Category Archives: Apps & Tools

Free Learning Modules to Work On Over Lunch

Embracing lifelong learning ought to be the standard and not the exception. Consider updating your skills by spending an hour before or after work or during lunch in one of hundreds of available free learning modules.

Image courtesy of M. Martin Vicente- http://www.flickr.com/photos/martius/

Image courtesy of M. Martin Vicente- http://www.flickr.com/photos/martius/

Tag Manager Certification

If you own a website, you’ve undoubtedly placed Google Analytics and other tags in your headers to measure various results.  Google Tag Manager eliminates extra lines of code, which increases your website’s speed. Add one container code to your site from Google Tag Manager and then fire everything else you need from Google through Tag Manager. You can create triggers for Google Analytics or Adwords. According to Krista Seiden of Google, over 80,000 people worked on improving their knowledge of Google Tag manager this summer. If you miss the course, there are still free modules on the site to learn at your leisure.

Adwords Certification

Get certified for Google Adwords. Did you know that CPM is phasing out and vCPM will soon be the standard for impressions? Even if you’ve been working in the space for years, there’s always something new to glean. Start learning the essentials of Adwords marketing and display advertising or refine your skills with more advanced courses. Google’s training modules are easy to manage in corners of available time and the certification exams are free to Google Partners. Microsoft offers its own training for Bing Ads, too.

SEO Training

Google provides this free guide on the basics of SEO. If you’re more of a video person, check out all of the webmaster videos Google offers on YouTube. Don’t expect to be a master of SEO after watching a few videos, but do expect to be better prepared to ask decent questions of the digital markers in your life.

Social Media Marketing Insights

Find out more about social media marketing from Twitter, Facebook, and G+ or check out this decent blog post with other do it yourself training ideas.

Writing, Business, and Other Free Classes

Even the rules of grammar, punctuation, and formatting change over the years. If you’re used to typing two spaces after every sentence, for example, it’s time to retrain yourself to type just one. How do we know? We read and always strive to keep a pulse on the latest. Peruse this list of 10 free writing courses or jump into the latest Ted talk. Colleges know that the smarter you become, the more you’ll value continued learning. Universities like MIT now offer hundreds of free online course materials. Improve your semantics, management, analytical, and programming skills or something else.

Find an hour in your day and start the journey. You’re never too young, too old, too ignorant, or too smart to learn.

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Filed under Apps & Tools, Content, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media, Writing Careers

Purchasing Furniture – Why Did She Buy From Your Store?

By My Web Writersphoto (1)

This typical female, Gen X, furniture customer Is ready to buy. Where will she make her purchase?

Today I’m pausing to journal about the major furniture purchases I recently made. I’m doing this for both of us. Though they’re in other industries, we’re always looking for ways to improve online marketing for our clients.

When I shop, I often revert to a personal pattern that pre-dates my use of the Internet.  Do you?  If not, you’re younger than thirty-five.  Though, I’ve changed through the years, I’m probably typical for a female, age 35 – 50.  Knowing that 65% of US shoppers will browse online and buy in stores over the holidays, how can we better serve this lucrative demographic?  What triggers dollars spent at your store?

Of course, I’m just one woman and each woman is an individual, but here’s a snapshot of how I arrived at furniture purchases from four different stores during the week prior to Thanksgiving 2013.

Top of the Furniture Sales Funnel

The buying process started a few weeks earlier.  A builder suggested that we look at Houz, a home ideas app, for backyard ideas.  The app offers ideas for all rooms of your home, too.  We never did build, but the trends I saw in the app stayed top-of-mind when it was time for furniture in the home we recently purchased.

I could have scoured Pinterest, too, but I didn’t.  I just didn’t have a lot of time to hunt and peck for pieces of online furniture and more ideas to confuse the choices.  Time is valuable and I tried not to waste it.

Middle of the Furniture Sales Funnel

Like many Americans, when it came time to shop for furniture, I drove to the nearest showrooms- Kittles, Ashley Furniture, Value City Furniture, Kittles Express, Office Max, Office Depot, and Houseworks.   Kinesthetic shoppers need to see, to feel, and to touch each piece to envision family and guests relaxing, conversing, working, and eating.

Would the quality be worth the price?  Would the exact colors match the floors, walls, countertops, and appliances?  What are today’s trends and which classics are still hip?  I didn’t shop online when I was absorbing information because I learned plenty in the stores.

In one store, a sales woman approached my husband and me and wouldn’t stop chattering. If we paused at a piece to discuss it, she’d wiggle into the middle of our conversations.  We’d politely stand there wondering when she would stop. After doing this for the third time, we quickly walked out because a hungry salesperson’s stalking, at this stage, wasted our time and was annoying.  We weren’t buying on that day.  We were just looking.

The office furniture seemed blah- mostly ugly, big ego desks or very cheap, modern designs with little space to spread or to store.  The sofas were perplexing.  Do we buy another puffy couch for the family room or a grandma-like sofa for the living room? Nothing appealed, at first.

Did we want to have a fun and casual red set or an espresso, leather upscale look? The new kitchen table needed to be round, but how big?  Should it match or contrast our floors? Should we go rustic or classic? Geez — so many choices.

Pages like the one below from Kittles did very little to help me to understand what I’d want in my living room, family room, kitchen, and office.

Kittles with no content

There is no category level content to entice or to educate.  With the exception of the main slide, the pictures don’t suggest use, features, or style. Kittles, if you’re reading this post, consider how strategic copy writing and editing can help both your conversion and SEO.  My own sales pitch aside (hey, I do understand the sales woman); there came a day when we could no longer function without furniture in our rooms.  It was time to buy.

Bottom of the Furniture Sales Funnel

Last Sunday, I decided the best place to find office furniture would probably be at an office supply store.  By then, I’d ruled out a modern, sleek look in the office. The sales person at Office Max offered the Black Friday price a week early and probably called me “Ma’am” fifty times.

Office Max pic

He put up with my indecisiveness over this desk verses that desk and he stopped talking after I cut him off on purchasing the extra protection plan.  The prices were exactly the same in the store as online.  This was a coordinated attack and I bought the furniture at the store with the same free delivery offered online.

Office Max product description

While the in-store experience offered set-up at a charge, notice that at the same purchase point online (the product page), the company’s set-up package is not suggested or offered.  If the customer has to hunt for it somewhere else on the website, forget it.  Adding drop down boxes for “I need set up” on each product page would immediately increase online revenues at Office Max.

The Final Hours of Purchasing Furniture

I spent nearly a day in Kittles yesterday trying to fine-tune what I wanted. Then, came the ping-pong price game.  Prices kept dropping, but we went back and forth so many times and it took so long, that by the afternoon, I left the store.

I opened my iPad and typed in searches for long-tailed keywords with model numbers to check pricing in other stores.  What was the price for a “Broyhill Travis sofa”?  Another business could have stolen my purchase in these moments when my sales person was going back to her manager for yet another price reduction request.

Broyhill Travis couch

After he said, “No, I can’t do it”, I would have bought online, especially if free shipping were offered. Instead, my search took me first to the Broyhill website.  Obviously, they didn’t want to get into the middle of price negotiations because they left out prices in their product descriptions.

Other stores did the same.  Instead of sharing prices, online store-after-store said, “request a quote”.  I didn’t have time to wait for a quote.

Request more info

With Thanksgiving in a few days, I wanted shopping done asap. Because I didn’t know if the purchase was sound, I dropped the sofa and chair from my list all together.

I took a trip back to Ashley Furniture and found a different sofa.  I popped into Value City Furniture and found a kitchen table and chairs that I liked better than the ones offered at Kittles and Ashley.  While there, the Value City online prices dropped, so a lower price was honored at the store.  Bed Bath and Beyond sold nifty bar stools for less and with free shipping. Then, I went back to Kittles and purchased the items I felt were fairly priced.  All of the stores said their prices were Black Friday prices and that if anything changed, they would honor the changes.  At a certain purchase point, most offered free shipping.

I’m waiting for the door bell to ring with my deliveries.  How fun!

What’s a key to increasing online conversions? Lower your online prices.  Develop better content (pictures, videos, and words) to display furniture in ways that highlight colors, finishes, and uses. Provide in-depth information.  Keep the various stages of the furniture sales funnel in mind and develop profiles of your buyers at each stage.

What have you noticed as important to increasing online sales, whether you’re in the furniture business or another industry?  How would the above process differ for a man or a younger or older person? How would the process differ for another woman in the same demographic? Take a moment to share!

~Jean


Other Posts:

Holiday Content Challenge- Let the Family Games Begin!

ZMOT- Where Consumers Are and Businesses Should Be

Adding Content to their Website Increased Our Client’s Keyword Reach

Twenty-five Effective, Call-to-Action Phrases in E-commerce Content

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Filed under Apps & Tools, Business Strategy, Customer Profile, Holiday Blog, Local, Mobile, Personas, Product Descriptions

Seven Helpful Apps for Social Media Marketers

By My Web Writerssocial media apps

With social media, time is of the essence. There is only a small window from the moment something happens until it’s old new or no longer relevant to your audience. But just because social media doesn’t stop, doesn’t mean you have to be strapped to a computer ready and waiting for the perfect opportunity to post content. The seven following apps have changed the face of social media management, removing the automation and redundancies and freeing up more of your time to handle the higher level thinking.

1. Facebook Home

Facebook is a pillar of all social media. You’re likely familiar with the standard Facebook mobile app, but this one allows you to be even more connected to your online world. Facebook Home replaces the homescreen on your mobile device with your Facebook news feed, giving you instant access to your network’s updates and activities every time to unlock your phone. If you find yourself checking Facebook at least once an hour (and likely much more frequently than that) Facebook Home will save you both time and steps.

2. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is an essential tool for social media marketers whether you use it from your computer or from your phone. The mobile app is well-designed and makes posting content quick and easy. You can take a photo, write a caption and have it blasted out across numerous profiles in mere seconds. Long gone are the days of having to log into each account separately and format the same message again and again—and boy are we glad!

3. Flipboard

Many social media apps do little more than mimic timelines, but Flipboard connects and combines many of your social network accounts into a single, attractive magazine-style page. You can stay in the know with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and Tumblr all in one app. This takes the redundancy out of logging into multiple accounts and checking each feed individually. Best of all is Flipboard’s stylish layout which makes scrolling through updates much more interesting.

4. Gowalla

Gowalla is a free, location-based social networking app that uses the iPhone’s built-in GPS to determine your location and suggest things to do nearby. If you find yourself in a new city for the night and want to explore the local nightlife, Gowalla is an intuitive and reliable source for entertainment. Once you decide on a fun excursion, be sure to share it on social media! Note: Gowalla is best used in large cities where more users means more suggestions of activities.

5. Plume

Formerly known as Touiteur, Plume is stylish Twitter client that allows you to customize and organize your contacts and content. Features include color-coded contacts, the ability to hide specific tweeters/topics, inline photos and streaming. The common theme among helpful social media marketing apps is their ability to cut through the chaos and cut down on your time spent sifting through information that’s not relevant to you. Plume is a perfect example of such an app. Twitter especially requires real-time communication and Plume helps you stay organized to stay on top of your interactions.

6. Instagram

Instagram continues to blow up the social media scene. Because it is centered on sharing images, it’s an essential tool for all social media marketers looking to further their brand visually. The Instagram mobile app allows you to take any photo from your phone, edit it with filters and borders and share it with a large audience – all without ever needing to touch a computer.

7. Feedly

More and more we rely on our phones as a source of entertainment and information when we have a few moments to spare. Feedly captures and organizes new posts from all of the blogs to which you subscribe, allowing you to easily catch up on your reading while you’re waiting in line or waiting on a friend. This app can really help commit you to keeping up with your blog feed by making it easy and accessible on a moment’s notice.

Much of the information shared to social media happens on the go. It’s important to have the ability to create, post and manage content from anywhere. Mobile apps are the tools to do just that. Take the time to try a few, or try them all, and decide which ones best fit your lifestyle and organizational preference. Be sure that they make life easier, not more complicated and commit to using them in order to achieve the most benefits!    ~Stephanie


Other Posts:

How do I write content based on buyer personas?

Ten Tips for Starting a Social Media Conversation

Twenty-five Effective, Call-to-Action Phrases for E-commerce Content

Guidelines for Writing E-Tail Category Content

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Filed under Apps & Tools, Social Media

What is Markdown and How Do Writers Use It?

By My Web Writers

HyperText Markup Language (HTML) has long been the official way to write content for the web. The pros use it to format text in ways that the average writer will never understand unless they take the time to learn it.

But there’s a tool some writers use and many more should be using when it comes to writing for the web. It’s called Markdown, and while it’s been around for some time now, many people still don’t understand how useful it can be.

Markdown, according to its creator John Gruber, is a “text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML).”

For web writers, XHTML/HTML can look like a complete mess and is difficult to read. Not only that, but it can be confusing with so many codes to remember and sprinkled about your writing. Writers might worry more about the HTML formatting than about the actual content.

Markdown is especially useful for web writers because it’s fast to type. There’s no highlighting, no dragging your mouse here and there, you simply use Markdown as you’re typing. It’s also easy to read. There aren’t tags and code in the way of what you’re writing.

Give it a shot using the online Dingus.  Here is an example of something written in Markdown, using the very helpful “Syntax Cheatsheet” on the right-hand side of the screen on the online Dingus:

markdown

Then, click on “Convert” and you are shown the HTML Source, which is covered in code and other sometimes confusing markings:

HTML

And the final preview:

Final

Markdown is especially great for web writers who don’t know HTML and even more useful for web writers who have no desire to learn HTML. Writing in HTML can be a huge, intimidating beast for new web writers, while Markdown is a kinder, easier way to write web content.

One of the reasons so many web writers love Markdown is that it uses plain text files. You can write it in any app or program you like and still be sure the formatting will stay the same if you switch to another program. It’s also easily compatible with a range of applications on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.  Search Google Play, the iTunes Store and online for a list of apps.

Using Markdown allows web writers to focus more on their content rather than the syntax of HTML. After all, it’s really all about the content, right? Using Markdown gives web writers the opportunity to type quickly while still formatting text.  There’s no more switching from writing-mode to HTML coding-mode.

Besides being easier to write and easier to read, it’s also available free (as shown above), which is difficult to find these days. There are some more extensive versions of Markdown out there, which do cost a minimal amount, but for the average user, you can find it online for free.  ~Natalie

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Filed under Apps & Tools, Blog Writing Tips, Content, Mobile, Web Writing Tools, Writing Resources

Seven Helpful Apps for Writers

by My Web WritersScreenshot

Everything it takes to be a writer is literally at your fingertips with mobile apps. Apps can be used to research, brainstorm, write, edit, read, many other things. It doesn’t matter if you’re a blogger, journalist, novelist, content writer, or someone who just likes to write for fun, we’ve found seven helpful apps for writers.

Writer

Quick! You have a great idea and need to jot it down immediately, before you forget. The Writer app is a simple app that allows you to keep track of your thoughts and ideas as you have them. It’s almost like carrying stickie notes on your phone. Writers know how quickly ideas can come, and they can just as quickly escape the mind. Writer is a great app to reach for when a great idea strikes, and even better, it’s free.

WordPress

If you’re not blogging… oh who are we kidding? Of course you’re blogging! Whether you’re using a blog as a journal, to jot down ideas, to share your opinions, or even if you just visit WordPress to read what others are writing, you know how important WordPress is. Use the app to do your own writings, check your blog stats and to read what others are writing.

Dictionary.com

Writers may think they know how to spell every word in the English language, but let’s face it, even the best writers can have trouble remembering how to spell certain words. Having a dictionary handy as an app is a great idea for all writers. Dictionary.com also provides a thesaurus. Imagine tons of synonyms at your fingertips while you write!

Quora

“Know more,” is the saying for this app. Use the powerful tool to do quick research, even with voice-enabled search. Quora is a question-answer app where multiple people can give insights on various topics. Use their insights to find the answers you’re looking for, or consider writing some answers of your own to help out others.

Pocket

Think about it. Who couldn’t use an extra pocket? This pocket, however, is on your phone or tablet. Pocket allows you to store articles, photos and more for later use. Keep all sorts of things you find on the internet for inspiration in one place… your Pocket!

Mindjet Maps

So many ideas, so difficult to organize! Your English teachers were on to something when they had you map out your essays and stories. Mindjet Maps helps you visually organize information. Organize your writing project with topics and subtopics. This is one of our favorite brainstorming apps.

Google Drive

If you’re a writer, it’s likely that you’re working on more than one project at a time. Google Drive, which now includes Google Docs, helps you keep all your files in one place. Access them and share them at any time with ease. You can even work on your projects offline, when an internet connection isn’t available.

There are hundreds of apps available that can make life easier if you’re a writer.  Do your research and see which apps work best for you. They can certainly make your life easier!  ~Natalie

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Filed under Apps & Tools, Mobile, Project Management