Getting New Customers

Do you pay enough attention to getting new customers?

If you’re reading this, you probably run a small business or are thinking of starting one, have you asked the question ‘where are my potential customers to be found?’ In this digital age, it’s tempting to believe that if you build a website, customers will come to it.
potential customers
How realistic is that though? First they have to know it exists and that is the skill of internet marketers, to get your website in front of people on the web. Is that enough though?

Take any small local business, usually family run (Husband & Wife – Parents and Children or any combination of family members) does anyone have the responsibility for ensuring sales are made?

Let’s be honest, although sales has a generally bad image it is vital, without sales you have no business. So here are some questions to ask yourself about sales and your business.

1. Do you know where to find your potential customers?
2. Have you priced your goods or services to fit the industry average?
3. Why have you priced your goods and services as you have?
4. How much do you invest in sales training?
5. Do you make sales as well as any sales team you may employ?

Do you know where to find your potential customers?

This may seem a silly question but it’s a very fundamental one because if you don’t know who your target consumer is how can you know where to find them? Restaurants all target different customers, family restaurants offering plain home cooking at very reasonable prices are looking for very different customers from a high end Nouvelle Cuisine restaurant charging very high prices for elegant surroundings, an atmosphere of wealth and sophistication.

Each restaurant needs to look for it’s clients in different places. The family restaurant is going to need to look at advertising and reaching out to families on much lower incomes than the high end restaurant. The owner of the high end restaurant will be looking to wealthier executives and people who have reached the stage where they no longer have a family at home and now have more disposable income.
Whatever business you’re in you need an idea of who your target customer is before you can create a coherent campaign to reach them and then make sales to them.

If you already run a business you can easily see who your target customer is at the moment, simply by observing your customers. If you’re starting out, look at the customers your potential competition attracts.

In both cases you may want to examine whether or not they are actually the customers you want.

The product or service has to match the target customer, it’s no good if you run a cheap and cheerful family restaurant offering good home cooked food in a place with paper napkins and wipe clean table or cloths, wanting to attract the high end customer used to elegant surroundings and linen table cloths and napkins, fine stem ware and dinnerware.

The two generally speaking don’t mix. Of course that’s not to say the couple with children won’t splash out on going to that high end restaurant for a special occasion or that the high flying executives won’t also visit the family restaurant. However, they will neither of them be regular customers at the opposite place.

Have you priced your goods or services at the industry average?
This may seem an odd question but bear with me. People have expectations, they generally know to within a few cents what the standard price is for any service or product. If your pricing is above what they expect then they may resist buying from you – or – will expect much more for their money.

If your pricing is below, they may try it but will always be looking for the ‘catch’ and are likely to be more critical because they fear you’re cheaper because the product or service is just not as good as the others. Unfair I know but this is just how we humans are wired.

It’s tempting, especially in the economic circumstances the entire would is facing today, to discount prices to get people to buy and this can work very well. Until that is a competitor reduces their prices too. Then what do you do? Reduce your prices even further?

It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out that this is not sustainable. If you’re a new entrant into a market place the established companies may be able to price you out very quickly. If you’re an established business and start a price war, you may find yourself victorious but with no way of sustaining those lower prices and so opening up the market to new blood.

Whichever result, discounting is a strategy that needs careful handling if it’s to succeed.

Why have you priced your goods or services as you have?

Ask yourself this question so you’re sure of why you’ve chosen this pricing structure, is it based on existing figures of costs versus income? Or have you just used the industry average because if other people make money at that price then so must you?

Remember that not all businesses have the same overheads. Location, size, staffing levels, efficiency and customer acquisition all have an effect on your expenditure. Make sure you know that your pricing will mean you make money, regardless of what your competition is charging.

How much do you invest in sales training?

Most small businesses invest nothing or next to nothing in sales training, especially where they don’t have a conventional sales team. Yet every single employee who comes into contact with customers should have sales training.

Why? Because regardless of whether they are actually going to ‘sell’ to the customer, they represent your company and their attitude and overall dress code will have an impact for good or bad. Do you have a cleaner who comes into contact with customers? Provide a smart uniform and ensure they know how to smile and greet clients. Train them to direct customers to the right person/place for that customer to get what they need.

Run a self service store? All staff whether on the tills or stacking shelves should be trained help customers. Remember anyone who comes into contact with customers creates an impression, it’s up to you to ensure they create the right one.

Think back to any time you went into a business and found the staff to be less than helpful or pleasant, what was your reaction? If it persisted, how long did you continue to use that business assuming you had a choice?

Sales training can actually increase profits – get it organised now!

Do you make sales as well as any sales team you employ?
It’s your business and you need to know how to sell your product or service. Without first hand knowledge how can you judge the performance of your sales team? Sales is generally the ‘poor relation’ in any business, with each department or person firmly convinced that anyone can do sales and that their contribution is far more important than that of a mere salesperson.

They forget that without sales there is nothing for them to despatch, administer, account for, replace, service, manage or to pay their wages/salary.

Without sales there is no business and so for you the owner it’s vitally important that you can step into the gap should it be needed. This is the heart of the business and should be treated with the respect it deserves. Something so many people don’t do, even sales people themselves.

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Posted in Sales and Selling

Why should you do SEO and SMM?

Is it necessary to do SEO and SMM

This is a question often asked by small and medium business owners/managers. They see the giants like Nike and Coca Cola doing amazing stuff and decide without trying that they can’t do that.

Or they see those giants and decide that they too must start a Facebook fan page and get tweeting on Twitter. They post a couple of things and find no one ‘follows’ or ‘likes’ them and so they give up.

As for SEO – well they’ve probably decided that SEO companies are rather like loan sharks, you give them money and they don’t bite your head off! So they dismiss SEO as a waste of time. That is, if they even have a website, around 50% of SME’s still don’t have a website and still believe that the web is not for them.

Well I have news for you my friends, regardless of whether you want to or not, the web probably has some pages about you and your business. Someone somewhere may have already posted your info on a review site or social media site. If you have a business listing in a print directory, chances are some company like Google has purchased that information to populate an online business directory.

Not only that but companies like Google allow you to ‘claim’ free of charge the page they’ve created for you. If you don’t claim your listing, it’s very possible that a competitor will because they know that having that page under their control will bring them in more business.

You as a small to medium business owner cannot afford to ignore the benefits of having a well formulated and executed web presence to take advantage of the exploding smart phone search and buy phenomenon.

Whereas in the past people looking for a local business would probably look in their local paper or Yellow Pages directory, today, they’ll pull out their smart phone and search online. The first place they’ll probably look is the results presented by Google, which will be the pages they created from offline directory information.

This is something over which you have no control unless you get in there and take control. So claim your Google places listing. It’s simple to do, you must first have a free Google account. Just go to Google and create your account, once that’s done you can sign in and go to Google Places and claim your listing. If you’re a new business then you can create a listing and the best part is that it’s all free.

This is not an article about how to claim your Google and other listings but why you should, so let’s move on to the ‘other’ listings.

SEO is what you do to make your website more appealing to the search engines, it’s about creating a website that is clear in its purpose. Relevant to its keywords and useful to its visitors.

We’ll start with purpose. Businesses have websites for many reasons, unfortunately a lot of SME’s have a website because they’ve read an article like this, where someone tells them that they ‘should’ have one. While I believe that to be true, it’s also true that you should decide what you want your website to do before you build it or have someone do it for you.

One of the most common uses for a small local business that does not sell its products or services online is as an electronic ‘brochure’. Research shows that somewhere around 50% of all online searches are related to local businesses, that is people searching for a local business, and that around 70% of those searches will lead to an offline visit or call to a local business. This means that having an electronic brochure online can help get people calling or through the door. But, just having a list of what you do along with contact details is not enough.

Take a local coffee shop, it doesn’t sell online but it wants to be found online. So it creates a really cool and funky looking site specifically tailored to its target market of young tech smart executives and ‘ladies who lunch’.

The site utilizes all the latest web technology and has a slick smooth look with lots of cool graphics. It wins countless awards for design excellence, unfortunately it never shows in the search engine results. The question is why?

The answer is that search engines prefer text based websites with lots of content and at least a ratio of 15% text to code. More is better because what the search engines want to do is decide how relevant the site is to the search term someone has punched in. It can’t read images, unless in the code there is analternative tag describing the image.

The text on the page and the way it’s laid out tells the search engine what the page (and site) is about. So our coffee shop would do better to have text about how they make the perfect cup of coffee as well as the brilliant image of a perfect cup of coffee.

SEO is a subject that can never be fully known as the search engines constantly ‘tweak’ their algorithms (the software that decides where you rank), and this is an article about why you should do it not how.

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Posted in Marketing On Line

How reviews impact your small business

Reviews – Their Power

As a small business owner you obviously want to either increase your customer base or, keep existing customers loyal. It can be hard sometimes to link reviews with both of these goals. After all, surely existing customers are already loyal so what would reviews do to help there? New customers have to find you and they do that by looking in local papers, in the classified section, or in your local Yellow Pages under the business section to which you belong, don’t they?

Unfortunately fewer and fewer people are turning to the traditional ways of finding your business. Now while there are probably as many ways to find a business as there are people, it seems that the majority of people are now turning to the internet. What’s perhaps surprising is that they’re not all turning to Google, I say surprisingly because if you were to read most advice available for free, you’d be forgiven if you thought that the internet was Google.

True that this monster of a website/company does get the majority of searches done on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis, but that doesn’t mean it provides the majority of customers.
So what does all this have to do with reviews? Surprisingly (or not if you understand the psychology) many people are beginning their search for a local business on a review site like Yelp. Here they can read about other’s experiences with a company and this helps them to make a buying decision. After all, if the majority of people have a good experience then it stands to reason you will too.

How does this help encourage customer loyalty? There is so much competition out there for business, with the information readily available it’s quite possible for one of your clients to be seduced away by the quality and quantity of reviews for competing businesses. If one of your customers sees that her friends or family favor another business over yours, it can color her experiences with you. This means that she may notice negative aspects that she would previously have ignored or indeed not noticed.

All review sites have their guidelines and you should read them carefully so you know you’re not violating any of their rules. Because these sites make their money from advertising space they sell on the sites, they will guard their reputation zealously – this means you will sometimes find that reviews do not show, or (in the case of Yelp) are filtered. Usually this means that the review site is a little suspicious of the review, it may have tripped their ‘spam’ filter. Often this is because the review was placed via the company computer, even if posted to a legitimate account.
This is to try and discourage companies ‘paying’ for reviews in some way. Imagine you are a business that makes its money from impartial recommendations of the best businesses in a given market and location. This brings you a very good income and ‘status’. That is, you are very ‘trusted’ and no one questions your integrity. Your income is assured and you’re enjoying life.

Then you find that you personally cannot now get around to testing all the businesses around, so you either stagnate or find a way to grow by recommending more businesses. You decide you will enlist the help of existing clients for each business, allowing them to comment on and rate a business. Boom, your business grows exponentially overnight and you are set to become a dominant player in the on-line fraternity.

All of your success is based on trust, trust that the recommendations you give are accurate, impartial and therefore trustworthy. Now imagine what happens to that trust if a business is found to be writing their own reviews, getting satff, family and friends to write reviews or, paying their exisitng clients to write reviews. You now have to do something and you have to be pretty quick about it or your business will be destroyed if that ‘trust’ factor is gone.

There are ways to encourage customers to post reviews and the best way is to provide such an excellent customer experience that they want to tell the world. Training staff to include asking customers to post reviews, having a profile on as many review sites as possible to make it easy for your customers to do just that, as well as replying to reviews good or bad, will all help.
Having a monthly prize draw for the most helpful review or for the most honest review are ways to give an incentive that shouldn’t cause you any problems with review sites. After all they want honest and useful reviews too, it’s only if you ask them to write glowing reviews in return for some sort of payment that you’ll have a problem.

So what about reviews that come from a company computer, ever to a legitimate account? Trip Advisor, probably the premier travel review site frowns on this and will actually tell people that the review may not be truthful, Yelp will filter those reviews. Which would you prefer?

Reviews help you to rank in the SE’s and help potential customers to make a buying decision in your favor – so provide excellent customer experiences – encourage staff to ask for reviews – when you get them good or bad – reply to them. If you get complaints about similar things, take a good honest look and see if there’s room for improvement, then tell people what you’ve done to change things and ask them to come back and try it out.

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Posted in Customer Service and Reviews

Google Plus 1 vs Facebook Smart Lists

Is Facebook fighting back against Google +1?

Once again the fight is on between two Internet giants. On one side we have the ‘daddy’ of the search engines, Google. On the other side, we have the ‘daddy’ of social networking, Facebook.
Since Facebook became in Googles own words ‘a concern’ with the number of searches they were getting, everyone has been waiting for Google’s response. It came in the guise of the Plus 1 button and Google ‘Circles’. These were circles of friends and contacts you had in your Gmail account.

Websites would display the +1 button and if a visitor liked the site, Google would show not only the number of people who’d ‘plus 1′ed’ the site. It would show a picture (the profile image) of the person who’d voted for the site to all the people in their Gmail circles.

Predictions were made that this would change the face of search, because why wouldn’t you click on a result when you see photos of your friends next to the link all silently recommending that site?
Yet there were problems, after all, the Google +1 button only showed if you actually had a g-mail account and, were signed in to that account. If not, the button was invisible.

Now Facebook is fighting back. For some time, you have been able to sort your contacts into lists. Not many people bothered though, but maybe that will change.

Now Facebook has brought out ‘Smart Lists’ and a new ‘privacy’ setting that allows you to decide who you will share individual posts with. Because people didn’t really take to the ‘List’ feature, Facebook has made it automatic, so it will sort your friends into lists for you.

Will this halt Google’s advance in to the social media world? Only time and you will tell – what it does mean is that you shouldn’t put all your SEO eggs in one basket.
Remember to diversify your efforts to account for both of these giants. That way whichever one wins, so will you!

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Posted in Social Media

How Search Engine Optimization is like Quantum Physics

how seo is like quantum physicsA strange title you may think but wait – haven’t you ever wondered what’s so mysterious about SEO that only ‘specialists’ can do it?

Well let’s see if we can clear the mists of confusion shall we?

In quantum physics they postulate a ‘field’ of energy that permeates the universe, rather like the internet which pervades our everyday life and affects even those who don’t know it exists, don’t believe it exists or think it’s the work of the ‘devil’.

It runs through all aspects of life and continually regenerates itself almost as if by magic.

The universe is made up of atoms plus other ‘stuff’ (dark matter for one, which again may or may not exist as it’s something that seems to have been invented because without it the universe just shouldn’t work).

The internet is made up of web pages plus other ‘stuff’ (like nodes which somehow must exist or the internet just wouldn’t work).

So we have two components now that are found in quantum physics.
The Field = The World Wide Web (The Internet)
The Atom = A Web Page

What does the universe do though? Provides an environment where life in all its diverse forms can survive and in some cases thrive.
What does the internet do? Provides an environment where life (business) in all its many forms can survive and in some cases thrive.

Hmmm, getting quite spooky now isn’t it!!

Let’s dig deeper and see just what a web page needs to not only survive but grow and thrive. It needs structure and, as I’ve likened it to an atom I guess we can continue the analogy by saying that it needs a nucleus (subject matter) and electrons spinning around it to keep it together (content).

Those will keep it alive of course but what else does it need?

In physics, scientists say there should be something they’ve named a Higgs Boson particle, sometimes referred to as the ‘god’ particle. Sounds to me like they’re describing the mythical ‘guaranteed number one’ place on Google. Everyone talks about it and many say they have it but as yet, have no real proof that it exists.

The Higgs Boson is also said to give ‘weight’ to any other atom it comes into contact with. Again sounds like that mythical Google guarantee, being number one on Google would certainly give a web page ‘weight’.

Now of course we’ve all heard of spam, it too surrounds and travels through everything. Rather like the weird and difficult to catch neutrino, a particle so small it can slip through other particles without getting caught. So next time you find a result in the search engines that just doesn’t make sense you’ll know you’re very close to finding a neutrino. Just remember, it’s a slippery customer and will slip through your fingers and pop up somewhere else!

When as an SEO practitioner (just like scientists there’s always something new to discover or an experiment to run), you want to ‘guarantee’ a first place rank in Google, you will often try and find or create a piece of ‘viral’ content – something so compelling that it takes on a life of its own and generates lots of interest and links.

Let me introduce you to the quark, in physics something that is thought to exist and is a fundamental component of matter. One of those things that ‘a friend of a friend swears he’s seen’ difficult to find in real life but which scientists say must exist.

Viral content is like that, we know it exists because we can see the results but pinning down exactly what makes content ‘viral’ still eludes us.

So there you have it, the quantum explanation of SEO – the reason why sometimes nothing makes sense and things that shouldn’t work do and also why things that should work don’t.
SEO is 90% common sense and hard work and 10% chaos and quantum so next time someone tells you they can guarantee you a number one rank on Google tell them they don’t know their E=MC squared from a Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

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Posted in SEO for small businesses

20 seconds can destroy 20 years of reputation

Passengers flying back to the UK from India have been ‘held to ransom’ by their airline. Comtel Air stopped in Vienna to refuel; passengers were then told they had to come up with nearly 25,000 Euros between them to enable the airline to refuel.

http://youtube/1lge8yga2bw if you want to see one of the videos already on YouTube.

What was the most interesting from a marketing standpoint is the reaction of customers of the travel agent through whom most people booked their flights.

Customers have been queuing at the small office in Birmingham to try and find out what’s been going on. They’ve been calm so far but understandably frustrated at the lack of news.
The owner of the travel agency has built up his reputation over 20 years and probably thought this would protect him. It may well have stopped people getting violent but as one customer said “20 seconds is all it takes to ruin a reputation built over 20 years”.

This is something that many a small business owner would do well to remember, your customers have so many choices today that just because you provided great service in the past, it won’t protect you if things go wrong. It doesn’t guarantee that that your customers still won’t seek a better deal if presented the opportunity.

Communicating with your customers when things go wrong is imperative if you want to keep both your reputation and your customers. Put yourself in their shoes, if something goes wrong, how frustrated do you get if you can’t get any information.

It’s annoying and more importantly, frightening (especially in a case like Comtel Air where people are effectively stranded).
Don’t rest on your laurels where your reputation is concerned; remember 20 seconds of bad experiences can destroy 20 years of good ones.

Posted in Social Media

Keywords, keywords we all want the best keywords.

What are the best types’s of keywords?

A conundrum that confuses many people, it’s very tempting to go for the most popular industry keywords on the basis that if you get on page one you’ll get loads of buyers to your site. Does this stand up to closer inspection though?

Not for small to medium businesses (SME’s) unfortunately.

Just because a site gets to the top of the ranking there’s no guarantee that will produce more business. There are many experts and articles saying that getting to number 1 for a keyword will result a site capturing around 40% of the clicks.

This is the translated into getting sales at a rate of – say 2%. Most SEO companies will hedge their bets and quote a conversion of between 0.5% and 2% – this is to protect themselves against irate customers complaining that they didn’t get a 2% conversion.

This is where picking the right keywords is imperative.

Google tells us that about 80% of searches done are for information only. This includes people casually surfing, those doing actual research for either academic or business reasons as well as those in the very initial stages of researching a product or service to buy.

So the majority of these searches will not lead to a sale. People researching for information for whatever reason; generally use different keywords to those who are ready to buy. They tend to use more generic keywords, those that are popular and so very competitive.

Now imagine if as a local business you go after one (or more) of these very popular but generic keywords. It may very well result in lots of visitors to your site but will those visitors become customers? If you don’t sell a product or service online the answer is probably not.

Let’s say you run a car rental agency in Phoenix AZ and you want to get found online. I’ve just done a search on Google’s keyword tool (a free tool to tell you how many searches a keyword gets on Google each month) and the result is 7,480,000 searches in the US alone. Sounds pretty popular, right?

But as a car rental agency only dealing with Phoenix you want to target a much more local keyword so I re-did the search, this time for ‘car rental Phoenix AZ’ and guess what that reduced the total to – 9,900 searches. It’s still a very respectable number of searches for a local business, but not one with very high competition.

Not only are you competing with all the other small local companies but with the big dogs of the car rental world like Avis, Alamo, Dollar and Hertz.

Now a search like ‘long term car rental phoenix az’ shows only 73 searches in the past month but, looking at the term in Google I can see that there are only 220,000 competing pages and the top ones are forums and review sites. So a page that targets ‘long term car rental phoenix az‘ has a good chance of ranking even though the AdWords competition is high.

Let’s take another example, a flower shop in Houston TX. We’ll do a search for just ‘flower shop’ and see how many are being done. Google tells us that around 1,200,000 are being done every month and this time people don’t have to be local (or visiting locally) to buy from you.

However, putting this term into Google shows that there are 49,000,000 competing pages, so is this keyword you want to compete for? I sure wouldn’t!

Searching for ‘flower shop Houston TX’ gives us a monthly total of 2,400 with high AdWords competition (relevant only if you want to buy visitors through Google AdWords). Putting that term into Google shows us 640,000 competing pages, still a lot of competition but not as much as the more generic ‘flower shop’.

This is still going to be a difficult niche to compete in and would need concentrated efforts on building keyword rich content and anchor text. You’d need to ensure that you had plenty of links pointing to your site and those links would need to be surrounded by relevant content and the link itself would need to be keyword rich.

Researching keywords gives you a better understanding of what needs to be done.

You can now see that keywords used for gathering information are not always the most profitable. Does this mean you don’t want to bother with them? Not at all, these are the keywords that will bring you to the attention of prospective customers while they are still making up their mind. If you ignore them you will find your competitors will beat you to the winning post a lot of the time.

Information search makes up the bulk of all search, spend some time on this but do not make it your focus.

Then we have people who search for a particular site, they’re looking to navigate to a particular site without typing in the address, so they will type in the business name or location. As an example they may type in Phoenix airport if they want to get to the airport site to check flights or see what airlines fly into Phoenix prior to looking for a flight.

These are generally not buying searches although they are likely to be more profitable than information searches. If they search for your business name, they probably want to do business with you in some form or why would they be looking for you? Unless of course they’d already bought something that they were unhappy with and wanted to complain!

Using the Google keywords tool we can see that 110,000 searches are done globally a month for ‘Phoenix airport’, putting the term into Google shows us 109,000,000 competing pages. Phoenix airport’s official site tops the list as one would expect because the Google search algorithm “understands” that if you search for Phoenix airport you probably want the official site. You don’t want an airport comparison site or a local directory site, you want the airport site.

This is a navigation based search that is probably not a buying search in the strictest sense as you can’t buy airports or airport accessories to build or run an airport (well not from the Phoenix airport site). However, if the visitor checks flight details so they know the flight they’re meeting is on time, or the click and advert on the site, then they have ‘bought’ something.

This is why it’s so important for you to know what you want visitors to do on your site because any action they take can be interpreted as a conversion (sale). If you want them to sign up for an email list and they do, they’ve converted and ‘bought’ what you want them to.

Are you asking for donations to a charity? If they donate, they’ve ‘bought’. Want them to leave a review? If they do they’ve ‘bought’.

Using the right keywords to get visitors to your page increases your conversions and is more cost effective than just stuffing keywords into your code and text in the hopes that something will stick.

Remember:

  • Majority of searches are for information.
  • Some searches are for navigation purposes – they know what business or site they want but don’t know the web address.
  • The rest of the searches are for buying purposes.

Around 20% (according to Google) of all searches done daily have never been seen before and of those, many will never be seen again.
You want to be found under all three types, the more targeted the keyword the more likely it’s a buying keyword.

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Posted in SEO for small businesses

Why Are You doing SEO?

Why do you have a website?

Do you ever ask either of these questions? I mean, do you have a website for the same reason you first got a fax machine? Is a website what all businesses should have? Don’t get me wrong, I personally believe that all businesses no matter how small or local should have a website. It’s just that I also think to make that website useful you should know what you want it to do.
So do you know why you have a website and more importantly do you know what you want your website to accomplish? At this point most of you who have a product or service that you can sell online will probably say something like ‘make sales’. Those who want people to come to the bricks and mortar address will probably say either ‘phone me’ or ‘come to the shop’.
Still others ( and probably the majority) will say ‘ummmmm, well, uhh, no idea really, but everyone kept telling me I needed a website, so I got my nephew, daughter, brother, sister or uncle to do one for me’.

One thing I’d bet on is that no matter which answer you gave, you’ve not really paid attention to one of the most important things about your website. When someone visits your site what do you want them to do? What action do you want them to take?

Here’s a few of the actions you might want them to take, either just one or a combination.

Buy, sign up, join, donate, comment, share, review, connect, suggest, upload, download, answer a question, ask a question, fill out a questionnaire, take part in a poll, bookmark.
I’m also sure that there are many other things people may want visitors to do when they get them to their website, after all if Google gets 10 billion searches a month and 25% of those (which is 2 ½ billion searches) have never been done before and most won’t be done again, it’s pretty certain that no one person can come up with all uses for a web page.

We’re not concerned with all those though, we’re talking about your website. Have you got an answer yet as to what your website is for? Without this answered, how can you formulate an SEO plan? If you don’t know what you want your website to do how can you determine what content it should have?

Without knowing what you want your website to do, how can you decide what pages it needs, whether it needs an email sign up form, membership section, or so on? Without knowing what you want your website to do, how do you know what links you want, what social media (if any).

For your website to be successful and help your business in some way you must have a clear idea of what action you want a visitor to take, even if that’s just hanging around long enough for you to show them a lot of ads. To do that you need content – even a shopping site has content other than the items in the shopping cart.

Once you know what you want your website to do and what action you want visitors to do, you can then start to plan your content. To attract visitors you need to some or all of the following.

  • Inform
  • Entertain
  • Intrigue
  • Comfort
  • Answer a question
  • Solve a problem
  • Stimulate a question
  • Encourage
  • Inspire

If you do any of these with your content then you are well on the way to having a successful website that does what you want it to do.

A question often asked is ‘what is content?’ and it’s a good question because it really depends on who or what you’re creating the content for. Search engines prefer words, text that they can parse or read. People on the other hand can find a lot of text intimidating and boring, so for them pictures, video’s and podcasts are more enticing.

You can cover all bases by having text as PDF files for SE’s then make a video or record a podcast for visitors. A slide show of images with brief explanations is also another option; the important thing is that you provide content for ALL visitors both mechanical and human. That way you get the best of both worlds.

One more thing before we close, a lot of people think that having a website is costly and difficult to maintain. While this may have been true once, today it’s so far from the truth as to be a myth.

You can have a website on many platforms where everything is free, Word Press, Typepad and Weebly to name just three. What you can’t do with these is have your own domain name but unless you want to build a huge web presence it’s not totally necessary. Especially if the only reason you have a website is because everyone says you should.

If you just want a place on the web for people to see your contact details and don’t want to be on Facebook, a free site is the answer. No need to know how to do ‘code’ because they all use an easy to use editor that does most things automatically for you.

So now you can think about the questions asked here and start to plan the perfect website for you and your business.

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Posted in SEO for small businesses

Social Media For Small Business

Small Businesses – Using Social Media

social media sites for small businessesI’m pretty sure that you, as a small business owner, have heard about social media and its importance to your business. You may even use sites like Facebook and Twitter already – do you find them useful? If not, you’re not alone because social media has not worked for millions of small businesses.

So what’s all the fuss about you may ask? In fact, if you’re like the many small business owners I’ve spoken to, you probably wonder what all the big deal is. The question I ask is “How has that worked for you?” The answer I usually get is, “Not so great”, normally accompanied by a sigh or frown as the person contemplates why, especially if a competitor is doing well with Facebook and or Twitter.

Does Social Media Work?

Let’s clear up one thing, social media works and it works very well, if done correctly. In fact social media done well can propel a business to the top of the league. That then begs the question “do you want that much success?” Before you answer ‘what an idiot – of course I do!’ Think about it, the logistics of expanding your business, would you need bigger premises, more staff and a manager to help you run the business. Do you have the cash flow or credit line to buy what you would need to cope with the expansion?
All these questions bear thinking about if you intend to use social media to expand because it can work that well if done right.

Why does Social Media work so well?

Because we as a species are very social animals and, we socialize wherever and whenever we can. Online social media allows us to socialize with more people than we possibly could in ‘real life’. In fact so social are we that social connectionsmillions of people choose to join ‘virtual worlds’ where they work, play, marry, divorce and just hang out. They do it to socialize and while they do all that they talk about what’s going on in their life, real or virtual.

As they socialize they talk about where they ate last night – how good the food, the service, or the décor was. In doing so, they either endorse or condemn the restaurant. What do you imagine the people they talk to think? Would they go to that same restaurant? Would you if someone you knew told you (and everyone else they know) it was rubbish? Would you pass on the information, especially if someone asked you if you knew anything about that restaurant?

So we’re social animals, we like to talk about what we did, where we went, who we know, in fact anything that interests or impacts us is grist for the mill of social interaction.
But is that all? No it’s not, not in the world of social media for small businesses because we also want interesting, useful information. Things that make us think or laugh or even cry, we want in other words to be engaged. The internet offers such a breadth and depth of information (or content) that in order for you as a small business owner to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or any of the other 100′s of social media platforms, virtual worlds or forums, you have to provide content that engages your customers.

The next thing to understand is that just as in real life we like to socialize with people ‘just like us’ but we also long to be part of the ‘in-crowd’ too. Look at the celebrity gossip magazines, people love them because it allows them to be a part of those celebrity lives, even at a distance and even though the celebrity is unaware of them.

On Facebook or Twitter however, we can actually interact with them, or at least feel as if we do. Take the Facebook page of Barak Obama, president of the USA. Millions of people are online ‘friends’ or fans and they can talk to him just the same as they can their best friend. Or at least that is the illusion and it’s an incredibly powerful one.

So what is it that makes people ‘like’ those pages and the pages of international brand names like Coca Cola and Nike?
The content – that’s what!!! The competitions, the special offers, only for Facebook fans, the inside information that they get before anyone else (they’re now part of that in-crowd) in other words, the engagement.

Is it easy? No, it’s time consuming and requires planning and monitoring. If you have a Facebook page or Twitter following, your customers will use them to ask questions, post complaints or praise and they will expect you to answer them.

Hiring a small business consultant:

The next question I’m asked is “should I hire a social media consultant?” The answer is a cautious ‘yes’ but only if you’re prepared to give that consultant the tools they’ll need. You’ll need to sit down and formulate a plan, what sort of thing you’re going to post, what specials you’re going to offer, any seasonal info or offers. Seasonal offers and information should be scheduled at least 6 months in advance so you can prepare. It’s no good waiting until the season hits before you make the offers – it may be too late! You need to be able to tell your ‘fans’ that ‘coming soon’ is an offer they’re going to want.

That way they know to wait rather than look elsewhere now. Halloween is a classic example, takes place at the end of October but searches for all things Halloween peak in July. So if you have a Halloween offer you need to be talking about it in July to get the best response.
This is where small businesses often fall by the wayside, they create a Facebook page and post ‘sales messages’ and expect people to flock to the page. The first thing you should ask yourself is;
“Would I keep coming back to this page?” If the answer is ‘not really’ then why would you expect anyone else to?
Remember this, people will always want to know “What’s in it for me?” because there are a lot of people and or business’s out there offering them something of value, so that’s what they’ve come to expect (more precisely, trained to expect). From their standpoint (again), “what’s in it for them?”!!!!

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Posted in Social Media

The penguin update explained – infographic

Are you wondering what a penguin has to do with your site? Google updates are often missed because they change very little if anything on the search results page. Sometimes however Google does something that really does upset the apple cart, or in the case of The Penguin Update the SERP’s. Here’s an infographic  that will help explain it.

Google Penguin update infographic explanation

 

 

Posted in SEO for small businesses
Re-Generating Local Economies

Small businesses today need to be marketing their local business on-line, on social media sites as well as with internet marketing. Unless they do, more and more will suffer.
If you have an idea you'd like to share that may help local economies survive and thrive, please feel free to post.