The Best Screenshot Software Ever – ShareX App Review

I have spent the last several years searching for the best screenshot software and I think I finally found it. It’s called ShareX and it has every feature I’ve always wanted in a screenshot app.

I’ve used software like Snipping Tool a long time ago, which has since been replaced with Snip & Sketch but neither of these offer the breadth of functionality that ShareX does. The next best thing has been Snip, which was a Microsoft MX app that has since been discontinued but was definitely the best option until ShareX came along.

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Shop Smart: The Cheap, Value & Luxury Spectrum

Those that know me well know me as “cheap”, and while there is some truth to that labeling, the reality is that I tend to belong in the middle of what I call the “cheap, value and luxury” spectrum.

My hypothesis is this: people fall, by and large, into one of 3 categories of consumer spending — Cheap, Quality and Luxury.

Those that fall into the cheap category do everything in their power to pay the lowest price for everything, with little to no regard for quality and other factors. Though they may not act this way for all purchases, they do so frequently.

The luxury category is the exact opposite. These people tend to spend much more than the other two categories on most purchases, placing a large emphasis on quality and branding. These individuals tend to make purchases based on implicit, rather than explicit value and favour intangibles like brand value and perceived popularity points. While they value quality, they lean towards legacy brand perception rather than outright build quality and reviews.

Finally, there is the value category, comprised of individuals that tend to spend the most time evaluating purchases and striving to strike a balance between quality and price. Value consumers perform additional research to find an optimal price vs. quality” point.

The value category is concerned with explicit benefits of one product over another. Some qualities they may focus on include: build quality, specifications, availability and price.

The reality is that few people fit perfectly into one section of the spectrum but tend to fall into one category more often than the others. I consider myself to fall into the middle category most of the time, spending a lot of time researching products and throwing branding and popularity out the window, but for smaller or less important purchases, I certainly lean towards the cheap category.

Where do you fall in the spectrum and why? Let me know in the comments below.

Shout out to 20somethingfinance for the inspiration for this post.

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How Does Google Get Away with Upsetting Their Customers?

Google continues to make changes that improves their products’ user experience, but that hurts their primary customers, those that actually give them money — namely, marketers. With each new iteration of its core products, Google has made one thing clear: Online marketers, you are priority #2.

Back in Oct 2011, Google enabled encrypted search for users logged into their Google account. This caused a large portion of queries to show up in analytics as “not provided”, greatly reducing the visibility of search data useful for marketing analysis. This change had dramatic implications for online marketers, inbound marketers and especially SEOs. The change had many people up in arms.

What is interesting is that despite the blow-back, Google did nothing to make their customers feel better about the situation. Considering 96% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising, you would think they would try harder to keep the marketers happy.

The next thing Google did was even more radical. A recent Gmail update pushed out a new interface with several tabs that automatically sorts a user’s email and separates all marketing and promotional emails out of their inbox into a new Promotions tab. This change is particularly extreme because newsletters and other content a user subscribes to is now sent to the promotions tab so the email is no longer front and center in their inbox.

It is very bizarre that Google is continuing to make changes that frustrates their customer base. These user “improvements” are rarely directly requested and yet heavily impact marketers. Perhaps Google is too big to fail? They certainly have such a high percentage of search traffic that marketers are pretty much stuck with them whether they like it or not.

Have you been affected by these Google changes? Please share your experience in the comments below.

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How to Get People to Read Your Email: The Australia Email Trick

Email used to be an extremely valuable tool for communicating crucial information but has dramatically lost value over the past decade. In a time-poor society with shrinking attention spans, emails have been devalued and are quickly becoming everyday annoyances that are largely ignored.

Sales and marketing professionals are all too aware of this issue, and it serves to make their jobs more difficult with each passing day. This is an issue that affects everyone, as I am sure everyone has experienced the lack of professionalism when they don’t receive a response to an email they have sent. Today I share with you a trick: The Australia Email.

My job as Marketing Manager (it’s a misnomer, I wear many hats) requires me to interact with particularly time-poor individuals — usually business owners and controllers — to discuss the prospect of implementing ERP Software. In almost all cases they have reached out to me, so I am not cold calling, and yet I see a serious lack of professionalism on a daily basis: they just won’t return my emails.

Typically, I will leave a voicemail and send an email, leave a number of days in-between and then repeat the process once or twice. After that point the opportunity is pretty much dead in the water, however, before moving on I always send out my “Australia email”.

It goes something like this:

Subject: Impromptu Trip to Australia?

Hi Steve,

I haven’t heard from you in several weeks.

Are you busy exploring another continent?

Amazingly, the vast majority of the time I have sent this email I have suddenly received a response. The obvious lesson here is that you need to find a way to cut through the noise. The more subtle lesson: find an interesting way to call people out on their lack of professionalism.

Too Many Ads Before the Movies – Cineplex

Too much advertisingI am a frequent moviegoer, seeing over 52 movies a year with a passion for almost all genres except “Chick Flicks”. Unlike my unwavering love for movies, however, my love for Cineplex has been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs recently.

I wrote previously about the not-so sneaky introduction of advertising in TimePlay, and later wrote about how they fixed the situation by removing the ridiculous advertising and made TimePlay awesome. However, they have recently taken a step back by introducing heavy advertising before the movie begins. I realize that movie theaters probably aren’t doing so well these days with piracy rates going up but by introducing too many advertisements before the movies, they risk alienating what audience they have left and stressing relationships with loyal customers like myself.

As far back as I can remember theaters had advertisements before the movies but Cineplex has recently taken it to a whole new level – some movies starting with up to 12 advertisements! Going to the movies isn’t cheap. People will begin to get very upset with the fact that they’re paying top dollar to see movies when they’re released only to be bombarded by more advertisements than watching movies any other way. So now the options are to see the movie in a theater while watching an abundance of advertisements, or download the movie in the comfort of your home and have no advertisements. Which option do you think will be more popular?

What makes the situation even more insane, is the fact that movie previews are already built in advertisements. So not only do you spend several minutes watching ads for other movies but you must also spend many more minutes being spammed over and over again with additional ads. And don’t even get me started about the annoyance of seeing the same ads over and over — made excruciating because of how frequently I go to the movies. It was a slight annoyance before when there were only a couple ads for each movie but now the number of ads has become intolerable.

The worst situation was when I went to see The Hobbit recently. My fiancée and I actually counted the number of ads and we got to 12 – give or take, we somewhat lost count. We just sat there in astonishment as ad was followed by ad for what seemed like an eternity. Since then we saw one more movie and although there were fewer ads, there were still way more than in the past (probably double).

Cineplex, I want to love you like I used to but you’re making it very hard right now. We may have to see different people. It’s not me, it’s you.

Best New Google Analytics Features

For the unititated, Google Analytics contains a series of the most powerful web analytics tools on the market – and the best part is: it’s free! Whether you are tracking website traffic, conversions, site speed, or audience demographics; Google Analytics is for you.

As a content and website manager myself, I can say that I use Google Analytics frequently. Combined with marketing software like Hubspot, there is very little you cannot find out about your online audience. I could go on forever about its usefulness but for the purpose of this post I will be focusing on the best new Google Analytics features.

In-page Analytics (Content > In-Page Analytics)

Google Analytics - In-page Analytics

In-Page Analytics allows you to see which elements of your website are most appealling to users and generate the most clicks – essentially a heat map for click activity. Above you can see the screenshot of the website I manage (exciting stuff, Inventory and Accounting Software). The tool isn’t perfect – many of the results do not match the colour properly or reference the correct element, perhaps because of positioning issues, but hovering over each section will reveal the data for the correct element. Colours range from blue (low click rate) to red (high click rate).

With In-Page Analytics, you can navigate from page to page and determine which elements are most interesting to your audience and which are not so that you can make changes accordingly. Like the rest of the Google Analytics interface, you can change the time frame to see click data for different periods.

Included with In-Page Analytics is the ability to “see what your audience can see”. This feature is simply labelled “browser size” and allows you to determine how much of your page is visible to the average user of your website. This is particularly important as Google leans more and more towards content located above-the-fold. The tool is also useful for designing mobile sites and ensuring content is visible as well.

Motion Chart (Available Throughout Interface)

Motion Chart - Google Analytics

The next best Google Analytics feature is the Motion Chart. Found throughout the system, Motion Charts allow you to visualize data over time. You can enable Motion Chart by clicking on the icon indicated on the screenshot above. Not every screen has the option for motion charts but many do. This feature can make presentations on data over time a breeze. You can choose 2 criteria to evaluate, one for each axis, and then scroll through time to see how the data has changed for each element selected. The flexibility and power of this tool was surprising.

Visitors Flow (Audience > Visitors Flow)

Visitors Flow - Best Google Analytics Features

The last Google Analytics feature I want to talk about is Visitors Flow. Visitors Flow visiualizes, well, the flow of visitors throughout your site. You can quickly pin-point the most popular pages and the pages that have the most significant drop-off or bounce rates. You can also highlight “traffic routes” to see how which pages users are most likely to visit based on a given entrance page, for example. This can be powerful insight and allow you to make decisions to improve a visitors pathway to maximize conversions.

I feel bad for any company trying to sell website analytics – Google offers a ton of functionality for free. All marketers and webmasters, should become very familiar with Google Analytics.

The Social Media Saturation Point

Ping, Google Plus, Friendster

Analysts around the world have been predicting a second tech bubble burst for some time now. However, it hasn’t yet happened. In the age of micro-payments, even the most niche start-ups can find enough customers to stay alive. Social networks, on the other hand, are the true bubble.
You see, social media is everywhere these days and discussed incessantly, so hundreds of businesses have been built around these social networks. My Twitter bio contains words such as “business” and “marketing”, for example, I cannot go a single day without being bombarded by new followers claiming to help me “leverage social media” and “build my online following”. The question is, how many of these businesses can the market support?

I argue that the we have reached the social media saturation point. It started out as the next big thing, so of course everyone was very excited about it. Don’t misunderstand me, however; social media is as powerful as it ever was – for certain target audiences and certain uses and most importantly for established social networks.

New social media business has seen their glory days come and go. There was a time, several years ago, when it seemed that anyone could start a social network business and find success, but established social networks like Facebook and Twitter have tightened their grip on the industry.  The only company to truly pick up speed in the last few years has been Pinterest – finding a niche primarily with crafty women.

Even social networks backed by some of the biggest companies in the world have failed. A perfect example is Ping, a social network created by Apple that fell flat. They thought they had found an unserved corner of the market but turned out to be dead wrong – even after investing millions of dollars and baking it into a variety of its products, people preferred Facebook and Twitter to discuss music. Finally seeing that there is little room for a new social network, Ping was killed this year (2012).

We have reached the social media saturation point.

Another recent example is Google+. Google+ still remains active and claims success, however, most of us know better. Even Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, qualifies their success based on the challenge posed by the social media giants: “Google+ is doing better than I expected given the competitors in the market“. Except for a heavily-male group of computer scientists, Google+ has failed to draw the masses like Facebook and Twitter. Unlike Ping, Google+ will likely stick around for while, continuously fed cash by Google so that they can improve their search results via stats from a small segment of the market; perhaps one day seeing the light and calling it quits as well.

I love competition and choice as much as the next guy but until something that offers something truly unique comes along, I’m sticking with Facebook and Twitter. After all, a social network’s value is based on its number of connections and I have long thought there is too much division on the internet.

What do you think?

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Is Social Media Viable for Niche B2B Companies?

Many companies have found great success via social media such as the Old Spice campaign “The man your man could smell like”. There is no question that big brands can benefit from social media – it has given them the most direct channel to speak with individual consumers ever. But the question remains: does social media pan-out for B2B businesses?

I invite responses down below because, well, I do not know the answer! Working in the B2B space I have realized that there is substantial opportunity for success in social media. HubSpot, for example, does a great job leveraging their content through social media. However, HubSpot does not serve a niche marketing; their software could be beneficial to just about any marketer out there (despite perhaps being out of their price range). How does a niche B2B company go about utilizing social media?

Let us explore a number of options:

  1. Use social media to keep in touch with customers – this is effective so long as the customers in your vertical use social media (which isn’t often the case).
  2. Use social media to network – this is perhaps the most effective use of social media for niche B2B businesses. You can find all sorts of potential business partners, trade associations and business services via social media.
  3. Use social media to acquire leads – this one can be tough. Marketers, please do your thing and share your insight below.

Consider B2B inventory and accounting software available exclusively for small wholesalers and distributors. How do you target the owners of such businesses, that are not tech-savvy and do not use social media? Is this a dead-end, or is there something I am missing? Industry forums are a good option but what about Twitter and Facebook? How do you avoid posting updates in a vacuum?

Please share your experience in the comments down below.

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Multi-Page Articles: Hurting the User Experience (UX)

[begin rant]

Do multiple-page articles annoy you as much as they annoy me? It can be extremely frustrating clicking from page to page when all you normally have to do is scroll for more content. Of course, being a marketer and getting the inside scoop, I know exactly why they do it. They do it to inflate their page views to sell more advertising or make themselves seem more popular than they are. Each time you click to the next page, it counts as another page view. Whereas a normal website would only get one page view for a single article, these sites can collect several.

The problem with this is that multipage articles hamper the user experience (or UX, in silicon valley terms). Is hurting the user experience really worth artificially inflated page views? I hope they are laughing all the way to the bank.

The only other reason that has been brought up is making the site load faster on mobile devices. This is ridiculous, of course. First, most devices are now fast enough to download an article in no time – afterall, most articles are are quite small with few images and are primarily just plain text. Secondly, having to load another page actually takes longer than simply having to load more of a single page. Sure, it may reduce the initial load time but there are loading tricks to help reduce that time and it is certainly not worth it load a bunch of pages instead of one.

What is particularly frustrating is that these sites implement multi page articles for their non-mobile site as well. Surely they cannot think that their articles are big enough to slow down the average PC browser . . .

I have gone so far as to boycott these sites. If it has multiple pages, I leave. The only middle-ground I have found are the sites that have a “view as single page” option. Not an optimal solution because it is an unnecessary page load but better than nothing.

Join me in my boycotting and leave a comment below with your take on these sites.
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[/end rant]

The Google Display Network Is The Devil: How to Opt Out

photoMost online marketers already know this but it is worth repeating: do not, under any circumstances, use the Google Display Network. It has long been known that the quality of the network is extremely questionable, but lately I have been finding many examples of blatant abuse of the network and advertisers.

Take a look at this image. Does anything stand out to you? It was taken from a quiz on ChaCha.com, a site that abuses the Google Display Network. Notice that embedded within the content itself is an ad – located directly above actionable content. What this does is increase the likelihood that a user will accidentally click on an ad. This came to my attention when I had visited the site through someone’s Twitter post and ended up accidentally clicking on the ad. Ads are displayed directly above the “next” button on the mobile site. The button for the quiz is very small and located directly beneath an ad making it very likely that you will click on the ad instead of the button.

Unless you work for a company that likes to waste money, you should avoid situations like these by opting out of the Google Display Network. I will walk you through the steps below:

  1. When you create a new campaign, look for the “Networks and Devices” section and click “Let me choose”.
  2. Uncheck “Display Network”.
  3. Also, consider unchecking “Search Partners” as well if you want to further improve ROI.

opt-out-of-google-display-network

To play devil’s advocate for myself, I was trying to think of reasons why someone might find the Display Network useful:

  1. You are a spammer or phisher that wants to drive unsuspecting victims to your site (so you don’t care where they are coming from or if they are clicking accidentally).
  2. You want more visits to your page even if everyone is immediately clicking away because they didn’t mean to click the ad.
  3. Your favourite thing is wasting money.

The Display Network is an interesting concept that would work in a perfect world where your ads are displayed on only highly relevant sites and enthralled customers come clicking to your door. Unfortunately, the reality is that many sites like Chacha.com abuse the network. Google does not police the network as closely as it should because they stand to benefit from sites like ChaCha that generate a lot of money for them. Meanwhile, advertisers are left wondering why they are spending tons of money with no return.

 

Hint: you can choose which sites your ads display on so you have the option of choosing a select few sites or blocking select sites (the Display Network’s only saving grace).

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