Thursday, February 23, 2017

The MECLABS Conversion Heuristic Applied: How a single-product ecommerce site can optimize its sales with a tested methodology

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After testing more than 10,000 sales paths over the past 20 years, MarketingExperiments and our parent company, MECLABS, have developed a thinking tool anyone can use for optimization.

We call it the Conversion Sequence Heuristic.

While it looks complicated, it’s simply a way of looking at a sales path and going through elements of the customer’s experience of a particular page or process.

In this Quick Win Clinic, Flint McGlaughlin, our CEO and managing director, walks through Axess Wallets’ home page and applies the Conversion Heuristic to show how easy it is to think about conversion in a sales path using the tool.

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How to design the perfect infographic

Thanks largely due to the fact that more information is at our fingertips now than at any point in human history, we’ve entered into an age where both of the following statements are true: People are consuming more content online than ever before; Fewer and fewer people are actually willing to spend time reading that content.

According to a study reported on by Slate, roughly 38% of people who click on an article or blog post online don’t actually make it past the headline. Of those that remain, a further 5% only ever read the first paragraph—if they don’t have to scroll, that is. If they do have to scroll, they don’t even make it that far.

A study from The Washington Post confirms this—only 41% of people in the United States said that they invested the time in consuming any in-depth content in the last week, even if that content was on a subject they were actively interested in pursuing.

As marketers, this presents something of a challenge to say the least. Quality content is more important than ever, as marketers all over the Web strive to “one up” each other in terms of the value they’re able to provide; both in terms of what users are looking for and to satisfy the needs of entities like Google.

So how do you check off both of these boxes at the same time, so to speak? Thankfully, the solution is simple—you lean heavily on the principles of visual communication and data visualization to repackage your marketing message in the form of stunning presentations and infographics, the likes of which people can’t seem to get enough of.

The most important thing to keep in mind in that regard, however, is that the chasm between an infographic and a quality, successful infographic is a deep one indeed. It you truly want to design the perfect Infographic that will capture the attention of your target audience, you’ll need to keep a few key things in mind.

Perfect infographics start with a thesis

The number one thing to understand about designing successful infographics is that it cannot just be “a bunch of stats or other figures arranged visually on a page.” Infographics, like any other marketing collateral, are used best when they’re telling a story.

In this particular case, that story just happens to be told primarily with figures and data as opposed to good, old-fashioned text.

Because of this, before you even get into the visual element of your Infographics you’ll need to settle on a thesis statement: What exactly are you trying to say? What impression do you want the reader to take away when they finally get to the end?

The answer to this question will dictate every choice you make moving forward, so it’s an important one to settle on as quickly as possible.

Structuring your infographic

Once you’ve settled on the story you’re trying to tell, the next thing to do is to nail down your structure.

Think of it a bit like telling a joke: First you introduce the setup, meaning the context that people need to understand what is to come; then, you expand on that setup and offer the hook (the thing that keeps people interested); finally, you hit them with the punch line (the surprise at the end of the joke that generates the laugh).

If you don’t have these core elements, or if they’re not in the appropriate order, your joke (or in this case, your infographic) won’t be nearly as successful as you need.

In terms of infographics, the ideal structure is as follows:

  • Introduce your topic, either by way of a short block of text or by a bold opening fact or figure.
  • Introduce a complication. This is a problem that you’re offering a solution to, or an idea that you’re going to be expanding on.
  • Expand on that complication. Your reader should learn why this topic is important and should slowly be able to get an idea of what you’re trying to say about it.
  • Finally, the conclusion. This is the period on the end of your sentence that sums up what someone has learned, what they can do with this information and where they can find more if they so choose.

All of the data that you collect for your infographic should be neatly placed within this framework, allowing you to see exactly where a particular point needs to go for maximum effect.

If something doesn’t fall in line with these core areas, it probably has no business being on your infographic at all.

Don’t forget about design

Just because you can make an infographic without a graphic design degree, doesn’t mean you can throw out all the tried-but-true rules of visual communication.

The data you arrange should naturally flow from top to bottom. These elements should be presented in a way that guides the reader from one point to the next, often without them even realizing you’re in control in the first place.

Each data point should build and expand on the one that came before it, eventually leading the reader directly to the beautiful climax (or punch line) that they were after in the first place.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

3 ‘Spammy’ Website Tricks that Can Double Your Conversions

The marketing industry leads the way.

Sure, other industries (eventually) catch on to sophisticated marketing techniques.

But more often than not, it’s the digital marketing echo chamber that paves the way for strategies and tactics before they hit mainstream.

For instance.

Consumers today ignore ads. They’re banner blind and doubling-down on ad blocking. As a result, we (ingenious) marketers have devised a plethora of new ways to interrupt, call attention, and generally annoy the S- out of people in order to get them to pay attention to what we’re pitching.

Here’s the thing though.

Some people might complain. They might not love it. But at the end of the day, they get results. And that’s what we get paid to deliver.

So whether we like it or not, here are three ‘spammy’ website tricks that can skyrocket your conversions.

Spammy Tactic #1. Countdown Timers

There were two groups of people.

Each received a cookie jar full of cookies. But the first received 10, while the second only received two.

Everything else was the same. Same jar. Same cookies.

But the group that only received two rated theirs higher than the one who received 10.

In other words, the limited supply introduced scarcity: the sixth of Cialdini’s original principles.

When there’s no fear of missing out (on a great deal, or on a limited supply), we don’t act. There’s no urgency that propels us through the epic battle that is inertia.

That’s why: Black Friday. And every other “limited-time only” sale (that happens at least once a month).

The savviest marketers understand this and even sell online accordingly. For example, go try to buy one of Ramit’s ‘flagship’ programs. You can’t. Enrollment is limited to certain periods of the year, with finite beginning and ending periods, so you can’t just hem and haw forever. (That’s how Work the System finally got me, too.)

It’s available. Or it’s not. So you better take action if you’re even remotely interested.

The best tactical example of that today is the countdown timer. You see that little number clicking down and your lizard brain goes into a panic. FOMO strikes. You gotta take action now before it’s too late.

For example, Thrive’s Ultimatum WordPress plugin helps you instantly add countdown timers to a site for specific campaigns, recurring events, and even ‘evergreen’ campaigns that don’t expire (more on that in the next section below).

Next your goal is to display that countdown timer to any-and-all appropriate site visitors. That could be in the form of a simple ribbon across the top or bottom of your screen. Or the classic sidebar-widget area.

thrive-choose-a-design

OR, if you’re especially clever, a little audible notification in the lower right-hand corner of your screen.

Drift is just one of many tools that allows you to display custom messages based on a number of segmenting criteria. For example, you can display a notification depending on how long someone’s been on your website. The number of times they’ve visited. Specific pages they have (or haven’t) touched. And even the percentage of the page they’ve scrolled down.

drift-set-criteriaImage Source

Wanna see this in action?

Go read a blog post on Neil’s site and you’ll see this:

neil-patel-spammy-website

No, not the left-hand corner slide out.

Not the frowny-face Neil in-line with the content.

Not the pajama-clad Neil in the sidebar either.

But that little tiny icon in the lower right-hand side of your screen. Sure it’s small. But apparently, size doesn’t matter (or so I’m told).

Because this little freaking thing will DING at you. A little audible noise to get your attention to click.

And when you do, you’ll see this:

neil-patel-webinar-modal-ad

A little pop-up notification with a countdown timer. You’ve ignored all the other CTA’s so far. But THIS one has got your attention. Thanks, in large part, to that expiring offer that’s about to go away.

Better click on it…

neil-patel-webinar-countdown-modal

And look at that! WOW – what good fortune! This webinar just so happens to be starting in the next ~ten minutes! I better signup, hit the restroom, and come back in time.

Brilliant timing on my part? Or is there something else at play…?

Spammy Tactic #2. Autopilot Webinars

Webinars are one of the best ways to generate B2B leads and sales.

Most marketers use them because they help decision makers make, well, decisions.

They give you the chance to connect directly with people and slowly-but-steadily flex your persuasion muscles at mass (#webinarswolfie).

But here’s the thing. The dirty little secret that no webinar-promotin’, info-peddling peeps tell you.

You’re gonna need MASSIVE reach for these suckers to make a dent. Here’s a hypothetical (but not too far off) example that illustrates this point:

webinar-performance-spreadsheet

First you gotta get people to see the message. Then register. Then actually attend (which often hovers around the depressingly sub 30% range). Then opt-in for a sales opportunity.

Your numbers drop off precipitously at each step of the way, until you’re only left with the tiny few who actually, possibly, might just buy something from you.

The trick is to then minimize any friction causing drop-off’s to maximize the amount of people who make it to each ‘next step’. (How’s that for some consultant-speak?)

One of the biggest drop-off points? Getting people to attend actually attend the webinar (from those who’ve registered). Back in the old days (so like a year or two ago in internet time), you promoted a webinar that was a week or two out and maybe delivered a few follow up reminder emails to make sure people didn’t forget about it.

But they did. And do.

The solution?

Give people instant gratification. Get them, right at the moment of signing up, to get the ‘payoff’ of being able to watch the information while they’re red hot.

Here’s how it works.

At 9:40am on January 26th, I visited the following website and landing page:

traffic-funnels-automated-webinar

It’s no quinky dink that this webinar is starting a whole twenty minutes later at 10am on the same day.

Because if you visited the site today, you’d see pretty much the same exact thing. A new webinar starting the next hour, on the hour.

Let’s go back to Neil. His new homepage layout expertly incorporates this ‘exploding’ webinar offer several times throughout. Even in the supporting copy of his site.

start-learning-marketing-neil-patel-spam

Except his start every few minutes or so. That way, no matter when you visit, there’s a brand-new offer to convert. (Now! Before it’s too late!)

WebinarJam is one example that will let you run ‘live’ webinars on autopilot, so they can do all their customer-nurturing work at scale (without you manually executing).

The aforementioned Thrive Ultimatum has an ‘evergreen’ campaign option that lets you always-offer a campaign to new visitors.

thrive-campaign-settings

But they also have a ‘lockdown’ feature that will restrict their access once-and-for-all (if you’re worried about it being too spammy). So even if they change devices, their own personal timer won’t reset.

Now we’ve got the lead-generating machine in place. The only thing left is to get people into it. Here’s how.

Spammy Tactic #3. Overlays

‘Reach’ and ‘Frequency’ are Advertising 101 concepts that’ve been around since the Golden Days of marketing.

Reach is the total number of unique people you reach. Frequency is the number of times you reach the same person.

Distributing your brand-spanking-new automated webinar offer through Twitter, Facebook, and Email might help your reach. But the majority of people simply won’t get the message (see: open rates and social half lives).

That’s where frequency comes in.

You need to show the same message, in a number of different ways, to the same people. Over and over.

If it takes 6-8 ‘touches’ to generate a sale, generating leads ain’t no different. Repetition is the best way to get more people into the top of your funnel.

Cue: The ‘Welcome Mat’, the screen takeover, the lightbox pop-up, or the ‘overlay’. Different names, but all the same thing at the end of the day with a single objection: putting a brick wall between a website visitor and their intended destination (so you can deliver a fast offer CTA).

These admittedly annoying tactics are pervasive… ‘cause they work!

AppSumo saw 3X the results when they originally used the Welcome Mat.

appsumo-welcome-mat

And their SumoMe customer data shows that the Welcome Mat reigns supreme in the race of let’s-see-how-irritating-we-can-be lead gen tactics.

sumome-averages-welcome-mat-resultsImage Source

Welcome Mats are (generally) a temporary thing. They display for certain visitors but there’s a way to exit, click out, or bypass. But they don’t have to be.

Once again, Neil’s homepage features a ‘static’ welcome mat section that focuses a new visitor’s attention directly to an offer, complete with countdown timer and auto-play video. (Damn! How’d I forget to add that one to this list?!)

neil-patel-training-coutndown-spam

Here’s some more depressing news for you marketing purists out there.

“Websites with pop-ups consistently outperform websites with no pop-ups”, according to Crazy Egg.

By how much exactly? 2100% (!) via OptinMonster.

Compare that to the puny 0.4% typically seen from static sidebar CTA’s and you can see why ‘annoying’ is catching on.

Meanwhile, the best lightbox pop-ups can easily convert over 7%.

But how?

How do you create a best-in-class pop up that generates a unicorn-esque conversion rate?

By combining all of the things we’ve talked about so far.

neil-patel-webinar-modal-countdown-spam

Each of these ‘spammy’ website tricks, no matter how effective, are still just individual tactics at the end of the day.

The real ‘trick’ is to pull them all together to form one cohesive, holistic experience for the customer. A lightbox pop-up with an awesome offer (automated webinar) that’s expiring soon (countdown timer to create urgency) will always outperform another generic, scarcity-deficient “Get our Free Newsletter” offer.

“I’ve found the winning formula is a combination of a few tactics. My overall opt in rate is 5.5% with my ebook, welcome mat & list builder. I’m always testing to improve that,” according to Sujan Patel.

Conclusion

A full decade before ‘inbound marketing’ became a thing, Permission Marketing was published.

The concept “recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.”

But here’s the thing.

When you read the book – you know, actually crack the cover and read all the lines in between – you’ll notice that we (unfortunately) have to interrupt people to kick off the whole permission process in the first place.

People gotta see an ad. Or click on a Tweet. To get the ball rolling.

There’s no other way! We have no other choice. So almost any form of marketing promotion will be spammy at the end of the day.

What matters is how far you’re willing to push the envelope. And how you use it.

About the Author: Brad Smith is a marketing writer, agency partner, and creator of Copy Weekly, a free weekly copywriting newsletter for marketers & founders.

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4 simple steps for perfect web navigation

From checking movie times, to reading a Photoshop tip, to reviewing the daily news, we can find almost any information we are looking for on the Internet. One part of a website that is especially important in helping us find what we are looking for is its navigation. 

When we engage with a website we use its navigation to help us find what we are looking for. Unfortunately, many websites have navigation that wasn’t particularly well planned. Sure it may work well enough to get to the information we are looking for, but often, it is only after some confusion—and utilizing that classic method of searching the web known as trial and error—that we able to do so. 

If the navigation of a website is poorly organized, has confusing wording or has too many links, it reduces our ability to use it to find what we are looking for in a quick and easy manner. Obvious and intuitive navigation is one of the key building blocks of a great website.These practices listed below will help you create more effective navigation as part of your website.

1. Make it clear

When a website visitor doesn’t know what to expect when clicking a link, or how to easily find what they are looking for, confusion results. Reduce confusion by designing your website’s navigation to be easy for visitors to understand.

Abercrombie & Fitch’s website provides an example of this concept. Their navigation is easy to understand from the first moment a visitor arrives at their website.

The use of clear labels, that are obvious at a glance, lets visitors know what your company does. From the start, they will know they are at the right place and how to get to where they want to be. Thoughtfully consider the terminology you use for the navigation of your website, making it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for.

Avoid creating navigation around the format of content, for instance, rather than having a videos page, create a ‘how to’ section with content separated by topic. Make it easy for users to find what they are looking for by describing content in the terms they will use. Visitors to your website probably will not be looking for a videos section, but they may be looking for tips on how to set up your product or how to use certain features.

Make it clear for visitors which items are navigation items. Subtlety will not help your website visitors get to where they want to be. For instance, even though it may look great to you, making links a slightly darker shade of gray than website text does not help create a great user experience. Don’t make visitors work to use your site.

2. Stay consistent

I am sure you have been to websites where it looks like part of their navigation was tacked on as an afterthought or it just doesn’t belong. This lack of consistency works to reduce trust on the part of site visitors, additionally, it reduces the quality of the user experience. If something just looks tacked on to you, it will most likely look the same or worse to your customers.

The nice, clean navigation of Bouguessa’s website is consistent and helps improve visitors’ experiences while on their site.

Another issue that tends to reduce the quality of navigation, is having items on menus that aren’t links, especially when they appear to be. When visitors click on menu items that don’t link it increases the level of confusion and consequently, the level of frustration. Use visual design to show which items are links and which are not, for instance, if you have headers as part of a mega menu, use a different font style, color or whitespace to indicate they are headers and not links.

Secondary navigation should also be designed consistently across your website. Apply the same focus and consideration to secondary navigation that you do to primary navigation. Regardless of where visitors are headed on your site, you want to provide a great experience.

If you have pages that are of primary importance that you want to be easier to access, create a feature block on your homepage or section landing page for it. Website visitors pay attention to these blocks, meanwhile, trying to highlight items on navigation menus can often disrupt the menu.

3. Keep it concise

Avoid creating menus with too many items. It is best if you can limit the number of items included as part of your menu to seven. Having fewer items to choose from is better for your website’s visitors. It creates less mental strain on the part of your visitors as they are making decisions and increases the chances that they will move forward.

Research has shown that the human brain uses chunking as a method to improve recall. By breaking data up into relevant groups or chunks, it allows us to understand and remember it better. This is an especially effective technique for larger websites that need more than seven menu items. By breaking menu items up into groups you will be helping your website visitors.

Remember that each time you remove an item from your menu or an element from your page; you are making everything else a little more visually prominent. When you remove something, you make other items more likely to be seen and clicked on. Carefully evaluate what you really need as part of your website and be willing to remove the items you don’t need to streamline and improve the experience.

The Olson Kundig website provides a great example of a website with a streamlined navigation experience.

Additionally, you will want to consider the order you use within your navigation. Just like in other areas of life, items at the beginning or end will stand out to users. User attention and retention are at their highest at the beginning or end of a list. This is the result of our basic psychology. As humans, we are wired to remember items at the beginning (primacy) or at the end (recency).

Leverage this phenomenon and put important items at the beginning or end of your menu. By putting items that are important to your customers in these areas you make it easier for visitors to use your website. If you are not sure which items are most important to your customers, take a look at your analytics and see which pages of your website get the most traffic.

4. Use a flat architecture

Great navigation begins with a well thought out information architecture (IA).As you consider the organization of your website you will want to keep the architecture as flat as possible. Allow your website visitors to reach any page within one or two clicks.

When you have fewer levels it is quicker, easier and less confusing for your customers to get to where they want to be. Limit the number of levels to help make navigating simple for your visitors.

To help organize your site, separate pages into groups and instead of nesting groups within groups within groups, look to create the flattest organization possible. Consolidate content where appropriate, perhaps even considering grouping the pages differently than you currently are doing to enable this, but make sure that your groupings are consistent with the how your customers view your products. Odd groupings that don’t make sense to users will not help you, even if they help flatten your website hierarchy.

Use visual design to help users understand the hierarchy when they are looking at your menu. Using font styles, sizes, colors, and whitespace can help visitors understand navigation levels. Clearly differentiate secondary navigation in a way that separates it from primary navigation in a harmonious way.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How Site Search is Killing Your Conversion Rate (And How to Fix It)

For many websites, an internal site search engine is a must-have. However, oftentimes it’s looked at as more of an afterthought than a true conversion optimization tool – and that in itself could be killing your conversion rate. So what should you know about improving your site search and how do you put these tips into practice? Let’s take a closer look.

Site Searchers are 200%+ More Likely to Convert

According to research from WebLinc, on-site searchers are 216% more likely to convert than regular users. And what’s more, Screen Pages shared the results of 21 of their clients, which showed that (with the exception of one case) the average revenue that came from site search was significantly higher than regular users.

screenpagesUsers who performed an on-site search spent more than regular users

But even with these kinds of numbers pointing to the sheer conversion potential from site search, only 15% of companies have resources dedicated to optimizing it. And only 7% of those companies are actually learning from internal site search data and leveraging it in other areas.

someone-responsible-for-site-search-bar-graph

42% flat out admit that no one is responsible for site search, and another 42% have it added to their list of responsibilities. But let’s be honest, when was the last time you even looked at your site search? For many marketers and business owners – it’s just there.

And if customers aren’t getting the kinds of results they expect from your site search (or worse, getting links to your competitor’s sites), they’ll simply go elsewhere.

That’s why it’s vital to start paying attention to your internal search engine – and making changes that can lead to improved results for everyone. Here’s how to do it:

Targeting the “Spearfishers”

According to Forrester Research, which did an in-depth report on the importance of site search for retail, businesses should focus on “spearfishers” – those users who come to a site searching for a specific product. Forrester Research found that 43% of visitors to a site go immediately to a search boxes, and searchers are 2-3 times more likely to convert.

That means we need to make it push-button simple for them to do a search, right away. You can thank sites like Amazon and Google for making a prominent search box the first and foremost (and sometimes only) thing users see. But we also need robust, relevant results after the search is conducted.

Search with Autocomplete

swarovski-site-searchSwarovski’s site search offers suggestions based on a quick type

Going to the Swarovski.com website without a specific product in mind will instantly lead the user to suggestions. I typed in “blue” and got 10 product suggestions right away. Kohl’s website goes even further to recommend (and show) specific products based on a basic search before the user ever hits enter:

kohls-site-searchKohls.com showing top products based on a basic user search

In suggesting specific products (or even showing top results), you’re guiding the user along the path you want them to take before they even make a conscious decision to continue. Essentially, you’re planting product suggestion seeds and allowing them to branch out from there – putting your user one step closer to a conversion.

Allow Users to Filter the Results

There’s perhaps nothing more frustrating to a user than getting a million search results and having to sift through the clutter. U.K. site DIY.com helps their users filter results search pages by all kinds of sorting options, from price to availability and more – letting them narrow down precisely what they want and when they want it by.

diy-search-pageDIY.com search results pages let users filter results according to their needs

Create Dedicated Landing Pages

Based on the data you’re collecting from your site search engine, you may even want to elevate certain products to get more exposure, or demote others that may not be as popular. For those that are getting the bulk of the hits, consider creating a dedicated landing page for that product to help it stand out from among a sea of similar items.

L.L. Bean has custom landing pages for many of its products which include not just the product details, but the best weather/activity levels, additional features and even the technology behind the item:

ll-bean-landing-pageA custom landing page for a down jacket – with all the details about the product and the technology behind it

Offer Relevant Recommendations

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, products go out of stock or are no longer made. What happens when a user ends up on those pages? With most site searches, planting them firmly on a “product not available” page is a sure path to site abandonment. Instead, take a page out of Amazon’s book by offering related suggestions and recommendations.

Bonus points if you can bundle products in a ‘Frequently Bought Together” option.

Improved Mobile Search

And last, but certainly not least, consider your mobile users as well. Typing on a mobile device can be cumbersome at best, and misspellings often lead users to “Not Found” pages even if the product is available. Test out your site search in a variety of devices for ease of use and fast loading. No mobile user is going to wait forever to see 1,000+ products load up on a results page.

Versatile Site Search Platforms

So now that you know what users truly expect from a high performing site search, how do you implement it? There are plenty of free site search engines available – but here is one area where you definitely don’t want to skimp on features. I took a closer look at some of the more promising site search platforms available and here are a few that are sure to make implementing a better site search engine easier than you might imagine:

Swiftype

swiftype-homepage-2017

Swiftype integrates into many popular platforms including WordPress, Zendesk, Magento and Shopify. With intelligent sorting, filters, spell check and autocomplete, it’s a solid search engine with fast indexing and fantastic relevance. Pricing starts at $299/month with a trial available if you’d like to test the waters.

SearchNode

searchnode-homepage-2017

SearchNode is made for e-commerce sites and integrates with common shopping cart platforms such as OSCommerce, Woo Commerce, OpenCart and many more. It can be up and running in as little as five minutes with a JS code snippet. One of the main benefits that sets SearchNode apart from its competitors is its ability to allow users to conduct a site search in 32 different languages.

SearchSpring

searchspring-homepage-2017

SearchSprint is an enterprise-grade site search platform that combines search and merchandising tools into one package. It also includes common features like auto-complete, product recommendations and even product quizzes/product finders to let users find the right product for their needs by answering a few simple questions.

Conclusion

As you can see, site search is definitely not something you’ll want to overlook when it comes to new ideas to improve your conversion rate. By implementing a few simple steps to give users more control over their results, you’ll likely start to see conversions and revenue soar as customers find precisely what they need quickly, easily and affordably.

Do you use site search extensively on your site? Do your results with it match those of the research? What do you believe makes a good site search engine? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

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