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Colin Kaepernick Anthem Update: Donald Trump, Others Respond To 49ers QB's National Anthem Boycott [POLL, VIDEO]

Colin Kaepernick plans to continue to sit during the National Anthem to voice his displeasure over race relations in America. Donald Trump and many others have responded — mostly in negative fashion.

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Giant Coral Mounds Discovered Behind the Great Barrier Reef

The world’s largest reef system has even more coral than we thought.

Researchers at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef say that they have discovered giant mounds of previously undiscovered coral dotting the Australian seabed, interspersed with the existing reef system. Some of these mounds are nearly one thousand feet across and 30 feet high, and have built up over the past ten thousand years or so.
On the Shoulders of Ancestors
They are called bioherms, and form gradually over time as cora

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7 Reasons Your Site Isn’t Ready for A/B Testing

You’ve invested a lot of time and effort into perfecting your website and you want to get the maximum return from that investment. To achieve that goal, you’ve studied dozens of blogs on conversion optimization techniques. You’ve poured over countless CRO case studies, and you have a few tools to help you run A/B tests.

Before you start split testing to get those conversion gains, pause for a second. I don’t think you’re quite ready yet.

There are plenty of free tools to help you test your optimization – not to mention paid options from Optimizely to OptinMonster that’ll help you explore different facets of your site’s performance – so just about anyone can run A/B tests. But it’s not a matter of simply understanding how to do it.

The problem is that your site just isn’t there yet. A/B testing isn’t for everyone, and if it’s not done at the right time with the right conditions, you might end up accumulating a lot of false data that does more harm than good. Before you invest anything in testing and extensive optimization, consider these seven points:

1. The Traffic Volume Isn’t There

google-analytics-low-traffic-numbersIf this is what your traffic numbers look like, don’t bother A/B testing

There’s no doubt that A/B testing can be highly useful for businesses that want to improve their conversion rates. Having said that however, a lot of businesses shouldn’t bother with A/B testing.

Small businesses that are trying to grow, startups, e-commerce businesses in their early years and other micro businesses simply don’t have the traffic and transactions to accurately perform A/B tests. It takes a significant amount of traffic to provide accurate, measurable results.

In a post from Peep Laja of ConversionXL, he provided an example using a sample size calculator from Evan Miller, where the baseline conversion rate is entered. He then entered the desired lift.

sample-size-calculator-ab-testingImage Source

You can see from this image that in order to detect a 10% lift, the tool recommends at least 51,486 visitors per variation.

If the traffic isn’t there yet, you can still optimize your site based on audience data you’ve gathered, but A/B tests won’t be helpful for a while and they might produce false information.

2. You Don’t Have Anything to Test

A lot of websites function as a general brochure for a company with minimal conversion points. If you run a B2B site or you have a freshly-created site with little more than a contact form and an opt-in, then it’s too early in the game to start running concurrent A/B tests.

new-wordpress-siteIf your site is content-lite then it’s probably too soon to start running tests.

Even if the volume of traffic is adequate to run accurate tests, you may not see a significant lift from a general opt-in or estimate request form. For most businesses, the amount of effort and cost that would go into designing variations for the tests just to get a small lift around micro conversions isn’t worth it.

The same applies to newer e-commerce stores.

Your time would be better spent with your analytics, where you can set up goal tracking, creating marketing campaigns, and developing your content offers and resources. The A/B testing can come later once you have more to offer and traffic has grown substantially.

3. You’re Not Sure What Matters

Do you know what the choke points, leaks, and sticking points are in your funnel? I’m referring to the places where you’re losing prospective customers, as well as where you’re gaining the most.

Before you can run any kind of tests, you have to understand what matters, because some elements are more important than others.

For example: a marketing agency is driving visitors to their estimate request page. They spend a significant amount of time optimizing that page with A/B testing variations and micro changes. After extensive testing, they find that their efforts made very little difference with virtually no impact on their conversions.

Instead, they should have looked for mistakes in their funnel leading up to that page. Maybe the content that led the visitor to that point was where the changes needed to be made. Maybe the search intent of the customer didn’t match the content they found.

Another example: a brand selling shoes online puts a great deal of effort into optimizing and testing product pages, only to realize that the lift in conversion was insignificant. Instead, they could find ways to improve the average order value or review their funnel in Kissmetrics to find the biggest leaks where customers are dropping off and fix those problems instead.

kiss-saas-funnel-opportunity-spottedDon’t know where to test? Find where you’re losing customers (and money) with the Kissmetrics Funnel Report.

If you randomly try to test what you think matters, then you’ll only be wasting time.

One study from Forrester showed that 60% of firms surveyed saw improvements in their website when they used a data-driven approach to design. It’s important to take the time to research what really matters to your business so you know what to optimize and where to make changes.

4. You’re Copying Content

While a competitor site (or any site for that matter) might look like an attractive design that your customers will probably engage with, you can’t waste time testing if you’ve played copycat.

Any tests you run after replicating their design and content will only be wasted. If the solution was as simple as copying what we thought worked well for our competitors (or even conversion case studies) then every e-commerce website would function exactly like Amazon.

The fact is, websites are highly contextual and they should relate to both the audience and what you’re promoting. Wal-Mart and Whole Foods are in the same business of selling food products, but they cater to completely different audiences and sell vastly different products.

If I stacked up my own services against another marketing agency offering identical services, there would still be contextual differences in how we market, how we service customers, the channels we use to engage them, and how we direct traffic to our sites.

You need to make sure your website is designed specifically for you, your channels, your audience, etc. before investing in testing.

5. The Data Isn’t There

The more capable you are with analytics tools like Kissmetrics or Google Analytics, the better off you’ll be. But, if the extent of your knowledge consists of checking traffic quantities, referral sources, time on page and bounce rates, then you’re only scraping the surface.

google-analytics-low-aquisition-dataIf you don’t know what data you need to monitor while A/B testing, then testing is a waste of time.

You have to approach your testing and analytics with a problem so you can find an answer in the data. That way, you can identify issues and confirm what aspects you need to change.

Learning a bit more about your analytics can tune you into:

  • How site elements or offers are performing
  • How your content is performing and whether it is keeping people engaged
  • What people are doing on your site and the routes they typically take
  • Where people are landing, as well as where they’re leaving
  • Where your funnel is losing money

The data won’t specifically tell you how to fix problems; it’s just a starting point where you can discover actionable insights. Without that data, and without the ability to interpret it, A/B testing is pointless.

6. Your Site Has Usability Issues

When was the last time you tested your website in a browser other than the one you typically use? Have you tried going through your entire site on a mobile device?

Have you ever performed a full usability test with a variety of browsers and devices?

This is something a lot of marketers don’t consider when they start A/B tests. Ignoring usability issues, tech problems, and bugs is a huge mistake, though. Even minor bugs and slow load times can dramatically impact your conversion rates.

Just a one second delay in load time can drop conversion rates by as much as 7%.

You won’t get accurate results from A/B testing if segments of your audience are bailing due to usability issues. Some of your audience may never make it to your conversion point, and even if they do, their progress could be hindered by bugs or load times that will ultimately skew your results.

This misinterpretation could lead to changes and further variations of elements that are actually part of your winning, optimized design.

7. You Don’t Know Your Audience

Audience research should be one of the first steps of any marketing strategy. If your goal is to drive lots of traffic to your site with content marketing and paid advertising, I would hope you’ve done some measure of audience research.

Without it, you’re shooting blindly into the darkness and hoping to score a bullseye.

Researching and defining your target audience gives you in-depth information about who you’re targeting, such as their pain points, interests, behaviors, demographics info, and more. That information helps you craft compelling copy, winning headlines, and attention-grabbing offers.

buyer-personaA target customer profile. How well do you know your target market?

Without it, you’ll resort to guessing what to change about your copy, headlines, offers, and calls-to-action. Every variation you test will be just as random as the one before it, and you likely won’t see any significant change in performance.

Know who you’re marketing to before you make a large investment in A/B testing.

Testing isn’t for Everyone

While there’s a wealth of articles and advice online telling you test everything you do and to A/B test every variation, you don’t have to. For many statups and growing online businesses there just isn’t enough traffic early on to create an accurate sampling with measurable results.

Focus on growing your business for now. As you grow traffic levels, learn more about your customers, and targeted traffic increases you can start testing variations to go after those micro wins.

Do you use A/B testing on your site or landing pages right now? Have you found issues with the quality of your results? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

About the Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, their Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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MAX MARA Full Show Spring Summer 2010 Milan by Fashion Channel

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OMICS vs. The FTC: Plagiarism at a Predatory Publisher

OMICS International is a large open access (OA) academic publishing group. Founded in 2007, OMICS has since grown rapidly  and now boasts of having over 700 journals with over 50,000 editorial board members. However, the rise of OMICS has not been welcomed by everyone; the company has been branded a ‘predatory publisher’, accused of spamming academics, and of organizing poor quality ‘academic conferences’.

Given this background, it was not so surprising when we learned, last week, that the US

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Leaking Leads? Here’s How to Plug Your Analytics Gaps

Full funnel attribution is the dream.

A pipe dream.

In most cases.

Because a majority of the time, you’re nowhere close.

Campaigns are tagged. Sometimes.

You track incoming calls. Like 5% of the time.

You’ve got lead reports. Which go up-and-to-the-right at least.

It ain’t your fault. Our tools are limited. Cross-department assistance tricky. And marketing channels exploding.

So here’s a simple process to help you take back control, hopefully eliminating all of those little gaps where leads commonly leak out of your funnel and mess up your reporting efforts.

The Great Analytics Gap: Where Exactly Are Your Paying Customers Coming From?

How many leads did you get this month from Twitter?

How about email?

Most likely, those numbers are wrong.

Not because you made a mistake. But because your analytics platform did.

See, most basic analytics programs like Google Analytics are good. But not smart. (They’re also free, so we can’t complain too much.)

For example, your Email and Social leads this month are probably understated (only getting credit for a fraction of their overall performance), while your Direct ones are overstated (getting more credit than they really deserve).

Sometimes the swing can be 60%!

If campaigns aren’t tagged properly (and let’s be honest, who tags Tweets with any regularity), analytics programs will have a tough time picking up the referral source. Especially if these visits originate from desktop programs like Tweetdeck (does that still exist?) or Outlook (which you’re probably forced against your will to use).

These are tiny examples, but the problem persists.

Even when you’re tracking conversions, with monthly reports going to bosses and clients highlighting Goals with the sources that drove them, you might only be seeing a tiny slice of the overall pie.

Just recently, I’ve seen multiple clients spending tens of thousands of dollars on ads each month, going off of surface level information.

The phone rings, which is great. But why those calls are coming in is anyone’s guess. And nobody has a clue how many paying customers or revenue is tied back to the initial spending efforts.

Think about that. Organizations spending a majority of their marketing budgets on a single channel with tracking… kinda, sorta, setup. But not really.

Couple this with the fact that most smaller organizations use ‘niche, industry’ tools like legacy proprietary CRM’s that offer ZERO API’s and absolutely no integration possibilities.

So they’re forced to cobble this stuff together, manually.

If this stuff was being tracked properly, you’d almost instantly be able to:

  1. Save money on the losing campaigns that aren’t performing.
  2. Increase revenue by spending more on those that are.

And then you get a promotion. Or a raise, at least.

Fortunately there are a few techniques you can use to help shed more transparency and accuracy into your analytics. They’re not all encompassing, but they’re relatively easy adjustments to set up to help you practically solve this problem once and for all.

Click Tracking: The Basics of Campaign (or UTM) Tagging

I already know what you’re thinking.

UTM codes blah blah blah. Use any number of builders like the Google URL Builder to drop your URL in and idiot-proof your results.

Obvious.

But here’s the thing.

Many times UTM codes aren’t used properly. Or aren’t used holistically as a way to measure channel performance for conversions.

So let’s look at it more practically, organizing campaigns properly to make sure we’re tracking almost every single possible use case that might not get picked up by our analytics programs.

The easiest way to accomplish this campaign-wide approach is through inbound traffic segmentation. Which is shorthand* for, “Create a ton of landing page versions & funnels for each traffic source so you’re able to clearly see how and where click-conversions are coming from, thereby making analytics and reporting simple”. (*Not really.)

And while there is no shortage of tools to do this stuff for you, we still like to manage client campaigns in a simple, collaborative Google doc so everyone can quickly edit and update.

marketing-campaigns-spreadsheet

You can also do the same thing for social channels too, breaking it down even further into the primary ones you choose to plan your campaign’s content and messaging strategy ahead of time.

social-campaigns-spreadsheet

All of this time-consuming, upfront work will eventually pay dividends by making funnel analysis a breeze.

(Brilliant segue coming…) You know what also makes funnel analysis a breeze?

Kissmetrics does this with a visualized funnel reporting tool that can help you analyze all of this raw data and make faster (not to mention, more accurate) marketing decisions.

ecommerce-email-funnel-segmented-campaign-name

Call Tracking: Gain Insight into Inbound Lead Sessions

Any lead-based company will tell you that good, old-fashioned inbound phone calls are still the best.

Invoca analyzed more than 30 million phone calls and found that they have 30-50% conversion rates (compared to only 1-2% for clicks).

That same study found that 70% of calls are coming from digital channels. And yet, we don’t know where.

Or why. As in, what did you do to drive those people to call in the first place? (So you can easily do more of it and take home a nice bonus this year.)

Setting up unique phone numbers on each advertisement or sales collateral is an obvious first step. Duh – your AdWords campaigns are undoubtedly already using phone call tracking.

But…

What happens when those people click to your website instead of calling right away?

Especially if we’re talking any type of consultative sale, they’re going to click around your site for a bit. Maybe even leave, and come back, several times before pulling the proverbial trigger on someone to work with.

The first step towards limiting the amount of information you don’t know is to setup dynamic call tracking that focuses on individual customers.

This way, you’re accounting for the multi-device, multi-event, and multi-channel journey (that already happens over half the time).

CallRail is one of my new favorites to do this. You’re able to create a pool of phone numbers based on the average amount of real-time website visitors you get.

callrail-dynamic-number-insertion

These dynamic phone numbers will substitute the primary one already on your website pages, and automatically stick with one website visitor while they browse around all of your pages.

Not only can you then see a complete web session history, but also start tracking multiple sessions over time from the same customers.

callrail-customer-profile

That extra insight gets you one tiny step closer to being able to close out the big black hole that is your offline phone conversions.

There’s also a CallRail and Kissmetrics integration to help you better understand how offline phone calls fit into the customer’s website and app activity, email engagement and more. You’ll also be able to analyze how phone calls play a broader role in lifetime value of a customer (comparing with those who don’t call) and see which specific activities they complete immediately before or just after each call.

But before we can run off to implement, there’s still one last thing to figure out.

How to match all of this stuff up with your lead and customer data to see where buyers (not leads) are coming from.

Lead Tracking: Determining Which Leads Are Converting

It’s time to bring it home.

You’ve got basic campaign tagging properly organized, to limit the number of sessions that slip through your analytics cracks. And you’ve set-up dynamic call tracking to monitor people who may visit your site or call your offices multiple times prior to purchase.

Now we need to line that data up with your lead database.

My completely biased opinion is that HubSpot is one of the best solutions for this problem. Which is no surprise, given my company is a HubSpot partner who receives a nice bonus check every time we sign you up. 🙂

But what if you didn’t appreciate the blatant, selfish sales pitch? Or have the extra budget available? Or you just use some other CRM?

Another (albeit, more manual) solution is to use the excellent (and free) LeadIn to begin turning form submissions into actual people.

Once setup, you can integrate this with a few basic email-marketing services to go freaking nuts on hacking your marketing stack.

leadin-hubspot-on-wordpress

You can also begin exporting this data (I know, who the F-exports manual data anymore) and matching it up with whatever lead-based CRM you use – no matter whether they provide integrations or not.

Ideally, you need to know that John Smith just signed up with your company for $X. And John Smith came from a phone call, through AdWords, targeting the term Y.

In aggregate, a tool like Kissmetrics (surprise!) can then connect all of these dots, finally aligning paying customers (and revenue) back to the marketing channels (and decisions), which generated each.

revenue-report-segmented-data

Conclusion

Most of us are making decisions based on incomplete information.

That’s life.

The analytics gap problem is only made worse when companies commonly have their own legacy tools that don’t play nice with whatever marketing ones you’re using.

But when clients and bosses are putting LOTS of money on the line, it’s up to us to make bold decisions on how or where to best spend it.

That becomes exponentially easier once you set up proper click tracking for the common online channels people are using once they see, hear or read about your latest campaign. And buttoning-up offline conversions like phone calls can help you finally see how many of those leads you’re collecting are transforming into paying customers.

The tips here might not be a perfect solution.

But they can get you significantly closer than where you probably are now.

About the Author: Brad Smith is a founding partner at Codeless Interactive, a digital agency specializing in creating personalized customer experiences. Brad’s blog also features more marketing thoughts, opinions and the occasional insight.

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JUNKO SHIMADA AW 2011 2012 Paris 2 of 2 pret a porter women by Fashion Channel

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COLLETTE DINNIGAN Fashion Show Spring Summer 2014 Paris by Fashion Channel

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Putting origami to use in space

Even though astronomy is my first love, sometimes I wander away and explore other science. This week, I attended a mechanical engineering conference and sat in on sessions specifically devoted to the influence of origami in engineering design. Lucky for me, there have been a few talks that combine this area of engineering with space-based applications.

One of the coolest was a compressible tube whose structure is based on origami folds. This type of tube (called a bellows) has all kinds o

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FRANCESCO SCOGNAMIGLIO SS 2012 Milan HD 2 of 2 pret a porter women by Fashion Channel

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