SEO Isn’t Dead, It’s Evolving

SEO pic

 

 

Many Marketer’s claim that SEO is dead, their practices outdated and no longer relevant – tut tut tut!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NOTE: Don’t use the “meta keywords” on your own website, this is an outdated practice penalised by search engines.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

small biz scotland

 

Thursday 18th September is a monumental day for the people of Scotland – The simple question is “Should Scotland be an Independent Country?” I shall omit political views and focus this article on how Scotland can become a great wee nation by applying the values of a successful small business. I’m an advocate for Small Business and believe smaller companies have advantages over larger ones, such as the ability to connect 1:2:1 with their customer base, long term sustainable growth and specialising in key business functions – after all Small Business is Good Business.

Decentralisation

The centralisation of power in a company and country grants that power to a select few. In business individual departments have less control over their budgets, management have less influence on how to operate with decisions being made by the higher echelons of a company whom have little to no local or specialist knowledge of those departments.

A fairer distribution of powers is surely more conducive in the hands of local authorities. How is it possible for someone in Westminster to know what the people & businesses in schemes of Glasgow & Edinburgh really need? Who hears those voices, listens to their concerns they air on a daily basis? Regardless of the party in power, surely it’s local Councillors and Authorities who should be in control of distributing budgets, setting policies and delivering what everyday voters desire?

Borrowing

Borrowing facilitates growth, but only by assuming increased risks. You may achieve growth quicker, but you’ll pay more. The UK like most of the developed world managed to create a boom & bust situation by excessive borrowing. Smaller nations must control borrowing, by doing so you reduce the interest payments and decrease risk. There’s no requirement for small nations to be the biggest and best, growing sustainably over the long term should always be the solution over short-term rapid growth.

Harness strengths in Key Local Industries

A Small Business has infinitely more knowledge about say women’s fashion that a supermarket has – they’re not generalists, they specialise in knowing the needs & trends of their market segment, materials and styles. Scotland is undeniably a world leader in industries such as Science, Renewables and Oil & Gas. Take Oil as an example, as each day passes that natural resource depletes, this has created an emphasis on renewable energy like wind, solar and tidal energy.  Michael Porter’s Diamond model emphasises the benefits of comparative advantage such as:

  • Enhanced knowledge base & skilled labour
  • Condensed rivalry resulting in innovation & increased investment
  • Increased government investment (such as renewable energy)
  • Growth in related & supporting industries

An independent Scotland doesn’t need to become successful via economies of scale. By simply focusing resources like labour, money & government support into key Industries a competitive advantage can clearly be achieved. Just look at Aberdeen’s Oil & Gas sector (now including renewable energy) or the Bush Estate for Science in Edinburgh, localised specialism’s in flourishing industries can be created – but only through efficient utilisation of resources and enhanced powers for local authorities.

It’s simple Economics, with overall budgets being squeezed due to austerity cuts the laws of opportunity cost dictate that you can only buy A or B, never both.  Being small isn’t a disadvantage, although big companies will tell you otherwise. Instead of biting off more than you can chew, do the small things well and success will follow.

Marketing Automation vs Personalisation

personalisation

The question of automation vs personalisation for a company is all about saving time and money whilst increasing efficiency. Whereas the perspective of the customer is about receiving good customer service and feeling valued.  So the question is “What does your business value more? – Costs or Customers?”

Advantages and Disadvantages

I’d pick personalisation over automation every time, but as a business grows they must consider all options on how to communicate effectively with their customers. Here’s some of the advantages and disadvantages of automation and personalisation:

Automation benefits:

  • Cost reduction
  • Saves time
  • Reaches a high volume of customers

Automation negatives:

  • Error prone
  • No human contact
  • No personalisation
  • Just another number

Personalisation benefits:

  • Customer service
  • Individual attention
  • Deliver bespoke products/services
  • Increases chances of repeat business

Personalisation negatives:

  • Time consuming
  • Costly to scale

Automation vs Personalisation is simply the choice between quantity over quality. I always like to place myself in the shoes of the customer – what type of service do they expect? Customers are individuals and expect to be treated accordingly, how special do you feel knowing you’re just another number receiving generic marketing communications?

Small Business vs Big Business

How can big businesses connect with a vast volume of customers without using automation? – More often than not, they simply can’t. Can you imagine the amount of money, time & employees that would be needed for a company with thousands/millions of customers to connect on a 1:2:1 basis? But that’s acceptable, as long as time and money are being saved – the customer is last on the list of priorities.

Small businesses on the other hand don’t have the resources to connect with a high volume of customers, personalisation is necessary.  Let’s take email software as an example, rather than sending 1,000 generic emails with a 1-2% response rate, try studying 10 customers and sending personalised emails with bespoke offerings relating to those individual/business needs. Guaranteed your ROI improves, your responses will increase and you’ll develop a reputation for being a customer-centric business. If more small businesses take the time to connect with each individual customer, rather than applying a mass-market approach, then this can be used as a distinct competitive advantage.

Achieving economies of scale isn’t the holy grail of business, growth must be accomplished over a longer period of time, growing too big too fast can and will destroy many businesses. Focus on what you have now, your strengths, your weaknesses and most importantly your customers. By being a customer-centric business you can personalise almost all Marketing communications which results in customer retention, recommendations and an increase in overall customer value. Perhaps customers of larger companies wouldn’t be so keen to move to competitors if they feel valued – personalisation over automation every time.  🙂

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 🙂