As with many things there is often a solution and increasingly that solution is web based and I don't just mean your simple search engine query input and pages upon pages of answers solutions. Clever computer types have created a myriad of tools for web analytics and monitoring. Some tools offer fantastic graphical representations that will illustrate where you have come from and where you ought to be going. Having demonstrated the web application of Tweetdeck in my previous post as a means of monitoring your small business online in the real time stream of consciousness that is Twitter, this post will demonstrate to you just how you can analyse your company blog-where it has come from and where it ought to go. Whatever purpose your blog serves, it is expected that posts will be categorised and then subcategorised by 'Tags.' Not only will tags organise content for you, search engines love nothing more than to feast on tagged content. Tagging makes life easier for you, search engines and your reader. Now here comes the web solution to analysing your blog content. Assuming your blog has an RSS feed-many blogging platforms throw this nugget in for you- copy and paste the feed URL into the appropriate field on Wordle, sit back and watch it make a pretty diagram for you. Wordle, in their own words, ‘…is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.’ Now you could compare your Wordle diagram with your blog’s ‘Tag Cloud,’ should you have one or just take the results at face value. What does it tell you? Does the diagram match up to your perceptions of what you think you blog about and in turn demonstrate you are writing on topic and selecting the most appropriate tags for your wonderful content? Or does it highlight a need to tweak your content? It could be that it encourages you to write more broadly or to focus on one particular topic in order to readdress the balance or to fine tune your niche. You will see that I have produced the Wordle diagram for this here blog, we can see that ‘Marketing,’ ‘Business’ and ‘Online’ feature prominently, as you would hope for a blog which shares the latest thoughts on marketing to small businesses in an ever increasing online world. It could be suggested that the Marketing Donut blog would do well to drive more content along the lines of the key topics which are displayed on the Marketing Donut site itself in order to increase the depth of coverage in the field of Marketing. Give it a go and see if it gives you an illustrated guide to being on topic or not. Where have you come from and where do you want your blog to go?
I’ve just finished an extensive tour of some of my company’s most successful online retailers. One common theme has been that they aim to provide excellent customer service. But I’ve droned on about that many times before, so I’ll not bore you again.
However, one of the other themes that came out is how clear they are on what they are doing. The benefit of this is illustrated by the classic saying, “those that aim at nothing are lucky - they always hit their target.”
If you’re aiming at something in particular, by definition you also know what you’re not aiming at. To put it another way, if you’re not sometimes politely telling customers that “we don’t do that”, you’re not really clear on just what you are doing.
Here are a couple of examples from my tour. Kettlewell Colours (www.kettlewellcolours.co.uk) sell women’s T-shirts in a rainbow of colours. But it doesn’t do any search engine optimisation, or pay-per-click advertising, because it doesn’t compete on price. PPC and SEO won’t yield much of the demographic that buys from the site. Instead Kettlewell markets exclusively through image consultants who recommend its wares. This is easy for the simple reason that it really meets the needs of its clients, by providing clothes in a vast range of colours. It doesn’t do anything else, and being clear on what it does, means it doesn’t waste money on ineffective marketing.
In contrast, Cult Pens (www.cultpens.com), another customer, specialises in pens. It is much more niche than just stationery, so if you want a fax machine from them, you’re out of luck. However, it does consistently achieve first or second rank on Google UK for “Pens”. That’s out of nearly two and a half million entries. It’s a fantastic achievement and it’s heavily driven by the fact that the business has around 8,000 pen-related products. Not surprisingly, Google seems to conclude that it knows quite a bit about pens. That works to such an extent that it doesn’t need to spend out on pay-per-click advertising.
To be successful in business, you have to be focused. And when you are focused, it’s easy to know what to do and what not to do. The results will nearly always speak for themselves. It’s not just the marketing that works at these two companies, they are both growing like crazy. One of the reasons for their success? They know what they don’t do.
If you have a website and want to gain new customers, why not build landing pages optimised for search terms with geographic modifiers. If that sounds like gibberish, I’m talking about creating special pages to attract potential customers who enter (for example) ‘copywriter Norwich’ instead of just ‘copywriter’ into search engines. Because location searches are more specific, there’s generally less competition for them, increasing your chances of achieving good SEO results. For example, as I write, my page on Copywriters in London ranks at #4 in Google and #1 at Yahoo, outperforming the sites of dozens of other copywriters who really are in London! When visitors click through to the page, it explains that they could get practically the same level of service from a copywriter in Norwich and save money, since our overheads are inevitably lower. Is it ethical? Am I bending the truth? Believe me, I’ve agonised over this. But I only considered it when I saw competitors doing the same thing. And all I’m really doing is creating a page about finding copywriters in London, not masquerading as a London copywriter. Does it sell? I believe so, although I don’t always grill my new clients on how they found me (I know I should). You’ve got to be realistic. Drop-off rates will inevitably be high when people seeking local suppliers twig that you’re 100 miles away. But some are bound to be convinced. If you want to do something similar, just create a web page with 300-500 words of text talking about finding your product or service in your target location and linking that to your own offering. Explain how you can easily reach customers in the location and, if appropriate, mention any clients you already have there. Make sure you use your keywords in your HTML page title, heading tags and throughout the text. Aim for a keyword density of around 5% - you can check it here. Use keywords in the document name too (Yahoo likes this). The ‘description’ meta tag carries no weight for SEO, but may still appear in search results. So you can use it to grab searchers’ attention with a punchy message like ‘Looking for an electrician in London? Call our national helpline to find a reliable, affordable contractor.’ (For more help with SEO writing, see this guide to SEO Copywriting.) Remember, your page is primarily aimed at search engines. You don’t really want people to read it! So make sure people who arrive at it can easily click through to your home page, perhaps via a link in the first sentence. To boost rankings further, link to your page from blog posts and online PR articles. The only thing you can’t do is get listed in local online directories for your target locality - although you could always make that possible by investing in a virtual office. A final word of warning - if people do choose you, they’ll be expecting you to match the service a local supplier could provide. Make sure you can keep your promises!
So I’ve finally given in and opened a Twitter account. But I remain ambivalent. And many of my contacts, including some seasoned digital professionals, share my doubts - as do some high-profile commentators. Why am I bitter about Twitter? Here’s a handy bullet-point list of my issues with it.
As a copywriter, I dislike the telegraphic, SMS-like brevity of the Tweet, and the incomprehensible stuff that sometimes gets Tweeted. As a tired thirtysomething, I’m wearied by its jittery fragmentation and grating, self-conscious ‘Hey there!’ chirpiness. As an SEO, I resent its ‘nofollow’ links, particularly when LinkedIn (a PR7 site) grants me backlinks with editable anchor text. As a business person, I’m irritated by its founders’ arrogant ‘not for sale’ posturing, despite the manifest lack of a business model (unless we count making TV shows). And finally, as a human, I question whether we should be measuring our worth by all this virtual interaction.
‘Forget that,’ you say. ‘How can I make money from Twitter?’ Future ways to profit directly from Twitter might include charging for your content, pimping it out to third-party advertisers or using it to promote exclusive special offers. Indirectly, it’s all about getting yourself noticed, building credibility and educating potential customers about your offering, which should drive interest and therefore sales. For those who have a large base of users or contacts they need to keep updated, it’s indispensable. But for marketing, it remains to be seen whether you really do reach potential customers, or just other Twitterers who are looking to sell rather than buy, or to Tweet rather than read. For example, a survey reported in Marketing Week (print only) found that just six out of 2600 followers responded to a Tweet saying 'has anyone seen this tweet, please answer yes'. Is anyone listening? Even so, sheer weight of numbers means the risks of being left out outweigh the hassle of getting involved. But I still suspect that many businesses are just following (as it were), without being 100% sure why. And I include myself in that. Will Twitter itself make money? It’s a truth universally acknowledged that anyone with tons of users will cash in, and Twitter certainly is a big hitter. But a large user base is no guarantee – look at Facebook’s spiralling costs (storage alone is $100m pa), funding worries and struggles to generate clickthrough from its advertising. It's a victim of its own success: people visit Facebook to socialise, not to buy things. With 60% of Twitterers drifting away within a month, it could be a challenge to get advertisers to do more than fling some content at Twitter in hope rather than expectation. (Twitter Search could be part of the answer.) It all reminds me of that other flash-in-the-pan site that appeared a few years ago. Very plain interface, childish colours and a silly name - something like ‘Google’…
There’s not much point in putting an enormous amount of effort into creating a website if nobody uses it. Early on in the development of the Marketing Donut the ugly topic of keywords and search engine optimisation raised its head.
Ugly? Well, it makes me think of those sites you see all too often that put all their effort into SEO instead of actually creating good content. And investing in ‘artificial’ SEO does seem a bit like betting that the guys at Google aren’t that smart, which might not be the best way to make money.
The Marketing Donut tries to steer a middle course. We’ve had a long, hard look at the search terms people might use when they’re looking for marketing information – and we’ve made sure we use them in focused articles on various marketing topics. But for us, content is king – if there’s a choice between optimisation and quality, then quality wins every time. It’s the quality that’s going to make the Marketing Donut worth linking to and push the site up the rankings.
Together with the marketing campaign for the site, it should be enough to start the ball rolling. If it turns out that we aren’t getting enough traffic, then we’ll just have to look for some more advice on search engine marketing. Now, where would be a good place to find that?