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One of the first points to consider, when thinking about creating a business website, is the locality of your target audience. Are you aiming to attract customers from other countries, or are you concentrating solely on the country where your business is located?
There is a very good reason for asking this question and it is something that very few people consider when they develop a website. The domain extension you select and the actual physical location of a web hosting company’s servers can affect whether or not your website will appear in Google’s local search results.
Many small businesses only wish to serve a specific location within a country itself, say a particular town or district. For these businesses, local search can be very influential. Google is placing great importance on local search and it is important to a small business for their website appear within these results. But for this to occur, their website should have the correct domain extension and be hosted on servers that are geographically relevant to their target area.
When deciding if a website is relevant to local search results for a particular location, Google will examine two essential factors.
Has the website got the correct domain extension for that location?
Is the website hosted on servers local to the specific area?
Let’s take a closer look at these two factors:
Most web design companies and SEO specialists always insist that a business opts for a .com extension. Search engines do favor this extension in general but not when it comes to local search results. The only exemption here is local searches in the Unites States. In the US, Google automatically defers to .com.
The reason Google considers a website with a country-specific extension more relevant to local search is they assume (with good reason) that the site will likely contain content that is more relevant to search users from the same country. It is that simple.
The second important factor is the location of the server a website is hosted on. This is often overlooked by many web designers and SEO companies. It is not always prudent to go for the cheapest reliable web hosting company, without knowing the location of their servers.
This applies to all countries. Many of the popular web hosts have servers that are located in eastern European countries — where property, labour and utilities are cheaper. It is important to do some research before choosing a web host and if you cannot find the information on their site, phone or send them an email. Ask where their servers are located and if they are unresponsive, or dodge the question, the servers are probably not located locally.
There will be perfectly reliable web hosting companies with local servers and the difference in price between these and those with non-local servers will often be negligible. Google does rank server location when they provide local search results, so this is an important choice if you are looking to appear in these results.
There is another factor to consider for any small business that targets a specific local community. Servers located in the same locality as a particular location-based search query can also influence a website’s position in the local search listings.
As with domain extensions, Google presumes the website hosted in the same locality will contain the most relevant content for that area. This is not only country-specific; it can also be area-specific, so bear this in mind when choosing a web-hosting provider.
Google claims that one in five search queries is now a location-based search. At present Google is the prominent search engine and the above two factors do influence how a website is ranked in the local search results. Keep these factors in mind and give your website a local search advantage.
Daniel Offer is a partner in the Facebook chat programme Chit Chat for Facebook.
Phone and email for new business generation are still at the heart of all new business marketing programmes when reaching out to an audience; however social media is playing a growing part in these strategies.
Here are a few suggestions showing how you can widen your reach to be noticed, to persuade your audience, engage them and stand out from the crowd.
Join discussion groups — those your key targets are part of and active in. Get involved and offer your expertise, help solve their problems.
Follow key targets, including a sample of their targets, to get a feel for trends, issues, challenges and popular topics being discussed.
Independent expert status will deliver a deeper level of trust. Get involved with forums that will be most valuable to you and share relevant content across these platforms.
Have a close look at media in your sector, the angle taken, your targets’ positioning and the audience they are reaching out to.
Attend all key industry events and engage with your target audience. What are your targets showcasing, how strong and professional is their positioning, collateral, understanding of their audience?
You’re an expert. Share your knowledge and industry opinions.
Attend carefully chosen conferences and seminars, consider speaking at them, particularly those that are the benchmark for your specialism.
Your website needs to be interactive to allow your audience to connect with you. Make it easy for them to reach you through an online blog where they can post comments or find you through other social media platforms and connect with you there.
When you’re starting out with your blogging, getting into “the groove” can be hard. Just how long should your posts be? And where on earth do you find the time to blog?
I’m a firm believer that you should be blogging two or three times a week, and if you can manage to squeeze one in every day, so much the better. Your writing will be better for it and your readers will thank you. In fact, as long as you can keep focused, the more you write, the better you’ll be. And the better you are, the stronger your following of readers. And that means more business for you. So it really is a win-win.
But to answer my original question, just how long should your blog posts be? Well I recommend that they’re around the 250-300 word mark. This length is easily digestible for your readers, and is pretty quick for you to write. You should be able to produce something of that length in around 30 minutes. And if you can write quickly, you’ll be blogging often.
You don’t need to get too perfectionist about it. I recently read an article that was lambasting people that didn’t spend at least a day refining and sculpting each blog post. I’m sure that it does make for great writing, but the fact is that unless you’re a professional, full-time blogger, none of us have eight hours to spend perfecting, refining and crafting one post, so why even try.
Write from the heart. Start with a plan and stay focused. And if you stick to my recommended word length, you’ll find that you don’t have time to ramble on. Just make one point, and make it well.
Upon opening the many newspapers London provides, you will undoubtedly find at least one article describing how the loss of sponsorship funding is endangering a sports team.
This has created an impression that the sponsorship industry has been dealt a severe blow by the credit crunch. However, while many of these multi-million pound sponsorship deals are drying up, there is a surging interest in B2B sponsorship.
The reason for the surge in sponsorship deals is partly due to a marketing shift in the industry – the push/pull dynamic.
Traditional push media such as TV, billboards, radio, newspapers and magazines offer one-way communication between the brand and the consumer. In the past these have proven effective alone. However, at a time when people are constantly marketed to through more and more channels, traditional push marketing is increasingly falling onto deaf ears.
It is now becoming crucial to engage your audience. Pull marketing is interactive, two-way communication between the brand and the consumer. This is more effective than ever thanks to internet marketing, social media, RSS, blogs, forums and so on.
Of course, combining push and pull marketing is most effective of all. And sponsorship can deliver this.
Aligning your brand with something about which the target audience feels passionate can create goodwill. It is an age-old fact that people tend to favour others who like the same things as they do; this dynamic is no less true when it comes to forming a relationship between brand and audience. Through sponsorship the target audience can be primed to be receptive to the brand.
In addition, sponsorship can create pull marketing through tangible “touchpoints” for the consumer to interact with your brand. The push marketing creates the awareness and the pull marketing gets the consumer involved.
Social networking sites like Twitter and LinkedIn allow you to engage with each of your consumers on a platform that they are comfortable with. Digital marketing platforms work exceptionally well within a sponsorship programme as your customers are already primed to engage with your brand.
Although sponsorship is not the only way to facilitate this push/pull dynamic, it is certainly one of the easiest which is why we are seeing a surge in these partnerships. If you are relying too much on push media and not achieving the results you are after, it may be time to consider sponsorship as a way to help incorporate this push/pull dynamic with your brand.
With the Conservative Party conference over, thoughts turn to the government spending review and how it will affect business and the economy. Whatever the outcome in the long term, in the short term there is little doubt that businesses will continue to approach both expenditure and debt with caution. So what is the likely impact on marketing?
The first casualty is likely to be external expenditure. Marketing consultancies will find it hard to win business, and increasing pressure will fall on in-house staff as they are expected to make up the difference. Knowledge of new technologies will be at a premium as more companies look to develop and maintain expertise internally. Only last month, the BBC revealed how in-house SEO had helped it to slash its marketing budget. Marketing staff of small companies will be expected to be jacks of all trades, to reduce reliance on expensive external resource.
Expect large, costly projects such as re-branding to be postponed. There will be an emphasis on cutting out unnecessary expenditure. Companies will recycle existing advertising campaigns rather than splash out on new ones. It will never have been more important to know which half of your advertising budget is wasted! Spend will continue moving towards online advertising, simply because results can be tracked accurately and unnecessary costs eliminated.
A word of warning, though. Companies that cut back too far on marketing will lose out long-term, yielding ground to more ambitious competitors who continue to invest and seize the opportunity to gain market share. It was ever thus. Marketing theorists cite the example of Cadbury’s, who continued advertising throughout World War II – even when they didn’t actually have any chocolate to sell – and gained dramatically as a result.
Marketers must accept that it’s a season to cut out the dead wood, and probably some green shoots that haven’t yet been fruitful. But it’s also a season of opportunity. Where one company cuts back, there is the chance for another to step in. In advertising it will be a buyer’s market, with bargains available to the shrewd negotiator. Technologies like social media and mobile are still developing rapidly, with whole new territories opening up for businesses willing to invest early.
Pressures there might be, but possibilities there certainly are too, for companies willing to take the risk and step forward into the breach.
Being disruptive pays. Following the pack does not. At least not for most people.
Starbucks was a disruptor as it changed the habits of a generation (as did FaceBook, Google and so on). But what is new today becomes old tomorrow. Today’s revolutionaries are tomorrow’s Old Guard.
A great disruptor doesn’t just do more than interrupt; it can change the face of the landscape. This is particular true of the customer experience.
Starbucks changed how and where we socialise, Amazon changed how we shopped…. So while we can quote the big disruptors I think that we can all disrupt, if only on a smaller stage.
You can zig when they zag. Go against the traffic. Challenge the notion of “that’s how we do it around here”.
Depending on your marketplace, think what would happen if you:
I am sure you get where I am coming from.
Robert Craven is the author of business best-sellers Kick-Start Your Business and Bright Marketing. He runs The Directors' Centre and is described by the Financial Times as "the entrepreneurship guru". Read more here.