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Many Marketer’s claim that SEO is dead, their practices outdated and no longer relevant – tut tut tut!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NOTE: Don’t use the “meta keywords” on your own website, this is an outdated practice penalised by search engines.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?

What do I post on Social Media?

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A common problem with small businesses and Social Media newbies is deciding what type of content you should be posting.

How do you find enough fresh material to post on your Social Media sites every single day?
The 1st question you should be asking is: What does my audience want to read?

Ask and Answer Questions

Social Media isn’t about you or your company, it’s a platform to connect and engage with your audience. If you want to know what your followers want to read, ask them.

Conduct some basic market research on Social Media by running a poll which lists a variety of topics, it can be something simple like:

What Social Media platform do you want to know more about?

A. Facebook
B. Twitter
C. LinkedIn
D. Google+

A poll is a quick and easy method for people to respond to, and once you establish the results you can then post content relevant to your audience.

Provide tips and advice relevant to your industry. You’re the expert in your field, not your customers so become a useful source of information and offer your skills and knowledge for free. Once you become a credible and trusted source of information, you can engage with individuals and tailor your products/services to suit their needs.

Share

Share content from sources outside your company that are relevant to your industry and specialist areas. By sharing external content you’re providing a richness and depth to the content you share with your audience.

Some examples of the types of external content you can share on Social Media are:

• Newspaper articles
• Articles & links to industry associations & trade bodies
• Competitors blogs (not your immediate competitors)
• Videos
• Industry Experts
• Academic & Industry Research

When you share content from external sources, you’ll experience an increase in followers and your own content will also be shared. Share and be shared.

Post about your Company

When posting information about your company, their products and services it is essential to create a balance. Too much information on your company and people will very quickly disengage, too little and people will simply be using you as a source of free information.

As a rule of thumb apply the 80:20 rule, posting 80% of content NOT related to your company and 20% about your company. Use this as a guide and alter according to the level of response and feedback you receive.

When posting about your company, consider posting:

• Offers & Discounts
• New product/service launch
• Awards & Achievements
• Client testimonials
• Specialist/niche areas

Be Social

This is THE golden rule of Social Media – BE SOCIAL.

Honestly Social Media isn’t complicated; it’s simply about 2 parties communicating. Respond when people have shared your content and respond promptly to every single comment, like and new follower.

Small businesses have a distinct advantage over larger competitors if you take the time to connect and engage with your audience. Provide a truly customised level of service that larger competitors will struggle to replicate due to the scale of their customer base.

You might not have a big Marketing budget or thousands of employees, but you can offer personalised 1:2:1 customer service earning you a competitive advantage.

What approach do you have to posting content on Social Media?

The Versatility of Social Media

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Social Media can be incorporated into a variety of different business functions – in fact it’s versatile enough to be used as a tool across ALL business functions.

Social Media can be used as a Tool for:

• Customer Service
• Market Research
• Networking
• HR
• Target Marketing
• Selling

Social Media as a Customer Service Tool

Customers like to ask questions on Social Media about your company products, opening hours and even to complain. Their questions and complaints are public and this may scare some businesses – the key is to deal with all customer service issues promptly.

Turn any negative feedback into positive by resolving issues swiftly and demonstrating your ability to make improvements to your company. As a small business you have the advantage over larger competitors who struggle to deal with individual issues.

Social Media as a Market Research Tool

Ask questions and run polls on Social Media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google + are all good platforms to gather market research. If you want to know what your customer wants – ask them and use Social Media as a tool to gather important statistics and opinions.

Ask your followers on Social Media their opinions on new products/services to meet their tastes and preferences. Involve your customers at R&D stages in a process called CO-CREATION.

Social Media as a Networking Tool

Use Social Media to network with peers and industry leaders to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your field.

Connect with people on Social Media before meeting them, I find this helps to break the ice a little as you know a little about the person before meeting them.

Network internationally too, you’ll enrich your own learning experience by understanding a variety of views, experiences and opinions from a variety of cultures and people.

Social Media as an HR Tool

Do your homework on Social Media to analyse potential employees – their Social Media profiles and activities often reveal more in depth information about people than a simple CV.

Create closed groups for your employees and use Social Media as a tool for internal communications. Gather feedback from your staff on new products/services and listen to their opinions on the strengths & weaknesses of your business.

Social Media as a Targeting Tool

Identify prospects and customers using the variety of search functions on each Social Media Platform. In particular the search bar on Facebook can be used to identify and target potential customers based on a wide range of variables.

Target people and companies based on your existing customer base.

Target based on Location, Demographics and Lifestyles.

Social Media as a Sales Tool

Selling is the primary objective of any business but on Social Media it should be the last in a series of stages. Always remember that people are on SOCIAL media for SOCIAL reasons and this should be respected.

Post new products/services, special offers and discounts on Social Media but limit this to around 20% of your overall posts. Try to understand the demographics of the users on each Social Media platform and tailor your messages to suit each audience.

Have I missed out any business functions? How do you use Social Media?

Which Social Media Platform do I choose?

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A good place to start is to ask your prospects and customers what Social Media platform they use – but this won’t always give you the exact answer you’re looking for.

Often conducting market research provides a low level of response so you should learn a little about some of the most popular Social Media platform available so you can make an informed choice.

We’ll explore 5 main features of 5 main Social Media Platforms to help you make those informed decisions on what Social Media platform your company should use.

Facebook

1) Over 1 Billion Users

The most widely used Social Media Platform in the world

2) Fastest Growing Demographic 55-64 Age Group

Teen Market using Facebook less than previously

3) Build a Business Page Separate from your Personal Profile

Recommended to set up a personal profile and NOT a Business only page

4) Excellent Targeted Advertising features

Good for local small business targeting local consumers
Aim for likes & turn them into regular followers
Use the Insights Feature to measure the demographics of people who like and share your posts

5) Suggested methods of Marketing = Competitions, Events & of course Relationship Building

Twitter

1) Over 500 Million Users

2) Micro-Blogging site Using only 140 Characters to Communicate your message

This helps businesses be more concise in how they Communicate on Twitter
Short bursts of information are ideal for Time-starved consumers
Your message has around 10 seconds to make an impact on readers

3) Excellent Customer Service Tool

Respond in real-time – Consumers expect a quick response
Respond quickly to negative comments – turn into a positive

4) Post Regularly

Several times a day
Establish optimum times of the day to post – Morning, Afternoon or Evening

5) Target Customers & Connect with Industry Peers

Follow & be Followed
Share & Be Shared – Share posts from other people/companies
Target customers based on location, industry & interests

LinkedIn

1) 225 Million Users

2) Ideal B2B Platform

LinkedIn provides a Transparency to your small business & personal skills, specialities, credibility & experience – Individual & Company Profile
Excellent Platform for Networking with Peers & Prospects
A must for any Small Business operating in the B2B Market

3) Join LinkedIn Groups

Estimated 1.5 Million LinkedIn Groups
Permitted to join up to 50 Groups
Recommended to join no more than 20-30 initially to ensure you’re contributing to those groups
Adhere to Group Rules

4) A Business Page is required for Paid Marketing

Target B2B Market
Small Businesses may experience a relatively low Volume of Clicks but the Conversion Rate will be Higher

5) The 3 C’s of LinkedIn

*Community
Treat each Group like small Communities
You’re simply one person who’s part of a wider community with shared interests

*Contribute
Distribute your Small Business Blog – Make sure the Content is Relevant to the Group & Discussion
Share external articles from News & Information sources – Share & Be Shared

*Comment
Answer Questions from your fellow Professionals, Customers & Prospects
Ask Questions – Utilise LinkedIn to Conduct Market Research
Finish your Group Posts with a Question to encourage others to Comment

Pinterest

1) 70 Million Users Worldwide

2) 75% Female Demographic

Highest Percentage of Users access Pinterest from people using Tablets & in particular the iPad
Women use Pinterest to get ideas & inspiration
Men use Pinterest when they Plan to Buy

3) Ideal Platform Creative Industries:

Most popular Pins shared are Recipes
Use Images, Graphics & Infographics
Pinterest is like Online Window Shopping

4) Easy to Use – Pin It Button

Pin It Desktop Button to Share Interesting finds from the Internet
Pin It Button on your Company Blogs & Website – Make it easy for people to share your Pins

5) Create Pinterest Boards

Showcase your products
Create Boards based on the Specialist Areas of your Small Business
Other People will follow your Boards

Google +

1) 500 Million Users Worldwide

You need a Google Account (Gmail) to have a Google+ Account
Google + can be used in a Personal Context or Business

2) Links to other Google Products

SEO Benefits
Google Adwords
Good for Content Marketing

3) Google Circles & Hangouts

*Google + Circles
Share Content with Selected Individuals
Be alerted and have people in your Circles alerted when you post any fresh content
Be as Broad or as Narrow as you wish

*Google + Hangouts
Voice & Video Chat
Host Live Webinars
Hang out with friends & colleagues in a Group Setting – Have a Group Discussion

4) Join Google+ Communities

Similar to Groups on LinkedIn
Join Google + Communities relevant to your Target Market
Join Google + Communities Relevant to your Industry

5) Plus Ones +1’s

Similar to Likes on Facebook
Quick & Easy way for people to share your posts

Check out your competitors and see what Social Media platforms they use which will also help to establish the platforms used by your customer-base.

What Social Media platforms do you use and why?

Building a Brand from Scratch

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Branding is an essential element in any Marketing strategy for any business in any industry. Your brand defines your company by encapsulating who you are, what you offer and what differentiates you from the competition.

Ask anyone to provide you with an example of a successful brand and you’ll hear the likes of Apple, Coca Cola and Microsoft. Branding isn’t monopolised by the big corporations as small businesses can also build a successful brand, here’s some guidance on how to build a brand from scratch.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Be consistent with all your branding efforts or don’t bother building a brand at all. Think about a Franchise like McDonalds or Starbucks, in every store you get the same coffee, same decor, get asked the same questions and you get this consistently. Here are 10 of the most important elements to consider when building your company brand:

1) Keep your LOGO prominent and consistent
2) Use the same LANGUAGE, TONE and level of FORMALITY
3) Keep COLOURS consistent
4) Use the same IMAGES, GRAPHICS & PICTURES in all Branding efforts
5) Use the same LAYOUT, FORMAT & TEXT
6) Display the same WEBSITE, EMAIL ADDRESS & PHONE NUMBERS
7) Keep CUSTOMER SERVICE consistent by having FROMALISED PRE & POST SALES FEEDBACK
8) Ensure ALL CUSTOMERS receive the same level of focus and service, regardless of their size of wallet
9) At all times apply the MISSION, VISION & VALUES of your company
10) Fully INTEGRATE all Social Media Channels with your company website, and vice versa

Lifestyle

When I was 1st taught about Branding I couldn’t get my head around the fact that people buy into the lifestyle of a particular brand. I was a salesman and you sell a product or service – not a lifestyle! However if you understand the lifestyle of your target market then you can relate your brand to the lifestyles they lead.

If you want to understand the lifestyle of your customers then you need to collect, store and utilise data about them – building a database is critical otherwise you’re fumbling around in the dark.

Building a database with names and addresses will reveal nothing about the lifestyle of your customers, you need to understand:

• Opinions
• Trends
• Hobbies & Interests
• Occupations
• Family
• Culture

Build relationships with your customers and gather feedback at every opportunity, ask them what they do in their spare time – Now you understand their lifestyles you can relate your brand to the very people you serve.

Positioning

The positioning of your brand is all about how the consumer perceives your brand in relation to your competitors, the keyword here is PERCEPTION. The brand you create will result in people forming an opinion on your company – the quality of your product/service, the value of your brand and if you’re high, medium or low quality.

Get outside that little world of your company and think like your customer. What makes you similar/different from your competitors? What’s your USP? How is my brand viewed in the minds of my customers? – Just remember it’s the customer’s perception of your brand that’s important not yours.

As with all strategies you must formalise your goals and objectives, create a plan and implement it successfully – Always have a plan.

What do you think a brand means?

Why your Business will die if you don’t adopt Social Media

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The explosion of Social Media has always fascinated me. Not so much from a Marketer’s or business perspective but to see the monumental shift in the way people communicate and conduct their everyday lives.

Business need to adopt Social Media into their Marketing strategies or run the risk of being left behind, not just from competitors but from connecting and engaging with customers. Social Media won’t solve all your Marketing dilemmas and must be integrated with a wider Marketing strategy to work, but I propose that your business will die if you don’t embrace it.

Communicate like your customers

Communication has vastly evolved since the introduction of mobile phones, the internet, computers and now the rise of smartphones & tablets. When I was a kid pen pals were common and you had to use a landline to communicate with friends and family. Now I don’t even have to talk to people to communicate.

Who are your customers and how do they lead their daily lives? Just look around you in any street in any town or city in the world, even in developing countries and you’ll see a set of thumbs clicking away. The way people communicate has evolved and businesses need to evolve to communicate in a manner which is familiar to ordinary people.

Low cost Marketing

I’m a huge advocate of the fact that Social Media has helped to even the playing field in Marketing between large and small businesses. One negative of Social Media is that it requires sweat equity and drains your time, but use that time to your advantage.

Small businesses don’t have big budgets so utilise your time to gain a competitive advantage. Spend your time communicating and engaging your audience, something that big businesses with millions of customers really struggle to implement. Yes time = money, but far less than the big budgets required to compete with big brands.

Reach

Place an advert on TV, Radio or by Direct Mail and only the people who directly receive these Marketing messages are the initial recipients. A rule of thumb in publications is to multiply the volume of sales by 4 to calculate overall readership numbers. Word of mouth is required to increase reach on more traditional Marketing platforms, but doesn’t come close to the reach you can achieve via Social Media.

The exact message delivered on Social Media can be shared with people from all over the world in a matter of seconds, something that simply isn’t possible using traditional Marketing methods. No Chinese whispers, no misconstrued information, the exact same message to a global audience.

Competitors

I’m a late adopter of technology and don’t do things to keep up with the crowd, but in business you cannot sit back and watch your competitors stealing a lead on your company. If you wait for your Marketing message to reach your customer in a mail drop or in a magazine or newspaper then it reaches your customer much slower. Do this and you could already have lost sales to competitors using Social Media who engage with people in real time.

Social Media is where people socialise, enter their world and do it quick otherwise your competitors will leave you in their dust.

Older consumers

Does your mum have a PC or smartphone? Do they have a Facebook account where they talk to old friends and family members abroad? –Yes!

Even the 50+ market are starting to adopt Social Media and are the fastest growing segment on Facebook, they soon convert to see what all the hype is about.

I recently conducted market research for competitors and spoke to mainly the 55+ market and almost all of the people (apart from the 75+ market) I spoke to said that they use Google to search for certain companies. The evolution of communication isn’t just limited to the younger generations.

Older generations will begin to die and a new generation of tech savvy consumers will arise, just don’t let your business die with them.