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Sales Funnels – All You Need to Know

A good sales funnel is the heart of your business and slight improvements in it can result in exponential success in terms of sales. To make these improvements, you need to know each step of the funnel in detail. Today we’ll dive into the details of a sales funnel to see what exactly it is, and how it can improve your business strategy.

What is a Sales Funnel?

A sales funnel consists of all the steps a user takes before buying your product. For a regular store in your neighborhood, a sales funnel might involve people walking by, a specific percentage of people entering in, browsing through the store, picking up a product, heading to the checkout and paying for the product.

Each step in our above example represents a part of the funnel that you can work on. If you want more people to enter your shop, a catchy advertisement outside the store will help improve this part of the funnel. If you want people to pick more of the same type of product, offering bulk discounts will improve this part of the funnel. In this way, one can improve small details in the sales funnel to increase sales.

Online businesses work in the same way. However, people have a lot of options when shopping online, and hopping from one store to another takes only a single click. Therefore, knowing your sales funnel well, and optimizing it so people don’t drop out and complete the sale, is the single most important part of your business.

Let us now take a look into the stages that are part of a sales funnel.

How Does a Sales Funnel Work

Before we move on to the stages of a funnel, let’s get a few concepts straight. It is important to know these terms before we move on.

Prospect: Any visitor that visits your site is a prospect. Here, you can guide him anywhere you want, such as to a sign-up form.

Lead: As soon as the visitor signs up, he provides you his information. He has now become a lead.

Once you have turned a prospect into a lead, you can expect the visitor to come back to the website often, either through the newsletter you offer or through one-time offers you send him via Email, phone, or any other means.

The 4 Stages of a Sales Funnel:

We move now to the stages that make up a sales funnel. These are:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Decision
  • Action

An easy way to remember these stages is with the help of the acronym: AIDA! Let’s dive into the details:

Awareness

Awareness is all about attracting attention. This is where you show your customer an attractive Facebook post, or tell him about the success story of another person. This stage increases the prospect’s awareness of your business, what you offer, or how you might help the prospect achieve what you’ve promised in the advertisement.

The purpose of this stage is simple to increase awareness, you aren’t expecting an immediate return on investment in this stage.

Interest

This is the stage where you either build a customer’s interest or feed his interest through quality content. It is the stage where you show the customer that you are the authority on the subject, or that you sell the best products in the category he or she is looking for.

Just like the previous stage, you aren’t trying to make an immediate sale. The whole point here is to satisfy the customer’s quest for information, and through the quality of information, convince him that you are the best in the business.

Decision

This phase is where the customer makes his decision. By now he has probably already looked at the alternatives and has them bookmarked or shortlisted somewhere. Your job at this stage is to give him your best offer. Free shipping, free membership for a future discount, a bonus product with the purchase, etc. Whatever you have to offer to the customer to help him pull the trigger on the purchase, this is where you can do it.

Action

In this stage of the sales funnel, the customer has purchased the product. That doesn’t mean your work has ended. You now have to work on retaining that customer so that one sale can turn into more sales in the future. Mostly, this stage comprises of you thanking the customer for the purchase, offering him free returns, asking for his feedback, and ensuring him your customer support is there for any questions he may have in the future.

A small example

Let’s say you own a business that sells beverages. You have done some research and found out that your potential customers are lurking on Facebook, in places such as university groups. You also know the demographic you want to target.

You run a Facebook ad and anyone who sees the ad and is interested clicks on it and arrives on your landing page. You now have prospects that you can work on.

On the landing page, you can ask these people to sign-up, luring them in with a discount, a one-time offer, or a free product. Once the visitor signs up, you have converted that prospect into a lead. Note how you are moving the customer from one phase of the funnel to another.

Once you have the visitor’s contact info, you can send him useful content related to your business; content that tells the visitor your product is good, and that you know the business well.

One day you offer that customer a special discount and viola! The customer uses that discount and makes the first purchase.

Now that the customer has made a purchase, you can move him to another funnel, designed specifically for your buyers. The process starts again…

This is how you used the 4 stages of the sales funnel:

  • Awareness: You started the Facebook ad and make people aware of your product.
  • Interest: This was the sign-up stage. You offered them something so that they turned into leads.
  • Decision: You sent them content that enabled them to decide on the quality of the beverages you offer.
  • Action: You offered them that one-time discount and they bought a crate!

Steps In Building a Sales Funnel

Analyze Audience Behavior: Find out what people do on your website, where they click, where they scroll, where they spend most of the time, etc.

Capture Attention: Make people notice your business. Use ads, quality content, or any other means that entice people to find out more about your business.

Set Up a Landing Page: Bring your audience to a landing page where you can control their expected behavior and show them what you’re selling.

Offer Content: Keep feeding your leads with quality content. Offer them periodic offers and discounts to make them buy.

Stay in Touch: Create a list of people who have already bought your product and offer them further incentives so that they buy again.

Optimizing the Sales Funnel

Having a sales funnel set up is only one part of the job. You should continually be striving to improve the funnel to increase its effectiveness. There is always room for improvement!

To start with, try running more than one Facebook ad. If you have 5-10 different types of ads running, you are more likely to target a variety of audiences. Some ads will work better than the others which will give you vital info about how your customers behave.

Implement A/B testing on your landing pages. This is a tiring procedure but it works and is a great way to find out which landing page works the best. Making slight changes to the structure or content of your landing page can bring in varying results. Go with the design that works the best.

A/B testing can also be implemented at the checkout phase. Does offering free shipping work better than offering an equivalent discount on the product? The answer to this question will tell you a lot about what price range people prefer for your product.

Also, look at the results of each stage of the funnel. By analyzing the result, you can single out the weakest stage on the funnel. Slight improvements to this stage can increase the effectiveness of the other stages manifold.

And don’t forget to track the retention rate of your customers. Do people come back after buying your product once? That would help you realize how popular your brand is.

To conclude, creating a sales funnel, testing it, and optimizing it can take a lot of time. However, the time spent on it is worth it and should bring in rewards for you and your business.

Three Things to Consider Before Choosing a Payment Gateway

You’ll need a payment gateway for your eCommerce site for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, payment gateways help in securing online transactions. If you want people to give away their credit card numbers while shopping on your website, you need a reliable authority to manage the payment process. Payment gateways are instrumental in meeting the industry standard criteria that ensure secure transactions between the customer and the store. Other than that, payment gateways automate the payment process. You don’t have to micromanage the transactions with the bank or send someone’s credit card details to the bank. Payment gateways take over these tasks and help you spend your time on running the business.

When choosing a payment gateway for your website, here are some things you should consider:

Cost

Payment gateways aren’t free and will take a small percentage of your transaction for the service they provide. This isn’t a huge problem, as many stores add these to the cost of the product they are selling and charge the customer accordingly. However, care must still be taken before settling on using a certain payment gateway.

Some payment gateways even charge the customer for using a certain payment method. No customer wants to select a product and find out he has to pay extra to be able to pay using his preferred payment methods. So make sure you choose a customer-friendly payment gateway that clearly lists all the fees.

Payment Methods Available

The number of available payment methods on your website is important, especially if you have an international audience. You can use your website’s analytics data to find out which countries your customers are coming from. You then need to find out what payment methods are available in those countries and incorporate them into your store. In general, the more payment methods you can offer your users, the better.

Security

This is another important factor when choosing a payment gateway. In fact, for people familiar with how the internet world works, this is easily the most important variable when shopping online. People are giving you access to their personal data as well as financial information. If you want them to trust you, you better use a reliable payment gateway. It’s basically a no-brainer. You want people’s money, assure them that their data is safe with you.

Set Up An Online Store in 8 Steps

Many people around the world are making a decent living selling stuff on the internet. Gone are the days when you needed to hire an expensive web development team to build your own online store. These days, the whole process costs only a few dollars per month, as long as you are willing to put in the hard work yourself and learn along the way.

Here are some simple steps that you can follow to get your online store up and running.

Step 1: Research Your Product Category

There are two types of online store startups. One, people who have a great product idea and want to sell it online and two, people who want to sell online, but don’t know what to sell. Irrespective of which category you belong to, there are a few things you need to do before you get started.

Finding out whether there is a need for your product in the market is essential. No matter how good the product is, if no one wants to buy it, you won’t be able to sell. Similarly, working out how you will supply or create the product is vital.

Step 2: Competitor Research

Researching your competitor before you start selling will save you a lot of headaches in the long run. Just because a product is popular and everyone is buying doesn’t mean you can be successful in selling it. Sometimes, a handful of companies control the sale of a product and you can’t beat them in terms of pricing, ease of order, delivery time, etc. 

Step 3: Creating your Business Plan

A business plan will not only help you stay organized but will also be useful in measuring your progress over time. You should set out a budget for a year (or a shorter amount of time), find out how much you need to sell to get your investment back, work out shipping and returns details, and set yourself small milestones to achieve so that you can track your progress.

Step 4: Buying a Domain and Web Hosting

In order to have an online presence, you will need to buy a domain and a hosting. If you do not have the technical know-how in this area, go for a reliable hosting company with good customer support. Note that if your online store is a success; you may have to pay more to get a better hosting service. However, this is an issue for later and isn’t as stressful as a successful online store means you are already making good money. So investing some of that in a quality hosting service shouldn’t be a big deal.

Step 5: Legal Issues

Depending on your location, you may have to look at the local laws before you start selling. This step is important because as soon as you have put in all the hard work and have started making sales, someone will come around and crush you. Inform yourself and follow the local laws!

Step 6: Building Your Website

Now you need to get started with building your website and populating it with products. There are many website builders out there that do not demand any programming knowledge. Most of them are quite intuitive and don’t demand a lot of time to get used to.

You will also need a good eCommerce solution so that you don’t have to worry too much about setting up shopping carts, checkout pages, or payment methods. A good eCommerce solution also provides a lot of benefits to your users including account creation, wishlists, recommendations, etc. There are both free and premium eCommerce solutions available in the market.

Step 7: Marketing Plan

Once your website is up and running, you can get started with spreading the word. Social Media Marketing is a must in today’s world, as most internet users use social media multiple times a day. There are many other ways of marketing your product out there but no matter which one you choose, the most important aspect is you have a plan in place to get a good Return on Investment.

Step 8: Launch!

Once you know how you will market your website, it is time to launch it and start making sales!

How to Protect Your Content From Plagiarism

The work that you exhibit online is your property. You should care about it just as much as the car in your garage, the decoration in your garden, or the money in your wallet. However, that’s easier said than done. In the online world, your content is publicly available and prone to plagiarism. Here are a few things you can implement to stop people from stealing your online content.

Disable Right Click or Download Feature

One basic way of stopping people from copying your content is to disable right-click or disable the download feature on your online content. This method, however, has some drawbacks which you need to consider before you implement it. Disabling right-click on your website negatively impacts the usability of your website. It can be very frustrating for visitors to realize that they can’t right-click on your WebPages. Moreover, such an approach makes it hard for those users to use your content who are willing to credit you for your work. If you still find it worthwhile to disable right-click on your website, there are pretty simple HTML hacks to achieve this purpose.

Use Watermark

Using watermarks on your images and videos is a great way to ensure no one uses your content without having to credit you for it. Adding watermarks to one’s content used to be a skillful task in the past. However, there are many online tools available that can do it for you without you having to do any designing or coding.

Use Google Alerts

Google has been helping people fight plagiarism for many years now. It has come up with a feature called Google Alerts that is a must-have in today’s world. Setting up Google Alerts for your content is free. Once you’ve set it up, Google will notify you whenever it detects someone else using your content.

Once you’ve been notified of plagiarism, you can ask for the duplicate content to be taken down. Alternatively, you can also request the site owners to properly credit you for your work.

There is hardly any cure for content theft in the online world. What one can do is make it hard for people to steal their content. Using the above methods, you can give yourself the best shot at protecting your valuable content.

A Short Guide to ‘Call to Action’

The outlook of your website plays an important role in its success. Website elements like call to action buttons or contact forms, when placed correctly can turn your leads into sales. Similarly, an easy to navigate website is not going to feel overwhelming to a visitor looking for information about your business. In this blog, we’ll take a look at how to use a call to action to improve your website’s readability and navigation, as well as convert your leads into sales by guiding visitors to the desired areas of your website.

What is a Call to Action (CTA)?

A call to action is a prompt that invites the visitor to take action to learn more or become a part of whatever it is that you are offering on your website. It could be a button labeled ‘Subscribe Now for a 7-Day Free Trial’ or ‘Get in Touch with Us for a Free Consultation’ etc. Depending on the nature of your business, you can use the CTA to guide your audience towards your goal, gather their info for later use (especially for marketing), or simply enable them to become loyal visitors or customers.

CTA Placement

A CTA can only be effective when placed in the correct areas of your website. ‘Above the Fold’ placement has been popular among advertisers for some time now. It is without a doubt a safe and proven placement area for your CTA. However, such a placement doesn’t work for everyone. You have to consider the nature of your business, your customers, and the amount of information you want to give them before inviting them to take a particular action. This could mean your call to action is at the bottom of the page. As long as you are sure that your customer will read the whole webpage, placing a CTA at the bottom isn’t bad. Also, make sure your CTA looks OK on mobile devices.

A/B Testing: If in doubt, you can easily test a few placement areas over a few days to see which one works best. A/B testing is when you place the same ad in different locations to see which one works best. Get creative with your testing strategies, you never know what kind of placement brings awesome rewards!

Types of CTAs

There are two types of CTAs.

Soft CTAs: Soft CTAs invite the user to proceed towards a certain soft goal, but not your main goal. For instance, if you are selling dog food, you might place a CTA calling visitors to ‘Join our 10,000+ strong community of dog lovers’. You could then ask them to also join your mailing list for future updates. Both these actions help you gain a loyal and regular visitor whom you can sell more dog food later.

Hard CTAs: Using our above dog food example, a hard CTA would ask the user to buy dog food without any fuss. For instance, you could offer them a discount which would directly lead them to the product page where they can buy the product. Such a CTA could look like ‘Buy Today and Get 40% off’ or ‘Limited Time Offer, Get 20% cash-back on your shopping today’.

Free vs Paid SSL Certificate

What is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL certificate primarily establishes a secure link between the client and the server. When you send data over the internet, there is the possibility of the data getting copied or stolen by someone else on the internet. This is an undesired outcome, especially if you are buying online with a credit card or uploading private information to a government website. To solve this issue, almost all kinds of website owners install an SSL certificate on their website. There are different kinds of SSL certificates available but for the purpose of this article, we will only differentiate between free and paid SSL certificates. Let’s dive into the details.

Free SSL Certificates

A free SSL certificate makes it easy for you to have a certain level of security without giving away any money. This option may not be suitable for all, but it does suffice for the average blogger and a vast majority of other businesses that have set up an online presence.

Here’s what a free SSL certificate offers:

Security: With a free SSL certificate, you can make use of the https protocol.

Less management: Since the certificate is free, you don’t have to manage payments or renewals with the service provider. While it’s true that you have to renew a free SSL every 90 days, you can automate this process.

Improved SEO: https protocol is SEO friendly so if you have it on your site, chances are, your SEO task will be made easier.

Paid SSL Certificates:

If free SSL certificates did everything, then the paid ones wouldn’t exist, would they? There are good reasons why companies go for paid SSL certificates.

Lifespan: Free certificates need to be renewed every 90 days. Premium SSL certificates, however, have a lifespan of two years. The extended validity offers some peace of mind to the site owners so they can concentrate on their business, rather than on the security of their website.

Verification and Trust: There are many different types of SSL certificates out there. Some offer a unique validation level while others have their special purpose. With premium SSL certificates, you can also get your ID verified and obtain the green address bar; a sign of trust on the internet.  A green address bar is obtained through an EV SSL certificate. This certificate can only be obtained after a rigorous verification process, proving the reliability and trustworthiness of the site owner.

Customer Support: With a free SSL certificate, you are left on your own. You have to install the certificate yourself and renew it on your own. If you opt for a premium SSL certificate, you get the full service. In case your certificate isn’t working as expected, you can always contact the provider and ask for assistance. Similarly, if there is a security incident on your site despite the presence of a paid SSL certificate, you can claim damages through the service provider or insurance. While this is rare, it can happen and if you process a lot of important data, you don’t want to take the risk without insurance.

Conclusion:

In short, free and paid SSL certificates carry their distinct advantages and disadvantages. It comes down to your personal preferences as well as professional requirements. If you are just starting with an online presence, you can get started with a free SSL certificate and get things going. You can switch to a paid one as soon as you realize you need more security, or can afford better security.

3 Must Have SEO Tools for Online Success

3 Must-Have SEO Tools for Online Success

Search Engine Optimization, commonly known as SEO, is one of the most important aspects of your website. It determines how well you rank in Google, which in turn determines your online success. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? The SEO game, however, isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Google keeps changing its algorithms and criteria for determining the usefulness of a website. You have to constantly keep an eye on your website, as some changes result in a drastic overnight change in your website’s ranking. To enable you to monitor your website’s SEO performance, we have come up with the 3 tools you must have to be successful online. Let’s dive into the details.

Google Search Console

Since Google rules the SEO world, it makes sense that the top SEO tool to have is Google’s own. Google Search Console is a simple tool to use. It gives you a lot of useful information like:

  • Find out where you rank in Search Engine Result Pages (SERP ranking)
  • What keywords bring people to your site
  • Is your site infected by malware
  • Who is linking to your website?
  • Are there broken links on your website?

In case you’ve made some enemies online who are revenge-linking to your website from toxic websites, you can keep an eye on them with the Google Search Console as well. GSC is simply indispensable when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. And what’s more, it’s free!

SEMRush

SEMRush is another popular name in the SEO world. This is your go-to tool for keyword research. With SEMRush, you can find out exactly which keywords to target in your content to get the best results. You can even peek into the keywords your competitors are using for the same content. This gives you an idea of whether you can beat them at the game or not.

When it comes to advertising, SEMRush allows you to look at the strategies of your rivals. This gives you a significant advantage when it comes to testing ads for your website. There are several other must-have features that SEMRush offers. These include features such as locating your competitor’s social media presence as well as finding out who writes for them. However, you need to keep two things in mind:

  1. SEMRush isn’t free(but a free trial is available!).
  2. Since it offers so many functions and insights, it might take you some time to master the tool

Other than the above two drawbacks, there is hardly anything negative to talk about. If you are willing to learn and pay some money for a premium tool, SEMRush is undoubtedly worth the investment!

Moz Pro

Moz Pro is another premium SEO tool. It offers many features similar to SEMRush. What sets it apart though is the Google Chrome extension (named MozBar) that it offers. Simply use the extension to obtain information about any site you visit. It offers some features related to on-site optimization as well. If there are any crawling errors on your website, the extension will notify you. These features are similar to what Google Search Console offers. Therefore, you can consider Moz Pro a combination of SEMRush and GSC.

Moz Pro isn’t free but offers a 30-day trial, which is ample time for you to test it out. Here are a few things you should know before signing up for the premium Moz Pro:

  • It is refreshed weekly, so you aren’t getting real-time data.
  • 100% SEO focus(they have sold or removed other services)
  • Their SERP features are some of the best around
  • It integrates with Google Analytics but not with Google Search Console

Now that you have the best tools at your disposal, it is time to start working on implementing the best SEO strategies.

What is a cPanel and Why do I Need One?

When you buy a hosting account to host your own website, you need a portal to manage all the services that it offers. These services include emails, FTP accounts, creating sub-domains, managing databases, and many other services that are essential in the day to day workings of a website. Since not every website owner has the technical know-how to handle the backend of a website, it is important that the control panel, the portal one needs to manage the site, is easy to use. This is where a cPanel comes in. It makes managing the website so easy that even non-programmers can handle it.

Useful Features

Installing Applications

For non-programmers, a Content Management System like WordPress is a must-have. These systems allow people to create websites without the need to learn to code. With a cPanel, installing these CMSs is a breeze. Most of the time, you will have a one-click install service that will install the application on your website with a single click! The most popular modules in this category include:

  • WordPress
  • Joomla
  • Drupal
  • phpBB

Managing Domains

It is quite common for people to own multiple websites. However, you don’t need a separate hosting account for each website. One hosting account is usually sufficient for unlimited emails. For such people, add-on domains make it possible to host multiple websites on the same hosting account. Other important tools that are of interest n this category include:

  • Aliases
  • Redirects
  • DNS Manager
  • Sub-domains

Security

The security of your website is perhaps the most important issue you will have to deal with. Security issues come up more often than one expects, so it is vital that an easy to manage security system is in place. cPanel allows you to manage all your security details from one place. It offers the following modules for your website’s protection:

  • Hotlink Protection
  • SSL/TLS
  • SSH Access
  • IP Blocker

Metrics

Keeping an eye on your website’s performance allows you to make it a success. If you don’t know which areas your website is underperforming in, you are unlikely to be able to improve those areas. With the metrics modules available in the cPanel, you can easily read the analytics of your website, where the visitors are coming from, what errors are there on your site, how much resources your website is taking, etc. The popular modules in this category include:

  • Errors
  • Visitors
  • Bandwidth
  • Awstats
  • Webalizer