Wednesday, August 31, 2016

5 Strategies to Entice Consumers to Binge-Watch Your Product Videos

Continue watching.

These two words are infamous in the world of video streaming. When consumers are hooked, they want more to watch.

“Content marketers should consider the binging trend a sort of case study. All of the elements that make us binge are lessons,” says Kari Matthews, a content writer for technology companies.

“We can do what these [television] shows do, in our own way, in our own industries, to make the most of our content and build our brands.”

Work with your team to engage customers with binge-worthy product videos. Get them excited about your brand and ecommerce services.

Try these five strategies below to entice your consumers.

1. Cater to Diverse Audiences

Normally, experts suggest creating content to serve a select group of people. But when it comes to product videos, you may want to take a different approach.

You want your content to be shareable. So, it must serve several different audiences. And that includes people who will never purchase your product.

“Remember that not everybody who buys, buys today, not everybody who consumes content shares it, and not everybody who shares content buys,” states Scott Allan, chief marketing officer at AddThis.

“Instead of focusing on capturing leads, create memorable content that customers will draw on when they or their friends are ready to make a purchase.”

So, produce content that people can share with their family and friends. Focus on moments that everyone can relate to, like laughing with friends, hosting a summer barbeque, or attending a college football game.

Below is the noteworthy Dollar Shave Club product video. Not everyone who shared this content bought the shavers, but it did go viral and reached their target audience.

If your company wants avoid vulgar language, think of your product video like a PG-rated film. For instance, most Disney movies are meant for kids to enjoy, but they have enough common themes to engage the parent.

Don’t be afraid to serve more people with your videos. The goal is to spread the word.

2. Develop A Backstory

For product videos to gain your audience’s attention, the content must discuss more than the product. Yes, content must go beyond talking about your company.

In other words: Tell a story that emotionally attaches people. It’s all about showing your audience a new perspective. And giving them a different insight that humanizes your brand.

Studies show that “Americans alone consume over 100,000 digital words every single day, but 92% say they want brands to tell stories amongst all those words.”

The same holds true in the world of video. A written product description isn’t good enough. And a video regurgitating similar information is just awful.

According to For Dummies, a “backstory refers to everything that occurred in your story’s past. A character’s backstory may include family background, job history, psychological condition, and any memories you create for that person from childhood on.”

Instead, bring your videos to life with characters and a plot. Give the actors names and set up an environment where the product is being used, not displayed.

That’s what Amazon did when they introduced its Echo. Rather than giving consumers a run down of the product features, the eCommerce giant showcased the product’s value in a simulated setting.

Get creative. Show, don’t just tell consumers about your products.

3. Create Episodic Content

According to Netflix, the network’s 83 million members watch more than 125 million hours of TV shows and movies every day. That’s a lot of time in front of a screen.

But what keeps viewers coming back for more?

One reason is access to uninterrupted content. Consumers don’t need to worry about commercials. Advertisement don’t get in the way of their favorite shows. Therefore, they can focus on viewing what they love the most.

Another reason is the addicting show plots. A great television show contains episodes that leave the audience wanting more. People are constantly wanting to know what’s going to happen next.

Will the main character finally locate the killer? Or will the antagonist prevail and destroy his enemies?

are-you-still-watching-parks-and-recImage Source

Episodic content has people on the edge of their seats. And that’s how your team should set up product videos.

Shoot multiple videos with cliffhangers. Get consumers intrigued about your brand culture and latest product benefits.

“Episodic content enhances the credibility of your brand as people become more and more familiar with you and what you are about. This builds trust and value with your target audience,” says Kerri Ponder, a writer at Crowd Content.

One product video is fine. But a bunch can get customers hooked on your ecommerce brand.

4. Notify Customers of Updates

Your customers are busy. They have to manage both their work and home schedules.

So, sometimes certain things get forgotten. And that’s perfectly fine.

That’s where are your team steps in. Remind your customers of your new product videos.

There’s an old marketing adage: The Rule of Seven. It says that a “prospect needs to see or hear your marketing message at least seven times before they take action and buy from you.”

Create a special website pop-up telling them about new videos. Keep customers informed by sending notification emails leading up to the launch.

Your business already sends updates about new terms and conditions. Mimic the technique for product videos.


“Getting people excited about content that is perhaps not yet fully done whets their appetite and keeps them talking about you and your brand, days ahead of when your campaign or content actually is released,” writes Shanna Cook, senior social media manager at Nokia.

Like any marketing tactic, don’t over do it. Reminders can become nuisances if they are sent every single day. Take a look at your internal data and set times best suited for your target audience.

Ask customers to sign up for your email list for product video announcements. There’s power in notifications.

5. Offer an Instant Reward

Everyone enjoys special gifts for their efforts. Reward customers for taking the time to watch or share your video.

Customers want to be delighted. They desire instant rewards that help them today, not tomorrow. So, stay away from mail-in rebates or points that can’t be redeemed today.

For example, at the end of a product video, offer a 10% promo code. And think beyond discounts. Giveaway exclusive access to a webinar or a free ebook.

Christian Karasiewicz, a social media marketing professional, suggests the following:

“Develop a video to showcase your expertise or further educate your viewers, then include a YouTube card that leads your audience to related material. This can be a transcription, checklist, infographic, SlideShare or downloadable PDF…”

YouTube cards are notifications that appear in your video. It’s a small rectangular box at the top right corner. It give your viewers a preview of the message. Check out the video below on how to add cards to YouTube videos.

Analyze which rewards consumers like the most. Then, start offering instant rewards for watching your product videos.

Binge-Worthy Content

On-demand video is attracting consumers to brands. The best ones hold the audience’s attention and keep them engaged.

Aim to create product videos for a diverse audience. Give your videos a backstory. And notify customers of new releases.

Produce captivating product videos. Let consumers continue watching.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.

from The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

from WordPress

5 freelance tests you’re probably failing

Marketing is a waste of time. At least that’s how it feels for many designers. They’re not getting enough traffic, clients or sales. In fact, everything about getting customers feels like a slog. It feels like they’re spinning their wheels.

Maybe you can relate.

Marketing is tough when you don’t feel you know what you’re doing. Which is exactly why so many designers are unsure about what to say, who to say it to or when. No wonder we make mistakes. Our mistakes lead to pain and disaster. But marketing mistakes aren’t where things go wrong. They go wrong right from the start. The errors are subtle, easy to miss and very expensive.

It’s horrible because the choices you make, what you do in the beginning, sets the tone for everything after. Clients are like kids. Train them well and your relationship grows. Set limits and expectations and they’ll trust you. Become a worthy leader and they’ll follow.

Clients are like kids. Train them well and your relationship grows. Set limits and expectations and they’ll trust you

I’m going to make an educated guess. You probably want more clients, right? Not only that, you want a consistent stream of new clients every month. When you’re done serving these clients, you want them to buy more. You want to make more money, doing less and less work.

You’d like to avoid predators, tire kickers and knowledge vampires. You prefer to work in a drama free zone that’s enjoyable, profitable and on your terms.

That about right?

If you want some or all of those benefits you’ll need avoid making certain mistakes. Mistakes like…

1. Using the four ears model

Have you ever offended someone accidentally? When you meant to give them a compliment, but it was received as an insult?

That’s the four ears model at work. The four ears model states that anything you communicate, whether it’s written down or read aloud sends four different messages, on four different layers:

  • Matter layer: truth, facts and data.
  • Self revealing layer: something you reveal about yourself.
  • Relationship layer: what you think about your relationship with the receiver.
  • Appeal layer: what you want, your call to action, request or offer.

So why is this a problem? People, professionals, designers, have a habit of sharing damaging information like this.

  • Matter: “Google, please hire me”
  • Self revealing: I’m fine with begging for what I want
  • Relationship: Google, I’m beneath you.
  • Appeal: Please give me a job.

The Google-Please-Hire-Me guy desperately wanted to work at Google. But Google rejected him, choosing to ignore his messages after things became needy. When designers struggle with negative feelings — neediness, insecurity, fear — it seeps into their conversations. Whatever your client sees in your marketing gets filtered through those negative feelings from that point on.

Speak intentionally. Think about the message you send in your marketing. Use the four ears model to create the kind of message you want to send.

  • Want to be seen as in-demand? Create messages that convey genuine scarcity.
  • Looking to create prestige? Share messages that establish hierarchy—awards, validation from other prestigious organizations, wins, etc.
  • Want to show clients you can help them win? Focus on messages that show your track record and your ability to win.
  • Want to be seen as confident? Even if you feel insecure? Create strict requirements showing that you’ll only accept the clients you feel are worthy of your time.

Whatever you do avoid using the four ears model accidentally.

2. Using services to sell services

What do designers, plumbers and attorneys have in common? They all offer free consultations.

The vast majority of service providers offer free quotes, free estimates, free consultations. And the vast majority of them are abused by freeloaders, tire kickers and knowledge vampires.

But this abuse isn’t the worst part. It’s the one-on-one selling. The more “free consultations” you offer, the less time you have to work on your business and the less time you have for yourself. A sharp increase in free consultations can easily double or triple your workload.

As you become more “successful” the free consultation model traps you in your business, taking more and more of your freedom.

Try this instead:

  • Create limits: Set limits on what you’re willing to give with free consultations. Are they only available to subscribers? People who’ve read or purchased an intro product? Make clients jump through (a few) hoops if you want all-stars.
  • Eliminate free: Which clients are serious about hiring you? Which ones are out to waste your time? Ask prospective clients to pay for their consultation and you’ll separate those who are serious from those who aren’t.
  • Create scarcity: If you absolutely have to offer free consultations, create scarcity. Decide how much time you’d like to spend ahead of time. If you can only offer five hours a month. Divide that by the amount of customers you’d like to serve (e.g. five consulting slots per month). Place everyone else on a waiting list, and cut ties with the no shows.

Then, create leverage pieces to market your business. Send people to these leverage pieces and you’ll attract a consistent stream of customers, all without being personally involved.

3. Fixing your solution

Let’s pretend you have a bicycle. You ride it everywhere, to work, to the store, to your friend’s house. You’re in great shape but it’s getting old. When it comes to traveling, a bicycle only goes so far. You want a car, so you buy a car.

It’s a solution to your bicycle problem, but it’s also another problem. Because that car needs oil changes, cleaning, maintenance. If something goes wrong you’ll have to take it into the shop. Your car was supposed to solve your big problem, and it did. But your problems have suddenly multiplied.

It’s no different with you and your clients. Your clients want your solution to their problem. But that solution creates more problems. If they buy a website they’ll need hosting, maintenance, email, advertising and on and on. Here’s what that means for you: Every solution creates more problems that need to be solved. It’s a never ending cycle but it’s your responsibility to take care of that for your client. Which most designers don’t do because they…

4. Asking for the sale

“I hate marketing. I’m scared, what if they yell at me? I’m a designer, not a salesperson.” It’s a common objection that points to something most designers don’t want to do.

I get it. Being vulnerable, putting yourself out there, facing rejection, it sucks. Especially if you’re not sure how you’ll be received. Add imposter syndrome to the list of struggles and asking for the sale becomes a terrifying ordeal.

Stop selling. Start asking questions about the problem. Questions allow you to control the flow and direction of a conversation. But it also helps you avoid overt rejection. Ask your clients about their plan to deal with the new problems they now have to face.

“You mentioned that your site has to be fast. How are you going to maintain that speed now that the redesign is done? You’ll need…”

If clients are clueless about this, they may feel embarrassed they didn’t have an answer. So it’s important to treat them with compassion. Listen to them, be genuine, be kind. Then, you explain the solution. Problems attract attention on their own.

Problems create stress and anxiety.

Solutions relieve stress and anxiety.

It’s a never ending cycle that shouldn’t stop. Not if you’re looking out for your client anyway.

5. Telling the whole story

Let’s say you’ve found your ideal client. You’ve done all the work you need to do to attract their attention. They’ll have questions, objections, concerns. Something’s kept them on the fence, but you’ve dealt with their problems. You know they’re more likely buy.

What’s the one thing that pushes your customers off the fence?

It’s hard to figure out isn’t it? It could be a bonus you’re offering, your blog post, an email you sent out, anything. You can ask, but most clients won’t tell you—even worse that one thing is different for every client. So how do you know which detail matters most? You don’t know.

Try this instead: You tell the whole story, giving clients everything they need to make an informed decision. You’re not sure what specific detail will get them to buy, so you give them everything. What’s worse, clients bounce around. They jump from point to point on your web page, scanning for details, anything that jumps out at them.

When you tell the whole story, you eliminate information asymmetry. You give clients all of the information they need to make their decision… for or against you. Fail to do that and they simply move on. When there isn’t enough information — pictures are missing on your about page, no uniqueness, poor presentation, clients run.

Tell the whole story and they’ll stay long enough to make their decision. But telling the whole story takes too long, right? Actually no. It’s easy to give clients what they want when you know what they’re looking for.

  • If they want to see who they’re working with, you add pictures.
  • Are they interested in credentials? Put them up.
  • Are they looking for experience in a specific industry? Share your portfolio samples.
  • Do they want pricing and budget details? Explain them.

Most clients won’t get these details. Their designers won’t ask them the right questions and they won’t get what they need.

Start your marketing off on the right foot, and you won’t waste your time. You’ll be prepared to attract the traffic, clients, and sales you need to grow your freelance business. Do it right and you won’t spin your wheels. Do it wrong, and you’ll struggle to get the results you need.

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from Webdesigner Depot

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

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-personaHow 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.

from The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog

from WordPress

[Infographic] How to Create an Effective Testing and Optimization Plan

Editor’s Note: This is the third step in last week’s post by Adam Lapp. Here’s Adam…

Paul Cheney
Managing Editor

If you’re entrenched in Conversion Rate Optimization, A/B testing, or have read articles before from MarketingExperiments or MECLABS, you’re probably been inundated with the concepts of friction, anxiety, and value proposition.

But how do you take those concepts and build an effective test plan so you can start increasing your bottom line?

To help you with that, our team of amazing designers (shout out to Lauren, Charlie, Leah, James, and Chelsea) designed this infographic for you. Hope you find it useful. 🙂

MECLABS Institute - Conversion Heuristic Infographic

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If you have any questions, please email me at I would love to hear from you.

You might also like:
The Web as a Living Laboratory
Test Plan: Build better marketing tests with the Metrics Pyramid
The Best Conversion Rate optimizers do NOT make changes to webpages…

from MarketingExperiments Blog: Research-driven optimization, testing, and marketing ideas

from WordPress

Fixing JPG’s “Photocopier Effect” problem

If you make a copy of a copy of a copy, the quality will deteriorate with each subsequent version in a phenomenon called “generation loss.” It’s easy to understand why this happens with actual copier machines. Scanning and printing are based on noisy sensors and physical paper and ink, and the resulting noise will tend to accumulate.

Digital images should not suffer generation loss. In theory, a file can be copied over and over again, and it should be bit-for-bit identical to the original. However, lossy image formats, such as JPG, can behave like photocopiers. If you simply copy a JPG file, nothing changes. But if you open a JPG file in an image editor and then save it, you will get a different JPG file. Some information can be lost in the process, and compression artifacts will start to accumulate. Do this often enough, and the image will eventually degrade beyond use.

The problems with resaving JPGs

In this video, you can see what happens to image quality when you re-encode a JPG image many times.

JPG offers quality settings that result in a trade-off between compression and visual quality.

But if you just save the JPG at a high enough quality setting, there won’t be a problem, right? Not exactly. Information that is lost when JPGs are re-saved cannot be magically recovered. So if you take a JPG image that was saved with a quality of 70, then re-saving it with a quality of 90 will, of course, not make the image look any better. In fact, it will even be worse. Every additional JPG encoding will introduce additional loss, even if it is done at a higher quality setting than the original JPG.

To understand this problem, we have to appreciate how this format uses several mechanisms to reduce the file size of an image, some of which don’t accumulate while others do.

The first is a color space transformation. Digital images are typically represented as pixels containing three separate 8-bit RGB (red, green, blue) values, which are statistically correlated in most images. For example, in a grayscale image, the three channels are completely identical. So if image compression is the goal, RGB is not the best representation. Instead, JPG uses the YCbCr color space. The Y channel is called luma (the intensity of the light, i.e. the grayscale image), the two other channels, Cb and Cr, are called chroma (the color components). Besides decorrelating the pixel information, this color transformation has another advantage: The human eye is more sensitive to luma than it is to chroma, so in lossy compression, you can get away with more loss in the chroma channels than in the luma channel.

The color space transformation itself already introduces some loss, due to rounding errors and limited precision. If you transform an image containing all 16.7 million different colors from RGB to YCbCr and back, and then count the number of different colors, you’ll end up with only about 4 million different colors; most of the loss is in the red and blue channels.

The YCbCr color transformation by itself does not result in generation loss. It’s a relatively small, one-time loss in color precision, but it does not accumulate. JPG also does “chroma subsampling”—sometimes called “4:2:0”—that results in only the Y channel being encoded at full resolution; while the Cb and Cr channel resolutions are cut in half both horizontally and vertically. As a result, chroma channels are reduced to one third of the total.

Chroma subsampling contributes to generation loss and can lead to color bleeding or color drifting. The chroma channels become increasingly blurry with each iteration of subsampling/upsampling. For example, this is what happens if you take an image and save it with a JPG quality of 100 with 4:2:0 chroma subsampling:

While color space transformation and chroma subsampling can lead to generation loss, it isn’t the cause of real loss in JPGs, though.

The core of JPG compression is quantization, which is a very simple yet effective mechanism. If you want to compress some sequence of numbers—it doesn’t actually matter whether these numbers represent pixel values, DCT coefficients or something else—the amount of space you need to encode them depends on how large the numbers are. For smaller numbers, less bits are needed.

To make those numbers smaller, you divide them by some number—called a quantization constant—in the encoder, and then multiply it again by that same number in the decoder. The larger this quantization constant, the smaller the encoded values will become. But the image becomes more lossy because we’re rounding everything to integers here (otherwise the numbers wouldn’t really become smaller).

This also explains why re-saving a JPG file at a higher quality setting than the original is always a bad idea: you’ll get a larger file with more loss than if you would re-save it at the exact same quality setting.

Issues with other image formats

You might expect that JPG suffers from generation loss because it is a 25-year-old file format, and newer formats are better. But that’s not so. Modern image formats, such as WebP (released in 2010) or BPG (released in 2014) suffer even more from generation loss than JPG. WebP and BPG use variable-sized, larger macroblocks, which is good for compression, but can result in an error in one part of the image more easily propagating to other parts of the image. This does not mean that WebP and BPG are bad image formats, you just have to be careful in how you use them.

FLIF is a lossless image format that outperforms other lossless image formats. FLIF also has a lossy encoder that modifies the image so that the lossless compression works better on it. It is much less sensitive to generation loss because the format itself is lossless. Generation loss commonly occurs when you significantly modify the image between generations, for example by performing a rotation or resizing.

The color space of FLIF is YCoCg, which does not introduce loss, and there is no chroma subsampling, nor transformation to DCT that introduces rounding errors. Instead of using quantization, FLIF rounds small values to zero and discards a number of bits. This works because the values it encodes are differences (between predicted pixel values and actual pixel values), not absolute values (of DCT coefficients).

Avoiding generation loss

There are only two ways to avoid generation loss:

  1. Keep the number of generations as close as possible to 1—the generation count has a larger impact on the image quality than the actual quality settings you use. (For example, if you save an image first with a JPG quality of 85 and then re-save it with a quality of 90, the result will actually be more lossy than if you saved it only once with a quality of 80.)
  2. Don’t use a lossy format—when editing images, it is best to store the original and intermediate images using lossless image formats like PNG, TIFF, FLIF, or native image editor formats like PSD or XCF. Only when you’re done should the final image be saved using a lossy format like JPG to reduce the file size. If you later change your mind and want to do some further editing, you can go back to the lossless originals and start from there. When this is not an option—say, you find an image on the internet that you want to edit and reuse, chances are the image is a JPG file, and the original cannot be found. In this case, one thing you can do is track down the image using Google Image Search, and try to find the earliest generation, i.e. the oldest and highest resolution version of the image.

Cloudinary can help with minimizing the photocopier effect. You can upload the highest resolution, highest quality original image you have available (lossless if possible), especially if you’re using automatic format selection. Cloudinary always keeps your original image as is (adding zero generation loss) and each derived image is encoded directly from the original (adding one generation, which is inevitable). With that approach, you can ensure that your image assets are futureproof. When in the future, higher image qualities and/or resolutions are required or desired, or new image formats become available, it will be an effortless change.


[— This is a sponsored post on behalf of Cloudinary –]

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Monday, August 29, 2016

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 are 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.


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 are 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.


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.


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.


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.


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, your 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.


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.


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.


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.



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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