Monday, 21 December 2009

Death to 2005; SEO for 2010

By Jon Paget
2005 was a great year. Gorillaz were top of the charts and the UK was enjoying a booming economy (seems like a long time ago doesn't it). Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) companies had already started to promise the world (a trend that unfortunately continues) and keywords were crucial to Google's assessment of your site.
And as we approach 2010 things have certainly changed. Social media has greatly influenced this year's Christmas No.1 (Rage Against the Machine) and we're still in a recession. So, 5 years on and a lot has changed around the world; including SEO.
Over the next three weeks I'll be reviewing three of the most (historically) important on-page SEO factors to determine what you should and shouldn't be spending your time optimising.
Part 1 starts with the HTML Title (Title Tags)
What is a title tag?
This is the string of words that sit at the top of a web browser and, in windows explorer, are written in white font on the blue browser bar. See below.

So should you optimise your page title?
Yes. It remains the case that the page title is important to on-page SEO. In fact it's still one of the most important factors the search engines will use to assess relevance and establish a ranking.
How to optimise your title tags?
Here are some useful guidelines:
  • Ensure your most important keywords are included at the beginning of the title (decreasing importance placed on every word after the first word)
  • Try to keep your title to 70 characters so make sure every word you include adds value
  • Keep punctuation, capital letters and grammar consistent on all of your page titles
  • Add geographic locations - can be a good way of getting fast results (if applicable)
  • Don't stuff your title with all your keywords*
*Remember that each page of optimised content should be specific. Very specific. Don't water your page's relevance down by stuffing too many keywords in it.
Next week: Part 2 - Optimising your meta description.

Monday, 14 December 2009

85% of us have no control over our own privacy (on facebook)

By Jon Paget








If you’ve logged on to facebook recently you might have been asked to review your privacy settings. In the past, status updates and other information (contact, personal, work etc) could be shared with your friends, your network or everyone on facebook.

Now facebook is prompting users to change their settings to ‘everyone’ which means that (for the information you’ve selected to share) data is visible across the Internet (eg: found in Google). Facebook claims that its latest update empowers users and puts them back in control of their privacy. However…

85% of users have facebook default settings

Seemingly unbelievable but true. The majority of us have the default privacy settings, giving facebook power over how and where it displays our information. So, if it was daunting before, the prospect of so many people (apparently unaware or disinclined to care) now sharing their information across the web is scary.

The impact for business

Many bloggers and digital rights groups have been up in arms over facebook’s latest move. But, how will it affect business?

Well Google are soon to release Google Caffeine, an updated version of their search engine, which is set to place a much higher importance on social media (early suggestions are that it’s a much greater importance).

One of Google’s aims for improving search is (and will continue to be) to incorporate real time results (updating content within its search results as and when it’s published) whilst improving the accuracy of each search request. Incorporating facebook information such as status updates is the first step but it’s not difficult to foresee twitter (already in discussions) and all the other platforms from following suit.

What’s the impact for business? 2009 has seen some very strong success stories for brands and businesses using social media but it still remains a misunderstood tool by many. As Google updates its search engine and social media continues to grow businesses will have to consider the power of online communities/social media.

And if you don’t, your competitors will…

Monday, 30 November 2009

Shock! Web agency reveals - you can spend too much on a website!



I’ve heard a couple of people say recently “I can’t believe I spent all this money on a website and I’m not getting any sales. In fact I’m not getting any traffic.”

Now my blog title might seem a little strange coming from a web design agency – however it’s absolutely true. You might have a budget of £3k or £33k. It doesn’t matter. If you spend the whole lot on a website you’ve spent too much.

There are some websites (and these fall into the <1%>

It is visibility in the search engines and in/on various platforms online (such as social media platforms, blogs, forums etc) that ensure your site actually gets linked to/clicked on/visited.

I advise prospective clients who want a new website to think of a web project as exactly that; an on-going project. Not a one off cost.

It doesn’t mean you have to spend more money!

The options available are growing with every week that passes. Search engine optimisation seems to become more complex and online marketing appears to have more and more ‘must use’ tools.

The crucial thing is to understand that as soon as a website is built it requires on-going management to ensure people know/hear about your site.

Whether it’s SEO or online marketing will depend on a whole host of factors, starting of course with what it is you have to offer via your website and any subsequent aims you have for it.

What happens if I don’t do this?

Simply put you’ll probably spend more in the long run. Even if you don’t, your initial investment is almost certain to be a waste.

After all, you can have the best website out there but, if no one knows about you/where to find you (and you’re not found in the search engines), you’ll join the large group of people/businesses with overlooked sites… and that’s not a good group to be part of.

There are simply too many websites out there for the right people to find you by chance!

Think: Annual Internet Budget = Website + SEO + Online Marketing.

Monday, 16 November 2009

5 star rated products get my money every time


I was sifting through a particular section of Amazon books when I suddenly realised how many products I was ignoring. Not because of titles or front covers but because of user reviews; if a book had less than 4 stars (out of 5) I was moving on.

Was this a fair strategy? On reflection I figured that, if the book had a good number of reviews (and therefore screening out the extremes), it probably was.

Then I started to wonder why I had chosen this particular filter to select the books I should or shouldn’t buy.

When I start reading a book it’s usually because of positive word of mouth. Whether it’s a magazine review, TV interview with the author or a friend telling me about the latest must read.

Now when I go online looking to buy something I want the same level of trust that I associate with the aforementioned sources.

Is this just me?

Since my time on Amazon books I’ve asked several people how much faith they put in user reviews. The answer? An overwhelming amount used and were influenced by what others had to say.

One person I asked chose their holiday destination and accommodation almost entirely on the user reviews left on trip advisor.

And that’s not all. If the reviews others are leaving (on sites such as Amazon) are anything to go buy, people seem to be following suit. People often leave reviews referencing comments or opinions of others which ‘made them buy the product’.

How does this affect business?

With social platforms continuing to grow online and with people able to share opinions, content and comments on products and services, businesses should be considering the buzz/word of mouth about their product, brand or company and how they can influence it.

Taking a tip from Emanuel Rosen the best way to achieve this is to start with maximising positive customer experience. Enabling users to share and comment on your offering would also be a good start.


Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Good or bad I want you to gossip!

By Jon Paget
10 lessons for generating buzz - from Emanuel Rosen

I recently attended a seminar with Emanuel Rosen, considered one of the leading experts in word of mouth, or buzz, marketing.
Buzz has become so important (in large part thanks to how easy it now is to pass and share content and opinion online) that I felt compelled to share with you the 10 key points (along with my comments) to maximise your chances for creating your own buzz:
1) Make it easy to spread the word – such as having share options on your website with links to bookmarking sites
2) Create opportunities for visual buzz – such as packaging, bags etc (think Harrods – everyone goes for the bag)
3) Give your target market something to talk about – rumours of a new product (think Apple and their tablet rumours)
4) Encourage participation – this could be as diverse as holding a seminar to offering downloadable logos (think Earth Hour)
5) Encourage self expression – This is what Earth Hour did so well. By making their logo downloadable they encouraged enthusiasts to devise their own campaigns
6) Tell a good story – Tom’s shoes has a great story. For every pair of shoes sold, they give away a pair to impoverished children
7) Work with hubs – make sure you raise awareness to others who have influence
8) Seeding – know who you’re targeting and how your market is segmented
9) Uneven distribution of information – a small number (as a proportion of the whole) of influential people know something others don’t (think Harry Potter and the small number of fans invited to advanced screenings)
10) Stimulate interaction – such as twestival (the local annual offline event for twitter fans)
Buzz affects every business, irrespective of industry. From a doctor’s practice to health clubs – word of mouth is having a profound impact on your business. And, it’s not just those who use your products and services that affect buzz. 30% of your products'/services' buzz will come from people who have never used it.
Enjoy this blog? Why not join us on facebook and twitter?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

4 year old beats grown man

By Jon Paget


I found myself in London’s Apple store over the weekend, desperate to test the new iMac. Through the crowds of people I spotted a pair of eyes, small hands and half a crop of brown hair. As I walked round the table I saw a 4 year old stood on a box engrossed in a game online.

She was doing rather well…

Fast forward 6 hours and I was sat on a train listening to hip hop. Not deliberately of course, the 20 something man was generous enough to share it with the rest of us in the carriage. Whilst admiring the music I noticed it came from a 1990s walkman. I had believed them to be long since extinct. 

I then thought back to the Apple store and the comparison could not have been more stark. The technology gap which is currently emerging between the existing and next generation in the workforce is vast, even for those in their twenties.

Working with many SMEs I do understand the fears and reluctance that most companies have when considering online marketing and its investment – however just around the corner is a workforce that is keen and knowledgeable about working online and this means businesses are likely to follow suit.

With the thousands of contacts young computer users are now building recruitment, trade partners, customers and contacts will all be found and used differently. More specifically; socially.

Now with that in mind which of the two characters above does your business represent?
After all the gap is growing faster than you think.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Twitter - is it acceptable to stop following those who don’t follow you?

By Jon Paget
I was stumbling across various blog topics when I came across a post that had developed into a full scale argument. Intrigued I read on.

The topic was revolving around twitter and whether someone should stop following someone else who wasn’t following them. The ensuing argument was then played out by a number of people using twitter, some for personal and some for business use.

Now for those new to twitter, the micro blogging site limits the number of people you can follow to 2000 until you reach that number of followers yourself.

So the question I now ask is: is it acceptable to stop following those who don’t follow you? If so, when and why.

Largely I subscribe to the idea that if you follow people on twitter for the sole reason they’re following you, you’re missing the whole point of social media (and you’re unlikely as a business to directly/indirectly win business through it). For those that succeed in social media it is because they commit with time and application. By interacting, commenting and adding value on sites such as twitter follower numbers will grow.

However there is usually at least one caveat, and here it is. If you reach your 2000 followers limit and find more people you wish to follow – what do you do?

Well in this instance it makes sense to remove some of those that aren’t following you from your list (are you really going to remove someone who is also following you, knowing you risk losing them as a follower in return?).
However beware doing this randomly; a community is only as strong as its members. Don’t remove someone if they add value to you, your work or your interests.

Instead, try to contact them and build a relationship with them. You may just find they start following you.

There are a variety of issues surrounding this topic. Often the side of the fence find yourself will depend on your motive for using twitter and what you hope to achieve.

My final word; it’s clear to me managing expectation is one of the problems facing social media (for business) going forward. This doesn’t mean businesses can’t succeed using sites such as twitter but it will take time, effort and commitment. Building a twitter following is not easy and patience is needed. If you do need to make decisions about who you're following, think about how it will affect you and your community before you act.

To learn more -

Penny Power, founder of the online business networking site Ecademy, published a book entitled “know me, like me, follow me” earlier this autumn. I would recommend anyone new to social media to get a copy.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Registering on facebook is good. Being visible is better.

By Jon Paget

I was looking at one of my friend’s profiles on facebook and I noticed a mutual friend of ours had posted something on his wall. Through a mix of guilt (I hadn’t been in touch with him for a while) and interest I posted a message on his wall. Had I not seen his initial message (posted on the profile I was viewing) to our mutual friend I would probably have moved on to doing something else, leaving it even longer to contact him.

My fumbling over facebook does raise an important point. It’s one thing to be registered on various social media platforms but quite another to have a presence online. Had the friend in question not been active, engaging in the online community that we are both a part of, I would probably be sitting at my desk right now having no idea as to what he’d been up to. Instead I’m sat here a little more informed. 

The same rule can be applied to business online. Now that we're escaping the clutches of recession it’s never been so important to be at the heart of the discussion, having an influence and most importantly, having a voice. 

It’s not a question of which platform (I often hear “I’m not sure if I should spend my time on facebook, MySpace or twitter”) but a question of the best place you can be a part of the online community, where you, your competitors and your target market can interact successfully. 

Here are a couple of points to consider when building a community online:

Firstly - Make the most of your profile. Make sure you join the right network(s) so you can search and meet other people around you. (Accessed by selecting ‘My Account’ and clicking the ‘Networks’ tab.)

Secondly - Interact on the walls of your friends. People (other friends of your friends) will see your posts. Include new content that others will find interesting such as links and videos.

Finally – Join groups and enter discussion. Better still, find a niche interest that isn’t being talked about and create a new group. Invite key people you know to join and make the group open to all with that interest. Being the admin of a group is a great way to develop trust and exposure.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Twitter Lists; will your business benefit?


Are you one of the special few that have been invited to try out twitter Lists? If not, don't be too disappointed; it will be made available to all twitter users in the near future.

Nick Kallen, of twitter and leading the project development of the List's feature, explained earlier this month how people have been contacting twitter requesting a way of organising those they follow (many users have turned to 3rdparty applications to help them manage their twitter accounts).

The result is Lists, an easy to use feature which allows you to create (and name) lists and then populate those lists with specific people that you follow.

The benefits

Lists will make it easier to organise those you follow and will allow you to share your lists with others. For example a fashion magazine might have a list of all the top high street stores; readers of the magazine can then follow that list (good for the magazine, the high street shops and great for the reader!).

A business could benefit by keeping a closer eye on specific teams or projects or a Soho bar could list all the other local bars and clubs (competitors) to keep an eye on what they have on offer. There are plenty of possibilities.

And of course being put on a list is great news. Others are essentially flagging you on twitter saying "follow this person, their tweets are fantastic".

Convinced?

However, Lists hasn't won everyone over. Many have already commented about the limitations. For example, when you view someone else’s list there is no way of knowing what's made everyone on that list unique and why they’re featuring on it. Some form of comment feature is missing.

Have you suffered with spam from twitter? If so (and I’m sure that applies to 99.9% of you), you know how annoying it is. Therefore the thought of lists being created so people can trawl specific interest groups does instil fear that spammer will increase.

I think those already using 3rd party applications to manage their account will wonder what all the fuss is about. Simply put, I’m not sure Lists goes far enough to convince those using twitter for business. On the other hand, Lists is in the testing stage and that’s what testing is for!
By Jon Paget

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Is Traditional Marketing Dead?




I was at a recent event surrounded by a very diverse crowd of business men and women including a few branding and advertising gurus. A variety of topics were discussed but it didn’t take long before today’s blog topic was brought up.

The Topic
So we started to discuss why companies were sinking more and more of their marketing budgets online at the expense of the more traditional marketing techniques (a problem the TV expert in particular was finding more and more).
Now as a company offering online marketing to its customers you might be forgiven for thinking that this was music to Art Division’s ears… 

In reality it’s fair to say we have mixed emotions about this.

The Emerging Trend
By taking a quick look at the statistics it’s not that difficult to see why marketing managers (and more generally business owners) are moving away from traditional techniques such as TV and print. After all, earlier this year (Feb 09) the number of worldwide internet users passed the 1 billion mark and several studies have shown that we’re more receptive to what we watch online than on TV.

So where’s the Problem?
The problem is that statistics mask the truth and commission hungry online marketing salesmen will only tell you half the story (something we’re fighting against). What the statistics don’t tell you is that every time you enter the title of a new film, book or product into Google, there's a fair chance your awareness of that item came from something you saw on TV or read in a magazine. However, the stats are awarded to the search engine. 

The risk here is that companies draw inaccurate conclusions (as some have started to do) and change their marketing strategies accordingly.
But for companies like Art Division it’s important to get to know a client and the offline marketing their committed to. This then allows us to maximise the potency of any online campaign(s) as offline campaigns support those online AND vice versa. 

As we see it, the real issue is to convert those who have yet to open up to the power of business online (and there are lots still digging their heels in).
I would suggest that companies reluctant to move online will suffer the same fate as those leaving traditional marketing altogether.
By Jon Paget

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Blogging – why bother?

by Cristiane Morandin

Everybody nowadays seems to be blogging about something. Their business, children, pets, food taste, last night out, etc, and the themes are endless. You might be thinking, is this really necessary? I would say ‘Yes!’

There is no standard way to write a blog, but you will remember a good one when you read it. It gives you good information on a specific theme, something that you did not know before and you might even subscribe or follow to receive more of the same blog. And here you have the best reason why you should write one yourself!

Think of a blog as an extension to your current website and services. Use it to tell your existing and potential clients why it is important to use your services. Warning: blogs should not be used to sell anything! They are there to pass information and create interaction with your readers through their comments.

On the other hand, blogs are also fresh content to search engines, and they just love it! Write them well and the search engines will most likely find you through your articles.

Quick tips for good blogging:
  • Be informative and passionate
    This is your chance to show how well you know your industry and how much it matters to you.
  • Follow a schedule
    I know it’s not easy, but consistency is important. Posting an article today and the next in 6 months is not going to do any good. Minimum of once a month, more than that, whatever you decide, just stick to it.
  • Be clear and straight to the point
    There is nothing worse than start reading an article and don’t even know what it is about. Unless your audience is very specific, avoid acronyms or jargon.
  • Keywords and links
    By adding your keywords to them, search engines you will find you more easily and associate your blog to them. And don’t forget to link them to your website or everywhere else you want to.
  • Style consistency
    Everyone has a different way to write, and this clearly shows on your text. It’s always good to keep the same style, but if you have different people writing the content, it is very unlikely to happen. In this case, make sure to add the author’s name to each article which will actually make them more personal.
If you are up to the challenge but don’t have a blog facility on your website, there is no need to despair. There are free online tools such as Blogger.com and Wordpress.com that allows you to create your blog(s). With a bit of tweaking you can have it looking like your website and even host all in the same place.
Blogging is about getting your opinion and knowledge known. Make good use of it!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Emails vs Direct Mail Marketing

by Nelly Berova

Recently I was asked to put a presentation together on Email Marketing versus Direct Mail marketing, so I spent some time collecting statistical data to use.
We all get a lot of Spam and junk mail which ends up straight in the bin so it’s clear to most that marketing is a numbers game.

But I wanted to find out exactly what are the numbers we should all consider and if we had to choose, which type of marketing strategy is better to adopt.

As I started to dig deeper into this subject I found there is quite a bit of difference over the terminology used to measure the success of each type of campaign, so my research wasn’t going to be a like-for-like comparison.

1) Direct Mail Marketing

Direct Mail marketing talks about ‘response rate’ – this can be open to interpretation, but I take this as the number of enquiries and not necessarily conversions.
On average, the typical ‘response rate’ for Direct Mail marketing seems to be around 1 to 2%. That may seem low, but it all depends on the type of products or services on offer. If you send 1,000 mail shots for example (and lets assume the cost of which is £500) and get 10 enquiries and 3 jobs, it’s down to your average sale value to determine if it’s been worthwhile. If the jobs were valued £500 collectively, the campaign has just broke even. If you have made less, perhaps you have made a loss however you may have gained yourself 3 new clients, who will buy again in the future.

Overall, if done in-house Direct Mail marketing costs a fair amount to send: adding the cost of stamps, envelopes, letterheads, ink and time to stuff letters into the envelopes - and unless the average value per sale for say 0.5% of the recipients is not more than your costs, you will have made a loss.

2) Email marketing

Email marketing on the other hand talks of ‘open rate’ – referring to the number of emails, which have been opened by the email reader. This again is not so straight forward.

Most email marketing tools measure the number of emails by inserting a tiny transparent image as part of the email code, which when opened, records this as an opened message. Moreover, it can record exactly which recipient has opened that newsletter. So, you not only know how many people have opened your email, but exactly who they are too.

And ...so what?

Opened emails do not mean ‘read’ emails. They do also not mean ‘sales conversions’, neither if your recipient has engaged with your email in any way.

Also, if the email reader itself can’t view images or has disabled this function, thus the tracking code will not work anyway, so some statistical information may not have been recorded using this method.

On average, the recorded ‘open rate’ for a good database (and by good, I mean recipients who know you, say existing clients, or who have opted in to receive your emails) is around 20-25% (do note this varies from industry to industry, so it’s not a figure one should take as 100% accurate for their business).

The best way to measure the real results from an email campaign is to focus on the ‘call to action’ in your email – clicks, downloads, registrations, purchases, and so on.

If, for example, you email 1000 recipients and 200 of them are recorded as ‘open’, but say 30 clicked on your link and go to your website from where you get 10 sales, the real result is the traffic you have created to your website and the actual sales that has generated.

So has this campaign been successful?

Email marketing is very cost effective – most email marketing tools (such as http://www.writeaboutnow.co.uk/) charge a modest £30-£40 per month. The time you spend to put this together is significantly less than the time you need to fill envelopes, not forgetting the extra statistical information - although not 100% accurate - gives you a better idea of the success of your campaign.

So if you have to choose, which marketing strategy should you use – Direct mail or Email Marketing?

I would say try both and whichever produces better results for your business, use that. However, if your budget and time are limited, I would choose email marketing anytime.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Google’s Wonder Wheel

by Allen Gibson

It may have escaped your notice, but did you know Google has just been running a major experiment in their search results? Their search results will now, say for the query ‘money’, display a link in the top blue bar which will read “Show options...” Click that, and a bar laden with options will expand to the left hand side of the page.

The options include some features that you would not have seen before now. You can now filter your search results to display web content that has been updated as recently as within the previous 24 hours. You can also target your search to look for matching results within videos, forum entries, and reviews, as well as sort those by relevance or date. Furthermore, you can choose to receive snippets or the full text on pages as well as have the results just find images only. There’s also a timeline feature as well as suggestions to improve your search. Starting off as an experiment that was viewable by users on a selection of IP addresses, these latest features continue to bring new dimensions to how we find information on the internet. Gone are the days of scouring page after page of Google results; you can now find exactly what you are looking for, faster than ever.
One of the most interesting of Google’s new gadgets is their “wonder wheel.” This shows an interactive web which starts off with your original keyword in its centre and will list all the related terms around it. Clicking on a related phrase will then create an extension to this web that will also be encircled listing yet more related terms. And whenever you click on those terms, the web results continually grow to reflect your current topic of focus. This may be more gimmick than useful, but we are now seeing how flexible searching is developing, which is particularly useful as the number of websites grow by the thousand each day.
If you want to try out this out yourself, all you need to do is go to google.co.uk and begin a search, afterwards you will see “Show Options” link, click it and start your filtering. How often you will use it, let’s see, but when the time comes you will know its there and maybe even find yourself narrowing results before you even know it.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

How to please Google

by Cristiane Morandin

When it comes to online marketing this is the 1 million question: ‘How to please Google and get top ranking?”

The answer for that can be very complicated and involve all sorts of theories and techniques, and even Google themselves claim to not know it exactly, so how are we, lame users and website owners, supposed to?!

Google has their famous algorithm which is supposed to calculate how relevant a website is to their users, but no matter how many times this algorithm changes, their webmaster guidelines always mention the same somehow, so the lesson is: stick to the basics!

A user goes online in search of either: information, services or products. Your website must clearly fit one of these purposes or it will never be noticed. The way to make this happen is to carefully plan it. In order to capture a new user is to think of the message you want to pass, your image and branding. First impressions are important and that will be what your users will identify you for. The same way goes for search engines, including Google.

Normally, when a new website is launched, search engines are informed of it and they will come to visit you to find out what you have to offer. Here is when you must impress them as this first visit could be a ‘make it’ or ‘break it’. It hardly is a ‘break it’, unless something is very wrong, anything can be remedied, however the higher this first impression is, the more likely is that they will come again and start considering you.

So now we can come back to the basics:

Content

When writing your content consider how a user would find you, or easier, how would you find your competitor, and use the same terms in your content, it must be clear and well-written. A user reaches your website looking for something, if your content does not say that in the first few lines they read, they will go back.

To make this content noticeable to search engines, there are specific “instructions” on your page to tell them what means what. For the experts, this is about the correct tags in the html code, so for example, every page has one Title, Description and Keywords. Then on the main content, you should always have one main heading and maybe some other less prominent headings and so on. If some words are important in the middle of a paragraph, emphasize them with some bolding, or link them to another page that gives further explanation.

Code

Your content scores 10 out of 10 now and all paragraphs and headings have the correct tags, however you wanted your website to look wonderful and your web designer is not very experienced, so he created your website without any good knowledge on the matter. You might be thinking “what you see is what you get”, right? This might be the case for the user, but not necessarily for the search engine. A wonderfully looking website with a flash or image effect, if not coded properly might hide completely all that perfect content from the search engines.

Around 10 years ago this same website would have reached top rankings, but things are changing. Good clean code and well-written content are becoming vital to any successful website; this is not only due to search engines being more specific and demanding, but also to help with accessibility. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

If you are still a bit lost, but want your website to do well, I would suggest you to talk to the professionals. You should have now enough to question and test them with as not all of them take everything into consideration because they are either too young or too old in the industry, and changes are hard to come about.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Is reviewing part of your strategy?


by Allen Gibson

How many times have you found a product on the internet but would rather read the public’s review of it than rely on the sales blurb and the manufacturer’s bias. Well, if you are like me, we’re certainly not alone; 84% of us are influenced by online customer reviews when buying on the internet, according to the latest survey from Opinion Research Corporation.

The report also found, however, that it’s left to a 28% "vocal minority" to post the reviews in the first place. The power of these reviews has become our first port of call when choosing to buy. The key results of the findings identified that half of those approached by OCR had visited online customer reviews early in their decision-making process, clearly suggesting it “is critical for companies to understand as they fight to be considered by consumers and look for ways to be ever-present through a variety of channels and media outlets".

By taking a more proactive approach to provide and participate, online reviewing of products and services will very likely become one of the many ways sellers can not only play a more serious part in the buyers decision process, but may also heavily influence the actual buying decision.

So, if you have not thought about providing reviews for customer feedback, you may even want to actively review your own products. The big hitters are paving the way, giving voice to countless new voices, voices of experience influencing our own opinion, pitching products largely based on customer reviews; amazon.co.uk, play.com and dabs.com, that are today household names.

Don’t find yourself slipping behind the times, especially as more of us are shopping around for not only the best price, we will buy the item that clearly demonstrates its buyer’s approval too.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Which Website is my best fit?

by Nelly Berova

I often get asked the question: ‘how much would it cost to set up a website for my business?’ to which I always answer ‘what is the purpose of this website?’

Choosing a website is like buying a suit – ideally it should be tailored using the right material and measured to fit you perfectly but if your budget is limited, you know you can choose one ‘off the peg’.

Before you start looking for the right web company, you have to identify why you want a website and what its main purpose is. Is it to generate you more enquiries; to sell your products, to act simply as an online brochure, or to establish your brand identity? You also have to identify your target market as well as check few competitors’ websites to see what you are up against and how you can be better.

Based on a clear strategy and a targeted audience you will be able to identify the type of website you require, and from there, the right supplier.

Most web companies or London design agencies are not Jacks of all trades – they have specific expertise, of which you could use to your advantage, but if you chose the wrong supplier, you risk ending up with the wrong product.

For instance, you are looking for a website that sells your products online to as many people as possible and looks funky and original, so you decide to approach a web company that specialises in Flash websites. You pay a fair amount of money for their development of this new and cool site… but a few months later you realise that you can’t update the content yourself; it costs you a fortune to keep going back to the web designers to change or add products, and what’s worse, your website is nowhere to be found on Google Search results. You feel you have bought a product which does not meet your expectations.

You almost have to work backwards.

If you want to sell products online, it’s vital to have a website that ranks well with search engines as well as being accessible. Ask your potential supplier how they propose this should be achieved. If your products change regularly it would be more cost effective to have a website fitted with a content management system which allows you to edit your content. So ask your web company if they offer such a system. If image is important, make sure they have a designer to do the layout of your website, instead of a developer. Checking examples from the designer’s portfolio will give you a good indication of their ability.

So, to find which website is your best fit, get your measurements right before you buy, and you will have a suit fit for every occasion. To find out more, visit our website: www.artdivision.co.uk

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Are you using Twitter?

Twitter is becoming more and more popular, no doubt about this. It’s the new thing that gets many people connected by ‘following’ each other and constantly updating your ‘what you are doing’ status. Through numerous online applications, that are constantly being added, one can grow the number of people ‘following’ you from your desktop, or find people close to your postcode. You can even use your mobile phone to keep you tweeting on the go. The aim of the game is to increase the number of people ‘following’ you, though in short, it’s the sort of new thing you can’t afford not to be part of.

So what, I hear you say. How can Twitter help me with my business?

1. You can use Twitter as a market research platform simply by listening to the conversations. For every business, big or small, it is vital to know what people are saying about your brand, product, service or idea. Through Twitter Search you can monitor their comments, and you don't even need a Twitter account to do it. You can even set up an RSS feed so that you'll receive all the updates of this search in your feed reader.

2. Use Twitter as a quick way to promote a new product or service on your website. Just get your followers to click your link by posting it on your profile. The more followers you have, the more successful your results.

3. Find a new deal through the people you follow – especially in this current market when everyone is searching for a bargain, Twitter is full of them!

4. Interact with your followers and ask them for advice. People love to help and you will be surprised how creative some of their answers can be.

If the above is not enough to tempt you to open an account and follow us on Twitter, you can read more about this and the additional tools you can use to help you get the most out of the web by going to:
The Guardian

And don’t forget, if you do register on Twitter, add Art Division to your ‘following’ list!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Generate more traffic by spreading the word

You have now created your website or are thinking about having one, so what can you do to get traffic to it?

Apart from the old favourites, ‘Pay-Per-Click’ and ‘SEO’, the word now is ‘Social Networking’, which in its simplest term allows you to make yourself heard. But how do you start?

Think of what your business has to offer then start writing about it. Your readers will stick around for constantly updated content, so spend some time letting them know about what you provide and why they should buy from you.

If you have spent some time perfecting your article, you will now be thinking of where to post it, after all, you need to publish it somewhere! You can start with your own website, perhaps add a newsroom to it but if you don’t have a content management system, or your knowledge of HTML is not up to scratch, you may want to consider publishing your articles on what’s called a Blog.

Blogs are articles published in a manner in which the reader can also post comments too, so if your article is interesting, even controversial, people can respond to them, and maybe start a debate, generating an interest. Furthermore, blogs have their own search engines, so you might end up being found by two means; either by your website or your blog.

If you are unable to create a blog in-house, you can use tools like Word Press and Blogger.com (like the one you are reading now). What’s better, they are free, very popular and easy to use.

Last but not least, you need to make your articles more widely available. But until search engines find them, your articles will remain without an audience. This is the point where social networking sites can help and you can also start posting your articles with those websites also.
There are lots of websites now that offer ‘Social Networking’ however each has its own way of doing things, so the first step is to take a look at each one to what they offer and see if they will suit your needs. For example:
  • Twitter.com, who let your followers know what you are talking about
  • Digg.com, and
  • StumbleUpon.com – which will make both your blog and website noticed
These are only a few of them and I am not suggesting that that by adding your article to these sites your blog and website will be inundated with traffic, but it is a huge step in the right direction.

Finally, keep the quality and quantity of output consistent and in time you will notice a steady increase in their interest. After all, you don’t want a sudden rush that soon leaves you forgotten, do you?

Want more information or help, visit www.artdivision.co.uk

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Making your hobby pay for itself

So you have built your website, devoting many hours in a labour of love creating homage to a favourite movie star or pop icon, doing so on a joint notion to hone your HTML and CSS skills, you become proud of your website. It gradually climbs the listings on Google and soon receives a steady flow of visitors. You delight in its success. But had you ever thought about making that weekend project actually earn an income for your efforts? Well why not!

Google’s Adsense (www.google.com/adsense) has grown extremely popular with bloggers and those who run non-commercial websites and is aimed at giving people like you and me an honourable outlet for earning money from our websites of devotion through displaying fee-generating advertisements on your website. Perhaps the idea of covering your shrine with commercials may sound like sacrilege, but with careful placing and a little formatting, their presence may not sound as bad as it seems, and guess what, you will soon find it will begin to more than cover the cost of hosting; your website is now earning its keep.

Adsense works on a simple premise: you designate an area on your website to display adverts and for each click they receive is credited with a referral fee, paid for by the advertiser. That fee of course varies on popularity, though when your account reaches $100 by the end of the month, you will be paid that balance, and should you have not earned that amount, the pot simply rolls over to the next month until you do, but what’s even better, the amount is paid directly into your bank account.

By scanning your content to pick up its keywords adverts are placed by those relevant to your website, that way people visiting your website should technically already be prime candidate to click on them since they will already be of interest to them. My own site, based on a musician, was soon displaying adverts for ticket agents displaying offers for concerts, however you will quickly discover your account will need some fine tuning since every advertiser also using those key phrases will also appear that may have no relevance at all to your subject. Everything from software, to tennis rackets and a chain of eastern European hotels also began appearing on my website, but thoughtfully, Google also allows you to filter any erroneous adverts and you can soon restore order to your website. Although it will demand regular attention, your revenue will rise if you keep all your adverts relevant to your subject.

By being supported by Google, an off shoot of their Adwords tool, Adsense continues to evolve to maximise your earning potential across a multitude of platforms, in particular more recently to display adverts on your mobile content and RSS. So if you have not yet thought of earning a little income from your website, what are you waiting for? And like me, you will be enjoying the wonders of online advertising and have your website work for you, even while you are sleeping.

Friday, 6 February 2009

RSS feeds – what’s in it for me?

RSS are data streams that keep you updated with the latest news from all your favourite websites without actually having to keep visiting them. However, using a feed your computer can tell when these websites have been updated and will let you know when updates are available.

RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows you to keep informed by retrieving just the latest content from the websites you are interested in. Saving the reader time by not needing to visit each site individually, RSS also ensures privacy as users will not need to join a mail list, as needed for newsletters. The number of websites delivering their news via RSS is growing and includes names like Yahoo and the BBC.

When I ask my clients if they are using RSS feeds, 4 out of 5 answer ‘no’. But, if they are much better and easier to maintain than e-newsletters, why is everybody not using them? The answer is simple – they just don’t know about them. Albeit, yet!

An ever increasing number of websites are using RSS feeds to communicate with their readers and with that, more of their visitors familiarise themselves with RSS feeds.

If you already send regular email newsletters, what a better way to launch your news feed and draw your client’s attention to it. They will learn what a feed is and you will be thanked for offering something not so well known to all.

An RSS feed will improve not only the search engine optimisation of your web pages, it will get your new content indexed by major search engines in less than 2 days as well as channel traffic from different sources such as feed engines and other websites. More importantly it will keep your website automatically updated with fresh content, deliver information in a more efficient way and grow your subscribers without maintaining email lists and getting them foiled by spam software. What’s more, it will increase your repeat business.

Art Division will soon launch a product called EasyFeed (www.easyfeed.co.uk), which will allow businesses to create and update RSS feeds in minutes and link it to any website, or a multitude of other websites, through using no special knowledge of HTML.

If launching an RSS feed is something that sounds good for your business or you are looking for a London branding agency or a good web design agency, simply visit www.artdivision.co.uk

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Email marketing – does it still work?

Email marketing is not nearly as effective as it used to be few years back.

Maybe because we are all jaded from the hundreds of emails we receive every day or because web users are relying on more sophisticated channels and have started using RSS feeds and browsing the social networking sites to receive their updates.

Either way, just putting few paragraphs together and distributing them to your contacts is not enough to garnish positive results from your e-newsletter. You need to consider spending more time on the message and on cleaning your database of contacts in the first place.

Of course most small businesses don’t have the time for all this…..so email marketing is either not done well or not at all.

Today’s readers are inpatient. They prefer to scan through emails, if the subject line is interesting enough to open, and will only read what catches their eye. This is why newsletters should not contain the whole article, but just a taster, a title and subtitle or few lines which will filter those interested in the subject.

Even paired with images, which make the newsletter more eye-catching, it still is a numbers game combined with consistency.

Sending a newsletter once in a blue moon will not generate the same results as a monthly campaign, covering topics relevant to the business producing them.

Each newsletter should link to a website, blog, or RSS feed in order to achieve the most out of it. If you are selling products, it should promote the latest rage and offers listed on your website. If you are promoting services, then it should educate and create an interest in those services.

Email marketing is only a part of the arsenal of tools a business should use. Combined with a good and updated website, a blog, RSS feed or a profile on a social networking site, it will help increase the number of enquires your business receives, but don’t JUST reply on it or you may be disappointed.

For more information on brand consultancy on email marketing visit http://www.writeaboutnow.co.uk/ – a bespoke email marketing publishe.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Updating your website – why do it?

There are 2 fundamental marketing tools each business needs to have; a business card and a website. Whereas a business card doesn’t change, unless the contact details do, websites provide the latest updates within the business and therefore should be maintained and updated on a regular basis.

If you aren’t tech-savvy, updating your website with new content, whether personal or products related, used to be a chore. Until recently, you had to either contact the site developer to update the content, call the IT team for help, or purchase a complicated and intimidating piece of software.

Today, thanks to a simple Content Management System (CMS) designed for novices, you can maintain your own website from any computer with an internet connection within minutes. This system gives people with no programming experience or knowledge the ability to alter a website as easily as editing a Word document.
Why update my website?

There are many reasons why every business should refresh their content on a regular basis. Here are some:
  1. To provide the latest information on the services and products offered
  2. To educate the reader
  3. To improve the search engine ranking for selected phrases
  4. To encourage sales
  5. To encourage stickiness and increase repeat visits
  6. To build trust
  7. To promote competency and express an opinion or point of view
Not every website has pages which can be updated regularly due to their content. If your website is one of them, you should consider adding modules such as ‘news’, ‘case studies’ or ‘events’, which can be updated with fresh and relevant content.

Those sections allow businesses to add new content on a regular basis, even if the services and products themselves have not changed. This will improve your page ranking and increase your repeat visits and with that, your sales. Or if you don’t have a CMS and can’t update your website in-house, creating a blog or RSS feed and linking to them is a must.

If you already have a website, but not one you can freely update, this can be added as a bolt on.

For more information of CMS’ and other modules you can update yourself, please visit www.artdivision.co.uk

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