SEO Isn’t Dead, It’s Evolving

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Many Marketer’s claim that SEO is dead, their practices outdated and no longer relevant – tut tut tut!

SEO certainly is not dead, it’s a Marketing practice which is merely evolving. With the explosion of Social Media, changes to search engine algorithms and an emphasis on link building, Marketer’s & businesses now need to evolve to optimise their SEO efforts.

Keywords

Keyword stuffing is an SEO practice which is certainly dead, actively penalised by search engines that forces businesses to focus on content rather than randomly placed keywords. Interesting, relevant and engaging content needs to be achieved in blogs and web pages – but keywords need to be included in that content to enable your target market to find you.

Do your research to identify keywords used by your competitors and target audience. Conduct free keyword research on your competition by right clicking your mouse on their web pages and select “view page source”. Much of the text is written in HTML code, but you don’t need to be an expert to decipher the basics. Look for “meta keywords”, now many recently developed websites don’t include this, but researching competitors in your industry will highlight many companies whom will have this included. Select 5-10 most frequently used keywords across your competitors and you now have relevant keywords for your own copy – and also highlights your weakest competitors. Likewise, look for “meta tags” and “title” to gather keywords to help boost your SEO presence.

Personally I reaped success in SEO projects by using the excellent keyword tools available from http://moz.com/ Moz can be used for free for 30 days and a very reasonable $80 per month thereafter. The tool generates keywords used most frequently from major search engines, showing the exact words/phrases used by your customers. For small businesses you should only need to use Moz for 2-3 months before reaping a positive ROI, or just the months free version may also suffice.

NOTE: Don’t use the “meta keywords” on your own website, this is an outdated practice penalised by search engines.

Social Media

Social Media according to SEO is simply another avenue where your content can be viewed by your audience. It’s vital to integrate your Social Media sites with your main website, allowing you to build authority with the key products/services you offer. Use the keywords/phrases used in your website and include them in your Social Media posts. Engage with your audience and apply social listening – What keywords are your audience using? What keywords have are your audience responding or not to? Ask your audience “What would you type into a search engine to find a particular product/service?” RESEARCH, ANALYSE, LISTEN and MEASURE.

It’s not just your web pages which appear in search engine results, so utilise Social Media as a lead generation tool to redirect customers to your website to increase sales.

Link Building

Link building is one of the most important weighting factors to boost your search engine visibility. Make efforts to ONLY include link building partnerships with companies who offer relevant and complimentary products/services – make sure they add value to your customer’s needs and wants. How many websites have you visited where those websites are cheapened by displaying adverts and links to companies with no relevance to their industry?

Include links to your clients, suppliers, distributors, news sources or relevant stakeholders and follow one golden rule of link building – BUILD LINKS ORGANICALLY.

Do you think SEO is dead? How do you think SEO has evolved? I’d like to learn from other businesses to see how you approach the topic SEO, thanks 🙂

Social Media: Heaven for Market Research

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Whatever industry you operate in Market Research is an essential element to help understand who your customers are and what they want. Once you truly comprehend your target market and their demands, then you are poised to become a genuinely customer-centric company.

Conducting Market Research via traditional channels can be expensive and time consuming, but Social Media provides your small business with a platform to reach a vast audience and best of all it’s free – apart from your time.

Co-Creation

As a small business your ideas, strategies and approach to your company is limited to your internal culture and way of thinking – why limit yourself?

Co-creation is basically as it sounds – the process of creating products & services with your customers to enrich customer experience.

In a world of homogenisation and same same same, co-creation can help set you apart from your competitors big and small. The level of involvement is dependent on your industry and company and you can choose to co-create with customers at a very basic level or collaborate with your most creative and talented customers to help shape your future products and services. Having your most talented customers design your products/services is also an excellent method of recruitment.

For those customers who aren’t involved in the co-creation process, they’ll see you connecting and collaborating with people just like them and identify you as a creative company who cares about what customers want. So many brands nowadays are capitalist driven managed by power hungry egomaniacs – the exact opposite of innovative co-creation.

Ask your Customers

How do you know what your customers like and dislike if you don’t ask them? Asking questions is the easy part, it’s how you listen that’s important.

Joining groups on LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook will enable you to conduct Market Research by asking direct questions to your customer base. Be creative and create polls to gather feedback, they’re easy to set up and quantify into useable statistics – this is known as Quantitative Research

Qualitative Research is the process of understanding the opinions and experiences of your customers which can be collected by asking more open questions. Groups and forums are ideal platforms, but also consider using something like Google Hangouts which can be used much like a focus group.

Explore & Discover

Market Research doesn’t just have to include asking direct questions, running polls and facilitating focus groups. The beauty of Social Media is the ability to listen to your prospects, customers and close competitors.

Groups are an ideal way to engage in Social Listening, but you can dig a little deeper into their comments with friends, family and other brands. Determine their likes/dislikes and attempt to identify any patterns common to your type of customer.

Spy on your competitors too, especially the larger companies as there’s a ton of conversations which will allow you to understand trends and provides a higher level insight into your industry. Local competitors should also be monitored so you can identify any gaps in the market where you can tailor your products/services to fill that gap.

How have you conducted Market Research on Social Media and what successes/failures have you experienced?

Always look over your shoulder – The Importance of Competitor Analysis

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It’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s happening inside your own company, after all there’s a lot to juggle – profits, margins, new products, employees, tax, cashflow and so on.

Every so often you need to look over your shoulder to monitor your competitor’s activities.

One question I ask all my clients is – “Who are your main competitors?”

The response is often – “We don’t have any competitors because our product/service is unique”

Wrong answer – You’ve just not done your homework.

Regardless of your industry or company – you always have competitors. Yes your product/service may indeed be unique but you will have competitors, often offering a substitute or alternative.

SWOT

Begin an analysis of your competitors by conducting a SWOT analysis.

Strengths

Identify the main strengths of your competitors, what do they do well?

Weaknesses

Cast a critical eye over your competitors products/services, their website, Marketing and social media activity. You will be able to identify areas you consider to be inferior to what your company offers.

Opportunities

Focus on identifying opportunities from 2 points of view.

1) What opportunities might my competitor pursue?
2) What opportunities can my business capitalise on?

Threats

Use the information gathered from identifying your competitor’s strengths and focus on how these strengths may pose a threat to your own business model. Form a strategy to counteract any threats posed – Do you need to:

• Change your pricing structure?
• Focus on different benefits of your product/service?
• Do you need to delay or accelerate a new product launch?

Differentiation Strategy

By spending time on analysing your competitors you should be able to identify any gaps in the market, particularly from the opportunities section of the SWOT analysis.

Homogenisation blights every single business in the world so you need to be unique in some form or simply do what your competitors do – but better. Sounds easy in theory but having a genuine USP is a problem area for many businesses.

You’ll never know if what you offer is unique, unless you know what your closest competitors are offering. If you want to gain a competitive advantage in your market then you need to have a differentiation strategy, some areas to consider are:

• Product/service uniqueness
• Minimising expenditure to improve margins
• Leveraging your employee strengths and skills
• Price
• How you promote your company – Focus on benefits rather than features

To gain a deeper understanding of how to apply a differentiation strategy I’d highly recommend reading the work of Michael Porter – A true master of business strategy.

Steal

Yes steal!

Steal ideas, mash them up and make them your own. What benefits do your competitors promote? How can you match or improve on these? And one of my favourite areas is Marketing – How are my competitors Marketing their company?

Competitor or Ally?

Your competitors don’t have to be your enemy, consider striking up a relationship with your rivals to embark on a referral programme. Refer clients to each other depending on what speciality areas you both offer.

For small businesses consider collaborating with rivals on larger contracts that you would not have been able to fulfil on your own.

Just remember to always keep an eye on your competitors.

Is stealing ethical? Do you collaborate with your rivals? Tell me your thoughts 