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The fashion for keyword-rich domains - it will all end in tears

February 21, 2011 by Bruce Townsend

One or two clients have reported to me recently that some of their competitors are achieving good rankings on Google using sites with keyword-rich domains, like “motoring-widgets.com”. URLs like this have been favoured for some time by Bing, and by its predecessor MSN. But more recently they also seem to be delivering good results on Google for some keywords, though by no means for all.

As a result, there seems to be a bit of a rush to buy up and populate such domains. Which is perfectly understandable given the pressure to achieve high rankings on Google, and the benefits of doing so. However, I predict that this latest Google gold rush will end in tears, and much time and effort will be wasted for a little short-term gain.

In the past, site owners have used all sorts of tricks to get sites to the top of Google without actually providing the quality content that Google craves. And Google has been equally proactive in blocking them. The meta keywords tag used to be very popular, until spammers started using it to cheat the search results. Today, Google completely ignores it. The search engine also acted to reduce the effect of so-called Google bombing – driving sites to the top of a search with numerous keyword-rich links. Domain spam is a trick of the same order, and it can be only a matter of time before the big G acts against it.

My daughter and son-in-law recently spent a few days in Naples. They were amazed by the sheer number of illegal street traders operating in the city. They all seemed to have spotters watching out for passing police, and as soon as the police appeared, the traders melted into the side streets.

Spammers are online traders of the same order — always having to move on when the search police turn up and change the game. These people invest huge efforts in a quick sell which works for a few months, after which all their investment goes down the pan, and they have to start again. No doubt some people enjoy this kind of life, living by their wits and constantly trying something new. But if you want to build an online business that delivers a dependable living, then invest in developing a site that has bona fide, worthwhile content, and relationships that lead to good quality links from good quality and reliable sites.

Bruce Townsend is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and online marketing specialist at SellerDeck.

Jumping through hoops for public sector work

February 18, 2011 by Rachel Miller

Have you ever tried to bid for a public sector contract? If you have, I’ll bet you’ve never had to wade through so much red tape and jump through so many hoops in your entire life.

If you haven’t, you’re not alone. Nearly three-quarters of small firms rarely or never bid for public service contracts.

Just five to ten per cent of public sector business is awarded to small and medium-sized businesses - despite the fact that small businesses account for close to half the UK’s turnover. And that public sector business is worth billions.

But there’s good news for small firms this week.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to help more small businesses bid for and win public sector contracts. His aim is to see 25 per cent of all government contracts being awarded to small and medium-sized firms.

It has to be said that there is some confusion over whether he means 25 per cent of the value of all contracts or 25 per cent of the number of contracts. But who’s quibbling — the difference is only a few billion quid.

Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

So how’s he going to do it?

He’s pledging to break up large contracts into smaller chunks. And where that’s not possible, he’ll encourage large suppliers to increase opportunities for small firms in the supply chain.

Forgive my cynicism but I can’t see larger suppliers giving up a slice of the pie.

However, let’s focus on the positives. With this announcement comes the launch of a new online tool — Contracts Finder — that will show all central Government tender opportunities.

Best news of all is that the Government has removed the need for bidders to fill in a PQQ (pre-qualification questionnaire) for smaller contracts. In addition, David Cameron is promising much less red tape and more transparency.

Will it work? Let’s hope so. It could be a brilliant boost for small firms. And, with the Government promising to publish figures on the amount of contracts going to smaller businesses, we’ll be able to measure their success.

In the meantime, tell us about your experience bidding for public sector contracts and watch this space.

Rachel Miller, editor, Marketing Donut

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Why two is the only thing that matters

February 17, 2011 by Robert Craven

1.  There seem to be two stereotypes of “entrepreneur” co-existing in the world (yet they are treated as one homogenous group):

a) The “blameless poor me SMEs” — always using the word “they” to describe the reasons for their difficulties. Not that “I” am ever the problem.
b) The innovative and inspiring “can do” entrepreneurs.

2.  There are two sorts of business book readers, seminar attendees and students of business:

a) The junkies, addicted to finding out more (and getting ready to do it next month);

b) The doers – who get on and do it.

3.  There are two sorts of business support out there:

a) The talkers — they talk a good talk and charge by the hour;

b) The results-obsessed — they have an impressive track record and charge by results.

4.  There are two sorts of marketing copy:

a) The endless, effusive, “147-places booked, 11 days to go…” that never leave you alone;

b) The one that knows that empty vessels make most noise and are content to let the right people come to them.

5.  Maybe there are two people in the world:

a) Those that don’t get it

b) Those that do.

 

Results talk… and bulls**t walks!

 

Robert Craven is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut. He runs The Directors' Centre and is the author of business best-sellers Kick-Start Your Business and Bright Marketing. 

Google rings the changes

February 16, 2011 by Daniel Offer

Google has made two big announcements recently that could have a huge impact for online businesses. An algorithm change could promote better customer service with the rumoured possibility that positive customer ratings may result in a more favourable search page ranking on Google.

The second announcement is a new partnership with Twitter to display the social networking site’s paid advertisements within Google’s own search results. Here’s what these changes could mean for you.

Rewarding positive feedback

As with all things Google-related, the search engine kingpin is being decidedly ambiguous on the subject and although they have publicly stated that positive merchant ratings could be taken into consideration when deciding on rankings, they have yet to actually admit they are definitely using ratings as a ranking factor.

But Google does appear to be closely monitoring customer ratings and feedback and there is a high likelihood that the Google algorithm has been updated to include merchant rating when populating SERPs.

One online store publicly revealed that they had previously been manipulating customer feedback to improve search engine rankings. Basically, the website owner fuelled negative customer response and it is alleged that the sudden tirade of comments and feedback led to the website gaining greater online exposure and an increase in its search engine rankings.

The new algorithm may have changed that that. Whether these tactics did improve the retailer’s ranking is debatable. But Google took notice and admitted to an algorithm alteration. Now the website in question appears to have slipped down the rankings since the algorithm change.

Google has suggested that they were concerned about beneficial ranking results from negative feedback and that any recent algorithm alterations were intended to provide a better customer experience. However, there is some speculation that Google is now monitoring positive merchant ratings as well using various sources such as: actual website feedback, consumer websites, and Google Checkout.

This is a positive move if true. If the Google algorithm now includes a feature that monitors and rewards websites receiving beneficial consumer feedback it is great news for any online business providing quality service. If a reputable online business can see an improvement in their search engine rankings due to positive consumer feedback, this will provide a real incentive for businesses to increase their level of consumer service and satisfaction.

Sponsored Tweets

Social networking behemoth Twitter has finally bowed under pressure to monetise the site. It has been on the cards for a while now and Twitter has responded and decided to fill its cash coffers by means of paid advertising.

Promoted tweets are similar to Google Adwords. Promoted tweets will appear at the top of Twitter searches and already some major companies have signed up to appear on Twitters search pages. There is also an opportunity to purchase slots in Twitter’s Trending Tweets feature. At the moment, this new feature is being trialled in the US (it was rolled out in April last year) and has already attracted some major players. The plan is to offer this monetised feature to the UK soon (possibly early this year but no actual date has been confirmed).

So how has Google become involved?

Twitter comments already feature regularly within Google’s search engine pages. The recent emphasis on providing relevant, up-to-date, real-time content within search results has led to a massive increase in the amount of blog, forum, and social media posts featuring in top positions in SERPs.

Google has realised the potential of Twitter’s Promoted Tweets monetisation and both market leaders have joined forced to create an advertising golden team. Google will now feature Promoted Tweets from Twitter search results on its own search result pages. The format will be very similar to how it already displays its own Adwords listings, except the Promoted Tweets will be clearly labelled as Ads by Twitter.

The two companies will share the revenue earned form these paid promotions.

How does this affect businesses?

Any business with an effective online presence campaign should already be using the power of Twitter for marketing and consumer interaction. Many businesses are running successful Adwords campaigns and have seen the success they can achieve. Now, not only can a business generate extra interest from Twitter users, any Promoted Tweets they have in place stand a great chance of appearing on the first page of Google for their specific keyword(s). It is almost a two for one offer.

Twitter has already had talks with many interested companies working the UK market and some of the more prominent businesses showing real interest include: Sky, Vodaphone, Sony, O2, Ladbrokes, LoveFilm, and Capital One.

Keeping up with Google

Google introduces new features at fairly regular intervals and keeping on top of these changes can be crucial to maintaining a positive online presence for businesses. These new developments could be very important for many businesses looking to increase their target audience and online visibility.

Any online merchant should count customer satisfaction as their number one goal. But with the possibility that Google is monitoring and potentially using these consumer ratings to determine search page rank, positive customer opinion is now more important than ever.

Using social media as an influential marketing tool is nothing new, but while Facebook and other social networking giants already provide a platform for paid advertising, Twitter has never offered this prime opportunity. But with Promoted Tweets they have finally offered marketers a much-welcomed advertising platform and it should be available to UK business very soon. With the news that Promoted Tweets will also be featured in Google search results, it is a very exciting prospect indeed.

 

Daniel Offer is a partner in the Facebook messaging application Chit Chat for Facebook

 

Have you got your business voice right?

February 15, 2011 by Sharon Tanton

Here are my top five tips for creating a clear business voice:

Keep it short and sweet

Short sentences are better than long ones. Really, they are. For example, if you’re reading this hoping to discover the reasoning behind my implication that the length of both word and sentence impacts upon the readability of said article, or web page, then by this point you might be becoming a little weary of it, wondering aloud to yourself, maybe quietly, maybe not, when, oh when, will it ever reach a conclusion, and I might say to you, maybe quietly too, or I might shout it, or even sing it as an operatic soprano might, in top C, that it’s not going to.

So, short and sweet is better. Cut sentences down. Be ruthless. Don’t be frightened of full stops, they’re your friends, so use them.

Use simple language

And it’s the same with words. Don’t say “facilitate” when you mean “help”.

I’m not saying limit your vocabulary, English is full of beautiful words, but if there’s a simpler way to say it, then use it. Your aim is to be clear and easily understood. Get potential clients from A to B without losing them on the way in a maze of confusing words and meandering sentences.

Twitter is great for getting you to cut down on the waffle, and it’s good to keep that discipline in mind when writing other copy too.

Create a team

Your voice should reflect your brand. If you’re more than a one-man band use “we” when you’re talking about what you do. We help our customers like this. We is inclusive and engaging, and can put you on a level with your potential client. But… read on…

Look lively

Get some energy into that copy to engage potential clients. A good trick for creating a compelling business voice is to look at the first words in each of your sentences and make sure they’re different. Long lines starting with “we…” are dull; “we do this”, “we do that”, yawn, yawn. Throw in some new ones. Shake it up a bit.

Let your expertise speak for itself

Don’t blind customers with science. Even if what you do is highly technical and specialised, avoid using too much jargon. Potential customers need to see how you solve problems for people like them. Expertise can be a stumbling block if you just dump it in somebody’s path. Take a step back and get some perspective on what you do. Ask your clients what they like about you, and I guarantee it won’t just be your technical know-how. If you’re good, it will be your problem-solving abilities, the fact you keep your promises, the way you use your skills to make their businesses run more smoothly. A powerful business voice communicates these qualities first, and let the expertise speak for itself.

 

Sharon Tanton is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut, a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant and a Valuable Content associate.

Getting rid of the spam in your blog comments

February 14, 2011 by Fiona Humberstone

Receiving a comment on your blog is wonderful — it reaffirms that someone, somewhere out there is reading your ramblings. And very often it’s the start of a community, all centred around your blog. What’s not to like?

Well, not all comments are good comments. Spammers have become very clever at singling out bloggers, writing complimentary comments and then putting a dodgy web address in the URL field. The trouble is, that because many new bloggers don’t know what to look for, those comments sit there, undermining your credibility and tricking unsuspecting readers into visiting all manner of websites they might not normally frequent!

So how do you spot a spammy comment?

Well I have to say rule number one for me is to install Akismet if you’re on WordPress. That screens out all of my spammy comments and in almost 1,000 legitimate comments, I haven’t had a spammy one. If you’re not sure how, ask your developer to do it for you (we install as standard when we set up a blog).

Secondly, think “do I know this person?” If not, I always trace the link back to their site — purely to be nosey (and also to say thank you!). You’ll soon know whether it’s a site you’re happy for your business to be associated with or not.

Thirdly, click on the links in their comment and be sure you’re happy with them. And that’s it – very simple.

So tell me, do you have problems with spammy comments on your blog? And if so, how do you deal with them?

Fiona Humberstone is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy.

 

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