Episode 52: We survived Microconf 2014

Brecht and Scott are back from Microconf 2014 and pulled together a quick review of what were the highlights for us. Amazing to meet everyone, so many good ideas, tactics, and guidance. Also a big thank you to Rob Walling and Mike Taber for pulling this group of people together!

Stuff:

  • Annielytics – Great guidance on how to properly use Google Analytics
  • Fizzle.co – non-spammy internet marketing classes
  • Chase Reeves – Funniest guy we met at microconf

The post Episode 52: We survived Microconf 2014 appeared first on Bootstrapped with Kids Podcast.

A Beginner’s Guide to the New Facebook Power Editor

Using Facebook Ads Manager is fine if you’re just starting to advertise on Facebook, but soon you’ll want to graduate to a more effective, advanced way to manage your ads – the Facebook Power Editor.

The Facebook Power Editor is a free plugin that lets you bulk-edit your ads and a lot of other cool stuff you can’t do in the Ads Manager. It’s optimized for Chrome, so avoid using it in other browsers.

Of course, there already are some great guides on how to use the Facebook Power Editor, but given the tool’s new and improved interface as well as Facebook’s new ad structure, I thought it would be useful to create a guide that explains how to use the Facebook Power Editor of 2014.

In this article, I’ll give you an overview of the Facebook Power Editor, show you how to create an ad with it, and explain the perks of using the Power Editor over the Ads Manager.

Introduction to the Power Editor

When you first open the Facebook Power Editor, you might feel a bit like this:

dog-experiment

(Image source)

Don’t fret. The Power Editor actually is going to make your life a whole lot easier once you get comfortable using it.

Let’s start with an overview of the most important sections in the Power Editor:

Download Campaigns and Upload Changes: The first thing you’ll want to do in the Power Editor is download all of your campaigns, ad sets, and ads from the Ads Manager so that you will have your past and current campaigns ready to edit.

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The Download to Power Editor and Upload Changes buttons might be the most important buttons in the entire tool. If you forget to download your data before working in the Power Editor or you forget to upload it after you’ve finished, you stand to lose important information and possibly a lot of new work. So, make a habit of hitting Download to Power Editor every time you open the tool and Upload Changes when you finish working.

Left Pane: The left pane lets you filter the data displayed to the right according to your campaigns, ad sets, and tags.

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List View: When the Ads tab is selected, the list view displays all ads for the campaigns or ad sets selected in the left pane. When the Ad Sets tab is selected, you’ll see all ad sets corresponding to the campaign selected in the left pane; and when the Campaigns tab is selected, you’ll see all campaigns related to the campaign category selected in the left pane.

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Workspace: The workspace is where the action happens. It displays editable fields for your ads, campaigns, and ad sets, depending on what you’ve selected.

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Campaigns, Ad Sets, and Ads Tabs: Click on these tabs to cycle through your information for the campaigns, ad sets, and ads related to what you’ve selected in the left pane.

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There’s much more to the Power Editor than these sections, but I wanted to point out the areas you’ll be using most, in order to help you get comfortable using the tool.

Creating an Ad with the Power Editor

Okay, time to dive in and create your first ad in the Power Editor.

1. Create a Campaign

Let’s imagine you run a website that sells digital educational products on health and wellness. One of your main Facebook advertising objectives is to increase the number of downloads of a comprehensive ebook you’ve put together on green smoothies and juices.

The first step in creating an ad with the Power Editor is setting up a campaign. Click Create Campaign in the top left corner, name your campaign, and select your preferred buying type.

create-campaign-2

Next, choose the objective for your ad campaign – in other words, what it is you want to accomplish with your ad – such as page likes, website conversions, or event responses. Take a look at the handy table that Facebook created to show which types of ads qualify for each objective.

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(See the original table here under “What objective should I use for my ad type?”)

Since the success of your green smoothie ebook ad campaign will be determined by the number of times the ebook is downloaded as a result of the ad, choose the Website Conversions option as your campaign objective.

create-campaign

2. Create an Ad Set

Facebook recently introduced a third level to its campaign structure: ad sets. This means that the primary function of a campaign now is to establish an objective for your groups of ad sets and ads; meanwhile, ad sets allow you to target distinct audience segments and control separate schedules and budgets for your ads within each campaign.

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Facebook explains the new campaign structure like this:

Let’s say you’re the owner of a small hotel chain. You may have a few different advertising objectives:

  1. Drive traffic to your website to increase reservations
  2. Increase brand awareness
  3. Promote weekly offers

With the new campaign structure, you’ll begin by creating a campaign for each objective. Next, you can create ad sets representing the audiences you want to reach in each campaign. For instance, in the campaign built around driving traffic to your website, you might want to create one ad set for people who are on your email list, and another for people who’ve expressed interest in attractions near your hotels.

Finally, you’d create ads for each ad set. You can create multiple ads within each ad set, making sure each ad is targeted to the same audience while delivering different images, links, video or ad copy. This can help you learn which ads are resonating with each audience and, in turn, create better-optimized campaigns.

To create an ad set, click on the Ad Sets tab in the top-level menu, and then click Create Ad Set. A pop-up window like the one below will appear.

create-ad-set

Continuing with your goal of driving ebook downloads, link the ad to your “Green Smoothie Ebook Downloads” campaign and title your ad set so that it describes your target audience.

Once you click Create, use the workspace to set your budget for this ad set and determine the start and end date.

ad-set-workspace

3. Create Your Ad

Now it’s time to create your ad. Click over to the Ads tab, and then select the Create Ad button in the top left corner. Chose the campaign and ad set you want to associate your ad with, and then name your ad.

create-ad

After clicking on Create, you’ll be taken to a workspace for creating ads that includes the following three sections: Creative, Audience, and Optimization & Pricing. Let’s take a look at each one.

Creative: This is where you will build your ad. First, scroll down a bit and select the Facebook page for which you want to create an ad.

ad-creative-01

Next, you’ll need to decide if you want to create an ad from a page post or use a domain ad. Let’s look at the difference between the two:

The page post ad is what it sounds like: an ad created from a Facebook page post that can appear in your target audience’s news feeds or in the right column.

general-assy

Domain ads show up in the right column only and take the user to a separate website when clicked on. You might think these are spammy and that no one would click on them, but test one out against a news feed ad before making any final judgments about their effectiveness. The results might surprise you!

domain-ad-qwaya

(Image source: Qwaya)

Let’s start with a page post ad.

The Power Editor allows you to either turn a previously published post into an ad or create a new, unpublished post that will function as an ad. Let’s go with the latter for now. Click Create New Unpublished Post and enter the relevant information for your green smoothie ebook.

create-new-unpublished-post

  • The URL you want to send people to after they click
  • The text that will appear in the post
  • A call-to-action button (if you want)
  • The link headline
  • The display link
  • The link description
  • Your image

create-unplublished-post-page

(Note: the default ad type is a link which probably is what you’ll use most often, but you also have the option to create an ad out of a photo, a video, a simple status update, or an offer.)

In order to track the downloads generated by your Facebook ad, you’ll need to create a conversion tracking pixel, which is a snippet of code that tells Facebook when someone has converted.

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Select Leads from the drop-down menu, and then name your conversion-tracking pixel.

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After creating the conversion tracking pixel, place the JavaScript code snippet between <head> and </head> tags in the webpage where you wish to track conversions. Since you’re tracking ebook downloads, you’ll want to place the code on the page where your contact arrives after filling out the form to download the ebook.

verify-conversion-tracking-pixel

For more on conversion tracking pixels, check out this step-by-step guide by Facebook expert Jon Loomer and this one by Wishpond.

Last, but definitely not least, decide where you want your ad to show up and on which kind of device you want it to be displayed. For example, if your landing page is not optimized for mobile, then be sure to show your ad only to people who are using Facebook on a desktop computer.

ad-placement

Pro tip: split test optimal ad placement by creating one ad that shows up only in the news feed and another that appears only in the sidebar, and then compare the results.

Audience: Nice! You are finished with your creative. Now it’s time to define the audience you want to show your ad to. Switch over to the Audience tab and start by determining the age range, gender, and language of your target audience. You can get even more specific by clicking on More Demographics, where you can specify things such as what school your target audience went to, their education level, and their relationship status.

audience-pane

Now, for the fun part: under Interests you can insert things your target audience is interested in so that your ad gets in front of the right people’s eyes. You also can explore Facebook and Partner Categories, which I’ll talk more about in a bit.

For more on creating audience segments for you ads, check out the articles below:

Next, tell Facebook if you want to target users who already like your page, event, or app; users who don’t; or users whose friends are connected to your page.

Optimization & Pricing: Finally, in the Optimization & Pricing tab, choose your preferred payment structure: cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-1,000 impressions (CPM), or optimized cost-per-1,000 impressions (oCPM).

Here’s an explanation of the difference between CPC, CPM, and oCPM and how to choose between CPM and oCPM. Check out this post for more on each type of bidding, and for general bidding best practices.

Great! You’ve just created your first ad with the Power Editor. Remember, this is just one of the many kinds of ads you can create. Check out Qwaya’s guide to Facebook Ads to see a full list of each ad type, a brief description of how each one works, and their image dimensions. Then, play around with the different campaign objectives to better understand what you can do with each one.

Reporting with the Power Editor

I’ll leave a full-fledged overview of Facebook ad reporting for another post, but I do want to point out that you can access Facebook’s reporting tool by clicking on the Ad Tools drop-down menu in the upper right corner of the Power Editor. This will take you to the Reporting section of the Ads Manager.

ad-tools-audiences

Also, you can edit the columns that appear in the list view of the ads workspace by clicking on List Settings and checking off the metrics you want to have on hand.

ad-columns-settings

The Perks of Using the Power Editor

The Ads Manager has been improved a lot recently, but it’s still no match for the Power Editor. Below are a few features and benefits available only in the Power Editor. Master these, and you’ll be on your way to being a full-fledged Power Editor user.

Save Your Audiences

One of the best things about the Power Editor is that it allows you to save audience segments and then use them at a later date in new ads, whereas if you want to target the same audience for multiple ads within the Ad Manager, you need to recreate that audience each time (hello, huge time waster).

You can access all of your saved audiences within the Power Editor by clicking on the Ad Tools button in the top right corner.

ad-tools-audiences

Get Granular Targeting with Partner Categories

Facebook describes Partner Categories as “a way to identify and reach the right people with the right message on Facebook, based on their activity off of Facebook.” This information comes from third-party data providers, and it allows you to build more precise audience segments for your ads based on Facebook users’ behavior outside of Facebook. For example, you can specify senatorial districts, the number and age of the children a person has, job role, and more.

As of now, Partner Categories are available only in the Power Editor. For more on how to take advantage of Partner Categories, check out this explanation for advanced targeting with Partner Categories. And here’s a list of all Facebook Partner Categories available as of June 2013:

categories-search

Reach Interested Consumers with Lookalike Audiences

Lookalike audiences are pretty cool. They help you reach new people who are likely to be interested in your product or service because they are similar to an audience or customer list you already have validated.

Learn all about creating Lookalike Audiences here.

Get More Control over Where Your Ad Appears

Currently, in the Ads Manager you can decide if you want your ad to appear in the desktop news feed, the mobile news feed, and the right column. This is a great start, but the Power Editor gives you even more control over where people see your ad.

Take another look at how you control ad placement in the Power Editor. So many options!

ad-placement

Save Time with Bulk Editing

Productivity nerds will love this one. You can save heaps of time using the bulk-editing function. Simply select the ad sets or ads you want to edit, and then start working on them in the panel below. Any changes you make will apply to all of the ad sets or ads you’ve highlighted.

save-time-with-bulk-editing

Edit Existing Ads and Create New Ads with Bulk Upload

export-import

The Power Editor also allows you to create new ads in bulk as well as edit existing ads by uploading an Excel file. Simply click on the Export & Import button above the list view and select Import Ads in Bulk. Learn more about how to prepare your Excel files here.

Get Organized with Tags

Here’s what Facebook says about Tags:

Tags is a feature in Power Editor that lets you organize your campaigns into groups. When you create a campaign, you will have the option to add a tag to it. A folder for each tag will be added to the left navigation.

Basically, tags are for people like me who love to organize related things in folders. Tags allow advertisers to group campaigns in top-level folders in any way that makes sense to them, including tags for all campaigns related to an overall marketing campaign, tags for each kind of objective, and so on.

Create Custom Audiences

Custom Audiences are no longer exclusive to the Power Editor. But they’re highly useful, so let’s take a quick look at what they are and how to utilize them.

Custom Audiences allow you to use your own contact lists (i.e., people whose emails or phone numbers you already have) in order to reach customers with targeted Facebook ads. Also, now you can create custom audiences with Facebook User IDs and App User IDs.

To access Custom Audiences in the Power Editor, click on Audiences in the Ad Tools drop-down menu. Then, click Create Audience, and select Custom Audience.

create-audience

Facebook gives the following example of how advertisers can use custom audience: run an ad campaign to get more likes for your page by targeting customers who have signed up for your mailing list but still haven’t liked your page.

Conclusion

There you have it: the complete beginner’s guide to the updated Facebook Power Editor. As you become a more advanced user, I’m sure you’ll discover new ways this tool can make your social advertising more efficient and effective. For now, use this guide to get a head start!

About the Author: Chloe Gray specializes in digital marketing strategies for startups. She currently leads the marketing team at the Big Data company Ondore. Be sure to say “Hi” to her on Twitter. You also can follow her on Google+.

Inject Your App Data Into Help Scout

At Honeybadger we use Help Scout to manage our customer support, and that has worked out well for us. One thing I’ve wanted for quite a while is more integration between Help Scout, our internal dashboard, and the Stripe dashboard. After taking a mini-vacation to attend MicroConf this week, I decided it was time to make my dreams come true. :)

Help Scout allows you to plug “apps” into their UI, and you can build your own apps to populate the sidebar when looking at a help ticket. All you have to do is provide a URL that Help Scout can hit which returns a blob of HTML to be rendered on the page. Your app receives a signed POST request where the payload is some information about the support ticket you are viewing, which includes the email address of the person who created the ticket. Here’s a Rails controller that receives the request, verifies the signature, and returns some HTML for the user found by email address:

helpscout_controller.rb
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require 'base64'
require 'hmac-sha1'

class HelpscoutController < ApplicationController
  skip_before_filter :verify_authenticity_token
  before_filter :verify_signature

  def user
    payload = JSON.parse(request.raw_post)
    if payload['customer'] && payload['customer']['email'] && @user = User.where(email: payload['customer']['email']).first
      render json: { html: render_to_string(action: :user, layout: false) }
    else
      render json: { html: "User not found" }
    end

  end

  protected

    def verify_signature
      bail and return false unless (sig = request.headers['X-Helpscout-Signature']).present?

      (hmac = HMAC::SHA1.new("secret-that-you-enter-in-helpscout's-ui")).update(request.raw_post)

      bail and return false unless sig.strip == Base64.encode64(hmac.digest).strip
    end

    def bail
      render json: { html: "Bad signature" }, status: 403
    end
end

After fetching the user record, it returns a blob of HTML via a HAML view:

user.html.haml
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%ul
  %li Created on #{l(@user.created_at.to_date, format: :long)}

Then you’re done! Now when you view a ticket in Help Scout you’ll see info from your database about that user in the sidebar.

FA192 – Reverse Engineer Your Customer Acquisition

Start At The End To Attract Your Perfect Customer
Every sales funnel training out there follows this path:

They start at the opening of the funnel and talk about getting a bunch of traffic.

But Johan Woods and I have found that started with the end result creates more and better customers. Starting with the end, you can engineer the structure (the steps a prospect has to take to become a customer) of your sales funnel so that it:

* Attracts the right prospects for your business
* Sifts, Sorts & Screens out anyone who isn’t a perfect fit
* Gets eights, nines and tens on the “ready to buy” scale to the front of the line
* Moves anyone not ready to buy into a “customer indoctrination” marketing funnel until they are ready to buy, and
* Gives you the steady stream of prospects and deals needed to build a sustainable and successful business.

Listen in to see how to reverse engineer your customer acquisition.

Enjoy your Foolish Adventure,

Tim “Stuck In Reverse” Conley

PS. Attention freelancers, consultants and done-for-you service providers: We reopened the ConsultingFuse Community. Join us and learn how to achieve or add six figures in 12 months or less. http://ConsultingFuse.com

How to Dramatically Improve Your Google Authorship

Google Authorship is one of the most important features of the new era of content marketing. It’s an authority or trust badge that signals to search engines and readers alike that your content is trustworthy, reputable, and high-quality.

But how do you gain those trust signals that Google Authorship provides? How do you improve your authorship reputation, rise in the ranks, and gain more readers?

Thankfully, it’s possible. I know, because I’ve been able to do so myself. In this article, I’ll explain exactly how it’s done.

By following these step-by-step instructions, you will be able to

  • Enhance your content marketing. Fundamental to content marketing is content authorship. And the name of the game in authorship is Google Authorship. If you really want to improve your content marketing, it’s necessary to improve your Google Authorship.
  • Improve clickthroughs on your content. Google SERPs display your author profile next to content for which you write. Having your image in the search results improves the click-through rate (CTR) on your articles. In the screenshot below, you’ll see that I rank number one for the query “what type of content gets shared the most on twitter.” Out of the hundreds of millions of results, only my picture appears (at least for all the pages I checked). This means that CTRs on my Quicksprout article will be many times higher than any other result on this page — all because my authorship is in play.
  • 1-what-type-of-content

  • Increase your SEO. Studies on Google+ have concluded that Google Authorship has an immediate impact upon SEO. Not only will you be able to enhance personal reputation and branding, but you’ll also make valuable contributions to the SEO of your sites.

Google itself explains some of these benefits in their discussion on Google Authorship:

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Before you start.

This article assumes two things:

  • You’re already on Google+, and
  • You have signed up for Google Authorship. If not, please do so.

Additionally, you can check out the video on adding Google+ Authorship for more information.

Now it’s time to dramatically improve your Google Authorship.

1. Write often.

The only way to expand your Google Authorship is to expand your writing. The more you write, the more trust and authority you gain.

It’s that simple.

Here is some advice on writing often. Make sure that you write high-quality content. Don’t let quantity outweigh quality. You need to write a lot of good stuff, not a lot of crap.

I encourage aggressive content marketing — publishing awesome content as often as possible. I understand that it takes a lot of time and effort, but I’m convinced that it pays off, because I have the data to prove it.

The more content you write on the web, the more you’re going to rank in the SERPs, and get your authorship profile featured.

2. Write for a variety of sites.

Not only should you be increasing your output, but you should also be adding to the variety of sites for which you write.

I contribute content to several different sites. In addition, I’ve launched a few different companies. Because I’ve written content on these sites, I gain authorship and recognition on that website, even if I don’t own or operate the site.

Here’s an example of my Search Engine Journal author profile in the SERP:

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But isn’t guest blogging dangerous?

As you’re probably aware, Google’s Matt Cutts recently announced the decline of spammy guest blogging. Operative word: spammy.

I’ve provided my commentary on this announcement, and I’ve explained why guest blogging is still a reputable and important way to improve your SEO.

I still encourage you to seek high quality sites where you can produce high quality content as a guest author. Here are my recommendations for guest blogging best practices:

  1. Choose sites within your niche. As an author, you should have a single area or two of expertise that you’re writing about. Stick with blogs that are firmly within your field.
  2. Choose high quality sites. Avoid posting on sites that have signs of spam, indiscriminate posting of off-topic articles, unedited content, paid link content, or material that is ad heavy.
  3. Don’t post self-promoting links. The motive behind the guest posting crackdown was to eliminate spammy attempts to add backlinks in order to manipulate the search engine. The links that you add in your article are an important SEO signal of whether your content is spammy or not. Only add links when it adds to your discussion and benefits the reader.

Guest posting is still a legitimate way of improving your authorship reputation and presence, but only if you’re playing by the rules.

3. Verify all sites for which you write.

Whenever you write for a site, you need to add it to your Google+ profile.

Here’s how.

Go to your Google+ profile.

Click on your “about” tab.

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Click “edit” under any of your information boxes.

click edit under information boxes

In the popup, navigate to “links.”

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Add the URL for any site on which you have published content in your name:

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To add new sites, simply click “Add custom link.”

Make sure that you have these set as “public.”

Anytime you write for a new site, you should go to your Google+ profile and add it.

4. Become consistently active on Google+.

For many of us, it takes discipline to become active on Google+. For several years, we spent all our social media energy on Facebook and Twitter. Google+ joined the game a little bit late, and it’s been harder, perhaps, to get on board with it.

Because of the impact that Google+ has upon search and reputation, it’s important that you become active.

Here are some of the things that you should be doing.

  • Share content.
  • Add people to your circles.
  • Join groups.
  • Join hangouts.

Feature your most flattering picture.

Your profile photo will become your authorship photo, so use one that represents who you are. You don’t have to be good looking. You just have to use a decent photo, since it will be used in public search results.

Here’s my Google+ profile:

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And here’s my authorship photo. Apart from the shaped frame crop, it’s the same.

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After careful testing, Cyrus Shepard of Moz, discovered that an improved Google+ pic increased his traffic by 35%. That’s a pretty significant uptick for a seemingly small improvement. He tested quite a few photos before settling on the perfect one.

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His conclusion was that that quality of the photo does matter. (I would argue that the photogenic quality of the photo subject is not as relevant.)

You don’t have to be good looking. You just have to, as Cyrus Shepard put it, “put your best face forward.”

5. Grow your circles.

The more people who have you in their circles, the more people will trust you.

When you have a large following, people trust you more. The number of people who have you in their circles is public information. In other words, when you see search results, you also see how popular or trustworthy the author is.

Check out this screenshot:

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Based on this SERP alone, I know that Barry, Cyrus, and Mark have significant followings.

Therefore, I am more likely to click on their articles. The following of Brian Jensen is not displayed, the following of Sean Patrick is comparatively low, as is the following of Hendrik-Jan Francke. My attention is drawn to the three authors who have large Google+ followings, because of the number of people listed as being in their circles.

Your goal, then, is to grow your circles as large as possible. This improves how trustworthy people consider your content to be.

Add lots of people to your circles.

The more people you add to your circles, the more likely they are to add you back.

  • Unlike Twitter, there are no follow limits. You can add as many people as you want.
  • Unlike LinkedIn, you don’t have to know the people whom you add to your circles. For example, even if you don’t know Barack Obama personally, you can add him to your circles.

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Add famous people to your circles.

When you have a famous person in your network, Google+ reports this to people who visit your profile. Here’s what it looks like.

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This acquaintance of mine, let’s call her Marj, has in her circles, Larry Page, co-founder of Google. Maybe she doesn’t know him personally. It doesn’t matter.

When I look at her profile and see Larry Page, I transfer this name trust to Marj herself. My trust for Marj improves because of the recognized name that she has in her network.

It makes sense, then, to follow recognized people, not only for what you can learn from them, but because of the transfer trust that they give to you. Be aware of the influencers in your niche, and add them to your circles.

Include your Google+ profile link on email signatures and websites.

Improving your Google Authorship is marketing. You’ve got to get your name out there. Do this by adding your Google+ link on email signatures, in website “abouts,” in other social profiles, and anywhere else that it is appropriate.

6. Monitor your Google Author Stats.

One of the lab rollouts in Google Webmaster Tools is called Author Stats. Keep up with your stats so you can know how to improve your authorship.

To find your author stats, go to Webmaster Tools.

Click on Labs.

Click on Author Stats.

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In Author Stats, you can look at the data for the impressions and clicks on the content that you’ve created. You can find out your most popular posts, and discover how your content is being visited over time.

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Like any data research, this information helps you know what you should to do improve or enhance your authorship.

  • If you see that certain sites give you the most CTRs or impression, keep contributing there.
  • If you see that certain topics have high rates of readership, keep writing on those topics.
  • If you see your impressions trending downward, see if writing more will help pick them back up.

Becoming a Better Google Author

The key to successful authorship on the web is to improve your Google Authorship. Since its creation, Google Authorship has only been growing in influence and importance. And as you can see, it’s becoming imperative to keep your SEO efforts up to par.

Now is the time to improve your own authorship.

How are you enhancing your Google Authorship?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the Chief Evangelist of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

Using Neuroscience to Design a Better Blog

The science behind good design has made leaps and bounds over the last 10 years.

Over the years, combinations of brain scans, eye tracking studies and surveys have been used to study how humans browse the Web.

So, how can you harness this knowledge to your advantage? Let’s look at some of the most notable studies on the subject and how you can apply that directly to your blog.

The First Five Seconds

According to Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning researcher, the brain has two different systems for making decisions. There’s the conscious system, where we think decisions through and make decisions carefully.

Then, there’s the “instant decision” brain. According to Kahneman, you tend to believe your first impressions, then take actions based on the desires those first impressions create.

We live in an “instant decision” culture. This is especially true of online reading. Technology trains us to quickly judge webpages, and then move on to something else if it doesn’t interest us. Remember, 17% of page views do last for more than four seconds.

In fact, other studies have shown that our average attention spans have been reducing over time and in this particular study, it is just six seconds.

How does that apply to your blog? It’s simple: You need to be extremely conscious of your blog’s first impression. Where do the eyes gravitate when someone lands on your blog for the first time?

What kind of information can someone glean at a glance? Can users tell what your blog is about without having to read carefully?

You have about five seconds to catch your reader’s attention. If you can’t present a compelling reason for why they should stay in about five seconds, they’re going to leave.

How Long Should a Headline Be?

The headline of a post is one of the most prominent parts of a page. If you have a header, the header should have a tagline that conveys your blog’s subject matter.

Alternatively, if it’s just a graphical header, it should be small and unobtrusive. The header shouldn’t compete with the post’s headline for attention.

A recent study by Outbrain illustrates how headline length can be linked to user engagement. The highest CTRs were witnessed for articles that had moderate headline lengths (16-18 words).

headline

The Fold

That said, it’s easy to over-emphasize what’s “above the fold,” which refers to what is visible on the page without scrolling. Yes, in most cases what’s above the fold is what’s most important.

Yet, substance is just as important. As Bnonn Tennant found out, copy that goes far below the fold often out-converts those that try to keep selling points above the fold.

How can you marry these seemingly contradictory design philosophies? Simple: Make sure you catch users’ attention and create an impactful first five seconds. Then make sure your pages have true substance and your content is worthy of users’ attention and trust.

Write for People Who Scan

According to the F-Shaped pattern study, most people read Web content in a very specific way. First, they read the headline. Then they read the first sentence on the page. Then they jump down and either scan paragraphs or subheads.

f-pattern

What are people looking for? They’re looking for either entertainment or proof this page will benefit them in some way. In other words, they’re looking for dopamine. Aric Sigman’s presentation to members of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health outlined the parallels between screen dependency and alcohol and drug addiction: The instant stimulation provided by all those flickering graphics leads to the release of dopamine, a chemical neurotransmitter that’s central to the brain’s reward system.

When you eat food that tastes good, it “feels” good to you because your brain releases dopamine. When you get a relaxing massage, it feels good because your brain releases dopamine.

Yet dopamine isn’t just the chemical your brain releases when you have something good. It’s also the chemical indirectly responsible for creating cravings. It’s the neurotransmitter that creates that “wanting” feeling – i.e., craving ice cream or wanting a massage.

When a user lands on your blog for the first time, their brain is asking, Is there something here for me? Is there a reward? Or should I leave?

Your page needs to be interesting enough for readers (while they scan through the content) that they’ll keep reading. In other words, the brain needs to interpret your content as entertaining or useful, right from the get go.

Here’s how to apply this to your blog:

  • Again, nothing on your page is more important than your headline. Spend as much time as you need to really make it hit home. You can use the following three elements to create a great headline: self-interest, news and curiosity.
  • Break your content into subheads. This makes it easy for readers to find separate pieces of information.
  • Write relevant subheads and bold out important content. Your subheads should be strong enough to stop scanners in their tracks and make them start reading.
  • The first few sentences of your article need to convey exactly why readers should keep reading. Tell them how they will benefit from reading your article here.

People also tend to focus on “breakouts” – things that break the flow of the page. For instance, an image will break people away from the F-shaped pattern and it may no longer apply. The F viewing pattern is mostly a general rough shape, and breakouts like images may cause aberrations.

Make Your Blog Simple and Familiar

In 2012, YouTube’s Senior User Experience Researcher Javier Bargas-Avila conducted a series of experiments designed to figure out what made users decide if a page is interesting or not.

The study found that users form an aesthetic judgment about your website between 17 and 50 milliseconds. That’s about 1/10th the speed of your eye blinking.

Bargas-Avila found that what made users stick came down to two things: Visual Complexity and Prototypicality. Or, in layman’s terms, “Does the blog look simple?” and, “Does this blog look familiar?”

  • Visual Complexity: The more complex/cluttered a webpage is, the less likely users are to stick around. Blog owners often want to add all kinds of widgets, features and functionality to a blog. Yet, the study shows that simple is better. Have just one or two main draw points. The rest of your design should funnel attention to those draw points, rather than compete for them.
  • Prototypicality or familiarity: People have a certain expectation of what a blog should look like. If your blog varies widely from the convention, you’ll break rapport with your readers. For example, Amazon “trains” users on how ecommerce websites “should” look like. Veering too far from that norm can result in confusion for users. What’s the “Amazon” in your category?

Simplicity is important. This is evident from the design experiment I did on the AdPushup blog:

old_adpushup

This is the AdPushup’s blog’s old design. Now take a look at the new design:

new_adpushup

The aim was to make the design simpler and to remove the clutter. A lot of inspiration came from Paul Stamatiou, who has done a fantastic job at creating a minimalistic blog. The result: 57.14% improvement in average time spent on site and 14% reduction in bounce rates.

We can also take the case of the online tie retailer Skinnyties.com, who redesigned their website in October 2012.

Before:

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After:

skinnyties2-e1382993595741

Just by designing a website that looked simpler and followed the traditional ecommerce website layout, these are the results they saw:

blog_20121024_stats

In another study titled “Determinants of Web Page Viewing Behavior,” researchers found that complex website designs tended to increase “unexpected paths.”

In other words, on simple blogs, people tended to follow a predictable eye pattern. They look at the headline, the first sentence, scan the page and then decide if they want to read. On complex blogs, this pattern can be unpredictable.

This happens because readers don’t know where they’re supposed to go. Where’s the navigation? Where’s the next page? What’s this site about? Complexity often comes from the desire to be creative, but more often than not it just results in confusion.

Of course, it’s fantastic to express creativity. Just make sure you keep your blog simple in the process. And make sure the overall structure is similar to the general norm. Within those two guidelines, there’s still plenty of room for creativity.

Apple understands this well and uses images to keep the design simple yet informative.

apple_design

Image Source: Hubspot

The Scientific Reason Why Simple Is Better

The primary reason why less visually complex websites are perceived as more beautiful is because we don’t require our eyes and brain to work as hard to decode, process and store the data.

To learn more about this, watch this video that explains how our eyes communicate with our brain.

Design to Promote Discussions

Websites like Medium give an option to comment on individual paragraphs, which actually makes more sense, as readers generally want to comment on individual lines and thoughts instead of commenting on the entire article.

Medium_Screenshot

What Font Should You Use?

Typography is an important part of your design, and there’s a lot of conflicting information about what font you should use. Fortunately, science is here to help.

In a joint study by IBM and Google, researchers conducted a comprehensive study titled “Study of How Font Size and Type Influence Online Reading.” The study was conducted by asking subjects to read a number of science news articles written at an eighth-grade level.

The study included both men and women and spanned a large age range. The study also included readers for whom English was not their first language. The results were adjusted for all these factors.

Here’s what the study found:

  • On small fonts, people tended to spend more time on each fixation (“gulp” of an eye, usually a group of three to six words). This was most likely because words were more difficult to make out, which meant people had to spend more time and energy on each word. Fonts sized 10 and below had this problem.
  • On larger fonts, people had smaller and more frequent fixations. That means they were taking in fewer words per “visual gulp.”
  • The serif font, Georgia, was read 7.9% faster than the sans serif font Helvetica, although this difference is not significant.

Master the Use of White Space

Researchers from Wichita State University conducted a detailed study on white space. Eighty-nine percent of the participants were active Web users who surfed the Web daily.

Eleven percent of the group used the web for 25-plus hours a week and 26% read for at least seven hours a week. The reading text was taken from SAT and ACT practice exams.

The researchers had participants read passages with a lot of margin (white space) around the text, as well as varied the text in between lines of text. Here’s what the study found.

  • Space between lines of text did not affect reading speed or comprehension. However, after the study, participants reported being less satisfied with pages that had less spacing between text. In other words, people can still read poor spacing – they just won’t like your site as much.
  • No or low margin text was read faster, but had lower comprehension. Putting a good amount of white space around your text gets people to read a little slower, but makes them understand the material a lot more.

Use Science to Inform Design

We’ve discussed some important elements of a blog’s design. We’ve talked about catching attention to cater to short attention spans. We’ve talked about breaking up your site and making it scannable. We’ve covered the optimal fonts and spacing for improving readability. You’ve learned about people’s affinity for the simple and familiar.

These guidelines aren’t just based on vague “design principles,” but hard science and data backed studies. Use them and harness them, and you’ll have a blog your users will love.

About the Author: Ankit Oberoi is a co-founder at AdPushup, a startup focused on helping publishers and bloggers optimize their ad revenues. You can reach him on Twitter @oberoiankit.

Startup Chat #65 – Freedom, travel and entrepreneurship with Natalie Sisson

natalie_sissonCOMPETITION: Win a free marketing guide for kickstarter, by telling us the coolest place in the world to work from. Comment below to enter, best answer wins.

This week we chat with Natalie Sisson the Suitcase Entrepreneur. Natalie travels the world working out of her suitcase and inspires other to do the same.

iTunes | Stitcher | YouTube | RSS

Background and links

Book marketing / Kickstarter

  • Kickstarter campaign for the book
  • Build up a community around the book
  • Constantly engaging with Kickstarter backers asking them to share, asked for feedback on chapter titles etc.
  • Blogged about it, created podcasters about it
  • Reached out to influencers and friends
  • Video shot in the jungle
  • Only around 5% came originally through kickstarter, most of it came through Natalie’s efforts

 Getting around travel / business issues

  • Booking appointments on Monday / Tuesday
  • Being more organized
  • Testing internet connections before things are scheduled
  • Having a 3G modem and tethering her phone
  • Does a lot of her best work offline – thinking  / blogging etc
  • GMail Offline for creating offline emails and sending them later

Freedom Framework

  • 3 year game plan
  • Create a body of work that is lasting
  • Big international study on different levels of freedom and what it means
  • Will have a bunch of content around it, book etc
  • Looking at best practice around frameworking such as Roger Hamilton (Wealth Dynamics) Sally Hogshead (How to Fascinate)

Revenue streams

  • Coaching
  • Recurring membership
  • In person workshops
  • Retreats
  • Suitcase Entrepreneur book
  • Paid speaking gigs
  • Digital products and programs
  • Affiliate revenue
  • Sponsorships

Most profitable is the High Flyer Club, then retreats then affiliates and sponsors.

Best books / podcasts

Favorite places

  • Spain
  • Brazil
  • Laos
  • Europe
  • Southeast Asia
  • For entrepreneurs Colombia, Chang Mai, Saigon, Singapore / Hong Kong, New York, San Francisco , LA, Poland, Berlin, Turkey.

Tips for getting press

The post Startup Chat #65 – Freedom, travel and entrepreneurship with Natalie Sisson appeared first on WP Curve.

25 Customer Chat Tips to Reassure and Nurture Your Online Customers

Live chat has been around for more than a decade, but only recently have companies discovered its profound effect on website conversion rates. A recent eMarketer paper cited live chat as being directly related to 38% of online purchases. And, 62% of consumers who have used live chat said they would be more likely to purchase again from the merchant who provided the service.

Why does live chat make such a huge difference in conversion rates? It has been suggested that live chat is the only way to provide real human interaction during an online purchase. In other words, customers need questions answered and a sense of reassurance that can be provided only through live chat.

In the book, Rethinking the Sales Cycle, John Holland and Tim Young identify a sense of risk as being the most prominent emotion present in the final stages of the buying cycle. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to help customers through this stage when they see nothing more than a computer screen.

This is where the human element comes into play. Live chat allows your agents to help mitigate that sense of risk by providing reassurance and a sense of value in the product being purchased. The positive difference is undeniable.

Below are 25 tips to help you get started with live chat. Be sure to read through to the end as you’ll see more advanced techniques towards the end of the post.

Make Online Chat More Effective

1. Provide customers with a transcript

When customers chat with chat agents, they pick up useful information they may want to keep in their records. The problem is that most people don’t record every conversation, so this information can get lost.

Action: At the conclusion of a live chat session, offer to email a copy of the transcript to your customer for their records.

2. Use canned messages

When customers arrive within a live chat conversation, they should be greeted professionally and with courtesy. But it can take a lot of time for your chat agents to type out these standard messages time after time. This is where automated canned messages can really help.

You can use carefully worded standardized canned messages to automate parts of the conversation and augment your professional profile. Use this feature with good judgment, because too many canned messages can make your customers think they’re talking to a machine rather than a real person.

Action: Create a set of professionally designed pre-canned messages and train your chat agents how to use them.

1-canned-chat-response

3. Use targeted proactive chat

Customers won’t always initiate the chat conversation, so you will need to proactively identify individuals who may need help and then raise the chat window with them. Customers may refuse the offer to engage in live chat, but this is not bad. In fact, just raising the offer to chat is sufficient to convey a sense of goodwill.

Consider allowing customers to browse on your site for a time before raising the offer to chat. This gives them time to get oriented before being interrupted.

Action: Identify a list of target pages where you want to increase the conversion rate, and program them to automatically raise the chat offer after a period of 30 – 60 seconds.

4. Use pre-chat survey

When customers initiate a chat session, they should be allowed to provide some preliminary information, within a pre-chat survey, that will set the direction of the chat session. For example, they can provide their name and a quick description of what they’re looking for. The chat agent can then enter the conversation prepared to answer the customer’s concern.

The pre-chat survey also allows you to quickly route the chat session to the agent who is most qualified to handle the conversation.

Action: Design a pre-chat survey form that allows customers to set the direction of the conversation. Don’t ask too many questions – just ask the questions that will allow your chat agents the necessary background so they can provide a quick and courteous answer.

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5. Promote cross-department cooperation

Your chat agents should be considered an in-house sales and support department, and as such, they should understand all product lines within your organization. This qualifies them to provide a more thorough perspective when dealing with customers – either as salespeople or as support personnel. Chat agents that know about all of your product lines can quickly identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

Action: Put your chat agents through the same preliminary training programs as the salespeople.

6. Use a typing indicator

Your live chat agents should be able to see what customers are typing while they type it. It not only gives the agents insight to what the customers are thinking as they type, but it allows the alert chat agent to respond more quickly with an answer.

Chat agents also should be alerted when a customer has hit the “send” button during chat. The alert should be audible, visible, or both, and it can be used to interrupt a busy chat agent and let him know that a customer is awaiting a response. Keep in mind that your chat agents are likely to be handling multiple conversations at the same time, so anything you can do to help them multitask will help.

Action: Ensure your chat software is set up so that your agents can see a customer’s words as they type, and issue an alert when the customer has hit the “send” button.

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7. Use chat transfer

Your chat agents shouldn’t be required to know everything. Individual agents may have different areas of expertise. If a chat agent is involved in a conversation that is outside his current level of expertise, he should quickly transfer to another agent. When this happens, ensure that the customer is aware of the transfer.

Action: Train your chat agents to transfer chat sessions when required. Also, each agent must have a list of other agents and their levels of expertise.

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8. Accept chat requests automatically

Customers shouldn’t have to wait for someone to answer the chat request. Once a customer initiates a chat session, the system should accept the chat automatically and inform the customer that a chat agent will respond right away. (During this time, the customer can fill out a pre-chat survey, as mentioned in item 4.)

Your response time should be less than 10 seconds. The only way to guarantee the quick response is to accept all chats immediately.

Action: Initiate an automatic response to all incoming customer chat sessions, and allow the customer to identify the problem area. Use pre-canned messages to welcome the customer and let him know that action is taking place immediately.

9. Check chat history for returning visitors

Chat agents may gain valuable perspective by quickly reviewing previous chats with an individual customer. This allows the agent to come up to speed on issues that the customer discussed previously, and to proactively follow up with any questions. Customers will appreciate the fact that they don’t have to repeat their previous problems to newly assigned chat agents.

Action: Provide chat agents with previous chat transcripts, if available, for all incoming customer chat requests.

10. Add chat button to email

Customers who receive email from you should have a chat button embedded directly on the email. This is a nice feature that allows your customers to provide direct feedback on questions they may have regarding the email. Emails could be anything from periodic newsletters or follow-ups to individual questions or grievances.

Action: Ensure your outbound marketing team is trained on how to include a chat button with their email campaigns. Also make sure they coordinate with the chat agents whenever they include a chat button on an email so that the agents are prepared to address any questions or concerns raised in the email.

5-live-chat-in-email

11. Integrate live chat with your CRM tool

Your chat agents should have access to customer sales records. This allows them to update the CRM records after a chat session. It also allows your chat agents to gain additional perspective into each customer’s history, if such history already appears within the CRM tool.

In any case, all contact with customers (or potential customers) should be recorded for future reference.

Action: Train your customers on your CRM tool and provide them with limited accounts so they can view and update individual records as the need arises.

Improve Online Sales

12. Provide agents with visitor behavior analysis

Chat agents should be aware of each visitor’s online behavior before the chat session begins. Agents should know the pages that the customer has visited, and if possible, whether the customer has been on the site before. This allows the agent to more accurately understand what the customer might be looking for within your site.

It may also allow you to more intelligently route the chat session to an agent who is best qualified to answer questions that might arise from the pages that the customer visited. For example, a customer visiting pages of wireless products is more likely to ask questions related to wireless technology, so the chat session should be routed to your wireless chat expert.

Action: Ensure visitor history is available to your chat agents prior to answering a chat request.

Caution: Chat agents should never reveal the fact that the customer’s online behavior was being monitored. Nobody likes to be spied on!

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13. Issue personal chat invitation

This is similar to the proactive chat, identified in item 3 above, but different in its personal nature. Rather than providing an automated chat invitation, the personal chat invitation is far more attractive, actually offering the name and picture of the chat agent willing to help.

Some companies have found a 3:1 ratio of people willing to chat when offered a personal invitation over a standard automated offer.

Action: Encourage your chat agents to initiate personal chat invitations whenever possible. The additional human touch will encourage more chat activity. If possible, track the success rate to see its effect on conversion.

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14. Upsell and cross-sell

Your chat agents should be highly aware of the sales techniques of upsell and cross-sell. Basically, an up-sell is where a customer is persuaded to purchase a more advanced or upgraded version of the product he originally intended to purchase.

For example, a person wants to buy a normal watch for $19.95 but instead decides to purchase a solar-powered watch for ten dollars more. He is upsold with the idea that the battery would never require changing, so in the long run, he saves money.

A cross-sell occurs where a person is persuaded to purchase accessories for his initial product. For example, while purchasing a digital camera, a customer is reminded that he’ll need some extra memory cards in case he runs out of memory before he can upload his photos.

Action: Provide basic sales training for your chat agents so they can identify and act upon upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

15. Strategically place live chat buttons

All of your product pages should feature a live chat button in a consistent location. Customers should know where to go if they need help. These buttons are typically located in the upper-right corner of each page. Some of the more sophisticated sites place these buttons in an animated “slide-out” position along the left or right margin.

Do not place these buttons along the bottom of the page, as they will disappear below the fold and may never be seen.

Action: Make arrangements with your website designer to provide the chat button in a strategically located spot on each page of your website.

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Improve Your Support Team

16. Offer a post-chat survey

The post-chat survey provides you and your team an opportunity to evaluate your performance and make adjustments. Customers should be allowed to provide feedback, even if they don’t take advantage of it. The message to your customers will be that you care enough about their experience to ask them to rate your performance.

Action: Initiate an automatic survey after each online chat session and ask no more than 5 multiple-choice questions that will gauge your performance. The last question should be an open-ended text message where customers can express specific problems or provide specific suggestions.

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17. Use chat agent performance reports

Your live chat toolbox should include a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that conveys the performance of your chat agents. Each post-chat survey should be associated with the chat agent(s) that handled the communication, and the score should be analyzed periodically to identify trends.

Keep in mind that there may be other factors involved in a chat agent’s score. This can be tracked with other KPIs such as the number of visitors on the website during the chat session and the size of the chat agent’s queue. You may want to adjust your staffing depending on trends that you identify.

Action: Track a set of KPIs and associate them with each chat agent. Analyze the results periodically to locate trends that may need to be addressed.

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18. Collect chat transcripts to populate your FAQ or Knowledge Base

Your support department generates a lot of information that would be of use to future support calls. You can use your chat transcripts to help populate your FAQ database simply by linking them into the database, along with a good set of key words. Chat agents working on support calls can quickly search this database to look for similar problems and use the information to help solve the current problem.

Action: Set up a chat gateway to your internal knowledge database and train your support chat agents to use it frequently. Support calls that resolve a problem should be documented in the database, along with a good set of key words that will help locate the same problem in the future.

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19. Ensure live chat agent training and motivation

A well-trained chat agent is a motivated chat agent. People do not like to be placed in situations where they do not understand what is required of them or how to do it. Chat agents that work in the support department should not only be trained in your products, but also should be completely confident in their ability to conduct a good online chat session.

Recognize that it takes a bit of training to become a good chat agent. Chat agents typically handle 4 – 6 conversations simultaneously, but it takes practice to achieve this potential.

Action: Initiate a multi-faceted ongoing training regimen for all of your support chat agents and ensure they attend. They will lose motivation quickly if they feel they are overwhelmed and don’t understand what is required of them. Contrarily, chat agents that completely understand the job and have confidence will find this career exciting and rewarding.

20. Provide online support 24×7

Depending on the geography of your customer base, you may need to keep your chat lines open 24×7. This doesn’t necessitate burning the midnight oil. You can contract with people all around the globe, if your budget allows. If you cannot keep your chat line open 24×7, then make sure you post your chat hours clearly on the chat button itself. You may even want to disable, or “gray-out,” the button in your off hours.

Action: Analyze your customer base to see if it makes sense to keep your chat line open 24×7. If so, consider retaining personnel around the globe. If not, be sure to post your chat hours directly on the chat button.

Improve Customer Experience

21. Be genuine

Every live chat session is an opportunity to establish your company as being honest and truthful. Don’t squander or short cut this opportunity. As they say, you get only one chance to make a first impression. Chat agents should communicate honestly with your customers and let them know the limits of what they can do.

If an agent needs to transfer the customer to a more knowledgeable person, he must do so without shame or any sense of inadequacy. Many – if not most – customers have a sixth sense and know when the chat agent is stretching the truth. If your chat agent lies to a customer, it eventually will come back to haunt you and cause more problems than it solves.

Action: Carefully screen chat agents to see how they handle pressure. One good technique is to quiz an agent by asking questions that get increasingly difficult, until you reach the edge of his personal knowledge, and then see how he handles the situation.

22. Be helpful

Even if your chat agent cannot directly help a customer with a problem, he still can be helpful by either transferring the conversation to someone who does know the answer or conducting research right there online. If the research takes too much time, the chat agent should offer to email the answer to the customer.

In all cases, help is the key attribute to convey to the customer. If a customer didn’t need help, he probably wouldn’t get into the chat discussion in the first place!

Action: Ensure your chat agents understand the escalation process so that all questions and concerns can be answered within the ongoing chat session. If a question or concern cannot be answered, the chat agent should write up a helpdesk ticket and flag it as urgent. (The situation is urgent because a potential sale is pending!)

23. Be present

Good chat agents can handle 4 – 6 simultaneous conversations and make each customer believe he’s getting undivided attention. This requires some degree of training and expertise, so carefully analyze each agent’s performance level and keep him or her out of the more advance positions until they’re ready to handle the pressure.

The overriding concern is that customers must be made to feel important; however, if it takes several minutes to respond to a customer’s question, he will not feel important, and he will take his business elsewhere.

Action: Measure every response turn-around time to ensure customers get a sense of having undivided attention. Use canned messages whenever possible, so that the chat agent can more efficiently handle each customer.

24. Be thankful

Many spiritual and religious texts express the importance of maintaining an “attitude of gratitude.” In a spiritual sense, this expression conveys the importance of being grateful for all that life provides. Stated simply, the expression of gratitude often yields more things to be grateful for.

Interestingly, this attitude also applies to business situations. Even though many customers may think it trite, they still appreciate someone who is grateful for their business. The psychological effect on customers cannot be ignored; it often brings them back, because they would rather deal with people who are grateful than those who just take their business for granted.

Action: Work gratitude into every canned message your chat agents send out to your customers. Ensure your agents express gratitude in every exchange. They don’t have to knock over customers with a million “Thank you” messages, but sometimes just a simple “Thanks” can really go a long way.

25. Be engaging

An engaging person is a person who has mastered the art of conversation. While some gifted people are born with this talent, the rest of us have to learn it. It is likely that most of your chat agents will fall into this latter category. There are some simple rules to follow when engaging with your customers, and these rules should be practiced with your agents, both online and in normal conversation. Briefly, these rules are:

  • Listen carefully and ask probing questions.
  • Know the product and be ready to offer key insight to the problem.
  • Remain focused on the customer’s issues, not your own.
  • Don’t try to impress the customer with your superior knowledge.
  • Use proper grammar, particularly when conversing with those who don’t share your native language.

The above rules are fairly abbreviated, but you get the point: Customers come to you to engage in conversation that will help them, and by helping them, you obviously help yourself.

Action: It may seem old-fashioned, but ask your chat agents to read the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The book may be old, but the advice is just as relevant as ever. It will help train your chat agents in the gentle art of engaging with customers, leaving them with a true sense of loyalty toward your company.

Summary

Live chat is rapidly growing in popularity due to its ability to provide a human touch during the conversion process. The “human” part of live chat is expressed through your staff of chat agents. These chat agents must be every bit as talented as your salespeople and support personnel, with the added ability to express themselves online in ways that engage with customers on a personal level. The 25 tips presented in this article will help prepare you as you implement live chat on your site.

About the Author: Kevin Gao is the founder and CEO of Comm100, a leading provider of live chat software for business. As a software developer and small business expert, he’s always ambitious to revolutionize online customer service and communication. Follow Kevin on Google+.

The public invisibility of running mid-stage successful companies

Keith Rabois famously quipped, “I don’t know of a single successful CEO or entrepreneur who blogs regularly.”

That was five months ago, and people are still talking about it. And agreeing.

But why?

cartoon5952

Sure the usual exceptions are trotted out – Rand FishkinJoel Gascoigne, etc.. But the examples outweigh the exceptions 100-to-1.

Much easier is listing those who used to blog a lot, but trailed off as their companies grew — Joel Spolsky (who essentially stopped blogging after raising money for StackExchange), Dharmesh Shah (who trailed off substantially when HubSpot took off), and even Evan Williams — the co-founder of the publishing platforms Blogger, Twitter, and Medium — went quiet Medium launched.

And, if you grant my indulgent inclusion in that pantheon, I did the same as WP Engine took off, with a noticeable decrease in early 2012 and relatively little in the past twelve months.

Why?  Because my daily experiences are unsharable.

My daily life consists of (a) setting the strategy and rationale of the Engineering & Innovation department, based on a mixture of vision, data, and the needs of the rest of the company, (b) participate in doing the same for the whole company, (c) hire, (d) manage the managers whose teams execute the real work. As the CTO of a 130-person company that’s still growing along every dimension at a prodigious rate, that’s the appropriate job description.

But I can’t share anything about it.

Not only can I not share the company’s strategy, I can’t share our thought processes, our rationale, how we think about the market, how we’ve analyzed it, about customers, about metrics, about competitors, about the future. In fact, the process and data are much more precious than the conclusions.

The stories of growing a team, then teams of teams, of the personal dynamics, the changes in processes and demands, the shifts in roles and goals of everyone including myself, how that’s navigated, the trials and tribulations there — all these stories are invaluable and instructive but they are not mine to share.  To share them would be to violate the privacy of others.

The unique technology we’ve built, that we’ve prototyped, that we’re contemplating, is fascinating and valuable.  Some of it is algorithmic.  Some come from lessons you can only learn in the field with 2000+ servers and 100,000+ installations of an application.  Some are huge ideas that carry huge risk but could be transformative in our market, that will take us years to realize.

But, of course, the folks who would most benefit from those revelations are our competitors.  I’m not paranoid, but I’m not going to post trade secrets on the Internet.

Even in other departments, there’s instructive lessons I can’t talk about. The journey of our successful Series C fundraising. How we’ve designed and started to scale the sales team. How we think about the many facets of marketing: branding, positioning, events, advertising, and special projects we haven’t announced yet.

All that said, I do have more to share.  I have a backlog of posts in various states of completion. Which brings up the final point.

Keep that RSS reader enabled.  Writing is cathartic, and sharing is fulfilling, so I have selfish reasons to continue.  Just not every week.