The plethora of information available in the online world has created the horrible scenario where there’s too much of a good thing. If you’re looking for helpful advice or guides, you’ll be able to find them in droves, all with contradicting views and opinions on best practices.
When you’re looking for start up business advice, where performance can hinge on the smallest make-or-break decisions, it becomes crucial to find a reliable, trustworthy source that you know is speaking from experience and not opinion.
Following on from my August post on Start Up Donut, below are three more recommendations of authors who actively blog helpful tips and guides online, coupled with a best-selling book that is a must-read. Each of these books covers a different field of business so, if you have a website which you are looking to grow, you need these books.
The ability to track data on the internet is second-to-none, allowing user-centric information for marketers and companies at a level that has never previously been available. Making this data actionable though, now that’s difficult.
Avinash is quite simply a legend in the website analytics field, and you should be worried if you hire a web analyst who is not familiar with his name and work. Responsible for the term “Analytics Ninja”, he is an advocate for better reporting, leading to conclusion-based analysis that is crucial for a successful website.
His best-selling book “Web Analytics 2.0” is tailored to an hour-a-day attitude of improving your understanding, implementation and analysis of data for your website. The depth and breadth of this book make it perfect for those just starting out in website analytics as well as experienced professionals. It is literally impossible to read this book and not become a better analyst (and all proceeds of this book go to charity, such is Avinash’s way), so if you buy any book, this must be it.
You are probably familiar with the term Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). An essential requirement for any website hoping to show-up in search engines like Google and Bing, SEO is both necessary and difficult.
The field of SEO is strewn with guides from literally thousands of sources and you can easily get caught up in terrible advice and best practices. Start off with Danny Dover’s guide and you won’t go wrong.
Similar to Avinash’s Web Analytics guide, Danny’s book is perfect for both SEO newbies and pros, and covers everything from basic on-page optimisation to more advanced SEO tactics, such as site architecture.
The SEO road is a long and frustrating one, but Search Engine Optimisation Secrets will relieve the pain of searching for answers.
At some point in your website’s life, you will want to advertise it. Whether it is on Google’s content network, or search engine bidding in the sponsored ads, online advertising done right can be a revenue-winner, but done wrong can be a company-killer.
Craig Danuloff’s book focuses on a type of online advertising known as Pay-per-click (PPC), a self-explanatory term highlighting the fact that you provide an advertisement and will be charged each time an individual clicks it.
The world of PPC is incredibly advanced, and so much deeper than an auction model of “he who spends most, wins”. One of the key factors of PPC is a Quality Score algorithm, a mystery figure calculated by the search engines which impacts when your ad is shown and how much you pay.
It would take a lifetime to find and read through the Quality Score essentials that you need to know for a successful campaign. This book brings all of this information together, with the expertise of Craig Danuloff breaking down the intricacies of paid search and Quality Score in a way you simply won’t find online.
I hope these recommendations lead your business to greater things. Have you read any books recently that are filled with marketing gold?
I’m often baffled by the way so many business people approach marketing. Contrary to popular belief, marketing will not be successful if your approach to it is a one hit wonder, sporadic or scatter gun. Getting the attention of your potential customers, and keeping it, is an art that takes commitment.
Marketing is everything that you must do to develop relationships with members of your target audience. The clue is in the word relationship. You cannot develop successful relationships without effort and time.
The one hit wonder approach typically involves those people who believe the website they have just built or the advert they have placed is the key to their marketing success. They honestly believe it should result in a long line of potential customers forming an orderly queue. There is no consistent effort in this approach so it will not result in much.
The sporadic marketer is the business owner who understands the potential value of marketing. However, as is typical, they are juggling many balls and inevitably some drop. This person is usually so busy that they may not even notice they’ve dropped the ball until weeks or months have passed. Over time they do a bit of this and a bit of that but their marketing effort is never enough to make an impact.
The scatter gun approach to marketing is often taken up by people desperate to do the best for their beloved business. There is no shortage of information and just one Google search on marketing will throw up a gazillion theories, approaches and actions from the gurus of the day. There are far too many marketing actions you can do in a mind-boggling range of combinations to be able to do them all effectively. Successful marketing involves working out key areas of focus.
So, if you want your marketing efforts to be more successful and you recognise yourself in any of the above then it’s time to admit that things have to change. Even me! I still recognise parts of the sporadic marketer in me, simply because it’s a massive challenge doing everything necessary to run your business.
In all areas of business working out your goals together with a plan of action is key. Outsourcing is another tip. Many business owners will get immediate help with accounts but sadly, marketing is one of those areas that people believe they can DIY.
That is sad because marketing should be the priority. Without sales you have no business. Without leads you have no sales. Without marketing you have no leads.
So, work with a marketer to develop a usable marketing plan. Partner with them to ensure you deliver effective marketing messages consistently enough to develop quality relationships with potential customers, existing customers, suppliers and potential partners. It’s a commitment that you’ll need some help with and that if delivered, will result in rich rewards.
When was the last time you reviewed your website? I mean properly and objectively reviewed it, rather than just looked the other way when you opened the site by mistake? I always recommend my clients review their sites at least every six months, at the very least. It’s amazing how much your business will change, the market will move on and your customers’ needs will change over six months, and it’s important that your website is always business ready.
By business ready I mean that it needs to be ready to attract the right sorts of clients; position you in the best possible light and provide conviction that you are the best company for the job. Often small tweaks, changes to images or adjustments to your copy can be all it takes to get your website business ready again. Sometimes it’s about adding in a couple of extra pages or taking out irrelevant information. And sometimes (and only sometimes) you need to throw everything out and start again.
Here’s how to get your website business ready.
Ask yourself: what do we want to be known for, what are we best at, what work do we want to win through the website? Now be honest – are your words, images and design communicating that?
What is the goal of the website? I was talking to a potential new client yesterday who was frustrated that her website didn’t get her more members joining. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that there was nothing on the homepage asking you to become a member, no pages to outline the benefits of membership and no imagery to lead your eye to the membership section. I suspect that if we had delved a little deeper there would have been more that we could have found to help her achieve her goals, but often an objective glance is invaluable.
What’s working, what’s not? Use your gut feel, client feedback and anecdotal evidence as well as information that you can glean from Google Analytics. We find the exit pages, site overlay and general information invaluable when gaining feedback on how well a website is performing. Come up with a plan of what needs to change.
What information is out of date? Team members perhaps, products that are out of stock or no longer in use. Is everything that you provide or sell on there? I realise that I am highly innovative and will often change things at the drop of a hat (much to the delight of my staff as you can imagine) but almost all businesses will develop and change over time – make sure you keep your website up to date to reflect this.
If you have a website with a content management system, then much of what you learn throughout this process you’ll be able to implement yourself. Most of it is likely to involve changes to your website copy, perhaps to some of the images or perhaps small tweaks to the structure. So go on, give yourself just half an hour to get your website ready – I promise you’ll thank me!
P.S. I really do practise what I preach. Having tweaked, nipped and tucked the Flourish website over the past 18 months we are now in the process of a bit of a redesign… But that’s another story for another day.
Read more in our section on Your Website.
People are searching online for your products or services. But are you being found?
Does search engine optimisation fit into your inbound marketing strategy? Google still gives a weighty 75 per cent importance (or thereabouts) to links in their PageRank algorithm. Even after the Panda update, the only difference is quality, NOT quantity.
If you want your website to be visible, it’s to develop quality content and to ensure that your website has quality links linking to it.
Let’s imagine for a minute that you are walking down the frozen food aisle in the supermarket. You are looking at all the types of ice cream and frozen yoghurt. There’s lots of choice, right? Now make everything free! What will you choose? That’s simple — you’ll choose the best.
An important message we’ve taken from this is that Google doesn’t buy. People buy. Make sure your content is good for people, first and foremost.
When people are searching for your products or services online, if you don’t have the benefit of great brand awareness you need to make your website attractive in other ways. One way to do this is to build quality inbound links. However, Google also now puts importance on visitor behaviour when they are on your site, taking into account things like how long they stay and what pages they click on. The longer someone stays on your site, the more brownie points you’ll get from Google.
So how you do build quality content that will get linked to and will keep people on your site?
Ask people what content they’d like to see and keep an eye on what people are talking about. If you’re a “roll your sleeves up and get stuck in” kind of person, you can find ideas for generating website content right here and there’s no time like the present. Start today so that tomorrow people can find your business online!
Sian Lenegan is the founder of Sixth Story, a website and graphic design company based in Birmingham.
In the past five years SEO has changed dramatically — driven by the fast-developing way that Google works.
Five years ago, SEO was all about on-site optimisation. What was important was whether the Google spiders could find their way around your website. At that time, even some of the biggest companies had websites that were impervious to Google, with only a fraction of their pages getting found and listed. So that was where the focus was for search engine optimisation.
All that has changed. The Google algorithm is much more sophisticated today. And understanding Google has never been more important — Google-related searches account for about 20 per cent of all internet activity.
Now the focus has shifted from on-site optimisation to off-site activity. What that means is that Google now judges your website by what other people think of it and whether they link to you from elsewhere.
There’s a story in the brilliant book, The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki that illustrates this concept. It tells of a mathematician who went to a country fair in 1905 where people had to guess the weight of an ox. The mathematician took all the guesses and calculated the average weight from them. That average turned out to be almost spot on — just one pound out.
Today, Google is doing a similar thing. It gauges the relevance and quality of a website by the crowds that link to it — via other websites and through social networks such as Twitter. Google is brilliant at working out what a crowd thinks about your website.
So what do you have to do if you want a crowd to think more positively about your website? The good news is that most modern CMS (content management systems) are built with Google in mind whereas five years ago they weren't. But instead of focusing on complicated technological trickery, what you really need to do is be better at what you do than the rest of the market. Build a better product. Deliver a better service. If you build it, they will come.
It’s about reflected glory. Google is now checking you out by analysing what others think of you. And in the next few years, Google is going to get better and better at working out what people think of you.
There is an adage which is regularly used by “progressive” marketers today. That is, marketing is no longer about broadcast messaging as it was before the web. Rather, marketing is now about engaging with customers via online tools where customers have the right of reply. Consequently, marketing becomes less about broadcast messaging and more about a conversation. That is the move from one-way communication to two-way communication.
While I do not disagree with this sentiment, the problem is that these mantras are often repeated until they become meaningless. So, I agree that marketing is a conversation as opposed to a broadcast message. But what does that really mean? A conversation about what?
Do we really think that the average consumer just can’t wait to start engaging with us about the finer aspects of our accountancy services, the new and improved recipe for our new flavour of crisp, with even less salt, or the advantages of our new loyalty card scheme?
In other words, suggesting that marketing is a conversation is all very well, but in itself is completely unhelpful.
Social media has not suddenly altered the behaviour of human beings. We have not suddenly become purely altruistic, concerned only with sharing and helping our fellow brothers and sisters. No, on the contrary, social media is all about “me”.
We share items that we find interesting, or because we know we will get the credit for drawing something to someone else’s attention, or for making them laugh. I am not suggesting that nothing is ever posted for the benefit of someone else. However, sharing useful information or engaging in conversation also makes us feel better about ourselves.
So, if companies want to engage with consumers and have a conversation, it has to start with the customer and not them. Companies have to ask themselves; what is in it for the customer? Why would they want to engage with a particular item or share it with others?
Too many companies’ Tweets, Facebook pages and blogs are all about them and provide no value for the customer whatsoever.
In order to engage with your client base, it often means creating value around your core product or service, rather than just focusing on the actual solution that you sell. For example, a beer manufacturer may find it hard to engage an audience over the finer aspects of their beer. However, encouraging people to recount their best beer night ever, with room for pictures and video may have some appeal.
This also works in business to business. So, an employment law firm will not be able to engage anyone around the benefits of their service. However, a live forum where people can comment on the employment issues they currently face, and where others can recount their own experiences and solutions, may well be something which provides value to HR managers.
Marketing today is NOT simply a conversation. Marketing, rather, is about providing people with VALUE. If companies can produce marketing that provides value and encourages people to participate, then it is very likely a conversation will ensue, which is a desirable outcome. However, what companies need to focus on is the value they can deliver for consumers, rather than trying to artificially create conversations. If they provide real, tangible value then everything else, including conversations, will follow.