Your website might load fine for you, but have you ever considered how long it takes to load for someone in another country? If you’re just working with one server, that’s a very long way your data has to travel. The result can mean a very slow load time, especially as the data is relayed back and forth. It also doesn’t provide much security should there be a cyberattack, or if the server has technical problems and cannot load your content.

One solution to overcome the above problems is to use a CDN (content delivery network). If you’re unfamiliar with CDNs, here’s everything you need to know, including how they can affect your website speed.

How Hosting With CDNs Can Affect Website Speed

What Are CDNs?

CDN stands for content delivery network. In essence, it brings your website content closer to your visitors, by loading your website from the closest physical server to them. The result gives an optimised load time and performance for all visitors, no matter where they are located. It works by routing the user to the closest working server, instead of relying on just one based in your specific location.

Examples of CDN providers include Cloudflare, Akamai, Edgecast and Yottaa. CDNs can vary hugely in price, depending on how many server locations the company has, not to mention the speed they can offer you. That’s why it pays to shop around to get the best deal for your website needs, based on where your target demographic is.

The Need For Speed

Websites that don’t load promptly are off-putting to visitors. Not only does it look unprofessional; it’s downright annoying when a website takes a long time to load. Multiple surveys have shown the average acceptable load time for users, is just two seconds.

Therefore, you want to do all you can to streamline load times, so that it gives the best possible user experience. CDNs are just one of the many tools you can use to do this, as they dramatically cut the time taken to access your website because the data is coming from the closest server as opposed to one thousand of miles away.

In addition, slow website load times can harm your SEO ranking. Think about it, Google (or any other search engine) wants to send you to the best possible result. If the website has irrelevant content or is slow to load (causing a high bounce rate), that tells the algorithm your website is not providing a satisfactory outcome to the user. This, in turn, causes your rankings to drop sharply, resulting in fewer visitors to your website.

How It Works

Imagine you have a website and the server is based in Melbourne. While it’s not too much of a data trek for users in Sydney, think about users coming in from London or New York. Not only do you have to factor in the time it takes for your website to load for them; you also have to consider the return journey back. For every action, they try and complete on your website, that can add up to an awfully long wait.

A CDN acts as a middle-man, as it distributes your content to many servers in different geographic locations. As a result, users are able to access your website at the best speed possible, no matter where they are based. In addition, should there be an attack or cable outage at one of your servers, your CDN will simply re-route users, meaning your website always stays up.

Compare that to having one server in Australia, which would mean less speed for users in other countries, not to mention less security should your server break or come under attack. A CDN will effectively clone your website so that it’s available on many servers, giving optimum speed as well as overall performance.

Conclusion

If you are building a website to increase traffic to your business, the whole operation is pointless if your website is slow to load, prone to cyberattacks or has regular outages.

CDNs are one of the most effective ways to ensure none of the above hampers user experience, or even the ability to load your website in the first place. Speed and reliability are key, and by having your website accessible in multiple locations across the globe, you can rest easy knowing that visitors aren’t being slowed down.

Faster loading times converts into more visitors, therefore, more sales. Regardless of whether your business uses affiliate marketing (such as a blog), is an online store, or is just a marketing tool for your offline business – speed is key to retaining your audience and generating income as a result. That’s why CDNs make sense, plus they come with added security and optimisation features too.

Need more help in understanding how CDNs can help your business? If you’re located in Melbourne, give us a call on 1300 554 687 or drop us a line at mail@yarraweb.com.au.

Let’s discuss a semantic issue before we actually jump into the article, shall we?

The term ‘unexpected growth’, while very real and tangible, should not exist in your business vocabulary.

You should always both expect to grow and prepare for it.

A lot of e-commerce businesses fail precisely because they were not prepared for it: they may have been hoping for it, and in a manner of speaking expecting it, but were not prepping for it.

This article is here to save you from the same fate and help you prepare for the (un)expected growth you’ve been working towards since you first launched.

Let’s dive in.

Prep your website

The most important aspect of any e-commerce business is, obviously, the website that’s its home.

When your sales spike, your traffic will do just the same, and you need to be able to deal with this increased influx of visitors. Here’s how:

  • Upgrade your server. An excess of users on your website can crash it. It can happen to the biggest and best-run websites (including Shopify), but smaller e-commerce platforms are more prone to crashes and downtime. To circumvent the problem, invest in a better server when you notice traffic is increasing.
  • Improve the user experience. The more visitors come to see your pages, the better you can make them. Use the data you gather on their behaviour to improve your website layout, menus, and URL structure.
  • Make sure your mobile version is up to speed. All elements of your website need to be mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. This is paramount, considering that over 50% of all online sales are generated from mobile devices.

Restock your stock

An increase in sales will require you to up your stock as well.

Modern consumers don’t like to wait for anything. And if you take more than a week to ship something to them, they are not very likely to shop with you again.

To avoid this scenario, you’ll need to know when to invest in extra stock and storage space, as well as how to handle the distribution and shipping of a greater volume of goods.

There is no magic formula to figure this one out: monitor your traffic and sales, know what marketing campaigns you are running and what you expect from them, and make an educated decision. Rely on the data you already have, and try to anticipate sales numbers.

If you deal in perishable goods, the risk might be higher, as you can’t store excess stock indefinitely. This is why knowing how much time an order will take to be fulfilled is very important.

Talk to all your vendors and see what their timelines are, then work accordingly. Don’t promote a product you can’t easily have access to.

Another important thing to bear in mind is that you might find yourself in a situation where you need access to some ready cash to cover your increased expenses. Your customers might not always pay you at the time of order, and if you don’t have an investment fund ready, you might find yourself in a tight spot.

Access to online business loans can tide you over in case this happens and help you handle the hurdle of rapid growth.

Mind your customers

As you sell more, chances are your customers might have more questions. You don’t even have to make more sales for an increase in customer service inquiries to happen: shoppers might have questions about your shipping and return policy, payment methods, and so on.

When undergoing an expansion, you need to make sure your customer service can handle it. After all, bad customer service experiences are a major turnoff for shoppers, and it might cost you a fair share of future sales.

When expanding your customer service team, you can choose to invest in an AI-powered chatbot that can handle some of the initial queries and straightforward questions, only delegating to human reps when it can’t handle the issue on its own.

On the other hand, when expanding your human customer service team, try to look for candidates who already have experience with e-commerce customer service in your industry. Naturally, you will need to train everyone who comes on board, but some experience will be better than having to mentor a rookie in a time of urgency.

Strategize your growth

Finally, a very important aspect of growth is planning for it, as we’ve already established.

All of what we’ve just listed above needs to be written down and outlined in a growth strategy you write, research, and turn to when the time comes.

Most business manuals will tell you that having a strategy in place is the first thing you need to focus on when starting a business. And while it might sound boring and repetitive, there’s a reason why they do it.

A strategy is your blueprint and backup plan all rolled into one. When you experience anything unexpected, including growth, which pushes you out of your comfort zone, you won’t exactly be thinking the clearest and making the best business decisions.

Instead of relying on your mind to make the right call, you should rely on a business strategy instead – one that clearly outlines your current capacities, as well as the point when those capacities need to be improved in order to cope with an increase in sales.

Incorporate things like:

  • a list of business risks and how you should handle them
  • a list of business opportunities and how to handle them
  • a detailed analysis of all your resources (including finances, people, equipment, marketing, etc.)
  • a market and competitor analysis
  • a distribution channel analysis
  • a cash flow overview
  • an up-to-date list of all your inventory and an analysis of your vendors

All of these pointers are meant to help you make educated decisions when the time comes, and if you stick with them, you won’t have to come up with a plan on the spot. You’ll already have one in place, so all that will be left for you to do is execute it.

And as with all well-laid plans, the execution should be much simpler than the actual planning.

About the Author:

Natasha is a web designer, lady of the keyboard and one hell of a tech geek. She is always happy to collaborate with awesome blogs and share her knowledge about IT, digital marketing and technology trends. To see what she is up to next, check out her Twitter Dashboard.

Marketing Trends for Your Small Business – 2019 and Beyond

The business world is highly cluttered. The battle for consumers’ trust is constant, and things are even more difficult for small businesses. You’re not only facing direct competition with locally, but also indirect competition from around the world thanks to the internet. Ordering something from halfway around the world is not much harder than from down the street in today’s digital world.

Considering that 14% of startups fail due to poor marketing, it’s become essential for startups and small businesses to rethink their digital marketing campaigns. In this post, we’re going to look at the top digital marketing trends that small businesses have to embrace if they want to be successful.

Content Marketing

You could spend a lot of money looking for hacks to get your site to the top of the search engine results. There’s one catch – trying to beat the search engines at their own game is like trying to play baseball with a blindfold on.

You might get in a few lucky swings and hit a ball or two out of the park, but you’ll also waste a lot of time and energy which would be better spent on building up an evergreen content base that will bring in leads for many years to come.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is something of a misnomer. You’re not going to attempt to sell your products with these pieces at all. Think of it more as thought leadership or providing information. It’s more valuable to your consumer than an outright marketing plug.

What Are the Benefits?

It’s difficult to pin down the exact ROI from a content marketing campaign. You’re not necessarily going to get business from each piece of content. What you are doing, however, is providing your prospect with a valuable resource. This helps them form a more favorable impression of your brand.

Content marketing also fits in perfectly with what Google has been telling us that they want for years: high-quality content. It’s one of the few ranking factors that the search engine will admit to.

It’s useful for:

  • Improving your SERPs
  • Building brand awareness
  • Establishing your company as a subject matter expert

It’s also more likely to be shared than your standard adverts and helps keep readers on your site longer, which has a positive effect on SEO.

Artificial Intelligence 

If you’re using CRM software, you’re probably already using some form of AI. It helps analyze consumer behavior and identify what stage of the customer journey they’re currently in. AI can be a very useful asset for improving the client experience.

A smaller business doesn’t necessarily have the funds or employee base to run a full-blown customer support center. This has become a popular application for AI since chatbots can be created on a relatively small budget and provide your clients with improved user experience.

Say, for example, that someone is trawling the internet at 9 pm on a Saturday. They see an item they like and wonder if your boutique currently has it in stock. In the past, they’d have to wait until regular business hours to call in or send in an email.

Neither option is unreasonable, but today’s shopper wants instant results. They don’t want to have to wait for someone to get back to them, so they move along to look elsewhere.

It’s a problem that can quite easily be solved by implementing a simple chatbot. This can be done relatively inexpensively and allows simple questions to be answered on the spot. This is the next evolution in digital marketing.

Automation

Marketing has always been about getting the timing right. You make a connection with a prospect, and then nurture that connection until they are ready to buy. You then build the relationship further to facilitate buying in the future.

This is how things are supposed to work in theory, but in the modern world, full of looming deadlines and a never-ending stream of leads which need to be followed up, it is becoming more difficult. This is why automation is the next big digital marketing trend to take on board.

Follow-ups can easily be automated. After your meeting, simply make an entry in the system. The system can then send a follow-up email to check whether the client needs more information or update them about new products.

Automation offers even more possibilities. Imagine if your client comes into your store and buys a dog bed. There’s a good chance that he’s got a dog. What if he were to receive a discount voucher on his receipt for the purchase of dog treats or toys? The system can be programmed to identify related products and provide offers accordingly.

Data-Driven Marketing is Key

Big data used to be the province of large corporations. Collecting and analyzing data was once too expensive for a small business to consider. Nowadays, this is no longer the case since AI allows you to process data at a rate that has never been seen before, while providing far better insights than ever before.

It’s a lesson Target learned the hard way. A few years back, the retail giant decided that it wanted to boost baby-product sales. Their team decided that they needed to find a way to ascertain which purchases might indicate that a woman was either trying to fall pregnant or was already carrying a child.

As a result, they analyzed thousands of pieces of data and drew up a profile. This helped them identify clients who might be pregnantso they could provide them with deals geared towards new parents.

The idea backfired when a concerned dad confronted the company about ads which were being sent to his teenage daughter. It turned out that she was pregnant but hadn’t told him about it. In the end, the campaign was dropped because people were uncomfortable with the brand knowing so much about them.

This serves as a telling example of just how effective data-driven marketing can be when conducted correctly.

Final Notes

The world of digital marketing is one that is in constant flux. One minute, influencers are all the rage – the bigger, the better. Then research shows that micro-influencers might be a more effective way to get the message across.

It’s hard to keep up, but that’s essential if you want to succeed. Not sure that you can manage on your own? Then why not partner up with professionals to get the help you need?

About the Author:

Oleh KoropenkoAvid learner, Oleh’s curiosity is a never-ending source of inspiration that drives him to research, revise and apply new things. He is an experienced blogger and a passionate traveler with a great sense of humor, who cannot leave a stone unturned in the pursuit for greater knowledge and understanding. Reach him out @DMGeekcom.

What Can Impact Your Local SEO Rankings

So much attention nowadays goes to digital, global businesses that operate successfully without any borders. And yet, the entire world is brimming with small, local businesses that help grow the local economy, bring innovation to their society, and improve the quality of life for their community. These businesses are in the majority, as they take up a large portion of the business world, and they are, by nature, highly competitive. That brings us to SEO: why should small companies, some counting even fewer than 20 employees, rank better in a crowded local search realm?

To put things in a bit of perspective: 60% of American adults use their smartphones and tablets to search for local services and products. The same study shows that 78% of local mobile searches end up becoming actual offline purchases. What if your potential customers don’t come across your store in the results and head to one of your many competitors? Fortunately, as complex and competitive as this ecosystem may be, there are simple procedures you can introduce that will make a major difference for your ranking in search engines.

Online consistency

Search engines go through piles of information every day in order to decide on which brands to put at the top of the results page every time one of your customers enters a search query. One very relevant SEO factor, no matter what industry your business belongs to or where you’re located, is the information consistency you provide online. If your physical address, contact information such as phone numbers and emails, and even your full company name are not consistently presented across the web, you risk showing up much lower on the results page – if you make it to the first one at all.

It’s a reflection of the service you provide. One customer might end up at the wrong address, the other might waste their time calling an unrelated phone number. Not to mention diminishing the reputability of your business with inconsistency, because consistent information is used to verify the trustworthiness of your business. All in all, it doesn’t look good when you scatter different bits of information across the web, sending many customers as well as search engine crawlers on a wild goose chase.

Data-based SEO strategies

What Can Impact Your Local SEO Rankings

General rules, time-tested approaches, and a wide array of approved tactics are always welcome when a business tries to rank higher to get in front of a larger audience. This especially makes sense for companies that work in a densely-populated community, both in terms of potential customers and existing competitors. As an example, New York has 2.1 million small businesses, employing over half of their population, and taking up 99.8% of the entire NY business ecosystem. Standing out in that particular crowd takes so much more than standard industry tips and tricks.

In order to achieve optimal results, strategies for successful SEO in New York and similarly crowded business environments need to be tailor-made to every particular business in question. Your local SEO strategy needs to go beyond simple vanity metrics (as handy as they may be for certain aspects of your strategy), as well as general industry-relevant keywords. To make sure you are ranked better than all those thousands of competitors in your local ecosystem, make sure to truly abandon cookie-cutter solutions and carve a brand-unique approach to gain a significant advantage.

Displayed testimonials

The digital world is so much more than merely a massive shopping cart we’ll gladly forget about as soon as the products we ordered are delivered. We have started using the digital in very similar ways to our real, offline world, and it drastically impacts our decision-making process. While we used to talk to our friends to find out their favorite brand of yoghurt, we now rely on an endless database available online to make even the simplest buying decisions. The store with the best reviews that’s closest to us will be the most likely winner. Unless you’re willing to go all the way to Greece from your home in Singapore to try genuine Greek yoghurt.

In essence, search engines serve as a database of word-of-mouth for your future customers. You need to use your website, as well as all available and relevant platforms to showcase your current customers’ impressions in order to attract more people to your store, gain traction online as well as offline, and build your brand’s reputation.

Game-changing local content

It’s no news that content is one of the most influential factors in terms of your SEO game. Brands, local or not, that do not invest heavily in content creation and dissemination often fail to maximize their SEO potential, and their bottom line suffers the consequences. If you want your customers to find you with greater ease, then you need to give them a multitude of valuable reasons to look for you, or for search engines to place you high in search results.

For local brands, that means localizing their content, as well. If you’re running a local pastry shop, you need to make sure that the locals know about you by providing locally relevant pieces of content filled with locally relevant keywords and links. That means anything from coverage of local events relevant for your niche, incentivizing customers to post images of consuming your products around town (local hashtags help, too), all the way to posting local recipes, organizing local cook-offs, you name it. Be creative with how you localize your content, and search engines will love you for it.

Conclusion

Local SEO deserves much more of your attention, especially if you run a business in a competitive local market. Use these tips to your advantage and make sure that your brand stands out in the online and offline worlds alike.

About the Author:

Keith Coppersmith is a business and marketing expert who has experienced both the rise and fall of many businesses. As a regular contributor at BizzmarkBlog, he enjoys writing and providing insight of the marketing industry based on both practice and theory.