10 SEO Practices to Stop

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Often in life, doing something is better than doing nothing at all – even small steps are a contribution to a journey. But this assumes that the small steps are in the right direction.
In the world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), if your steps are in the wrong direction, you are doing more harm than good: you would be better off doing nothing at all.

All very wise, but in the world of SEO, how do you know what direction is the wrong direction? Well, we are here to help and here are 10 SEO practices that will lead you the completely wrong way in 2015. You need to stop doing these ten…..like now!

Keyword Stuffing

Yes, people are still doing this. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t too long ago when trying to cram as many keywords onto one page was seen as a great way to get to the top of Google’s page one. But in the SEO scheme of things, this is very old practice – and it’s not difficult to see why. If you have tried to read a passage that has been keyword stuffed, it is incredibly difficult to understand and is a terrible user experience. And if Google keeps sending you to pages that are like this, it won’t be too long before you start looking (presumably not on Google?!) for a new search engine. Avoid this, the search engines and more importantly users, hate it.

Buying Links

Link building is not an easy process for the enthusiastic SEO amateur – you probably know that you need to be careful but of what exactly? Well, be careful of anyone who is selling links! The purpose of link building is for a search engine to understand your site’s authority: in other words, if a great website (like ours!) links to your website, then a search engine will think ‘well, if these guys will link to that site, the other site must be pretty good’. The search engine doesn’t think ‘this site has 10,000 links so it must be better than a website with 9,000 links’. Unless you are dealing with SEO specialists, be incredibly careful, you could do more harm than good.

Duplicate Content

There is a lot of duplicate content out there, but if you were to talk to the website owners, they will often say something along the lines of ‘it’s because of our company’s structure – we need to include the same text on this part of the website as we do on a different part, it’s an internal politics thing, nothing we can do’. And we hear that answer a lot! But the end user probably doesn’t care about your internal structure, and a search engine certainly doesn’t because your structure is causing it a problem. After all, what page should rank number one? Search engines will try to find out which page came first and which page was copied. The punishment for copying? A penalty…..ouch.

Attack Your Competitors

In some very competitive markets, there is more than just a friendly rivalry between companies – the competition is fierce. And where it gets fierce, it can get nasty. There are ways that companies can attack one another with SEO (just check out our article on negative SEO, don’t worry, you shouldn’t have nightmares!) such as getting very dodgy links to point to your competitors site, but this is not the way to work on SEO. You should focus all of your efforts on optimising your website, not attacking a competitor – not cool and the blackest of black hat SEO.

Writing for Search Engines

Digital marketing and SEO have both made content marketing very important in the 21st Century. Engaging content is one thing, but what about content that search engines love too? Surely that is just as important? Well, they are the same thing. The best advice that we can offer is to produce your content with your user in mind. The more natural that your style is, the more interesting and engaging it will be for the user, and for the search engine too. The algorithms are very sophisticated and are looking for great content from the user’s perspective (don’t forget that’s who they are sending to your site) – focus on the user with your content, not search engines, and you won’t go far wrong in SEO.

Not Checking the News

In case you hadn’t guessed by now, here is a newsflash – SEO is a fast moving environment! SEO is not always black and white: in fact, there are various shades of grey and some SEO practices are keenly debated among specialists. It is not always easy to keep up, and the bad news is this – unless you are prepared to invest the money in hiring a professional or invest the time in keeping up with the latest developments in the world of SEO, your SEO will not work in the long-term.

Guessing Your Keywords

If you have ever asked the question ‘how do I get my website onto page one of Google’ to an SEO specialist, they will probably answer ‘for what keyword?’ This will have a big impact on what happens next! You should absolutely stop guessing your keywords – do some research and find out what the words are that people will search for to find companies, products and services like yours. This can be a long process and you will probably end up with more than one keyword to optimise against, but it is well worth investing the time to make sure that you optimise against the right keywords.

Ignore Search Console

If there was a tool which was able to tell you what links were pointing to your website, what the latest updates in SEO are (for the world’s largest search engine), how to improve your SEO and notification if something is wrong, would you ignore it? Thought not. Now, are you set up in Google Search Console? Thought not! Get your website set up, it is a very valuable resource that you will get for free, so stop ignoring it.

Not Sorting that Slow Page

There are a lot of pressures on the speed of your web pages – social sharing buttons, analytics code, sloppy HTML and images which haven’t been optimised (it’s all about visual content, right?). All of these things will slow down the time that it takes for someone to view your web page. This is also a common issue for mobile webpages which are visited more and more all the time. Search engines do not want to send their searchers to sites with a slow page load because it’s such a miserable user experience. Get it fixed now, you know its time.

Perceiving Social as ‘Nice to do’

If you work in digital, you will not be surprised to know that there are many people who don’t think that social media is essential to their digital marketing strategy – social is all a bit fluffy and unnecessary, right? Wrong! For 99.9% of businesses, your customers are hanging out on social media – you might not know where, but they are definitely there. Being able to engage with them should be a key marketing objective. Search engines are noticing this engagement more and more: indeed Google has agreed with Twitter to show tweets in its search results. Social media is essential now.

Have you stopped doing something in SEO which has helped your website? Or is there one SEO practice that you see all the time that you would like people to stop doing? Leave a comment and share your experience.

Site Structure and SEO

Site Structure and SEO

Is it important?

Site structure is one of the most important and overlooked areas of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). While it is impossible to understand precisely how much of an impact site structure has on search engine results, we can assume that it is significant – it relates to links and if you have followed our blog (and you most definitely should!), links are a consistent SEO theme.

But why is site structure overlooked? If you have ever been involved in a site redesign, or a new website, then you will know that a lot of time is spent on the following items: font, colour, tone of voice, where the ‘buy now’ button should be, etc. Now, this is not to say that all of these areas are not important – they are. But it tends to fall to the web designer or web developer to work out the site structure….and they don’t always know how best to structure the site from a user or search engine perspective.  (Apologies to any SEO expert web designers and web developers – we weren’t referring to you guys here!)

The role of site structure

Site structure has an important job from the two important perspectives in SEO: the user and the search engine.

The user: The best website navigation is one that you never even notice – everything is laid out in the way that you would expect; you find where you want to go quickly; you can work out what you want to do next and actually do it. A good site structure will help users find their way round your website and this will improve your website revenue – fact!

The search engine: Search engines will use the links to understand the site structure and they love links. Not only do search engines use them to understand site authority, they use it to understand how an individual website works, e.g. they will assume that pages which are buried deep within a site structure are less important than those that are close to the home page. In addition, your site structure will take the crawlers (don’t be alarmed, scary name but they are the friendly creatures which look over your site and record all of the SEO goodness!) on the journey to make sure that every page on your website has been indexed, i.e. seen by the search engine and potentially included in their search engine results.

Before you get started….

If you have had that intuitive site structure experience on a different website, bear that in mind when you are thinking about this section.

Before you start the process, you’ve got some homework to do (sorry!): do you really understand how your customers search for your product? This is a more complicated question than it sounds. For this example, we are going to pretend that we own a musical instrument website. If someone is going to buy a guitar (something I would like to spend a lot of my time doing), what are the criteria they go through – it is manufacturer, type of guitar, colour, age, price, etc. And in what order do they make these decisions? Investing time here is crucial – to correct a site structure is a long and complicated process, so try to get it right first time: ask customers, look at the competition, and be confident before the site structure is finalised. A mixture of science, common sense and most importantly simplicity are key. Someone has to navigate this website, so don’t try to be too clever!

What a great site structure looks like (and what it doesn’t)

Using our example of a musical instrument website, let’s take a look at the structure after we have done all of our homework:

  • Home Page – hey, we sell musical instruments!
  • Category – split by the instrument that we sell – so, pianos, guitars, drums, recording equipment, etc.
  • Sub-category – split by the type of instrument – e.g. within guitars: electric guitars, acoustic guitars, bass guitars, mandolins, etc.
  • Manufacturer – who makes the instrument – e.g. Gibson, Fender, Gretsch, etc.
  • Age of guitar – vintage, nearly new or new
  • Time period – more accurate category of age
  • Product pages – individual product pages

Now, this structure may not be right guitar fans, but we are proving a different point here: this is what the URL looks like for one of our individual product pages (where people are excited to look):

examplemusic.com/guitars/electric-guitars/gibson-usa/vintage-guitars/1950s-guitars/les-paul-59-reissue

This is a long URL – do we really need all of these different categories? What if we were to minimise that structure to the following:

  • Home Page – hey, we are still selling musical instruments here!
  • Category – split by the instrument that we sell – so, pianos, guitars, drums, amplifiers, etc.
  • Sub-category – split by the type of instrument – e.g. electric guitars, acoustic guitars, bass guitars, mandolins, etc.
  • Product pages – individual product pages

So, if someone was to take a look at one of our individual product pages with this new site structure, the URL would look like this:

examplemusic.com/guitars/electric/les-paul-59-reissue

A much simpler URL to look at, but that is only one benefit. It is likely that our individual product pages are those which we think are most important – they are the ones where our customers actually buy the guitars! But in the first structure, the product page is a long way away from the home page – and a search engine will assume that the page is not important as the user needs to click six times to get to it. And every time you ask the user to click on a link to get somewhere, some users will drop out – who will be left after 6 clicks?!

This is a deliberately exaggerated example, but helps to prove the point that just trying a little too hard can make for a site structure that doesn’t work from either the search engine’s perspective or the user’s.

Site structure and SEO guidelines:

Shallow structures work best: there are so many benefits:

  • It is easier for users to get to the pages which (presumably) you want them to see
  • Your key pages are closer to the home page so search engines will see them as important
  • For social sharing people won’t need to use a URL shortener like bit.ly or goo.gl which in the wrong context can make clicking on one of these links a journey into the unknown!

Use keywords in your URL: the SEO value in itself is debatable but it does make your URL more attractive to click on – not just from the perspective of your links appearing on other sites, but also crucially on search engine results from Google. And a better click through rate to a great site will definitely improve SEO value. Be careful not to stuff your URL with keywords though, it’s as clunky-looking as it is in website copy

Utilise tools: If your website structure isn’t as simple as the example, you can use the following tools to try to minimise the distance between the home page and your individual products

  • Sophisticated menu systems which can bypass the site structure itself and help users jump a number of sub-categories at once
  • Selectors – these are used by online vacation websites: you can select continent, country, city and even destination all from the home page. A much better user experience and easier for search engines to know where the key pages are

Have a good internal link structure: You should allow the user to be able to find a page on your website and then find another page after that – this ensures that users stay on your website and don’t end up in a digital dead end. Also, it’s a great way to get all of your pages indexed by a search engine.

Get the subject of SEO raised early: If you are lucky enough to be building a brand new website, you cannot introduce the subject of SEO early enough – if you mention it after the site is built, you are looking down the barrel of a site restructure which is a very messy exercise.

Summary

As with most things in SEO, you should have the user at the front of your mind when you are working on your site structure. If it works for the user, i.e. is intuitive, short, logical, then it will work for the search engines too.

What are your thoughts on site structure and SEO? How important do you think it is? Have you got any examples of when site structure has been right (or wrong!)?

Managing Negative SEO

negative-seo

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a great tool for digital marketers – if done well, it can deliver highly targeted traffic directly to the best page on your website.

But imagine that for one of your key search terms, there is a web page in the results which is negative: an unhappy customer review, a derogatory post, etc.  This has the potential to put a prospective customer off before you have even had the chance to engage with them.  Here are my steps to taking care of such a problem:

Where are you right now?  The first step is to work out what company you keep on the first page of your search results.  To do this, you should work out which keywords which you would like to rank highly for.  Start here to see if you have a problem.

Other domains?  Wait, you’ve already got one domain and that’s enough to keep you busy, right?  Well, it might just be worth your while.  If you can get a different domain to rank for your keywords, then this should push your negative results further down the search results.  So, get a domain whose name is similar to the keywords which you are looking to work on, and start writing a blog (where you can, you should include content which contains any negative keywords) – and make sure that you write regularly.

Your feedback?  You should encourage reviews for your product or service.  Not only the right thing to do, but can also work from an SEO perspective.  Another option you should investigate is to give the customer an option to feed-back to you on your own website.

Can Social Help?  Google has a very complex algorithm which no-one outside Google fully understands, but we do know that the major social networks rank well on Google and other search engines.  So get your social networks set-up, posted on regularly and linking back to your site.  Every social network has a different way of optimising for search results, so make sure that you are set-up correctly.

Can Google Help?  Well, yes they can, but only as a last resort.  Requesting a removal from Google is a complex process, and in some occasions, Google will require a legal judgement in your favour before they can act.  Very messy and only to be tried if all else fails (it won’t!).

Have you ever experienced negative search results?  Did you use one of these tactics or did you take a different approach?

Image via SEOPressor.com

What is the Perfect Tweet?

Twitter Advertising

Twitter Advertising

With 6,000 tweets sent every second, there are lots of different types of tweets around. If you are starting a conversation from a business Twitter account, there are a number of different elements which get you closer and closer to the perfect tweet:

Snappy Headline: It needs to be quick, eye-catching and enticing enough for the reader to perform the call to action that you are asking them to perform. Not an easy brief, but there are some great examples out there.

Image: Images and gifs are a great way of getting your tweet to stand out. They can paint a thousand words, handy when you are limited to 140 characters. Also, adding an image or a gif will not use up any of your precious characters, so there is nothing stopping you.

Link: If your tweet is going to include a link to a website, you should make sure that it is clear where you are sending them. Using URL shortening can make a URL look more attractive (particularly if it has a number of tags added to it), but it is not always obvious to which site you are sending people.

Call to Action: You should include what you want the reader to do next in your tweet – is it to visit a website, share the tweet, reply?

Hashtag: I almost didn’t include this element! Hashtags are a great way of piggy backing onto popular search queries from other Twitter users, or specific terms that your audience are searching for. For that reason, if you are going to start your own, you need to be very influential or have enough money to share your message through paid distribution. And make sure you only pick one hashtag per tweet!

Part of a Plan: The best tweets are always the ones which have been well planned or at least thought through and definitely contribute towards a wider content plan. This ensures that the timing, frequency, imagery and everything else is all aligned.

It Works: Every tweet deserves to be measured. The only way to tell if you have achieved the perfect tweet is whether your audience think you have and that answer can only be found in analytics. Getting into the habit of regularly checking your numbers will definitely help.

What is Programmatic Advertising?

Programmatic Advertising

Marketing has often struggled to convince CEOs of its worth over the years. When we were all spending money on print ads in newspapers, we were certainly able to tell where the money was being spent but not so confident about what we were getting back. In the age of digital marketing and CRM, we are able to close that gap – and determine what our return on investment is.

It’s not only outputs which have become clearer: we are able to target our audiences in a much more accurate way. The smaller you can get your audience, the more likely that you will be able to create a specific message that will engage them. Digital marketing has made big steps here, but programmatic advertising can take it further forward still.

Programmatic advertising is not a new concept – it has been around for a few years now, but with more and more people advertising on digital, programmatic is starting to arrive onto people’s ‘should find out what the hell this is all about’ list.

Programmatic advertising is where software is used to buy space on digital, e.g. websites, instead of booking a block of digital space for a particular block of time. It essentially allows advertisers to identify the demographics of the viewer rather than the identifying the website which we think they are viewing. And it is not limited to digital display advertising – it is theoretically possible for other digital advertising (e.g. social media), but also traditional media such as TV. It’s just a case of organising the data (which already exists) into a usable format.

The way that programmatic advertising works is that in the time that it takes for a web page to load, information about the user is gathered, such as age, gender, location, etc. as well as the context of the website itself. This information is then sent to an advert exchange where a number of organisations will have bid to show their message to that profile of person – and the highest bidder is the advert that is shown. A lot in the time is takes to load a page!

From a marketer’s perspective, this is really exciting. We are starting to get to the stage where we are truly defining the audience by a set of accurate demographics, rather than choosing the website that we think they will see. This promises to minimise the amount of wasted adverts shown to the wrong people. It even opens the possibility of truly personalised marketing.

But what about the consumer? Are they ready to be advertised to at such a personal level? Is technology developing at a rate which is faster than our changing attitudes to privacy? Time will tell.

So does this mean the end of block buying advertising space? Not necessarily: if your objective is brand awareness (or you just want to keep a competitor off a site), you may still want to go old school and block some advertising.

And let’s not assume that programmatic advertising is the silver bullet. It doesn’t always work as planned. The adverts which have caused YouTube so many problems recently were placed by programmatic methods. The user might be exactly who you want to talk to, but you might not want to be associated with some of the content that they are consuming.

Image via graphicalliance.co.uk

YouTube’s Advertising Problems

YouTube controversy

Google-owned YouTube has had a pretty busy couple of weeks. And it’s all about advertising and just how tricky it can be.

The first issue that they faced was over a newspaper investigation which found that UK government paid advertising was being run alongside extremist content. Very embarrassing at best and at worst a very expensive mistake: some big hitters (Verizon, AT&T) have suspended their YouTube advertising spend at least for the time being. And these budgets are in the hundreds of millions of dollars – enough to impact the Google share price by $25bn in less than a week.

The second issue that YouTube faced was some controversy around its relatively new ‘restricted mode’. Restricted mode is a filter which can be turned on within YouTube to filter out potentially mature content that you may not wish someone in your family to see. Sounds like a reasonable idea – but how does it work? How can YouTube tell what content is offensive and what isn’t? It is very difficult, even for the big brains over at Google. When the panic was reaching its peak over the first issue mentioned in this blog, restricted mode seemed like a great idea. But it soon started adding a lot of LGBTQ into restricted content, for which it rightly attracted a lot of criticism.

How can YouTube / Google start to get control of the situation and move forward in light of this very difficult period? I think there are four areas to consider:

  • More control over the type of content on YouTube: This is a really difficult one, but one that YouTube needs to step up to. It needs to either define what content is inappropriate (where is the line between freedom of speech and hate speech?) or flag content very clearly that should be restricted – for users as well as advertisers
  • Balance between meeting the needs of content creators and advertisers: YouTube is stuck in the middle but needs to listen to the needs of both – without either, the website will face even more troubles ahead
  • The Google Display Network needs to be tightened up: Advertisers need to be able to clearly define who they are looking to engage with and YouTube needs to be able to deliver against that brief. There will always be a bit of a leap of faith for an advertiser, but running the risk of having your advert appear before an extremist video is a leap to far
  • YouTube needs to clarify what Restricted Mode is all about. It came to prominence as a knee-jerk reaction to the advertising controversy and what they saved in time, they paid for in good-will from viewers and content creators. Clearly explaining what is being hidden and why would go a long way to resolving this.

What do you think that YouTube and Google should do to resolve these pressing issues?

Image via the fantastic howstuffworks.com

Boosting Email Open Rates

Boosting Email Open Rate

Email is a great tool to use to engage with your audience. Assuming that you don’t have to buy a database to find out who they are (this can open up a world of pain, it’s a subject for another day!), it is a great opportunity to get your message in front of people. You can send them to a very specific link on your website, useful if your website structure is complex, and you can engage them with interesting content.

But all of that assumes that your audience actually see your email. What if your biggest problem is getting people to open your email? Here are some things to look out for when running an email marketing campaign:

Make sure they can open it: Avoiding the spam filter is the first hurdle that you need to overcome. Doing this is a blog in itself (shameless self-promotion), so let’s just say that this should be a consideration.

Timing is everything: When thinking about email marketing, you need to get into the mind-set of the recipient. If you are on your way out of the office on Friday afternoon after a hard week and you receive a marketing email, are you going to stop and read it or just delete it and start the week with a clean inbox? Timing is really important. Consider when your recipient will be in the right mood for your product, e.g. emails for holidays or financial services products may be more effective at different times of the day or days of the week.

You don’t call, you don’t email: The frequency with which you email your audience is important. If you don’t do it enough then the user will have a good enough reason to open your email, but if you email them too often, they will become tired of your communication and it becomes wallpaper. There are no hard and fast rules, but doing some research into your industry’s email frequency should offer some guidance.

Who is it from? You should have a think about who your email is from. On most email marketing packages, you can determine what the recipient sees in the ‘sender’ column. Should it be from ‘sales’ or ‘admin’ or should it be from a person – i.e. their name. In my experience, using a name tends to have a better open rate, but it does depend on the market that you operate in.

Subject line: The one element which has the most impact on the open rate of your emails will be the subject line. This needs to be enticing enough for the user to open the email, so it is a good place to personalise (with either their name or if it is time for the recipient to renew / upgrade your product), summarise your offer and grab the recipient’s attention.

What actions have you taken to drive up your email open rate? Leave a comment and share your experience.

The Digital Marketing Guide to Lead Generation

leadgen-1

In the word of digital marketing, there are not very many activities that are done by all marketers regardless of the industry or market you operate in (i.e. Business to Consumer or Business to Business; product or service), how mature your business is, or what your organisation’s level of sophistication is.

But one of those activities is lead generation.   If your conversations with your boss include the phrases ‘conversion rate, revenue, traffic’ then it is likely that you are spending a lot of time working on lead generation, even if you don’t realise you are doing so!

Just because lead generation is common doesn’t mean that it is easy.  Consider the below questions:

  • Where do your prospects hang out online?
  • How can you attract more traffic to the website?
  • Are you selling to existing customers or finding new ones?
  • What tool should you use to talk to this particular person, at this specific time and about this specific subject?

Not easy to answer, right?  That is why you need a lead generation strategy.  It helps to organise your marketing activity so that you are focusing on the right message at the right time.

There are lots of lead generation strategy models, but the one that we will explore is a 4 point model based around RACE, as used by the excellent digital marketing website Smart Insights: Reach; Attract; Convert; Engage.

But before we get into the model, there is something you need to do – develop a plan.  This is going to be specific to your business, and should set out clear and measurable goals, budgets, resource, etc.  It can be fairly top-line as there will be some unknowns, but time spent here is time well invested as it sets the direction for the rest of the lead generation strategy.

Reach:

This is the first stage of actual marketing activity.  You will be looking to raise awareness of your product or service and trying to make links between your potential customers and your business.  At this stage, the content is likely to be informative and there to help your audience rather than selling to them (remember, they don’t know who you are yet!).
There are a number of tools to enable you to drive your awareness:

Search Engine Optimisation: If you look at your analytics package, you will be able to see how much traffic organic search engine traffic delivers to your site: it is likely to be a lot!  So, you should have identified the most important keywords for your site and be in the process of writing some great content to reflect your objectives.  If you have got your SEO right, it can help to build trust and credibility in your potential customers, as they can (rightly) assume that you are a player in the market.

Pay per Click Advertising:  SEO does take time to get right, and even though the rewards are enormous, you may want to consider PPC advertising.  If you are looking for a relatively quick way to get onto page one of your search engine, PPC may be for you: but remember, if your chosen search terms are highly competitive, what you save in time, you pay for in budget.

Social Media: A great way of generating awareness of your business is through social media.  You should first spend some time working out where your audience hang out line, when they are doing so and what is their mind-set – for example, you may be a sales director, but your mind-set on Facebook will be very different from your mind-set on LinkedIn.

Website: When people are starting to explore, is your website answering their questions; for example is terminology explained; is your returns policy very clear?  But in order to get people to your website first of all, you will need to attract them with some content (which will help SEO and can be shared on social media) – a blog is a great way of doing this.
The measurement of the Reach phase of your strategy is particularly important.  Raising awareness is difficult to measure if you are not measuring the awareness of a huge brand: research into brand recall, brand recognition and brand association are pointless with 99.9% of brands, so you need to think more laterally.  If you are promoting your website (and you should be!), what are the visitor numbers looking like?  Where is the referral traffic coming from for these new visitors?  Is our social media audience growing?

Attract:

This is the stage where you are really starting to focus on driving traffic to your website.  Your audience are aware of you, and it’s time to start helping them take action!  As this stage is all about your website or blog, there are a lot of metrics to be measured, most of which will be covered by your analytics package.

Visitors – this is obvious, but you should have an overall view of whether your web traffic is increasing or not

Traffic source – You should be able to link the traffic from your activities in the ‘Reach’ stage to your traffic sources.  Here you can see how effective each activity has been.  You may also start to employ some affiliate marketing: if you are talking to a specialist audience who are difficult to reach, try advertising with a more specialist website and drive traffic from there.  You might also want to keep an eye on the geography of your audience if relevant from your ‘Reach’ stage activities.

On-site engagement: To judge how engaged people are when they are on your website, keep an eye on the ‘time on site’ and ‘pages per visit’ metrics, although their importance can vary – for example, you may only want the user to see the page they land on.

Convert:

This is the point at which the purchase is made (ideally!).  If your product is being sold online through an ecommerce platform, then the emphasis here is all about your website performance.

Conversion rate optimisation is all about making the journey that you want the user to complete as simple as possible.  So it is all about making processes simple: if we look at the world’s most popular ecommerce site, Amazon, we can see their navigation is very clear, as well as their check-out process which can be as simple as just one click to purchase.  You may not be able to match that, but think of all of the information that you would like to see before purchasing – e.g. return policy, delivery options, product dimensions, product reviews, etc.

Also consider multi-variant testing – with facts to back up which parts of the website work best, you will never have to get into the conversation about whether red, green or blue ‘buy now’ buttons work better again!

The ultimate measure of whether the ‘Convert’ stage is working is cold hard profit.  But you should also spend time thinking about the factors which lead to profit – what is your product / service mix, could your basket spend increase, referrals from which source have the highest conversion rate, what was the redemption on the Facebook promotion code?
In theory a simple stage, but in reality it is here where a lead generation strategy is successful or not.

Engage:

While the ‘Engage’ stage may seem like the end of the journey, it is actually the start of the next journey!  Engage is all about customer retention: it is well publicised that the cost of recruiting a new customer is 7 times more expensive than retaining an existing customer (https://blog.kissmetrics.com/retaining-customers/).

The challenge at this stage is to give the customer enough reasons to come back.  Now that you have the customer’s details, you are able to engage with them on a regular basis, for example through email, offline direct mail or loyalty schemes.  Social media is also a great way of keeping in touch with existing customers to encourage them to come back.

In terms of metrics, you should be looking at customer satisfaction (you should have an automated process to track how happy a customer was with their experience), lifetime value of the customer, and whether they are an advocate of your business on social media.
And once you have done all of this, it is time to start the process again.  And just think how good you will be second time around!

What are your tips for a successful lead generation strategy?  What is your tried and tested method of attracting the best quality leads?

Common Social Media Mistakes

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Social media is a big opportunity for most organisations, whether they are B2B or B2C, or whether they operate online or from a physical location. And while the theory of social media is simple (i.e. if I write great content, people will be able to engage with it), the execution is not quite as straight forward. Here are some common mistakes that are made on social media that you should do your best to avoid:

No Plan: If you don’t know what you want to achieve with your social media account, how can you possibly hope to achieve it? Do you want your account to drive traffic, entertain, be a customer service channel, be a PR platform or something else?

Always Selling: Social media is all about engaging the end user – and nothing disengages people more than selling all the time. That’s not to say that you can never sell, you just need to earn the right by posting other non-sales content. And make sure you pick your moment carefully, unlike these guys.

Buy Followers: It never works. Ever. And it completely defeats the whole point of social media. You should be focused on your reach rather than your audience size. Just because they are following you, doesn’t mean they are listening. And if you buy followers, they are not listening and most likely  not real people.

Inconsistency: You should consider your audience when you are posting. Would they be interested in what you are saying? If you are using one platform to talk about your business, your sports team, your family and your politics, you are getting it wrong. You should focus on posting about one topic and doing it brilliantly.

Frequency: The number of times that you post per day should differ by social network: the life span of a tweet is far smaller than the life span of a Facebook post for example. So spend some time working out what frequency you can commit to and dig into your analytics to find out when your audience are most likely to be online – this will maximise your reach.

Don’t Learn Lessons: Analytics packages for the 3 ‘old’ social networks, Facebook Twitter, LinkedIn, are pretty good. You should invest some time looking at the analytics to see where you could improve your social media offering. And if your social media account drives traffic to your website, you should check your web analytics package too.

Over Use Hashtags: Hashtags are a powerful tool. And with great power comes great responsibility (thanks Spiderman). Use hashtags in moderation and don’t over-load your post with them. It makes reading the actual message very difficult, especially if it is long #longhashtagssimplydontworksodontdoit

Typos: Typos and grammar will happen on social media, but when they do it distracts the user from the message which you are trying to communicate. So avoiding them will help your message resonate.

Spread Yourself Thin: Rather than creating accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, you should focus your efforts on just one network to start with – the one where you are most likely to engage your audience. Also, are your audience interesting in your content across all social networks? All of them?!

Image via anitakelleyconsulting.com

Which should I choose – SEO or PPC?

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We all know that search engines are important. The world’s number one search engine is even a verb and that search engine receives at least 2 trillion searches per year. You can check your analytics package to find out how important search engines are to your site, but its likely to be high.

And we all know that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and search engine advertising (or Pay per Click [PPC] advertising) are important too, but which one should I use over the other? What are the key differences? I hope this quick guide can help.

Search Engine Optimisation:

  • Long-term investment
  • Continuous project
  • Good ranking suggests credibility
  • ‘Owning’ your front page offers PR benefits
  • At the mercy of algorithm changes
  • Can add SEO value without spending any money
  • Can be difficult to make progress against well-established competitors with large budgets

Pay Per Click Advertising:

  • Short-term spend
  • Campaign-based (normally)
  • Always needs a budget
  • Less reliant on regular algorithm changes
  • Full control of budget
  • Guaranteed presence on the front page of Google (although the right hand column should be avoided, it has an awful click through)

In most situations, certainly in the longer term, the best solution is probably to use a combination of both SEO and PPC. For the more consistent parts of your business, you should focus on SEO, but for the more short-term, tactical and promotional activities, PPC should receive more attention.

 

Image via swisspeaks.org