Posts categorized ‘Optimization’

Homepage Optimization Tips from Percussion Software

Zmags is honored to feature today’s guest post by Alexis Karlin. Alexis is the Digital Marketing & Operations Manager for Percussion Software where she uses her digital marketing techniques to help drive high quality leads to the sales team. Percussion Software is a Zmags Partner.


I don’t need to tell you that your homepage is the most essential asset to your entire marketing strategy. But the truth is, sometimes marketers forget. Why?

We are busy, right?! Well, it’s time to buck up, take the bull by the horns and learn some tips on how to optimize your homepage. This will help you grow your search engine rankings, convert better targeted leads, and generate brand awareness.

Here are a few simple things you can do to help optimize your homepage:

Conduct Keyword Research

Using Google’s keyword research tool, spend some time researching the top 5 keywords you want people to use to find your homepage. Don’t select keywords that are competitively too high or too low. Select keywords that are right in the middle, to obtain a good amount of targeted traffic. From here, work on incorporating these keywords onto your homepage. Implement a few of these keywords into your meta-description, meta-tags, and Title tag. And finally, make sure that the most important keywords are referenced through the use of an H1 tag on the homepage.

Keyword Tool


Review Your Image Alt Tags

Not only is it important to spend time reviewing and improving the alt tags of all images on your homepage, but make sure those 5 keywords are used in your images’ alt text. Also try to keep the size of your images small so the load time doesn’t kill your homepage load time.

Incorporate Social Sharing

Lately social is becoming more and more important to search engine optimization. Make it possible for visitors to share your website by implementing Add This icons. Please note this should be in a visible location so the user doesn’t have to spend time searching for the icons.

Provide a Clear Call to Action

A clear call to action is just as important as conducting keyword research and implementing SEO throughout your website. There really isn’t a reason to spend all of your time doing keyword research and implementing SEO, if you don’t allow your visitors to easily convert to a lead or customer on your website.

Do you have any tips of what has worked for your homepage? If so, feel free to add them to the comments section below or message me on Twitter, @akarlin.

It’s All About “Plugging-In”

In today’s digital society people are used to installing upgrades, downloading the latest versions and even installing plug-ins. The whole concept of a plug-in is really genius when you think about it. There are more types of “software solutions” on the market then one could even fathom. The evolution of plug-ins has allowed for multiple types of solutions to “play nice” in the same space.

couch browsing

For those of you who don’t know what a plug-in is, the technical term is: a software component that adds a specific feature to an existing software application. In layman’s terms it allows for customization to take place between applications for better usability. So every time you have a Google search bar in your Firefox web browser or install a social media plug-in to your WordPress CMS you are participating in this level of customization.  It may sound a bit extreme, but plug-ins are the glue holding together a world with millions of applications and solutions. Without them, efficiency would be near impossible.

Zmags Plug-Ins

Most recently, Zmags joined the world of plug-ins for their Commerce solution. Instead of reinventing the wheel and building an application that would rival or complicate the integration process with existing eCommerce platforms we built plug-ins that alleviate the pain and allow the two tools to work together.

What do the plug-ins do?

Samuels 1The plug-ins were built for the Demandware and Magento eCommerce platforms. Now, users of either of these platforms have the ability to create and easily deploy shoppable, digital catalogs. The plug-ins remove the need for heavy integration with the existing eCommerce provider. These plug-ins help streamline the shopping initiative without having to manage several different experiences in different tools. Instead, everything can be done within the eCommerce site and easily deployed in a purely self-service model by the customer.

The best way to explain it is to see it in action. Samuel’s Jewelers implemented a shoppable, digital catalog with our plug-in and their Magento eCommerce platform. The product windows pull directly from their existing product database and no data feed or implementation is needed within the Zmag. Everything down to the previewing and digital catalog management is done within Magento.

Pro Plug-Ins

Without the ability to “plug-in” to other applications, this type of synergy wouldn’t be possible and the simplest of tasks would seem daunting. So the next time you are asked if you want to install that plug-in or optimize the software solution you are using- choose “yes” and know that most solutions have your best interest in mind when partnering with others to streamline the overall experience.


Flash is Out: Other Methods of Engagement and Conversion

Flash is quickly becoming the dreaded “F word” of the design and web world. Truth be told, flash is still out there and being used more than the buzz-word-using-techies would like to admit. However, its uses are drastically changing. With tablet and mobile devices gaining traction a design shift has resulted in cleaner, more streamlined, experiences- which tend to be less “flashy” (pun intended). These designs can now be built responsively and in HTML5 making them optimized for any device.

tablet table

So how can I move my brand away from flash and still be successful in customer engagement, you ask? Well, there are a lot of approaches to take. Here are three places to start that could end up increasing your conversion metrics:

Overall Design:

The look and feel of digital deliverables has been shifting over the past few years. With new programming languages and design styles, people are taking an entirely different approach when putting together digital campaigns. A few things to consider when kicking off a project:

  • HTML5: having websites, landing pages, or even digital catalogs in HTML5 conquers half of the battle from the start. This means that the experience will work seamlessly across all devices and channels.
  • Responsive Design: with the ability to design things as “responsive”, we can ensure that they are scaleable, regardless of the device size. This significantly decreases the development and QA time and allows for one design to speak to the masses.

Calls to Action (CTAs):

The best way to convey a message or request engagement from a user is through calls to action. These can be done in so many ways outside of flash that the customer’s engagement isn’t compromised. Here are a few tips:

  • Include in Creative: incorporate the CTA into the base of the creative deliverable. Putting it into the landscape of the design as part of the message (versus adding the animated enhancement above the creative in a layer of flash) ensures it’ll be viewed the same way by everyone- regardless of device.
  • The Look & Feel-  make sure that the CTA looks clickable or conveys a clear message without being wordy. By incorporating  it into the experience it’s going to be seen by everyone- just make sure they know what to do with it.


Digital experiences lend themselves to a deep dive of information. Lightboxes allow additional information, content and promotion to be incorporated within an experience that drives higher conversion. Some great lightbox content ideas:

  • Forms: whether it’s a lead generation form, email signup or special promotional signup, the ability to put the action item in a stand alone experience within an existing experience makes converting even easier.
  • Product/ Promotional Information: when beautiful product imagery doesn’t want to be littered with product details and promotional fine print, a lightbox can be ideal. It’s a great way for users to learn more about a product and even transact if the experience is eCommerce enabled.

The digital landscape is shifting in so many ways that the migration away from flash is just the tip of the iceberg, but an excellent start. Flash won’t be gone tomorrow but it’s not the creative leader of the future. HTML5 will only be improving and becoming easier to use in the next year, ensuring that experiences are optimized regardless of where a user is viewing them.

Digital Catalog & Content Performance: Top 5 Metrics (#3)

The Read-Through Rate is metric #3 in my series of Top 5 Metrics when evaluating digital catalog and content performance (click to check out #1, total visits, and #2, time spent per visit).

Read-through rate is key to understanding content consumption, as a sign of how engaging and relevant an entire publication is.  Defined as the percent of total visits that make it to the last page, the read-through rate tends to be inversely correlated with length.  The more pages there are, the less likely a visitor will make it all the way through.  Zmags publications with less than 20 pages typically have a 75%+ read-through rate, compared to the average of 50%.

read-through rate

When graphing the percent of visits that view each page, typically this will show a linear drop-off pattern, as in the example below.   This comes from an Apparel brand that allowed shoppers to sign up to receive the online catalog each month.  Over time, they developed a loyal customer base that was excited about the release each month – reflected in the higher read-through rates with each issue.


Joules Spring Lookbook

Online catalogs and magazines that use some kind of linked cover or table of contents page, however, will have more peaks and valleys in the line, corresponding with usage of the jumping-off points and internal links.  This usually helps boost their read-through rates, since shoppers and readers know what to expect from the beginning, and can determine their desired path through the content.

Joules’ Spring Lookbook is one great example of using links on the cover — which help increase navigability without cluttering the page or distracting from the product images.

How can you use this information to evaluate and make the most of your brand’s digital content and Zmags?

1. Put your most important content or products predicted to do the best at the beginning, since less than 100% of your audience will make it through in full.   Once the publication goes live, looking at the actual read-through pattern might suggest there are sections you want to move around next time.

2. Consider charging a premium for advertising on the most popular page spreads that you’ve identified in the data.

3. If page one drop-off or read-through rates are below average, dig deeper into pages with lower traffic and/or time spent to try and understand why.  Were there any  unclear calls-to-action, was the load time especially slow, etc. on these pages?

Top 10 Tips to Optimize Views on Your Online Content

Here are 10 tips and best practices for effectively deploying online content. Using some or all of these best practices will ensure that you reach the biggest potential audience and maximize results.

1. Use a dedicated e-mail to launch your Publication. Within the HTML e-mail, use a Call to Action (CTA) or Hero Image when promoting the Publication.

2. Ensure a clear CTA to the Publication is being used on homepage. It is recommended to add a CTA, preferably an image, on the home page and add a reference to the Publication in the Website header & footer.

3. Embed the Publication into your website. This will mask and give a more memorable URL as well as give additional branding and social sharing options. It is easy to use our API and embed the Publication into your site (all coding is done for you!) Then, promote the Publication’s location.

4. Ensure the Publication has been fully Search Engine Optimized. The more traffic and referrers the better the search engine rank.

5. Promote from other affiliate sites, website banners or PPC campaigns.

6. Social Posts: There are several Social Sharing options:

a. Use a Facebook App
b. Ensure the content has Social Sharing enabled
c. Social shares can be added to HTML when using a lightbox
d. Social sharing can be added to HTML pages when embedded or when embedded you can add the Wibiya toolbar
e. Talk about your content on Social Sites. URL shortners work well when tweeting content and articles/pages can be deeplinked to when talking about content on Facebook, Linkedin and other Social Sites
f. Drive traffic using Facebook Ads

7. Add a CTA to internal company e-mail signatures that links to the Publication.

8. Promote online content within Offline content using Publication URL or QR Code. Examples might include Print material, in-store promotion, offline campaigns.

9. Subscription. Provide an easy way for consumers to sign up and get the latest content via e-mail, alert, blog etc.

10. Blog & use an efficient Publishing Schedule. Try and focus on solving problems or entertaining. Those are the only two reasons people go to the Internet in the first place. Back up online presence with a consistent publishing and content delivery schedule.

ShopBAZAAR Provides a Contextual Shopping Experience

In 1867, Harper’s BAZAAR became America’s first fashion magazine. The magazine has now achieved another first with the launch of ShopBAZAAR, a breakthrough online store that allows the viewer to complete the purchase without leaving the magazine, closing the gap between seeing and buying. The readers, inspired by the items on display, can purchase in a fully integrated and seamless experience.

Harper's BAZAAR Online Interactive Catalog

Unlike conventional ecommerce stores where business managers decide what to sell, the editors of ShopBAZAAR handpick items for sale. This brings to life an authentic content-to-commerce preposition, allowing viewers to experience special one-of-a kind products inspired by editorial features and enjoy contextual shopping experience to the fullest. ShopBAZAAR showcases about 1000-1500 products at any given time, with global brands like Saks Fifth Avenue, Salvatore Ferragamo, Derek Lam, Hirshleifers, Les Nouvelles, and Donna Karan Cosmetics.

In March this year, Harper’s BAZAAR embarked on a brand transformation exercise that started with a redesign and culminated in ShopBAZAAR. The BAZAAR Book app provides the monthly mag-alogue and the contextual shopping experience to iPad users. also appears as a sub-domain of, accessible as a “Shopping” tab on the home page. A tab on the Harper’s BAZAAR Facebook page takes the users directly to the BAZAAR Book on The innovations are poised to continue, with Digimarc watermarks that allow readers to shop the pages using smart phones. Expect that in early 2013.

ShopBAZAAR was launched in collaboration with American Express. American Express card holders receive exclusive perks and benefits, including access to specially-produced pieces from key designers, special gifts and private shopping events.

Check out the full online shopping experience to get an idea of how BAZAAR has truly used digital publishing to their advantage.

Replicating the Actual Experience on Screen Through Digital Catalogs

The success of many enterprises depends on their ability to sell an experience rather than the actual product. This can be done through digital catalogs. In many cases, the actual product would be standard and undifferentiated among the many providers, and businesses would have to compete on providing their customers with a better experience.

Country Walker's online catalog by ZmagsDigital catalogs provide a good way to offer an interactive and engaging experience. Overlaying the dynamism provided by the catalog atop the functionality and the rich media of emerging digital touch points such as the tablets brings to life the content on offer, and is a marked improvement from the experience offered by other channels such as the print catalog, a bland PDF page or even the conventional browser based website.

Country Walkers, an adventure travel company offering itineraries around the world, is a case in point. The success of this company’s online marketing efforts depends on its ability to sell the “experiences” such as guided walking, safaris, biking tours and others rather than the basic tour products such as flights and hotel that anyone can match.

Country Walker’s online catalog, powered by Zmags Professional, engages adventure seekers who search for trips online with invigorating photography, videos, sights and sounds featuring activities, scenery, on-site interviews, cuisine and more, offering a near replica of the actual experience.

The underlying analytics provides rich insights on consumer behavior and trends, allowing the company to fine-tune their strategy. Analytics reveal that visitors to the catalog spend more time and have lower bounce rates compared to the company’s website.

Digital catalogs allow marketers to mesmerize the viewers by transforming a replica of the actual experience to the screen. This however is not the end of the marketer’s job. The marketer also has to ensure that the consumers have easy and seamless access to such content. The ZMags Professional powered Country Walkers catalog, for instance, is embedded into the brand page on Facebook, allowing the brand’s Facebook fans easy and convenient access without having to leave Facebook.

Overall, they’re doing a great job of creating a consistent experience for their customer through digital catalogs.

Enhancing the Brand Experience Through Online Magazines

Many brands understand the importance of digital presence and invest much effort in their online magazines. However, such efforts do not yield any perceptible results to either the bottom line or the brand image without a sizable readership base. To attract people to their digital magazine, merely replicating the print version of the magazine into a digital format and providing some hyperlinks are not enough.

Audi Denmark digital catalogToday’s customers are more demanding and seek to make informed decisions. They not only look out for an enhanced digital experience that would make their quest easy and seamless, but also require high level of access and in-depth information.

To provide a positive experience that would attract new consumers and make existing consumers come back, brands need to bring to life the imagery and editorial content of the digital magazine. One way to do so is by making the online magazine interactive and dialogue based. Most online buyers in today’s digital age consider the one-way monologues that characterize the traditional print magazines as drab and a drag on their efforts to seek relevant knowledge fast.

Seamless accessibility of the content across multiple touch points such as iPad and smart phones is a basic requirement. Brands need to go further and ensure easy accessibility and seamless integration with popular channels, especially social media channels such as Facebook, as well.

At the back end, the brand needs to power the online magazine with a powerful analytics engine that would allow them to monitor results and make tweaks based on what viewers prefer in real time.

Today’s consumers are fickle and spoilt for choice. If they do not get the experience they seek for, they waste no time in moving elsewhere. The challenge for the brand is to anticipate what consumers want and provide it upfront, or failing that make amends in double quick time before the consumer gets around to trying someone else.

Audi Denmark applied all of these to good effect using Zmags Professional. Audi launched a new refurbished magazine in November 2010 and embedded the same into Facebook, to provide consumers with an interactive and attractive brand experience through a medium to which they are anyway using. By November 2011, the magazine increased its viewership by a whopping 1500 percent, with three out of every four views coming from Facebook.

How can an online magazine help your brand?

Traits of Successful Digital Content

The fierce competition among brands means that marketers have to roll out innovative ways to attract and retain customers. A crucial task in this regard is developing digital content that provides an intuitive, rich and engaging experience.

The focus of successful digital content is a neat design. The two essential considerations when doing so include providing a highly interactive experience, and ensuring they provide a consistent experience no matter what digital point he consumer chooses to access the content.

In today’s multiple digital touch point environment, the marketers’ job is not done when he weaves an attractive story to entice the consumer to click on the provided interactive elements such as buttons, navigation panels, forms or other call to action elements, or even by making such call to action elements attractive. The CTA depends largely on how easy the customers can access such elements using their device of choice.

traits of a good digital catalog

For instance, a keyboard-heavy interactive experience would fail to impress the tablet consumers. Rather, a tab button, accessible easily by either a tap or a mouse click would suit all devices.
With consistency a key requirement of success, it is imperative to design in such a way that the consumer has the same commerce experience when accessing the content through the Web browser, smart phone, tablet, Facebook, or any other medium.

Marketers would do well to tap into Zmags vast experience gained by developing over one million digital brochures, catalogs and magazines to design digital content that works.

Why Marketers are Providing Video-Based Content

Video consumption has soared over the past couple years. Comscore reports that as on April 2012, almost 85% of the US audience has viewed an online video. A standard adult viewer watches 21.8 hours of video a month on an average, and this is double the corresponding figure in 2010.

Video-based content in digital magazineThe emergence of multiple digital touch points with enhanced multimedia capabilities has further facilitated the popularity of videos as a content medium. A 2012 study by the etailing group sponsored by Invodo reveals that one in two smart phone users and more than six out of ten tablet users watch one or more product videos in a three month period.

Such a steep increase in the popularity of the video has made marketers sit up and take notice. The Social Media Examiner reports that 76% of all marketers plan to increase the pace of video in their marketing plans in 2012. This is likely to yield good results, while the Internet Retailer reports that 85% of the prospects who view product videos would most likely make the purchase. Those who view video are 174% more likely to make a purchase versus those who do not watch videos.

Videos provide the most appropriate engagement medium for those who prefer visual or audible communications over written or verbal communications. These people constitute about 60 to 70% of all shoppers.

Videos help consumers progress to a “ready to buy” state by educating them with product information and specifications. Evidence suggests that people who watch videos spend more time on the website and engage better. When they purchase, they purchase with confidence, with lesser cart abandonment compared to those who do not watch videos. After making a purchase, they are less likely to return the product.

For the marketer, incorporating video provides an added benefit of improved SEO optimization, resulting in improved search engine ranking and thereby better visibility.