Let’s be honest, running your own business can be a nightmare sometimes and, inevitably, the biggest challenge is prioritising what’s important and what can wait.
When the inbox starts to overflow, it can be easy to simply set aside tasks that are deemed non-urgent for a later date and, for many, online marketing fall into this category.
But I’ll let you into a secret: clients (along with service providers, staff, suppliers, and so on) will never stop throwing curveballs. You will, however, learn to manage them with greater efficiency.
But the fact is that organic online marketing can’t wait — it takes time and the later you start, the later you’ll see results. Online sales are now forecast to make up 21.5% of the retail market by 2018, a rise of 8.8% from 2012. Without a hard-working online presence, you could be missing out on a substantial amount of potential business.
If you have set up a new online business then you’ve undoubtedly prepared an online marketing plan already. And you’ve probably also had lots of calls offering services that will guarantee your website a top five organic placement on Google within six months. Trust your instincts on these and steer clear of quick wins — as the old adage goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Online marketing is about earning trust and it will take time — that’s why it is prudent to start early and focus on the long term. While there are numerous resources available to support beginners with SEO (such as moz.com and our own Donut guides), the greatest challenge for small business owners is time.
Opting to work with a respected search agency can provide a more holistic approach — using their resources to manage multiple elements concurrently rather than jumping from task to task. Alternatively, many search companies will be open to completing certain elements of your own strategy such as social media management or content provision and dovetailing this with your own activity.
While this work continues in the long-term, an effective way to make more money and drive traffic to your website in the short term is to use pay-per-click advertising (PPC) such as Google AdWords.
In short, you create adverts to be placed on relevant results pages of Google. To do this you need to create adverts that Google deems good quality “answers” to search “questions”. PPC offers flexibility both in terms of advert content but also in terms of spend as you will need to ensure that you are targeting relevant phrases and bidding effectively to get a decent return on your investment.
As the name suggests, with PPC you only pay every time your advert is clicked on but if you choose the wrong terms and the wrong bids, your budget can disappear pretty quickly and with little to show for it.
Like SEO, PPC is a task that can be done by your team but, again, it can be time-consuming. And conquering Click through Rate and Cost per Acquisition through trial and error can be expensive. Many search marketing companies offer campaign start-up packages and monthly management plans, enabling you to get a strong presence in search results.
© Hannah Jackson, managing director of Search Marketing Group.
If, like me, you are a product person, then I think it’s safe to assume you spend a healthy amount of time thinking about how your product can make an impact on its market.
At SellerDeck, we are pretty lucky as we have a sizable user base, but it wasn’t always the way. Plus, I have never met a product company that doesn’t want more users.
So here are my top ten tips for making a big splash:
Every industry has a set of influencers. Get to them, demo your product or offer early access if you are yet to launch. An interesting tip I picked up is to look at those that write books about your space, contact the authors and the people that are quoted on the back and get them on board.
You need to become the face of your product in relevant online communities — everything from social networks to discussion groups. If you’re not the authority for your product then someone else will be.
Get out of the office and away from the desk. Nothing beats good old-fashioned networking and many events are free to attend.
Seriously, business cards are not dead. In my opinion they are the most powerful marketing tool available and considerably more acceptable to hand out at events. The premise of the double-sided card is simple; one side has your contact info, the other a short description of your product. But avoid marketing BS at all costs.
A great tip I picked up at a conference last year is to search for comparisons between your competitors. If your space is reasonably mature you’ll find everything from reviews to blog posts. Why not include a comment while pointing out how your product is different from those being discussed?
I am amazed at how few companies in the tech space still offer a marketing kit. It’s one of the most useful tools a marketer can provide. Think about how you can condense all of your information into a concise PDF or simple HTML site. Include interesting information, case studies/testimonials, product details, market statistics etc.
It all makes a difference and remember no one likes a constant stream of “why you’re the best”. Mix things up, be interesting.
Pay-Per-Click advertising is the long-established method of getting eyes on the prize. The reason for this is simple — it works. Google and Bing ads are the obvious starting place but don’t forget about Facebook, where you can target a campaign based on people’s interests and demographics.
Think about Linkedin, Crunchbase, Mashable and others — they are often free. There are loads of business directories, make sure you’re in all of them.
Cliché I know, but if your current customers are not raving about your product or service then I doubt the new ones you’re trying to attract will be either. Also no-one sells a product better than an existing, happy user.
When training others in setting up their AdWords campaigns, I have noticed that many will have made identical mistakes. My challenge to you is – how many of these errors can be found in YOUR AdWords campaigns?
1. Using just one advert to match to lots of unrelated keywords
Here’s an example advert that is suffering from this mistake:
temporary staffing, virtual office
registered office, mail forwarding
In this example, the advertiser is attempting to use one advert to advertise many of their products and services. To overcome this mistake, set up multiple ad groups, one for each product or service.
2. Sending people to the homepage
A common mistake is to send all visitors direct to the homepage of your website. You have just a few seconds to get and keep someone’s attention on the web! Don’t risk them leaving immediately as they cannot find what they are looking for – send them directly to the page about that particular product or service.
3. Incorrect capitalisation
Capitalise the first letter of each word in your advert (see the example in point 4 below) – this works by making the advert stand out more and increases the likelihood it will get clicked.
4. Using your company name as the heading for the adverts
This mistake is often replicated by web marketing agencies as well as individual advertisers. Here’s an example:
Bristol Party Hire
Bouncy Castles in Bristol
Great Prices From £45
Your advert is NOT about you – it’s about closely matching what the potential visitor is searching for. The advert heading should match the keywords the visitor has used as closely as possible. For example:
Bristol Bouncy Castles
Bouncy Castles in Bristol
Great Prices From £45
5. Not tracking the results
Make sure you track your results so you can test which keywords work best to generate leads and / or sales. You can do this by using Google’s conversion tracking (found in the Opportunities tab).
6. Leaving the content network on
The content network is a large number of unrelated websites, all running advertising on their website. Visitors to their websites have the opportunity to click on your ad, costing you money. Turn the content network off to avoid these unnecessary clicks.
7. Leaving ads running 24 hours per day
For most products and services, it makes sense to only run adverts at certain times of day. For example, B2B advertisers will benefit from running adverts only during work hours.
8. Not using negative keywords
Negative keywords will prevent irrelevant searches. For example, you will probably want to cut out people seeking “free” things. Ideally build a large negative keyword list to save yourself money.
9. Failing to use broad, phrase and exact match keywords
These are the three different keyword types which all need to be included in your ad groups to cut down on costs. So make sure you include them all.
10. Underutilising the display URL
The display URL can be manipulated to increase Click Through Rate. For example, if advertising bouncy castles – instead of www.bristolpartyhire.co.uk use www.BristolPartyHire.co.uk/BouncyCastles.
Claire Jarrett of MarketingByWeb
I'm not sure if anyone has really noticed, but recently a fairly important document was published over in the good 'ol US of A. The document, imaginatively titled "Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising" is, I believe, the last ditch attempt by the industry to avoid the hard line of US government regulation on the online advertising industry.
This document was compiled by a major trade group made up of execs from Google, Yahoo, Facebook and others. The objective would appear to be to appease Washington and consumer groups who believe we are being tracked too closely online.
Having read through the fairly lightweight 55 page document I have to say its fairly open to interpretation. The proposed self-regulation seems to focus on data collection between the numerous online ad networks. But though this would be a move in a positive direction, it is implying the ad networks will agree to work together.
In practice however, this is a seismic shift away from the real world. Both Google and Facebook jealously guard their (or our) data. For this to be adopted and for the ad networks to avoid Washington's red tape there will be some very interesting developments in online advertising in the next few years.
Personally I feel if this self-regulation is adopted, including a stringent set of opt-out policies, it's going to be a step in the right direction, but it remains to be seen how big these steps will be.
Recently I have become utterly obsessive about ecommerce and business site design. This began after I spent a few hours reviewing a friend’s Pay Per Click (PPC) invoice. Apart from rivalling the deficit of a national bank his campaign was providing little success. Delving a little deeper, his problem turned out not to be traffic, rather his site has all the basics wrong. While there are many techniques for running lean and successful PPC campaigns I want to take a step back to look at these fundamentals. It’s easy to spend a bucket load of cash on PPC (trust me, I have done it). However, the very first objective for any site owner should be to create a site that achieves its aims. Using ecommerce as an example, this is about converting browsers into buyers. If you can get the principles right, driving traffic should be a secondary and relatively easy objective. Anyone that’s played the popular 90’s computer game Lemmings will know that leaving these suicidal creatures to meander as they please will result in disaster, usually of the dead Lemming kind. The problem isn’t the lack of Lemmings -- there are enough for everyone -- the problem is the route you have devised for them generally ends up in the spiky pit of doom. Business websites sites have the same tendency, but we just call it ‘goal conversion’. Ask yourself, what are the goals of your site? They could be anything from a sale, contact form submission, lead creation or a click somewhere. These goals are the foundations of your site -- the routes for the Lemmings -- and anything else is secondary. Once you have identified these goals you need to optimise for them. It’s an essential and often painful process, but one where you need to be ruthless. Anything detracting from a goal conversion needs stripping away without mercy. Conversely, the message for any areas that need strengthening, is fix them now! It’s only when you are happy that your site meets its goals that spending on PPC makes sense. Just press that button and let the Lemmings jump!