Posts Tagged ‘small business’
Friday, December 6th, 2013
Thursday, November 28th, 2013
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
In just a matter of weeks, 2013 will draw to a close and we’ll be on our way to a new year. With a new year comes lots of opportunity for change and growth, and you will need a solid website that will help your business reach its fullest potential next year.
While you may not be able to do a complete website overhaul before the end of the year, you can certainly make some changes that will make your website more effective.
Reassess Keyword Use
Depending on the business you have and the industry you are in, the keywords you use for your search engine optimisation campaigns probably change periodically. If you haven’t assessed the keywords on your site for a while, now is the perfect time to do so.
Check to see which keywords you are using and decide if there are better options. Then, make sure the density is adequate and all keywords are used naturally, and not forcefully, throughout the copy.
Check for Current Calls to Action
Your keyword focus isn’t the only thing that has likely changed over the last year, your calls to action may have changed too. Look at each page of your website and check to make sure each includes a current call to action. The calls to action you use should help you reach your marketing and business goals.
Launch a Mobile Version
There’s no question that mobile Internet use has increased significantly and it will probably continue to increase. There is a good chance that a large portion of your market views your website from a smartphone or tablet, but is your website ready for that?
Before the end of the year, launch a mobile version of your site so it will be easier to read, view, navigate and use for these mobile users. This group is significant, and you don’t want to miss an opportunity to meet its needs.
Use the Right Social Media Buttons
Throughout the last year, did some of your social media accounts grow? Did you put a bigger emphasis on some than you did others? Did you join new social media networks? Make sure the social media buttons on your site are for the sites you use and that they direct people to active, helpful online communities.
Now is also a good time to make sure you provide social media buttons throughout your content so your readers can easily share it through their own social media accounts.
Create a New Opt-In Offer
Is your opt-in offer or freebie getting a little stale? Your free offer may be outdated, no longer appeal to your changing market or have lost the interest of your site visitors. If you offer something like a report, download, free sample or discount to gather email addresses and build your email marketing list, this is the perfect time to create a new one.
Over time, these free offers lose their lustre and need to be replaced. Consider creating something that will highlight what your business does and that is of high value and interest to your market, so people will want to claim it.
As the year comes to an end, it is the perfect time to make sure your website is current and ready to help you meet your marketing and business goals next year. Start paving the way for success by making these simple changes to your site.
Thursday, November 28th, 2013
Image courtesy of Feelart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
The most successful marketing emails all have a few things in common. The strategies and specific messaging and tactics you use in your emails should be designed for your business, but there are some elements every marketing email should have.
A Catchy Subject Line
Your email’s subject line is your foot in the door. If you fail to capture your market’s attention with the subject line, people won’t open your email and your email marketing plan won’t be a success.
Some ways to make subject lines more interesting include promising a benefit, adding a sense of urgency, offering a discount, making it short or asking a question. There are all kinds of things you can do to make your subject lines more catchy, and when you know what motivates your market, catching peoples’ attention will be easier.
Each email you send should include marketing messaging. The messaging you use will change depending on what your current goals are, but it should always be there. The whole idea behind sending marketing emails is to tell your market something, so make sure the message is clear and easy to understand.
Sometimes your messaging will be temporary, like when you are promoting a sale. Other times it will be more permanent, as you inform your market about your business and brand, for example.
A Call to Action
Successful marketing emails always include a call to action. Again, this is something that may change periodically depending on your current strategy and goals. Some common calls to action include asking your market to buy something, connect on social media or visit your website.
Carefully consider your calls to action and make sure they will help you reach your goals. Also make sure calls to action are easy to follow. For example, if you ask your readers to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, include a clearly marked button they can click on to subscribe directly from their inbox.
A Smart Layout
When your marketing emails are easy to read, your market will be more likely to read the entire email. You can accomplish this by breaking text up into smaller sections and using a visual layout that is appealing and makes your email stand out.
There are all kinds of email marketing systems you can use to design your email so that it matches your brand, is easy to read and guides the readers’ eye to important sections.
Elements like shapes, contrast, layout and colours are all important when it comes to creating a marketing email format that encompasses your brand and encourages your readers to respond to your calls to action.
Social Media Buttons
If you use social media marketing, social media buttons are a vital part of your marketing email. Even if asking your market to connect with you on social media isn’t your call to action, include buttons that link to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media accounts.
When you include these buttons, readers who didn’t know that you use social media can easily find your accounts and people who are interested in becoming more connected and receiving more frequent updates from your business can connect with you through social media.
While it’s true that every company’s marketing emails will include different messaging, calls to action, branding and other elements, all of your emails should include these five basic features. Marketing emails that include these are more successful because they capture interest, encourage people to take action and can even help you build your audience.
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
All too often businesses set lofty goals, maybe once or twice a year, and then never revisit them. These goals sound like good ideas and maybe even fit into digital marketing strategies already in place, but aren’t ever revisited so they get left behind. To actually benefit from your goals, you need to go about goal setting in a very specific way and then follow some steps to make sure you are actively pursuing your goals.
Set Goals that Fit into Your Business’ Plans
The online marketing goals you set should fit into your business’ overall plans. They should complement what your business is already doing and help your business be more successful.
As you set goals for your online marketing strategies and team, keep your business’ goals in mind. The goals you set should make it possible for your business to meet its goals. For example, if your business has the goal of making a certain profit for the following year, your online marketing goals could be to increase sales and grow the company’s customer base.
When we’re setting goals, it is easy to get carried away and become overly ambitious. While it is great to be optimistic and to aim high, setting unrealistic goals won’t be much help to your business. If goals are so lofty that team members get discouraged and give up, or feel that they aren’t ever able to accomplish them, your team will stop moving forward.
The best approach is to set goals that inspire your team to push ahead and do better, but aren’t so unrealistic that they are impossible to meet. Then, when you meet your goals you can see what you have accomplished and set another goal, to accomplish even more, advancing your business.
Make Goals Measurable
All your goals should be measurable so you can tell what you have accomplished, what is working and what isn’t. Measurable goals are much more helpful to your business because they will help you understand whether you are being successful and give you figures and information to help you create future plans.
A good example of a measurable goal would be: “Get 600 more Facebook fans in the next 6 months.” This goal has a timeframe and a figure to reach for, so it will be easy to measure your success.
Not all goals will be this easy to measure. For example, a more abstract goal might be something like: “Over the next year, create a stronger brand that results in more awareness in our markets.” This goal still has a timeframe, but brand recognition may need to be measured with things like focus groups and surveys that are conducted once before the goal is set and again at the end of the year.
Sometimes ambitious goals can seem overwhelming, and without a plan of attack you may not be able to achieve them. Once you have set online marketing goals, set up some milestones that will help you reach them and help you understand what you need to accomplish to be successful.
When you set the goal of getting 600 more Facebook fans in the next six months, you know that you will have to gain 100 new followers each month. This can be your milestone and you can set up tactics that will help you gain those followers.
When you set strategic goals that are realistic and measurable, and when you set milestones that will help you successfully achieve those goals, your business will benefit more than if you were to set some goals at the beginning of the year and then forget about them. Start this approach now by setting aside some time to set goals and finding ways to accomplish them.
Friday, November 22nd, 2013
Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
There are many, many online marketing tactics your business can use, but all of those tactics fit into four basic online marketing categories. Online marketing is a broad field that encompasses lots of tools and strategies that can help your business do anything from increase sales and website traffic to promote awareness and build stronger relationships with your customers.
Search Engine Optimisation
You are probably familiar with the term “search engine optimisation,” but do you know how SEO can benefit your business? In essence, SEO strategies can be used to make your company’s website appear higher up in search results. For example, with the right SEO campaign your furniture company’s website could appear in the top results when someone searches for “furniture shop in London.”
Studies show that people pay more attention to the first few pages of search results, so getting your website to rank at the top will be extremely beneficial to your business as more people find your website. A good SEO strategy will employ things like optimised content, link building, social media and mobile tactics.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing may be one of the most popular forms of online marketing. Almost all businesses use some kind of social media network, like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or LinkedIn, to promote their products or services.
But, with a strategic plan, social media marketing can help you do so much more than promote your business. You can use it to learn more about your market, drive traffic to your website, create strong relationships, improve your reputation, join industry conversations and so much more.
Online advertising can be a powerful way to market your business. You can buy advertising space on all kinds of websites, including social media networks, news sites, blogs and other sites. Different websites have different requirements when it comes to advertising, and more popular sites will generally charge more for advertising space.
The key to making online advertising work is to buy advertising space on websites that attract your market. Make sure the advertisements appeal to your target market and are placed on sites your potential customers already visit.
Affiliate marketing is another popular type of online marketing that can bring a lot of success. Businesses that do affiliate marketing work with another company and agree to promote its website. The business makes money depending on how many sales it produces, how much traffic it directs to the website or how many clicks it generates through links it has created.
There are lots of affiliate marketing opportunities out there and the businesses that are most successful with this know their market and blog readers and choose to work with affiliates that will appeal to their customer base. To do well with affiliate marketing, you must also have a large readership and have a good relationship with the people who visit your site.
Depending on your business, market and goals, your company may use just one or two of these types of online marketing or all four. If you are looking for ways to promote your business online, consider these four basic options and decide which ones will be most effective for you. Then, create a solid plan, execute your strategy and measure your efforts so you can constantly improve your online marketing strategies.
Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Press releases are a popular tactic that many businesses use as part of their digital marketing campaigns. Depending on how they are created and used, good press releases can strengthen digital marketing, search engine optimisation and public relations strategies. But, do you know when to use a press release?
Don’t let the popularity of this tactic influence you to use it when it won’t be very useful and when it could actually bring negative consequence. Knowing when to, and when not to, use a press release can help you enhance your online marketing.
When to Use a Press Release
Originally, press releases were used to pitch stories to media outlets, like television stations and newspapers, as a way for businesses to get coverage. Now, press releases are used digitally for many reasons, although this original reason is still the basis of a good press release.
Announcing Something Newsworthy
The best way to use a press release is still to announce a piece of news. All good press releases should include newsworthy content, but can provide added benefits like building links and driving traffic.
Raising Awareness about an Event or Cause
Press releases can help you get coverage from media outlets and major blogs and websites so you can raise awareness about an event your company is hosting or a cause it is promoting. Most events or programs that the public needs to know about can be promoted successfully through press releases, although you should still use other marketing channels.
Building Quality Links
When your press release is published by a news outlet or major blog, or if it publishes links back to your business when covering your story, you have an excellent opportunity to build quality links. While this shouldn’t be the main purpose of using a press release, it is an added perk you should take advantage of.
When Not to Use a Press Release
When you use press releases for the wrong reasons, your business won’t benefit and you could be wasting time and resources that could be used in more effective ways.
Sharing Basic Information
Basic information, that isn’t newsworthy, shouldn’t be shared in a press release. Instead, use a blog post, marketing email or even social media post to inform your market. Information that isn’t newsworthy won’t get much online coverage, so it is best not to waste your time creating and submitting a press release for something like this.
Acting as a Major Part of an SEO Campaign
Press releases should not make up the major part of your SEO campaign. Getting links through press releases is an added benefit that you should keep in mind and include in your SEO strategies, but your plans shouldn’t rely on press releases. Strong SEO strategies use many different tactics to gain rankings.
Submitting to Link Farms
If you are writing keyword-heavy press releases and submitting them to link farms for the sole purpose of building links, you will not be successful. Search engines penalise this kind of activity and algorithms are constantly being updated to discourage these kinds of strategies.
When used correctly and strategically, press releases can help you promote your business, reach your market and even increase your search rankings. Start seeing the benefits of press releases at your business by using them to announce news, raise awareness and build quality links.
Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
In order to use your blog as a marketing tool, it needs to meet certain standards. Your blog is a great way to bring traffic to your website, establish yourself as an expert, sell your products and so much more. These three questions will help you assess your blog and decide if you are using it to its fullest potential so you can make it a more powerful marketing tool.
Are the posts worth a visit to our blog?
To get people to your blog and your website, your blog posts need to target your market, be relevant and offer some value. In other words, each of your posts needs to be interesting enough that people will click on links to it from social media or your email marketing campaigns to read the entire post.
Blog posts that will get more people to your website will be relevant to your audience, contain useful information, share news, be interesting and provide value. The value you share through your blog posts will depend on your business and your blogging goals.
Remember that headlines, the first few sentences of a blog post and teaser content all need to be well written, catchy and communicate that value to your market so they will click on your posts.
Do the posts build our reputation as a business in our industry?
Blogging is an excellent way to build your reputation and establish your business as an expert in your industry. Doing this will help you get more customers, create brand loyalty and help your business grow.
To use your blog to establish yourself as an expert, your blog posts should be well written and contain helpful, expert-level information. You should be on the cutting edge of your industry and provide accurate, relevant content to your market. If you want your market to turn to you for solutions, you need to prove that you are able to solve their problems and provide the right products and services.
Does our blog show off our business and reflect our brand?
In many ways, your blog is one of the faces of your business. Some people may learn about your business through your blog and your posts speak for your business. Knowing this, it is easy to understand why your blog needs to show off your best attributes and reflect your brand.
The topics you write about should highlight your level of knowledge and expertise, show off your products or services and reflect your brand. But, you need to take this strategy beyond your content. The layout, colours, design and style of your blog all tell people how to view your business and add to your brand.
When you ask yourself these questions about your business blog, you can assess its quality and power as a marketing tool. Look at each question objectively and take notes about which areas your blog could improve in and then brainstorm changes you can make.
As you strengthen your blog, make it worth visiting and use it to establish your reputation, show off your business and reflect your brand, it will become a more useful marketing tool.
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
Image courtesy of twobee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Many businesses and marketing teams aim to keep people on their site longer. The thinking is that the longer visitors stay on your site, the more they will learn about your brand and the more likely they will be to become customers.
Tackling high bounce rates is a matter of providing the right messaging and quality content and designing your site well. When you plan your site strategically, and implement a few tactics, you will be able to keep people on your site longer.
Lead People Through Your Site
If your site is confusing and people can’t find what they are looking for, they won’t stay for long. Make sure your navigation bar or menu is easy to find and that the labels make sense. When someone lands on your site, she should be able to find what she is looking for quickly.
But, making sure your navigation is clear isn’t the only thing you need to do. With menus and teaser information you can lead your visitors through your site to visit more pages, learn more about you and discover more information.
For example, on your home page you may list your top five products with just a line or two about each and the option to click to learn more. These kinds of design elements and good copy writing will lead people through your site so they will stay longer. Many blogs display related posts at the end of each blog post, which is another great way to encourage people to keep clicking through your site.
Give People a Chance to Interact
Interaction makes your site more interesting, encourages your visitors to engage with your brand and can keep people on your site longer. Making it possible for people to leave comments, click through images, scroll through lists or click buttons for more information are all great ways to keep people on your site.
Even giving people simple options like signing up for updates or downloading a freebie can encourage people to spend more time on your site.
Don’t Use External Links on Your Home Page
External links on your home page make it easy for visitors to leave quickly. Putting these kinds of links on deeper pages can decrease your bounce rate. Some businesses put links to their social media accounts on their home page, which can work for you. Just remember that if your buttons are big and in a prominent place, people will probably click on them and leave your site. If your goal is to increase your social media following, this can be a good thing, but it might mean that visitors will leave your site quickly.
Break up the Text
Websites that are text heavy and not very visually appealing tend to scare visitors away. People want to be able to look at your site and quickly learn about your business or find the information they need.
Try to use copy that is concise and to the point. Where more text is needed, break it up with images, bullet points and headings. The layout and design of your pages can also make bigger pieces of text easier on readers’ eyes.
Make it Attractive
We’ve all landed on one of those websites that is just plain unattractive. Sites that aren’t organised, are hard to read, don’t look professional and just aren’t very visually appealing don’t make us want to spend much time on them.
Keep people on your site longer by creating an attractive website. Colours, branding, layout and copy all make a difference. The idea is to make your site so interesting and attractive that people want to spend time browsing it.
When you lead visitors through your site, offer chances for interaction, avoid external links, break up text and make your site attractive, people won’t want to leave your website. When people spend more time on your site you could benefit from increased sales, more subscribers and stronger brand awareness, among other benefits, so start enhancing your site now.
Friday, October 18th, 2013
Image courtesy of RaHuL Rodriguez/Flickr.
Much of the success of email marketing relies on the subject line of your emails. When you send emails, you only have a few seconds to attract people, entice them to open your email and then read what you have to say.
Regardless of what you use email marketing for, getting more customers, keeping in touch with current customers, making announcements, or selling new products, these six email subject line styles can help you get better results.
Limited-Time Offer Approach
Subject lines that alert readers to a limited-time offer convey a sense of urgency. You can use these subject lines for emails regarding new products, discounts, services, events and more.
An example of this subject line would read: “Sign Up By November 1 for Free Tickets to Our Next Event!” The deadline, mention of free tickets and event promotion all work to capture your market’s attention.
You Can’t Miss This Teaser
Using a subject line that tells your market that the information you are sending is something they don’t want to miss adds value to the email. When people scroll through their inbox and see a subject line telling them that the email is too valuable to delete without reading, they will be more likely to open it.
“Updates You Don’t Want to Miss in this Month’s Newsletter” is a simple, clear and concise subject line that will entice your market to open your email.
Sneak Peak Opportunity
People love to know the latest news, be informed about new information and be the first to know about things. Appeal to this by writing subject lines that tell your readers that the email contains new information that hasn’t been announced yet or insider details. This works well for new services and can help you create hype before a big announcement.
An example of this is a subject line that states: “Your Sneak Peak of Our New Service to be Launched Next Month is Here!”
Promised Benefits Tactic
Most people are so overwhelmed and bogged down by emails, spam, social media messages and marketing tactics that unless they perceive an immediate value in your email, they won’t spend time reading it. Use your subject line to promise a benefit, which could be used simply to get attention or could be the sole purpose of your email.
For example, “Thanks for Your Business! Here’s a 20% Off Coupon!” Instantly tells your readers what benefit they will receive when they open your email. Of course, the benefit could range from discounts to helpful information to access to special resources. You know your market best, so choose benefits that will appeal to your audience.
Special Group Offer
Some people like the idea of belonging to a special, elite group. You can use this to your advantage by using subject lines that tell your market they are receiving the email as part of a special group. This strategy makes people feel like your business respects and appreciates its customers.
This type of subject line might read something like, “Your Special Subscriber Update.” You can combine this strategy with another, like promising benefits or offering a sneak peak, for an even stronger effect.
Big News Announcement
Another way to get people to open your emails is to make announcements, or reference them, in your subject line. If your subscribers are people who would be interested in hearing the latest news from your company, this approach can work very well.
This subject line could state: “Big News! Our Newest Location is Opening Next Week!” Or, combine this with the teaser subject line for something like, “You Won’t Want to Miss Our Big Announcement in This Week’s Update!”
The subject line in marketing emails is extremely important and is a major contributing factor to the rate of success you will see with your campaign. Give your emails a boost and start getting better results by using these email subject line types.
Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Press releases are normally used for two purposes: to get earned media coverage or to build links as part of a search engine optimisation campaign. Of course, these two goals can work together and are often both the result of a good press release. But, to get these benefits your press releases need to include a few main elements.
All kinds of factors, like what is happening in the news, what bloggers are interested in covering, and what kind of industry you work in, play a factor in what you’ll need to do to write successful press releases. However, these general guidelines can be applied to most businesses and press releases.
A Newsworthy Story
Traditionally, press releases are used to share news with the media. In recent years, marketers have started using press releases to get blog coverage and build links for SEO purposes. But, regardless of why you are writing a press release, it needs to have a newsworthy angle.
This news could be something like the launch of a new product, a new office location, results of a recent study or a company and community event. People will be much more likely to cover your business or publish your press release when you include a newsworthy story.
A Clear Purpose and Niche
Successful press releases have a very clear purpose and are directed toward a niche audience. The news element of your release can give you some direction and can help you keep your story focused. Know who your audience is and include information that will be relevant to media outlets and the people you are reaching out to.
Press releases that seem scattered and are only written around keywords are not very successful. They don’t bring very much coverage or traffic and won’t help you build your brand.
Opportunities for Natural Links
Whether the press release is directly tied to your SEO efforts or not, you should still add links to it. Links will help you drive traffic to your site and will help increase your page rank. Make sure the links are natural and helpful and don’t force the use of keywords in ways that will lower the quality of the content.
The boilerplate is the last paragraph of your press release that usually includes your business name, a link to your website and a short description of what your business does. This is an opportunity to tell your audience who you are and communicate your main marketing message.
Boilerplates are usually used over and over on all of a company’s press releases and may even be used in other marketing tactics. Spend some time writing a boilerplate that describes your business well and has appropriate links and messaging.
All press releases need to include contact information. Include a link to your website and contact information for someone in your company that can provide more information if needed. Keep in mind that some publishers post the contact information on press releases and others use it for their own information but do not post it.
These guidelines will help you write press releases that help you get coverage, reach your market, boost your search rankings and even drive more traffic to your website.
Image courtesy of Michael Elliott/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Google recently started using an updated form of its search algorithm, called Hummingbird. The new update is the biggest change the company has made to the way it sorts through and displays web pages since 2001.
Google updates its algorithm frequently and search engine optimisation experts have had to change their approach due to pervious updates like Penguin and Panda. However, this latest update dramatically changes how the company deems content worthy of the top search results.
How Hummingbird is Different
What is so different about this update? It takes the focus off of keywords and puts an emphasis on context or more conversational search terms. Instead of relying heavily on how often a keyword appears in your content, the algorithm will take a user’s intentions into consideration and evaluate your content based on how well it provides relevant information.
For example, before Hummingbird was launched, the search phrase “How to install Photoshop on a Macbook” would bring results based on keywords like “Photoshop” and “Macbook.” Now, Google will pay more attention to all the words in the search query and try to understand what the user means by it. So, it may serve more refined results including pages that contain information on downloading and installing software onto a Macbook.
But, that’s not all. Users who are signed into their Google account when searching will benefit from even more refined searches. Search results for these people could be based on location, previous searches, Google Plus contacts, and other information attached to user accounts.
In essence, the new search will work to make search results even better by bringing a more human element to the algorithm and by displaying content that is more likely to be relevant to the entire search query, not just specific keywords.
What Should You do Differently?
Google made a statement to Forbes telling marketers and site owners that not much has changed as far as their advice for SEO campaigns goes: “Our guidance to web masters is the same as always — we encourage original, high-quality content, since that’s what’s best for web users.”
As you develop your SEO campaigns, you should do so with your customers in mind. Think about what they would search for and how your website can provide the best information and most relevant content. Then, develop content around those factors and continue to use keywords and key phrases where appropriate. You may also want to broaden your list of target keywords and phrases to include as many variations as possible.
Some believe that this new update could help small businesses more easily rank for generic terms. The results of Hummingbird and how it will affect businesses has yet to be seen, but this could be the case for your business.
The nature of SEO and search algorithms is always changing, and this latest update is a natural shift to more intelligent search. Google will now be able to better understand what users are looking for and deliver even better results.
Your business can benefit from the new algorithm by creating SEO campaigns based on what your market searches for and by continuing to create original, relevant and helpful content.