Adding Images and Graphics to Your Website

Your site’s images and graphics say a lot about who you are as a company and what your customers might expect from you. Getting your branding and key images right is therefore essential to building trust and getting customers to do what you want them to do; stay and make purchases!

Getting Your Branding Right
Spending solid time thinking about your branding is very important; don’t cut corners here. The way your logo looks, your choice of colour schemes, and use of images on your pages all represent your company to the customer. Are you relevant to your target audience? Do you come across as professional and trustworthy? These visual aspects of your site will be read and ‘understood’ by your customers much more quickly than any professionally written copy, resulting in either the customer staying to learn more, or quickly moving on to another site.

There are a number of sites online that that can pair you with a designer to help you create a professional logo. Be aware that while the outsourcing this task can be cheaper than going with a design agency, you do often get what you pay for; a logo designed for US$10 may well look like it cost you US$10. You may want to go for a mid-priced alternative like where you hold a ‘design contest’ by placing your job scope on the site, and allowing thousands of design freelancers to submit designs in order to win your contest and collect the fee you have promised to pay. Going with a reasonable spend should get you between 30-60 different designs, from which you can suggest improvements and changes, and settle on the final one you like the most. Remember: it helps to give the designers some direction to avoid going completely off target, so when writing your brief, think about the style, feel, font ideas, and colour schemes you would like. Before posting the design contest, have a friend read over your brief to make sure it’s easily understandable to someone who hasn’t seen it before.

Campaign Photographs
Once you have developed your logo, you will probably want to add relevant photographs to your site’s pages. Your home page may have a slider (several large landscape images sliding across the top of the screen), and other meaningful images to your customers. You can either choose to take these photos yourself (if you have the skills), find them from a free stock photo site like Unsplash, or buy them from a professional stock photo site like, where you either pay for a monthly subscription or US$49 for five images at a time. Having quality relevant images is essential to building trust with your new customers, so again it’s important not to skimp on costs here. When downloading your images, try to get the largest size available as you never know where you’ll need to use it next, and you can always lower the size and quality using Photoshop Elements or a similar editing program later on.

Product Photography
If you are selling a physical product, having great photography is a must. Even if you don’t own a DSLR camera, you can still take good quality shots with a small point-and-shoot camera or even an iPhone. What is key here is the lighting and putting together a decent setup. If you are shooting small items, a light tent is a great idea as it helps you control the amount of light on and around your product; you can make one with some white cardboard and a white sheet, or purchase one online at Amazon.

Either way, you want to present your products in focus on a plain white background from a couple of different angles. This will give the customer a professional view of the item and inspire confidence to make the purchase.

Things Not To Add
You may recall a few years back when it was common to add animated images and graphics to web pages. Today these are generally considered dated and distracting and will not help you in your mission to attract and convert paying customers, so leave them out!

7 Steps to Great Website Copywriting

You may not realise it, but an average website has a surprising amount of copy (written words) presented throughout each of the pages. Every page needs to be written in a concise, clear, and appropriate tone to your target audience, and this takes some time. It is also not something that can be easily outsourced (like design elements for example), as you are the one who knows your business best, and it should be your job to get the copy and messaging right! Below we talk through the 7 steps to great website copywriting:

1. It’s Up To You!
What you write on each page will have the influence to either attract or repel your visitors, therefore having a direct impact on your website’s success. This is why it is key that you are intimately involved in the copywriting of your site, as specific words and phrases will either give confidence to your customers, or place questions in their minds. Yes, you should have a friend or two proof-read your copy before publishing it, but the initial task of writing and directing the copy and key messages should be one you tackle yourself.

2. Who are Your Customers?
Knowing who you are selling to will dramatically alter how you present your copy and what style of ‘voice’ you will give it. For example, a young fashion website targeting 17-25 year old women will have a vastly different style of writing, use of vocabulary, and overall different feel, than a corporate firm targeting senior legal professionals. Knowing who your customers are, and how they expect to read your copy, will help you get your words more on target.

You may start out thinking your target market will be a certain group of people, and then find that you actually get more traction with a different demographic. One way to test the key headings and copy of your landing pages is by split-testing them and sending traffic to 2 or more versions of your landing pages, and seeing which page gets the best results.

3. Sell The Benefits, Not The Product
Customers want to know what’s in it for them, so tell them! Instead of listing off all of the features and specs of the product or service, it is often better to focus on the benefits – what does this particular product or service really give them? For example, you’re not just selling children’s toys, you’re selling peace and quiet for a few hours a day to the mum who needs it. Emphasise the benefits over the technical specs (include these but with less emphasis), and you’ll find the reason ‘why’ people are buying. This is truly powerful information.

4. Make it Simple and Succinct
Attention spans have shrunk around 50% in the past decade, and only 4% of pageviews last longer than 10 minutes. Like this paragraph – keep it succinct and to the point!

5. Linear Progression & Obvious Steps
Have you ever been to a website, tried to purchase, and then gotten lost on the way to the checkout page? Unfortunately it happens all too often. Designing a clear and overly obvious path to checkout is key to converting the greatest possible percentage of visitors into paying customers. I highlight overly obvious here – if your mother or grandmother couldn’t navigate your site and make a purchase, it may be too complicated. Make your buy buttons large, calls to action clear and obvious, and show the customer the steps (and which step they are currently on) to completing their order.

6. Be Keyword Relevant
Search engines will send their spiders to ‘crawl’ your site’s pages and look for relevant keywords to determine what each page is really about. Keep this in mind when writing your copy; you should have primary keyword targets for each page, and these keywords should feature in your copy, page titles, headings, names of images, and within the first and last paragraphs of each page. This will help with both your organic SEO rankings, as well as your Quality Score when advertising on Google AdWords. Make sure you’re not just writing for search engines though – real people have to read these pages and get value from them too!

7. Develop Compelling Headlines and Page Structures
A headline or key heading will either grab attention and spur further reading, or turn off the customer and result in them clicking elsewhere. Try to write compelling headlines that entice the customer to read more, without sounding too salesy or spammy.

Having a good page structure will also encourage further reading. Ever wondered why list-style blog posts are so popular (e.g. this page!)? It’s because the information is easy to digest, readers know what to expect, and each of the points has a main heading that can be read and understood without having to read the whole paragraph. It’s about simplicity and convenience through formatting your information into easy to digest bites.

Great website copywriting doesn’t have to be a chore – have fun with it, be creative and let your website’s personality shine through! Your customers will thank you for it by paying you more frequently!

What Will Your Business Cost?

What will your business cost to setup and run? After putting together your business plan, you should have a good idea of the expenses you expect to have when running this business and therefore the amount of capital required. Broadly, these will fall into the following four categories:

1. Cost of development
This will vary greatly depending on your chosen business and product/service. Are you designing and manufacturing a physical product, or reselling an existing product, or selling a service which requires very little development? Building your site and getting all of the pieces put together so that you are ready to sell should be included in this number.

2. Cost of marketing
Once your product/service offer is ready, you will need to acquire customers. Most online businesses use Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or Social Media Marketing (SMM) on a Cost Per Click (CPC) basis to drive targeted traffic to their site. As a basic example, if you want to have sales revenue of $100,000, when your average product sells for $50, and your estimated CPC is $0.20, you will need to attract 2,000 paying customers. If your conversion rate is 2% of web traffic, your marketing budget will be $20,000. Scaling these numbers up or down will determine the amount of revenue your business will expect to achieve, and how much marketing budget will be required.

3. Operational costs
What will your day-to-day expenses be? These operational costs will hopefully be covered by the revenue of the business in future, but in the first 6-12 months you should budget the cash for these, including: rent, staff, office equipment, web hosting, software, accounting expenses, and insurance.

4. Your salary
Will you pay yourself a salary in the beginning? Most business owners will choose to put as much money back into the business as possible in the first year or two. If you can afford to not pay yourself, or pay yourself only a small amount, it will help the overall health and growth of the business. If you do need to live off a salary from this business, you will need to factor this into your numbers.

What will your business cost to setup and run? By now you should have a clearer picture of each of the 4 main costs above; take the time to budget out each of these before starting your business, and you’ll be better poised to see business success!

Funding a New Business

Where to find the money in funding a new business?

You (hopefully) have a good idea of how much it will cost to get set up and running in your business model. Should you fund it yourself or raise investment capital? Let’s discuss the options for funding your business.

1. Self-Funded
If you can afford it, it is almost always the best idea to fund the business out of your own savings at the beginning. In doing this, you will retain control of the business, be in charge of your own destiny, and be the rightful owner of any profits (or losses) that may come. Giving away equity in the early stages can become expensive, as your business is not worth much at the beginning and you will likely have to give away a large percentage in return for investment capital. Try to retain as much of the business for yourself for as long as you can.

2. Get a loan
If you don’t have enough capital, you might ask your family for a loan (which you’ll promise to pay back over a set time with interest). This way you keep 100% of the company, and get the access to the cash you need. Bank loans or lines of credit might be hard to find at early stage (before you have proven anything yet), but are also a reasonable option. Try to loan as little as possible, or stage the loan amounts, as you may not need to use all of the capital at once and end up holding excess cash (for which you are paying interest on) unnecessarily.

3. Find a business partner
The next best option may be to find a business partner with capital, this person ideally also possessing complementary skills that will benefit your business. Be aware that having a business partner is a lot like a marriage; it’s a long term commitment and it pays to agree on your direction and goals before going forward. Discussions should be held on each person’s role in the business, expectations, timeframe of the business, and exit plan; these will determine whether you both share the same expectations, and whether or not it is viable to go ahead together. You will want to note these agreed objectives down, as these will form the basis of your Shareholder Agreement which should be drafted by a lawyer and signed before you go into business.

4. An angel investor or seed fund
If you are not able to fund the business with your own capital or a loan, and a business partner is not available, you may wish to seek external funding through an angel investor or an incubator/seed fund. As with finding a business partner, you will need to spend time discussing expectations of the business and clearly defining these in a Shareholder Agreement. Keep in mind, early stage finance is risky and investors are right to ask for a large percentage of the company in return for their capital investment. Giving away any percentage of your business will mean reporting to this party regularly, and will diminish your ownership of the company and the direction you wish to take it. Proceed with caution and ask yourself why you are going into business, and whether you wish to have a long term commitment with your investor.

Time to remind yourself why you are going into business
For most people, the freedom and flexibility of being their own boss and running their own business for him/herself is the reason to start a company. If this is your goal, then you should hold onto the equity of your company yourself for as long as possible; gathering a bunch of investors and capital might sound exciting, but if you end up working for those parties as a minority shareholder your business might start to resemble more of an employment situation rather than an entrepreneurial venture.

  • Getting on the same page: A list of helpful questions for investors and business partners
  • What is your timeframe for this investment?
  • How do you see your exit?
  • Do you expect a dividend or repayment? At what stage/s?
  • How will the investment be structured? As equity or debt, or a combination?
  • What do each party bring to the table besides money?
  • What will each party’s job roles be within the company?
  • If the company requires more capital in future, how will this be provided?
  • Will the investor/partner become a director of the company?

Getting to Know HTML

New online technology seems to be developed almost daily, however the basic standards and principles of HTML have been relatively unchanged over the past decade. Should you possess the determination (and a free text editor) you could still create your own website from scratch by following the basic principles of HTML and referencing a dictionary of the tags and rules to use. Thankfully you won’t need to go to this extreme, however it is still good to have a basic understanding of HTML and how your site is structured and built. Here’s what you need in getting to know HTML:

What is HTML?
HTML is short for “Hypertext Markup Language” and in current programming standards it is used to deliver the content of a web page. In earlier web development, HTML was also used to dictate how each page would look from a style and presentation point of view, however this is now the job of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), bringing more flexibility to the way websites are built and altered in future. Both HTML and CSS are text files of code and are stored on your web server; when a page is opened using a web browser (like Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox etc), that browser reads the text files and displays the page on screen according to the commands given in these files.

View the source code of any web page and you will see the HTML code used to build the page and structure the content shown. This code consists of many tag pairs that are used to “mark up” your content, and are always lowercase, with angle brackets, and are followed by a “closing tag”. For example:

<h1>This is a main heading</h1>

<h1>is the “heading 1” tag and tells your browser that the text in between these tag pairs is an important heading on that page (more important than a <h2> or <h3> heading etc). Underneath a heading tag, you may have a paragraph tag which indicates a paragraph of text as follows:

<p>This is an example paragraph.</p>

The point of these tags is to organise your page content “semantically”, giving meaning to all of that information within headings, paragraphs, subheadings, and a hierarchy that both helps users navigate your content, and search engines display it according to relevance. For example, a keyword within a <h1> heading should indicate that this page and topic has much more relevance to that particular keyword that a keyword mentioned briefly within a paragraph further down the page. Search engines can use this information to rank pages and content for relevance.

CSS can then be used to work together with this content and present it in a more visually appealing format, dictating different fonts, bolds, italics, and colours specified within the CSS code to be applied to the content within the HTML code.

Take a Look Behind the Page
Go to any web page and select “View Source” in your web browser, and you will see the source code used to build that page. At first glance this might seem overly complicated, however once you know what you are looking at, you will see a structure and format that is quite simple and elegantly presented.

The first couple of lines on a page give the web browser information about the page’s format, and then underneath this you will find the entire code of the page within thetag pair. This tag pair contains two main sections; theandtag pairs. The head contains thetags, which is the name of each page displayed in your browser tab, and thetags, which are used as a description of the web page. Within the body tags you’ll find all of the content of the web page, including the <h1>heading and paragraph tags we discussed above.

CSS for Presentation
As we discussed above, the CSS is used to instruct the browser how to render each HTML tag, and thus controls the look and feel of the site. CSS files are usually kept in a separate text file and linked to you HTML file with a line of code such as:

In the above, you would replace “mywebsite.css” with the actual name of your CSS file saved on your server, and this file will contain a series of rules that are used to apply that style to each particular part of your HTML page.

Learning how to write a CSS file is beyond the scope of this brief introduction, but it does not have to be overly complicated; it is simply a way of dictating which style rules (chosen by you) apply to each particular part of your HTML on your web pages. Should you wish you get more hands-on with HTML and CSS there are plenty of free and paid instructional guides and videos available online, and may be a good starting point.

Where to Host Your Website

Every website consists of data within text, image and media files, and these files must be stored somewhere. When a user views your site, they are actually using a web browser (such as Chrome, Internet Explorer or Firefox) to open and read these documents that you have stored on an internet connected server. You therefore need to choose where and which kind of server to store your website on; a shared server, dedicated server, or a virtual private server. Let’s review these and help you find where to host your website:

Using a Shared Server
As you might have guessed, a shared server hosts hundreds or even thousands of other websites on the same server. You get great value for money here, and it’s fairly easy to get started as you’re not taking over a whole computer, but simply adding your files to one that’s already set up. The potential downside is that if you are sharing a server, your website performance may be affected by the volumes of traffic accessing the other websites on your server; a large load of traffic to the other sites on your server could severely slow down your website performance on that particular day.

A shared server is a great starting point for a small business or a low traffic brochure site for an offline business. These are low maintenance and generally offer less technical support than a dedicated server or a VPS, but at this level you probably don’t need the extra service and technical hassles involved.

You might find a shared hosting package for US$3-5 per month, which is generally aimed at small websites and blog owners, and this likely involves hundreds or thousands of small websites sitting on one server alongside yours. This is fine as long as you understand the limitations of such a service; if you grow and attract larger amounts of traffic, performance (the time a page takes to load) may begin to suffer, and it’ll be time to upgrade to a more robust hosting solution. This website (Online Business Asia) uses BlueHost as a simple, easy to set up shared hosting solution; you can access a special OBA offer on your hosting through this link.

Using a Dedicated Server
Again, you might have guessed it: a dedicated server is leased completely to you, without having to share it (and your website performance) with other websites. You have complete control over the machine through a browser-based control panel and root (or admin) level access. You’ll probably find that these computers run Linux or Windows Server, and will take a bit more technical knowledge to administer than a shared server. Fortunately, dedicated servers usually come with technical support to help you out, should you not be able to solve issues through the control panel.

You will pay more for a dedicated server however; expect around US$100 per month or more. This is probably the right choice for you if you run an ecommerce business with large volumes of traffic, or if you have a digital product that needs to be delivered electronically to your customers.

Using a Virtual Private Server
A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is effectively halfway between a shared and a dedicated server for your website in terms of cost and features offered. Using a VPS will give you all of the functions of a dedicated server, but at a much lower price point; you may pay US$25-40 per month for your VPS and the technical access and support that comes with it.

How does it work? A VPS is technically a shared server, whereby each of the server’s computers is running multiple “virtual servers”. These VPSs are programmed to think they are running on their own dedicated machine, and are located within their own partition of that machine’s hard disk. In reality, the hard disk hosting these multiple VPSs shares its resources across each of the partitions, which means you will get less storage space, lower memory, and competition for processing time, which can reduce performance if the other VPSs on your server are experiencing heavy traffic days. On balance, a VPS can be an excellent business solution, giving you many of the benefits of a dedicated business solution at a lower entry cost.

How Much Space and Bandwidth Do I Need?
Web hosting packages are usually sold and marketed based on the amount of space allocated, however most websites actually require very little space, so there’s often no need to pay for large amounts that won’t be used. For example, an average ecommerce website might only require 1-2GB, so an “Unlimited” space plan is really not necessary to pay a premium for.

Usually hosting plans will offer you a certain amount of bandwidth, and then charge you extra for use beyond these limits. Let’s take an example; if you have a web page with 100KB of data and a user accesses this page, 100KB of bandwidth will be used of your total allowance. As with hosting space, bandwidth is often marketed in high numbers, but in reality you won’t need a huge amount; a good rule of thumb is 10-12 times your hard disk space in bandwidth allowance.

Technology To Look For
A shared hosting service should include PHP 5 and MySQL 5, which are programming language and most commonly used database respectively. This information should be easy to find when researching your prospective web server. Whether or not you need the full functionality of these technologies, it will be safer to have the option and generally costs no more than other packages.

Managing a server is usually done via cPanel, which is a graphical web-based control panel that allows you to manage your website and hosting account. CPanel gives you access to setting up emails, forwarders, databases, and many other functions required to administer your site.

Still wondering where to host your website? You may want to use BlueHost, where we host Online Business Asia; we recommend and use this host ourselves. Take a look a the link below:

How to Choose and Register a Domain Name

Choosing the right domain for an ecommerce business can be one of the most crucial decisions around branding, marketing and developing your business. Get this right, and people will find your site more easily, remember your brand quicker, and you’ll see more business coming in your virtual doors. So, how to choose and register a domain name?

Include Your Keywords in Your Domain
A website with its primary keyword in the domain name will be guaranteed to do better in SEO for that keyword versus a site with a non-related domain name. For example, the website sells sunglasses and eyeglasses; whenever a user searches for “glasses” or “buy glasses” or a varaition of these keywords, the site will be near the top of organic search rankings, as these keywords are right there within the domain name, indicating to search engines that this website is specifically relevant to those keywords. What about I hear you say? While Amazon (and other well known websites) don’t have any real keywords in their name, they do have massive marketing budgets which allow them to win in other ways. Unless you have Amazon’s budget, do yourself an SEO favour by choosing a domain with your keyword inside.

Which Top-Level Domain?
A top-level domain (TLD) is the .com or .org etc listed after your domain name. If you are purely focussing on a local market, say Hong Kong for example, you may wish to simply use the .hk TLD and project to your customers that you are a local and trustworthy business. If you are chasing a regional or global audience you may wish to use the .asia or the .com TLD, depending on the brand identity that you want to project to your customers. As domains are fairly cheap, it is probably worth while buying all of these and split testing which results in more traffic. You can always direct all of your TLDs back to the same site, and it is safer to control your domain with a number of TLDs in case your competition buys them, or you decide to enter new markets later on. Generally speaking, you should aim for the .com and/or the local TLD of the markets you are operating in, and avoid the other TLDs unless you have a specific reason for using them (you may use a .org if you are a non-profit for example).

Your Domain Not Available?
What if your chosen domain is already taken in the .com TLD? You have a couple of options; choose a different TLD (like .net or .asia) and hope you can outrank the .com eventually, or change your expectations for your domain. You may wish to go with a miss-spell or an alternative use or order of keywords within your domain.

Personally speaking, if there were already a well established .com website out there, I would not want to develop and market my brand in competition with them; you may find you work hard to get your brand known, all to send traffic accidentally to the original .com domain and not to yours.

Get brainstorming and pull out a thesaurus to help you find synonyms to your keywords and verbs that you wish to include in the domain; perhaps you can restructure the name and grab that domain in your required TLD.

Googling your preferred domain name is also a good idea; you may find your domain is owned by someone who is not really using it, and willing to sell it to you for a reasonable price. Sites like and others often have an “auction” facitility for buyers and sellers of domains to come together and settle on a price for premium domain titles.

Domains and Trademarks
Just because you own the domain, doesn’t mean you also have the right to use these words in your logo or other business activities. It is wise to check your chosen business brand and domain against your country’s trademark registry, to ensure that you don’t accidentally infringe on another person or company’s intellectual property. Doing so could have legal consequences and may delay or reduce the possibility of your business starting up and becoming successful under that name.

On the other hand, once you have decided on your name, logo and domain, you should consider applying for trademarks to secure your intellectual property within the markets you operate. As each legal jurisdiction is different, it will be prudent to get some professional advice on filing for trademarks and protecting your IP assets. This will help you to legally defend your business as necessary, and will also add value to your company should you wish to sell in the future.

How to Get Started on WordPress

We discussed Content Management Systems (CMS) in that previous post, and WordPress is one of the most popular CMSs available. Depending on who you ask, WordPress CMS now powers between 20-25% of the websites on the internet, creating a powerful community of users, developers, and contributors to this open-source platform. At the end of the day, using a CMS like WordPress can speed up your time to market and make developing your site a much easier experience than coding it from scratch.

Get Started on WordPress
Head over to to download the WordPress code. Note that this is not, which this is the free and more limited version hosted on their server, and usually results in a domain such as, which you don’t want for a commercial or professional site. Download the zip version of the code and extract these files into a folder on your computer.

1. Database Time
As with any CMS, you will need to store your content in a database and then as your site is displayed the content is retrieved from here. You will want to use MySQL on your server, which, as we mentioned previously, should come together as part of your hosting package.

Open your cPanel interface; this can usually be done by typing the following into your browser: (replace “your website” with your actual domain name!). Log in to cPanel and click on the MySQL databases icon. Here you will be able to create a new database and give it a name; go ahead and call it something to do with your site, and create a login and strong password, noting these down somewhere for safe keeping. Just keep in mind: sometimes cPanel will add your cPanel login name to the front of your user database name; so if your database user name is “wpadmin”, and your cPanel login is “kkwong”,your login may become kkwong_wpadmin. Write down both just in case, and check this later to be sure.

2. Add Your Users
On the same page, you will have to assign this new user to your database. Select the user from the left side drop down menu and the database from the right side list and click “Add User To Database”. Once you have done this, we will need to add these details into WordPress.

Open the file on your computer with the downloaded WordPress code, and locate the file called “wp-config-sample.php”, and rename it as wp-config.php. Open this file in Notepad (or another text editor) and find this line of code:

define(‘DB_NAME’, ‘putyourdbnamehere’)

You will need to replace ‘putyourdbnamehere’ with the name of your newly created database above. On the lines that follow, replace “usernamehere” with your MySQL username (such as “wpadmin”) and “yourpasswordhere” with your chosen MySQL password above. Save this file.

Now you can open FileZilla again and copy all of the files in the database folder to the root of your website. If you want to create a blog within your site, you can create a subfolder here. Open the /wp-admin/install.php within your root folder, and this will run the installer; on the install screen you can give your blog a title, enter your email address and click “Install”.

After a short wait you should see a Success message, and be given the username “admin” and a randomly generated password. Write these down, and if you want to change it to something easier to remember, you follow the next steps. Click Log In again, and enter your new username and password, which should bring you to a page suggesting you change your password. Make the change as necessary here, or you can always change it later at your Profile page.

3. Choose Your WordPress Theme
You will now have a WordPress dashboard set up at Visit the front-end of your site and you will see a plain and dull looking WordPress theme; fortunately there are thousands of themes to choose from, and changing them is a simple process.

Go back to your dashboard, and click on Appearance -> Add New Themes. Here you will be able to browse through thousands of options, and select the theme that fits your site best. You can also preview themes here, to get a feel for how your site will look. Choose your theme, and press Install, which may prompt you to give your FTP information that you used with FileZilla. Click Proceed, and your theme should be installed; visit the front-end of your website by clicking “Visit Site” at the top left drop down menu of your dashboard, and you will now see your (content-empty) new theme! You’ll probably have to do some adjusting to the theme and layout, which we will cover in more detail in the coming blog posts.

So there you have it – go and get started on WordPress and you’ll have a site up and running in next to no time!

Introduction to Email Marketing

One of the best ways to stay in touch with your customers, and to encourage them to regularly return to your site, is through building an email list. This list will be a valuable part of your company as you grow, and how you manage this list may determine just how much of a sticky community of followers you build. Keep in mind, most countries have strict rules around data protection and privacy, so it’s important to play by the rules and let your customers know that you do respect their information.

What Kind of Email Marketing?
Once you start to build a list of customers and prospective customers, you need to decide just what kind of emails you will be sending them. If you are a daily-deals site it might be expected for you to email these people daily (or even multiple times per day), but if you’re a retailer of specialty products with a long purchase cycle you might only be able to justify emailing once per month.

After you determine the frequency of emailing, you want to determine just what to send your customers. Will you be writing a regular newsletter with helpful content, or will your eDM be a pure sales brochure of what you’re selling this week? Either way, taking time to write out a calendar of planned emails will help you clarify just what and when you will be communicating to your customers. Remember; it is much easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to sell to a new customer, so keep your existing customers happy so that they don’t unsubscribe.

Segmenting Your Lists
Before you begin a one-size-fits-all email campaign, think about how your customers might be different from one another and segment your lists accordingly. Not every customer is the same, and being treated with more personalised service will result in happier and more satisfied customers in the long run.

For example, you may segment your email list into: repeat customers, customers who purchased one time only, and prospective customers. You may choose to email each of these groups a different themed email, and with more or less frequency depending on your strategy. If you have customers who purchased different product categories, you may want to segment by these categories to better tailor your offers, or you might segment by a number of other factors such as gender, age, location, or previous activity levels. The key here is tailoring the emails as much as possible to the customer, and thus ensuring better open rates, click rates, and more sales from your email marketing campaigns.

How to Optimise your Open Rates
When you start emailing your list, you may initially be disappointed to see the small amount of emails being opened. The reality is people get so many emails it can be hard to stand out. Other factors such as aggressive spam filters, and customer initiated filters, mean that 70-80% of your emails may never actually be opened. Email marketing is a science and an art, and getting higher open rates on email campaigns is a book topic in itself, however you can greatly increase your results by following a few simple rules:

1. Use a professional mail server such as Mailchimp or Aweber. Using a service like these will ensure your email deliverability, and will allow you to send large amounts of email without being labelled as a spammer with the major email providers (gmail, hotmail, yahoo etc).

2. Work on your subject lines. An email must have an attractive subject line in order to be opened. Usually the shorter your subject line is the better it is, and avoid using spammy sounding words or phrases, or too much punctuation; this is a sure-fire way of being labelled as spam. You might try to put the person’s first name in the subject of the email, and make sure the subject is interesting and relevant. Having a time-specific call to action can also encourage people to click through to your email’s content.

3. Look at who you’re sending ‘From’. By this I don’t mean Mailchimp or Aweber, but within this software you can specify the ‘From’ name that people will see in their inbox. Should you give your email a persona and a human touch, or simply the name of your business? This is probably best decided according to the specific business you are running, but worth thinking about as the customer will notice these things.

4. Write an attractive preheader. What’s a preheader? It’s the small preview of text seen after the subject line in your email provider, and effectively another selling point for people to open the email. This is often ignored by email marketers, or left with a standard ‘Can’t see this email?’ type phrase, which won’t do your open rate any favours. Think about how you can customise this snippet of information as a helpful teaser enticing people to open your email and learn more.


How to Get Killer Click Through Rates
The second major statistic that email marketers look at daily is the click through rate; this is the percentage of people who received your email and actually clicked on one of your links within the email. As you might expect, this is the whole point of most emails; to encourage people to visit specific web pages and hopefully result in sales for that particular company. Here are a few ways to bring up your click through rates:

1. Get people to open your emails. It might sound obvious, but you can’t have good click through without a solid open rate, so work on getting high levels of opens on your emails first. Once you have people reading your emails you can then try to funnel them toward the next steps.

2. Include a strong call to action. Make it obvious what you are trying to get your readers to do! If you want them to visit your site, put the link near the top of the email so it is one of the first things your readers see. Include a number of links on images, text, and in multiple places to try to capitalise on as many clicks as possible.

3. Avoid one big image; have a balance of text and images. If some of your customers have images turned off on their phones or browsers, your message will probably not be getting across to them. Try to have a good balance of short, concise text, and attractive images that serve as links to a relevant page on your site.

4. Pay attention to design. People on your email list probably know your site and what it looks like, so pay attention to your email design and make sure there’s some continuity between what you’re doing online and what you’re doing with email. Try to observe the basic rules of colour themes and layouts, and it will be less of a challenge for people to move from your email to your webpage.

5. Keep it fun and interesting. Spamming your readers with daily sales pitches for different products may or may not get the results you are looking for. Instead, why not keep a healthy mix of newsletter-type helpful information alongside your list of favourite products for sale? Linking snippets of blog posts to their actual page on your site is a good way to encourage people to move from inbox to online, and while they’re on your site you then have the chance to move them toward a sale.

6. Use heatmaps to see where your customers are viewing and clicking. A heatmap basically shows you where there is the most to the least activity happening on your email eDM. Use this customer activity data to determine where to place your links and calls to action to get the best click through results from your campaigns.

At the end of the day, each email list (and customer base) will be different and expect different things. It’s up to you to keep testing new ideas to increase your open rates and click through rates, and you’ll eventually find what resonates with your customers. Try to be fair and consistent, and seek feedback from your customers when you can. Done properly, an email marketing campaign can help boost any business’s bottom line for a relatively small investment of time and effort.

How to Set Up Google Analytics

One of the fantastic things about running an online business is the availability of data and information about your customers. It is possible to know so much about what is working and what isn’t, and adjust your strategies in real time. An excellent source of this data is Google Analytics; the best news is that it is free with any Google account.

1. Set up Google Analytics 

To get started, log in to your Google account (or create one if you don’t have one already). Head to and click on ‘Create an Account’.

2. Get your tracking code

Follow the prompts and enter your contact details and accept the terms and conditions. Here you will be given a tracking code, which is a piece of JavaScript that needs to be inserted into every page of your site. If you are using WordPress, you can install a simple plugin such as Google Analytics by Yoast that will help you with this, rather than having to do it manually on each page.

3. Start Tracking!

Come back to Google Analytics and select Real-Time -> Overview on the top left column; if you are browsing your site at that time you should see at least one visitor (you) in the real-time results. Use your mobile or another device to access the site, and you will see this as a 2nd active user. Google Analytics will now track each of your site visits with a dizzying array of detail and information to choose from.

Becoming an expert at using Google Analytics may mean the difference between success or failure in your online business. Knowing what is successful and what is not will help you determine where you spend your advertising budget, how you attract and convert customers, and ultimately your use of all of your company’s resources. Be in the know and make informed decisions about all of this by taking the time to learn how to set up Google Analytics and get tracking your key website data!

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