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Many Marketer’s claim that SEO is dead, their practices outdated and no longer relevant – tut tut tut!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NOTE: Don’t use the “meta keywords” on your own website, this is an outdated practice penalised by search engines.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

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Social Media: The Intern’s Job

Intern

As a small business, you’ve likely had the discussion about creating a presence on Social Media. You know it’s an important function, all your customers and competitors are on Social Media and you need to catch up.

Many small businesses don’t have the manpower or resources to adequately create and implement a Social Media strategy so your solution is often to allocate the responsibilities to the Intern. After all they’re young, they understand how Social Media works and using technology is second nature to them. If the Intern is your solution to Social Media, then you’re making a catastrophic error.

The Intern

Depending on your company and industry, an Intern can be employed to fulfil a number of roles – sales, marketing, customer service etc… The likelihood is that you employed them because they are young, tech-savvy people who can bring creativity with their youthful enthusiasm and ideas.

They’re also inexperienced, unfamiliar with your company culture, your products & services, your customers and suppliers. Many Interns are also paid little or no salary – yet this is the best person within your company to deal with the vital function of Social Media?

The Solution

Before your small business dives into the world of Social Media you must firstly devise a strategy which creates the foundation of a Social Media plan. Your Social Media plan needs to include:

Content Marketing

Devising a Content Marketing strategy starts with deciding on what content to post on Social Media. Create a balance between posting sales-related content and a mixture of content relevant to your industry, company ethos, local communities and information which your audience will find interesting and engaging.  This can be posts from news sources, bloggers, industry experts or market reports.

What time of the day do you post? – Testing, analysing and measuring will answer this question. Try altering the heading of your posts; alter the images used and the content of posts to determine the time of the day your audience engages with your content.

Responses

If your small business doesn’t have defined company values, a company vision and defined culture then create one and quick! Your employees need to share your company vision to act and think in a universal manner. Creating a company culture will result in a specific tone and language being used which will be the voice of your company.

Processes & Integration

Social Media is one of the most powerful Marketing tools available to small businesses, but is more successful when integrating a range of business functions including customer service, HR and strategic management.

Whoever you decide to lead Social Media within your company, part of their role should be to define the processes involved and to liaise with a range of departments. Hold weekly/monthly meetings with staff from different business functions and establish the processes required. Who deals with specific enquiries? How should your company respond to sales enquiries?

Identifying the people and processes required to manage Social Media is essential, and always ensure those processes result in the ability to respond quickly (within 24 hours) to any enquiries or queries. Although one single person is able to co-ordinate Social Media activities, it requires the involvement and commitment from the heads of the respective departments.

Employing an Intern to handle your companies Social Media activities can only be successful if adequate time, finance and manpower is committed.  Interns aren’t the solution, commitment and strategic thinking are 🙂

Why Growth can Destroy your Small Business

Chart going through the floor

 

Small Businesses have a desire to grow – grow their sales, customer numbers and enter new markets. However unless you have adequate resources and a clearly defined strategy, then growth can lead to the demise of your small business.

There are many fine examples of small businesses that’ve exploded in size as they possess high growth potential. Angels invest, banks lend, crowds fund and external resources are ploughed into helping those companies achieve their growth potential – but not every small business has such significant growth potential. So before you contemplate growing your company, consider the following advice.

Resources

Resources are one of the key factors to consider when growing a small business which include:

  • Money
  • Manpower
  • Skills
  • Premises
  • Machinery & Technology

The obvious considerations are money, manpower, premises and equipment – but one factor often overlooked is the skills required to achieve growth. As a company grows the hierarchy, management and positions change so you need to consider if you have the staff with the right skill set to take on new roles. What skills do you need?  Can you train existing staff? Where can you find the staff with these skills and how much will it cost you?

Draw a list of all the above 5 key resource areas and calculate what resources you need if you achieve a certain level of growth – you’ll often find that right now you simply don’t have the resources available to facilitate your growth plans.

Existing Customers

Remember where you come from and who helped your company get to where it is – your existing customers. As a small business you can afford to dedicate more time and attention on each individual customer, but as you grow your time will be spent elsewhere.

To achieve growth you might want to explore new markets and offer new products in an attempt to grow your customer base. Stop and think about why you won those customers in the first place, what attracted them to you and why do they continue to be loyal customers?

Launching new products to new markets leads to a fundamental shift in your business model, so be mindful not to alienate your core customers at the expense of obtaining new ones.

Sustainable Growth

Grow too big too quick and you’re gone – you must grow sustainably. If that means it takes you longer to achieve your growth objectives then so be it.

To borrow or not to borrow? I have this romantic notion that commerce would be far more sustainable if companies didn’t borrow, but the reality of the situation often slaps me in the face. Borrowing is often the only way small businesses can fund new machinery, employ new talent or make essential repairs. However if you can avoid borrowing and achieve the finances you need over a longer time period, always choose sustainable organic growth.

You need to pay interest – every month and on time which increases the overall amount you pay to achieve the same results. An element of borrowing is outside your control. Interest rates may be at a record low but they will increase in the next year or 2 – yet again increasing the risk and cost of borrowing.

Do you think my advice hinders or helps growth?

4 Reasons Why Social Media is Perfect for Competitions

sm contest

Small businesses can choose to spend their small Marketing budgets in a number of areas – Print, Digital, Radio, Advertising, Directories, Outdoor and many more. It can be a confusing web of options. Which method reaps the highest return on my investment? – Discard all those options and organise a competition.

Social Media is a perfect platform for running competitions – your competition is the magic bean and Social Media is the beanstalk. With careful organising you can get the competition entrants to grow your company’s Marketing, boost brand visibility and increase sales – here’s 4 ways your Small Business can leverage the benefits running a successful competition.

1)      Free Marketing

Firstly ensure that the topic of the competition compliments your own strategy – If you’re a hairdresser, then offer a pair of GHD straighteners, if you’re an Accountant offer a year’s free advice and so on. And of course you’ll need to promote the competition to the relevant audience – just make sure your prize is appealing.

Once you’ve decided on the finalists, run a voting system then watch Social Media explode! It’s amazing to see finalists of a competition embark on their own campaigns to get votes from their followers, meaning your company can leverage ALL connections from ALL their Social Media networks. Every time a finalist posts on Social Media – your company is included in the links resulting in driving traffic to your website. Once they’re on your website, enquiries and sales are a cert.

2)      Build a Database

When collecting votes for the finalists of the competition – make the voters enter their email addresses so you can build a database of relevant prospects.  Once you have built the email list you then need to align this with collecting Social Media details to build a complete profile of prospects.

Run a special voting day on Facebook, whereby people can simply click LIKE to place their votes. Now you can match the names and email addresses collected earlier to the Social Media profiles. With access to more in depth information about individuals you can build a picture of your ideal customer profile resulting in improved segmentation and targeting.

3)      Build Authority

Running a competition with a reasonably high cash value (or cash) will help to build credibility in your field allowing you to become a trusted company in your field.  Linking back to my initial advice, ensure you align the competition with your own company strategy. For example if you’re an Accountant who specialises in small business, then run a competition for the “UK’s Best Small Business” or something similar.

By making your company synonymous with a specialist area, you can build authority and become trusted and credible in your area of expertise.

4)      Integrate

When you launch your competition a key element in your strategy needs to be integration. Although Social Media is the key channel, ensure you adopt a multi-channel strategy. Place ads in relevant newspapers, advertise digitally and raise awareness of your competition – you need to lead people toward Social Media by integration.

Therefore by integrating your competition marketing and integrating the way you collect information from entrants and voters you can build a fully comprehensive database of prospective clients. Only 1 company can win your competition, so everyone else is a potential sale.

Have you ever run a competition on Social Media? Any horror or success stories?

Social Media Couch Potatoes

couch-potato

Social Media and the technology we use to access it is contributing to the creation of the Social Media Couch Potato. Staying in, sitting down facing the screen of a Smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC people are laughing, sharing and living their lives – all without talking, touching and intimacy.

Communicating through Social Media changes our habits and daily routines which impacts how consumers browse and buy products and services. Therefore as a small business if you understand how your prospects and customers are using Social Media, then you can connect with them when they want where they want.

Timing

When are your followers online?

7.30 in the evening are they sitting down to watch Coronation Street or Eastenders? 12.30 on a Saturday afternoon are they watching the football game on Sky TV?

When the 1st TV ad break appears or half time at the game, people will check their Social Media accounts – and you should send posts on Social Media at these exact times. You can use auto scheduling tools like Hootsuite, Buffer or Social Sprout to schedule posts for you at certain times of the day/week.

You might even be watching the same TV show or game as your audience, so find common ground and connect with them. If you’re a hairdresser you could mention a famous player’s hairstyle and promote a special offer for that style.  Has someone died in Coronation Street? Post about it to encourage your followers to comment – make real life connections, just don’t make everything you post about you and your company – be real and BE SOCIAL.

Turn Browsing into Sales

Shopping habits have changed with the birth of smart technology and Social Media fuelling a shift from Retail to E-Tail breeding a generation of armchair shoppers. What’s the point in going shopping in the rain, fighting for space in the car park in high streets with the same shops, brands and products as every other high street in the country?

Armchair shoppers are canny as they conduct research to shop around for the best deals available. Often people visit Retail premises, find something they like then go online to look for a better deal.  Social Media plays a significant role in purchasing decisions as potential customers ask their friends & family where to find X product, best prices and best websites. Regardless of how fancy and snazzy your marketing is, people trust their peers ahead of any brand in the world, so use this fact to your advantage.

Consumers will connect with their peers on Social Media and your Small Business needs to be heard to be part of that buying process. Use Social Media as an exclusive Marketing channel, offer specific ranges only and offer special deals that consumers can’t find anywhere else.

Tap into your customer’s peer network by offering say a 10% discount if they share your “special offer post”. This way you’re getting the customer to do your Marketing for you.

Find out when your followers are on Social Media to get your timing right, marry this with using Social Media as an exclusive Marketing channel and you’ve tapped into a market of Social Media Couch Potatoes itching to spend, spend and spend.

Are you a Retailer who struggles to compete with online competitors? Are you struggling to increase sales on Social Media? Tell me about any success stories or problems you’ve faced when selling on Social Media 🙂

6 Tips on how to Integrate your Social Media Strategy

Strategy-Small

If your Small Business is active or considering being active on Social Media, then start by ensuring you integrate your strategy. Embed Social Media into wider organisational strategies, business functions and processes.

By integrating your Social Media strategy you can connect with your prospects & customers across a variety of touch points in the customer journey.

1) Integrate Social Media with wider Marketing & Organisational Strategies

Social Media should not be used as a stand-alone strategy and must be integrated with your wider Marketing and organisational objectives.

Involve employees from all levels to use Social Media across a range of business departments to help achieve wider organisational objectives.

2) Integrate Social Media Accounts

Link all your Social Media accounts to each other to suit the individual preferences of your market. Let your customers find you on the Social Media platform they prefer to use – be part of their journey.

3) Integrate Offline & Online Marketing

Include your Social Media details on all forms of offline Marketing such as:

• Magazine & Newspaper advertising
• Leaflets, Brochures, Flyers
• Business Cards
• Direct Mail
• Radio advertising

All offline Marketing must include your main website and main Social Media accounts, leverage the Facebook or Twitter brand to appeal to your customers.

By integrating Social Media with other digital and offline Marketing you are able to connect with customers at a variety of touch points gaining maximum exposure and brand awareness.

4) Integrate Social Media with company Processes

Make Social Media a daily activity – Spend at least 45-60 minutes a day checking your comments, new followers, engaging and posting fresh material. If possible dedicate as much time as possible to Social Media activities – it’s addictive and time-consuming.

By dedicating time in your daily schedule you’ll reap more rewards than merely playing around for 10 minutes a day.

5) Integrate Social Media with email Communications

Add Social Media buttons or links into your company email signature. For those people who prefer not to communicate frequently by email, Social Media may be their preferred choice of communicating – make it easy for your company to be found.

6) Integrate Social Media with your Website

People will spend more time on Social Media than they do browsing your website. Include Social Media buttons and/or widgets making it easy for people to follow your company.

Also include a link to your website on every single Social Media platform you have an account with. By directing people back to your website, you’ll be more in control to lead the customer from interest to sale.

It’s important to integrate your Social Media strategy otherwise it’ll lack direction and is fundamentally flawed. Realise the full potential of Social Media by embedding your strategy into different departments, processes and wider strategies.

Do you feel like you’re just bumbling along with your approach to 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?