanatory. When you’re creating a site, your job is to get rid of the question marks — the decisions users need to make consciously, considering pros, cons and alternatives.
If the navigation and site architecture aren’t intuitive, the number of question marks grows and makes it harder for users to comprehend how the system works and how to get from point A to point B. A clear structure, moderate visual clues and easily recognizable links can help users to find their path to their aim.
Let’s take a look at an example. Beyondis.co.uk10 claims to be “beyond channels, beyond products, beyond distribution”. What does it mean? Since users tend to explore web-sites according to the “F”-pattern11, these three statements would be the first elements users will see on the page once it is loaded.
Although the design itself is simple and intuitive, to understand what the page is about the user needs to search for the answer. This is what an unnecessary question mark is. It’s designer’s task to make sure that the number of question marks is close to 0. The visual explanation is placed on the right hand side. Just exchanging both blocks would increase usability.
ExpressionEngine13 uses the very same structure like Beyondis, but avoids unnecessary question marks. Furthermore, the slogan becomes functional as users are provided with options to try the service and download the free version.
By reducing cognitive load you make it easier for visitors to grasp the idea behind the system. Once you’ve achieved this, you can communicate why the system is useful and how users can benefit from it. People won’t use your web site if they can’t find their way around it.
2. Don’t squander users’ patience
In every project when you are going to offer your visitors some service or tool, try to keep your user requirements minimal. The less action is required from users to test a service, the more likely a random visitor is to actually try it out. First-time visitors are willing to play with the service, not filling long web forms for an account they might never use in the future. Let users explore the site and discover your services without forcing them into sharing private data. It’s not reasonable to force users to enter an email address to test the feature.
As Ryan Singer — the developer of the 37Signals team — states14, users would probably be eager to provide an email address if they were asked for it after they’d seen the feature work, so they had some idea of what they were going to get in return.
Stikkit16 is a perfect example for a user-friendly service which requires almost nothing from the visitor which is unobtrusive and comforting. And that’s what you want your users to feel on your web site.
Apparently, Mite requires more. However the registration can be done in less than 30 seconds — as the form has horizontal orientation, the user doesn’t even need to scroll the page.
Ideally remove all barriers, don’t require subscriptions or registrations first. A user registration alone is enough of an impediment to user navigation to cut down on incoming traffic.
3. Manage to focus users’ attention
As web-sites provide both static and dynamic content, some aspects of the user interface attract attention more than others do. Obviously, images are more eye-catching than the text — just as the sentences marked as bold are more attractive than plain text.
The human eye is a highly non-linear device, and web-users can instantly recognize edges, patterns and motions. This is why video-based advertisements are extremely annoying and distracting, but from the marketing perspective they perfectly do the job of capturing users’ attention.
Humanized.com18 perfectly uses the principle of focus. The only element which is directly visible to the users is the word “free” which works attractive and appealing, but still calm and purely informative. Subtle hints provide users with enough information of how to find more about the “free” product.
Focusing users’ attention to specific areas of the site with a moderate use of visual elements can help your visitors to get from point A to point B without thinking of how it actually is supposed to be done. The less question marks visitors have, the better sense of orientation they have and the more trust they can develop towards the company the site represents. In other words: the less thinking needs to happen behind the scenes, the better is the user experience which is the aim of usability in the first place.
4. Strive for feature exposure
Modern web designs are usually criticized due to their approach of guiding users with visually appealing 1-2-3-done-steps, large buttons with visual effects etc. But from the design perspective these elements actually aren’t a bad thing. On the contrary, such guidelines are extremely effective as they lead the visitors through the site content in a very simple and user-friendly way.
Letting the user see clearly what functions are available is a fundamental principle of successful user interface design. It doesn’t really matter how this is achieved. What matters is that the content is well-understood and visitors feel comfortable with the way they interact with the system.
5. Make use of effective writing
As the Web is different from print, it’s necessary to adjust the writing style to users’ preferences and browsing habits. Promotional writing won’t be read. Long text blocks without images and keywords marked in bold or italics will be skipped. Exaggerated language will be ignored.
Talk business. Avoid cute or clever names, marketing-induced names, company-specific names, and unfamiliar technical names. For instance, if you describe a service and want users to create an account, “sign up” is better than “start now!” which is again better than “explore our services”.
An optimal solution for effective writing is to
- use short and concise phrases (come to the point as quickly as possible),
- use scannable layout (categorize the content, use multiple heading levels, use visual elements and bulleted lists which break the flow of uniform text blocks),
- use plain and objective language (a promotion doesn’t need to sound like advertisement; give your users some reasonable and objective reason why they should use your service or stay on your web-site)
6. Strive for simplicity
The “keep it simple”-principle (KIS) should be the primary goal of site design. Users are rarely on a site to enjoy the design; furthermore, in most cases they are looking for the information despite the design. Strive for simplicity instead of complexity.
Crcbus24 provides visitors with a clean and simple design. You may have no idea what the site is about as it is in Italian, however you can directly recognize the navigation, header, content area and the footer. Notice how even icons manage to communicate the information clearly. Once the icons are hovered, additional information is provided.
From the visitors’ point of view, the best site design is a pure text, without any advertisements or further content blocks matching exactly the query visitors used or the content they’ve been looking for. This is one of the reasons why a user-friendly print-version of web pages is essential for good user experience.
7. Don’t be afraid of the white space
Actually it’s really hard to overestimate the importance of white space. Not only does it help to reduce the cognitive load for the visitors, but it makes it possible to perceive the information presented on the screen. When a new visitor approaches a design layout, the first thing he/she tries to do is to scan the page and divide the content area into digestible pieces of information.
Complex structures are harder to read, scan, analyze and work with. If you have the choice between separating two design segments by a visible line or by some whitespace, it’s usually better to use the whitespace solution. Hierarchical structures reduce complexity (Simon’s Law): the better you manage to provide users with a sense of visual hierarchy, the easier your content will be to perceive.
8. Communicate effectively with a “visible language”
- Organize: provide the user with a clear and consistent conceptual structure. Consistency, screen layout, relationships and navigability are important concepts of organization. The same conventions and rules should be applied to all elements.
- Economize: do the most with the least amount of cues and visual elements. Four major points to be considered: simplicity, clarity, distinctiveness, and emphasis. Simplicity includes only the elements that are most important for communication. Clarity: all components should be designed so their meaning is not ambiguous. Distinctiveness: the important properties of the necessary elements should be distinguishable. Emphasis: the most important elements should be easily perceived.
- Communicate: match the presentation to the capabilities of the user. The user interface must keep in balance legibility, readability, typography, symbolism, multiple views, and color or texture in order to communicate successfully. Use max. 3 typefaces in a maximum of 3 point sizes — a maximum of 18 words or 50-80 characters per line of text.
9. Conventions are our friends
Conventional design of site elements doesn’t result in a boring web site. In fact, conventions are very useful as they reduce the learning curve, the need to figure out how things work. For instance, it would be a usability nightmare if all web-sites had different visual presentation of RSS-feeds. That’s not that different from our regular life where we tend to get used to basic principles of how we organize data (folders) or do shopping (placement of products).
With conventions you can gain users’ confidence, trust, reliability and prove your credibility. Follow users’ expectations — understand what they’re expecting from a site navigation, text structure, search placement etc. (see Nielsen’s Usability Alertbox30 for more information)
BabelFish in use: Amazon.com in Russian.
A typical example from usability sessions is to translate the page in Japanese (assuming your web users don’t know Japanese, e.g. with Babelfish32) and provide your usability testers with a task to find something in the page of different language. If conventions are well-applied, users will be able to achieve a not-too-specific objective, even if they can’t understand a word of it.
Steve Krug suggests that it’s better to innovate only when you know you really have a better idea, but take advantages of conventions when you don’t.
10. Test early, test often
This so-called TETO-principle should be applied to every web design project as usability tests often provide crucial insights into significant problems and issues related to a given layout.
Test not too late, not too little and not for the wrong reasons. In the latter case it’s necessary to understand that most design decisions are local; that means that you can’t universally answer whether some layout is better than the other one as you need to analyze it from a very specific point of view (considering requirements, stakeholders, budget etc.).
Some important points to keep in mind:
- according to Steve Krug, testing one user is 100% better than testing none and testing one user early in the project is better than testing 50 near the end. Accoring to Boehm’s first law, errors are most frequent during requirements and design activities and are the more expensive the later they are removed.
- testing is an iterative process. That means that you design something, test it, fix it and then test it again. There might be problems which haven’t been found during the first round as users were practically blocked by other problems.
- usability tests always produce useful results. Either you’ll be pointed to the problems you have or you’ll be pointed to the absence of major design flaws which is in both cases a useful insight for your project.
- according to Weinberg’s law, a developer is unsuited to test his or her code. This holds for designers as well. After you’ve worked on a site for few weeks, you can’t observe it from a fresh perspective anymore. You know how it is built and therefore you know exactly how it works — you have the wisdom independent testers and visitors of your site wouldn’t have.